A major work by one of Japan’s leading naval historians, this book traces Alfred Thayer Mahan’s influence on Japan’s rise as a sea power after the publication of his classic study, The Influence of Sea Power Upon History. Hailed by the British Admiralty, Theodore Roosevelt, and Kaiser Wilhelm II, the international bestseller also was endorsed by the Japanese Naval Ministry, who took it as a clarion call to enhance their own sea power. That power, of course, was eventually used against the United States. Sadao Asada opens his book with a discussion of Mahan’s sea power doctrine and demonstrates how Mahan’s ideas led the Imperial Japanese Navy to view itself as a hypothetical enemy of the Americans.
Drawing on previously unused Japanese records from the three naval conferences of the 1920s—the Washington Conference of 1921-22, the Geneva Conference of 1927, and the London Conference of 1930—the author examines the strategic dilemma facing the Japanese navy during the 1920s and 1930s against the background of advancing weapon technology and increasing doubt about the relevance of battleships. He also analyzes the decisions that led to war with the United States—namely, the 1936 withdrawal from naval treaties, the conclusion of the Tripartite Pact in September 1940, and the armed advance into south Indochina in July 1941—in the context of bureaucratic struggles between the army and navy to gain supremacy. He concludes that the "ghost" of Mahan hung over the Japanese naval leaders as they prepared for war against the United State and made decisions based on miscalculations about American and Japanese strengths and American intentions.