Thursday, March 29, 2018

How the US Marine Corps Pacific helped Japan build a Marine Corps....

When the 2011 earthquake and tsunami struck, the Japanese Self-Defense Force’s lack of an amphibious unit cost lives. When the US Marines’ 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit landed on Oshima island in Operation Tomodachi, reformers among the Ground Self Defense Force ensured that the Japanese media were there to see it.

But after that operation wound down, momentum for an amphibious unit evaporated. Fortunately, some things happened.

A group of Pacific-based US Marines had been angling for years to place an officer in Tokyo, where he would have the freedom and latitude to explain and promote the Marine Corps – and better yet – create a Japanese amphibious capability. GSDF reformers had wanted a US Marine in place as early as 2009, but US Marine Corps bureaucracy is difficult.

Finally in mid-2011, a major at the Marine Forces Pacific headquarters in Honolulu wrangled an agreement from both sides to place a liaison officer at the GSDF’s Ground Research Development Center on the outskirts of Tokyo. This was where the Japanese Army thought up new ideas – and was far enough from GSDF Headquarters in Ichigaya to attract no attention.

The colonel assigned was yours truly. Having lived in Japan for 20 years, I knew the key reformers and had been recalled to active duty for Operation Tomodachi, so it made sense to stick around.

In fact, assigning a Marine to the JSDF in Tokyo was so sensitive the GSDF asked that we not tell anyone: A US Marine helping Japan assemble an amphibious capability would have been the worst kind of news. Alliance managers on both sides would have howled.

Even sensible people on both sides said an amphibious capability was impossible. It conjured up images of Japan’s World War II invasions and was deemed “offensive” and so was claimed by leftist politicians – inaccurately, it turned out – to be unconstitutional.

There were three main reasons for an amphibious JSDF. First, it was an essential capability to defend Japan’s southern islands, and when the next natural disaster hit, would save lives. Second, it would force JSDF services to cooperate – thus addressing JSDF’s fundamental weakness. Third, it would make the JSDF a more useful ally.

We weren’t looking to transform the JSDF and we didn’t want a separate “Marine Corps.” An amphibious team would be enough. To make it relevant, we described what sort of amphibious force was required to defend Japan’s southern islands – and how to bring it about.

We pointed out that JSDF already had 90% of the hardware, but none of the know-how – they’d forgotten everything they’d learnt in the Pacific War. US Marines could provide that. JSDF needed to reorganize what they already had. And it wasn’t expensive.

I put these ideas into a 4,000-word paper – and injected it into the GSDF/JSDF bloodstream via certain reformers. It was nothing they didn’t know, but a foreigner saying these things provided cover.

A colonel at the Ground Research Development Center was the key player. He arranged GRDC study trips to Okinawa and Sasebo to see the Marine/Navy amphibious team. Riding in an amphibious assault vehicle in the ocean is nauseating – so why did we push GSDF to buy them? Aside from being a useful vehicle, using it would force the GSDF and MSDF to cooperate.

Other GSDF groups (with a few Japanese Navy and Air Force tagging along) went to Okinawa and Sasebo. They returned converted.

GSDF Chief of Staff Eiji Kimizuka was a long-time acquaintance. He needed little convincing and made amphibious capability a top priority, having seen the Americans in action during Operation Tomodachi. His deputy, Lt-General Koichiro Bansho, was the principal GSDF reformer.

Things fell into place.
Story here. 


I love reading stuff like this.  Oh and you heard it here first.  Amphibious Brigade?  Naw, this will be a full fledged Marine Corps is just over a decade...I'd bet body parts on it!

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