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Literature: The Great Pacific War
Japanese battleship Nagato, one of the principal capital ships of the era.
"War is never a paying proposition from any national point of view. . ."

Originally written as fiction, but nowadays fitting more in the alt-history genre, The Great Pacific War is British naval analyst Hector Bywater's 1925 novel of a 1931 war between Japan and the United States, written as if a post-war historian was recounting the facts for future generations.

It was as much Speculative Fiction as predictive. Bywater was saying that, given the way naval warfare was developing and given the tension between these two nations, a war between them would likely resemble his book in some ways if a war did occur; he wasn't prophesying that such a war would indeed take place. It is also possible that Bywater intended to counter worries in the West of the "yellow peril" by illustrating that Japan didn't have the ability to take on America in a prolonged war (something Isoroku Yamamoto, who may have read the book, would have agreed with).

The book opens with a summary of Japanese control of Korea and parts of China, and how their view of this area of the globe is that it is naturally the sphere of influence of themselves alone among the major world powers. But after an American company wins a major mining contract in China, the Japanese Cabinet realizes their ability to exploit the region is being checked, and their already-delicate economy is in trouble as a result. The war is started both to gain a free hand in East Asia and to unify the people against a common enemy.

The fighting sea-saws back and forth for most of the book, with the US taking longer to train up its sailors and get into full wartime mode than Japan, and proves taxing on both nations. However, ultimately (again, just as in the actual war that would happen 16 years later), the American advantages of population, economy, and industry make them far more able to withstand this than Japan is. After less than 3 years, Japan has lost all ability to prosecute the war and has seen the US make major gains of territory across the Pacific, and can only try to negotiate for a peace treaty that doesn't leave them humiliated diplomatically as well as militarily; meanwhile the world is left wondering how the Japanese ever believed they could take on the United States in the first place.


This book contains examples of:

  • As You Know: Done very near the beginning. The Japanese cabinet meets to dicuss the dangerous riots and the seeds of revolt that are gaining strength, and the Premier basically opens by saying "As you know, our country is experiencing dangerous riots, and the revolts are gaining in strength."
  • Bread and Circuses: Averted. To quell the revolts, instead of lulling the populace into luxury, the politicans distract them with jingoist speeches against America's interference in Chinese land that should be rightfully subject to Japan.
  • Covers Always Lie: The front cover calls it "The incredible book that predicted Pearl Harbor", the back cover says "Bywater predicted a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor 16 years before it happened." At first this seems like an annoying spoiler, but in fact Bywater's war never includes any sort of attack on Hawaii whatsoever.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Several, but most notably the opening sea fight of the war - pitting modern Japanese dreadnoughts with long-range firepower against the smaller and mostly outdated US Asiatic Fleet - and everybody on both sides knows it. The US Admiral's pre-battle plan is entirely based on how to lose in the least bad way possible.
  • Historical-Domain Character: Averted deliberately. In the preface Bywater explains that every single character he came up with is fictional.
  • Officer and a Gentleman: Very prevalent on both sides. Prisoners are treated fairly, ships go out of their way to rescue enemy survivors, etc. Especially notable for the Japanese as it was uncommon to portray them as noble warriors rather than savages. It seems very much in contrast to the behavior of the Japanese in the historical WW2, but in the real war the vast majority of atrocities were committed by the Imperial Japanese Army, not the Combined Fleet.
  • Ridiculously Difficult Route: The portion of the American fleet based in the Atlantic is forced into this by the wrecking of the Panama Canal, having to traverse the narrow passageways of the Straits of Magellan instead.
  • Separated by a Common Language: Pearl Harbor and Dutch Harbor (which are the proper names of these places and thus should be spelled this way anywhere in the English-speaking world) become Pearl Harbour and Dutch Harbour.

The War of the WorldsPossible WarThe Sixth Battle
The Great GatsbyLiterature of the 1920sGreyfriars
The Grail QuestMilitary and Warfare LiteratureThe Guns of Navarone

alternative title(s): The Great Pacific War
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