Why did Japan have a self imposed limited Naval Air Corps? See Parshall, Shattered Sword page 420 ed 2007

Parshal states this in his excellent tome on the Battle of MidwayMidway (those 2 tiny who cares Sand Island that might reopen in 2022) .

On the effect on the airplane losses of Midway.

“It must always be recalled that the relatively small size of Japan’s naval air corps was largely a self-imposed limitation. As nation with over 80 million people, Japan certainly had the population necessary to develop a much larger cadre of pilots had it decided to do so. The reasons Japan chose to create an artificially small group of elite pilots, instead of a larger corps of aviators with were merely very good skills lies outside the scope of this study. So, too, does Japan’s failure to recognize and correct its deficiencies in this area while there was still time to do so in early 1942. However, the fact that she was eventually able to find pilots, however poorly trained, for the 50000” aircraft she would lose during the war establishes beyond doubt that the necessary airpower was available.

So why didn’t Japan train more pilots? Is that culturally, The mere fact that they were an aristocracy, or due to the culture of “perfection” ? I don’t know and am open to suggestions/studies!

Just my out of the cockpit…uuh foxhole question :wink:


It’s a fascinating question! Among those 80 million people, I suspect access to higher education where learning the technical aspects of flying (ie vector analysis, etc) was limited to the more elite classes in Japan. I once ready a useful book I picked up at the USS Arizona bookstore called ‘Eagle Against the Sun’ by Spector. He does a good job of contrasting the US and Japanese societies and how they reflected cultures within the armed services. It seems as though non commissioned folks in the Japanese Navy were treated more like surfs…apparently underclass, compared to their educated officers and sometimes beaten into compliance with orders of the day. Being a Japanese officer was a very tight comadre and that midset would make sense for airman as well-and viable in peacetime.
However in war, were numbers+competency became key, that ‘special class’ couldn’t possible hold up to a fully mobilized US.
It’s useful to come back to the Japanese thinking around Dec 7, 1941-a good punch in the nose the US was supposed to quit.
Thanks for posing the question Chew, I’m very interested in what others can offer on this great topic.


Hey, The Eagle and the Sun is an old AMU history schoolbook of mine. Indeed it is a really good book, thanks fort the tip and interesting answer, I must reread it some day soon :-).