Leadership: The Shame of the Japanese Navy


March 26,2008: Japan's Defense Minister fired the head of the navy, and another senior official, and punished 88 other uniformed and civilian navy officials for a series of embarrassing lapses. The most recent incident occurred last month, when a 7,700 ton Aegis destroyer collided with a 37 foot long fishing boat at four in the morning, killing the two crewmen. Someone on the bridge of the destroyer Atago did spot the fishing boat, but only about 60 seconds before the collision. This is the first collision of a Japanese warship in twenty years. The last one involved a submarine colliding with a fishing boat in broad daylight, in Tokyo Bay, killing 30 civilians. The latest collision apparently killed the two men running the fishing boat, which was about 40 kilometers off the coast. The investigation of the Atago incident is still going on, but it's already been discovered the discipline on the ship was lax.

The Defense Minister was also upset over a leak, well several leaks, of secret radar and air defense information (the U.S. Aegis system). This, as well as a recent fire aboard a Japanese warship, revealed a pattern of sloppiness and poor discipline that has greatly upset Japanese. The navy has a long tradition of excellence, and all these incidents indicate deep seated problems. Change, however, will take years, if ever. Peacetime military bureaucracies are very difficult to change.


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