By Phillip Orchard
More than 80 years ago, Japan unleashed one of the finest amphibious fighting forces in history, going toe to toe with the Americans in the Pacific and very nearly prevailing. But the country had gone without a dedicated amphibious force in the decades since – until last weekend. On April 7, Japan activated its first marine unit since World War II. Some 2,100 troops are being shifted to what will be known as the Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade, based out of the southern port city of Sasebo (conveniently, the new home port of the USS Wasp amphibious assault ship) and tasked with defending Japan’s remote southeastern islands. The move is just part of the largest overhaul of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force since its founding in 1954.
That Japan – a country of 6,852 islands in a perpetually hostile neighborhood and utterly dependent on open sea lanes – allowed its amphibious capabilities to decay in the first place sheds light on the way that le