A look at Japan’s war time history: Part 2


CONT. from Part 1

On 7 December 1941, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. It was only a partial success. The U.S. Pacific Fleet was crippled, but the carriers that were integral to the successful execution of naval warfare in the Pacific were not there. The same day it undertook a wide ranging offensive across the Pacific.
Over the next few months they occupied lands as far east as Wake Island and as far south as Guadalcanal. Hong Kong fell on Christmas Day 1941. Singapore fell in February 1942. The Philippines fell in May 1942. Burma was overrun about the same time as the Philippines.

In May 1942 the Americans successfully checked the Japanese advance in Papua New Guinea in the battle of the Coral Sea. A month later when Japan attacked Midway, they sent four of Japans six fleet carriers to the bottom. Japan never recovered from this. The tide began to turn back in favour of the Allies when the Americans liberated Guadalcanal in February 1943. Throughout 1943, the Japanese were slowly driven from Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands with the exception of Rabaul and the island archipelago’s of Micronesia.

In 1944, the British who had been holding the Japanese in check in India, had begun to push back into Burma. It was slow going and the British would not fully occupy the country until the end of the war. In June 1944, following the Allied invasion of Normandy, the Americans effectively destroyed Japans remaining naval air arm and invaded the Mariana’s. These islands would become the launching grounds for the massive B-29 bombing raids that pounded Japanese urban areas starting in early 1945. In October, the Japanese navy was effectively destroyed as a fighting forcee in Leyte Gulf. At this point Japan introduced suicide planes (Kamikazes)whose sole purpose was find a U.S. ship and hit it, and later on Baka suicide bombs – the individual in the cockpit of this bomb went with the bomb to his death. A couple days later America invaded the Philippines, keeping General Douglas MacArthurs promise to return.

In China for this period of time a see-saw war had been fought. China was struggling with an internal power struggle between Mao-Tse Tung and his Communists and Chiang Kai-Shek and his Nationalists. They were prone to fighting each other as they were the Japanese. But starting in mid 1944, they began to slowly roll back the Japanese held territories. Much of what had been taken by the Japanese in central China had been liberated by Chinese forces by the time the war ended.

As 1945 started Japan was beaten but still fighting. As the fighting got closer it got more and more bitter. Iwo Jima and Okinawa, the two bloodiest battles of the American war in the Pacific were still to come. In March 1945 the first firebombing of Tokyo occurred. 130,000 were killed. This was the rain of fire that Admiral Yamamoto had dreaded. More terrifyingly for Japan, their anti-aircraft defences were so weak that the B-29s could attack with impunity. And did.

As 1945 progressed, the Americans slowly strangled Japan. Iwo Jima cost 7,000 American lives, and the only Pacific battle to cost more American lives was Okinawa (about 12,000 dead Americans over 100,00 Japanese). The B-29s might have been vulnerable over Germany whose anti-aircraft defences were formidable, but over Japan they did not need fighter escorts. The P-51’s and P-47’s that were assigned to escort duties were instead allowed to roam across Japan shooting at anything they wanted. Trains, ships, factories, airfields all became targets. By July 1945, there were British and American battleships roaming off the coast. Late in that month they shelled several cities. The Japanese navy could do nothing. It had been sunk or was tied up for lack of fuel.

So, that is essentially Japan’s wartime history up to August 1945. People need to know the causes of Japanese and American wartime activities before they comment, because some of these still reverberate today.

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