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Pacific War / Greater East Asia War

War # War Name Start End Duration
Deaths (Total)
121 Manchurian 12/19/1931 5/6/1933 505 60000
130 2nd Sino-Japanese 7/7/1937 12/7/1941 1615 1000000
133 Changkufeng 7/29/1938 8/11/1938 14 1726
136 Nomonhan 5/11/1939 9/16/1939 129 28000

In the second half of the 19th century, Japan embarked on a road of militarism and launched or participated in a number of wars of aggression, most of which were against China. In 1874, Japan invaded Taiwan. In 1894, it provoked the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895 and proceeded to occupy Taiwan. In 1904, Japan started a war against Russia, violating China^s territorial integrity and sovereignty over northeast China. In 1931, Japan engineered the September 18th Incident, resulting in its occupation of the three northeastern provinces of China. In 1935, Japan provoked the North China Incident.

Japan's ambition to annex China kept ballooning all these years. Finally Japan started an all-out war of aggression against China, marked by its shelling of the county seat of Wanping and attack on the Lugou Bridge on July 7, 1937. Japanese aggressors devastated large tracts of Chinese territory and occupied most of the major cities, attempting to colonize China and on that basis, annex the rest of Asia and dominate the world.

China went through major foreign invasions from 1849 to 1949, the historical trauma known as the Century of Humiliation. The Second China-Japan War, known as the Chinese People’s War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression in mainland China, can be dated to as early as eight years before World War II. As a particularly bitter episode, the Japanese invasion from 1931 to 1945 led to 10-25 million Chinese civilian deaths.

Much of the metal, oil, and other materials that Japan used for its war effort in China came from the United States. Americans did not like selling Japan materials to use against China. But the trade was legal because of a 1911 agreement between Tokyo and Washington. However, the American government told Japan in 1939 that it would end the earlier agreement. It would no longer sell Japan materials that could be used for war.

Washington's decision to embargo raw materials made the Japanese government think again about its expansionist plans. And the announcement a month later of a non-aggression treaty between Germany and the Soviet Union gave Tokyo even more cause for concern. The Soviet Union could be a major opponent of Japanese expansion in East Asia. And it appeared free from the threat of war in Europe. These two events helped moderates in the Japanese government to gain more influence over foreign policy. A moderate government took power in January 1940.

Japan's principal objectives were to secure the resources of Southeast Asia and much of China and to establish a "Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere" under Japanese hegemony. In 1895 and in 1905 Japan had gained important objectives without completely defeating China or Russia and in 1941 Japan sought to achieve its hegemony over East Asia in similar fashion.

The operational strategy the Japanese adopted to start war, however, doomed their hopes of limiting the conflict. Japan believed it necessary to destroy or neutralize American striking power in the Pacific - the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor and the U.S. Far East Air Force in the Philippines - before moving southward and eastward to occupy Malaya, the Netherlands Indies, the Philippines, Wake Island, Guam, the Gilbert Islands, Thailand, and Burma.

Once in control of these areas, the Japanese intended to establish a defensive perimeter stretching from the Kurile Islands south through Wake, the Marianas, the Carolines, and the Marshalls and Gilberts to Rabaul on New Britain. From Rabaul the perimeter would extend westward to northwestern New Guinea and would encompass the Indies, Malaya, Thailand, and Burma. Japan thought that the Allies would wear themselves out in fruitless frontal assaults against the perimeter and would ultimately settle for a negotiated peace that would leave it in possession of most of its conquests.

Some Japanse leaders hoped that the United States would accept their new order in Asia. This did not happen. The Japanese were remarkably successful in the execution of their offensive plan and by early 1942 had reached their intended perimeter. But they miscalculated the effect of their surprise attack at Pearl Harbor which unified a divided people and aroused the United States to wage a total, not a limited, war. As a result Japan lost, in the long run, any chance of conducting the war on its own terms. The Allies, responding to their defeats, sought no negotiated peace, but immediately began to seek means to strike back.

The Japanese viewed Okinawa as a victory in terms of losses inflicted and delay of American timelines. Japanese leaders following America media reports of the bloody fighting Okinawa and Iwo Jima concluded that a war-weary American public would not support a prolong war in the Pacific. Japanese leaders were prepared to suffer casualties at a rate Americans were not. Leaders expected pressure from a war-weary public would force the U.S government to end the war on terms more favorable to the Japanese government than unconditional surrender.

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Page last modified: 24-02-2020 18:08:55 ZULU