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War in the Pacific
Transcript of War in the Pacific
WWII saw two major theatres of operations. The battle against Nazi Germany was waged in North Africa, Europe and the Atlantic Ocean.
In the Pacific the Western Allies (predominantly the U.S.A and Great Britain) fought against Imperial Japan.
Until 1854 Japan was a feudal nation- wars were still fought with swords and there was virtually no technology. They isolated themselves from the rest of the world forbidding trade or foreign visitors.
When the American navy arrived Japan was forced with a decision: modernize or become a colony.
Overnight Japan re-invented itself. Within 50 years they had a modern army and navy. They defeated Russia in 1905, with their navy handing the Russians a crushing defeat.
Battle of Tsushima Strait
The balance of power was altered. Japan began to acquire territories and colonies just as the imperial powers of Europe were doing.
In World War I, the Japanese joined the Allies, seizing German possessions in China. They were forced to give them up after the war which they felt was unfair.
Similar to many countries in the 1920s and 1930s, Japan was politically divided.
Though the Emperor was viewed as Japan's leader, he was increasingly under the control of the military.
Emperor Hirohito was viewed as divine, and most Japanese believed they were superior to all other nationalities and races.
The military became increasingly aggressive and independent, and reflected the belief that Japan was destined to rule Asia.
In 1931 the Japanese Army seized Manchuria from China and installed a puppet government.
The rest of the world condemned this invasion. By 1937 Japan was engaged in a full scale war with China.
Japanese troops were brutal. They viewed the Chinese as inferior and atrocities and massacres by the Japanese were often massive in scale.
The Rape of Nanking was the worst recorded instance. For approximately six weeks the Japanese Army was allowed to loot, rape and murder at will. Most estimates believe 200,000 civilians were killed after the city surrendered.
Japan was increasingly under criticism and pressure from other countries. The U.S. led with economic sanctions, the most effective being an oil embargo.
Japan had few resources and was faced with a decision: cease their conquests or declare war on the U.S.A. and Great Britain.
The Japanese military chose war. They looked for the knockout and planned a surprise attack to eliminate the U.S. Navy.
The sneak attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941 completely surprised the Americans, destroying many ships, damaging the facilities and demonstrating Japanese air and naval power.
Their army was experienced, effective and motivated.
Their navy was powerful and modern, with many aircraft carriers
They had built the best carrier plane in the world: the A6M Zero
The European powers were either engaged in war with Nazi Germany or had already been conquered.
The distances in the Pacific are vast, delaying any reinforcements and making it unlikely that strong defences could be maintained and supported.
Japan appeared unstoppable in the first stages of the war.
They had destroyed or damaged much of the American fleet.
They sunk the most powerful and famous battleship in the Royal Navy, The Prince of Wales, days after the attack at Pearl Harbor.
They captured vast amounts of territory,
losing a battle against American, British or Commonwealth troops.
The Philippines, Singapore, Hong Kong and huge portions of Asia all fell to Japan within months.
They're unstoppable!There's no way they can lose this thing!