The Pacific War
Main article: Pacific War
The weakening of China, partly through the actions of British colonialism, and the rapid modernization of Japan in the late 19th century were perhaps the first precursors to the Pacific theatre of the war. Japan modernized its military and went to war with China in 1894, winning handily. Western leaders were surprised at the strength shown by the Japanese. Russia, France and Germany united to force Japan to make land concessions to China. In 1904 Russia and Japan would face off in a war in which Japan is victorious. For the first time, a non-Western country had defeated a European power. The repercussions were felt worldwide as colonies saw that with Western technology, the weapons of the West could be used against the colonizers.
In the First World War, Japan joined the Allied powers, but played only a minor role in fighting German colonial forces in East Asia. At the following Paris Peace Conference of 1919, Japan's proposal of amending a "racial equality clause" to the covenant of the League of Nations was rejected by the United States, Britain and Australia. In 1924 the US Congress passed the Exclusion Act that prohibited further immigration from Japan.
In 1933, Japan withdrew from the League of Nations since she was heavily criticized for her actions in China.
In 1940, Japan occupied French Indochina (Vietnam) upon agreement with the French Vichy government, and joined the Axis powers Germany and Italy. These actions intensified Japan's conflict with the United States and Great Britain which reacted with an oil boycott.
The Japanese had already invaded China before World War II started in Europe. U.S. President Roosevelt signed an executive order in May of 1940 allowing U.S. military personnel to resign from the service so that they could participate in a covert operation in China. Hence was born the All Volunteer Group, more commonly known as Chennault's Flying Tigers. With the United States and other countries cutting exports to Japan, Japan decided to bomb Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941 without warning or declaration of war. Severe damage was done to the American Pacific Fleet, although the aircraft carriers escaped as they were at sea. Japanese forces simultaneously invaded the British possessions of Malaya and Borneo and the American occupied Philippines, with the intention of seizing the oilfields of the Dutch East Indies. The British island fortress of Singapore was captured in what Churchill considered one of the most humiliating British defeats of all time.
In May 1942, a Japanese naval attack on Port Moresby, New Guinea which had it succeeded would have put them within striking range of Australia, was thwarted by the Allied navies in the Battle of the Coral Sea, becoming both the first successful opposition to Japanese plans and the first naval battle fought only between aircraft carriers. A month later the U.S. Navy again prevented the invasion of Midway island, this time destroying four Japanese carriers, which Japanese industry could not replace, and putting the Japanese navy on the defensive.
However, in July the Japanese Army attempted an overland attack on Port Moresby, along the rugged Kokoda Track. Australian reservists, many of them of very young and untrained, fought a stubborn rearguard action, until they were relieved by Australian regular troops returning from action in the Middle East.
The Allied leaders had agreed even prior to the American entry to the war that priority should be given to the defeat of Germany. Nonetheless US and Australian forces under General Douglas MacArthur began to attack captured territories, beginning with, against the bitter and determined defense of Japanese troops, Guadalcanal Island. On August 7, 1942 the island was assaulted by United States Marines. In late August and early September, while battle raged on Guadalacanal, Australian and US forces fought off a Japanese amphibious attack on the eastern tip of New Guinea at Milne Bay, the first conclusive defeat suffered by Japanese land forces. US forces triumphed on Guadalcanal in February 1943.
Australian and US forces then strove to retake the occupied parts of New Guinea and the Dutch East Indies. The rest of the Solomon Islands were retaken in 1943, New Britain and New Ireland in 1944. The Philippines were attacked in late 1944 following the Battle of Leyte Gulf.
US and Allied submarines and aircraft also attacked Japanese merchant shipping, depriving Japanese industry of the raw materials she had gone to war to obtain. The effectiveness of this stranglehold increased as the U.S. captured islands closer to the Japanese mainland.
The Nationalist Kuomintang Army under Chiang Kai-shek and the Communist Chinese Army under Mao Zedong both opposed the Japanese occupation of China, but never truly allied against the Japanese. Conflict between Nationalist and Communist forces continued after and, to an extent, even during the war.
Capture by the Allies of islands such as Iwo Jima and Source | Copyright