Japan in World War II

By | January 16, 2022

Since the beginning of the conflict with China (see Sino – Japanese, war, Appendix I, p. 433 and in this Appendix) the Japanese attributed most of the difficulties encountered, in an attempt to overcome the tenacious resistance of the enemy, to the material and diplomatic assistance that the Chinese received from the Anglo-American powers, which aimed to contain the Japanese expansion in the Far East. In this contrast, the seeds of the future conflict with these powers matured.

On December 22, 1938, the Prime Minister of Japan, Prince Konoye, made an important declaration, in which he invited China to make an agreement with Japan, insisting on the request to join the anti-Comintern pact and to collaborate in the construction of a “new Order” in East Asia. The refusal of China determined an intensification of the offensive operations of the armed forces of the Mikado, which, taking advantage of the European crisis, had a good game in their penetration action. While at first the Japanese currents in favor of forging greater ties with the Axis powers, in view of a more active policy of expansion, had been balanced by those advocating an understanding with the Anglo-Saxon powers, after the outbreak of the conflict in Europe, the balance had shifted for the benefit of war circles. These, taking advantage of the collapse of France, had obtained the consent of the Vichy government to occupy important strategic bases in Indochina. These measures caused intense apprehension in the United States which, since July 26, 1939, had denounced the trade and navigation treaty of February 21, 1911. But by now in the Empire of the Rising Sun the warlike forces were on their way to take over., and on 27 September 1940 the Italian-Japanese-German Tripartite was signed in Berlin. It seems that the head of the government, Prince Konoye, and the sovereign were opposed to this step, but had to bow to the pressure of the military circles in the hope of being able to control the situation further. However, it seemed difficult to be able to stop the forces in motion since each action provoked a reaction in the adverse field capable of increasing the tension. Thus the terrorist methods adopted by the Japanese in China, where the same American properties were severely damaged, gave rise to increasingly vigorous protests by the Washington government, which, under pressure from public opinion, adopted new economic sanctions against Japan, mainly consisting of freezing of Japanese assets (July 1941) and in the embargo on their imports (oil, July 26, 1940; steel, October 10, 1940; rubber, May 1941). To ward off the serious blow that severely reduced his stamina, Japan asked (February 14, 1941) to enter into negotiations. But the United States set as preconditions Japan’s adherence to the following general principles: territorial integrity and respect for the sovereignty of every nation, commercial equality and maintenance of the status quo. in the Pacific to be modified only by peaceful means. By implication, Washington thus called for the eviction of China and the abandonment of the policy of expansion in the Far East. After discussions lasting several months, no agreement had been reached, despite the efforts of Washington and of notable Japanese political and industrial groups led by Prince Konoye. The coming to power of gen. Tōjō (October 18, 1941) was to mark the definitive defeat of the anti-war circles. While the negotiations were still going on, Japan not only intensified its military preparations, but also fixed the date of the attack. On November 23, 1941, the fleet secretly left its bases to attack Hawaii. From that moment the war mechanism was already inexorably set in motion, nor the temporary modus vivendi inspired by the desire to provide the American armed forces with a longer period of time for their preparation.

According to Animalerts, the Japanese were aware of their industrial inferiority, but hoped to compensate for it with new strategic positions, with the best degree of military preparation, with the advantage of initiative combined with speed of action. Sure of the tripartite pact, they had also obtained special guarantees in the Pacific for greater freedom of action through the treaties: of friendship and collaboration with the government of Nanking (30 November 1940), of neutrality with the USSR (13 April 1941), of occupation of the Indochina with the Vichy government (6 May 1941) and economic penetration with Thailand (1 August 1941).

The message of November 29, 1941, addressed by Prime Minister Tōjō to the nation and allies of Nanking and Man-chou-kwo, sounded like a war diana, reaffirming the vital interests of Japan and the need to free Asia from all British and American meddling, as well as the threat of communism. And on December 7, the Japanese air and naval forces carried out the attack on Pearl Harbor by surprise, throwing themselves too confidently into a vast and hard war that was to lead to the loss of the empire.

They are distinguished from it (see world war; peaceful, in this App.) two periods. The first (December 7, 1941 – August 15, 1943) is characterized by the aggressiveness of the Japanese forces which, in the face of the insufficient reaction of the enemy, radiate themselves for the domination of the most distant areas of the Pacific, taking possession, in the first six months, of the most important Asian archipelagos and territories from the Philippines to New Guinea, from Ellice to Burma. The Japanese consolidate the conquests made, organizing all the subjugated Asian peoples in the political and economic plan of the “great East Asia” under the supreme directives of the Tokyo government. But, while such an organization is being prepared, the allied armies, recovering from the initial surprise and equipped with an ever-increasing war production, begin the reconquest of the dominion of the Pacific,

On July 26, 1945, President Truman, Prime Minister Churchill, in agreement with Ch’ang Kai-shek, from Potsdam, invited Japan to surrender, which Prime Minister Admiral Kantarō Suzuki refused. But in the face of the disasters caused by the first two atomic bombs (6 and 8 August) and the declaration of war by the USSR (8 August), which hastened to invade Manchuria, Korea and the southern part of Sakhalin, the government of Tōkyō, through the Swiss Legation, announces on 1 August to the allied powers to accept the unconditional capitulation, which is signed on 1 September by Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu in the name of the emperor and the Japanese people.

On the basis of this capitulation, the Potsdam declaration and the occupation program (6 September), Japan had to vacate the territories still occupied in China, Malaysia, Burma, Thailand, French Indochina, the Dutch Indies and Borneo, as well as those previously incorporated. in the Japanese Empire or hired in trusteeship: Manchuria, Korea, Kwantung, Sakhalin, Formosa, Ryū-Kyū islands, Sprattley, Marshall, Caroline and Marianne.

According to official information from the Japanese government, the Japanese losses up to September 1945 were: 241,309 dead, 313,041 wounded, 8,045,094 civilian and war victims (dead, wounded and homeless); 2,444,316 buildings destroyed and set on fire, of which 110,928 only partially. For the most part, about forty cities with more than 100,000 residents and as many cities destroyed, with the ruin of 30% of their built area, including Tōkyō; extensive and very serious destruction of industrial plants, transport, communications and commercial installations; loss of 18 major naval units.

Japan in World War II