World War 2: Japan – USA Relations
It’s been more than seventy years since the unconditional surrender of the Axis Forces. Followed by Japanese Emperors surrender on 15 August 1945, it had put an end to the most horrific war the world has ever seen. World War 2 began in 1939 when Germans invaded Polish city, Danzig. But expanded far beyond European borders, tragically taking over 60 million lives around the world. More than 3 million in Japan and half a million casualties in the USA.
The Empire of Japan joined the war two years later. The key offense marking the beginning of Japanese participation in the war was the attack on Pearl Harbour on December 7th, 1941. That event was followed by the attack on then USA-held Guam, Wake Island, and the Philippines. The goal was to waken the USA fleet, which led to the country declaring of war to Japan.
The attack on Perl Harbour on December 7th, 1941
While Perl Harbour was the final element that brought the declaration of war to Japan, it was Japanese bombing of the naval base in Hawaii in December of 1941 that triggered the response from the USA. The USA would soon join the Allies and drag the country officially to World War 2 warzone. It was Japan, faced with oil embargo by the USA, that dropped the first bomb that started the Japan-USA war formally. The Pacific War was the main theatre of the battle where Japan participated. They fought on the Pacific and Asia against the Allies, starting just two years after the initial beginning of the WW2 in Europe. It was these battlefields that took tall on Japan during the most significant wars of all times.
Before the War
The foundation of World War 2 in this part of the world was built back in 1930. And it was based on the imperial concept called Asia for Asians. Battles which took place in South-East Asia were a result of a vision Japanese Empire had, and that was to achieve Greater Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere. The goal was to create economic and cultural unity of South-East Asian nations. Under this parole, Japan had succeeded to conquer few colonies, and by the time the WW2 begun was already at war with China. The war started with the invasion of Shanghai in 1937, known as The Second Sino-Japanese war. It lasted till Japanese surrender on 2nd September of 1945 and the end of WW2.
World War 2 in Asia
World War 2 in Asia started in Japanese favor, and first vital battles took place in Hong Kong, Malaya, Philippines, and Singapore. After the attack on Pearl Harbour, the very beginnings of the Pacific war were marked by the fall of Hong Kong. Hong Kong surrendered to the Japanese two weeks later that December, after the attack on Pearl Harbour. At the same time, the Japanese had invaded Malaya, while the USA suffered what is thought to be the greatest defeat in the country’s military history and lost the Battle of the Philippines to Japan.
The brutality of Japanese forces took 23,000 lives of American soldiers or kept them imprisoned. This number extends to horrific 100,000 lives of Filipino soldiers. Soon after, the conquest of Philippines was followed by the largest surrender of British forces in Asia, The Fall of Singapore in February 1942. The Purge of the Chinese population of Malaya took more than 10,000 lives. While more than 80,000 British, Australian and Indian soldiers were brought in captivity in Singapore. In a matter of just a few months, Japanese forces succeeded to seize Central Java, Sumatra, Borneo, Malang, Dutch New Guinea, and Cepu. However, these first victories on critical frontiers led to the underestimation of the opponents. As a result, the tides would soon turn.
The defeat of Japanese forces at the Battle of the Coral Sea was among the first in a row of the losses to follow. In May of 1942, right after their successful occupation of Tulagi, the Japanese navy went on to invade Port Moresby. Thanks to signals intelligence, the US Navy sided with The Royal Australian Navy and defeated the Japanese fleet at the coral sea. That caused the significant loss of carries, which prevented further attempts to attack Port Moresby from the sea.
Although defeated, the Imperial Japanese Navy was still able to proceed with strategic attacks from the ocean until the battle of Midway. It severely crippled the fleet, causing the loss of a high number of carriers from which Japan would not recover. The same year, Japan was defeated both at the Battle of Milne Bay in New Guinea and at Guadalcanal. That was one of the most major oil production zones, which severely depleted already low oil supplies. By 1945, The Empire lost a great deal of conquered territories, including those in Philippines and Ogasawara Islands.
The last stage of World War 2: Hiroshima and Nagasaki
The nuclear mushroom above the city of Nagasaki, caused by a plutonium-implosion bomb Fat Man
While the first bombs were dropped on American grounds causing the start of a four-year-long war it was two other tragic events that marked the end of World War 2. It showed humanity the most devastating side of a war. These events are Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings, first and last ever to be used against one nation. It was these two cities to be the first in the world to feel the disastrous effects of the atomic bombs which took 140,000 lives in Hiroshima and 80,000 in Nagasaki, mostly civilians, making both cities radioactive wastelands. The detonation took tall in a matter of minutes, but the radiation spreading caused more deaths in the following weeks, making these two events the most tragic in modern Japanese history.
Air Raids on Japan
In the last stage of the war, Allies went on invading Japan, firebombing over 67 cities. Although air raids on Japan had become consistent since 1944, the most devastating bombing, however, was yet to come. On August 6th, 1945, Boeing B-29 dropped the first atomic bomb the world had seen on the city of Hiroshima, causing utter destruction and terror within just a few minutes. Three days later, on August 9th, another bomb was dropped, and the target this time was the city of Nagasaki. The two bombs, one uranium-based named Little Boy, which was the one to destroy Hiroshima. And the Fat Man plutonium-implosion bomb, which caused the ruination of Nagasaki. They were products of The Manhattan project, which was focused on making innovative nuclear weapons. Six days after the devastation of Nagasaki and two of the most horrific deeds in human history, Japan announced its surrender.
Many memorials were raised around the world to commemorate events that happened from 1939 to 1945. In Hiroshima, all constructions up to one mile from atomic bomb hypocenter were utterly destroyed. The A-Bomb Dome is part of Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and the closest memorial to the hypocenter. Today, the skeletal remaining of what once was The Product Exhibition Hall before it was destroyed reminds of 6th August of 1945 and the devastating effects of a nuclear attack on Japan.
In Japan, many other memorials are reminding of how big the scale of the disastrous Pacific War was. The Cornerstone of Peace commemorates the Battle of Okinawa, with more than forty thousand names of people who lost their lives to defend Japan inscribed. A Chiran Peace Museum, which was the departure point for Japanese special air forces and kamikaze pilots, stands to remind of the dead aviators who gave their lives during the war. In Kyoto, each day, four times a day services are held at The Ryozen Kannon in memory of the War dead. Services are held for almost 2 million victims of the war, whose names written on tablets and stored in the memorial. In the end, the real proof of how disastrous the war was to all nations is a memorial raised to all the victims of World War 2, regardless of nationality.
The Yasukuni Chinreisha Shrine commemorates Japanese, American, Brittish, Chinese, Korean and all other Southeast Asian dead, reminding the visitors of the devastating war casualties.
After World War 2
The war had brought great terror our civilization had ever seen before. It took many innocent civilian lives around the world. Before the Tokyo Tribune, many were convicted of war crimes, and military atrocities and infrastructure in all participant countries were severely damaged. Japan had lost many essential territories possessed before WW2. Among which were Taiwan, Sakhalin, and Korea, including some islands in the Pacific. The end of such a devastating war had to open a new chapter in Japan’s history as much as it did in the rest of the world affected by war terrors.
The occupation and reconstruction of Japan lasted from 1945 till 1952. During this post-occupation period, the country went through deep reforms led by the United States, which occupied the country after the war. One of the significant changes made included a shift in the authority of the emperor, establishing a parliamentary system but most of all demilitarization of the country. The period after the war had led to more solidified women rights in Japan when women’s rights were recognized as equal to the rights of men. Under the article 9 clause, Japan was also restricted from having a non-defensive military force.
In the following two years, Japan underwent a significant economic transformation which would set the base for future change. Thanks to the wise intervention of the Japanese government which had put the focus on the production of raw materials and backed up with reconstruction under the US, Japan began to recover from setbacks and poverty. To block potential Soviet influence and spreading of communism in the country, the main goal was to transform the economy into a capitalist system which would be one of the crucial decisions that would bring a historical change.
While the second phase of occupation which lasted till 1950 brought Japan financial crisis, the third phase had proven to bear fruits. Japan finally reclaimed its sovereignty in 1952, under the terms of the Treaty of San Francisco. That officially put an end to Japan’s imperial position. These years, until 1954 are known as a period of economic recovery.
Japan we know today is a result of many changes and lessons learned after the war. During the period of high and later, the period of steady increase. From 1955 till 1992, country’s economy begun to change for the better drastically. The economy continued to progress, and the country went through a significant transformation. It became the second world’s largest economy, which is known as the Japanese economic miracle. This transformation began during these post-war years and lasted until the end of the Cold War.
The high increase period, from 1954 till 1972 was characterized by the complete industrialization of the country. The progress made was far beyond expected. Vast export started during sixties thanks to trade liberalization, and it was this particular strategy that would revive the industry and completely transform the Japanese economy from scratch. One of the major turning points was the development of Japanese industry overseas and steady growth in export in 80′. Japan started exporting automobiles and electronics worldwide on a much larger scale. Thanks to the concept of keiretsu, which was based on the cooperation of banks, suppliers, distributors, and manufacturers, as well as the guarantee of lifetime employment The Land of The Rising Sun had restored its economy, resulting in Japan becoming a true powerhouse in the late ‘90.
Today, Japan is a country of variety, fast life, and rich historical heritage. It is a homeland of some of the top selling cars, computers, and gadgets in the world. Besides cars and electronics, Japan’s top industries are also pharmaceuticals, aerospace, shipbuilding, petrochemicals, bioindustry, textiles, and processed food. Some of the most famous Japanese brands are Toyota, Honda, Canon, Nikon, SEGA, Yamaha and the list goes on.
The country with highest life expectancy today puts a great emphasis on equality and both national and international peace. After the WW2, Japan had renounced its right to war and since then aspires to participate in maintaining international peace, being listed among top 10 countries on the Global Peace Index in 2018. World War 2 is a painful lesson in the history of our humanity, and while the days of war are far behind, these events are never to be forgotten.
If you are interested to learn more about the history of World War 2 in Japan, we have an 8 night World War 2 Memorial Tour.