|Alliance||Axis - Major Member Nation|
|Entry into WW2||7 Jul 1937|
|Population in 1939||71,380,000|
|Military Deaths in WW2||2,000,000|
|Civilian Deaths in WW2||600,000|
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
During WW1, the Japanese military seized German colonies in China and in the Pacific; the Versailles Treaty officially gave Japan the mandate over all German Pacific colonies north of the equator, expanding her borders in the East Asia region and making her a recognized regional power. During the 1920s and 1930s, military leaders slowly grasped political power in Japan, responding to the calls that Japan should unite under one banner (democracy was perceived as divisive) and that Japan should not be treated as a second-rate power by the western nations.
Since the Second Sino-Japanese War was one of the many regional wars that made up World War 2, strictly militarily speaking, Japan was the nation that began the war in the east. In 1928, Japanese assassins took the life of the Chinese warlord in Manchuria; when the successor emerged to be an anti-Japanese and pro-Nationalist Chinese figure, the Japanese found excuses for the occupation of Manchuria. Japan appeased the League of Nations with promises of withdraw, but in actuality the plans to establish a puppet state were already in the works. Manchukuo was established on 18 Feb 1932 under the leadership of deposed Chinese Emperor Puyi. To distract the League of Nations from the events in Manchuria, Japan instigated the First Battle of Shanghai in Jan 1932. Angered by continued international condemnation, Japan left the League of Nations in 1933. Between that time and the formal start of the Second Sino-Japanese War on 7 Jul 1937, several small scale engagements took place between Japan and China.
To say that Japan as a whole aggressively sought war was unfair, for that many figures in the military opposed wide-scale war, especially against the United States and Britain, but that was nevertheless the direction Japan moved toward. On 27 Sep 1940, Japan, Germany, and Italy signed the Axis Pact. In Jul 1941, after a series of events that worsened relations between the United States and Japan, the US announced the embargo of key raw materials, including oil, against Japan; other western powers followed suits. This was the point of no return for Japan for that it gave fuel to the hawks in Japan's top leadership.
In Dec 1941, after China, Europe, and North Africa were already engulfed in war for at least two years, Japan made WW2 a truly world war by starting the Pacific War. In a series of wildly successful attacks, Japan wiped out any force that could pose immediate threat to her in the Pacific in a handful of months. By mid-1942, Japanese military reached as far southwest as Burma and Malaya and as far south as New Guinea, an empire of staggering size.
Japan's luck began to turn in 1942, however. The war in China seemed to be progressing slowly, but it was becoming evident that China was so large a territory to conquer that it was sucking in more resources than Japan wished to devote to. With a series of strategic losses in the Pacific such as Battle of Coral Sea (failure to secure Port Moresby), Battle of Midway (loss of four fleet carriers, along with aircraft and crew, that Japan could not replace), and the Guadalcanal Campaign (a series of battles that unwisely frittered away Japan's strength), Japan suddenly found herself losing the initiative. Last but not least, Japan became a victim of her own success. With territory so vast, her own shipping capacity was no longer capable to adequately supply all the faraway garrisons and expeditionary forces. Finally, over time, with an inability to replace machines of war and trained men to operate them, the war pushed closer and closer to her. The loss of Saipan was the first devastating piece of news, then came the loss of Iwo Jima and Okinawa, two islands considered members of the home islands.
From this point on, it was only the matter of time before Japan acknowledged defeat. While Japanese leaders negotiated for truce unsuccessfully, the incessant bombings turned some Japanese cities into towering infernos. Then, the new atomic weapon the United States unleashed on Hiroshima shocked the world. Japan was now on the verge of admitting surrender unconditionally, but perhaps due to shock, no official reaction was sent to the Allied powers. Finally, on 8 Aug 1945, Russia (whom Japan viewed as relatively friendly) declared war on Japan, invading Manchukuo, and a second atomic bomb destroyed Nagasaki. It was not until then that, Emperor Hirohito interfered with the government and brought Japan to surrender. On 14 Aug 1945, in a surprising move, Emperor Hirohito announced the surrender personally over public radio.
At the end of the war, Japan was stripped of all of her overseas possessions, and the home islands were occupied by Allied personnel headed by Douglas MacArthur. Japan did not regain her sovereignty until Apr 1952.
Events Taken Place in Japan
|Japan's Refusal of Washington Treaty||19 Dec 1934|
|Doolittle Raid||18 Apr 1942|
|Greater East Asia Conference||5 Nov 1943 - 6 Nov 1943|
|Battle of Iwo Jima||19 Feb 1945 - 26 Mar 1945|
|Bombing of Tokyo and Other Cities||19 Feb 1945 - 10 Aug 1945|
|Okinawa Campaign||1 Apr 1945 - 21 Jun 1945|
|Preparations for Invasion of Japan||14 Jul 1945 - 9 Aug 1945|
|Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki||6 Aug 1945 - 9 Aug 1945|
|Japan's Surrender||14 Aug 1945 - 2 Sep 1945|
|Tokyo Trial and Other Trials Against Japan||3 May 1946 - 12 Nov 1948|
Territories, Possessions, and Nations Under the Influence of Japan
|Caroline Islands||Mariana Islands||Taiwan|
|Kure Naval Arsenal||Shipyard|
|Maizuru Naval Arsenal||Shipyard|
|Sasebo Naval Arsenal||Shipyard|
|Yokosuka Naval Arsenal||Shipyard|
Japan in World War II Interactive Map
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General Douglas MacArthur at Leyte, 17 Oct 1944