The Days After Pearl Harbor

I was thinking about Pearl Harbor the other day and so I wanted to do a small follow up post about what happened in the days after Pearl Harbor throughout the rest of the world. The magnitude of the grip that the Japanese had over Asia and its waters does not get talked about enough.

When the United States entered the war the Second World War truly became a world war as the battle zone throughout the world truly did stretch across the globe. The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor only to send the United States in to total war (maximum war production, maximum food production, maximum recruitment for the military, maximum innovation in everything from weapons, to rubber, to medicine) And they had been working on their grip in China for almost 10 years but in the days following Pearl Harbor it was crucial for them to secure a majority of the South Pacific. In only 6 months from Pearl Harbor Japan would have control of the South Pacific and control 1/6 of the glob. (Roberts, 201)

The Japanese had a three part plan to domination over the United States and the Asian Pacific. 

The first stage consisted of a successful attack on the American Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor. At the same time the Japanese would attack and take key territory in Malaya, the Dutch East Indies, and the Philippines to establish a perimeter in the southern pacific protecting the Japanese. 

Next Japan would establish a string of bases up the eastern coast of the asian countries up from the southern Pacific up to the Siberia. This would include: 

  • the Kurile Island (Russia, Siberia)

  • Wake (American territory)

  • Guam

  • The Marshall Islands

  • The Gilberts (British territory)

  • The Bismarcks (Australian territory)

  • Northern New Guinea (Australian territory)

  • The Dutch East Indies

  • British Malaya

(Keegan, 252)

Below is a map from John Keegan's book The Second World War showing the perimeter of the Japanese forces around Japan. (Keegan, 296)

 

With intense fervor they took over the Pacific and 6 of the aircraft carriers that had participated in Pearl Harbor would cover 1/3 the globe being used in 4 other attacks on Islands in the south Pacific. (Roberts, 201)

The third stage was to keep the establishment of the perimeter in the South Pacific and destroy any allied forces that came with in the defensive perimeter making it impenratable. Within this perimeter they could also get any natural recourses they might need to sustain the empire. Their strategy would be to "wear down the American will to fight" and eventually take Burma, the Indian Ocean and India from British control. The perimeter would also take away any territory that the allies could launch any counter attacks. (Keegan, 252)

At the beginning of the war Japans Navy fleet was equal to that of the United States in battleships and stronger than the United States in aircracft carriers. In comparison their forces in just China outnumbered the United States army by a long shot. (Keegan, 251)

Churchill sent out a message to the officers in Singapore, "There must at this stage be no thought of saving the troops or sparing the population. The battle must be fought to the bitter end at all costs...Commanders and senior officers should die with their troops. The honour of the British Empire and the British Army is at stake. I rely on you to show no weakness of mercy in any form. With the Russians reputation of our country and our race is involved." (Hastings, 209)

One big difference in the war between the Allies and the Axis powers was their belief and thinking of death. Here Churchill is ordering his army to display what German, Japanese and Russian soldiers displayed regularly. "But the concept of self-immolation was beyond the bounds of Western democratic culture." (Hastings, 209) This does not mean that the Allies performed any less bravely for there was continuous bravery proven by thousands of soldiers daily on the Eastern and Pascific Fronts. But hightlights the deep division between the two sides culuturally.

 

Sources:

 Keegan, John. The Second World War. New York: Viking, 1990. 251-252 & 296. 

 Hastings, Max. Inferno: The World at War, 1939-1945. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2011. 209. 

 Roberts, Andrew. The Storm of War: A New History of the Second World War. New York: Harper, 2011. 201.