In the six months after December 1941, the Japanese forces conquered many island and territories in and around the western pacific. It took over 3 years for the allies to drive the Japanese and re-conquer these territories. Why was there this difference? The purpose of this essay is to discuss the reason as to why Japan was so successful at conquering so many islands and territories in just six months during the second world war. I will also be looking into why it took the allies over three years to finally regain all of this land that had been taken.
The Japanese had concepted the idea that their country needed more land and raw materials to supply the large population. Therefore they decided to attack territories in and around the Western Pacific so that they could get what they wanted.
Between 1931 and 1941 Japan managed to successfully conquer Some of Burma where they could get raw materials such as oil and rubber.
Manchuria was taken over during 1931 and 1932, they renamed the country Manchuka. However Japan did not stop on the attack, and between December 1931 and May 1942 the Japanese had successfully conquered most of the Dutch East Indies, Burma, Malasia, and Singapore. They managed this even after other opposing countries had declared war on them.
The Japanese had been invading so many countries that the Americans thought that cutting off their source of fuel would make them retreat and stop attacking. So, in July 1941, the USA stopped any oil going to Japan from their countries source. This was a whole 80 percent of the total amount of fuel that Japan were receiving so they were fairly reliant on the source. The Japanese had the belief that they were not going to be crushed and found a way to get oil. As The Americans were too much of a challenge to attack and were already fighting with the British. Japan decided to make a surprise attack on the US Pacific fleet where the they had military bases at Pearl Harbor; in Hawaii. This was to be a devastating blow to the Americans.
The Americans knew that the Japanese were planing to attack them as they had cracked their secret code. However the Americans didn't know where they were going to attack and assumed that the target would be in the Philippines and Pearl Harbor. As a result the USA were looking elsewhere were susceptible. Japan knew that the Allies were occupied fighting in Germany and that this would be a good time to attack. They also knew that the Americans were not ready for war and had no way of being able to mobilise and convert factories for war production in time.
The surprise attack on Pearl Harbor took place on Sunday December the 7th. 360 torpedo planes and bombers were launched from Japanese carriers 400km away. They succeeded and caught the Americans by complete surprise. Much of the US fleet was destroyed and they had managed to sink or damage eight battleships and put ten other warships out of action. A whole 340 US aircraft were destroyed on the ground and 3581 US servicemen were killed and many were injured. In the space of just two hours Japan had successfully paralysed Pearl Harbor. However, by pure chance the American fleet's four carriers were not in the port at the time and were therefore not hit. The Japanese commander, Nagumo, had also decided not made an attempt to bomb the fleet's fuel supply storage tanks and the ship repair facility. The fuel supply was very important and supplied the US Navy with it's energy. The attack was a success. However it Japan had not inflicted as much damage on the fleet as they had hoped to.
The almost instantaneous result of the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor was that on the 8th of December USA and Britain finally declared war on Japan. Even if at the Washington conference. USA and Britain decided that priority was to be given in dealing with Germany. And that not much attention would be paid to the East. Japan was considered as being a second threat until the attack. Within the next twenty-four hours, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and eight other countries also announced that they were going to declare war on Japan as well. However many countries made their declaration of war on Japan, they had no plans that would be stopping them from conquering Asia. Japan was already on foot fighting China, which they had been doing since1937, meaning that they were ready for war. On the 8th of December, the Japanese destroyed US aircraft on the ground in the Philippines, that same day they attacked the Guam, Midway, and Wake Islands. Just two days later on December the 10th, Japanese torpedo aircraft sank two British warships which had been set up to defend Britain's largest Naval base in the Far East. From this point onwards Britain and Americas chances of defeating Japan was moving in a downward spiral and they were being slowly crushed. Finally on Christmas day; Hong Kong surrendered to the Japanese. All these events were in the same as Pearl Harbor showing how the Japanese were very clever at attacking. In 1942; Britain then lost it's main Far Eastern Naval base in Singapore. The Japanese surprised the British as the attacked from land instead of from the sea. The British were ready for a war at sea. This was a big blow to the British spirit. Also the Japanese were 'masters of the air' and the majority of British pilots were only half trained. Then, when the British thought that it couldn't get any worse, Japan took 140,000 British and Empire troops as prisoners. They treated them harshly and it showed others what the Japanese would and could do. On the 9th of March the Dutch Indies fell. Then in April, American troops surrendered to a Japanese attack. At the end of May the British colony of Burma fell to Japanese invaders. Countries that had been taken over by Japanese rule didn't bother fighting back at first. They felt that it would be better to be under Asian rule rather then European and treated them as 'liberators'.
Japan now had all the raw materials they needed. Within just six months the Japanese had taken over all of South-east Asia and the Western Pacific and put it under their control. They seemed immovable. However their run of victories was not to last as the US Navy was rebuilding its strength fast. The Japanese were finally caught out as the Americans had deciphered there secret code and knew what their plans were. In May 1942 Japan sent an invasion fleet to Port Moresby, New Guinea, to use as a base for attacking Australia. US ships caught up and in the battle of the Coral sea managed to sink all three Japanese carriers. Only a few weeks later in June 1942, the Japanese then planned to seize the Island of Midway. As America knew this was going to happen they ambushed the enemies fleet, killing 3500 and sank four aircraft carriers, however only one American carrier was lost in the battle of Midway. Now that the Americans had checked Japan's expansion, the Americans divided the Pacific into three areas of command. The plan of Admiral Nimitz, who was commandant the central area was to take back the Pacific Islands then Strike Japan. The plan began in August 1942 with an attack on Guadal canal in the Solomon Islands. They quickly gained the airstrip but had to fight hard to keep it as the Japanese sent reinforcements. The Battle of Gualdalcanal carried on for the next six months. A joint US-Australian force managed to push the Japanese back thought the New Guinea mountains and fought a significant battle with them in Buna. After sometime they succeeded, however the lives 8500 Allied troops and 7000 Japanese troops were taken. By the end of 1942 it was clear that the Americans would face great trouble in depriving the Japanese of the Pacific Islands. By the end of 1942 Japan's expansion was held back and the Allied and American forces knew that if they wanted to defeat them it would be a costly battle.
The Japanese had brought themselves to 'victory disease', they had taken too much for their own use. They would have had to control 350 million Asians living on thousands of Islands separated by 100 million squared Km of ocean. Even thought the Allies were finally on the attack it still took them over three years to overthrow the Japanese. This was for many reasons. The Allies took advantage of Japans 'victory disease' . Three commanders (Nimitz, Admiral Halsey and General McArthur) lead an 'Island hopping' plan. This was to 'hop' over each of the Islands in the Pacific that had been taken by the Japanese, and to dive them back to the Philippines. However this was not as successful as planned as the Allied forces were no longer working together and lost strength through this. But slowly they fought back. The capture of the Marinas Islands brought the US air forces closer to Japan for bombing. Leaving from the air base in Saipan US super fortress bombers attacked Tokyo and other cities in Japan from 1944 onwards. As this destroyed factories and various places the Japanese industry and ammunitions production slowed even more then it had before when the 'Island hopping' was occurring.
The Japanese refused to surrender, their resistance they put up was fanatical. The warrior code of 'Bushido' stated that capture in battle was a dishonour, therefore Japanese soldiers were prepared to fight to their death. On Tarawa Atoll, only 17 of the 4700 soldiers were alive at the end of the US attack on the island. And in Eniweitok all 2000 defenders died. This meant very little Japanese soldiers were taken prisoner. From 1944 onwards other Japanese pilots volunteered for 'kamikaze' (divine wind) missions. These were literally suicidal and meant that the pilots would flew into an American ship packed with explosives to guarantee a hit. This contrasted the culture between the Japanese and the Americans as the US soldiers were prepared for death but didn't got out of there way to find it. Approximately 5000 young pilots died doing this.
Not only did these reasons prevent the Americans from re-gaining the land but the fact that the Japanese were naturally adapted to the jungle conditions they were fighting in. They knew how to feed off the land and they were resistant to many diseases that the Americans would have fallen ill with.
They were not used to the humid climate and were not properly prepared for doing tasks such as climbing trees. The American troops found it hard to distinguish between the natives and the Japanese, meaning they didn't know when they were killing innocent civilians.
The US decided that the war that was gain on would have gone on for at least another year and on August the 6th they dropped the worlds first atomic bomb on Hiroshima causing devastating effects. Three days later they dropped another on Nagasaki. Over 200,000 people were killed and many died later from the intense radiation. This lead to the end of the war on September the 2nd 1945 where the Japanese finally surrendered to General Douglas McArthur.
I think that the most significant reasons as to why it took the Allies so long to push the Japanese out of their lands they occupied was the fanatical resistance they put up. If they had not fought to the death, millions would have been taken prisoner causing severe losses to their army. The fact that the soldiers knew that they were probably going tot die for there country made them proud and gave them more of a reason to keep pushing on.