anyone today, taking a look at a map of the Pacific Ocean and then recalling
the fierce, deadly combat that took place there merely fifty years ago,
it will seem highly strange how two nations, separated by 5200 statute
miles of endless ocean, could have ended up fighting against each other.
The roots of this conflict can be found a further one hundred years back, in the days when sail and steam still existed in perfect harmony, when Japan was still a mysterious country somewhere off the Asian rim, when Britain ruled the waves and America had barely made its first steps to play a global role.
This was the time when Europe
and America forcibly opened the medieval nation of Japan and by doing so,
opened a Pandora’s box that was to cause them, ninety years later, trouble
they could never have imagined.
Japan’s victory against China, and the subsequent annexation of the Ryukyu chain and Formosa, in 1895, brought the frontier of Japan south to the Luzon Straits, on the other side of which the Spanish Philippines lay, soon to be taken by the United States in that “splendid little war” against Spain in 1898.
And now, instead of 5200 miles, a mere 150 separated U.S. and Japanese territory, and it was not long hence that both sides were running academical exercises on gaming boards to evaluate their future strategy against the opponent across the ocean. In the U.S., American strategists opened a new folder in the “Rainbow” plans – Orange, for the Empire of Japan.
Japan’s bid for power in the victorious Russo-Japanese War, the capture and annexation of Imperial German island territories in World War I, all combined to intertwine American and Japanese island groups and interests in the Pacific. Wake and Guam, U.S. territories, lay in the midst of Japanese island groups, the Philippines covered the Japanese desires to go south.
The Washington Conference on the Limitation of Armament sought to create a stable peace in the Pacific Ocean by disallowing fortifications on Pacific islands and by limiting the strengths of fleets, but this turned out to be a vain hope.
American war games and theoretical exercises continued to harden the Navy for the coming war, while Japan’s war machine preyed upon the defunct Chinese empire and attacked it in 1937. A playground for the newest technical gimmicks of an Army that desperately needed a reason to retain its dominance within the Imperial General Staff, the China campaign also enabled the Navy to train its aviators and amphibious forces in the art of war.
This section now will focus upon the time between 1853 and 1941, illuminating several aspects of preparation for war, so that readers of the following sections will have at least rudimentary knowledge of the whys and hows of this most deadly naval conflict ever.
Topical & Opinion Essays
The Route South
On the Japanese occupation of Southern Indo-China and the American Oil Embargo