MacArthur in Manilla, Philippines, 1945, smoking a corncob pipe
The Philippine Islands gained semi-autonomous status in 1935 with the creation of a Philippine Commonwealth and the election of Manuel L. Quezon as president of the newly formed government. One of the most pressing concerns and new responsibilities was the creation of a new military force capable of defending the islands. With this in mind, Douglas MacArthur, then the chief of staff of the U.S. Army was chosen by President Quezon to be part of the Office of the Military Advisor to the Commonwealth Government. His new job as Field Marshall of the Philippines was to create a new national army complete with its own small off-shore naval patrol force and air contingent over a conservative 10 year period.
But with diplomacy failing in Europe with Nazi Germany and especially with an ever more daring and increasingly militant Imperial Japan it became clear that the United States would need to mobilize for war. The U.S. embargoes on industrial materials such as iron and copper while closing the Panama Canal to Japanese shipping failed to halt Imperial ambitions. MacArthur was recalled into active service by U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and returned to his original position as a major general on July 26, 1941. The general gained the responsibilities of heading the newly established United States Army Forces in the Far East (USAFFE) command as it became clear that U.S. escalation to war was more than a possibility. This included the task of training the Philippine army, creating a brand new staff of headquarters, and securing enough supplies and reinforcements for the upcoming conflict of which there was little time to prepare.
One of the most apparent obstacles that the combined U.S. and Filipino forces had to overcome was an overall lack of equipment and its quality. Although there were enough firearms such as the Springfield and the British Lee Enfield rifles, the weapons were often too long for the average Filipino infantryman while the the rifles themselves had low quality extractors that would often break. Additionally there was a serious lack of items such as gas masks, steel helmets, and entrenching tools while most issued boots were only rubber based and wore out quickly. Supply of many units was all too often not consistent and highly dependant on the enthusiasm and will of the quartermaster or officer with the responsibility of supply. There was an even more pressing lack of transportation as all units lacked sufficient quantities of heavy trucks or vehicles to transport troops and supplies. The lack of sufficient equipment, training, and supplies would not bode well for the USAFFE in the Philippines in the next few months.
Over the next short months General MacArthur would organize the Philippines into four different military commands, each having its own units and areas of responsibilities. This included the North Luzon Force which was by military intelligence the most likely area to receive an invasion force, the South Luzon, Visayan–Mindanao, and Reserve Forces. Over the next months the more than 22,000 original U.S. Army troops made up of Filipinos and Americans would be reinforced by mostly National Guard units that drew their own strength from states like California, Kentucky, and Missouri to name a few. Although these newly formed units were trained quite quickly and without proper instruction, the guard units brought more modern equipment than was already present on the islands. Over one hundred M3 Stuart light tanks and 107 P-40 Warhawk fighters were shipped from the U.S. mainland in preparation for defensive operations. There were also 35 B-17 bombers operated by the Army Air Force, making the philippine air contingent to be the highest concentration of American combat aircraft outside of the U.S. itself. Yet problems also arose as there were not enough airfields, maintenance facilities and personnel for effective use of the brand new air assets and worrying much of the USAFFE headquarters. The U.S. government policy also hindered the volume of new equipment available to be shipped to the Philippines. The Lend-lease policy to Britain and France effectively cut into available military transportation that could be used to ferry the much needed equipment to both Asia and Europe. Additionally, the United States had not created the capacity for its military industry the same way that it would be renowned for only a year later. The available manufacturing was used not only for domestic military needs but also for another theater of war for two nations. Although many of MacArthur’s military requests would be approved right away, the time needed to create a fighting force that would be totally independent and sufficient to guard the entire archipelago was not available.
The United States was drawn officially into the Second World War when Imperial Japanese forces launched a preemptive attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Just hours later and more than 5,000 miles from Hawaiian islands the Japanese launched an invasion of the Philippine archipelago beginning the first combined U.S. and Filipino campaign of the war. This resulted in the activation of war plan Rainbow 5, putting in place the War Department’s strategy that would last throughout the remainder of the war.
Bailey, Jennifer L. “Philippine Islands.” Philippine Islands, www.history.army.mil/brochures/pi/PI.htm. Accessed 11 Sept. 2017.
Morton, Louis. The Fall of the Philippines. Honolulu, HI, University Press of the Pacific, 2004.
Toland, John. The Rising Sun: the Decline and Fall of the Japanese Empire 1936-1945. Barnsley, South Yorkshire, England, Pen & Sword Military, 2011.
General of the Army Douglas MacArthur smoking his corncob pipe, Manila, Philippine Islands, 2 August 1945. Digital image. Www.wikipedia.com. N.p., 2 Aug. 1945. Web. 18 Sept. 2017. <https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:MacArthur_Manila.jpg>
Philippine Scouts engineers preparing sections for a pontoon bridge. Digital image. Wikipedia. N.p., n.d. Web. <https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Philippine_Scouts_engineers_preparing_sections_for_a_pontoon_bridge.jpg>
Canadian Forces in the Battle of Hong Kong 1941
Hong Kong was under British control till 1941, when the Battle of Hong Kong was waged against Japan. Initially, the British were unconcerned with Japan’s invasion of China and the mistreatment of the Chinese people. A major concern of the British government was the growing number of refugees coming from China. To combat an invasion by Japan, the British government enlisted the help of two other countries under their rule, British India, and Canada.
The Canadian forces were sent in as reinforcements. The Canadian reinforcements were formed from two battalions, the Winnipeg Grenadiers and the Royal Rifles of Canada. The two battalions were recommended by General Chief of Staff, Harry Crear2. On December 7th, the Japanese 38th Division attacked Hong Kong, a mere six hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
With the invasion underway the British, Canadian, and Indian soldiers encountered difficulties. The first issue was the language barrier between the Indian and Canadian soldiers. Another complication was that Japanese soldiers had previous battle experience, while the Canadian soldiers were new to war. Furthermore, the Japanese soldiers were familiar with hill fighting, while the Canadian soldiers were inexperienced. Additionally, the Canadian regiments could not differentiate between the Chinese and Japanese soldiers3.
For two weeks, under the command of Brigadier C. Wallis, Canadian troops attempted to stem Japanese advance. As a result, Canadian troops were short of water and without proper transportation. Even though the British, Canadian and Indian soldiers fought brilliantly, Hong Kong was surrendered to Japan. The remaining British, Canadian, and Indian soldiers were now prisoners of war.
In the aftermath, civilians, and soldiers were subjected to the brutality of the Japanese army. As a result, hundreds of Canadian soldiers died from starvation and illness within POW camps. After the war, a committee was formed in Ottawa to investigate Canada’s involvement in Hong Kong. Commissioner Chief Justice Lyman Duff pardoned the Cabinet, and the Department of National Defense, ignorant of any evidence. An outside analysts concluded that with sufficient training, proper equipment, and staff, Canadian forces would not have been able to defeat the Japanese.
In closing, 554 Canadians died in Hong Kong and in the camps. The soldiers are buried amongst the Sai Wan Bay Memorial, the Stanley Military Cemetery both in Hong Kong. A remaining 107 Canadians, mostly POWs are buried at the British Commonwealth Cemetery in Japan.
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The days leading up to the Bataan Death March were catastrophic for the American and Filipino armies that were stationed in the Philippine island of Luzon. General Douglas McArthur was the general in charge of the Filipino Army in the Pacific during World War II. One of his generals on the island of Corregidor, where an American military base was organized, requested military aid for his ground troops that were in Bataan. There was a Japanese Naval blockade that prevented any aid to General Jonathon M. Wainwright’s company, leaving ground troops without aid. On the field, General Edward P. King’s company were stuck between a rock and hard place. Their resources including their ammo supply were running low or were non existent. The men suffered from diseases like malaria. Weeks prior to the “Bataan Death March,” King’s men slaughtered the packed horses and mules but regardless food rations were running low.
While American and Filipino soldiers were starving, The Japanese army was planning an attack on the central American line near Mount Natib. Japanese bombers took out the central front within 2 days when the Rising Sun flag flew visible to the military base on Corregidor, near Mount Samat in Marveles. McArthur suggested to Wainwright to never surrender, with that said, Wainwright ordered King to set up a counter attack. King who was a strategic solider knew that a counter attack was impossible. A reason of impossibility was that in late March Japan assigned 15,000 soldiers, 140 artillery pieces, and 80 bombers to the Philippine Islands in order to support the Japanese Naval blockade. Another reason of impossibility was the lack of ammo and physical strength of the starving soldiers. One effect of losing the central American line was that the front was divided between soldiers desperately fleeing to Corregidor and the other badly defeated. King knew that a surrender would have to take place but Wainwright wouldn’t allow a surrender. On April 9th 1942, around 6 am, white flags of truce waved on the American line. This was not addressed to Wainwright in Corregidor because King didn’t want him to be responsible for the defeat in the field. Not only was the Battle of Bataan the greatest defeat in the Pacific for the American military but it was the cause of the inhuman march that thousands of prisoners of war endured.
Soldiers that surrendered after the three month conflict of Bataan, would find themselves transported to Camp O’Donnell, Camp Capas, and Camp Tarlac. Over 60,000 prisoners of war reached the camps but the journey is a key example of the atrocities made by the Imperial Japanese Army. Soldiers were starving already during the conflict of Bataan but on the march those who were malnutrition or suffered from a disease would be left behind on the march. Roughly 7,000 did not reach the camps and among them 300 Filipino soldiers were bayoneted. Survivors faced limited rice rations, disease and torture in the camps until the end of the Pacific war in August of 1945.
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by Christopher Sayas
Nazi Flag vs. The Rising Sun Flag
There is nothing that can spark quite so much controversy than the Nazi flag. Its black swastika and red backdrop can produce a strong flurry of extreme emotions to many around the world. The flag itself was made famous as it became the official state flag for Nazi Germany and became a potent symbol of Axis aggression during the Second World War. With the Third Reich’s racially motivated goals of cleansing the world of the Untermenschen, or what they viewed as the undesirables most famously through the concentration camps, the Nazi Flag, or Hakenkreuz, has transformed into a symbol of hatred and far right extremism at its peak. Despite the fact that the Third Reich did not last for quite the intended one thousand year reign, its symbols and imagery have left lasting impressions on the modern world.
Although it has been 72 years since it has been used as an official state flag, extreme-right wing organizations around the world have appropriated it when they can. They have used the swastika as a whole to proudly display their so called racial superiority and as a symbol for others to join their hate for immigrants and minorities. It has also been used as a favorite for more extreme far right political groups who utilize its strong imagery to rally more people to hate as well as a symbol to defend so called ‘white culture.’ Knowing the power of this toxic symbolism both France and Germany passed legislation outlawing the use of Nazi insignias, symbols, and the flag directly following soon after the end of the Second World War. Western society, media, and mainstream culture demonize the symbol of the Nazi regime yet there is more of lukewarm feeling when it comes to Germany’s old Axis ally.
The flag of the Rising Sun was first originally used throughout feudal Japan and during the Meiji Reformation officially became a battle flag for the new imperial military. During the Second World War and well before, the Empire of Japan used the Rising Sun flag for not just state use or functions but also naval jacks and army banners, cementing its image as a symbol for an aggressive and imperialist Japan. To many Koreans, Filipinos, Chinese, and countless Asian ethnicities, the Rising Sun Flag occupied the same moral space as the swastika and the Nazi flag. Yet although Japan was also an Axis power responsible for heinous war crimes, Japan did not seem to go through the same deep cultural cleansing of its official and state symbols the way that Germany was following the end of the war. The flag did not receive an official ban from the government nor from the allied occupation forces.
The Rising Sun, although a symbol of the Japanese Empire would see its official return again in 1954 when the Japan Self Defense Forces were officially founded following soviet military and nuclear threats. Less than a decade earlier it had been used for militaristic and imperialist motivations by an aggressive government seeking to build an empire and enrich itself by any means necessary. To many throughout the Asian continent the Rising Sun symbolizes hostility and serving unwillingly to an empire. To many it also brings images of comfort women, the Rape of Nanking, and the brutality of a warmongering military.
Yet the image of Imperial Japan’s flag however seems at least to the perspective of much of western society to be a much more benign emblem than the swastika. It can be found throughout Japanese culture and products around the world; from toys, to poster, and clothing the image of the Rising Sun is a pervasive symbol that permeates on a global scale and in turn seems to become a more innocuous design without any negative connotations. In this regard the Rising Sun flag occupies a seemingly grey area here in the west in which it is not only a symbol of oppression to some but also a symbol of globalized Japan. It has been transformed into what kind be described as an innocent symbol devoid from its historical roots of aggressive nationalism.
The danger here lies in the lack of education regarding the history and nature of the Rising Sun flag. Symbols do have immense power in that they serve to represent ideals, ideas, and whole nations. The Rising Sun often serves to represent to some the past crimes of a world war and a refusal to face the history can be a painful reminder of justice denied. Although the Rising Sun had been used well before the advent of the Second World War, its continued use signals to some that the past sins of a previous imperial government were not totally wrong. To toss symbols around without knowing the events surrounding even something even seemingly harmless such as a flag design would only be irresponsible to not just the victims of the atrocities but also to the past as well.
“Flags and Other Symbols Used By Far-Right Groups in Charlottesville.” Southern Poverty Law Center, 12 Aug. 2017, www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2017/08/12/flags-and-other-symbols-used-far-right-groups-charlottesville.
Speer, Albert (1970). Inside the Third Reich. New York: Macmillan.
Rising Sun Flag
“Korean Lawmakers Adopt Resolution Calling on Japan Not to Use Rising Sun Flag.” The Korea Herald, 29 Aug. 2012, www.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20120829001376&cpv=0.
Taylor, Adam. “Japan Has a Flag Problem, Too.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 27 June 2015, www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2015/06/27/japan-has-a-flag-problem-too/?utm_term=.cd4909f536ca.
By: Stacey Anne Baterina Salinas
Japanese Military Strategy in the Pacific 1941-1942.
The attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th of 1941 represented the initial step of the Japanese military onslaught of Southeast Asia. The following day, the Japanese continued their aggressive military strategy in the Pacific, targeting American and European holdings in Southeast Asia. From December 8th, 1941 to May of 1942, the Japanese campaign for the Philippines resulted in both the Japanese occupation of the Philippine Islands and the ultimate surrender of both Philippine and American troops. Estimates of 80,000 Filipino and American soldiers were forced to relocate and enter POW camps throughout the island of Luzon once they survived the horrors of the Bataan Death March. Forced to submit to the harsh working conditions of the camps, supervised and scrutinized by Japanese draconian methods, and forced to live in squalid and poorly supplied quarters, American and Filipino troops experienced first hand the brutality of the Japanese Imperial Army. It was clear even during the initial phases of the Japanese occupation of the Philippine Islands that Japanese maltreatment of their captured adversaries had completely contradicted the official conduct of war.
The Japanese maltreatment of the Philippine and American POWs was visible to Philippine citizens who witnessed first hand the Bataan Death March as onlookers and passerbys. Philippine civilians who watched the brutality and killing of POWs as they marched to be transferred to the prisoner camps also were vulnerable to the cruelties of the Japanese military. Philippine men and women who attempted to give food or water to the marchers were injured or killed (bayoneted) as a result of their sympathies to the American and Philippine forces. The Bataan Death March would serve as the precursor to the Japanese Imperial Military’s antagonistic treatment of the Philippine citizenry throughout the islands. The visible signs of maltreatment, the aggressive barring of civil liberties (Japanese propaganda, the torture and capture of Philippine citizens who sympathized with the Allies, etc.), and the immediate severing of foreign relations and aide would spur a Philippine grassroots movement to thwart the Japanese occupation of the Philippine Islands.
The roots of the Philippine Resistance represented the cultural and socio-economic diversity of the Philippine Islands. From socialist peasant farmers, middle school teachers, ROTC youths, to Moro (Philippine Muslim) warriors, the range and inclusivity of the men and women who participated in the struggle against the Japanese Imperial Army was seemingly inexhaustible. Women guerrilla fighters especially made major contributions to the liberation of the Philippines, but unfortunately, similar to the ethnic minority guerrilla fighters, have received less acknowledgement and discussion in World War II history of the Pacific Theater.
The Philippines, during the early half of the twentieth century, witnessed few advances in women’s rights. But with the threat of war and the encroachment of the Japanese Imperial Army upon the Philippine Islands, the patriarchal and religiously conservative culture of the Philippines could not afford to maintain its traditional standards of gender. The grassroots resistance drew in the patriotic fervor of many Filipinas who saw the guerrilla resistance as an opportunity to liberate their homeland as well as prove the capabilities of their sex. Their guerrilla efforts proved women were more than capable of taking on numerous roles: soldiers, leaders, activists, journalists, nurses, doctors, spies, and dedicated patriots. Filipina guerrillas proved to be a vital aspect of both the soldiering and reconnaissance missions that allowed for the Allies to gain an opportunity to retake the Philippines.
Historians estimate that for every ten male guerrillas, one Filipina guerrilla served in the underground resistance. Over 260,000 male Filipino guerrillas served the resistance effort. This male-dominated number therefore reflects that Filipinas in wartime history have been neglected, or because of their status as women were not counted officially as serving, and that the female guerrilla populations represented possibly more than 10% of the guerrilla resistance. These statistics given the little surviving resources on Filipina guerrilla efforts brings to light the missing narratives of a traditionally very American-centered written history on the liberation of the Philippines of World War II. The war time experiences of women of color in the Pacific can provide opportunities to address the various contributions, struggles, and cultural diversity that aided and represented the Allied front of the Pacific.
Filipina guerrillas similar to their male peers were aware of the risks and ultimate sacrifices they would make in their efforts to push the Japanese Imperial Army out of the Philippines. One of the added fears and risks that Filipinas shared that their male peers did not was the threat of rape and being forcibly used as comfort women (sex slaves) for the Japanese Imperial Army. Despite the risks of death, torture, and rape, the Filipina guerrillas of the Philippine Resistance represented a hardy and selfless cause of both liberation from the Japanese imperial regime and progress towards women’s rights in the Southeast Asia.
A Filipina nurse attending to an American soldier at the Catholic Cens Cathedral during the Allied Campaign to retake the Philippines. 
Filipina guerrillas took on various roles and missions to aid the resistance against the Japanese Imperial Army. Many served as medical aides or nurses. The late Dorothy Dowlen, a Filipina mestiza (mixed ancestry of Philippine and European heritage) born and raised on Mindanao served as a medical aide helping Allied soldiers and guerrilla fighters while helping her own family escape the brutalities of the Japanese invasion. Filipina nurses provided the much needed medical help for struggling American soldiers who escaped the POW camps throughout the Philippine Islands. Filipina nurses and doctors such as Bruna Calvan, Carmen Lanot, and Dr. Guedelia Pablan would continue to help civilians, soldiers, and POWs in the region surrounding Bataan despite the loss of their hospital and lack of supplies and food. Risking their lives to smuggle medicine into POW camps and maintain their self-constructed health centers (nipa huts), Filipina guerrillas and female resistance supporters helped not only to physically heal the wounded but strengthened community and soldier morale to fight against the Japanese Imperial Army.
WAS founder, Josefa Capistrano 
Many Filipina nurses used their medical training to assist other guerrilla groups such as the WAS (Women’s Auxiliary Service), led and founded by Josefa Capistrano. Josefa Capistrano, a Chinese-Filipina mestiza would be one of the first Filipinas to establish and train women as soldiers, nurses, and spies schooling them in methods of reconnaissance and the use of firearms and self defense. Capistrano’s female troops served under the tenth military district in Mindanao and would also supply the guerrillas and local communities with food, medical, and military supplies. In 1963, the WAS would be renamed the WAC (Women’s Auxiliary Corps) and would become an official military branch of the Philippine Army managed by women for women.
Colonel Yay Panlilio with her husband Marcos Augustin, founder of the Marking Guerrillas 
Other Filipina guerrillas pursued reconnaissance missions, establishing guerrilla networks throughout the Philippine archipelago, maintaining contact with the Allied forces, and thwarting Japanese propaganda efforts (film, radio broadcasts, newspapers, pamphlets) seeking to win over the Philippine people’s support. Filipina guerrillas like Colonel Yay Panlilio served as a radio and newspaper journalist while fighting alongside, and leading her very own unit of, male guerrillas under the Markings Guerrilla troops on the island of Luzon. Panlilio used her journalist skills to skillfully hide resistance messages in public radio announcements. She also documented and maintained guerrilla activities relaying communication to the Allied forces and to other guerrilla organizations. Panlilio also routed out undercover Filipino collaborators (makapili) who sought to paint the Philippine Resistance as detrimental to Imperial Japan’s efforts in absorbing the Philippines into a “friendly” pan-Asia.
These courageous women broke gender norms while ultimately liberating their homeland from Japanese imperialism all the while promoting the capabilities and mastery of skillsets women were capable of in a male centered society. Through their sacrifices, Filipina resistance fighters like Josefa Capistrano championed gender and racial equality as one goal for their resistance efforts. Capistrano would not accept honorable mentions or awards for her efforts until the Philippine government recognized the WAC as an official branch of the military. Most importantly, their contributions to the Pacific Theater demonstrated the many strengths of past colonial territories whom were undoubtedly deserving and capable of self governance during the post war era.
1. Louis Morton, United States Army in World War II: The War in the Pacific, Strategy & Command: The First Two Years (Office of the Chief of Military History, Department of the Army, 1962), 106.
2. Setsuho Ikehata & Ricardo Trota Jose, The Philippines Under Japan: Occupation Policy and Reaction (University of Hawaii Press, 1999), 60.
3. Kevin C. Murphy, Inside the Bataan Death March: Defeat, Travail and Memory (Jefferson: McFarland, 2014), 104.
4. Peter Li, editor, Japanese War Crimes (New Brunswick: Routledge, 2017), 45.
5. Murphy, Inside the Bataan Death March, 223.
6. Vina Lanzona, Amazons of the Huk Rebellion: Gender, Sex, and Revolution in the Philippines (University of Wisconsin Press, 2009), 7.
7. Nicholas Trajano Molnar, American Mestizos, The Philippines, and the Malleability of Race:1898-1961 (University of Missouri Press, 2017), 126.
8. Getty Images: Time & Life Pictures, Nurses and Wounded Soldiers, photograph, Tumblr, Last Accessed August 30th, 2017, http://cache3.asset-cache.net/gc/53378881-filipino-nurse-tending-to-the-wounded-gettyimages.jpg?v=1&c=IWSAsset&k=2&d=2PqlFQzuD9tjbMbBdVdvPZgwFcAGRxujqrRukD6lkBz50XVWMAogIql58z%2biFkZFbqNv1tfj6UR%2fCt5zE642iQ%3d%3d.
9. Dorothy Dore Dowlen, Enduring What Cannot Be Endured: Memoir of a Woman Medical Aide in the Philippines in World War II (Jefferson: McFarland, 2001), 1-8, 87, 123.
10. Sergeant Carl Ritt, “Filipino Nurses on Bataan,” Bulletin: Medical Women’s Association, Vol. 90 (1945): 346, 347.
11. Filipiknow, Josefa Capistrano, photograph, Pinterest, Last Accessed August 30th, 2017, https://www.pinterest.com/pin/481814860115850950/.
12. Evelyn Jamboy, The Resistance Movement in Lanao, 1942-1945 (Coordination Center for Research and Development, MSU Illigan Institute of Technology, 1985), 74.
13. Philippine National Historical Society, “The Journal of History: Philippines,” The Journal of History: Philippine National Historical Society, Vol. 57 (2011): 253.
14. Manuel Duldulao, A Century of Philippine Legislature: Timelines of Events, People, and Laws that Shaped the Filipino Nation, Vol. 1 (Unang Letra Publishing, 2007), 59.
15. Meaghan Miller, “Kathyn Atwood Showcases the Pacific Theater in her Newest Women Heroes of World War II Book,” Chicago Review Press Blog, last modified September 26th, 2016, accessed August 29th, 2017, http://www.chicagoreviewpress.com/blog/kathryn-atwood-showcases-the-pacific-theater-in-her-newest-women-heroes-of-world-war-ii-book/.
16. Ray C. Hunt & Bernard Norling, Behind Japanese Lines: An American Guerrilla in the Philippines (University Press of Kentucky, 2014), 128.
17. National Centennial Commission, Sulong Pilipina! Sulong Pilipinas! A Compilation of Filipino Women Centennial Awardees (National Centennial Commission, Women Sector, 1999), 396.
by Mark Witzke
In the late 19th century, as China declined in the face of internal struggles and foreign intrusion, Japan was on the rise. As the world moved on to the 20th century, China’s loss of influence over Korea and the stunning victory of Japan in the Sino-Japanese War confirmed that China was no longer the premier power in the Pacific. With this victory, Japan, the former tributary state to the Chinese Empire, followed the example set by the Western powers and claimed territory from China. They forced China to sign another humiliating unequal treaty (Treaty of Shimonoseki 1895), which ceded Taiwan, the Penghu islands, and the Liaodong Peninsula to the Japanese Empire. This was the beginning, but far from the end of Japanese conquest in China. This conquest would eventually become one of the most destructive conflicts in world history, engulfing China in a storm of chaos and destruction and causing the deaths of millions and the loss of much of China’s territory.
Description: military actions taken in the 1st Sino-Japanese War
In the years following the 1st Sino-Japanese War, China continued to be weakened by internal instability. The fall of the Qing Empire in 1911 was soon followed by the Warlord Era, a time where a central authority in China barely existed. Eventually, beginning in 1926, Chiang Kai-Shek led both the Guomindang (GMD) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) on the Northern Expedition, which restored some resemblance of order. However, his betrayal of the Communists soon after in 1927 during the Shanghai Massacre ensured that a fully united government had no hope of continuing. As the two Chinese parties struggled, Japan saw its chance for conquest and in the 1931 Mukden Incident created a staged explosion as a pretext to invade Manchuria and establish a puppet regime, naming it Manchukuo. At this point, Chiang Kai-Shek, the ruler of most of China, felt the military was too weak to effectively resist Japan and instead continued to fight the Communists, hoping to gain strength and eventually fight off the Japanese. However, with the loss of Manchuria the Japanese now dominated much of China’s northeastern territory. Although the conflict ended with a truce, the GMD refused to recognize Manchukuo as a legitimate state.
In the years following from 1931-1937, guerilla warfare and skirmishes were common but much of the GMD’s troops and resources were allocated towards fighting Communists rather than Japanese. In the south of China, the GMD fought to eliminate the CCP once and for all and began to encircle the last of the Communist territories. The CCP broke out from this containment in late 1934 and began an epic retreat to the northwest of China in Shaanxi. This “Long March” saved the Communist party and consolidated Mao Zedong’s role as the undisputed leader of the CCP. In 1936, the Xi’an incident led to the capture of Chiang Kai-Shek and forced him to once again form a United Front with the Communists. The GMD and Communists prepared for war and it would soon arrive.
The Marco Polo Bridge Incident began as misunderstanding followed by a small exchange of fire. Although both units’ commanders apologized, reinforcements were called in for both sides, tensions escalated and within a week the war had begun in earnest. Hundreds of thousands of Japanese flowed into northern China, quickly pushing the Nationalist forces back and leaving only Communist guerilla insurgencies remaining. Beijing and Tianjin soon fell to the Japanese armies and the Japanese continued marching southward. Although the GMD took a determined stand with its most well-trained and equipped army divisions in the defense of Shanghai, that city too soon fell to the onslaught of the Japanese military. The Japanese continued on slaughtering and pillaging as they went, including the horrific Nanjing Massacre. By the beginning of 1938 Japan had extended its territory from the north of China into Shanghai, Nanjing, Xuzhou, Wuhan and vast areas of the middle and coastal areas of China.
Description: Japanese troops march through Beijing, August 13, 1937
The Japanese had soundly defeated the GMD and the CCP forces and conquered many of China’s most populous and industrious cities. The GMD was forced to flee to the southwest of China and establish a headquarters in Chongqing while the CCP hid in Shaanxi and conducted guerrilla warfare behind Japanese enemy lines. As 1938 turned to 1939, the Japanese advance slowed and this Sino-Japanese conflict became part of an even greater one—World War II. The remains of Free China held out against sustained bombing campaigns as it hoped to outlast Japan. In this chaotic time, world politics was in flux and soon China would find itself a member of the Allies, joining with Britain, the Soviet Union, and later, the United States against Japan, Germany, and Italy.
Description: Japanese occupation of China by 1940
Stuck in a stalemate on the Chinese mainland, Japan turned towards the seas and moved its fleet out, conquering islands and spreading throughout the Pacific. During this time Japan also consolidated their gains in the south of China, taking both Chinese and foreign administered cities; including, Canton, Xiamen, and Hong Kong. The GMD and CCP were both ineffective in their counterattacks while shock and awe campaigns in southern China killed thousands and reduced buildings to rubble. In CCP infiltrated areas, Japan carried out the “three-alls policy” a campaign of “Kill all, burn all, loot all”. Villagers throughout China were slaughtered, their food stolen, and their homes burned to the ground.
By 1942 the Japanese Empire had reached its greatest extent. It dominated the northern cities of China, controlled the puppet state of Manchuria, administered Taiwan, and ruled the prosperous southern port cities. Japan had possession of roughly 25% of China’s enormous territory and more than a third of its entire population. Beyond its areas of direct control, Japan carried out bombing campaigns, looting, massacres and raids deep into Chinese territory. Almost no place was beyond the reach of Japanese intrusion. However, at this peak the tide began to turn. Despite the death and destruction, Japan in the end could not defeat the last of Chinese resistance. Meanwhile, although the British had failed to effectively defend Hong Kong, Singapore and Burma, as the United States entered the War in the Pacific, Japan began to know defeat and eventually was on the run. After many years of struggle and hardships, all of China would soon be free of Japanese rule.
Description: Furthest extend of Japanese occupation in China at the end of World War II
Description: Furthest extend of Japanese occupation in China at the end of World War II
Holcombe, Charles. A History of East Asia: From the Origins of Civilization to the Twenty-first Century. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge UP, 2017. Print.
Kissinger, Henry. On China. New York: Penguin, 2012. Print.
Spence, Jonathan D. The Search for Modern China. New York: Norton, 1990. Print.
Taylor, Jay. The Generalissimo: Chiang Kai-shek and the Struggle for Modern China. Cambridge, MA: Belknap of Harvard UP, 2011. Print.
by Chris Suen
In the Pacific Theatre of World War II, Allied POWs including American soldiers endured agonizing treatment from their Japanese captors. Most notably, the experiences of POWs transferred to the Japanese home islands. The war effort required that able Japanese males serve their country thus creating a shortage of laborers to fulfill the needs and demands of the industries and the country itself. POWs found themselves mobilized as a labor workforce to help augment the Japanese war-time industry replenishing the depleted Japanese manpower in response to World War II. Most notably, is the utilization of POW slave labor within the country’s Zaibatsu or business conglomerate a monopoly.) Zaibatsus were family corporations that following the country’s westernization process through the Meiji Restoration in the ate 19th century and subsequent industrialization in the beginning of the 20th century. Notable Zaibatsus were: Sumitomo, Mitsui, Mitsubishi, and Yasuda to name a few. Associated firms under the umbrella include notable modern day companies including: Mazda, Mitsubishi, Sapporo Brewery, Honda, and Nikon. The four Zaibatsus held extensive and diverse industries throughout Japan and consequently had significant influence on the country’s economy. In the U.S the monopolistic trusts of Standard Oil and U.S Steel can be considered as similar models to Zaibatsus. To feed the massive industries required abundant access to raw materials such as oil, iron, coal, rubber, just to name a few which was not abundant on Japan itself.
However, the country’s Asian neighbors did in fact have these valuable resources that were necessary for Japan’s economic growth. The only viable way to acquire access to these sought-after resources was through one way: military expansion. Although, conflicts such as wars aren’t in the Zaibatsu’s best interest due to international trade, the benefits outweighed the cost and in an ironic twist, the Zaibatsus would benefit from wartime Japan. The argument could be made that in this moment Japan’s Zaibatsus turned into what some people call the “Military Industrial Complex” where wars are good for business and the economic viability of industries that feed sought endeavors.
Even though conflict with the U.S and the Allies although bad for the interests of Zaibatsus, the prospect of resources and profits from the war effort became tantalizing for the Zaibatsus which held enormous sway on just on the country’s economy but also the country’s government as well. World War II brought economic wealth to the Zaibatsus however a looming problem emerged: a shortage in the workforce as many of the labor force were mobilized into the military. Japan’s military provided a supply of labor options: Allied POWs captured in the Pacific. To acquire this cheap form of labor required the Zaibatsu to pay a fee and subsequently buy POWs from the military. Japan’s industries were at times employing slave labor to supplement the workforce. POWs were treated like stock animals rather than human beings regarding their labor conditions. Comparisons could be made to the “Gilded Age” where working conditions in U.S industry during the late 19th to early 20th century were atrocious and loss of life was all too common. In Japan, POWS had to endure terrible working and living conditions, long arduous hours of labor without pay or compensation, endure beatings, torture, and possibly death at the hands of the Zaibatsus who also served as their prison guards. Japan’s industry was feed off the blood, sweat, and tears of the POWs whose liberation came about with Japan’s surrender on September 2, 1945. Over seventy years later many of the Zaibatsus still exist and their firms are fortune 500 companies that have global name recognition.
However, the stain of slave labor during World War II still exists and to this day many former prisoners continue to lead the fight for Japan and the companies to formally acknowledge and apologize for their wartime actions regarding POWS as slave labor. Although some small statements of regret have come from some industries, Japan has failed to acknowledge or even apologize to the former POWs which as each day goes by, more and more of them pass away without the closure that they so desperately want and what they are owed. This injustice continues, because of Japan’s unwillingness to acknowledge their past actions and their subsequent refusal to reconcile with their own past. It is a matter of pride for Japan and at the expense of the dwindling number of former POWs who suffered at the hands of the Zaibatsus and the country.
Kaufman, Zachary D.1,2,3,4,5. . Transitional Justice for Tojo's Japan: The United States Role in the Establishment of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East and Other Transitional Justice Mechanisms for Japan After World War Ii. Vol. 27, 2013,
Murakami, Yasusuke, Hugh T. Patrick, and Kōzō Yamamura. 1987. The Political economy of Japan. Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press.
Scheiber, Harry N. "Taking Responsibility: Moral and Historical Perspectives on the Japanese War-Reparations Issues." Berkeley Journal of International Law 20, no. 1 (03, 2002): 233,
by Sally Ma
*Syonan- name of Singapore during the Japanese occupation
Shortly after the British surrendered Singapore to Imperial Japan in February 1942, the Japanese Military executed Operation Sook Ching to wipe out all anti-Japanese elements. The Japanese military police, Kempeitai, were afraid of Singapore resisting Japanese rule and feared losing control of the city. Therefore, General Tomoyuki Yamashita ordered the military to execute members that would be considered a threat to the Japanese government. The series of purges to eliminate all anti-Japanese threats among the Chinese community is known as Sook Ching, in Chinese translation means “purge through cleansing.” From February 21 to March 5, the Japanese military summoned Chinese males between the ages of 18 to 50 for mass screening and executed those who were suspected to be anti-Japanese. They considered members of the volunteer force that resisted Japanese occupation in Malaya and Singapore, communist, looters, people who owned armed weapons, businessmen who provided financial support to resist Japanese invasion in China, gangsters, and names of people on the list given by the Japanese intelligence to be anti-Japanese.
In order to adequately secure control of Singapore, General Yamashita’s priority was to eliminate all Chinese resistance. There was a massive influx of refugees coming from Malaya Peninsula due to the recent Japanese invasion. The population of Singapore was estimated to be 1.4 million, and more than half of the population was ethnic Chinese. In comparison to the Chinese population in Singapore, the Japanese treated Indians and Malaya more kindly. The Japanese did not trust Singaporean Chinese because the Japanese and Chinese have already been fighting for about five years since the Second Sino-Japanese War beginning in 1937 and many of the Singaporean Chinese support resistance against the Japanese force in China. For that reason, the Japanese launched a brutal operation to wipe out and clean impure elements against Japanese ideology and specifically targeted the Chinese population.
Operation Sook Ching divided Singapore into four regional zones to assemble the Chinese community in preparation for the screening process. Issues and notices were sent out, posters were shared, and men used loudspeakers to announce the news to advise Chinese males between the ages of 18 to 50 to present themselves at screening centers. Kempeitai carried out the screening sessions and decided which individuals are deemed to be anti-Japanese. However, the Japanese military police poorly conducted the selection process. The specifications to measure anti-Japanese qualities differed in every screening center and officers. In some instances, victims were chosen solely based on their occupation, others were selected based on the way they responded to questions, and some were suspected because of their tattooed body. The chosen suspects were transferred to isolated areas in Changi, Punggol, and Bedok for execution. It is estimated that the Sook Ching Massacres killed 10-20 percent of the Chinese male population in Singapore. According to the Japanese record, Sook Ching killed 5,000 civilians, but Singapore’s record estimates the death toll to be 50,000 to 70,000. However, the exact number is unclear due to lack of written records.
Geoffrey C. Gunn, “Remembering the Southeast Asian Chinese Massacres of 1941-45,” Journal of Contemporary Asia, Vol.37, No.3, August 2007, pp. 273-291.
Jean Abshire, “Chapter 5: Fortress Singapore to Syonan-to: World War II,” in The History of Singapore (Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood, 2011).
Lee, Geok Boi, The Syonan Years: Singapore under Japanese rule 1942-1945 (Singapore: National Archives of Singapore and Epigram, 2005).
Peter Thompson, “Chapter 26: Sook Ching (Purification by Elimination),” in The Battle For Singapore: The True Story of the Great Catastrophe of World War II (London: Piatkus Books Limited, 2005).
The Dutch East Indies as known as the Netherlands, colonized Indonesia in 1800. Although, Indonesians knew that Japan was conquering many countries they hoped that if the Japanese invaded it would lead to their independence from the Netherlands. On December 8, 1941 the Netherlands declared war on Japan. Several countries fought under the American-British-Dutch-Australian Command structure, but it was a losing battle. The Japanese were too powerful and well prepared; they were focused on the Dutch East Indies due to their vast natural resources. By mid February many places were under Japanese control including Borneo, Singapore, and Java. On March 8, 1942 the Dutch surrendered to the Japanese Empire and it decisively ended 300 years of Dutch rule.
The Japanese forced Indonesians and Dutch out of their homes and into makeshift internment camps. Many Dutch believed they would be spared because they helped the Japanese gain valuable resources and they would help run the cities. However that was not the case, everyone was taken to internment camps. Japanese and Indonesian people were installed in higher-ranking positions, while the Dutch were sent to the camps. The conditions of the internment camps were horrific. Originally, Indonesian people welcomed the Japanese with open arms, but soon learned they would not be kind in return. The internees were treated terribly mainly at the hands of the Japanese. Parents were separated from their children, young teenage girls were forced to dig graves for those who were killed either by starvation or by Japanese police, and everyday women and children were forced to face Japan and bow to a representative of Emperor Hirohito. The killing of internees and sympathizers were a common occurrence and could happen at any moment. Food and basic supplies were extremely scarce as the Japanese were still trying to fight on other fronts.
Helen Colijn was just a teenager when the Japanese invaded her homeland. Originally from Tarakan, Helen, her father, and two sisters fled to Tabuan when her father realized the Japanese would be invading the Dutch East Indies. But soon after they arrived in Tabuan, they were arrested by the Japanese and separated from each other. Helen and her sisters, Alette and Antoinette, were sent to a women and children camp while her father, Anton, was sent to a nearby men’s camp. Helen was imprisoned with other civilians including Dutch, British, and a group of Australian Army nurses.
After Helen became imprisoned, she volunteered for grave duty along with three other prisoners. She wanted to help and the one way she could was to make sure those who had been killed had a proper grave. The guards wouldn’t dig graves for people, so it was up to the prisoners. As she spent more time digging graves, her outlook on life and death substantially changed. Death was no longer a shock or a time to be sad because it occurred almost everyday and the few healthy women didn’t have energy to grieve. Many prisoners were not only dying due to lack of food and medication, rather they had lost the will to live.
There were countless rules imposed on people inside the camp and outside of the camp by the Japanese. One rule the Japanese had was roll call or tenko. The internees were ordered to bow from the waist to the local representative of Japan. Oftentimes they had to stand for hours in the sun if one didn’t meet the standards of the guards. Anything that didn't meet the guard’s satisfaction could lead to physical abuse. The punishment also extended to outsiders. There was an elderly Chinese man who got caught trying to sell eggs to starving women inside the camps. The guards dragged him into the camp, then tied rope around his hands and neck in a way that would strangle him over time. Everyone in the camp had to walk past him on their way to tenko; it took three days for him to die. There was one rule that worked in favor of the internees: they were allowed to conduct their own educational activities. This brought a piece of peace for the women because they were able to have a place to talk in a communal library and they could pass down traditions and teachings to their children.
Unfortunately, all of this changed early in 1943 when they were moved from individual structures to hastily constructed barracks camps. This created stress because now everything was shared and public. The restrooms were public and the showers were open for everyone to use in front of one another. Margaret Dryburgh, an English musically gifted missionary, wanted to do something to bring joy back in their lives. She wrote a song called “The Captives Hymn” with Norah Chambers. Together Dutch, English, and Australian singers rehearsed at night and put together a concert for everyone to enjoy.
Alette and Antoinette were both in the choir. While many were looking forward for a brief escape, others were not so supportive. One told Helen, “It’s absurd to waste precious energy singing. The singers should be using their energy for just staying alive!” Helen quipped, “But the singers say they generate energy by singing.” Once at the concert, one could feel the excitement in the air and that only intensified when 30 women appeared and faced the audience. Then they began to sing: “I felt a shiver go down my back. I though I had never herd anything so beautiful before” Helen later recalled. But then Helen heard the voice of an angry guard and she saw his bayonet and his rifle. To her surprise the music continued and his angry voice did not. It was as if he was mesmerized by the enchanting sounds. Later, during intermission one of the women offered him a cookie and he humbly accepted it with thanks. Since the first concert was such a success many followed after. The music brought back a feeling of humanity in both the internees and guards. Overtime more officers attended and in a way it brought everyone together. An Australian member of the orchestra said, “When I sang that vocal orchestra music, I forgot I was in the camp. I felt free.”
On August 24, 1945 a camp commander told the prisoners that the war was over, but not who won. The following day they began to receive items previously thought to be scarce: medicine, food, blankets, mosquito nets, bandages, towels. Numerous prisoners continued to die, but the ones who still were holding on knew help was on the way. September 7, 1945 is a day Helen and her sisters will forever remember because that day Dutch paratroopers entered the camp. By this time Helen was so weak she couldn’t walk very far. She finally believed that the Allies were coming to rescue them when she saw red, white, and blue flags instead of the Japanese rising sun flag. The Colijn family moved to the United States and rarely discussed their imprisonment, but in 1980 Antoinette rediscovered her 68 page vocal orchestra scores. This brought international attention to the orchestra and to the surviving members. The Colijn sisters wrote books and participated in documentaries. Alette, Antoinette, and Helen will always be remembered for how they used music to bring people together.
Atwood, Kathryn J. Women Heroes of World War II: 26 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Resistance, and Rescue. Chicago, IL: Chicago Review, 2013. Print.
Chen, C. Peter. "Dutch East Indies in World War II." WW2DB. World War II Database, n.d. Web.
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By Alistair Rogers
After the attack of the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor in December of 1941, the United States was forced to engage a foe whose territory included encompassed much of the North Pacific and South Pacific Oceans. At its height in 1942, the Empire of Japan stretched from Alaska’s westward Aleutian Islands, southward to New Guinea and westward to the Philippines Islands, Thailand, French Indo-China (modern-day Vietnam), Sumatra and coastal China. With Japan entrenched through such a vast territory, the United States had to employ specific tactics to defeat enemy forces in isolated areas, recover occupied territories, and ultimately defeat Japan on its homeland. The employment of island hopping was instrumental in achieving this victory.
Also known as leap-frogging, island hopping focused on bypassing heavily armed locations for islands and atolls where airstrips could be constructed. With these airstrips in place, long-range bombers could attack the Japanese mainland while the Army and Navy avoided prolonged and bloody conflict. A large pincer movement was designed, with General Douglas MacArthur leading the Southwest Pacific Forces northward towards the Philippines, while Admiral Chester Nimitz lead the Central Pacific fleet westward from Hawaii. General MacArthur’s forces moved northward and gained important victories at Guadalcanal, New Guinea, and the Philippines, reaching that archipelago in June of 1945. Admiral Nimitz’s forces moved westward, taking key locations such as the Marshall Islands, Wake Island, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa, reaching that important location in June of 1945. All the while, American B-29 Bombers attacked Japan throughout 1944 and 1945, most notably the firebombing of Tokyo in May 1945. The success of this pincer movement culminated in the dropping of two atomic bombs in early August of 1945, bringing the war to a quick-yet destructive conclusion, yet avoiding the bloody stalemate of a mainland-invasion.
Author unknown “Island Hopping” http://www.u-s-history.com/pages/h1671.html
Haywood, John PhD. Atlas of World History. New York : Barnes and Noble Books, 1997
Liu, Xiaoyuan “A Partnership for Disorder: China, America, and World War II” Journal of Empire Studies . September 5, 2011 http://empirestudies.com/2011/09/05/partnership-for-disorder/
“Island Hopping: Foothold Across the Pacific”: The National World War II Museum http://www.nationalww2museum.org/campaigns-of-courage/road-to-tokyo/island-hopping.html