World War II in the Pacific - Timeline 1931-1945

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					           WORLD WAR II IN THE PACIFIC – TIMELINE 1931 - 1945

                      Setting the Stage for Japanese Imperialism

1895 – Conquest # 1: Japan acquires Formosa (Taiwan) off the coast of mainland China
after the Sino-Japanese War; Formosa and the Pescadores Islands were Japan’s first
1904 – The Rising Sun: The Japanese Navy (which had previously been trained by
British instructors, as Britain had the best navy in the entire world) destroys Russia’s
Baltic Fleet in the Battle of Port Arthur off the coast of the Korean Peninsula. This was
the first time that a non-European fleet had defeated the fleet of any European nation;
Russia thus became the laughing-stock of all of Europe. In Russia, the defeat in the
Russo-Japanese War 1904-1905 would trigger off the spontaneous revolution of 1905.
1905 – Conquest # 2: After the Russo-Japanese War, Japan attacked Korea and made the
Korean Peninsula a Japanese protectorate; in 1910, Japan officially annexed Korea; the
Japanese proved to be harsh and repressive rulers of Korea, leading to resentment on the
side of the Koreans up to this very day.
August 23rd, 1914 – At the beginning of World War I, Imperial Japan, honoring the
Anglo-Japanese Alliance, declares war on Imperial Germany.
1915 – Conquest # 3: The Japanese seize the Mariana Islands and the Caroline Islands in
the Pacific Ocean from Imperial Germany. Note: Japan was allied with Germany during
World War II, but fighting against Germany in World War I.
1922 – Interlude: Japan’s democratic government signs an international treaty agreeing to
respect China’s borders.
1927 – The ideology: Giichi Tanaka, Japanese General and Prime Minister from 1927 to
1929, publishes the Tanaka Memorial, which serves as the ideological foundation of
Japanese imperialism. In this memorial, Tanaka advocates the Japanese imperialist
conquest of Manchuria, Mongolia, and all of China. (The Japanese government claimed
that the document was a forgery.)
1928 – Interlude: Japan’s government signs the Kellogg-Briand pact renouncing war.
1930 – The takeover: The Great Depression strikes Japan and the democratic government
is blamed. Prior to the takeover of the military, democratic politicians are assassinated.
The Japanese military leaders gain control of the government. They install an autocratic
type of government, in which Emperor Hirohito becomes the head of state and
simultaneously a godlike figure. The military leaders are extremely nationalistic and want
to solve all economic problems by foreign expansion; they want to establish a Japanese
empire that would provide Japan with raw materials and give room for its rising
population; this empire would be called “Greater Asian Co-Prosperity Zone”.
September 1931 – Conquest # 4: The Japanese army invades and seizes Manchuria
despite objections from the Japanese parliament. Manchuria is rich in coal and iron ore –
two raw materials that are needed for industrial growth and armament production. The
Japanese set up a puppet government and rename the country “Manchuko”; Manchuko is
formally independent but in reality a Japanese colony.
The Japanese invasion of Manchuria marks the beginning of World War II in the Pacific.
1933 – The logical consequence: After many protests from the League of Nations since
the Japanese invasion of Manchuria, Japan decides to withdraw from the League of

Nations even though this goes into effect as late as 1938. Hence both Nazi Germany and
imperialist Japan leave the League of Nations in the year 1933; fascist Italy will follow in
July 1937 – Conquest # 5: Japan now invades mainland China; the Japanese army is
better trained and better equipped than Jiang Jieshi’s (Chiang Kai-shek’s) one million
soldiers and defeats the Chinese forces; in the end, Japan controls the Chinese coastline
from Beijing in the north almost down to Shanghai in central China.
1937 – The “Japanese Holocaust”: Rape of Nanking/Nanking Massacre – Japanese troops
brutally kill tens of thousands of Chinese soldiers and civilians; Nanking becomes the
scene of abhorrent cruelties that are very difficult to understand for people raised in the
Western tradition; Nanking is also referred to as the “Japanese Holocaust”.
1937-1941 – Chinese resistance to Japanese control in the Chinese heartland causes a
strain on Japan’s economy, leading to a need to increase imports of resources to Japan.
September 27th, 1940 – The (tripartite) “Axis Pact” is signed by Germany, Italy, and
Japan. Nazi Germany, fascist Italy, and Imperial Japan are now the Axis Powers.
July 1941: Conquest # 6: The Japanese overrun French Indochina. After the Nazis
conquered France in May 1940, French Indochina has become sphere of influence of the
Axis Powers, and, consequently, the Japanese invade and keep French Indochina under
their control, with the approval of Germany and Italy.
July 26th, 1941 – President Roosevelt freezes Japanese assets in the United States and
suspends relations with the Japanese Empire.
August 1st, 1941 – The United States announces an oil embargo against aggressor states
(meaning Japan).
August 1941 – The Americans have cracked the Japanese secret code.
August 1941 – Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, originally opposed to the war against the
Americans, plans a massive Japanese surprise attack in both Southeast Asia and the
Pacific. In Southeast Asia, the Japanese primarily need the oil resources from the Dutch
East Indies (today called Indonesia).
Pertaining to the Americans, Yamamoto argues that the U.S. Pacific Fleet in Hawaii is “a
dagger pointed at our throat” and must be destroyed. Admiral Yamamoto is responsible
for the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.

                          Part B: World War II in the Pacific


December 7th, 1941 – Conquest # 7: The Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor, Hawaii; they also
attack the Philippines, Wake Island (“The Alamo of the Pacific”), Guam, Malaya,
Thailand, Shanghai, and Midway.
Roosevelt refers to Pearl Harbor as “a date that will live in infamy”; 2,200 U.S. soldiers
are killed during the attack on Pearl Harbor.
December 8th, 1941 – The United States and Great Britain declare war on Imperial Japan;
for the Americans, World War II has now begun. The Japanese land near Singapore and
enter Thailand.
December 9th, 1941 – China declares war on Japan.
December 10th, 1941 – The Japanese invade the Philippines and also seize Guam.

December 11th, 1941 – The Japanese invade Burma.
December 11th, 1941 – Nazi Germany declares war on the United States.
December 16th, 1941 – The Japanese invade British Borneo.
December 18th, 1941 – The Japanese invade Hong Kong.
December 23rd, 1941 – General Douglas MacArthur begins withdrawal from Manila to
Bataan; the Japanese take Wake Island.
December 25th, 1941 – The British surrender at Hong Kong.


January 2nd, 1942 – Manila, the capital of the Philippines, is captured by the Japanese.
January 7th, 1942 – The Japanese attack Bataan in the Philippines.
January 11th, 1942 – The Japanese invade the Dutch East Indies and Dutch Borneo.
Note: The Dutch East Indies, today Indonesia, are rich in oil supplies, desperately needed
for the Japanese war machine.
January 18th, 1942 – Tripartite German-Italian-Japanese military agreement signed in
January 23rd, 1942 – The Japanese take Rabaul and Bougainville on New Britain in the
Solomon Islands.
January 30th/31st, 1942 – The British withdraw into Singapore; the Japanese have
advanced through the jungle of the Malayan Peninsula, partially on bicycle; the siege of
Singapore, the British stronghold in Southeast Asia, begins.
February 14th, 1942 – The Japanese have invaded Java and Sumatra in the Dutch East
February 15th, 1942 – The British surrender at Singapore.
February 19th, 1942 – Large Japanese air raid against the city of Darwin in Australia.
February 22nd, 1942 – President Roosevelt orders General MacArthur out of the
March 7th, 1942 – The British evacuate Rangoon in Burma (today Myanmar).
March 8th, 1942 – The Dutch on Java surrender to the Japanese; later on, the Japanese
prove to be cruel occupational forces in the Dutch East Indies; they are, however, not as
cruel as the Dutch as colonial rulers. The indigenous population of the Dutch East Indies
initially welcomes the Japanese as liberators.
March 11th, 1942 – General MacArthur leaves Corregidor and is flown to Australia.
March 18th, 1942 – MacArthur is appointed commander of the Southwest Pacific Theater.
March 18th, 1942 – The War Relocation Authority is established in the United States;
eventually 120,000 Japanese-Americans will be relocated and also lose their property.
Despite internment, over 17,000 Japanese-Americans sign up and fight for the United
States in World War II in Europe, especially very bravely in the Italian campaign – much
to the astonishment of the Germans.
March 24th, 1942 – Admiral Chester Nimitz is appointed Commander-in-Chief of the
United States Pacific Theater.
April 6th, 1942 – First United States troops arrive in Australia.
April 9th, 1942 – United States forces on Bataan surrender unconditionally to the

April 10th, 1942 – Bataan Death March begins as 76,000 Allied POW’s including 12,000
Americans are forced to walk 60 miles under a blazing sun without food or water toward
a Japanese POW camp, resulting in over 5,000 American deaths.
April 18th, 1942 – “Doolittle Raid”: Surprise U.S. B-25 air raid from the carrier Hornet
against Tokyo boosts American morale.
May 6th, 1942 – The Japanese take Corregidor as General Wainwright unconditionally
surrenders all U.S. and Filipino forces in the Philippines.
May 7th/8th, 1942 – Japan suffers its first defeat of the war during the Battle of the Coral
Sea off New Guinea. It is the first time in military history that two opposing carrier forces
fight one another using aircraft only, without the opposing ships ever sighting each other.
May 20th, 1942 – The Japanese complete the capture of Burma (today Myanmar) and
reach the borders of India.
June 4th/5th, 1942 – THE TURNING POINT OF THE WAR occurs with a decisive
victory for the United States against Japan in the Battle of Midway. Squadrons of U.S.
torpedo planes and dive-bombers from the Enterprise, Hornet, and Yorktown attack and
destroy all four of Vice-Admiral Nagumo’s carriers, all of which have taken part in the
surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. The United States loses the carrier Yorktown.
Japan’s loss of four out of their six fleet carriers, plus a large number of their highly
trained air crews, stopped the expansion of the Japanese Empire in the Pacific; the victory
at Midway gives the United States the strategic initiative.
June 7th, 1942 – The Japanese invade the Aleutian Islands.
August 7th, 1942 – The first U.S. amphibious landing of the war occurs as the First
Marine Division invades Tulagi and Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands.
August 29th, 1942 – The Red Cross announces that Japan refuses to allow safe passage on
ships containing supplies for United States POW’s.
September 9th/10th, 1942 – A Japanese floatplane drops incendiary bombs on U.S. forests
in the state of Oregon – the only bombing of the continental U.S. during the war.
September 12th-14th, 1942 – Battle of Bloody Ridge on Guadalcanal
December 2nd, 1942 – Enrico Fermi conducts the world’s first nuclear chain reaction test
at the University of Chicago.
December 31st, 1942 – Emperor Hirohito gives permission to his troops to withdraw from
Guadalcanal after five months of bloody fighting against U.S. forces.


February 8th, 1943 – British-Indian forces begin guerilla operations against the Japanese
in Burma (today Myanmar).
April 18th, 1943 – U.S. code breakers pinpoint the location of Japanese Admiral
Yamamoto flying in a Japanese bomber near Bougainville in the Solomon Islands.
Eighteen P-38 fighters then locate and shoot down Yamamoto.
April 22nd, 1943 – Japan announces captured Allied pilots will be given “one way tickets
to hell”.
May 31st, 1943 – The Japanese end their occupation of the Aleutian Islands.
June 1st, 1943 – The U.S. begins submarine warfare against Japanese shipping.
October 7th, 1943 – The Japanese execute approximately 100 American POW’s on Wake

November 1st, 1943 – The U.S. Marines invade Bougainville in the Solomon Islands; the
Americans successfully apply General Douglas MacArthur’s strategy of “island
November 20th, 1943 – U.S. troops invade Makin and Tarawa in the Gilbert Islands.


February 17th/18th/20th, 1944 – U.S. carrier-based and land-based planes destroy the
Japanese bases at Truk and Rabaul.
February and March 1944 – Merrill’s Marauders and General Wingate’s groups begin
operations behind Japanese lines in Burma (today Myanmar).
April and May 1944 – The Allies invade parts of New Guinea.
June 15th, 1944 – U.S. Marines invade Saipan in the Mariana Islands.
July 19th, 1944 – U.S. Marines invade Guam in the Mariana Islands.
August 8th, 1944 – American troops complete the capture of the Mariana Islands.
October 11th, 1944 – U.S. air raids against Okinawa
October 20th, 1944 – The United States Sixth Army invades Leyte in the Philippines.
October 23rd-26th, 1944 – The Battle of Leyte Gulf results in a decisive U.S. naval
victory; now the door to mainland Japan is wide open.
October 25th, 1944 – The first suicide air attacks (Kamikaze) occur against U.S. warships
in Leyte Gulf. By the end of the war, Japan will have sent an estimated 2,257 Kamikaze
aircraft. Admiral Halsey would later say of the Japanese Kamikazes: “The only weapon I
feared in the war.”
November 11th, 1944 – The U.S. Navy bombards the Japanese island of Iwo Jima.
December 17th, 1944 – The U.S. Air Force begins preparations for dropping the atomic
bomb by establishing the 509th Composite Group to operate the B-29’s that will deliver
the bomb.


January 3rd, 1945 – General MacArthur is placed in command of all U.S. ground forces
and Admiral Nimitz in command of all naval forces in preparation for planned assaults
against Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and mainland Japan.
January 28th, 1945 – The Burma road is reopened.
February 3rd, 1945 – The U.S. Sixth Army attacks the Japanese forces in the Philippines.
February 16th, 1945 – U.S. troops recapture Bataan in the Philippines.
February 19th, 1945 – The U.S. Marines invade Iwo Jima; the fighting on Iwo Jima is
extremely severe.
March 2nd, 1945 – U.S. airborne troops recapture Corregidor in the Philippines.
March 3rd, 1945 – U.S. and Filipino troops take the capital, Manila; the Japanese troops
set Manila on fire and destroy the capital completely.
March 9th/10th, 1945 – Fifteen square miles of Tokyo erupt in flames after 279 American
B-29’s drop incendiary bombs on Tokyo.
March 20th, 1945 – British troops liberate Mandalay in Burma.
April 1st, 1945 – The final amphibious landing of the war occurs as the U.S. Tenth Army
invades Okinawa; there is also extremely severe fighting on Okinawa.

April 12th, 1945 – President Franklin Delano Roosevelt dies; he is succeeded by Harry S.
May 8th, 1945 – VE-Day (meaning Victory-in-Europe Day); Nazi Germany surrenders
unconditionally at Reims in France.
May 20th, 1945 – The Japanese begin their withdrawal from China.
May 25th, 1945 – The U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff approve “Operation Olympic”, meaning
the invasion of mainland Japan, scheduled for November 1st, 1945. The assumption is
that the invasion of the Japanese mainland will result in the deaths of approximately up
two million American soldiers, given the experience of the invasions of and the heavy
fighting on Iwo Jima and Okinawa.
June 9th, 1945 – The Japanese Premier Suzuki announces that Japan will fight to the very
end rather than accept unconditional surrender.
June 22nd, 1945 – Japanese resistance ends on Okinawa as the U.S. Tenth Army
completes its capture; many Japanese civilians commit mass suicide by jumping from the
cliffs of Okinawa.
July 5th, 1945 – The liberation of the entire Philippines is declared.
July 10th, 1945 – One thousand bomber raids against Japan begin.
July 16th, 1945 – The first atomic bomb is successfully tested in the United States.
August 6th, 1945 – The first atomic bomb, “Little Boy”, is dropped on the Japanese city
of Hiroshima from a B-29 bomber flown by Colonel Paul Tibbets; yet the Japanese do
not even surrender after the devastation of Hiroshima.
August 8th, 1945 – The Soviet Union declares war on Japan in accordance with previous
commitments. Desiring its shares of the spoils of victory, the Soviet Union invades
Manchuria in northern China.
August 9th, 1945 – The second atomic bomb is dropped on the Japanese city of Nagasaki
from a B-29 flown by Major Charles Sweeney. Emperor Hirohito and Japanese Prime
Minister Suzuki then decide to seek an immediate peace with the Allies – against strong
resistance of some Japanese military leaders, who want to continue the war.
August 14th, 1945 – The Japanese accept unconditional surrender; General MacArthur is
appointed to head the Allied occupation forces of Japan.
August 29th, 1945 – U.S. troops land near Tokyo to begin the occupation of Japan.
August 30th, 1945 – British forces reoccupy Hong Kong.
September 2nd, 1945 – Formal Japanese surrender on board the U.S.S. Missouri in Tokyo
Bay; President Truman declares VJ-Day (Victory-over-Japan Day).
September 3rd, 1945 – The Japanese commander in the Philippines, General Yamashita,
surrenders to General Wainwright, previously prisoner of war, at Baguio.
September 4th, 1945 – The Japanese troops on Wake Island surrender.
September 5th, 1945 – British forces land in Singapore and reoccupy city and harbor of
September 8th, 1945 – General Douglas MacArthur enters Tokyo, the capital of Japan.
September 9th, 1945 – The Japanese forces in Korea surrender.
September 13th, 1945 – The Japanese forces in Burma (today Myanmar) surrender.
October 24th, 1945 – The United Nations Organization is established in San Francisco,
California. The UN is designed in such a way that it is not supposed to suffer from the
same weaknesses and shortcomings as its predecessor, the League of Nations.


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