Central Themes and Key Points
Japan at War with the United States, 1941-1945
  • Inadequate political control over the Japanese military, economic strains, and the worldwide Depression of the 1930s set the stage for the rise of the military in Japan and the pursuit of Japanese imperialist interests in Asia. Japan feels excluded by the West in the division of spoils in China. Japan pursues its own dominance of China by occupying Manchuria in 1931 and invading China in 1937 and remaining there until its defeat at the conclusion of WW II in 1945.
  • When the Japanese attack the American fleet in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941, the United States enters World War II and goes to war with Japan; the war ends when the U.S. drops atomic bombs on Hiroshima (August 6) and Nagasaki (August 9) in Japan in 1945 and Japan surrenders unconditionally to the Allied forces. Japan's first attempt to enter the modern international system ends in failure.
  • During the course of the war Japan conquers other Asian nations, pursuing its own imperialist objectives and challenging Western powers for economic and military dominance in Asia. Hostility and unsettled issues resulting from the Japanese occupation remain in Japan's relations with Korea, China, and the countries of SE Asia.
  • The Allied Occupation of Japan (1945-1952), headed by General Douglas MacArthur and the American forces, constitutes the third major historical instance in which Japan deliberately borrows and adapts from other countries. (The first is in the 6th century to the 8th century when Japan looks to China for models during Japan's classical period; the second instance is in the late 1800s when Japan looks to the West as it seeks to modernize under the Meiji Restoration.)
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