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The importance of being Okinawa

Yamato goes to war! / tamiya.com

Yamato goes to war! / tamiya.com

In April, 1945, the 2nd World War was very far from over. A huge invasion of the French mainland was planned for June. Japan, however, was seen by the Americans as being equally important as Europe. Tokio must be vanquished too if the Allies were to succeed in the destruction of Axis Powers.

Okinawa is a Japanese island some sixty miles long and very narrow – at certain strategic points only two or three miles wide. But it could prove to be the springboard for a massive invasion of the enemy mainland. It is the largest island of the Ryukyu archipelago, and it was that there that the worst, hardest and bloodiest battles of the Pacific War took place between the beginning of April and 22 June, 1945. The Japanese had carefully built and preserved defence lines already built and manned, and had sworn to their Emperor that their resistance would be fanatical. The latest artillery was concealed behind camouflage, and munitions were ample. (more…)

More thoughts on that Yalta Conference

The 'Big Three' from l. to r. 'Exhausted', 'Dying', and 'Exuberant' / spartacus.educational.com

The ‘Big Three’ from l. to r. ‘Exhausted’, ‘Dying’, and ‘Exuberant’ / spartacus.educational.com

In February, 1945, the second ‘Big Three’ conference took place at Yalta in the Crimea. The first had been in Teheran in Persia. What was agreed at Yalta changed the face of Europe, prepared the ground for the Cold War, and put millions of ordinary people into a condition of near-slavery. The three major protagonists were the respective leaders of the United States, Great Britain, and Russia – Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin. The first was dying slowly but certainly, the second was old and exhausted, and the third was younger, fitter, and unable to see any point of view that was not his. He was also a fully-qualified dictator. (more…)

Commodore Perry & the ‘Unequal Treaties’

The Commodore meets the Shogunate / mickmc.tripod.com

The Commodore meets the Shogunate / mickmc.tripod.com

Matthew Galbraith Perry was born into the American ruling class in 1794. He entered the Navy in his teens and was soon a naval officer. It was as a Commodore (a rank with meaning in the American navy, not so in the Royal Navy) that Perry entered Tokyo Bay fifty-nine years later in July 1853, in command of four fighting ships, two under sail and two powered by the new steam engines. Japan had been closed to foreign conact for more than two hundred years because the Tokugawa Shogunate feared foreign trading would allow rebellious warlords to become rich, allowing them to buy foreign arms. Commodore Perry’s brief from his president had clarified that the US wanted to extend and expand her trade in the Far East, especially coal supplies from Japan for US ships trading with China. (more…)

War in the air Part III: the Pacific

/ pacificwar.org.au

/ pacificwar.org.au

The carrier-based Japanese air force began the war in the air over the Pacific Ocean by attacking without prior warning the US naval base at Pearl Harbor. The damage to American capital ships and the loss of life were enormous, but as pointed out in another post on this site, no US aircraft carriers were present on 7 December, 1941.

   The Japanese, as industrious as ever, had made great strides in the design and construction of these floating airfields, and at Pearl Harbor they made full use of them. Four hundred bombers and fighters were launched from the six carriers used in the assault. Surprise too was an essential element, as Japan had not declared war on the United States, though everyone from the President in Washington to the Texan cowpokes knew the two countries were on a war footing, and that Japan had joined the Axis. (more…)

The War in the Pacific

/ pinterest.com

/ pinterest.com

Officially, this war lasted from December 1941,

/ ww2db.com

/ ww2db.com

when the United States entered the Second World War, until 1945. But the Pacific War really started with the Sino-Japanese War which began in 1937, when Japan’s concern was to defeat China. This was to be achieved by expanding in South-East Asia, so that Japan could control the raw materials on which she so much depended – oil from Dutch East Indies and Burma (now Myanmar); and tin and rubber from Malaya. She had to cut off China’s supply routes from the south, even if this involved friction with the United States. Moving further south involved risk of conflict with Russia in Manchuria (the Russians came off best after a battle with Japan’s army in 1939 at Nomonhan. Then a non-aggression pact was signed with Russia in April, 1941: thankfully, Adolf Hitler did the double-cross and invaded the Soviet Union in June with his Operation Barbarossa (q.v.) (more…)

The Forty-Seven Ronin

Seppuku for the forty-seven / modernimage.com

Seppuku for the forty-seven / modernimage.com

At the beginning of the eighteenth century an incident took place in Japan that rapidly occupied the front pages of world (and worldly) newspapers. Indeed, the happening provided a powerful symbol of self-sacrifice and un-flinching loyalty during generations, even supplying the title of a major Hollywood film; this was Ronin, (1998)I believe the last movie directed by the aged but still brilliant John Frankenheimer. A re-telling of the incident in Japan is spoken during a key scene in the film by the French actor Michael Lonsdale, seated beside a fully equipped model of the castle and surroundings in Japan. (more…)

The ‘Showa’ Restoration (Japan)

November 1930; Hamaguchi Osachi shot in the street / ndl.go.jp

November 1930; Hamaguchi Osachi shot in the street / ndl.go.jp

The Showa Restoration . The word showa means ‘Enlightened Peace’ in English. It was chosen as a ‘reign name’ by the Emperor Hirohito. It is hard not to see this as ironic. However, a reliving of the true word was attempted by several young officers during the 1930s; the intention was to restore the ‘true relationship’ between the Emperor and his people, by eliminating party politics, ridding Japan of political parties as a whole, and all democratic institutions at the same time. (more…)

By | 2014-05-18T16:36:54+00:00 May 18th, 2014|Asian History, History of Japan, World History|0 Comments

Samurai

/ wikipedia.org

/ wikipedia.org

Samurai. This was the Japanese equivalent of the barons of England, feudal aristocrats in France and regional princes in Germany, who ruled the country while representing their king or emperor. They were the ruling caste by the 12th century. One century before these great Japanese warrior families were taking over power from the Emperor however. Towards the end of the 1180s, the victor of most of the battles, one Minamoto Yoritomo was given the special title of Shogun (emperor’s personal deputy) after his ending of the struggle between the Minamoto and Tairo families. (more…)

By | 2014-04-21T10:12:53+00:00 April 21st, 2014|History, History of Japan|0 Comments

(Thomas) Woodrow Wilson

The twenty-seventh President of the United States was born in 1856 in Virginia, son of a Presbyterian minister. The family were slave-owners. Thirty-four years later Woodrow was made a professor at Princeton, one of the ‘Ivy League’ American universities of great prestige. He taught History and Political Science and in 1902 became president of the university.

Soon he was elected Governor of New Jersey, where he easily gained the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, promising a ‘New Freedom’ by destroying the trusts, decreasing taxes and tariffs, and beginning a severe revision of the financial system which was the life blood of ‘The American Way of Life’. He was the first Southerner to become President since A. Johnson, and the first Democrat. (more…)

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