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  • With war raging both in Europe and in China,  

  • prying eyes around the world eagerly followed  the events that were unfolding in front of them.  

  • In the US in particular, many still advocated  for anti-war sentiment, but President Franklin  

  • Delano Roosevelt had decided that he was not  going to tolerate anymore the aggressions of  

  • the Japanese or the Germans. In 1941, he would  finally draw a line to stop Japan that would  

  • surely risk war. And although FDR didn't want to  fight against the Japanese, or at least not yet,  

  • this was a risk worth taking for the preservation  of democracy around the world; a risk that would  

  • inevitably ignite war in the Pacific. Welcome  to our final prelude of the Pacific War,  

  • as the growing tensions between the US and Japan  eventually ended in another act of aggression.

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  • It is mid-1940, and Great Britain and China  stand alone against the full might of Japan  

  • and the Axis. In Asia, the now four-year-long  conflict was completely depleting the resources  

  • of the Japanese Empire, even though Japan already  relied on other countries for the resources needed  

  • for its war material. The Americans alone provided  them with 54.4% of their weapons and supplies,  

  • 76% of their aircraft, 59.7% of their  scrap iron, 60.5% of their petroleum,  

  • and all of Japan's lubricating oil, machine toolsspecial steel, and high-test aircraft petrol.  

  • Furthermore, Communist and Nationalist  guerrillas constantly harassed Japanese troops  

  • and sabotaged their infrastructure in occupied  territories, and with each passing campaign, more  

  • and more soldiers were left behind to join these  underground groups. The Communists in particular  

  • were very capable of waging guerrilla warfare, as  they had been doing so since the last two decades,  

  • and their experience allowed them to become ever  more influential in the regions they defended,  

  • something that was not seen very fondly by  their Nationalist allies. To fight against these  

  • guerrillas, the Japanese would resort to puppet  units of the new Reorganized National Government  

  • of the Republic of China, uniting all previous  collaborationist states under Wang Jingwei's  

  • central government. But the Red Army would also  prove that it was capable of executing important  

  • military operations, with Peng Dehuai's Hundred  Regiments Offensive being launched in late August.  

  • Using a total of 400000 soldiers, albeit poorly  armed and equipped, over 115 regiments of the  

  • Eighth Route Army, commanded by Zhu  De, would attack railways and roads  

  • and would target isolated Japanese strongpoints  and forts all along with northern China

  • The offensive would be very successful, inflicting  more than 20000 casualties, taking almost 3000  

  • strongholds, sabotaging many bridges , mines , and  tunnels , and destroying large tracts of railways.  

  • The operation was controversial as Peng Dehuai  initiated it without authorization from Mao  

  • Zedong and would be criticized harshly for thisAlthough the Japanese response to guerrillas had  

  • always been brutal, the defeat against the  Communists had an unexpected consequence:  

  • Japan would adopt the Three Alls Policy, as  their forces would then start to kill all,  

  • loot all, and burn all . With this bloodier  response against Chinese resistance,  

  • many war crimes would be committed by Japanese  soldiers and resentment would erupt once again  

  • between Nationalists and Communists, as Chiang  Kai-Shek's followers blamed the Red Army,  

  • and Mao Zedong blamed Peng Dehuaifor the harsher Japanese acts.  

  • Furthermore, from October to December, Japanese  counterattacks would successfully regain  

  • control of railway lines and would inflict  heavy casualties on the Eighth Route Army

  • At this point, Japan knew that prolonging the war  would be dangerous if foreign powers decided to  

  • intervene, so it needed to completely cut off the  enemy capital at Chongqing from the foreign aid  

  • that it was receiving. Since the outbreak of the  war, the British and Americans had been sending  

  • war material by sea to the main Chinese ports  and Hong Kong, as well as through the railway  

  • connecting French Indochina to Yunnan and South  Guangxi. Moreover, the Soviets, long-time rivals  

  • of Japan in the East, were also sending much  aid through the Old Silk Road, although this  

  • would only last until the outbreak of Operation  Barbarossa. With most of the main Chinese ports  

  • already occupied and the British possessions in  China surrounded, the Japanese then prepared for  

  • an offensive against Indochina, the last Chinese  lifeline. In that regard, they had advanced up  

  • to the Indochinese border by late July, taking  the key district of Longzhou in South Guangxi

  • Already back in June, the Fall of France had also  allowed Tokyo to issue a series of ultimatums  

  • demanding the closure of all supply lines to  China, among other things. The Indochinese  

  • government had no other alternative but to complyand by September 22, the Japanese had successfully  

  • negotiated to station 6000 troops in Tonkin and  to move 25000 soldiers through Tonkin to Yunnan.  

  • The Indochina Expeditionary Army under General  Nishimura Takuma was then formed, starting to  

  • travel to their destination on the same dayBut at the same time, General Kuno Seiichi's  

  • 22nd Army at Nanning independently invaded Annam  and started to fight local forces across the  

  • border . The fighting ended when General Maurice  Martin's Indochinese forces got surrounded at Lạng  

  • Sơn [suun], finally surrendering on September 25.  Furthermore, the IJN blockaded the Gulf of Tonkin  

  • and Nishimura landed in Indochina, fightingseries of minor battles at Dong Tac, Haiphong,  

  • and Hanoi. By the evening of September 26, Kuno's  forces had reached Lao Cai at the Yunnan border  

  • and Indochinese resistance had crumbledThe invasion was a huge success,  

  • but it was against Tokyo's wishes due to  the agreement that the Japanese had reached.  

  • All occupied towns would be then returned and  Kuno would be punished for his insubordination,  

  • although the Japanese were now undisputed  in the region and could then station 40000  

  • soldiers in northern Indochina. But the  Japanese success wouldn't be long-lasting,  

  • as the British consequently decided in October to  open the Burma Road, connecting the Burmese city  

  • of Lashio with Yunnan's capital at KunmingThus, to the relief of Chiang's government,  

  • a new lifeline was created, allowing the Chinese  to continue to resist for the next few years

  • Moreover, General Sonobe Waichiro's 11th Army  tried to capitalize on the last victory in Yichang  

  • to completely take over the province of HubeiOn November 25, the Japanese offensive began,  

  • striking against the Chinese defenses east  and west of the Hsiang River and enjoying  

  • some initial successes. But, in coordination  with local guerrillas, Li Zongren's forces would  

  • manage to stop the invaders and counterattackforcing the Japanese to retreat by November 30.  

  • Meanwhile, the US government was outraged and  alarmed by the Japanese invasion of Indochina,  

  • so President Roosevelt would then double  the amount of aid delivered to China  

  • and would order the evacuation  of all Americans in the Far East.  

  • Although the Americans were still woefully  unprepared for a war in the Pacific,  

  • they now began to see that a confrontation  with the Japanese was very possible

  • Japan's 1940 move into Vichy-controlled Indochina  along with its war with China, withdrawal from the  

  • League of Nations, alliance with Germany and  Italy, and increasing militarization raised  

  • tension and induced the United States to intensify  its measures to restrain Japan's economy.  

  • Scrap-metal shipments to Japan were embargoed  and the Panama Canal closed to Japanese  

  • trade . Despite these moves, in early 1941 Japan  moved into southern Indochina, thereby threatening  

  • British Malaya, North Borneo, and Brunei. On December 29, FDR then delivered his tough  

  • Arsenal of Democracy speech against Germany and  Japan, clearly identifying them as the enemies of  

  • democracy and finally dropping the neutrality  doctrine that had been sponsored in the 30s.  

  • Consequently, American industries would start  to arm and support China and the Allies in  

  • their respective wars. This would eventually  lead to the Lend-Lease program of March 11,  

  • 1941, in which the US pledged to support the  Allies and China with food, oil, warships,  

  • warplanes, and other weaponry. the US froze  Japanese assets on July 26, 1941, and on August 1  

  • established an embargo on oil and gasoline  exports to Japan, which was a strong response  

  • as 80% of Japan's oil was coming from the US and  oil was crucial for the war-making in that period

  • Concurrently, the Kingdom of Thailand, which  had seen a rise of ultranationalism and the  

  • establishment of a dictatorship under Plaek Phibun  in the last few years, also detected the weakness  

  • in French Indochina and thus decided to take  back some disputed areas that had been ceded  

  • in the last century. After the outbreak of border  skirmishes, the Thais started aerial bombing runs  

  • over the main Indochinese cities and launched an  offensive on Laos and Cambodia in early January.  

  • Laos would be quickly overrun, but French  resistance in Cambodia would be fierce,  

  • and with the French naval victory at the Battle  of Koh Chang on January 17, the situation soon  

  • started to deteriorate for the Thais. FearingFrench victory in the war, the Japanese would then  

  • intervene, forcing the Indochinese government  to sign an armistice and to cede the disputed  

  • provinces. This was a personal victory for  Phibun, but the real beneficiaries of the war  

  • would be the Japanese, who further increased their  influence in both Thailand and Indochina. Fearing  

  • a Japanese takeover, Phibun would then reach out  to the US and the UK for guarantees, consequently  

  • stressing his relationship with Japan. And  back in China, 1941 would start with the sudden  

  • breakout of hostilities between Nationalists and  Communists. Chiang Kai-Shek ordered a withdrawal  

  • of the fourth army from Anhui and Jiangsu in  late December. As a result of numerous alleged  

  • treacherous acts and harassment, Chiang would  take action of retribution against the communists.  

  • On January 7, while withdrawing from Anhui  and Jiangsu, the Communist New Fourth Army  

  • was allegedly ambushed and encircled by an  80000-strong Nationalist force of Gu Zhutong's  

  • 3rd War Area. After heavy fighting and many  casualties, only 2000 Communist soldiers were able  

  • to break out of the encirclement by January 13. This marked the end of the Second United Front,  

  • as the Nationalist act of treachery would  destroy any possibility of further cooperation.  

  • At the same time, Sonobe would start two new  operations against South Henan and Western  

  • Hubei , as well as a large offensive against the  city of Shanggao . Yet again, the Chinese would  

  • successfully flank and defeat the Japanese  invasions by late March, inflicting heavy  

  • casualties and forcing the invaders to retreat and  to leave behind substantial amounts of military  

  • equipment and supplies. As the latest defeats  were very demoralizing for the Japanese forces,  

  • their victory at the Battle of South Shanxi in  May would luckily restore their fighting spirit

  • On May 7, General Tada Hayao's North China  Area Army launched a full offensive against  

  • the mountainous region of South Shanxi, quickly  breaking through the Chinese defensive lines  

  • at Mengxian, Jiyuan, Hengpu, and Wangyuan and  managing to encircle the Nationalist army as a  

  • result. Worthy of mention is that the Communist  8th Route Army nearby refused to assist the  

  • Nationalist forces in the struggle, in  retribution of the South Anhui Incident  

  • and in the struggle allowed them  to be surrounded and destroyed.  

  • This was remembered as one of the worst  defeats of the entire war for China. Meanwhile,  

  • the outbreak of the German Invasion of Russia in  late June permitted Japan to sign a non-aggression  

  • pact with the Soviet Union and thus to secure its  northern border in case of war with the Allies

  • This finally allowed the Japanese to begin  preparations for a strike against the  

  • resource-rich region of Southeast Asia, which  had been earmarked to provide the necessary raw  

  • material for Japan's industry . The Dutch East  Indies and their precious rubber plantations  

  • and oil fields were one of the most important  objectives of the Japanese Empire; so on July 21,  

  • more than 50000 soldiers would invade southern  Indochina to prepare naval bases against the Dutch  

  • colony. Accurately detecting the intentions of the  Japanese, FDR would form the USAFFE in response,  

  • nationalizing the Philippine Army and  appointing General Douglas MacArthur  

  • to lead American forces in the Pacific. In  coordination with the British and the Dutch,  

  • he would also stop the exports of iron ore, steel  and oil to the Japanese; and as we've seen, this  

  • was a crippling embargo for Japan, as the Empire  relied on foreign imports for its war machine,  

  • but also for its home economy. FDR's gamble  was to put an end to the Japanese expansion,  

  • but Japan's leaders now saw war with the West as  their best option, encouraged by their Nazi allies  

  • that were overrunning Europe. On September 3, the  Supreme War Council met at the Liaison Conference  

  • and decided that if the US didn't resume oil  shipments by October, then they would start