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Revenge Strategy, wasting the power of your hate on the guiltless (XVIII). WWII: Japan, isolated on its island?


Cartoon from “Le Petit Journal”, En Chine, Le gateau des rois et des empereurs. Published in Le Petit Journal Jan. 16th, 1898.

As promised, today we will analyze the significance of Pearl Harbor attacks during WWII. Before digging into examining it, I would relish you to understand the context of Japan into the Axis Berlin-Rome-Tokyo.

Have you asked yourself what was in the mind of Japan leaders to support Hitler´s interests? Japan was so far away from Central Europe, however, Japan´s emperor decided not just to support the kaiser fuhrer (and the Prussians), but also they fought the war against one of the most powerful allies countries, the USA? Why did they do it? What was going on in the mindset of Emperor Hirohito and his military strategists?

Before proceeding further, I assume you already have read and have splashed several videos about WWII, otherwise, you won´t understand today´s post. If you have not done it, please I encourage you to revisit it.

Let´s start by understanding the context of Japan during the 1800s.

WWII japan turbo-insel_44405During the XIX century, Japan was watching how the British, the French and the Dutch were interested to occupy, colonize Asian territories; and how they established alliances with the main Asian leaders, not just to trade but to expand their influence through the colonial or dominion model. India and China were important for the French, the Brits, and the Dutch. But what was Japan doing in parallel? Were they watching from their island?.  To my perception, Japan was sorting out what to do. Japan knew the Chinese much better than any of the other European empire leaders. Japan observed how England occupied Ceylan, Cabo (1814) and New Zealand (1840). It was during this century, that England acquired the majority of India´s territories. Between 1839 to 1842, the Opium war opened Hong Kong to Britain. Australia was colonized by the British as of 1840. France dominated Algeria, Senegal, Tunisia, Madagascar. And Japan´s neighbor, China´s empire was fighting its internal rebellions, trying to escape from the foreign waves, meanwhile, the British-french were busy occupying  Canton-today Guangzhou (1857), Peking-today Beijing (1860) and opening new ports for trade in every single relevant coast city in Asia.

Between 1854 and 1858, Japan searched for treaties with the USA; Britain, Russia, and Holland. Between 1868 to 1912, the return of Meiji as the Japanese Emperor was the beginning of a new era for Japan. He modernized the institutional control of Japan in different dimensions (diplomatic, legal, military, economic, etc). And this was the time in which Meiji explored the know-how of the Europeans, including Germany´s military advisory. Japan saw how Britain, France and the Dutch did their moves into Asia. It was natural for them to try to find another “country to help them to modernize their state”, and that is how they found the Prussian Hohenzollern´s emperors.

Let´s continue understanding what was Japan doing from their island during the first 39 years of the 20th century (1900-1939).

  1. Japan observed, how the USA conquered and acquired Hawaii and the Philippines (1900), organizing its government as a colony.
  2. Japan saw how the Qing dynasty, established in 1644, was weakened by different rebellions and British-french occupations.
  3. ww2China_imperialism_cartoon

    The Great Game. European Powers Great Britain (Queen Victoria); Germany (Wilhelm II); Russia (Czar Nicholas II); France (Marianne), and Japan (Meiji) Dividing Up China 1898. (Public Domain Cartoon)

    Japan observed and participated versus China´s at the boxers rebellion (1900-1901). “The Boxer Rebellion (or the Boxer Uprising), was originated by a Chinese secret organization called the Society of the Righteous and Harmonious Fists which led an upheaval in northern China against the spread of Christianity, Western and Japanese influence.   On August 14, 1901; after fighting its way through northern China, an international force of approximately 20,000 troops from eight nations (Austria-Hungary, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) arrived to take Beijing and rescue the foreigners and Chinese Christians. China was prohibited from importing arms for two years and it agreed to pay more than $330 million in reparations to the foreign nations involved” (

  4. Japan celebrated a new emperor´s birth: Hirohito. Hirohito was born in 1901, the grandson of Emperor Meiji. Watch the following biography (courtesy of Cloudbiography)

5. Japan fought against communist Russia (1904-1905) and occupied Korea (1910)

6. China was fighting and trying to defend themselves from all the European empires which wished their own piece of the cake. In 1912, the rebellion of Kuomintang happened.

7. After the end of the WWI, another China´s civil war was “turned on” as of 1920, resulting in the election of Chiang Kai Shek in 1928.

8. In 1926, Hirohito assumed the power of Imperial Japan, and he appointed his military decisions into expansion style. Hirohito´s corporate strategy was to make Japan a bigger territory. He knew the only way for Japan to grow was through enlargement to other territories. The fact he lived some years in Britain, makes me think that he decided to spread his Empire, using the same “domination-colony” strategy that he learned.  At this time, the Germans already had built military cooperation with the Japanese, which means they knew each other well (the good and the bad). Watch the following self-explanatory video from Military History not Visualized youtube channel.

9. One decade before WWII started, Japan invaded Manchuria (1931), and Chiang Kai-Shek couldn´t stop Japan attacks to invade other parts of China. The 2ndSino-Japanese War reflects the Hirohito expansion plans to control China.

WW2 The Japanese Empires at its peak 1942

The Japanese Empire at its peak in 1942. Source: Public Domain

10. The main interest of Hirohito was not Europe. Japan wanted China, particularly Japan was trying to recover Chinese and other Asian territories which were already occupied by England and the USA.  In consequence, their plan was clearly manifested with their initial military actions. Japan did not participate against the allies until 1941. And Pearl Harbor was the attack needed as a trigger for the USA to join the war against Japan a couple of days after Pearl Harbor´s incident.

Watch the description of Pearl Harbor (courtesy of Encyclopaedia Britannica)

Japan strategic plans were clear: they wanted to recover Singapore (from England), Manila and Hawaii (from the USA). Which they did. They wished to cut the Birmania roads, and isolate China from the allies. Japan´s plan was to isolate China from military sourcing and other resources support. Japan wanted to win China from the occidental or Russia domination and reclaim it as their own Imperial territories.

Pearl Harbor losses were not the highest ones during WWII. But the Pearl Harbor attack was the gun trigger to provoke a reaction:  the USA answered to it by declaring the war to the Axis Berlin-Rome-Tokyo and actively participate in it. Without Pearl Harbor, probably the USA would have deferred its entrance to fight directly, and the war would have devastated Europe more.  When re-reading this episode of history, I also thought that Japan´s imperial wish to conquer China was so strong, that even if they knew of their lack of capacity to stand a war against the allies, they also indirectly changed history. If the USA wouldn´t have appeared at that time into war, probably Germany would have won the war.

On my next publication (it will be tomorrow), we will continue with the lessons learned from WWII at a corporate strategic level. Next week we will continue with a new example of a commercial revenge strategy.

Thank you!


Sources of reference utilized to write this article:

Disclaimer: Illustrations in Watercolor are painted by Eleonora Escalante. Other types of illustrations or videos (which are not mine) are used for educational purposes ONLY.  Nevertheless, the majority of the pictures, images or videos shown on this blog are not mine.  I do not own any of the lovely photos or images posted unless otherwise stated. 



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