Japan tooks over German colonies in Asia in 1914

Sep 2019
Japan was already from 1902 in alliance with UK. Immediately after WW1 started UK officially asked Japan for assistance in destroying German navy around Chinese waters. Japan was more than ready to use this oportunity to gain more terriroty on the side of entente. Japan formally declared war on Germany on 23 August 1914. Already on 15 August 1914, Japan issued an ultimatum, stating that Germany must withdraw warships from Chinese and Japanese waters and transfer control of its port of Tsingtao to Japan.

On 2 September 1914, Japanese forces landed on China's Shandong province and surrounded the German settlement at Tsingtao. During October, the Japanese navy seized several of Germany's island colonies in the Pacific - the Mariana, Caroline, and Marshall islands - with virtually no resistance. The siege of Tsingtao was not going so easy. German forces were giving quite some resistance even if they were completely surrounded by Japanese forces and some British forces. German defences were under constant bombardment, the Japanese moving their trenches further forward under the cover of their artillery. The bombardment continued for seven days. On the night of 6 November, waves of Japanese infantry overwhelmed the defenders. The next morning, the German forces, along with their Austro-Hungarian allies, asked for terms. Colony was formally taken over on 16 November 1914.

After these victories Japan was soon looking for further expansion. UK and USA were ready to leave to the Japan former German colonies but specially USA was worried about further expansion in China. However Japanese governament soon already in January 1915 pushed China with further demands. Because of USA oposition they left out demands for mixed police forces and demands for Japanese advisors in China governament. But even without this Japan got many new concessions for its bussiness in China, Japanese citizens were allowed to buy land in some provinces and shinto missionaries were allowed to come in to the China.

History of diplomacy, book 2, written by a group of authors, published in 1947 in Ljubljana, pages 272-273 and 294-296.
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Forum Staff
Aug 2016
Interesting that Japan was already seizing islands in the Central Pacific before Spee's East Asia Squadron had really left the area. Spee was already heading east in late September, but the Japanese couldn't know that and have invasion forces ready to go already if they expected to take the islands without a fight. The Japanese must have seized those islands with a superior force ready for a naval battle.


Ad Honoris
May 2014
I wonder how the Japanese/German veterans of those campaigns felt once they were allied in WW2.
Maybe they felt that Germany shouldn't have had colonies there in the first place? For instance, Hitler appears to have viewed German overseas colonialism as being futile and gave much more value to German territorial expansion in Eastern Europe--closer to home, if you will.
Jan 2013
Toronto, Canada
I wonder how the Japanese/German veterans of those campaigns felt once they were allied in WW2.
I doubt they were very upset. Casualties for both sides were low, German POWs were well treated and most Germans never really cared about the colonies.
Sep 2019
During WW2 Nazis as racists were worried about white race loses in Asia. Goebbles wrote in his diary at the end of January 1942 for example that Hitler is feeling very sorry that the white race is losing in Asia but added that this is not the fault of National socialism.

Goebbles diary, Maribor, 1981, page 97.
Dec 2017
Regnum Teutonicum
Hello AnonymousProfesor, what is your intended topic of this thread? The siege of Tsingtao only? The German-Japanese fighting during the First World War? German-Japanese relations? This as start of Japans aggressive policy to conquer and control the Asia-Pacific region?

What you written is correct, but it sounds a little bit as if the japanese entry into the war with the Entente was 100 % certain. That is not the case. In fact it was more likely that Japan would have entered the war on the side of the Central Powers. There had been a deep german-japanese friendship almost from the first contact (see e.g. Caspar Schamberger, Engelbert Kaempfer, Philipp Franz von Siebold, Heinrich von Siebold, Kusumoto Ine, Alexander von Siebold and so on). It was essentially the maneuvering of one man, that led to the outcome in our timeline. Most of the civilian and military leadership favoured Germany. Japan on the side of the Allies would have most likely resulted in the defeat of the Entente (No japanese supplies -> Russia collapses much earlier -> more pressure on the western Entente powers [maybe even a two-front war for Russia]). With Japan AND the USA neutral or as part of the Allies instead the Entente, the Entente would have definetivly lost. But it went differently and after the conquest of german colonies and leases and the dominance the japanese fleet got in the Pacific during the war, Japan became an Asian-Pacific power with great ambitions. But the decsion to support this faction of the British and the USA to fight on the side with the Japanes and letting them squeeze out the Germans out oft he Pacfic and give them their territory would bite them later. This directly resulted in Pearl Harbour and the japanese invasion of Alaska in the Second World War, as well as a genocidal and warmongering faction gaining power in Japan.

After those remarks I will start with something that will definitely fit this thread: what happened to the german prisoners of war from Tsingtao?
Nearly 5,000 german prisoners of war were transported to Japan after the capitulation of Tsingtao. As Japan, like the other countries, at first thought the war would end quickly, the POWs were at first kept in official buildings like temples and tea houses. When it became clear, that the war would not end soon, twelve big prisoner of war camps were built next to twelve cities. The treatment of the german prisoners was very different in the different camps. In some camps the Germans were physically harmed and in others, they were nearly treated as stars. The best camp was probably Camp Bando near Tokushima. The reason for this was the camp commandant Matsue Toyohisa. He allowed the nearly 1,000 german (and a few austro-hungarian) prisoners to use the land of the camp for activities. As most of the prisoners had gone through the german apprenticeship system/vocational training, they were professional cooks, bakers, butcher, pharmacists, barbers, photographers, carpenter, locksmiths, tailors, painters, clockmaker, plumbers, cordwainer, etc. . They organised camp life, e.g. started agriculture, built wooden shops in the camp, started courses for further education of each other (economy, geography, art, culture, fortification studies, stenography, accounting, electrical engineering, languages, building of musical instruments, and so on), they built a printing press with which they printed different things (newspapers, maps, tickets, stamps, books, leaflets, post cards and so on), they gave over 100 concerts and musicals (not counting theatre plays and the like) and did sport events. This included the japanese debut performance of Beethovens 9th symphony, which was apparently done so good, that it spread to a degree in Japan, that the Entente nervously wondered, why the Japanese sang the 9th at every opportunity during the war.
Contact with the local population was created at first, when the Germans worked outside the camp, like logging or building bridges. The local Japanese started to visit the camp (and were allowed to do so). The prisoners started large exhibition for the Japanese about the german culture in the camp, the first one was probably a toy exhibition made from 8 tables. In March of 1918 the local authorities of Bando gave the german prisoners access to public rooms for a month for the exhibition „Exhibition for picture art and manual skills“. 50,095 Japanese, including several school classes, visited the paintings, drawings, machines, models, costumes, instruments and german food.
Later the Germans were allowed to visit nearby rivers for swiming and starting with 1919 the prisoners were allowed trips to the sea.
Japanese merchants started regularly visiting the camp and and the Japanese were very interested in and admired the skills of the prisoners. The local population started to take courses in the camp, e.g. for cooking, and some even started professional work relationsships with the german prisoners. The Germans tought the Japanes german cuisine, livestock breeding, dairy production, german style butchering and baking, destillation of schnaps, western market gardening, european architcture, etc. . All this led to a continuing positive image of Germany in Japan.

Two examples that this legacy still continues today: some parts of german cuisine a still very popular in Japan, the most famous example is the Baumkuchen, which the Japanese were introduced to in the german prisoner camps (the company Karl Juchheim founded in Japan still produces Baumkuchen and other german cakes). But the best example is Ludwig van Beethovens 9th symphony, which is UNBELIEVABLE popular in Japan (e.g. it is sung in a lot of japanese regions as part of new year celebrations).
So in the end it would not be wrong to say, that the Battle for Tsingtao resulted in a german victory.
Sep 2019
Otto I thank you for your post. However about alliance between UK and Japan i think it was deeper at that time. UK supported Japan during its war with Russia in 1905 with policy and money, but Germany was on the side of Russians or at least was encouraging czar to be strong against Japan. Alliance between Japan and England from 1902 was already partly aimed at Russia in the far east, because czar did not want to remove his troops from Manchuria which went there after boxer rebellion and Japan wanted to have Manchuria as its protectorate. Wilhelm II was however encouraging Russia not to remove its troops, telling to the czar he sees him as protector of the white race in the far east.

A recurring theme of Wilhelm's letters to Nicholas was that "Holy Russia" had been "chosen" by God to save the "entire white race" from the "Yellow Peril", and that Russia was "entitled" to annex all of Korea, Manchuria, and northern China up to Beijing. Wilhelm went on to assure Nicholas that once Russia had defeated Japan that this would be a deadly blow to British diplomacy, and the two emperors, the self-proclaimed "Admiral of the Atlantic" and the "Admiral of the Pacific" would rule Eurasia together, making them able to challenge British sea power as the resources of Eurasia would make their empires immune to a British blockade, which would thus allow Germany and Russia to "divide up the best" of the British colonies in Asia between them. Nicholas had been prepared to compromise with Japan, but after receiving a letter from Wilhelm attacking him as a coward for his willingness to compromise with the Japanese (whom Wilhelm never ceasing reminding Nicholas represented the "Yellow Peril") for the sake of peace, become more obstinate. Wilhelm had written to Nicholas stating that the question of Russian interests in Manchuria and Korea was beside the point, saying instead it was a matter of Russia undertaking the protection and defense of the White Race, and with it, Christian civilization, against the Yellow Race. And whatever the Japs are determined to ensure the domination of the Yellow Race in East Asia, to put themselves at its head and organise and lead it into battle against the White Race. That is the kernel of the situation, and therefore there can be very little doubt about where the sympathies of all half-way intelligent Europeans should lie. England betrayed Europe's interests to America in a cowardly and shameful way over the Panama Canal question, so as to be left in 'peace' by the Yankees. Will the 'Tsar' likewise betray the interests of the White Race to the Yellow as to be 'left in peace' and not embarrass the Hague tribunal too much?.

Also USA became worried about Japan only in 1915 when Japanese government pressed China with more demands after taking German colonies. During his expedition in London, the Japanese vice-governor of the Bank of Japan met Jacob Schiff an American banker, in response to Russian antisemitic pogroms and sympathetic to Japan's cause, he extended a critical series of loans to the Empire of Japan, in the amount of 200 million US dollars.
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