Who was the leader of Japan during WWII?

robto

Ad Honorem
Jun 2014
6,000
Lisbon, Portugal
#11
Yes, it was the Emperor Showa. He had a number of Prime Ministers under him including General Tojo. The main role of Japan during WW2 was to accelerate the decolonization of Asia from Western Powers. After humiliating the colonial powers by seizing their colonies, the Japanese encouraged independence movements in such places like Burma and the Dutch East Indies. Coupled with the catastrophic losses suffered in Europe, the colonial powers lost their will to conduct a protracted struggle to maintain their possessions. To be sure, France held out until 1954 but folded quickly after Dien Bien Phu. The Americans were wise to grant the Philippines their independence in 1946.
The highlighted quote is only partially true. Yes, by 1934 or so, Japan already decided its main objective was essentially to build a new order in East Asia - to establish Japanese hegemony and make Japan economically self-sufficient. The road to this new order ran through one single country - CHINA. That was the main focus of Japan all along. It just happened that the USA and other Western powers were in the way.

The Japanese conquest over Southeast Asia and the Pacific - including the Japanese attack on the US Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor - has to be understood under the context of Japan waging a "Holy War" to force China to accept Japanese hegemony.

Of course the anti-colonial "Asia for the Asiatic" slogan was not only conveniently used as an excuse for taking over the resources in Southeast Asia, but was also firmly believed as an ideal by many top Japanese decision-makers - but still, it was a secondary objective. Japan wanted to create a new order in the region, and that meant that they should establish power over the biggest country in the region, which is China.
 

Naomasa298

Forum Staff
Apr 2010
33,641
T'Republic of Yorkshire
#13
Yes, it was the Emperor Showa. He had a number of Prime Ministers under him including General Tojo. The main role of Japan during WW2 was to accelerate the decolonization of Asia from Western Powers. After humiliating the colonial powers by seizing their colonies, the Japanese encouraged independence movements in such places like Burma and the Dutch East Indies. Coupled with the catastrophic losses suffered in Europe, the colonial powers lost their will to conduct a protracted struggle to maintain their possessions. To be sure, France held out until 1954 but folded quickly after Dien Bien Phu. The Americans were wise to grant the Philippines their independence in 1946.
Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere - Wikipedia
 

royal744

Ad Honoris
Jul 2013
10,427
San Antonio, Tx
#14
Yes, it was the Emperor Showa. He had a number of Prime Ministers under him including General Tojo. The main role of Japan during WW2 was to accelerate the decolonization of Asia from Western Powers. After humiliating the colonial powers by seizing their colonies, the Japanese encouraged independence movements in such places like Burma and the Dutch East Indies. Coupled with the catastrophic losses suffered in Europe, the colonial powers lost their will to conduct a protracted struggle to maintain their possessions. To be sure, France held out until 1954 but folded quickly after Dien Bien Phu. The Americans were wise to grant the Philippines their independence in 1946.
Sounds superficially correct, but I have some quibbles.

1. I don’t think the Japanese encouraged “independence movements” at all. Perhaps they did when it became clear to them that they were going to lose their hegemony over the country they had captured and colonized, but not before. They intended to stay and they intended to keep their newly-acquired possession.

2. Before the Japanese forces surrendered in Indonesia (Dutch East Indies) they had already groomed Sukarno who was one of the leaders of the guerrilla’s struggle that ensued after the war. If they had won the war instead of losing it, Sukarno would have become a vassal to Japan.

3. It is quite true that the Japanese desired to kick the western powers - US, Britain, France and Holland - out of Asia, but their aim was anything but the independence of those countries. Their aim was the establishment of the Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere - an “alliance” led by Japan. Make no mistake: Japan was going to own those countries and while it was willing to associate itself with “independence” movements because it suited their purposes , it had no intention of granting real independence to these emerging countries.

4. The European powers didn’t lose their will; they were overrun by the Japanese. The forces they had at their disposal were not designed to fight a large naval power; the KNIL was designed to maintain order in the East Indies, not designed to fight a marauding imperialist power. The naval forces available to counter the Japanese were tiny compared to the forces coming down on them.

5. One might say that the Japanese chose their moment well, at least initially. Vestigial colonial possessions still at peace (at least with the Japanese) were hardly in a position to counter Japan which attacked with what we then thought was overwhelming force. Real overwhelming force would come later.

The US did not directly participate in the liberation of the Dutch East Indies. The Australians and the British (Indians) did that and I believe the reason for that is that the US did not want to be seen as liberating a European Colony, although it supplied the arms and landing craft and freight capacity for the liberation of the Dutch East Indies. The Indian forces used did not appreciate being ordered to do this.

6. It infuriated the Japanese that they could not convince the Filipinos to drop their loyalty to the Americans even after their country had been occupied. Filipino and US guerilla groups continued to operate throughout the war.

7. In Vietnam, the Japanese basically cowed the Vichy French into ceding use of their harbors for Japanese operations in East Asia. They were “nominally, kinda, sorta, on the same side. Incidentally. The US, which had been supplying arms to the French during the Vietnam conflict that followed the war, failed to learn the lessons of Dien Bien Phu.

Regardless, it was the beginning of the Dan for colonialism in Asia. In another era, the colonial powers might have resumed their hegemony, but at this moment in world history, it was clear to everyone that colonialism’s time was over.
 

Maki

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
2,837
Republika Srpska
#15
1. I don’t think the Japanese encouraged “independence movements” at all. Perhaps they did when it became clear to them that they were going to lose their hegemony over the country they had captured and colonized, but not before. They intended to stay and they intended to keep their newly-acquired possession.
I think Japan wanted to create a number of "independent" countries to include in the Co-Prosperity Sphere and thus maintain the illusion that they were fighting for Asian liberty.
 

robto

Ad Honorem
Jun 2014
6,000
Lisbon, Portugal
#17
Sounds superficially correct, but I have some quibbles.

1. I don’t think the Japanese encouraged “independence movements” at all. Perhaps they did when it became clear to them that they were going to lose their hegemony over the country they had captured and colonized, but not before. They intended to stay and they intended to keep their newly-acquired possession.

2. Before the Japanese forces surrendered in Indonesia (Dutch East Indies) they had already groomed Sukarno who was one of the leaders of the guerrilla’s struggle that ensued after the war. If they had won the war instead of losing it, Sukarno would have become a vassal to Japan.

3. It is quite true that the Japanese desired to kick the western powers - US, Britain, France and Holland - out of Asia, but their aim was anything but the independence of those countries. Their aim was the establishment of the Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere - an “alliance” led by Japan. Make no mistake: Japan was going to own those countries and while it was willing to associate itself with “independence” movements because it suited their purposes , it had no intention of granting real independence to these emerging countries.

4. The European powers didn’t lose their will; they were overrun by the Japanese. The forces they had at their disposal were not designed to fight a large naval power; the KNIL was designed to maintain order in the East Indies, not designed to fight a marauding imperialist power. The naval forces available to counter the Japanese were tiny compared to the forces coming down on them.

5. One might say that the Japanese chose their moment well, at least initially. Vestigial colonial possessions still at peace (at least with the Japanese) were hardly in a position to counter Japan which attacked with what we then thought was overwhelming force. Real overwhelming force would come later.

The US did not directly participate in the liberation of the Dutch East Indies. The Australians and the British (Indians) did that and I believe the reason for that is that the US did not want to be seen as liberating a European Colony, although it supplied the arms and landing craft and freight capacity for the liberation of the Dutch East Indies. The Indian forces used did not appreciate being ordered to do this.

6. It infuriated the Japanese that they could not convince the Filipinos to drop their loyalty to the Americans even after their country had been occupied. Filipino and US guerilla groups continued to operate throughout the war.

7. In Vietnam, the Japanese basically cowed the Vichy French into ceding use of their harbors for Japanese operations in East Asia. They were “nominally, kinda, sorta, on the same side. Incidentally. The US, which had been supplying arms to the French during the Vietnam conflict that followed the war, failed to learn the lessons of Dien Bien Phu.

Regardless, it was the beginning of the Dan for colonialism in Asia. In another era, the colonial powers might have resumed their hegemony, but at this moment in world history, it was clear to everyone that colonialism’s time was over.
But the so-called "Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere" only became a viable policy of the Imperial Japan when the Western powers imposed harsh embargoes on Japan because of their war of aggression in China - and that happened in 1940, I believe. Japan felt the need to invade the resource-rich French Indochina, Dutch East Indies, British Malaya and Burma. They needed to take out the Philippines and the US Pacific fleet because they stand in their way, but all of that was only possible because of the German success in Europe in 1940 - Japan saw it as a good opportunity to strike Western powers and acquire those resources they needed to continue to wage war against China.

Japan was not in anyway looking or even planning to take out the European possessions in Southeast Asia prior to the beginning of the Second World War in Europe, and you have to understand one thing: the Pacific War didn't start in 1939 or 1941, it started in 1931 and 1937. Every policy decision Japan made throughout the war was in the context of trying to subdue China.