In early 1942, an Imperial Japanese military juggernaut rolled across the southern Pacific, sweeping Western imperialist powers away.
Here are three major reasons for Japanese success in early 1942:
- Western powers were simultaneously weakened by civil war (China), independence movements (most prominently in India), the Great Depression (Western Europe) and direct attack from Nazi Germany (France & Netherlands).
- Japan promised independence for Western-colonized countries (Burma, Malaya and the Philippines).
- Well-trained, experienced and highly motivated Japanese forces were masterful in the element of surprise. For example, within a time frame of several hours, Japan attacked the Malay peninsula, Pearl Harbor, Guam and Philippines.
However, by mid-1942, a turning point at the Battle of Midway curtailed its offensive campaign and Japan spent the remaining three years of the war defending the shrinking perimeter of its empire.