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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:

  1. 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).
  2. Japan promised independence for Western-colonized countries (Burma, Malaya and the Philippines).
  3. 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.