The campaign in which Allied forces defeated the Japanese in Burma was unique in that neither side particularly wished to wage war there. When Japan entered the war on the side of the Axis powers in December 1941, her main aims were to acquire raw materials, particularly oil, rubber and tin and, through expansion of the so-called Greater Co-Prosperity Sphere, to create space for the population of the over-crowded home [url removed, login to view] needs fired the strategic thinking of belligerent politicians and service chiefs in Tokyo. They worked on the assumption that a surprise attack on the United States Pacific Fleet's base at Pearl Harbor, in Hawaii, would enable the Imperial Japanese army, air force and navy to attain the warlords' territorial aims before the western Allies could react.
The raid at Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941 was a devastating blow to the Americans. It failed, however, in its main aim, that of sinking the American fleet's aircraft carriers. This was because, providentially, they were out at sea on that day - sometimes known as the Day of Infamy. On hearing this intelligence, Admiral Yamamoto, the gifted master planner of the enterprise, knew that the war was already as good as lost.
Despite this, Japanese plans elsewhere worked beyond expectation. Hong Kong and Indo-China fell to them without difficulty, but the greatest triumphs occurred on the Malay peninsula and in Singapore, where British, Australian and Indian troops were forced into humiliating surrender.
The Japanese completed their triumphs by overrunning the Dutch East Indies, spreading out into the western Pacific by capturing numerous island bases, and threatening the security of Australia
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