Winds of War
The events that eventually led to World War II in the Pacific began in Asia when Japan invaded China. Japan had undergone a period of rapid political consolidation and western
industrialization. Japan's expansion goal in Asia, beyond power and prestige, was to gain raw materials and resources to continue its industrial growth and economic independence.
Geographically, China also provided a natural buffer between Japan and her arch enemy, the Soviet Union.
Japan invades China
- This incursion into China brought Japan into diplomatic conflict with the United States. Just before Nanking in China fell to Japan, Japanese aircraft sank the
American gunboat U.S.S. Panay in the Yangtze River near Nanking. This brought the U.S. and Japan close to war at the time.
- In 1932, Japan seized China's northern province, Manchuria, and in 1937, Japan provoked China into open warfare.
- As war clouds gathered over China, the U.S. military turned its Pacific outpost, O'ahu, into a fortress. Airfields, planes, troops, and coast artillery were multiplied; roads and
storage facilities improved; ammunition and fuel were stockpiled; and Pearl Harbor bulged with warships.
- By 1941, O'ahu had become fortified into a powerful military presence. As Japan continued her aggressive seize-and-conquer campaigns and war in the Pacific loomed, Hawai'i felt
immune from attack.
- The U.S. Pacific fleet, based in Pearl Harbor, was the only force in the Pacific-East Asian area that posed a threat to Japan's success. Neutralizing that fleet at the onset was
the key, and surprise was essential.
- Despite deteriorating relations with Japan and frequent indications of impending war, many American leader refused to believe that the Japanese would dare to launch an attack
against Hawai'i. Peacetime routines and attitudes continued to prevail in Hawai'i.
Original text for the exhibit pages was provided
by Barbara Mills.