After the two Battles of Changsha (長沙會戰), China gained a foothold in the resistance against Japan as the war reached a stalemate. Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbour at the end of 1941 ushered in a new phase of the Total War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression when China started to counterattack. Japan had already captured more than half of the Chinese territory when it launched a surprise attack on the United States’ naval base at Pearl Harbour in Hawaii, during which over 10 American warships were sunk or destroyed, and more than 3,000 American casualties were inflicted. Soon Japan invaded the British colonies in the Far East, including Hong Kong, Malaya, Singapore, and Myanmar (then known as Burma), as well as Dutch Indonesia, and areas in the Philippines under American control.
The United States declared war on Japan one day after the Pearl Harbour attack. It marked the start of the Pacific War, a major theatre of World War II. China also formally declared war on Japan and joined the Allied powers alongside Britain, the Soviet Union, and the United States against the Axis powers (fascist regimes), namely, Germany, Japan, and Italy. On 5 January 1942, Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) became the Supreme Commander of Allied forces in the China War Zone (including Vietnam, Thailand, and Myanmar). In the second half of 1942, China negotiated with Britain, the United States, and other countries over the unequal Sino-foreign treaties signed during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Starting from 1943, new agreements were made to revoke the privileges gained by the imperialist powers under the unequal treaties.
The Soviet tanks striking the Japanese under the cover of fighter planes in the Nomonhan Incident broke out in 1939. The battle ended with a heavy defeat of Japan, altering its subsequent military strategies.
On 27 September 1940, Germany, Italy, and Japan became allies by signing the Berlin Pact. The Rome-Berlin-Tokyo Axis, also known as the Axis powers, came into being. In the photo, Adolf Hitler is seated in the front row, second from the left. At that time, Germany controlled most parts of western, northern, and central Europe, including Poland, Denmark, Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and France. Having a strong ally like Germany, Japan made its foreign policies increasingly aggressive.
Setbacks at Nomonhan shifted Japan’s strategic focus to East Asia and the Pacific, which ultimately led to war with the United States. The photo shows the Japanese fleet and warplanes preparing for the Pearl Harbour attack in early December 1941.
On 8 December 1941 (7 December US time), the Japanese naval and air forces struck Pearl Harbour undeclared.
Caught off guard, the United States had over 10 warships and over 300 warplanes damaged or destroyed. The photo shows an American warship being hit and bursting into flames. Fortunately, no American aircraft carriers were in the harbour at the time.
Multiple explosions took place in Pearl Harbour. Apart from warships and warplanes, the harbour facilities were also severely damaged.
After the Pearl Harbour attack, local civil medical teams transformed schools into makeshift field hospitals. More than 3,000 Americans casualties were inflicted in the attack.
Left: the then United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt signing the Declaration of War on Japan the day after the Pearl Harbour attack. Middle: Tojo Hideki, the Prime Minister of Japan (18 October 1941-22 July 1944) who launched the Pacific War. Right: Yamamoto Isoroku, the Commander-in-Chief of the Combined Fleet cum mastermind of the Pearl Harbour attack.
Building on its successful attack at Pearl Harbour, the Japanese army launched a large-scale offensive against the Western colonies in the Far East. It took over Hong Kong, Malaya, Singapore, Indonesia, and the Philippines quickly. The west Pacific fell under Japanese control. Left: around 80,000 British troops surrendering to the Japanese in February 1942. Right: around 76,000 American and Filipino troops surrendering to the Japanese in April 1942.
A photo of Chiang Kai-shek, Soong Mei-ling (宋美齡 ), and General Joseph Warren Stilwell. The Allies were formed in the wake of the Pacific War to fight against the Axis powers. In January 1942, the Allies appointed Chiang the Supreme Commander and Joseph Warren Stilwell the Chief-of-Staff of the China War Zone, which included Vietnam, Thailand, and Myanmar.