** war and social upheaval: World War II Asian air campasigns








World War II: Asian Air Campaigns

Japanese bombing civilians
Figure 1.--This is one of the most famous photographs of World War II. It was taken in Shanghai after a Japanese bombing raid targeting civilians (August 28, 1937). These raids had little impact on the military situation. The Japanese seemed to think that terror raids like this would cow the Chinese to surrender. There seems to have been no inkling within the Japanese military that bombs someday might fall on Japanese cities. While terror raids on Chinese civilians did not achieve the desired affect, photographs liked this published in American populations like "Life" indeliably impressed the image of barbarity on the Japanese nation. When American bombs began falling on Japanese cities, the Japanese alledged wa crimes and began executing American airmen. After the fir raids and atomic bombings the Japanese began seeing themselves as victims of the War. This was not their view in China or during the first years of the Pacific War. Source: UPI.

Fighting in Asian began several years before the War in Europe. Japan invaded China proper from Manchuria which they had seized several years earlier (July 1937). Japan quickly overwealmed the small, poorly eqquipped Chinese Air Force. Foreign assistace could not make up for Japan's advanced aviation industry and well-trained, disciplined air force. Japan used its air superority to conduct terror bombing of undefended Chinese cities. Today Japan sees itself as a victim of bombing, often ignoring the extent to which the Japanese bombed civilian targes in China. America prepared to assist China with a volunteer group--the Flying Tigers. The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, however, before the Flying Tigers reached Chiina. The Asian fighting involved several different campaigns. The Sino-Japanese fighting expanded into the air opperations associated with the China-Burma-India (CBI) theater. Air operations were important in the CBI, but not central. Air operations were central in the Pacific campaign. The Japanese achieved a commanding superority in naval aviation. The Japanese carrier attack on Pearl Harbor was a stunning success. Americans were shocked with both the strength of the Japanese Navy and with the quality of Japanese aircraft. Despite the Japanese success, Pearl Harbor was also the major strategic blunder of the Axis duing World War II. The Axis as long as America was neutral, was the world's dominant military power. The attack instantly ended the American debate over foreign policy and changed the ballabce of power. Pearl Harbor also led to the mobilization of the huge American industrial potential, including the aviation industry. This was apotential the axis in general, and the Japanese in particulsr could not match. Pear Harnor led to land-based and naval air operations associated with the Pacific campaign. Both the CBI and Pacific campaigns had as a major objective to seize territory within range of Japan for bases a strategic bombing campaign. The Marianas Islands proved tp be the ideal location for the strageic bomber nases. This would lead to the dropping of the atomic bombs that would play a major role in ending the War. A short-lived campaign was the Soviet invasion of Manchuria at the end of the War. The Soviet invasion may have been even more important than the atomic bomb in ending the War.

Aviation Industries

The air war in Asia and the Pacific was determined in large measure by the aviation industries of the combatant countries, especially the United States and Japan. China had no significany aviation industry of its own and relied heavily on imports from otherr countries. Foreig pilots also played an important role. Britain had an important aviation industy, but producion was primarily commited to the European theater. The defense of Singaporte (1941-42), for example, was attempted with almost no air support. The Soviets had a major aviation indudyry, but played only a minor role in the theater, except in the final weeks of the War. Ananalysis of the aviation industries of the the United States and Japan lead one to womder why Japan would have ever laynched the Pacific War against the United States. Japan had an advanced aviation industry capable of developing modern aircraft such at the Mitsibishi Zero. They received some technical assistance from their Axis partner, NAZI Germany. The Japanese aviation industry, however, was small in comparison to that of the United States. The Inited States had one of the nost advanced aviation industries in the world and the scientific infrastructure to significantly expand that industry. It also had the world's larges industrial capacity to manufacture aircraft. The Japanese decesion for war was based on the calculation that Japan's superority in carriers would allow it to seize a vast Pacific empire and win a short war before American's industrial capability could be mobilized. The resources of that new enpire could then be used to sipport a military force that America would not have the will to challenge. This proved to be a gravely mistaken calculation.

China-Burma-India Theater

Fighting in Asian began several years before the War in Europe. The air war in the Pacific began as in the European theater with mastery of the skies by modern Axis air forces. Japan invaded China proper from Manchuria which they had seized several years earlier (July 1937). Japan quickly overwealmed the small, poorly eqquipped Chinese Air Force. Foreign assistace could not make up for Japan's advanced aviation industry and well-trained, disciplined air force. Japan used its air superority to conduct terror bombing of undefended Chinese cities. The Japanese conducted terror bombing raid, first on Shanghai and then on other Chinese cities. Today Japan sees itself as a victim of bombing, often ignoring the extent to which the Japanese bombed civilian targes in China. America prepared to assist China with a volunteer group--the Flying Tigers. The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, however, before the Flying Tigers reached Chiina. The Asian fighting involved several different campaigns. The Sino-Japanese fighting expanded into the air opperations associated with the China-Burma-India (CBI) theater. Air operations were important in the CBI, but not central.

Pacific Theater

Air operations were central in the Pacific campaign. The Japanese achieved a commanding superority in naval aviation. The Japanese carrier attack on Pearl Harbor was a stunning success. Americans were shocked with both the strength of the Japanese Navy and with the quality of Japanese aircraft. Despite the Japanese success, Pearl Harbor was also the major strategic blunder of the Axis duing World War II. The Axis as long as America was neutral, was the world's dominant military power. The attack instantly ended the American debate over foreign policy and changed the ballabce of power. Pearl Harbor also led to the mobilization of the huge American industrial potential, including the aviation industry. This was a potential the Axis in general, and the Japanese in particulsr could not match. Japanese aircraft, especially the Mitusubishi Zero, were so effective that they were able to achieve air superority during land and sea battles against Britain and America beginning with the attack on Pearl Harbor. This continued throughout much of 1942 and only did the arrival of new American aircraft in large numbers did the Allies begin to gain the upperhand in the sky. Pearl Harnor led to land-based and naval air operations associated with the Pacific campaign.

Strategic Bombing Campaign

Witin a few months of Pearl Harbor, a carrier task force struck at Tokyo and other Japanese cities (April 1942). A sustained boming campaign required bases to bring the Home Islands within range. Both the CBI and Pacific campaigns had as a major objective to seize territory within range of Japan for bases a strategic bombing campaign. The Marianas Islands proved to be the ideal location for the strageic bomber bases. The seizure of the Marianas provided the needed bases. The new long range B-29 bombers were built with Japan in mind. The B-29 was the most comolicated weapon system of the War. And the B-29s could reach the Home Islands from the Marianas. This opened up Japan to a strastegic bombing campaign. The initial raids from Chinese bases were inclonclusive. General Curtis LeMay from the Marianas devised a strategy of low-alditude fire bombing which caused massive destruction in Japanese citis crammed with highly flameable wooden structures. When Japan refused to surender after the Yalta Conference, President Truman ordered the use of tha Atomic Bomb in August 1945. The Japanese signed the surender documents in September.

Soviet Manchurian Campaigns

ThecSovies waged two Manurcian campaigns. The first occurred just before World war II in Europe broke out (July 1939). The second occurred 6 years later at the end of te War (August 1945). The American dropping of the atomic bombs (August 1945) is genberally scene as forceing the Japanese to surender. A short-lived campaign was the Soviet invasion of Manchuria at the end of the War. The Soviet invasion may have been just as important than the atomic bomb in ending the War. This is an issue historians debate.






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Created: 6:51 AM 12/16/2006
Last updated: 11:44 PM 9/10/2008