World War II: Japanese Propaganda--The Pacific War


Figure 1.--This 1943 Japanesepropaganda poster trumphets Jpan's role as Asia’s leader, having broken the chains of European domination and occupation. Unfortunately by 1943 the Japanese had been stopped at Midway, the Indian bordrer, and on Guadalcanal. And were facibng much more powerful formations as the Allied battle back on all fronts. Once America began to gird for war, the rest of the Pcofic War beginning with Midway and Gudalcanal was one long seies of militry disasters. The Japanese coud not poduce modern weapns in the quality needed to fight the United States. But motre than the arms available, Japanese Army commanders proved surprisingly unsophisticated. The myth of Japnese invincibility was broken at the Teneru River. The mounds of bodies here looks more like what the Marines found after the Battle of the Tebneru. Colonel Ichiki, disgraced by his monumntal defeat, burned his regimental colors and shot himself. Some to 800 of his men hd joined him in death.

Japan employed a range of themes in its propaganda during thecPacific War. They included: 1) Military prowess, 2) European racism, 3) European colonialism, 4) explotive capitalism, 5) and war crimes. Their propaganda did not prove very effecive, especially as the military campaigns faltered after the American naval victory at Midway. And a combination of rapaciosness and incompetence resulted in a collapse of the eonomies of the Southern Resource Zone they seized, including terrible famines causing the death of millions. The one area in which they achieved some success was in attracting support from nationalist leaders who were focused on driving out the Europeans. Many did not understand that the Japanese offers of indepependence were mere propaganda ploys. The Japanese also attacked the Americans and British as plutocrats. And finally, Americans were accsed of war crimes, primarily bombing Civlian targets. The initial Japanese offensive after Pearl Harbor was impressive. Some began to see the Japanese as unstopable. Most had thought that the European presence was too intrenched to challenge. America was the only country preparing the colonial people for independemnce. The Japanese success showed European nationalists how vulnerable the Europeans were. And except in the Phillipines an Vietnam, they were not about to challenge the Japanese. The Japanese military victories ended at Midway (June 1942). This was not yet apparent to the conquered people of the princial Southern Rsource Zone (SRZ) colonies. The colonies (Burma, the DEI, Indo-china, and Malaya) remgained firmly under Japanese control. Racism was another factor. Euroean racism was especially resented. The Japanese presented themselves as fellow Asians. Irt soon became apparentt hat Japanese racism was every bit as stronglty felt, if not more so than European racism. Some in the West were beginning to question racism, this was not the case in Japan. The Japanese in an effort to sell their new role to Asian nationalists, called thrir empire the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere (GEACPS). This was a propaganda concept to gain the support of subject peoples in European Asian colonies. The slogan coined by the Japanese was 'Asia for the Asians'. The propaganda image promoted by the Japanese was a grouping of independent Asian nations liberated from Western influences. The attackson Britishand Americans capitlists/pltocrates ws absurd given that the country , but nothing could be more descriptive of Japan, dominated by the zaibatsu and rural landlords. The chrge of war crimes was also absurd. Japanese bombing of Chinese cities was standard practice in China, long before the onset of the Pacific War. The Japanese had no problem with bombing civilians, they just did not want their cities bombed. The Japanese also came up with horrible stories about how American soldiers treated civilians. They were outright lies, but actually accuate decriptions about how the Japanese treated civilians.

Major Propaganda Themes

Japan employed a range of themes in its World War II propaganda. They included: 1) Military prowess, 2) European racism, 3) European colonialism, 4) explotive capitalism, 5) and war crimes. Their propaganda did not prove very effecive, especially as the military campaigns faltered after the American naval victory at Midway. And a combination of rapaciosness and incompetence resulted in a collapse of the eonomies of the Southern Resource Zone they seized, including terrible famines causing the death of millions. The one area in which they achieved some success was in attracting support from nationalist leaders who were focused on driving out the Europeans. Many did not understand that the Japanese offers of indepependence were mere propaganda ploys. The Japanese also attacked the Americans and British as plutocrats. And finally, Americans were accsed of war crimes, primarily bombing Civlian targets.

Military Prowess

Japanese propaganda did not prove very effecive, especially as the military campaigns faltered after the American naval victory at Midway. The initial Japanese offensive after Pearl Harbor was impressive. Some began to see the Japanese as unstopable. The Japanese military victories ended at Midway (June 1942). This was not yet apparent to the conquered people of the princial Southern Rsource Zone (SRZ) colonies. The colonies (Burma, the DEI, Indo-china, and Malaya) remgained firmly under Japanese control. The Japanese could point to their reat victories, but they were chieved before th Allies were prepared. Once America began to gird for war, the rest of the Pcofic War beginning with Midway and Gudalcanal was one long seies of military disasters. The Japanese coud not poduce modern weapns in the quality needed to fight the United States. But motre than the arms available, Japanese Army commanders proved surprisingly unsophisticated. The myth of Japnese invincibility was broken at the Teneru River. Colonel Kiyonao Ichiki who had commanded Japanese troops in the monentous encounter at the Mrco Polo Bridge (1937) commanding a force superior to the Marines, charged his men hed long and in piece-neal fashion into well-placed machine gun positions at the Teneru Rive, the decisive battle of Guadalcanal. Even the greenest American second leuitenant would have know that a frontl assault was folly.

Racism

Racism was another factor. Euroean racism was especially resented. The Japanese presented themselves as fellow Asians. It soon became apparentt hat Japanese racism was every bit as stronglty felt, if not more so than European racism. Some in the West were beginning to question racism, this was not the case in Japan.

Colonialism

A a combination of rapaciosness and incompetence resulted in a collapse of the eonomies of the Southern Resource Zone they seized, including terrible famines causing the death of millions. The Japanese in an effort to sell their new role to Asian nationalists, called thrir empire the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere (GEACPS). This was a propaganda concept to gain the support of subject peoples in European Asian colonies. In fact, the Japanese did not object to colonialism. They had an empire and wanted to exand it. What they objected to was the Europens controlling and exploiting the Southern Resorce Zone (SRZ) which thy coveted. They wanted those resources to support their war effot.

Asian Nationalism

Most had thought that the European presence was too intrenched to challenge. America was the only country preparing the colonial people for independemnce. The Japanese success showed European nationalists how vulnerable the Europeans were. And except in the Phillipines an Vietnam, they were not about to challenge the Japanese. The one area in which the Japanese achieved some success was in attracting support from nationalist leaders who were focused on driving out the Europeans. Many did not understand that the Japanese offers of indepependence were mere propaganda ploys. The slogan coined by the Japanese was 'Asia for the Asians'. The propaganda image promoted by the Japanese was a grouping of independent Asian nations liberated from Western influences. One author writes, "In China, the Japanese had persuaded Wang Ching-wei to head their puppet government. After Pearl Harbor, Indian and Burmese patriots formed independent nationalist armies in collaboration with the Japanese, while in Indonesia pro-Japanese sentiments were expressed by the rousing triple slogan of the AAA movement: Japan the leader of Asia; Japan the protector of Asia, and Japan the light of Asia. The Burmese Prime Minster spoke repeatedly of the solidarity of, “A thousand million Asians. President Roosevelt thought the same and told a confidant, “1,100,000,000 potential enemies are dangerous.” [Dower} This would of course been very useful propaganda fo the Japanese and useful potential allies. The Japanese were, however, unwilling to actually convey independence as promised. While the government were pupotedly independent or moving towar independence, they were in fact mere pupets. Japanese authorities simply substituted the old Europen colonial governors with new Japanese officils. And even worse the rule of law upheld by the Europeans diappeared. The Japanese acted arbitrarily, seizing wht ever property they desired. And acts of violece became increasigly capricuious and common.

Capitalist Plutocrats

The Japanese also attacked the Americans and British as plutocrats. And finally, Americans were acccsed of war crimes, primarily bombing Civlian targets. This began with the Doolittle Raid and was primarily dircted at the domestic audience. The attacks on British and Americans capitlists/pltocrates ws absurd given that the country , but nothing could be more descriptive of Japan, dominated by the zaibatsu and rural landlords.

War Crimes

The Japanese charge of war crimes was also absurd. Japanese bombing of Chinese cities was standard practice in China, long before the onset of the Pacific War. The Japanese had no problem with bombing civilians, they just did not want their cities bombed. The Japanese also came up with horrible stories about how American soldiers treated civilians. They were outright lies, but an accuate ecriptions about how the Japanese treated both POWs and civilians. The Rape of Nanking is but the best known of the horfic Japanese attrocities. In fact the Japanese were guilty of war crimes on a massive scale, resulting inthe deaths of millions. This began in Manchuria and China and included the use of weapons of mass destruction. . The first American experience ws the Baatan Death March.

Propaganda Formats


Domestic Effort


Country Targets


Sources

Dower, John W. War without Mercy – Race and Power in the Pacific War New York: Pantheon Books, 1986).







HBC








Navigate the Boys' Historical Clothing Web Site:
[Return to Main Japanese propaganda page]
[Return to Main Japanese road to World War II page]
[Return to Main Japanese World War II page]
[Return to Main World War II Pacific campaign page]
[Biographies] [Campaigns] [Children] [Countries] [Deciding factors] [Diplomacy] [Geo-political crisis] [Economics] [Home front] [Intelligence]
[POWs] [Resistance] [Race] [Refugees] [Technology]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Images] [Links] [Registration] [Tools]
[Return to Main World War II page]
[Return to Main war essay page]




Created: 5:54 AM 11/20/2005
Last updated: 7:27 AM 7/16/2013