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Unformatted text preview: ving their goals in East Asia, and in September of that year Japan signed a
tripartite pact with the Axis powers. But alliance with Germany and
Italy proved of negligible value and had the opposite effect of stiffening
the anti-Japanese attitude of the United States. As Japan continued to
press into Southeast Asia, the United States reacted by freezing Japanese
assets in America and by joining Britain and Holland in imposing an embargo on all exports to Japan.
The intractable American opposition to Japanese aggression in 1941
made Pearl Harbor all but inevitable. President Roosevelt stigmatized
December 7, 1941, as a “day that will live in infamy,” but the fact is that
the United States was simply unprepared for war in the Pacific. This unpreparedness enabled the Japanese to score a series of spectacular victories that seemed to accomplish Japan’s dream of founding a Greater East
Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. The Japanese hegemony over the western
Pacific and much of Southeast Asia was not seriously challenged for more
than a year. One reason was the time necessary for the United States to
gear itself to a full-scale war effor t; another was the fact that the Allies
gave priority to the European theatre of war. But the tide turned at the
Battle of Midway, westernmost island in the Hawaiian chain, in June
1942. In one of the first naval battles in history conducted by the carrierbased planes of fleets that never saw each other, the Americans scored a
smashing victory, sinking four Japanese aircraft carriers. After Midway,
the Japanese Navy was forced entirely onto the defensive.
By the end of 1942, after months of ferocious fighting by American
and Australian ground forces in appalling, disease-infested conditions in
the jungles of the Southwest Pacific—especially in New Guinea and the
Solomon Islands—the Allies began gradually, but inexorably, to push the
Japanese back toward their home islands. This was accomplished primarily by a series of “island-hopping” invasions in the G...
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- Spring '13