** World War II Japan casualties

World War II: Japan--Casualties

Figure 1.--Here the Japanese Empress inspects the grounds of a Catholic orphanage for children who lost their parents during the War( April 13, 1946). The orphanage was located in the Fujisawa neigborhood of Tokyo Most of th children lost their prentrs becuse of the fire bombing of Tokyo. The Emperess paid a visit to the chapel. The children are waving Japanese flags to greet her. Japan does a wonderful job of remmbering the approximately 0.5 million Japanese civilians that perished in the War, primarily the result of the American strategic bombing campaign. What we do so see is the Japanese paying homage to 15-20 million poeople as a eesult of the Japanese invasion of China and territories in Southeast Asian and the Pacific. Not only are they not rembered, the horrors visited on these innokcnt people is hidden from the Japanese people, espoecially the school children.

Seeing the images of the atomic bombing of Japan, it would seem that Japan must have suffered the greatest casuaties of the War. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fct, Japanese csualktyis were small fraction of thr csualties in the ciuntriers that they invaded and the brutal occupation imposed. The Japanese seized Manchuria, but there was only limited fighting and minimal casualties (1931). Chiang and the Nationalists declined to contest the aggression. The Japanese launched the Second Sino-Japanese War by invading China proper (1937). Here the nationalist fought and there were casualties on both sides. After heavy combat and the lost of the best Nationalist units, the nationalist began to withdraw into the interior. Fighting continued, but at a lower level. Casualties declined, but continued. More important for the Japanese was the strain on the economy. After 4 years of fighting the casualties mounted, although only a fraction of Nationalist casualties let alone the enormous civilian casualties in China. Japanese civilians were affected by the economic strain and family losses. But as the Chinese had no appreciable navy and air forces there were no loss of life on the Home Islands. The Japanese attack on the American Fleet at Pearl Harbor, as strange as it may sound. was intended to finally end the fighting in China (December 1941). Of course it did not. Casualties at first were limited as the Japanese swept over the Pacific and Southeast Asia, this began to change after Midway (June 1942). The loss of carriers at Midway and declining control of ocean area meant the the Imperial Navy could no longer provide Japanese soldiers the support they needed. And casualties began to mount, especially after high performance aircraft and new ships began to pour out of American factories and shipyards. The losses sustained only added to the steady stream of losses from China. Even so the level of losses should not be overestimated. Japanese garrisons might fight to the death on a Pacific island, but there were only so many men that could be crammed on to a Pacific island, even defeat in Burma did not involve massive losses. There were substantial losses in the Philippines and Okinawa, but not crippling losses. The strain of war had begun to affect Japanese civilians from an early point, primarily due to food shortages and the American submarine campaign meant that their victories in the Pacific and Southwest Asian would not benefit civilians or aid the war economy. The loss of the Marianas meant that the United States could begin the strategic bombing campaign (June-July 1944). This meant that for the first time, Japanese civilians faced not only shortages, but death and destruction from the skies. American bombers methodically reduced Japan's timber and paper cities to glowing ash heaps even before dropping the two atomic bombs. Japanese military casualties totaled over 2.1 million men. Civilian casualties resulting from military action, mostly the strategic bombing campaign totaled about 0.5 million people. Another 0.5 million civilians may have perished from malnutrition and related diseases. Today in Japan discussion of the War gives great attention to civilian casualties. There is virtually no appreciation for 1) Japanese Army actions against their own civilians and 2) how small Japanese civilian casualties were in comparison the civilians who were killed by Japanese soldiers or who perished in famines caused by the Japanese occupation actions in China, the Pacific, and Southeast Asia.


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Created: 12:48 PM 12/16/2021
Last updated: 12:48 PM 12/16/2021