Japan’s Actual Plan for World War II

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Japanese war plan map
Japan’s plan to conquer the Far East as reported by Life magazine, December 9, 1946

Last month, we looked at some possible Axis invasion plans of the United States. We wrote at the time that neither the Germans nor the Japanese ever seriously considered conquering the continental United States.

Life revealed as much as early as December 1946. Basing itself on “captured documents” and interviews American officers conducted with their Japanese counterparts, the magazine reported that the empire’s goal was always a negotiated peace.

The strike on Pearl Harbor was only meant to immobilize the American fleet so the Japanese could take the Philippines, Guam, Singapore, the East Indies and Wake Island.

Then the Japanese thought they would have time, behind their outer defenses, to exploit their new “southern resources zone” for raw materials which they needed to complete their hopelessly deadlocked war in China.

When Japan’s efforts went better than expected, its leaders, shocked by the 1942 Doolittle Raid on Tokyo, miscalculated: they changed the plan and extended their defensive perimeter to include Kiska, Midway, New Caledonia and all of New Guinea. “This rash decision cost them most of their carriers and air force,” leaving the empire vulnerable once the United States had fully mobilized.

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