The Pacific Front
The Pacific Front was largely the portion of the Great War which was fought in East Asia and the Pacific area. The Pacific Front pitted the Japanese Imperial Army against various British colonists and a few French colonists. The British, along with various other European nations had several interests in East Asia and had established several colonies. However with the war raging in Europe very few resources could be allocated to the defense of these colonies. Therefore the Pacific Front was a largely quiet front, with the biggest conquests being the capture of French Indochina and the failed invasion of Australia. Several naval battles here also proved Japan's military might at sea as well as on land.
Japan, despite long relations with the British, sought to establish themselves as the "Rulers of Asia." With German successes in France and in Russia, Japan decided to side with the victors and declared war on the Entente following a formal German request for aid in Asia. The Japanese had long been prepared for a war, and now mobilized their full military and prepared for multiple invasions and conquests.
The Japanese navy had been expanded and modernized until it became a dominant navy in the world, rivaling the Royal Navy and that of the U.S. Several battles occurred in what came to be known as the War of Three Navies, Japan, the U.S, and the British.
Battle of the Bohai Sea
At the Battle of Coronal the German East Asia Squadron had defeated the British Navy. However, it was running low on ammunition and other necessities, the main one being coal. However, with Japan as a new ally, it quickly made steam back to its base at Tsingtao. However it was followed in close pursuit by another squadron of the British navy, this one composed of three battleships, four cruisers and six destroyers. They departed from the Falkand Islands with the intent of removing the East Asia Squadron. However, they were intercepted by a group of Japanese ships which had been sent to escort the remnants of the East Asia Squadron back to Tsingtao. At the Battle of the Bohai Sea the Japanese scored a decisive victory over the British and secured the survival of the East Asia Squadron
Battle of Celebes Sea
The Battle of the Celebes Sea was the deciding battle between the Royal Navy and the Imperial Navy. The British intended to break the Malay Barrier set up by the Japanese to isolate Australia. Several Battles with the United States had drawn the Imperial Navy more East and the British saw the opportunity to break the blockade and destroy the Japanese Navy in the West. They sent a fleet from India to combat the Japanese, however at the Battle of Celebes Sea the Japanese defeated the Royal Navy again, albeit with incredibly heavy casualties. The Japanese won, but it was a Pyrrhic victory as their casualties were twice as many as the British.
Battle of Aleutians
The Battle of the Aleutians decided the war in the pacific in favor of the U.S. navy. The Japanese never again took the offensive against the U.S. Navy after the defeat at the Aleutians. The Japanese attempted to seize the islands and sent a squadron to participate in the invasion. The United States however caught wind of the invasion through well placed spies and decisively defeated the entire squadron at the Aleutians.
Japanese Land Campaigns
The Japanese had planned several invasions, mainly that of French Indochina, New Guinea, the Philippines, and Australia. As many of the soldiers from these islands had been withdrawn to Europe to aid the Entente in the war there the colonies were left largely undefended. The Japanese had no doubt that they could conquer these territories with few casualties.
France had proven to be indecisive in several wars against the Asian powers, mainly the Franco-Siam war. Japan sought to conquer French Indochina as a major territory on the continent. The Japanese Commander-In-Chief, Fleet Admiral Ken Morimoto committed 80,000 men to the invasion.
On December 15th, 1915 30,000 Japanese troops landed in Tonken while another 30,000 landed in Cochinchina. A few days later another 15,000 landed in Annam. The Japanese in Tonken and Cochinchina proceeded to their targets: Hanoi and Saigon. After a few bloody battles the cities fell under Japanese control. In Annam however the Japanese Army were forced to retreat into Conchina following the defeat at the hands of Vietnamese revolutionary Tian Quen Mer. The guerrillas, dubbed the Vietnamese Independence Fighters continued to harass the Japanese and won another decisive victory at the Battle of Mekong River. However, the Japanese in the North pressed south while the Japanese in the South pressed North, catching the VIF Army in a pincer trap. Following a bloody military campaign waged against the VIF the Japanese finally captured General Mer at the Battle of Da Nang. The Japanese had him publicly executed and his body was hung on display. Following the defeat at Da Nang all resistance died down. This combined with brutal Japanese counter-terrorism quickly settled the area.
The British Garrison at New Guinea had been light to begin with; it consisted of 2,000 regular soldiers and 9,000 native auxiliaries. These auxiliaries, however, were poorly trained and largely joined the army due to a crime or for the small wage it provided. Not many felt loyal to the Crown. The Japanese landed around 20,000 troops on the island on three beachheads. A beach defense had been prepared however the sheer amounts of Japanese troops overwhelmed these positions. As they pressed inward, many of the native auxileries began to flee and desert, and in one case even mutiny. The Japanese captured Port Moseby only days after landing on the island.
The Japanese, shortly after the fall of New Guinea withdrew about 12,000 troops from the island (leaving roughly 7,000 to guard it) for the invasion of the Philippines. The Philippines, being an American territory was better defended than the rest and was guarded by about 25,000 well trained Filipino marines. A reserve was composed of about 30,000 militia. Despite not feeling loyal to the U.S. the troops were well prepared to fight for their homeland. The Japanese landed troops along the northern coast of the main Philippine island. Another lighter task force was landed on the southern archipelago. The Japanese in the north were largely confined to the northern shores. However, the ever-increasing numbers of Japanese soldiers arriving broke a hole in the defenses. Eventually the Philippine defense was split in two and they were forced to pull back.
In the south the Japanese had island hopped across the archipelago, and secured much of the south. Now they landed on the main island and pushed north. After a short but brutal military campaign the Japanese finally cornered the Philippinos in Manila. After the two month Siege of Manila the Filipinos surrendered to the Japanese.
The failed invasion of Australia is probably the most humiliating failure for the Japanese Imperial Army. Admiral Morimoto committed over 200,000 men to the attack and landed on four points of the continent. On February 14th 200,000 men landed on the beaches of Queensland and West Australia.The Australian Army consisted of 12,000 regular infantry and some 8,000 poorly trained militia. The Australian Army concentrated on defending the Queensland area of Australia, leaving Western Australia to fend for itself. However at the Battle of Brisbane the Australian Army was destroyed, with roughly 6,000 taken prisoner and 8,000 killed. The army retreated southward, where they fortified New South Whales. By the end of the month the Queensland region was largely under Japanese rule.
In Eastern Australia, young Lt. George Rainford had gone from town to town throughout the countryside and recruited whoever he could. He issued the "Aboriginal Edict" decreeing that any aboriginal that joined the army would be given citizenship and "all rights and liberties entitled to the honorific title." The new edict inspired many to join, and he soon had an army of about 38,000 troops, which he dubbed Rainford's Raiders. However, these troops were poorly equipped and trained. Adding to the problem was the fact that there were little to no supplies for the army. To combat the far superior Japanese Army Rainford (commonly known now as General Rainford) utilized guerrilla warfare and sabotaged Japanese supply lines, ambushed patrols, etc. The final straw for Admiral Morimoto was when a Japanese supply train was ambushed and captured. The supply train consisted of 8,000 rifles, 12,000 rounds of ammuntion, 800 tons of food. General Morimoto assigned Major General Matsunaga to hunt down the army and gave him 60,000 troops for the task. The infamous "Hunt for Rainford" involved burning of villages, torture, and the Northcliffe Massacre. Rainford continued to harass the Japanese, and defeated a vanguard of 4,000 Japanese soldiers, leaving no prisoners. However Matsunaga stormed Rainford's headquarters at Laverton and nearly captured Rainford himself. However, most of the army managed to grab their supplies and escaped into the desert, where General Matsunaga foolishly ordered a pursuit. However, his troops were ill equipped to fight in the desert and slowly the troops either died from thirst or deserted. After a disastrous two months in the desert Matsunaga took whatever troops he had left and retreated. 45,000 troops went into the desert however less than 11,000 came out. After this defeat the Japanese withdrew from West Australia.
The East had not fared as well as the West. The Japanese had crushed all opposition in Queensland and were now preparing for the crushing blow against New South Wales, which was the last stronghold of the Australian Army. However, before the blow could be inflicted Rainford's Raiders launched the famous "Sydney Raid" which struck the Japanese HQ in Sydney. Rainford managed to kill and wound a large number of officers; Admiral Morimoto was himself shot three times, once in the shoulder and twice in the leg. Although he survived he was deeply shook by the Raid. After rumors spread of the raids the Japanese Armies suffered from mass desertions and panick. Eventually the Japanese suffered from so many conflicting orders and confusion from the upper ranks that Morimoto called off the entire invasion and withdrew all Japanese troops. Thus ended the short lived invasion.
The Pacific Front ended with a major Japanese victory. Japan had more than doubled its overseas territory, not only gaining control of several islands but also of a large amount of the continent. Japan established itself as the dominant superpower in East Asia. The loss of Australia though would be a permanent mark on Japan's military record though, and it was the source of much anti-Australian animosity.
For Australia however the result was incredibly joyous. Australia had successfully repelled an invasion with little British aid. Rainford was seen as the "Savior of Australia" and soon after The Great War declared independence from Britain and formed the Republic of Australia. However the new nation would be wracked with problems and other issues.