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Second World War History > Expansion - the Japanese Conquest of the Pacific Timeline

Expansion - the Japanese Conquest of the Pacific Timeline

Not to be out-done by her German allies, the Japanese enacted their own brand of Blitzkrieg that yielded most of her territories in the Pacific.

Authored By Staff Writer

The Empire of Japan knew it had to act fast and in some numbers to complete the sphere of influence its leaders envisioned throughout the Pacific and in Southeast Asia. This meant a rapid and mobile military force with calculating and resource-minded objectives that would help keep the military machine humming along like a well-oiled machine.


Carrier warfare was nothing new to the world though its scope and success was put on center stage with the arrival of World War 2. The surprise attack by the Japanese Navy of Pearl Harbor reaped some limited results - Pearl activity was disrupted for the interim and the quick-strike capability and inherent mobility of carrier-borne aircraft was proven several times over. The greatest flaw in the assault was the American carriers being out of the region at the time of the attack, perhaps saving the all-important American foothold in the Pacific itself.


On a similar note, the British Royal Navy - now charged with policing the waters making up the Indian Ocean and elsewhere - were at the mercy of the powerful air arm of the Imperial Japanese Navy. With a limited set of warships in the theater, the Royal Navy did what they could against the calculated assaults of the Empire only to be handed a similar deciding defeat in turn.


With the United States Navy regrouping and the British Royal Navy reeling, Japan now moved on the islands that made up former European colonies, and this progressed with some - completing amphibious assault after amphibious assault until the Allies (and like-forces) either retreated, surrendered or were destroyed. At any rate, carrier warfare was here to stay and, in a few more years, would supplant the mighty battleships that had ruled the seas for decades before.


The Japanese reach was a grand one by the end of 1942 and its power would be felt for months later until the Allies were ready to mobilize their offensives to take back the captured islands - one at a time if need-be.


At its greatest stretch, Japanese expansion had engulfed tiny Wake Island, the Philippines, Malaya, Burma, the Dutch East Indies, parts of New Guinea, the Caroline Islands, the Gilbert Islands, the Marshall Islands, the Marianas Islands and some of the Solomon Island chain.


If the Allies were going to act, it would have to be sooner rather than later.

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Total Japanese Pacific Expansion Events: 38

1941
Sunday
December 7th

In conjunction with the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Wake Island is assaulted by a Japanese invasion force all its own - this under the command of Rear-Admiral Kajioka Sadamichi.

1941
Wednesday
December 10th

Along the north of Luzon - at Aparri, Gonzago and Vigan - two large Japanese Army forces land via amphibious assault.

1941
Friday
December 12th

The airfields at Laoang and Tuguegarao fall to the Japanese invaders.

1941
Monday
December 22nd

The Japanese 48th Division lands at Lingayen Bay on Luzon.

1941
Tuesday
December 23rd

The order is given by American General Douglas MacArthur to retreat from Luzon and take up positions on the Bataan Peninsula.

1941
Tuesday
December 23rd

MacArthur's forces are cut-off from further retreat by a Japanese Army force advancing from the south.

1941
Tuesday
December 23rd

Despite an out-numbered yet heroic resistance on the part of American forces, Wake Island falls to the Japanese.

1941
Tuesday
December 23rd

The American military detachment at Wake Island surrenders. During their stand, the Americans accounted for at least 1,000 Japanese casualties and 4 Japanese navy warships.

1941
Thursday
December 25th

The Japanese 48th Division makes substantial progress against American forces, working their way towards the capital city of Manila.

1941
Saturday
December 27th

The Philippine capital city of Manila eventually falls to the invading Japanese Army.

1942
Friday
January 9th

The Japanese begin their offensive against the dug-in American forces on the Bataan Peninsula.

1942
Sunday
January 11th

Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaya, falls to the invading Japanese 5th Division.

1942
Sunday
January 11th

Three Japanese amphibious forces take on the Dutch East Indies.

1942
Thursday
January 15th

Japanese forces invade Burma beginning their assault at Victoria Point.

1942
Monday
January 19th

The Japanese Army makes short work of the light British defenses, covering some 230 miles in reaching Tavoy.

1942
Friday
January 23rd

The American defensive lines finally break.

1942
Saturday
February 14th

By this time, the Japanese have captured Borneo, Celebes and Sarawak.

1942
Sunday
February 15th

Singapore eventually falls to the might of the Japanese assault resulting in the capture of some 60,000 Allied prisoners against the cost of 2,000 Japanese soldiers.

1942
Thursday
February 19th

The Japanese 1st Air Fleet conducts a surprise attack on Allied ships at Broome and Darwin. Twelve ships are sunk in the assault.

1942
Sunday
March 8th

By this date, the Japanese capture the Dutch East Indies with the occupations of Bali, Timor and Java.

1942
Sunday
March 8th

Japan invades New Guinea.

1942
Sunday
March 8th

Rangoon, Burma falls to the Japanese.

1942
Sunday
March 8th

The British Burma Army escapes anhilation in Burma.

1942
Thursday
April 1st

The Japanese aircraft carrier Ryujo enters the Bay of Bengal.

1942
Friday
April 3rd

No fewer than five Japanese Navy aircraft carriers reach the Indian Ocean.

1942
Saturday
April 4th

A small contingent of British Royal Navy vessels operating in the Indian Ocean are warned of the arriving Japanese Navy force.

1942
Saturday
April 4th

Admiral Sir James Somerville detaches a force to intercept the arriving Japanese fleet.

1942
Monday
April 6th

The Imperial Japanese Navy unleashes a surprise attack, with some 120 aircraft, on British forces at Columbo Harbor, Ceylon.

1942
Monday
April 6th

Twenty-six Allied aircraft are destroyed.

1942
Monday
April 6th

The British Royal Navy cruisers HMS Cornwall and HMS Dorsetshire are sunk by the Japanese air strike.

1942
Monday
April 6th

The British Royal Navy destroyer HMS Tenedos is sunk by the Japanese air strike.

1942
Thursday
April 9th

American forces fighting on the Bataan Peninsula finally surrender to the Japanese.

1942
Thursday
April 9th

An 85-strong Japanese Navy aircraft contingent attacks airfields and targets of opportunity at Trincomalee, Ceylon.

1942
Thursday
April 9th

The HMS Hermes is one of four Royal Navy ships sunk by Japanese Navy aircraft.

1942
Tuesday
May 5th

The Japanese enact an offensive to take Corregidor Island, a strategic point providing access to Manila Bay.

1942
Wednesday
May 6th

Corregidor Island falls to the Japanese, giving the invaders control over Manila Bay.

1942
Friday
May 15th

Burma falls to the Japanese.

1942
Monday
August 31st

By this date, the Japanese have completed their takeovers of the Caroline Islands, the Gilbert Islands, the Marshall Islands, the Marianas Islands and a portion of the Solomon Islands. This is the farthest that the Japanese Empire would reach in the Pacific.
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