Chapter 5 - Aftermath
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The war in Europe ended in May 1945 with the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany. But that wasn’t the end of the Second World War. Germany’s former ally, the Empire of Japan, continued to fight in the Pacific theatre.
The road to victory over Japan was a long and bloody one. American forces landed in the Philippines in October 1944, and after six months of heavy fighting they succeeded in recapturing Manila, although pockets of resistance remained for months afterwards. The small Japanese island of Iwo Jima was captured in March 1945, at the cost of almost 30,000 Japanese and American lives. The island of Okinawa followed three months later, after 82 days of fierce fighting in which over 100,000 troops lost their lives.
Further west, the British were locked in battle with the Japanese for control of Burma. Rangoon was recaptured in May 1945, and by July the Japanese had finally been forced out of a country that now lay in ruins. At the same time, other Commonwealth troops were fighting the Japanese in Borneo, where the Australian army was engaged in a fierce struggle to take control of the island.
As in the war against Germany, the Allies embarked on the strategic bombing of cities as a brutal but effective way of disrupting military and civilian infrastructure, and sapping the enemy’s morale. Starting in March 1945, Tokyo, Osaka and other major cities were subjected to the same relentless bombardment that had been inflicted on towns like Hamburg and Dresden. A typical raid involved hundreds of heavy bombers dropping thousands of tons of incendiary bombs.
Although the Japanese were in retreat, and on the receiving end of merciless punishment, there was little prospect of an early end to the war. Japan was not a country that was predisposed to surrender. Throughout the entire period of recorded history, the home islands of Japan had never been invaded by enemy forces – the country almost literally didn’t know the meaning of the word defeat. The fanatical patriotism of the Japanese troops was attested time and again, their obvious willingness to die fighting horrifying their opponents. The most dramatic manifestation was seen in the Kamikaze phenomenon – aircraft loaded with explosives that were deliberately flown into Allied ships by their pilots.