FORMER FRIENDS AT ODDS (Illustration) Famous Historical Events Famous People Film Government Social Studies American History Ethics World War II

Allies during WWI, Japan and America dramatically drifted apart when the Japanese military invaded parts of China in the 1930s. This map depicts the location of a puppet state, called Manchukuo, which Japan set-up in 1932.


The Empire of Japan and the United States were at odds. Differences over China put them on a path toward war.

In 1931, Japan conquered Manchuria. Not content with current gains, she was flexing her military muscle throughout the rest of China. Shanghai was bombed to the point of utter terror.

By 1937, people in cities like Shanghai and Nanking were massacred, or brutally bombed, by the Japanese. That same year, on December 12, Japan bombed an American ship - the USS Panay (PR 5) - in China to protect U.S. commercial interests. 

After the crew abandoned the sinking gunship, Japanese planes strafed the lifeboats as they made for shore.

America was alarmed. With important strategic and economic interests in Asia, the U.S. increased military and financial aid to China and placed an embargo on Japan. Poor in natural resources, Japan needed American oil and other raw materials.

By the end of July, 1941, all oil shipments to Japan were cut off. Government officials in Tokyo vowed to get their own oil - by conquering all of Southeast Asia.

Former allies in World War I, both countries had aligned themselves with opposite sides as war broke out in Europe:

  • America was giving aid to Great Britain whose empire stretched throughout Asia.
  • In 1940, Japan signed an agreement (the Tripartite Pact) with Germany and Italy.
  • Japan's oil supply increased the range of Nazi war ships.

During 1941, diplomats from both countries tried to negotiate their differences. But the Imperial Government hedged its bets. Its leaders - particularly its military leaders - wanted to continue their expansionist policy.

Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto wrote a letter on January 7, 1941 suggesting a plan that would immobilize the one perceived obstacle standing between Japan and her intended conquests: the American fleet at Pearl Harbor.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5197stories and lessons created

Original Release: May 01, 2001

Updated Last Revision: Jan 12, 2016

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"FORMER FRIENDS AT ODDS" AwesomeStories.com. May 01, 2001. Jun 01, 2020.
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