Japan's Asian Allies, 1941-1945

Published: November 5th, 2020     
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Author: Philip Jowett, Stephen Walsh (Ill.)
Reviewed by: Brian R. Baker - IPMS# 43146
ISBN #: 9781472836960
E-Book ISBN #: 9781472836977
Other Publication Information: 9 ¾” x 7 ¼”, 48 Pages, 42 Photos, 8 Color Drawings, Softcover.
Price: $19.00
Product / Stock #: MAA 532
Product provided by: Osprey Publishing

History

While the general course of World War II has been told and retold many times, some of the more obscure parts of the war have been largely ignored by historians, and this volume's authors have made a great effort to rectify the situation. This book describes the situation in areas threatened and taken over by the Japanese at the beginning of World War II and explains how the Japanese attempted to make use of manpower in the conquered areas to assert control and defend against Allied attempts to retake these areas.

Obviously, the areas Japan had acquired before Pearl Harbor, including parts of China and Manchuria which they renamed Manchukuo, had very diverse populations, with some openly hostile to other groups within the country. The Japanese objective was to promote stability to their advantage, and convince the people in the occupied countries that, unlike the Europeans whose motives were always evil, the Japanese were actually interested in promoting the welfare of the subject populations. So the Japanese military saw the need for recruiting and training members of the native populations, training and arming them to a degree where they could be useful in keeping the people in line and not encouraging any independence movements, such as had developed under European control.

The Book

This book outlines the extent of the Japanese empire, or "Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere" to use the Japanese expression. Japanese propagandists pushed this idea, that they were actually the "good guys", although it didn't take long for most of the native populations to discover that this wasn't the case, and that the Japanese were actually worse than their European counterparts. Most of the native populations were interested in independence, and most of their efforts were in that direction. The Japanese made considerable efforts to discover who the people were that were working against the Europeans, and to recruit them to the Japanese side to achieve their objectives, which were usually the exploitation of raw materials, such as tin, bauxite, and oil.

In the North, the Japanese had already acquired control of Manchuria and had sponsored the government of Manchukuo, creating an army as well as a small navy and probably the largest air force of any of the occupied countries. Of course, the Russians also had an interest in the region, and the Japanese had been engaged in some fighting against them. While continuously at war with China, the Chinese Communists were becoming a thorn in their sides, so the overall situation was indeed confusing. There was even a Japanese puppet government of Nanking, which had its own armed forces.

In the South, the Japanese had occupied Malaya and Singapore, and had also been involved in French Indo-China and Thailand. France had already been occupied by the Germans, and the Vichy French government was a little more sympathetic towards the Japanese. Thailand, already independent, attempted to hold off the Japanese and actually fought a short war with the Vichy French over territorial disputes, and they were actually assisted by the Japanese, who supplied military equipment, including aircraft, to Thailand.

Probably the situation in India encouraged the Japanese more than anything else, as the political forces in India were working towards independence from Britain. The Japanese recruited a significant number of Indians to fight on their side, and this probably helped the Indians to achieve independence shortly after the end of the war.

Other areas where the Japanese made use of native populations included the Pacific Islands, and the captured areas of what later became Indonesia, Burma, Vietnam, and even the Philippine Islands. It is interesting to note that after the war, many of the Pro-Japanese collaborators suffered the consequences of their actions from the local populations who had become decidedly anti-Japanese.

Recommendations

I found this to be a very interesting book, mainly because it was filled with information I was not aware of. I think the author remains fairly objective, not mixing opinion with history, although I didn't find any reference to the Japanese "Rape of Nanking", an event that certainly could have been included in the text. The vicious Japanese treatment of prisoners of war is also practically ignored. There are numerous photos included in the text, mainly of individuals or groups of soldiers attached to various Japanese sponsored military units. The captions explain who the people were, but the color drawings of the individual soldiers, and these are excellently done, would be much more useful to modelers who are trying to recreate this history in model form. Although the author mentions various types of aircraft used by a few of these units, there were no illustrations telling what kind of markings they would have carried which reduces the value of this text to modelers.

However, I found this a fascinating little book, and even if you are not heavily into military history it does fill a gap in the course of the war, and is certainly worth getting.

Highly recommended.

Thanks to Osprey Publishing Company for the review copy.

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