By Han Lianchao, published: August 31, 2015
“When the Chinese people and the Chinese nation were in peril, the United States came to the rescue and asked for nothing in return. The U.S. never occupied a single inch of Chinese territory, never reaped any particular reward.”
At 9:00 A.M. on September 2nd, 1945 (September 1st, U.S. time), the two hundred Allied naval vessels moored in Tokyo Bay were shadowed by dark clouds overhead, but the mood on the American naval battleship USS Missouri was jubilant, at least among the Allied and American military officers and troops attending the ceremony marking Japan’s official surrender.
Under the supervision of American five-star general General Douglas MacArthur, the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers, the first signatories to the “Instrument of Surrender” were Japanese Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu, signing on behalf of the Japanese government and the Emperor Hirohito, and Yoshijiro Umezu, Chief of the Imperial Japanese Army General Staff, signing on behalf of the Japanese military. At 9:22 A.M., the final delegate from the Allied nations affixed his signature to the document, thus putting a formal end to the most brutal chapter of mass slaughter in human history.
As the sun broke through the clouds, illuminating Tokyo Bay, over 1,200 American Naval, Army and Marine Corps fighter planes and bombers roared overhead, flying in magnificent formation over the USS Missouri. It was yet another demonstration of the military might that had led the Allies to victory in the Second World War.
Over the last seventy years, the tragic experience of World War II has yielded many valuable lessons and insights, and helped to bring about the establishment of a new global order and a system of international rules and norms. Although armed conflict between nation-states still occurs from time to time, the system has been fundamentally effective at maintaining world peace, creating economic prosperity and raising the living standards of citizens all over the globe.
In recent years, however, there have been persistent attempts to rewrite that period of history for various purposes: some seek to cast the aggressor as victim, while others attempt to arrogate the accomplishments of others by exaggerating their own role in and contribution to the war effort. But falsehoods remain falsehoods, and facts speak louder than words: in the end, it was the United States that was the true mainstay in the fight against Japan in World War II.
This view is based on one irrefutable historical fact: it was the United States—not China, not the Soviet Union, nor any other nation—that vanquished Japan in the Second World War.
According to U.S. Congressional Research Service data, in the three short years following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. managed to mobilize over 16 million of its citizens to enlist in the military while it engaged in a war in two theaters, in Europe and Asia. The conflict resulted in 670,000 American casualties and 400,000 fatalities (300,000 during combat). More than 100,000 of American combat deaths occurred in the Asia-Pacific theatre alone.
While these numbers may seem trivial in comparison to the casualties inflicted on Soviet and Chinese soldiers during WWII, the U.S. death toll was the highest among the western Allied nations. More importantly, the military death toll is not proportional to the sacrifices and contributions made by the United States to the war effort as a whole, for it was American leadership, industrial capacity, technological innovation and military might that laid the cornerstone for the Allied victory. Indeed, as the five points below demonstrate, the United States was the mainstay of Japan’s defeat in the Second World War.
- The United States was “the world’s arsenal” in the fight against Japanese and German fascism.
We know that within a very short period of time, the United States mounted a large-scale wartime mobilization effort that produced 150 battleships, aircraft carriers and escort carriers; 120,000 other types of seagoing vessels; 300,000 planes; 100,000 tanks and armored vehicles; 2.4 million vehicles of various description; 40,000 howitzers and pieces of artillery; 2.6 million machine guns; and 41 billion rounds of ammunition. By 1944, the U.S. was supplying two-thirds of the military equipment and materiel used by the Allied nations, including China. The U.S. produced twice as many aircraft as Japan and Germany combined (according to data supplied by The National WWII Museum, New Orleans).
- The U.S. Navy annihilated Japan’s Imperial Navy, the lifeline of the Japanese empire.
Beginning with the Battle of Midway, the United States turned its attention to attacking the Japanese Navy in the Pacific. There followed a period of naval warfare on an unprecedented scale that resulted in a crushing defeat for Japan and the establishment of American control of the seas. Data supplied by the Joint Army–Navy Assessment Committee (JANAC) reveals that U.S. forces sank a total of 611 Japanese warships and naval vessels (including 21 of Japan’s 25 aircraft carriers, and Japan’s only two Fusō-class dreadnought battleships), as well as 2117 merchant vessels, for a total of 9.74 million tons. Over 400,000 Japanese sailors were killed in the attacks. The combined total for the other Allied nations was 45 Japanese warships and naval vessels sunk, as well as 73 merchant vessels, for a total of 280,000 tons. The sole contribution of the Chinese navy during World War II was the sinking of three Japanese merchant vessels.
In dealing a fatal blow to the Japanese navy, the U.S. not only impeded Japan’s ability to project military power throughout the Asia-Pacific region, but also cut off Japan’s strategic material supply lines. This greatly weakened Japanese military production capacity and front-line combat readiness, left the Japanese home islands exposed to U.S. attack, and ensured Japan’s inevitable defeat.
The loss of naval supremacy touched off a fuel crisis in Japan. Petroleum was the ingredient that kept the Japanese war machine running; when American cryptographers cracked Japanese naval codes, laying bare the details of Japan’s oil production facilities and transport routes in the South Pacific, the U.S. dispatched submarines and aircraft to bombard Japanese tankers and oil fields, and a total of 110 Japanese oil tankers were sunk by American submarines. In the summer of 1942, the U.S. sinking of the Japanese transport ship Taiyo Maru, carrying one thousand Japanese petroleum engineers and technicians en route to the East Indies to exploit petroleum resources there, nearly wiped out Japan’s entire corps of petroleum experts in one fell swoop. The severe fuel shortages resulting from American attacks caused the Japanese war machine to sputter. Reportedly, when American soldiers arrived at Japanese Prime Minister Hideki Tojo’s official residence to arrest him in the wake of Japan’s surrender and found him wounded from a suicide attempt, it was two hours before they could locate an ambulance with sufficient petrol to transport him to the hospital. In the waning days of the war, equipment shortages were so severe that newly formed divisions of Japanese troops charged with defending the home islands from Allied invasion were unable to obtain the equipment they needed.
Admiral Mitsumasa Yonai, former Japanese Prime Minister and Minister of the Navy, once said that after the U.S. defeat of Japan at the Battle of Guadalcanal in November 1942, some far-sighted Japanese military officers realized that the loss of naval supremacy meant that Japan would inevitably lose the war, and that they awaited almost certain death.
- While contesting the Japanese navy at sea, U.S. forces also dealt a devastating blow to Japanese air power.
The U.S. succeeded in destroying over 20,000 Japanese aircraft, but at a cost of 14,533 of its own aircraft (according to The World War II Data Book, John Ellis, 1993.) Having achieved air superiority, U.S. forces could then carry out direct bombing attacks on the Japanese home islands, striking strategic targets, transport supply lines and ground forces.
Headquartered in Kunming, the U.S. Fourteenth Air Force (formerly known as the “Flying Tigers”) was the only functional combat air force in the Chinese theater of war. To aid China, they flew over the “rooftop of the world” to airlift 650,000 tons of much-needed military supplies to the Chinese. In the course of flying these perilous missions over the Himalayas (referred to by pilots as flying “over the hump”), the Fourteenth Air Force lost over 500 planes and 468 pilots in crashes. By the end of the war, the Fourteenth Air Force had over 20,000 troops and 1,000 aircraft based in China. Despite various restrictions on their activities, the Fourteenth Air Force shot down or seriously damaged 2908 Japanese aircraft, at a loss of only 193 aircraft on the American side. They also sank or destroyed Japanese merchant vessels totaling 2.1 million tons, 99 Japanese warships, and 18,000 smaller vessels transporting Japanese troops and supplies along China’s inland waterways. Bombing raids carried out by the U.S. Fourteenth Air Force demolished 1,225 locomotives, 817 bridges and 4836 trucks, killed nearly 60,000 Japanese troops, and guaranteed American air supremacy in the Chinese theater, effectively preventing further Japanese attacks (data supplied by http://www.lishi.net/). Due to the severe fuel shortages and the collapse of railway supply lines caused by U.S. Air Force attacks, the Japanese Sixth Area Army determined that it had no choice but to retreat from southern China.
- The United States destroyed Japanese land forces and disrupted troop supply.
The U.S. destroyed far more Japanese troops than any other Allied nation. According to a report by the U.S. Army Chief of Staff, in the period between Pearl Harbor and the end of the war, the total number of Japanese troops wiped out on the Asian Front was 1.5 million (this figure includes only those killed or permanently wounded in combat, or taken as prisoners of war; it does not include non-combat deaths or troop attrition.) Seventeen percent of these occurred on Chinese battlefields, and eleven percent on battlefields in India or Burma; the remaining seventy-two percent were wiped out by U.S. forces single-handedly. Fully eighty percent of Japanese battle fatalities were inflicted by U.S. forces, while only ten percent were inflicted by Chinese forces. The American military was also responsible for the vast majority of fatalities among elite overseas divisions of the Japanese Imperial Army.
- Through technological innovation and the invention of the atomic bomb, the U.S. fundamentally altered the course of the war.
Despite the various criticisms leveled by historical revisionists and anti-nuclear activists about the ethnics of deploying atomic weapons, one cannot deny that the use of these weapons played a role in hastening the Japanese surrender. We know that both Hiroshima and Nagasaki were strategic military sites: Hiroshima was the headquarters of Shunroku Hata’s Second General Army, whose troops were responsible for the defense of southern Japan (Hata was the former commander-in-chief of Japan’s China Expeditionary Army.) Hiroshima was also a military communications center, a depot for stockpiles of military supplies, and a staging ground for Japanese troop movements. Nagasaki was Japan’s most important military-industrial base for the production of ordnance, weapons, warships and other materials used to fuel Japan’s war machine. American forces suffered more combat casualties in the six months preceding Japan’s surrender than they did in the first three years of the war: the closer U.S. troops came to the Japanese home islands, the fiercer Japanese resistance grew. In order to reduce casualties, hasten Japan’s unconditional surrender and prevent Soviet intervention, the United States was forced to use the atomic bomb. And it was precisely the terrible destruction wrought by the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that finally forced Emperor Hirohito to accept the Potsdam Declaration and put an end to the war.
In summary, it is abundantly clear that the United States was the mainstay of the effort to defeat the Japanese in Word War II. In fact, with or without the Soviet Union’s efforts to pin down the Japanese Imperial Army in Manchuria, with or without Chinese harassment of Japan’s China Expeditionary Army, it was always just a matter of time before the United States would vanquish Japan.
Because China was not the decisive battlefield in the war against Japan, neither the bloody battles fought by Chinese forces on Chinese soil nor the mountains of corpses of Chinese soldiers and civilians could alter the strategic landscape of the war. Conversely, without American assistance – particularly the U.S. “island-hopping” strategy and naval victories in the Pacific that helped to force Japan’s surrender – it is very likely that China would have been annihilated by the Japanese. Suffice it to say that the Chinese “victory” was merely a byproduct of the United States defeating Japan. To a vanquished Japan, the victor was the United States, not China. It is for this reason that some Japanese have never acknowledged China as the victor of the war.
After the initial outbreak of the Pacific War, the United States had high expectations that China, as such a large nation, would make a significant contribution to the war effort. By leveraging China’s vast geography and abundant manpower, the U.S. believed it could use China as a base from which to launch an attack on the Japanese home islands. Harsh reality, however, soon left the Americans disenchanted, and forced them to scrap their idealistic plans. American military historical records reveal that many in the U.S. military felt that the Chinese Nationalist government, local militias, and the Chinese Communist Party were more concerned with advancing their own interests and agendas than in making a concerted effort to fight the Japanese. Rampant corruption, inefficiency and incompetency meant that neither the Chinese government nor the Chinese military were up to the task of fighting the Japanese. Therefore, the United States adjusted its strategy accordingly, and shifted its focus to “island-hopping” military operations in the Pacific. At the same time, the U.S. scaled back its expectations of the Chinese government, reducing it to one simple demand: that the Chinese continue to resist Japanese control and not make peace with their invaders.
In 1941, Japan’s China Expeditionary Army numbered 600,000 soldiers; by the end of the war in 1945, that number had grown to 1.05 million. Winning every battle it fought, Japan’s China Expeditionary Army had slaughtered over 3.2 million Chinese soldiers, occupied more than half of China, and showed no signs of weakening. Even at the time of Japan’s surrender, the China Expeditionary Army seemed unstoppable. The last commander of Japan’s China Expeditionary Army, General Yasuji Okamura, said that the news of Japan’s surrender came like a bolt from the blue, because, “The China Expeditionary Army, unlike [Japan’s] other area armies, had not lost a battle in the eight preceding years. So for it to come to this [referring to the order to surrender] while we still had the fighting strength to defeat our enemy put us in a very awkward position, indeed. Our country had surrendered, so we had no choice but to surrender. The frontline troops weren’t able to listen to the Emperor’s entire August 15 broadcast, and I heard that many of them thought that the imperial edict was just an exhortation to fight even harder!”
Okamura’s point is not unreasonable: on the eve of the Allied victory, the Japanese China Expeditionary Army – hoping to reduce the number of American bomber attacks on the Japanese home islands – dispatched troops to attack U.S. air bases in China. In 1944 and early 1945, Japan launched “Operation Ichigo,” a military offensive against Chinese and American targets in Henan, Hunan and Guangxi provinces. Although the Americans enjoyed air superiority in the Chinese theatre, and Chinese Nationalist forces far outnumbered Japanese forces on the ground, Operation Ichigo was a success: the Chinese Nationalist forces were routed, resulting in a large loss of Chinese territory and the destruction of nearly 36 U.S. military airbases in China. Fortunately for the Allies, American victories in the Pacific meant that the U.S. was able to shift its air bases to the Mariana Islands, even closer to Japan, and continue its bombing attacks on the Japanese archipelago.
The best-fought battle waged by the Chinese army in the entire course of the war would also be the last offensive waged by the Japanese army in China: the Zhijiang Campaign (April-June 1945), in which both sides fought to a draw. However, the battle was just part of a larger regional campaign launched by the Japanese 20th Army, involving three divisions totaling 60,000 troops, with the goal of capturing the Chinese airfield at Zhijiang. China committed 600,000 troops to the battle, but after the Japanese 116th Division had routed four corps of the Chinese Nationalist army, the Americans had to make an emergency airlift of the U.S.-trained and -equipped New 6th Corps and other elite “ALPHA” forces. The Americans also sent 4000 U.S. military advisors to work alongside the troops, and provided modern communications and logistical support. Thanks to these, and particularly to strong tactical support from the USAAF 14th Air Force, the Chinese finally managed to repel the Japanese attack and force the Japanese troops back to their original positions. Japanese casualties were 1500 troops killed and 5000 wounded; Chinese totals were 6800 killed and 11,200 wounded (according to U.S. military historical data). This was the best showing by Chinese armed forces in the whole history of the war against Japan.
As early as 1942, Japan’s China Expeditionary Army was planning to implement “Operation Five” (also known as the Chongqing Operation, or the Szechwan Invasion) in which the Expeditionary Army – reinforced by an additional 360,000 combat troops from Manchuria, Korea and the Japanese home islands – would attempt to capture China’s temporary capital in Chunking (now Chongqing) and smash Nationalist (Kuomintang) resistance in one fell swoop. However, the fierce battle between the U.S. and Japanese navies fighting for control of the island of Guadalcanal in the South Pacific was pinning down Japanese forces and depleting Japan’s resources. Unable to muster enough troops, Japan was forced to cancel plans for the invasion of Chunking and abandon 300,000 tons of military supplies.
In late 1944, after General Yasuji Okamura was appointed commander-in-chief of Japan’s China Expeditionary Army, he recommended that plans to invade Szechwan and destroy the Chinese Nationalist capital at Chunking be reinitiated. He felt that this plan would help reduce attacks on the Japanese home islands, but Japanese military headquarters denied his request, fearing an imminent land attack on Japan by American forces. Once again, the U.S. military helped to preserve the Chinese government in Chunking.
Regarding the question of who was the real mainstay in the war against Japan, both the Chinese Nationalists (Kuomintang, or KMT) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) are guilty of falsehoods and inflated claims. At the time, the Chinese army numbered 45 million soldiers, making it the largest army in the world, and yet it was consistently routed by a few hundred thousand Japanese soldiers. In the entire eight-year history of the war, it did not manage to recapture a single key city or wipe out even one Japanese regiment. Conversely, Chinese military officers and soldiers defected to the enemy in large numbers. According to Yasuji Okamura, in the few short months before the end of the war and after he was appointed commander of Japan’s China Expeditionary Army, an astounding total of 400,000 Kuomintang troops defected and pledged their “allegiance” to the Japanese side. Between spring 1942 and autumn 1943, the entire Kuomintang army in North China capitulated to the Japanese. Defections and surrenders by local Chinese forces in other areas of China were commonplace as well.
The decision to break the levees of the Yellow River near Huayuankou [to slow the Japanese advance], forced conscription, scorched earth tactics and other draconian measures taken by the Chinese Nationalist (KMT) government during the war probably wrought more death and destruction on the Chinese people than the indiscriminate slaughter of Chinese civilians by the Japanese military. Nevertheless, although the Chinese government led by Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek could not defeat the Japanese, at least it did not capitulate or surrender to Japan. Even the Japanese military recognized that its most potent local opponent was the KMT Central Army – particularly the Whampoa Army, whose elite units were trained at the Whampoa Military Academy – rather than the Chinese Communist army units. Although Japan’s Kwantung Army and China Expeditionary Army eventually managed to shift some of their elite divisions from China to the Pacific theatre, the Chinese helped by pinning down the vast majority of the Expeditionary Army in battles on the Chinese mainland. Although this was of negligible strategic importance in engineering Japan’s defeat, it certainly contributed to a corresponding reduction in American casualties in the Pacific.
Chinese Communist Party (CCP) claims that it was the key to victory over Japan are even more ridiculous. The CCP was under instructions from Stalin to leverage Japan’s war of imperialism in China to expand CCP influence, attain political power, and emerge victorious in the proletarian revolution, so for the duration of the war, CCP forces basically sat on the sidelines and waited for the conflict to end so that they could reap the spoils afterward.
The CCP’s most boasted-about exploit during the war, the heroic Battle of Pingxinguan [Pingxing Pass], was little more than a surprise attack on a Japanese convoy. Although the CCP did fight some tough battles during the Hundred Regiments Offensive [Aug-Dec 1940], most of these were strikes against small, scattered Japanese units. The CCP never directly engaged Japan’s main fighting force, and did not have much impact on the overall trajectory of the war.
The memoirs of former Chinese Communist Party General Wu Faxian (吳法憲) offer a revealing look at CCP guerrilla operations behind Japanese enemy lines. As commander-in-chief of the crack troops of the CCP’s 685th Regiment, 115th Division, Wu Faxian fought in the Battle of Pingxinguan in 1940, infiltrated enemy lines south of the Yangtze River in 1938, and rapidly recruited new troops, increasing the number of men under his command from 3,000 to 12,000. After his regiment was incorporated into the New Fourth Army’s 3rd Division, the division grew from 20,000 to 70,000 active soldiers. Of the over 5000 battles that Wu Faxian participated in, he describes most as turf wars with so-called Kuomintang “diehards” or the armies of local Japanese puppet régimes. During two relatively large campaigns to thwart Japanese “mopping-up” operations, Chinese Communist forces adopted what was essentially a “divide-and-conquer” strategy—harrying and hiding from third-rate Japanese security forces whose numbers were several times smaller than the Communist forces. Wu Faxian also reveals that for nearly a year, from the summer of 1941 to mid-1942, his troops did not fight a single battle. During the three-year period from the latter half of 1942 to the first half of 1945, Wu Faxian’s troops were busy carrying out a political “rectification campaign” that had been decreed by CCP leaders in Yan’an. The situation for Communist guerilla actions behind enemy lines in other areas was largely the same.
The Chinese Communist Party’s greatest achievement during the war against Japan was simply bringing the Xi’an Incident to a peaceful conclusion, paving the way for Chiang Kai-shek’s safe return to Nanjing and his continued leadership of the war effort. But more and more evidence suggests that the Xi’an Incident was orchestrated, and that Zhou Enlai (周恩來) and Yang Hucheng (楊虎城) were merely playing good cop/bad cop to compel Chiang Kai-shek to acknowledge the legitimacy of the CCP. One of the direct consequences of the Xi’an Incident was drawing Chinese forces prematurely into the Battle of Shanghai, forcing them to squander their fighting strength and making the remainder of the war more difficult.
Another historical fact, often overlooked by my fellow Chinese, is that the United States had long been a staunch defender of the Chinese cause. In fact, it was American insistence that Japan withdraw from China that precipitated the Japanese attack that forced the U.S. into the war.
After the Mukden Incident of Sept. 18, 1931, which Japan used as a pretext to occupy the three Manchurian provinces of Liaoning, Jilin, and Heilongjiang and set up the puppet state of Manchukuo, the United States took China’s side by condemning it as an act of Japanese aggression, refusing to recognize Manchukuo, and imposing limited sanctions on Japan. But due to a lack of American public support for a land war in East Asia, the belief among many U.S. officials that American interests in China were insufficient to justify wading into a military conflict there, and the complexity of the Chinese political landscape at the time, the U.S. declined to take any tougher measures against Japan.
The Marco Polo Bridge Incident of 1937, which touched off a full-scale Japanese invasion of China, led to a reversal of American public opinion, and the United States began to challenge Japan. On July 7th, the very day of the incident, President Roosevelt announced that the “Neutrality Acts” passed by the U.S. Congress did not apply to China. The U.S. government began providing military equipment to China through credit and lend-lease programs, while also ratcheting up trade sanctions against Japan. In July of 1939, the United States informed Japan that it was terminating the U.S.-Japan trade treaty; in 1940, the U.S. enacted a partial trade embargo that prohibited the export of oil, steel and other strategic materials to Japan. In July of 1941, the U.S. implemented a full trade embargo against Japan, and went a step further by freezing Japanese assets in the U.S. However, due to a lack of military preparedness, both the U.S. government and the U.S. military were reluctant to get involved in armed conflict or a war with Japan, and they still hoped that the matter might be resolved through diplomatic negotiations.
Because Japan was dependent on the U.S. for eighty percent of its oil imports, the American embargo posed great problems for Japan’s expansionist aims in Asia. In order to secure the strategic resources necessary to continue its war of invasion, Japan decided to head south and occupy oil-producing regions in Indochina and the South Pacific. The Japanese knew that the presence of the U.S. Pacific Fleet would make it impossible to protect their strategic resource bases in the south, so in July of 1941, Japan’s Imperial Council approved a plan to take these southern resource bases, and followed up with approval for a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, developed and led by Japanese Admiral (and Harvard graduate) Isoroku Yamamoto.
Meanwhile, diplomatic negotiations between the United States and Japan continued. As one of the main conditions for lifting the embargo, the U.S. insisted that Japan withdraw its troops from China and Indochina, but Japan was unwilling to relinquish the territory it had conquered in China, and diplomatic negotiations were deadlocked. Japanese leaders, concluding that the United States was not negotiating in good faith, decided that the time had come to launch an immediate strike on the American Navy. American leaders, however, still believed that a diplomatic solution was possible, and felt that Japan lacked the military strength to mount a direct attack on U.S. territory. Japan’s successful surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941 came as a tremendous shock to Americans from all walks of life, and made the American public even more determined to fight back. This was the fundamental reason for the outbreak of the Pacific War.
However, a considerable number of postwar conspiracy theorists and revisionist scholars believe that President Roosevelt was leveraging the U.S.-Japan relationship for his own machinations, trying to lure Japan into attacking Pearl Harbor, thus precipitating a Pacific War that could serve as a pretext for American entry into World War II. This is the explanation found in the written commentary regarding the causes of World War II at Japan’s Yasukuni Shrine; in 2007, the commentary was removed. Such a statement is not consistent with historical facts, for it is essentially an attempt to exonerate the aggressor. From what I have been able to glean from historical accounts and data, although President Roosevelt did receive warnings through various channels, not a single intelligence source was able to pinpoint exactly when and where Japan would launch an attack on an American target. Without a doubt, it was the nature of Japanese militarism that prompted Japan to launch a war of aggression.
Another argument has it that Japan’s surrender happened in response to the Soviet Union sending troops into Manchuria, rather than in response to the U.S. use of atomic weapons. This is utter nonsense, an attempt to tar the United States for the unnecessary use of inhumane weapons of mass destruction. In fact, when Japanese Foreign Minister Shigenori Tōgō visited Emperor Hirohito at the Imperial Palace on August 8th, two days after the bombing of Hiroshima, and showed him the reports of the atomic bombing that had been compiled from foreign news sources, the Emperor decided to put a stop to the war immediately. The news about Soviet troops entering Manchuria did not reach Tokyo until August 10th. And the reason that Japanese authorities were so shaken by the Soviet entry into the war was not because they feared a fight with the Soviet Union, but because Japan had requested that the Soviets remain neutral in the hope that they could negotiate on Japan’s behalf for a conditional surrender to the Americans. News of the Soviet entry into the war shattered Japanese hopes for a face-saving conditional surrender.
In short, despite the tragedy, heroism, bloodshed and terrible cost of China’s war against the Japanese, it is an indisputable fact that China could never have emerged victorious. For China, that chapter in history is one of disgrace and humiliation, blood and tears, but it a chapter that must be reckoned with. If we ignore brutal historical fact and bury our heads in the ground, if we behave arrogantly and treat our friends as enemies, if we presume to distort wartime history in order to bolster the legitimacy of the one-party state, if we make threatening gestures at our neighbors and betray peace while raising high the banner of peace—if we do these things, then we have learned nothing from the Second World War, and are in danger of repeating the disastrous mistakes of Japanese militarism.
When the Chinese people and the Chinese nation were in peril, the United States came to the rescue and asked for nothing in return. The U.S. never occupied a single inch of Chinese territory, never reaped any particular reward: good work was its own reward. For this, we should be grateful. We should establish a long-term alliance with the United States, embrace universal human values and democratic constitutional government, make the necessary repairs at home while pursuing a benevolent policy abroad, beat our swords into ploughshares, and work together to safeguard stable international relations and maintain the postwar world peace. That is the attitude we should take, and that is the true meaning of commemorating the Allied victory in World War II, reflecting on the history of the war, and cherishing the memory of those who sacrificed their lives.
Dr. Han Lianchao is a Visiting Fellow at Hudson Institute, working on the Institute’s Future of Innovation Initiative. He worked in the U.S. Senate for 12 years, serving as legislative counsel and policy director for three active U.S. Senators. He has also been a veteran overseas Chinese democracy advocate.
中文《韩连潮：美国才是抗日的中流砥柱》, translated by China Change.