Published: July 19, 2012
The Second World War began in Europe on September 1, 1939, when Adolf Hitler’s Germany invaded Poland. By means of the Blitzkrieg (lightning war), the Germans crushed Poland in less than 30 days. They also destroyed Norway and Denmark in April 1940 and the Low Countries (Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Belgium) the following month.
After a desperate but futile resistance, France capitulated to Hitler on June 22, 1940. Then the Nazis turned around and launched a mighty military offensive against Soviet Russia. Simultaneously, on the other side of the European continent, the Luftwaffe (German Air Force) devastated London and other British cities.
On December 8, 1941, Japan, an Asian ally of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy in an alliance called the Axis Powers, attacked Pearl Harbor and the United States naval base in Hawaii. Japan did so without first declaring war as had long been customary among civilized nations. This treacherous attack ignited the war in the Pacific. Loyal to America, the Philippines fought against Japan.
Prelude to War
Shortly before the unannounced Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the Philippines had been feverishly preparing for war. The military training of the youth was speeded up. First-aid courses were given in all schools and offices throughout the country. On April 1, 1941, President Quezon created the Civilian Emergency Administration (CEA). Blackout exercises were held, the first one in Manila on the night of July 10,, 1941. Evacuation centers were set up in the provinces. Air-raid drills were conducted in Manila and other cities. But all these preparations for war were too late. The United States itself was unprepared for war.
On July 26, 1941, Lieutenant General Douglas MacArthur, then military adviser of the Philippine Commonwealth, took command of the newly formed United States Armed Forces in the Far East (USAFFE). The manpower available to him for the defense of the Philippines totaled 110,000 men, most of them young Filipino recruits,
On August 18, 1941, the Atlantic Charter was proclaimed to the world by President Franklin D. Roosevelt of the United States and Prime Minister Winston Churchill of Great Britain. This document stated the eight war aims of the democracies against the Axis of Powers. They are as follows:
1. No territorial or other gains should result from war.
2. No territorial changes should be made without the freely expressed wishes of the people concerned.
3. All people should have the right to choose the form of government under which they will live. Self-government should be restored to those deprived of it.
4. All nations should have access, on equal terms, to the trade and to the raw materials of the world.
5. All nations should cooperate to provide improved labor conditions, economic advancement, and social security.
6. The Nazi tyranny should be destroyed so that peace may be established, permitting all people and nations to live in safety and freedom from want and from fear.
7. All nations should be free to use the seas and oceans without interference.
8. Aggressor nations should be disarmed, and provisions should be made for the organization of a wider, more permanent system of general security.
Meanwhile, a conference was being held in Washington, D.C., between US Secretary of State Cordell Hull; the Japanese ambassador to Washington, Kichisaburo Nomura; and Special Japanese Envoy Saburo Kurusu. On November 26, 1941, State Secretary Hull handed a formal note to Japan proposing a nonaggression treaty among the Pacific Powers and demanding the withdrawal of Japanese troops from China and French Indo-China (now Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos).
On December 6, President Roosevelt addressed a personal appeal to Emperor Hirohito of Japan in a last-minute effort to stop the impending American-Japanese war. Hirohito’s reply to this appeal was the sneak attack of Pearl Harbor.