Japan vs. U.S. during WWII

What are some similarities and differences?


The majority of the combat after Pearl Harbor took place on various islands in the Pacific. This gave the Japanese a distinct advantage, as they were familiar with the land and conditions in the Pacific.

American Perspective

The American perspective saw the Pacific Islands as hellish, but they were willing to fight for their country. They were thrown into battle earlier than expected and were terrified. As the Americans were not familiar with the land, they were often confused and terrified. An American corporal named J.R. Garrett stated in a diary that they once "killed a cow to the rear of the battery in the dark - we didn't know what it was." The war was so terrible and bloody, that an incident like killing a cow thinking it was a Japanese soldier, was comedic relief. Moral was very low, and the majority of the motivation to actually fight against the Japanese, was the idea of going home after victory. Also, the thought of what the Japanese did to Pearl Harbor was motivation.

"It took three days to go six miles."

The conditions on the islands were very difficult for the American's to navigate and survive in. This was from another American Diary, in which the author described the struggles of even living on the islands, far less fighting there. this makes it very clear how difficult it was.

Japanese Perspective

"We know we are going to die, so we have no fear of anybody and everyone is high-spirited."

This quote was found in a Japanese soldier's diary, and it sums up the Japanese perspective in general. He wrote this while in battle, outlining the determination of the Japanese. This determination led to near constant fighting and the internal will to never give up until dead. It was expected of the soldiers that they never give up, and the prospect of death could not stop them. Due to this, the American soldiers had a much harder time in combat, because the Japanese were a new breed of soldiers, with a never failing will. It cost more money and Japanese lives, as the only way to stop them was to kill them.

The Japanese soldiers were also more accustomed to the jungle environment that they were fighting on, which gave them an edge.

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Main Differences

  • Japanese soldiers motivation came from their strong collectivist society and sense of duty to their emperor. Their motivation never came from an emotional place, so much as an order they must obey. They were simply fighting the Americans because they were an ally of their enemy, China.
  • American Soldiers motivation came from the destruction from the attack on Pearl Harbor. This emotional connection was incredibly helpful for the soldiers moral in the seemingly never ending combat. Their attitudes changed drastically after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Before, we saw JApan as an enemy, but not because of anything they had done to the U.S.. This view became personal overnight, and the start of the American fight against Japan took flight immediately.
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Johnson, Jennifer N. ""We're Still Alive Today"" National Archives and Records Administration. National Archives and Records Administration, 2013. Web. 01 May 2015. <http://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2013/summer/diary.html>.

Garrett, James R. "A Marine Diary: My Experiences on Guadalcanal - August."A Marine Diary: My Experiences on Guadalcanal - August. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 May 2015. <http://www.nettally.com/jrube/@guadaug.html>.

Donahue, James A. "Guadalcanal Journal: A Personal History of the Battle For Guadalcanal." Guadalcanal Journal. N.p., 22 Sept. 2012. Web. 01 May 2015. <http://guadalcanaljournal.com/the-guadalcanal-journal/>.

Taylor, Alan. "World War II: The Pacific Islands." The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 25 Sept. 2011. Web. 01 May 2015. <http://www.theatlantic.com/photo/2011/09/world-war-ii-the-pacific-islands/100155/#>.