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The war had been raging in Europe and across the Atlantic since September 1939 and although there had been raising tensions in the Pacific, most allied governments were not expecting an outbreak of hostilities in the Far East.

On September 27, 1940 Japan, Italy and Germany signed the Tripartite Pact in Berlin which committed the three powers to come to each others aid if they were attacked by another power. The Pact was substantially aimed against the U.S. with the intention that it would not be able to aggressively act against Japan in a military manner without going to war against Italy and Germany also.

Stalin was worried that if Japan was to launch a surprise attack that it would be against the Soviet Union with the Japanese army driving deep into resource rich Siberia. Stalin was holding strong, experienced military units in the Eastern Soviet Union to counter this suspected Japanese threat instead of using them to shore up his crumbling lines against the German Blitzkrieg which had started in June of 1941.

There was in fact an internal struggle going on among Japanese military factions and within the Japanese government over continuing efforts at reaching a peaceful accommodation with the Americans or going to war and if war, where and against who should they strike. The Japanese needed oil, rubber, coal, steel and many other items and their choice lie between a northern strike into the already besieged Soviet Union with the army, or south into the resource rich Dutch East Indies, the Philippines, and the Malaysian Peninsula by the Navy. The southern strike would mean war with the several minor nations, the British Empire and the United States. The British Empire was on it's knees and had drained Asia of troops, supplies and weapons while the Americans were still on a peacetime footing but had the Pacific Fleet based in Pearl Harbour. The Soviets had left strong units to discourage a Japanese attack and the Japanese had had their noses badly bloodied in 1939 against the Soviets during a brief outbreak of hostilities.

The decision was made to go south and launch surprise attacks against the U.S. at Pearl Harbour and in the Philippines while the British would initially be attacked at Hong Kong and then through Malaysia to Singapore. Canadian troops had recently been sent to Hong Kong to reinforce it's garrison but their heavy equipment was to come later. The attack was planned and launched on December 7th, 1941.

 

December 7th, 1941

Canada's involvement in the Pacific theatre was a defensive posture with the U.S. taking on the majority of the load. Coastal defences were built, observation post established and of course the Alcan highway was built which connected Alaska to the lower states. There were Canadian pilots who were stationed in Southeast Asia and Canadian sailors who were assigned to British ships but with Canada substantially committed to the European theatre and the Battle of the Atlantic, it fell to Britain, the U.S., China, Australia, New Zealand, India and an assortment of other nations. After victory in Europe there was a huge re-allocation of military forces that began with Canadian sailors, and airmen being transferred to the Pacific Theatre, but most of these forces were in transition when the war ended in August of 1945.  




Source:
Reference: www.canadahistory.com/sections/eras/eras.html