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Strength of the Japanese war effort

LAURENCE REES: How surprised was Roosevelt, and how worried was he, about the extent to which the Japanese turned out to be pretty tough fighters?

ROBERT DALLEK: It was very disturbing to Roosevelt and to the American military that the Japanese were so difficult to dislodge in this island hopping campaign. Initially Roosevelt decides with Churchill in their first meeting in the winter of 1941 - 42 that the war has to be fought in Europe or the Atlantic first. We’ve got to defeat Germany before we really turn our full attention to the war against Japan. Now, by the end of 1942 the United States had as many men and as much in the way of resources in the Pacific as it had prepared or was using, potentially using, against Germany which was a surprise to them. What this indicated was the fact that the Japanese turned out to be much more difficult to combat than they thought would be the case, even with the war turning around with the two battles in May and June in the Pacific, at Midway and before that Coral Sea. The battle of Coral Sea and the battle at Midway, we win those two battles and that begins to change the complexion and the thrust of development in the war, but even then there’s a huge amount of fighting that has to go on with great sacrifices because the Japanese are so stubborn and difficult, fighting them in New Guinea. This is not simple, and so they are surprised at how difficult it is to overcome the Japanese.