The Pacific War

The War in the Pacific was an all-out struggle between two emergent world powers who had never before clashed. But that oversimplifies it, for before that war broke out in late 1941, Japan was mired in four years of war in China. And from 1941 there was also a protracted four-year Japanese campaign in Southeast Asia with the British Empire that brought Japanese troops almost to the gates of India. Finally, the Soviet Union arrayed against Japan in the final week of the war. While the course will stress the colossal naval and island struggles between America and Japan over the vast Pacific region, those other theaters will not be ignored.

We will begin by studying the emergence of Japan on the East Asian stage from the last third of the Nineteenth Century after centuries of feudal isolation. We will also examine America’s simultaneous growing interest and expansion into the Central and Western Pacific, and the respective geopolitical aims and diplomatic clashes that led to hostilities in December 1941.

After enjoying intoxicating success in the first six months of the war, Japan was halted then over the next three years pushed back by the determined and irresistible power of the United States. Finally, its homeland under unremitting aerial bombardment and blockade and with invasion imminent, Japan was confronted by the shock of two atomic bombs and Soviet entry into the war; it bowed to the Allied will. The course will conclude with a look at how the war ended and how the peace was imposed.

Assigned readings will be distributed.


Group Leader: JOE HERN
Meets on: Fridays 10:00 am to noon
Starting: 10/9/2020
Sessions: 7
Class Size: 32
Teaching Style: Lecture with questions
Weekly Preparation: 2 hours
Group Leader Biography:

Joseph L. Hern is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts Amherst (BA History, honors), Boston College (JD, honors, Order of the Coif) and Boston University (LLM). He is an attorney in Boston with a practice concentrating in trusts, estates and estate planning. This is his sixth BHS course.