World War II in China hardly merits any notice in history books this day in age, save for its relegation to the footnotes of the Pacific campaign. It was not the main arena in which America fought the Japanese. However, it was in many ways the main arena for the Japanese battling the Allies. While the U.S. Marines were struggling against 40,000 Japanese troops on Saipan in June 1944, 400,000 Japanese were marching into central China. Oddly enough, it was America’s support of China that influenced the Japanese to attack Pearl Harbor in the first place. I believe one of the reasons that the war in China is forgotten is because of the rise of Communist China so quickly after the war. With China perceived as a hostile entity, it made sense to de-emphasize Sino-American cooperation.
So why study World War II in China? There are three clear reasons. First, in the present era of constrained military budgets, nations may find their response to contingencies around the world limited, just as the demands of World War II limited America’s efforts in China. Lessons from a theater in which American advisors and aircraft helped Chinese peasant armies fight a modern enemy can be applied today.
Second, with ties between China and the United States becoming increasingly important, the story of past cooperation can serve as common ground for mutual respect and understanding.
Third, and most important, the airmen and soldiers, both Chinese and American, that died for the cause of freedom in the war against the Japanese deserve to be remembered.