All for Nothing? The Southern Resources Area and the Pacific War

Connecting those who have served in Japan.

All for Nothing? The Southern Resources Area and the Pacific War

September 24, 2019 , 5:30 pm - 8:00 pm

The September JUMP-YCAPS Seminar will be held on September 24, 2019, from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. It will focus on aspects of World War II history and continue YCAPS recent academic analysis of Southeast Asia. Brian P. Farrell, Professor of Military History at the National University of Singapore, and Charles Burgess, PhD candidate in military history at the National University of Singapore, will be the speakers. 


The declared motive for Imperial Japan’s decision to launch a military offensive in December 1941 to realize the Nanshin-ron policy of the ‘Southern Advance,’ by forcibly evicting the military forces of the Western Powers from Southeast Asia, was to enable Japan to seize, harness, and apply the natural resources of that region. This was to enable the Japanese war economy to become strong enough to terminate the ongoing military conflict in China with definitive success. The oil reserves of the Netherlands East Indies and Burma were especially crucial to ‘Japanese grand strategy,’ which also counted on seizing substantial supplies of other strategic commodities such as rubber and tin. The whole point of launching the Pacific War was to make Japan economically strong enough to reorder East Asia militarily. This suggests the Japanese should have prepared before the war, or at least worked hard after launching their offensive, to make sure that they could in fact safely secure, extract, and transport these essential natural resources to Japan, where they could be applied to fuel an expanding war economy. This did not occur.

By the end of 1943, Allied naval and air operations were seriously disrupting what meager efforts were being made to arrange such transportation; by the second half of 1944, they effectively interdicted the region from Japan. This Allied success not only played a direct and significant role in the outcome of the Pacific War, it also provoked searching questions about Imperial Japan’s entire approach to, and capabilities for, that conflict. This involved challenges in formulating grand strategy and national war policy, inter-service cooperation and combined arms, the doctrine, equipment, capabilities, and culture of the Imperial Japanese Army, Navy, and their Allied counterparts, as well as the ability to react to changing circumstances. This presentation will evaluate this problem by addressing its title question, and analyzing these challenges, through an entwined dialogue — the two presenters will thematically evaluate, by contrast and comparison, the Japanese and Allied experiences.


Brian P. Farrell is Professor of Military History at the National University of Singapore, where he has been teaching since 1993. His main research interests are the military history of the British Empire, the Western military experience in Asia, and grand strategy. His major publications include Empire in Asia: A New Global History, 2 vols. (contributing Series Editor and Co-Editor, 2018), The Defence and Fall of Singapore 1940-1942 (2015 and 2005), The Basis and Making of British Grand Strategy 1940-1943: Was there a Plan? (1998) and Between Two Oceans: A Military History of Singapore From 1275 to 1971 (Co-Author, 2010 and 1999).

Charles Burgess is a PhD candidate in military history at the National University of Singapore. He holds a BA degree in history from American University and an MPhil degree in history from the University of Glasgow. Prior to embarking on his PhD studies, Charles spent nearly 15 years working for the U.S. government in various Asia-focused analytical and operational positions, including a diplomatic position at the US Embassy in Manila. Charles’ broad research interests are military, diplomatic, and international history, focusing on grand strategy and coalition warfare. His PhD thesis examines the intersection of anti-Japanese resistance and Allied strategy in WWII in the area now called Southeast Asia.

Time: 5:30 p.m. (reception), 6:30 p.m. (seminar), September 24, 2019

Cost: Free of charge.

Location: Werk Yokosuka Kinrofukushi Hall ヴェルクよこすか(横須賀市立勤労福祉会館)第1会議室

RSVP: Please register on Facebook or RSVP to RSVP is not required, but helpful for organizers.

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