The Rising Sun

This week the United States marked the 79th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that propelled the U.S. into World War II. But what did Japan do during World War I?

According to 1914 1918 Online, Japan entered WWI in August 1914 at the behest of the British, with a goal of clearing Germany out of Asia (and establishing a foothold in China). Japan declared war on Germany on Aug. 23 and dispatched troops to capture the German base at Qingdao (also spelled Tsing-tao), a small peninsula in northern China. It attacked with naval guns, ground troops and planes launched from the world’s first aircraft carrier.

The Germans surrendered Nov. 7.

In 1917, the Japanese answered a further call for help from the British and sent destroyers and a flagship cruiser to the Mediterranean Sea. Based at Malta, the task force’s main mission was to defend British ships against German submarines. Japan Times reports that by the end of the war, the Japanese had  been dispatched on 348 escort missions, escorting 788 Allied warships and transport ships and about 750,000 personnel around the Mediterranean.

In June 1917, an Austrian U-boat sank the Japanese destroyer Sakaki, with a loss of 59 lives. These sailors are among those Japanese remembered on a Commonwealth War Graves memorial on Malta.

Japan Times reports that according to writing by Tomoyuki Ishizu of Japan’s National Institute of Defense, the lessons learned by the navy in the Mediterranean, especially submarine and anti-submarine warfare, were neither properly learned nor implemented as policy by the navy as a whole.

“Hence, the Second World War in the Pacific,” Ishizu writes.