World War II: Daring Raids and Brutal Reprisals


In early 1942, Allied forces, still reeling from Axis blows, began to work on a wider strategy. Japan was sweeping through the southern Pacific, conquering Burma, Malaya, the Dutch East Indies, Singapore, and the Philippines. German troops had regrouped on the Eastern Front, where they were holding off Soviet attacks and preparing for a summer offensive. But during this time, American bombers successfully struck Japanese targets in a daring, morale-boosting raid led by Lt. Col. James Doolittle, and British forces destroyed an important dock facility in German-occupied St. Nazaire, France. Most of Doolittle's raiders landed in China, where they received assistance from villagers. Those locals paid dearly when Japanese reprisals killed an estimated 250,000 Chinese. The fall of the Philippines left the invading Japanese with tens of thousands more U.S. and Filipino prisoners than they'd anticipated. This led to a brutal forced relocation now known as the Bataan Death March, where thousands of weak, starving men were beaten and killed en route to a Japanese prison camp. (This entry is Part 9 of a weekly 20-part retrospective of World War II)

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