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World War II in Colour (2009–…): Season 1, Episode 5 - Red Sun Rampant - full transcript

[theme music plays]

[background music over dialogue]

[woman crying]

[engine planes roaring]

[narrator] At 7:56 on the morning of
December the 7th, 1941,

Japanese aircraft swooped down
over Hawaii.

Their target:
The US Pacific Fleet at anchor

in its base at Pearl Harbour.


Five U.S. ships were hit immediately.


A few minutes later,
more Japanese aircraft joined in.

By 8:35, two U.S. battleships
were sinking,

two had capsized,
and two were badly damaged.

A seventh battleship, the Nevada,

slipped her moorings
and was heading out to sea

when she too was caught
and forced to beach.

[aircraft engine roaring]

Simultaneously, Japanese Zero fighters
strafed U.S. aircraft

lined up on the island's airstrips.


They also shot up nearby army barracks.


By the end of the attack

dozens of U.S. warships
had been sunk or damaged.

A hundred and eighty eight
aircraft were also destroyed.

The next day,
U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt

declared war on Japan.

[Roosevelt] Since the unprovoked

and dastardly attack by Japan

on Sunday, December 7th, 1941,

a state of war has existed
between the United States

and the Japanese empire.


[narrator] The stage was set.

Could Japan knock out
the United States with a swift blow

before the huge might of
America ground it down?

It would become one of
the great conflicts of World War II.

[soldier's footsteps]

Japan's first steps towards
war had come in August 1940.

Capitalizing on France's defeat
in Europe,

it seized control of air bases
in the north

of the French colony
of Indo-China.

It was looking for a quick
and easy expansion of its Empire.

[soldier's footsteps]

A year later it issued
an ultimatum demanding

the use of all French air bases
throughout Indo-China.

When the French hesitated,
the Japanese invaded

and seized control of the entire colony.

[soldier's indistinct conversation]

[music playing]

Japan felt the consequences
almost immediately.

The United States froze
its overseas financial assets

effectively robbing the country
of its ability to buy oil.


Japan faced a choice.

Climb down and lose face,

or seize more territory
and up the stakes.

For a new Japanese government,

under the aggressive
General Hideki Tojo,

there was no question
about which course to take.

Japanese Army and Navy
commanders were told to prepare

for a swift war to occupy
all the Far Eastern territories

controlled by Britain, France,
the Netherlands

and the United States.

The country was expecting
a swift victory.

[big band music plays]

Japan saw the Americans,
in particular,

as a nation of pleasure
lovers with no stomach

for a lengthy war and heavy casualties.

The Japanese military calculated
that if they could destroy

the U.S. Pacific fleet,
the U.S. would quickly sue for peace.

[speaking in Japanese]

It was now that they decided
to attack Pearl Harbour.

Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto,

commander of
the Japanese combined fleet,

was put in charge.

[indistinct chatter in Japanese]

He had ten battleships,
ten aircraft carriers,

and the world's most
advanced naval aircraft.

[plane engines roaring]

Against him,
the U.S. Pacific Fleet

had eight World War I vintage
battleships and two carriers.

Yamamoto planned
the attack with great care.

He would hit the U.S. fleet
in Pearl Harbour on a Sunday,

since, according to intelligence reports,

it usually spent the weekends in port.

[people chattering]

In total radio silence,

the Japanese strike force
gathered in Tankan Bay

in the northerly Kurile Islands.

The fleet set sail
on November the 26, 1941.

Meanwhile, as a decoy,

Japanese negotiators arrived
in Washington

to discuss a possible Japanese
withdrawal from China.

[indistinct chattering]

The Japanese fleet refuelled
after several days at sea.

Three days later it was off Hawaii.

The Americans were
still blissfully unaware

that anything was wrong.

[speaking in Japanese]

At 6 AM on December the 7th,
after a final briefing,

the first wave of Japanese
aircraft took off.


As the Japanese aircraft
dived into the attack,

U.S. personnel were still just stirring

on a fine Sunday morning.


[aircraft flying overhead]


It was all over in less than
two and a quarter hours.

Yamamoto's plan
had worked like a dream.

Or had it?

There was only one problem.

The U.S. fleets' two aircraft
carriers had not been

in Pearl Harbour at the time
and had escaped the attack.

Yamamoto's main aim of crippling
the U.S. Pacific fleet

had only partially succeeded.

[aircraft revving]

U.S. naval air power
in the region was still intact.

But in the United States
there was shock and disbelief.


It quickly turned into a mood
of fury and determination.

Angry mobs attacked
the Japanese embassy.

Japan had disturbed the sleeping giant.

The U.S. Secretary of the Navy,
Frank Knox, spoke for many.

The Japs started this war.
We are going to finish it.

[speaking in Japanese]


[narrator] Yet, before the U.S.
could mobilize its full strength,

the Japanese were to inflict more

humiliating defeats on the Western Allies.

In December 1941,

as America was licking its wounds
after Pearl Harbour,

Japan launched a series of attacks
on western colonies in South East Asia.

[artillery firing]

It thought it had knocked out America.

Now it moved against
Britain and its colonies.

The first to be hit was Malaya,

where a Japanese force came ashore

in the north-east of the country.

[cannon firing]

The plan was that
it should make its way south,

down the east coast.


[distant gun fire]

The invasion force was met
by a contingent

of British Indian troops.

But after a day of fighting
they were brushed aside.

further north in Thailand,

a second Japanese
landing was unopposed.

Thirty thousand Japanese troops
were soon making their way

down the western coast of Malaya.

The target of the two groups:

The centre of British military
and political rule in the Far East.

Britain had turned the island
into what it believed

was an impregnable fortress.

But all the guns pointed
south, out to sea.

The Japanese were approaching
by land from the north.

Yet, British military commanders
remained remarkably untroubled.

They didn't rate the Japanese
as fighting men,

and believed the Malay jungle was,

anyway, virtually impassable.

But the Japanese had other ideas.

To soften up Singapore they
attacked the city from the air.

Britain sent the new battleship,
Prince of Wales,

and a battle cruiser, Repulse,

to attack Japanese troop convoys.

They were met by Japanese bombers.

Both warships were sunk
in less than two hours.

Almost 1,000 of
their crew were lost.

It was the greatest British
naval disaster of World War II.

In an era of aircraft
and aircraft carriers

it was now clear the battleship,

for years the mainstay
of the British navy,

had had its day.


Back on land the Japanese
continued to head south

towards Singapore.

On January the 11th, 1942,
Kuala Lumpur was captured.


The British forces fell back
and withdrew to Singapore.

There were now about 100,000
British soldiers to defend it.

They faced a force of
only 30,000 Japanese.

Even without their big guns,

the British should have been able
to hold out.

The Japanese launched
an assault in early February.

[machine gun firing]

It was supported
by more air strikes.

[artillery firing]

The British defence was
soon reduced to chaos.

Civilian casualties began to escalate.

Four days later
the Japanese had pushed

through the last of
the British defensive lines.

The commander,
General Arthur Percival,

surrendered with over 90,000 men.

Never in the history of the British Army

had a commander in charge
of such a large force

had to surrender,
and to an enemy general

whose force was outnumbered
more than three to one.

[indistinct chattering]

Britain's 200-year-old power
and prestige in the Far East

had been wiped out
in just 10 weeks.

But it wasn't the only disaster.

[machine gun firing]

Elsewhere in Southeast Asia

the Japanese forces
were equally triumphant.

The British garrison
in Hong Kong fought for two weeks

before succumbing
to a Japanese invasion.

[artillery firing]

In the Philippines,
America fared no better.

Here, a preemptive bombing raid

caught large numbers of U.S. aircraft

neatly lined up at Clark Field.

Most were destroyed.

Two days later, with U.S. air power
virtually non-existent,

Japanese troops began to land.

[cannon firing]

The local Philippine troops melted away.

[machine gun firing]

[distant explosion]

The Japanese advanced rapidly.


Ten days later Manila was captured.

The U.S. soldiers were forced
to withdraw

to the Bataan Peninsula.

Here they hoped to hold out

until a relief force could be sent.

It never came.

On April 3rd, 1942,

Japanese troops launched
a major assault on U.S. positions.

[machine gun firing]

After four days of heavy fighting
they broke through.

The Americans surrendered
two days later.

That left just one British colony
in the region: Burma.

In early 1942,
Japanese forces pushed

into the south of the country.

The British defences
had been utterly neglected.

There were only some 15,000 men
defending the country.

They were no match for the Japanese.

The Allied troops mounted
a brief but doomed resistance.


[people screaming]

Less than two months
after invading Burma,

the Japanese had seized
the capital, Rangoon.


Eight weeks later
the British had been pushed

entirely out of the country.

In just under six months
the Japanese had seized control

of the whole eastern rim
of the Pacific.

Their Oriental Blitzkrieg
had been swift and crushing.

[soldier's marching]

Yet, already,
there were warning signs

that they were not as powerful
as they appeared.

On April 18th, 1942,
four months after Pearl Harbour,

America struck back
at the Japanese.

U.S. bombers,
flying low over Tokyo,

dropped bombs on the city
close to the Emperor's Palace.


Others struck Yokohama,
Kobe and Nagoya.

The raid, authorized
by President Roosevelt himself,

was daring in the extreme.

The B-25 Mitchell bombers
had not been designed

to be launched from aircraft carriers.

They barely managed
to lumber off the deck

of the U.S.S. Hornet,
which had brought them

to within 700 miles of
the Japanese capital.

But that didn't diminish
their effectiveness in the air.

In Japan the raids
caused profound shock.

After their runaway successes
of the past four months,

they had never expected
an attack on their homeland.

Japan's military planners now decided
to extend the country's defences

If they could seize
additional strategic outposts

in the Pacific,
they could attack and destroy

Allied Forces before they even
came close to the homeland.

Japan already controlled
much of the Chinese coast,

Southeast Asia and the Philippines.

They had also seized
the Dutch East Indies.

Now they decided to strike south

and attack Papua New Guinea
and the Solomon Islands.

And east to take
the Island of Midway

in the middle of the Pacific.

It would mean the homeland
was surrounded by

a string of fortified positions.

Yet, even as Japan
was planning its move,

its operations were
severely compromised,

though it only realized this
after the war.

The United States had broken
its military and diplomatic codes.

[typewriters clattering]

By spring 1942,

the U.S. Navy's
code-breaking team in Hawaii

was reading enough messages

to give it a remarkably accurate insight
into Japan's intentions.

So it was that the U.S.
commander-in-chief in the region,

Admiral Chester Nimitz,
learnt the details and timing

of Japan's planned invasions
of the Solomon Islands

and Papua New Guinea.

If successful they would cut off
Australia from her allies.

A Japanese bombing raid on Darwin

had already caused
widespread fear of an invasion.

In early May, 1942,
the Japanese plan

to widen its defensive perimeter
was launched.

They seized the Solomon Islands.


Two days later,
the Japanese carrier force

entered the Coral Sea in preparation

for the main assault
on Papua New Guinea.

But this time the Americans
had anticipated them.

Admiral Nimitz had ordered
two U.S. aircraft carriers

and a number of smaller warships
into the area.

For two days the rival fleets
searched for each other.

Then on May the 7th U.S. aircraft

located and sank
the Japanese carrier Shoho.

[bell ringing]

The battle of the Coral Sea
was underway.

[alarm beeping]

Early the following day,
the Japanese responded,

unleashing a hail of torpedoes
and bombs.

To begin with the U.S. aircraft carrier

managed to avoid
the Japanese torpedoes.

[artillery firing]

But then she took a bomb

which penetrated four decks
before exploding.

Thirty seven men were killed.

[artillery firing]

The larger and less manoeuvrable carrier,

was also hit by several bombs
as well as two torpedoes.

[huge explosion]

She developed a heavy list to port.

[machine gun firing]

The Americans returned fire,

attacking the Japanese
carrier Shokaku.

[artillery firing]

The first U.S. raid was blunted
by Japanese Zero fighters

which forced the U.S.
Douglas Devastator bombers

to drop their torpedoes too far out.

All the torpedoes missed.

But a second wave of U.S. dive bombers
struck home.

The Shokaku's deck
was so badly damaged

she could no longer be used
by aircraft.

After two days of fighting

the two forces finally disengaged.

That evening, the Lexington,
still afloat,

suddenly erupted in
a huge explosion.

There had been an undetected leak
of aviation fuel that had caught fire.

[indistinct panicked conversation]

Amazingly all but
215 of the nearly 3,000 men

on board were rescued.

Later that evening
an American torpedo

scuttled the burning hulk.

[huge explosion]

The Battle of the Coral Sea was,
on paper, a draw.

Each side had lost one carrier

and had another
severely damaged.

Strategically, however,
it was a major U.S. success.

It had prevented the Japanese
from seizing more territory,

and it had stopped them
from isolating Australia.

The Battle of the Coral Sea

marked a new era
in naval tactics.

It was the first major sea battle
in which

the opposing ships were
completely out of visual contact.

It was fought, instead,
by aircraft flying from carriers.

[machine gun firing]

It would soon become clear
which side had adapted

to the new form of naval conflict
more successfully.

By the late spring of 1942

Japan and America
were deadlocked.


Japan needed a quick victory
if it was not to be ground down

by the huge resources
of the United States.

In mid-May
it began its next move.

U.S. code breakers reported
Japanese plans for a new attack.

[typewriters clattering]

It would be on "Target AF",
somewhere in the mid-Pacific.

The problem, for the Americans,

was that they had no idea
where "Target AF" was.

Could it be a reference
to Midway Island near Hawaii?

An ideal jumping off
point for another attack

on the American fleet
in Pearl Harbour.

The code breaking team
suggested a way to find out.

The U.S. air base on Midway

was instructed to send
an un-coded message

reporting problems with
the island's water system.

Almost immediately
the code breakers intercepted

a Japanese signal that "Target AF"

was having water supply problems.

Admiral Chester Nimitz now knew

exactly where
the enemy would strike.

[ship horn blares]

The Japanese plan was
typically complex.

A diversionary attack
on the Aleutian islands

in the North Pacific would draw away
part of the U.S. fleet,

while Midway was seized
by an occupation force.

The Americans would be
obliged to hurriedly

commit their carrier force
to retaking the island.

There they would be annihilated

by a huge Japanese naval presence

including four large aircraft carriers.

It was the second Japanese attempt

to wipe out the U.S. Navy
in the Pacific within a year.

[aircraft engine revving]

[ship horn blares]

the American carriers left port

and moved to a position where
they could ambush the Japanese.

On June the 3rd, 1942,

Japanese forces launched
the expected attack

on the Aleutian Islands.

Nimitz didn't respond.

Then, early the next morning,

the main Japanese carrier force

launched a first air strike
on Midway Island

to soften up its defences.

U.S. war planes from the island
intercepted them.

Most were outdated
Brewster Buffaloes

and were easily shot down
by the more agile

Japanese Zero fighters.


But the Japanese attack
had been blunted.

Midway's defences
had not been broken.


The Japanese commander,
Admiral Chuichi Nagumo,

faced a difficult decision.

He'd kept some of his
aircraft in reserve,

loaded with munitions designed
specifically for attacking ships,

just in case the U.S. fleet
was spotted.

Should he now order
this reserve to be stripped

of its torpedoes and
armour-piercing bombs,

and reloaded with high explosive
and fragmentation bombs

for a second strike on Midway?

It would leave him ill-equipped
to take on the U.S. Navy,

but he calculated it was
a risk worth taking.

Then, just as the reloading
was under way,

he received unwelcome news.

A U.S. Naval force
had been spotted.

Was this the U.S. carrier force,

or a smaller, less significant,
fleet of ships?

Nagumo was in a dilemma.

Should he continue with
the second strike on Midway,

or should he, once again,
re-equip his bombers

to take on the U.S. vessels?

Nagumo decided to gamble.

He would push ahead
with the second strike on Midway.

[plan engines roaring]

His hope was that
when the bombers returned

there would still be time to rearm them
to take on the U.S. ships.

Even as he weighed the odds,

the Japanese carriers were
attacked by U.S. bombers.

[warning siren blares]

Every available Japanese Zero fighter
was scrambled

before the U.S.
bombers were repelled.

[continuous firing]

Then came another report
from reconnaissance planes.

The U.S. force did indeed
contain aircraft carriers.

Nagumo was, once again,
on the spot.

His aircraft were
half way through reloading,

but the U.S. carriers were
a much more important target.

He took a second gamble.

He decided to change
their weapons yet again

to attack the U.S. force.

But while he did so,
his ships would be sitting ducks.

Almost immediately
they came under attack

from low-flying U.S. torpedo bombers.

But they were old and slow

and attacked without fighter support.

As they approached the Japanese fleet

they were rapidly shot down.

[aircraft exploding]

For a brief period
it looked as though

Nagumo's gamble had paid off.

Then, just as his bombers
had been reloaded

and were ready to take on
the U.S. carriers,

disaster struck.

U.S. dive bombers, approaching
unseen at high altitude,

hurtled down on his ships.

The Japanese were caught
completely by surprise.

Nagumo had gambled once too often

and was now at the mercy
of American air power.

Within five minutes

the U.S. dive bombers
had reduced three

of Japan's largest aircraft
carriers to flaming wrecks.

[aircraft carrier explosion]

All would later sink.

A fourth carrier, the Hiryu,

had been masked by a rain storm,

and that afternoon mounted
a desperate counterattack.


The U.S. carrier Yorktown
was severely damaged.

[emergency alarm beeps]


It was torpedoed by a Japanese
submarine several days later.

But the Japanese fight back
was short-lived.

Late in the afternoon that day

the Hiryu was also hit
and turned into a blazing pyre.

In a matter of hours

Japan's mastery of the sea
had been destroyed.

[fire crackling]

The attack on Midway Island
had achieved nothing.

But it had cost Japan
its finest carriers and 332 aircraft.

Well over 2,000 sailors had also died.

America now ruled
the waves in the Pacific.

Yet, Japan was still undefeated
on land

and a powerful,
threatening force in the air.

[music plays]

In the coming months it would try
to maximize these advantages.

[people cheering]

By summer 1942,

Japanese plans to build
a defensive ring

of occupied territories
around their homeland

had still not been completed.

[tanks roaring]

Heavy losses at sea
had frustrated their attempts

to grab Papua New Guinea
and islands in the central Pacific.

Japanese planners now
came up with a new plan.

If they couldn't do it by sea,
they'd do it by land.

[indistinct Japanese chatter]

On July the 21st,
a division-sized force

of experienced jungle troops

landed on the northern
coast of Papua New Guinea.

They immediately struck west
to capture Port Moresby, the capital.

[artillery firing]

Progress was swift at first.

The small Australian defence force
was completely outnumbered.

Within weeks the Japanese
had captured the main pass

over the Owen Stanley Mountains.


They then halted
to await reinforcements

before the final
push on Port Moresby.

The Australians also
mustered new forces.

[artillery firing]

When the Japanese
moved off again

they now met much stiffer


For the first time, Japanese troops
were up against men

who matched them for training,
experience and morale.

[machine gun firing]

The Australians stood their ground,

and the Japanese were
temporarily brought to a standstill.

[machine gun firing]

But conditions in
the jungle were appalling.

There was constant tropical rain.

Malaria was rife.

The Australians were eventually, again,
forced to retreat.

[machine gun firing]

After two months of grim fighting,

the Japanese were
within 30 miles of Port Moresby.

[machine gun firing]

Then, finally,
U.S. reinforcements arrived.

[continuous machine gun firing]

Through September
and October, the Japanese were,

in their turn, forced back.

The Japanese made
an heroic but suicidal stand.

[machine gun firing]

Many chose to die fighting
rather than surrender.

[distant gun firing]

[bomb exploding]

[continuous gun firing]

It took the Allies
another two months

before the Japanese
were finally overwhelmed.

It had been a bloodbath.

Fifteen thousand Japanese troops
had embarked on the operation.

Only 3,000 got away.

The Japanese were in trouble.

They'd lost at sea.

They were now rapidly losing
the initiative on land.

American military might
was asserting itself.

[playing trumpet]

There was only one alternative left:
air power.

[man hitting with a sledge hammer]

Through the summer of 1942,

Japanese engineers
began building a string

of airstrips across the Pacific.

One was on
the island of Guadalcanal

in the southern Solomon Islands.

It was particularly
well situated

to threaten U.S. convoys
heading for Australia.

It would become
the focus of an epic battle.

In July, 1942,

an amphibious force of U.S.
marines invaded the island.

They landed without resistance.

[indistinct audio]

The plan was to capture
the half-built airstrip,

complete it and then
turn it into a U.S. base.

But the Japanese were
not ready to give up.

That night they sent in a naval force
to land reinforcements

and to attack the fleet of U.S. ships

supporting the marines.

[continuous firing and explosion]

In a dazzling display of night fighting

the Japanese cruisers
sank four Allied warships

and drove the rest out to sea.

[indistinct chattering]

The marines were now marooned
without supplies

and without much of their equipment.

They dug in around the airstrip.

Despite constant bombardment,

using construction machinery
left behind by the Japanese,

they pushed ahead with
the completion of the airfield.

Two weeks later a group
of U.S. Wildcat fighters

and Dauntless dive bombers flew in.

They were not a moment too soon.

The next day,
newly arrived Japanese troops

launched a series of suicidal
attacks on the airstrip.

[machine gun firing]

Over the following months,
wave after wave

of fanatical troops were
thrown into the battle.


By the winter of 1942,

the two sides had fought
themselves to a standstill.

Both now dug in
to defensive positions.

[indistinct chattering]

Then, in December,
the exhausted U.S. marines

were replaced by fresh troops.

U.S. soldiers now began a new push

on the increasingly isolated
pockets of Japanese resistance.

[machine gun firing]


By early February, 1943,

the Americans had finally
won control of Guadalcanal.

They had now beaten
the Japanese at sea and on land.

[background music over dialogue]

They had even denied them
access to the air.

[soldier's marching]

The Oriental Blitzkrieg had failed.

The Japanese Empire now faced a foe

that was still growing in strength,

at a rate it could
never hope to match.

It was the beginning
of a fundamental shift

in the course of the war.

[plane engines roaring]