On 25 January 1942, during the Japanese attack on German New Guinea, Germany declared war against Japan, in response to an unprovoked attack by the Japanese Navy when Germany was still neutral during Pacific War.

Background[edit | edit source]

The course of relations between Germany and Japan had deteriorated since the beginning of the Second Sino-Japanese War, inevitably so given the increasing neutrality between Japan and the USSR. The continued cooperation between Germany and China, particularly the training of Chinese Army divisions had put a strain on relations between the Germany and Japan. Influential German industiralists and military officers, despite the objections of Hitler who desireed to align more with Japan, kept German aid to Chin.

On 7 December 1941, the Empire of Japan launched an attack on the US naval and army base on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, beginning a war between Japan and the United States. Concerns for German interests in the South Pacific had Germany in frequent contact with Japan, although unaware of any attack the Japanese ambassador had informed the German Foreign Minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop, at the beginning of December that relations between the US and the Japanese Empire were at a breaking point, and that war was imminent. He was instructed to ask Germany for commitment to declare neutrality should that occur. Hitler and Ribbentrop had been urging Japan not to attack any British holdings, on the theory that doing so would hurt the UK's war effort.

Closeup of Hitler as war is declared upon Japan, 25 Jan. 1941

At the time the German Army and Air Force were heavily comitted in Eastern Europe while also occupying France, the colonial schutztruppe in Africa could reinforce the ones in the Pacific with naval support. Colonial Secretary Heinrich Schnee reminded Hitler of this, and Großadmiral Erich Raeder pointed out that a transfer a Battle Squadron would be able to defend against Japanese invasion, but Hitler dismissed this concern as not being important and convinced Kaiser Wilhelm III, who had the final say, that Japan would at least never attack German territory and that defeating the Soviets took all priority.

Text of the German declaration[edit | edit source]

On 25 January 1942, Japanese Ambassador Hiroshi Ōshima was summoned to Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop's office where Ribbentrop read Ōshima the formal declaration.

MR. AMBASSADOR:


The German Government having followed every manner of international law and all rules of neutrality. Having continually been guilty of the most severe provocations toward Germany ever since the outbreak of the Pacific war, provoked by the Japanese attacks against the United States and British Empire on December 8, 1941, has finally resorted to open military acts of aggression.

On January 23, 1942, the naval forces of Japan, under order of their Government attacked the island of New Pomerania. In view of the outrageous Japanese attack on New Guinea, an attack initiated without any prior warning.

The German Government establishes the following facts:

Although Germany on her part has strictly adhered to the rules of international law in her relations with Japan during every period of the present war, the Government of Japan has proceeded to open acts of war against Germany. The Government of Japan has thereby virtually created a state of war.

The German Government, consequently, discontinues diplomatic relations with the Empire of Japan and declares that under these circumstances brought about by the Japanese High Command Germany too, as from today, considers herself as being in a state of war with the Empire of Japan.

Accept, Mr. Ambassador, the expression of my high consideration.

January 25, 1942.

RIBBENTROP.


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