Discussion:
Was Japan right to atack Pearl Harbour?
(too old to reply)
Daniel Titley
2005-06-06 23:55:07 UTC
Permalink
As I understand it, the Japanese motivations for attacking Pearl
Harbour went like this:

Japan needed oil to run its economy and war effort, but the US had
enacted an oil embargo against Japan.

Nobody else was willing or able to supply Japan with oil, so the
Japanese decided to capture the British and Dutch south-east Asian
empires and take their oil.

The Japanese believed that such a move would inevitably result in war
with America, so they decided it would be better to start that war at a
time and place of their choosing.

My question is, knowing what we do now, do we agree with the Japanese
assessment?

Would the Japanese expansion into south-east Asia inevitably result in
war with America, or was there something they could do to avoid such a
war?
--
m***@netMAPSONscape.net
2005-06-07 15:47:43 UTC
Permalink
Post by Daniel Titley
Japan needed oil to run its economy and war effort, but the US had
enacted an oil embargo against Japan.
Correct.
Post by Daniel Titley
Nobody else was willing or able to supply Japan with oil, so the
Japanese decided to capture the British and Dutch south-east Asian
empires and take their oil.
Also correct.
Post by Daniel Titley
The Japanese believed that such a move would inevitably result in war
with America, so they decided it would be better to start that war at a
time and place of their choosing.
Yes.
Post by Daniel Titley
My question is, knowing what we do now, do we agree with the Japanese
assessment?
No. IMO, if you're going to gamble, gamble that you can keep the
US out, perhaps with a promise to repudiate the Tripartitie
Pact.
Post by Daniel Titley
Would the Japanese expansion into south-east Asia inevitably result in
war with America, or was there something they could do to avoid such a
war?
The US hadn't decided what to do in the event of a Japanese attack that
bypassed US bases/positions, so it is likely that the Japanese could
been better at diplomacy, and gotten us to remain out of the war.

Mike
--
Dave Smith
2005-06-07 15:47:46 UTC
Permalink
Post by Daniel Titley
As I understand it, the Japanese motivations for attacking Pearl
Japan needed oil to run its economy and war effort, but the US had
enacted an oil embargo against Japan.
IIRC, there was also an embargo on scrap steel.
Post by Daniel Titley
Nobody else was willing or able to supply Japan with oil, so the
Japanese decided to capture the British and Dutch south-east Asian
empires and take their oil.
The Japanese believed that such a move would inevitably result in war
with America, so they decided it would be better to start that war at a
time and place of their choosing.
My question is, knowing what we do now, do we agree with the Japanese
assessment?
Would the Japanese expansion into south-east Asia inevitably result in
war with America, or was there something they could do to avoid such a
war?
I think that there aim was to knock the US out of the war. The war in
Europe had been going on for more than two years and the US had stayed out
of it, part of their isolationism policy, though the consistency of that
policy might be the topic of another discussion. The Japanese were under
the impression that Americans had no stomach for war and thought that a
pre-emptive strike that destroyed the US Pacific fleet would scare them
out going to war and out of their aspirations in the Pacific.

There are some conspiracy theorists who still express the opinion that the
US was aware of the planned attack on Pearl Harbor and went along with it
with the hope that it would provide their excuse to go to war. Personally,
I find it hard to believe that a major military power, which the US had
become, would go for such an asinine scheme. It just doesn't make any sense
to sacrifice their Pacific fleet as and excuse to go to war when a war in
the Pacific would rely heavily on the very fleet they had sacrificed. Some
of those ships may have been old and obsolete, but they would still have
been useful.
--
Brad Meyer
2005-06-07 23:49:32 UTC
Permalink
On Tue, 7 Jun 2005 15:47:46 +0000 (UTC), Dave Smith
Post by Dave Smith
Some
of those ships may have been old and obsolete, but they would still have
been useful.
IIRC there were only two useful ships that were total losses --
Arizona and Oklahoma. In the event, the crews turned out to be even
more useful then the ships themselves, as they became the cadres for
all the new construction "two ocean Navy" construction that would be
comissioned in '43 and '44. It was a blessing that no one at PH _did_
know of the attack. If they had suffered those sorts of losses in deep
water, it would have been a much greater disaster then it turned out
to be.


--
Don Phillipson
2005-06-07 15:47:49 UTC
Permalink
Post by Daniel Titley
As I understand it, the Japanese motivations for attacking Pearl
Japan needed oil to run its economy and war effort, but the US had
enacted an oil embargo against Japan.
Nobody else was willing or able to supply Japan with oil, so the
Japanese decided to capture the British and Dutch south-east Asian
empires and take their oil.
1. The USA refused to export oil to Japan but other
producers were free to do so.
2. British Malaya produced no oil (but had other
resources e.g. tin and rubber.)
3. The scale of Japanese demands for oil was governed
by Japan's war in China. The US embargo was intended
to stop or impede Japan's war in China.
Post by Daniel Titley
The Japanese believed that such a move would inevitably result in war
with America, so they decided it would be better to start that war at a
time and place of their choosing.
Japan's account of Pearl Harbor says this attack was
intended as a deterrent, to stop the US fleet from interfering
with its campaign in SE Asia (and generally to deter the
US from making war against Japan.)

Don Phillipson
Carlsbad Springs
(Ottawa, Canada)
--
r***@pdq.net
2005-06-07 15:47:50 UTC
Permalink
I think it is fair to say that the roots of the American (and
British) conflict with Japan go further back in time than the embargoes
of the late 30s
In the first WW, Japan had been a useful ally of the English
speaking world. In the postwar world, the Japanese were not always
favored vs. other interests of the allies and they began to drift
towards militarism and fascism. Their fragile democratic structures
collapsed fairly quickly. One could say that Japan led the European
fascists in the march towards totalitarianism.
In many quarters in the US, this caused more anxiety than anything
happening in Europe. The Japanese were seen as more foreign and
sinister, they were obviously intent on expansion in an area of vital
US interest, and when they began slaughtering Chinese with noticeable
enthusiasm, American opinion quickly took a harsh set against them.
The only serious war-preparation undertaken by the US before the
outbreak of war in Europe was directed towards an expected conflict
with Japan. The B17 bomber was originally designed to attack the
Japanese Navy. The USMC took the job of preparing beach assault
technique seriously and were fully ready to do that sort even before
Pearl Harbor.
When Hitler began to look like a dangerous threat, it was recalled
that Japan had for a long time made themselves treaty-allies of the
Nazis.
All in all, FDR treated the Japanese Government as an enemy
in-waiting and saw no reason to sugar coat it. War materials like scap
iron and oil were restricted. Was that provocation? Absolutely, but
until Japan changed course a collision seemed inevitable to FDR.
And FDR and his class of people did not respect the Japanese
nation enough to feel any need to avoid provoking them. (Considering
that he was mostly worried about Hitler during this time and did not
need a two front war does make this part seem odd. But the answer to
the contradiction is that FDR could not bring himself to think of the
Japanese as a dangerous enemy under any circumstances. It was a
racialist reflex of his time and place.)
In retrospect, the Japanese military government painted themselves
into a corner long before the oil embargo. By directly challenging the
US for a dominant role in Asia and making common cause with the
European fascists they were going to have to win a war with the US or
lose their dream.
But - they evidently expected the Germans to win in Europe, the
Brits to give up, and the Americans to lack stomach for a long war.

By and by, Churchill commented to the US congress, "What sort of
people do they think we are?"
--
Roman Werpachowski
2005-06-07 23:48:58 UTC
Permalink
Post by r***@pdq.net
All in all, FDR treated the Japanese Government as an enemy
in-waiting and saw no reason to sugar coat it. War materials like scap
iron and oil were restricted. Was that provocation? Absolutely, but
until Japan changed course a collision seemed inevitable to FDR.
And FDR and his class of people did not respect the Japanese
nation enough to feel any need to avoid provoking them. (Considering
that he was mostly worried about Hitler during this time and did not
need a two front war does make this part seem odd. But the answer to
the contradiction is that FDR could not bring himself to think of the
Japanese as a dangerous enemy under any circumstances. It was a
racialist reflex of his time and place.)
Now, at one time you say that the US government acted is if Japan was
the only threat they have to prepare for. But next, you say that FDR did
not see Japanese as a dangerous enemy. Did they value Germans even
lower, or do you contradict yourself, or do I understand too little of
what you said?
--
Roman Werpachowski
/--------==============--------\
| http://www.cft.edu.pl/~roman |
\--------==============--------/
--
Michael Emrys
2005-06-07 23:49:23 UTC
Permalink
The B17 bomber was originally designed to attack the Japanese Navy.
Do you have a citation for that? I ask because what I have read so far is
that the B-17 was more or less designed to do what it ended up doing, i.e.,
bomb industrial cities. But it was sold to Congress and the public as a way
to defend America's shore against *any* hostile navy, even the RN, as
strange as that may sound in retrospect.

Michael
--
Michael Emrys
2005-06-07 15:48:04 UTC
Permalink
...was there something they could do to avoid such a war?
You bet. Pull out of French Indo-China and cease their war of agression
against China.

Michael
--
Brad Meyer
2005-06-07 15:48:12 UTC
Permalink
On Mon, 6 Jun 2005 23:55:07 +0000 (UTC), "Daniel Titley"
Post by Daniel Titley
As I understand it, the Japanese motivations for attacking Pearl
Japan needed oil to run its economy and war effort, but the US had
enacted an oil embargo against Japan.
Nobody else was willing or able to supply Japan with oil, so the
Japanese decided to capture the British and Dutch south-east Asian
empires and take their oil.
The Japanese believed that such a move would inevitably result in war
with America, so they decided it would be better to start that war at a
time and place of their choosing.
My question is, knowing what we do now, do we agree with the Japanese
assessment?
I don't. The oil issue was tangential to the greater issue of the war
in China. after LBJ-ing it for the best part of a decade, they were
further from victory then when they started. Under the circumstances,
they should have thought very hard about widing a war they were not
winning as it was. In the event, they had already decided on widing
the war and the oil was largely a rationalization for the "southern
move" (against the US, Brits, and Dutch) over the "northern move"
(against the USSR).
Post by Daniel Titley
Would the Japanese expansion into south-east Asia inevitably result in
war with America, or was there something they could do to avoid such a
war?
Inevitably yes, but that doesn't mean right then in 1941. IMO if Japan
had not attacked the US when it went after the NEI and British
posessions the US would have stayed on the sideline for some
considerable period of time. While they built up forces.


--
John Lansford
2005-06-07 15:48:32 UTC
Permalink
Post by Daniel Titley
As I understand it, the Japanese motivations for attacking Pearl
Japan needed oil to run its economy and war effort, but the US had
enacted an oil embargo against Japan.
...
Post by Daniel Titley
The Japanese believed that such a move would inevitably result in war
with America, so they decided it would be better to start that war at a
time and place of their choosing.
My question is, knowing what we do now, do we agree with the Japanese
assessment?
It is actually fortunate for the US that they did attack Pearl Harbor.
Had their conventional battle plans be put into action, it is likely
the US Pacific Fleet would have been decisively defeated somewhere
near the Marianas in a massive naval battle. The Pearl Harbor raid
created a lot of damage, but only two battleships were permanently
taken out of the battleline and none of the carriers were affected.
Post by Daniel Titley
Would the Japanese expansion into south-east Asia inevitably result in
war with America, or was there something they could do to avoid such a
war?
The Japanese believed that an expansion into the East Indies would
result in bringing the US and Britain into a war with them. They also
feared that the Philippines would be a dagger held to their supply
lines if they did this, so the invasion of those islands was crucial
to their plans. That move would have certainly triggered a US
intervention, but probably not quickly enough to prevent the Japanese
from occupying the bulk of the Philippines.

If the Japanese had wanted to get the US to lift the oil embargo, they
knew what they had to do. Just stop fighting in China.

John Lansford
--
The unofficial I-26 Construction Webpage:
http://users.vnet.net/lansford/a10/
--
l***@netscape.net
2005-06-07 23:49:35 UTC
Permalink
John Lansford wrote:

(stuff deleted)
Post by John Lansford
It is actually fortunate for the US that they did attack Pearl Harbor.
Had their conventional battle plans be put into action, it is likely
the US Pacific Fleet would have been decisively defeated somewhere
near the Marianas in a massive naval battle.
(rest of post deleted)

It was not all that likely. Such a plan depended on the USN to rush
into a Japanese trap, then lose the big naval battle so severely they'd
give Japan what it wanted.

The USN instead relied on war plan Rainbow Five, which called for
holding actions, raids, and planning for periphery invasions until US
production guaranteed the odds would fall in favor of the US. One
interesting side note of Rainbow Five was that it all but stated the US
was going to lose the Phillipines (although not without a fight).
--
drcooley
2005-06-07 15:48:51 UTC
Permalink
Post by Daniel Titley
My question is, knowing what we do now, do we agree with the Japanese
assessment?
Would the Japanese expansion into south-east Asia inevitably result in
war with America, or was there something they could do to avoid such a
war?
--
Japan could have avoided war with the US quite simply by not attacking
the US fleet. Yes the Phillipines sat right samck in the middle of the
shipping lanes from whence the oil was to flow but FDR absolutely had
to have a provactive action of epic proportions to get the US into
WWII.

I am sure there are those who will vigorously differ with this view
however one has to bear in mind the things our navy was doing on the
Atlantic side were limited and had the Japanese not hit Pearl Harbor
Congress would well have intervened and curtailed the exposure of our
sailors to the U-boat threat.

Duane
--
Frank Copeland
2005-06-07 15:48:56 UTC
Permalink
Post by Daniel Titley
As I understand it, the Japanese motivations for attacking Pearl
Japan needed oil to run its economy and war effort, but the US had
enacted an oil embargo against Japan.
Japan needed oil to run its economy. It didn't need oil to run its war
effort because it didn't need to have a war effort. It was subjected to
an oil embargo because it *chose* to have a war effort.
Post by Daniel Titley
Nobody else was willing or able to supply Japan with oil, so the
Japanese decided to capture the British and Dutch south-east Asian
empires and take their oil.
So Japan backed itself into a corner. It could have remained a peaceful
trading nation, but chose instead to become an agressive imperial
power. Its potential trading partners took fright (or suddenly became
concerned about human rights in China, you decide) and cut it off from
essential resources. It left itself with no alternative but to take by
force what it could have had quite readily by the application of money.
Post by Daniel Titley
The Japanese believed that such a move would inevitably result in war
with America, so they decided it would be better to start that war at a
time and place of their choosing.
So the lunatics who chose to declare war on the United States still had
some capacity for rational thought. It did them how much good?
Post by Daniel Titley
My question is, knowing what we do now, do we agree with the Japanese
assessment?
Who would agree with lunatics?
Post by Daniel Titley
Would the Japanese expansion into south-east Asia inevitably result in
war with America, or was there something they could do to avoid such a
war?
They could have chosen to remain a peaceful trading nation. Much as
they are today.
--
Frank Copeland
Home Page: <URL:http://thingy.apana.org.au/~fjc/>
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Keep it in Usenet. E-mail replies and 'courtesy' copies are not welcome.
If you're selling, I ain't buying.
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Brad Meyer
2005-06-07 23:49:33 UTC
Permalink
On Tue, 7 Jun 2005 15:48:56 +0000 (UTC), Frank Copeland
Post by Frank Copeland
Post by Daniel Titley
As I understand it, the Japanese motivations for attacking Pearl
Japan needed oil to run its economy and war effort, but the US had
enacted an oil embargo against Japan.
Japan needed oil to run its economy. It didn't need oil to run its war
effort because it didn't need to have a war effort.
OTOH, if it didn't have a war effort, it would have had ample oil for
its domestic needs. The IJN's stocks (less then a year's steaming for
the fleet) were enough for several years of domestic consumption.


--
Haydn
2005-06-07 23:53:06 UTC
Permalink
Post by Frank Copeland
So Japan backed itself into a corner. It could have remained a peaceful
trading nation, but chose instead to become an agressive imperial
power.
Remarks such as this one seem to miss a basic point.

Certainly Germany and Japan (and Italy, too) could have all remained
peaceful trading nations, but the point is that each one of them, for
various reasons, at a certain moment quit contenting themselves with playing
second fiddle in the Anglosaxon world order - as peaceful, and pliable,
trading nations seamlessly embedded in the British-American global
capitalistic system without a hope of ever advancing to a forefront role.

Subverting that order and replacing the leading players in the big game
became exactly their goal. I won't say it was a foregone path - far from it,
but so it happened to happen.

Today we can comfortably observe they opted for a dead wrong strategy, but
in a historical perspective we can't honestly say they behaved in such a
different manner from what Elizabeth I's England did in the second half of
16th century - quitting playing second fiddle in the Spanish world order,
and eventually ruining the Spanish empire and replacing it with its own
imperial edifice.

The main difference of course is that Elizabeth's legacy succeeded, whereas
the Axis sank disastrously.

Haydn
--
Roman Werpachowski
2005-06-08 16:17:06 UTC
Permalink
Post by Haydn
The main difference of course is that Elizabeth's legacy succeeded, whereas
the Axis sank disastrously.
I see a few other differences.
--
Roman Werpachowski
/--------==============--------\
| http://www.cft.edu.pl/~roman |
\--------==============--------/
--
Dave Gower
2005-06-07 15:48:59 UTC
Permalink
"Daniel Titley" <***@hotmail.com> wrote

<...was there something they could do to avoid such a war?

Yes, they could have stopped trying to conquer other countries. But this was
still the age of colonialism (although coming to an end) and they felt that
if Britain, France and the U.S. could have colonies in their part of the
world, they should too. Indeed, these territories plus everything else in
eastern Asia and the western Pacific should be part of their empire. To
avoid war, they had to give this up, which also meant renouncing Bushido, a
national semi-religion which said that the Emperor, as a god, was divinely
ordained to rule the world. Religions are not abandoned easily.

--
David Thornley
2005-06-07 15:49:11 UTC
Permalink
Post by Daniel Titley
As I understand it, the Japanese motivations for attacking Pearl
Japan needed oil to run its economy and war effort, but the US had
enacted an oil embargo against Japan.
This cannot be all the motivations, if nothing else from chronology
alone.

The Japanese expansion of the war into the Pacific (from China) started
with the occupation of southern Indochina, which gave the Japanese
control of raw materials and bases to expand further. The US embargo
that is sometimes considered to have forced the Japanese to war was
a reaction to this.

Therefore, this fails to explain why Japan moved into southern Indochina,
which had nothing to do with the ongoing war in China but much to do with
the later expansion.
Post by Daniel Titley
Nobody else was willing or able to supply Japan with oil, so the
Japanese decided to capture the British and Dutch south-east Asian
empires and take their oil.
No, the chronology is wrong. The Japanese decided to expand into
southeast Asia before the embargo.
Post by Daniel Titley
The Japanese believed that such a move would inevitably result in war
with America, so they decided it would be better to start that war at a
time and place of their choosing.
Pretty much, yes.
Post by Daniel Titley
My question is, knowing what we do now, do we agree with the Japanese
assessment?
Um, which assessment? That it would be a good idea to attack Pearl
Harbor? I think not.
Post by Daniel Titley
Would the Japanese expansion into south-east Asia inevitably result in
war with America, or was there something they could do to avoid such a
war?
Japan needed the oil and pig iron to sustain its protracted and
exceedingly brutal war with China. The US embargo gave Japan the choice
of withdrawing from China or attacking the Dutch East Indies. What
is often overlooked was that Japan was financing these imports from
savings, and was shortly going to be completely unable to pay for
oil and pig iron. Therefore, the only thing the US could do at that
time, to avoid Japanese attacks, would be to help finance the war against
China.

As far as whether the US would have reacted to a Japanese attack that
did not include US possessions, the US probably would have. I don't
think Congress would have passed a declaration of war, but Roosevelt
was already waging an undeclared naval war in the Atlantic.


--
David H. Thornley | If you want my opinion, ask.
***@thornley.net | If you don't, flee.
http://www.thornley.net/~thornley/david/ | O-
--
Briarroot
2005-06-07 23:49:28 UTC
Permalink
Post by Daniel Titley
As I understand it, the Japanese motivations for attacking Pearl
Japan needed oil to run its economy and war effort, but the US had
enacted an oil embargo against Japan.
As I understand it, the oil and steel embargoes as well as the freeze on
Japanese assets in US banks, would not have adversely effected the
Japanese domestic economy to a great extent, at least in the short term,
but would have had a serious impact on their ongoing war in China, which
was tremendous drain on capital and resources; and also on future
operations which had been under contemplation long before 1941. The
extreme militarists, who by the time of the Pearl Harbor attack, had
almost complete control of the Japanese government, were seeking a war
of conquest and one 'excuse' would do as well as another.
Post by Daniel Titley
Nobody else was willing or able to supply Japan with oil, so the
Japanese decided to capture the British and Dutch south-east Asian
empires and take their oil.
That was not the only reason for the Japanese attack southward, there
was also the lure of military glory and conquest. They also had the
alternative of ending their war in China, though given the nature of the
men in charge of Japan at that time, that was probably never a realistic
possibility.
Post by Daniel Titley
The Japanese believed that such a move would inevitably result in war
with America, so they decided it would be better to start that war at a
time and place of their choosing.
Yes, that's the essence of it. As originally scheduled, the Pearl
Harbor strike was to have begun shortly *after* formal diplomatic
relations had been broken with Washington, not before. Whether this
distinction would have lessened the impact on the American psyche, is an
open question. The idea was that a sudden decisive defeat would
persuade the 'decadent' Americans that a war with Japan would not prove
to be an easy one, and that it would be far better to negotiate. In any
case, the attack produced precisely the opposite of its intended effect.
Post by Daniel Titley
My question is, knowing what we do now, do we agree with the Japanese
assessment?
Would the Japanese expansion into south-east Asia inevitably result in
war with America, or was there something they could do to avoid such a
war?
Inevitable? Possibly. Or some diplomatic solution might have
eventually held sway, giving the Japanese what they wanted - but not in
1941.

I think the Japanese leaders completely misread the Roosevelt
administration's intentions as well as the mood of the American people.
I simply cannot see the US government of 1941 being able to convince
the American electorate that going to war to defend the far eastern
possessions of the European colonial powers was a good idea. If the
Japanese had avoided all contact with US forces (in the Philippines) and
simply gone after Malaya, Sumatra, Borneo, Burma etc, would anyone in
the States have been all that upset? Not many, I think, unless perhaps
the Japanese also threatened Australia. At least in the short term,
Germany appeared the greater threat to most Americans in 1941. If Japan
had struck southwards, ignoring US territories, she might well have been
able to hang on to her empire for a good many years, and with each
passing year have cemented her hold on Southeast Asia and given the
Western powers less and less reason for war. Of course, such
speculation ignores the fact that Japan's leaders lusted after the
Philippines too, and weren't about to be put off their aims by a nation
they considered too fat and lazy to fight.
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