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December 7, 1941: A survivor of the attack on the battleship West Virginia is pulled aboard a rescue craft.  Amazingly, West Virgina was raised, refitted and would later take part in operations against Japan.

Seventy years ago today, Captain Fuchida Mitsuo of the Imperial Japanese Navy uttered the immortal phrase that dragged the United States, the world's most powerful nation then not at war, into the global conflict now known simply as "World War II".  "Tora, Tora Tora," Fuchida signaled, indicating that total surprise had been achieved. Over the course of the next two hours Fuchida and his subordinates would realize one of the greatest and most successful coups de main in the history of warfare.

The event, like perhaps nothing before in our history, captured the collective imagination of the American people.  Like all such events it would in turn become captive to that imagination.

It would become a symbol of as many different causes as could be imagined and the champions of all of those causes would exhort us to "Remember Pearl Harbor."

Conspiracy nuts, John Birchers, anti-Japanese racists, advocates of military preparedness, internationalists, and anti-New Dealers, all exhorted us to "Remember Pearl Harbor," all supremely confident that others would project onto the event the same obvious significance they did.

However, it's most enduring legacy was as a battle cry to seek revenge against a treacherous foe.


World War II era propaganda poster

Remembering (and Avenging) Pearl Harbor

From that point on, Americans would ever more be admonished to "Remember Pearl Harbor."

When news of the attack's success reached Admiral Yamamoto Isoroku, principal architect of the attack, he did not share in his subordinates' euphoria.  Instead, he soberly reflected that he feared that all they had succeeded in doing was to wake a sleeping giant.  A month after the attack, he admonished a friend:

A military man can scarcely pride himself on having 'smitten a sleeping enemy'; it is more a matter of shame, simply, for the one smitten. I would rather you made your appraisal after seeing what the enemy does, since it is certain that, angered and outraged, he will soon launch a determined counterattack.
The counterattack (save one raid, perhaps most charitably described as "the harebrained scheme of an inveterate thrill seeker") would not begin in earnest for almost another eight months, but when it came it was furious, overwhelming, relentless, merciless and filled with a spirit of bloodthirsty vengeance.  By the time America got its economy running and dedicated to the unholy science of warfare, the science of premeditated violence, of using diabolical cunning with malice aforethought to snuff out the sacred and divine gift of human life in order to achieve profane political objectives, it would carry out that violence on an industrial scale and with wanton promiscuity.

A spirit of vengeance, of "Remembering Pearl Harbor" would guide them all the way.

At least part of the reason for this was the way in which the attack was prosecuted.  At the time Captain Fuchida's planes began their runs the United States and Japan were not only technically still at peace, they were technically still involved in negotiations to resolve their differences.  This was, partly, an oversight.  Admiral Yamamoto had insisted that the talks be formally broken off before the attack began, and the Foreign Ministry had given its agents in Washington a deadline that would have barely accomplished this.  However, due to a lack of competent secretarial staff at Japan's embassy in the United States, that declaration was not prepared.  This objection, however is somewhat superfluous.  At the time the message was due to be delivered, Japanese planes had already sortied and could not be recalled.  Hostile operations had already commenced.  Moreover, Japanese forces in Southeast Asia had begun their operations hours earlier.  Finally, the message that Ambassadors Kurusu and Nomura had been instructed to deliver was not a declaration of war.  It was simply a notification that the Japanese government did not intend to continue negotiation.  The formal declaration of war would not be delivered until the following day, when it was presented unceremoniously to Joseph Grew, the American ambassador to Tokyo.  The other powers Japan attacked were never officially notified.  Japan's attack was intended to be, and in effect was, a surprise attack.

The long and short of this is that President Roosevelt was substantially correct in all the particulars when he declared in his famous "Day of Infamy" address:

The United States was at peace with that [Japan], and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its government and its Emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.

Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in the American island of Oahu, the Japanese Ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to our Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. And, while this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or of armed attack.

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time the Japanese Government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.


In this famous photograph from Life Magazine, Japanese Ambassadors Kurusu Saburo (left) and Nomura Kichisaburo wait outside Secretary of State Cordell Hull's office, preparing to deliver the message that Japan was breaking off negotiations.  The Pearl Harbor attack had already commenced though neither man knew it.  For many Americans Kurusu and Nomura would thenceforth symbolize the sneering faces of Japanese militarism.  The impression was unfair.  Both men were genuinely pro-American.  Kurusu, who would lose a son in the war, was married to an American. Both he and Nomura had both performed their duties in good faith.  The same could not be said of the Tokyo government.

Diplomatic niceties, however, could only go so far toward explaining the rage that would guide America in its prosecution of the war.  Another reason that simply can't be overlooked was the fact that the stunning success of the attack overthrew cherished conceits of racial superiority that many Americans had long held toward Japanese.  The country had been gearing up for war, but most considered the principal foe to be Germany.  Japanese weren't considered to be any real threat.  From top to bottom Americans and their allies were filled with racist contempt.


Political Cartoon By Dr. Seuss expressing the contempt most Americans felt toward Japan's military capacity.  The Japanese fleet had sortied two days before this cartoon appeared.  As Americans were to discover, they were packing a good deal more than pie when they did.

Three days before the fateful attack on Pearl Harbor, Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox declared "We're all ready for them . . . It won't take too long.  Say about a six months war."  When asked years later about why he had not taken more preventative steps given the signs of tension Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, who commanded the Naval forces responded with some exasperation, "I never thought those little yellow sons-of-bitches could pull off such an attack, so far from Japan." The Japanese, whatever their martial bent, were viewed as pedestrian and incompetent. Many Americans shared the view of the unidentified British naval officer of the warship Repulse, who commented the day before that ship met its fate at the hands of Japanese naval aviators, that "[t]hose Japs can't fly."


Photo from the 1941 Army-Navy Game Program:  It wasn't just Kimmel that regarded not only Japanese, but all naval aviation as, at best secondary.  The caption reads "A bow view of the USS Arizona as she plows into a huge swell.  It is significant that despite the claims of air enthusiasts, no battleship has yet been sunk by bombs."  Eight days later Japanese naval aviators would make this claim obsolete, sinking the Arizona with a bomb that struck her ammunition magazine at 8:06 am local time on Dec. 7, 1941.

To make matters worse for American and their wounded pride, the armed forces of Imperial Japan soon proved that Pearl Harbor was no fluke.  In the following months Japan scored victories at Wake Island, Singapore, Burma, Bataan, Corregidor and elsewhere.  Whole Allied armies were captured, sometimes by forces inferior in number, and there seemed no let up from the onslaught.

French writer Pierre Boulle, who grew up in Southeast Asia and was caught up in the Japanese juggernaut captured the sick feelings of those who see their presumed superiority overthrown in his novel, Planet of the Apes, when he described Ulysse, his protagonist, fleeing with a group of humans before an ape hunting party:

There I was, overwhelmed by a ridiculous scruple.  Should I, a man, really resort to such tricks to get the better of an ape?  Surely the only behavior worthy of my condition was to rise to my feet, advance on the animal and give it a good beating.  The ever-increasing hullabaloo behind me reduced this mad inclination to nought.
In the opening months of the war many Westerners, like Ulysse, found themselves shamed at their incapacity to assert themselves and their superiority.  Through the months of humiliation their resentment grew until, finally, the tide of war turned against their tormentors.  When it did, racial resentment was all the stronger.

That resentment and far less subtle forms of racism permeated the war effort from the privates right up to their commander-in-chief, in ways that it did not in other theaters (though there was plenty of it there as well).  Marines, soldiers and sailors rarely took prisoners.  Often they shot unarmed soldiers who were beyond resistance and occasionally did so even to civilians.  They cut the gold fillings from battlefield casualties, collected their ears as trophies attesting to their martial prowess and carved ornaments from their bones.  Racial stereotypes were a staple of propaganda.  Even the lovable Dr. Seuss, whose other cartoons championed liberal values and attacked specific figures in other fascist regimes presented both Japanese and Japanese-Americans as despicable, traitorous subhumans, all of a kind with no personal distinctions between them.

Dr. Seuss cartoon urging the purchase of war bonds

Many Americans seemed not to see the Japanese as human at all.  Admiral William "Bull" Halsey once described his understanding of his job as "Kill Japs, Kill Japs, and Kill more Japs."  He also once boasted, "When this war is over, the Japanese language will be spoken only in hell."  While Halsey was extreme in the degree to which he gave voice to such sentiments, they were widely shared--even by those from upright and supposedly liberal backgrounds.  One advisor to the State-War-Navy Coordinating Committee (the precursor to today's NSC) suggested the annihilation of the Japanese as a race.  Elliot Roosevelt, the President's son once asserted, in all apparent earnest that he would like to see the war prosecuted until the US had destroyed about half the Japanese civilian population.  Even his father, liberal icon that he is now, corresponded with a scholar in the Smithsonian about the possibility of starting a program of eugenics in which Japanese would be bred with the supposedly more docile people of the Pacific islands in order to prevent them from exercising their war-like tendencies.


Dr. Seuss cartoon urging Americans to put aside prejudice and work together to end the war


Dr. Seuss cartoon urging that Japanese-Americans be treated as foreign hostiles.  This cartoon appeared on February 13, 1942.  Six days later President Roosevelt signed executive order 9066 authorizing the forcible removal of Japanese Americans and resident aliens from the West Coast.

Nor could there be any doubt that the animosity was racial.  The clearest example of this was the treatment of Japanese-Americans and resident aliens.  The United States was at war with a number of countries and it detained and watched American citizens who had hailed from a number of them, but only with regard to Japan was suspicion toward the enemy so great that it spurred the country to engage in what amounted to a program of ethnic cleansing in which heredity was judged sufficient grounds to remove people from their homes and force them to relocate or to be interned in concentration camps inland, hundreds of miles from their homes.

The United States Remembered Pearl Harbor all right and it was not in a forgiving mood.  When it finally got the chance to extract a measure of revenge, that revenge would be terrible indeed.

Industrial Rage

In the combat zone, that circle of the hell where, as the saying goes,
'the metal hits the meat" the United States relied much more on metal and far less on meat than any other belligerent in history.  Firepower, technology and force multiplication was the American way of warfare.  This had the undeniable advantage of saving American lives, but it was done at the cost of lowering the moral threshold to the taking of another human life just that much more.  For those on the other end of this American way of war, it seemed to be something from an altogether different reality.

One Japanese veteran of the China War recalled going into battle against the Americans for the first time.  When they first encountered a group of them, the Americans immediately broke off contact and retreated.  He recalled being astonished to find them so cowardly.  The Chinese, he recalled, had at least stood and fought.  Soon thereafter he and his comrades pursued the Americans across an open field.  Only then did he realize that the Chinese stood and fought because they had no other options.  They Americans were not so disadvantaged.  Suddenly the ground around them shook as explosions from ship-based artillery pitted the ground like the surface of the moon.  After that, the planes came looking for survivors.

Time and again Japanese facing the Americans in the latter part of the war faced the same terrible realization: their propaganda notwithstanding, a warrior's spirit was no match for a soldier's ordnance.  They were outgunned and there was nothing they could do about it.

One medic serving in the South Pacific recalled:

We were shocked when the Americans built an airstrip overnight.  We had never seen bulldozers before.  Then we saw all their warships, a fleet of transports and cruisers lined up so thick they blotted out the horizon.
Another defending Saipan remembered:
I was eating a large rice ball when I heard a voice call out, "The American battle fleet is here!"  I looked up and saw the sea completely black with them.  What looked like a large city had suddenly appeared offshore.  When I saw that, I didn't even have the strength to stand up.
Okinawan survivors of the invasion of their island recall the campaign as a "Typhoon of Steel" because the American bombardment was so thick intense and unrelenting that no other word would suffice to describe their experience.  The first encounter that many Japanese had with Americans was with the American way of war and that encounter consisted of a baptism of fire in which they were exposed to sudden incomprehensible violence so intense their first reaction was simple disbelief, a reaction that cost many of their lives as they stood for crucial moments quite simply paralyzed by terror and shock.

Of course in the most spectacular demonstrations of American industrial rage the strategic campaign of firebombing, and ultimately using nuclear weapons against Japanese cities, there was little hope that a quick reaction time could save anyone.  And so, before the war reached its appalling climax the United States had, with its bombing campaign killed between half a million and eight hundred thousand people, not even counting the servicemen it killed and it did all of this while Remembering Pearl Harbor.

Industrial rage: From The Fog of War

Forgetting Pearl Harbor

After the Bombs of August leveled Hiroshima and Nagasaki and Americans moved into Japan, both they and their unwilling hosts found to their great surprise that there was quite a lot that they liked about one another.  In part, no doubt, this process was accelerated by their joint fear of a Communist menace, but in large part the reconciliation was genuine.

After the heat of battle had ended, the passions and hatreds that were its products faded from the scene and Americans began to regain their own humanity as they recognized that of the former foes.

Jacob DeShazer, who had spent almost the entire war as a POW and suffered terrible torture (including water-boarding) found the only way he could survive was to open his soul to God.  Becoming a born-again Christian, he found his life's purpose in missionary work.  He eventually returned to Japan where he began a mission and converted one of the guards who had routinely beat him during his activity.

His activities soon caught the attention of an unlikely prospect, Fuchida Mitsuo, the pilot who had led the first wave of the attack on Pearl Harbor.  Despite his initial suspicions, Fuchida, impressed by what he regarded as DeShazer's remarkable personal qualities, converted.  With the fervor of a convert he himself became a missionary and sought to learn more about the country he had been the first Japanese to attack.  There he sought reconciliation and began a career of preaching to the Japanese American community.  In one of those historical ironies from which novelists would shy for fear it would be branded an improbable fiction, a quarter century after he led the first attack of the sneak attack, he naturalized as an American citizen.

Dr. Seuss, trying to deal with his wartime animosity toward Japan penned a story about a civilization of people just like you and I, who were about to be destroyed because others did not understand them.  His book, Horton Hears a Who, was in part a call for his countrymen to understand that the people in Japan, just like people everywhere, were, at the end of the day, people.

Near the end of his life, Robert MacNamara, who played an instrumental role in industrializing the war machine that would devastate Japan reflected on his role in designing the tactics used in the fire-bombings of Tokyo and other Japanese cities, concluding those involved in the campaign were "behaving as war criminals".

For more than 66 years now there has been a general spirit of reconciliation that recently seems to be overcoming even the most stubborn pride and prejudice.  The Japanese government has at long last, after decades of stalling, apologized American and Allied prisoners of war they had treated so horribly during the war.  Recently some of these men even traveled to Japan to discuss their ordeals and did so at Japanese expense.

When one considers this and sees Japan today, when one walks its mountain trails to its tucked-away temples, when one walks the streets in the poorest areas of its largest cities and never fears for one's safety, when one enjoys conversations and friendships with old and young alike, the tendency to look back on the war, especially when considering the undeniable racism and savagery that permeated its conduct on both sides and wonder what it was, after all, that we fought about.

Indeed aside from vengeance and hatred many of the men who fought in the war didn't really understand why.  There seemed to be no higher principle at stake.  The idea that the war wasn't about anything except three-and-a-half years of mostly pointless slaughter began to take root in some circles soon after the fighting stopped.

Norman Mailer, who himself had fought in the Pacific theater, summed up the feelings of many in his book The Naked and the Dead published in 1948.  In the book, which depicts American atrocities and ghoulish souvenir hunting, his hero Lieutenant Hearn is asked why he thinks it is that they are fighting.  Hearn responds,

I don't know, I'm not sure.  With all the contradictions, I suppose there's an objective right on our side.  That is, in Europe.  Over here, as far as I'm concerned, it's an imperialist toss up.  Either we louse up Asia or Japan does.  And I imagine our methods will be less drastic.
As time goes by that is how many have come to see the war.  Is there really anything about Pearl Harbor that should make it more memorable to the rising generation than say, the sinking of the Maine was to my own?

Isn't it about time that we considered forgetting Pearl Harbor ourselves?

Isn't it time that we considered the possibility that Mother Nature, in her majesty, may have been wise in helping us to set aside the traumas of past generations and look instead to the future?

Well, in a word, no.

The war between Japan and the United States was far more than an "imperialist toss up".

It was, to borrow a phrase, an irrepressible conflict.  It could not have been avoided.  It was a war that would have been forced on the United States no matter what she chose to do.  It was not merely a question of perspective or failure to negotiate in good faith.  It was not an avoidable diplomatic blunder.  There were two sides in the war.

On the one side was America.  That side committed egregious acts of overkill.  It allowed, even encouraged its fighting men to forget their humanity.  It indulged in racist hatred.  It did, in short, many of the things that countries at war ought not, but often do.

The other side was Imperial Japan.

It was the very heart of darkness.

Imperial Japan

By the time Imperial Japan began the Second World War in July of 1937 (1939 is a completely Euro-centric date) it had become a country that did not merely indulge in cruelty, but regarded it as a way of life.  In eight short years of rampage and excess it managed to kill more East Asians than all the Western powers had done in nearly a century of exploitation.  It was a country which sent agents into its occupied territories to enslave girls as young as twelve to serve the sexual needs of its soldiers.  It was a country whose soldier conspired with gangsters to control organized crime and vice in China and elsewhere.  It was a state that rounded up people, thousands of people, from those same China and elsewhere to use in medical experiments, and then "euthanized" the survivors.  It was a country that would allow its doctors to vivisect a pregnant woman and report coldly on the operation in its journals.  It was a country whose stated policy in the territories it conquered was "burn all, loot all, kill all."  It was a country that trained its soldiers in the use of the bayonet on civilians it rounded up from the neighboring territories.  It was a country that killed its own wounded and sick rather than let them be a burden to those who could still fight.  It was a country that abandoned large numbers of men to starvation, a fate many the survivors escaped only by eating the fallen, while forbidding them, on pain of death, to surrender to an enemy that was well-provisioned to take care of them.  It was a country that treated its captives with gut-wrenching cruelty.  During their time in captivity, they were subjected to hideous and inhuman treatment.  They were starved, beaten, denied medical treatment, marched to death, beheaded, hunted for sport, used for bayonet practice, castrated, rolled in barbed wire, vivisected, eaten, cramped in ships holds of transport vessels without adequate food or water for weeks or months at a time, herded into bunkers doused with gasoline and set ablaze, forced to work in inhuman conditions for the benefit of Japan's war efforts, and generally made to endure every kind of cruelty the twisted human psyche can devise.


Australian POW Leonard G Siffleet moments before he is executed by a Japanese soldier.

Imperial Japan was, in short, a manifest evil that could not have been appeased and had to be destroyed.

But that alone does not provide much of a lesson to be learned.  The real lessons can only be appreciated when we look at the apparent paradox of the pleasant, civilized, peaceful people that we see in Japan today and regard what their grandfathers did seventy years ago.

How did Imperial Japan become the heart of darkness?  How did a country that had essentially minded its own business for centuries, whose modern armed forces had been known for their restraint and even their humane treatment of prisoners, a country that immediately after the war would once again essentially mind its own business, a country that was just as full of decent, good-hearted people during the war as it was before and after, how could a country like that have become a manifest evil?

Most curiously, how could a state that had weathered the assault of Western imperialism better than any other and still managed to give its citizens a relatively comfortable and happy existence, have embraced savagery so completely and in such an apparently short period of time?

The Birth of Modern Japan: Turbulent Politics in a Dangerous Time

The most important thing to understand about Imperial Japan is that it was created by military men in response to the existential threat posed by the encroachment of a technologically superior civilization.

The threat they faced was real.  Japan's national existence was in danger.  

As Marius Jansen, one of the premiere scholars of Japan noted, “The outstanding intellectual and political experience in the formative years of Japan’s Restoration activists was the discovery that their society was incapable of successful resistance to the Western threat.”

Moreover, that experience was hard-won.  Most of the members of the new government had not taken Western power seriously at first.  Many of them were very young men, in their late teens and early twenties.  They were also unduly influenced by charismatic scholars and samizdat popular (and entirely fanciful) accounts of the Opium War, were essentially an East Asian version of the dolchstosslegende.  These accounts insisted that the British had been no match for the Han Chinese militias that had mustered to face them, but had prevailed only because of treacherous and corrupt Manchu officials of the Qing dynasty.

So when the bakufu (the old feudal government) acquiesced in US Commodore Matthew Perry’s to open relations in 1854, they saw unpleasant echoes of what they regarded as, in the hackneyed phrase so often uttered by those who are entirely innocent of historical knowledge, “the lessons of history”.  Five years later American Consul Townshend Harris got the bakufu to agree to an unequal treaty with some of the same obnoxious provisions as the treaty that had been forced on China after its ignominious defeat in the Opium War.  Harris did this with shrewd diplomacy and had no credible agent of coercion.  (The treaty was concluded in 1858, the year of the Lincoln-Douglas debates, and America would soon have more pressing problems than its prestige in an East-Asian backwater.)

The young men at the center of the movement regarded this as a supine capitulation and when other Western powers concluded similar treaties with Japan, all without firing a shot, they grew incensed. They set out on a campaign of direct action to overthrow the old feudal government and attack the foreigners wherever they were.  Anyone foreign, or perceived as sympathetic to foreigners, was a target for immediate assassination.  Some of these actions were planned and some were not.  Ii Naosuke, the central figure in the bakufu government was killed in a well-coordinated attack at the gates of the Shogun’s castle.  Sakuma Shozan, a noted scholar of both the Confucian tradition and Western learning was cut down in the streets of Kyoto because he was astride a horse with a Western saddle.  The shishi, or “men of spirit” were by and large hotheaded young men who spent their nights in the company of liquor and women and their days stalking scholars, interpreters, diplomats and officials--essentially anyone that met their definition of a traitor.  In one well-coordinated attack a group of shishi stormed the British legation and were repulsed only after engaging members of the legation in direct combat.


Kido Takayoshi (left) and Ito Hirobumi (right) from their days as shishi, essentially fanatic xenophobic terrorists.  Both men would become part of the new government and play a role in westernizing and modernizing their country.  Kido would eventually advocate a strict separation of civil and military power.  Ito, Kido's one-time underling and the man who would be the principal drafter of Japan's new constitution, ensured that the military would answer to no civil authority.

Their activities succeeded in destabilizing the bakufu but in their campaign to “revere the emperor and expel the barbarians” they had discovered that, to borrow a phrase from a different cultural idiom, they had been totally lied to by their album covers.  After a number of encounters in which they dealt with the full power of modern Western warships, firearms, and massed infantry tactics some of the brighter among this bunch began realizing that the barbarians were actually quite effective at their barbarism.

Rather than give up their struggle altogether, they continued to agitate against the bakufu and made strategic alliances with certain foreign nations and firms.  Now that America’s internecine bloodbath had finally ended, arms dealers suddenly found that they could purchase large numbers of only slightly obsolete firearms at firesale prices and re-sell them at quite a handsome profit.  One such deal was made and by the time the smoke had cleared Japan’s formerly anti-foreign zealots had overthrow the two-and-a-half century old Tokugawa shogunate and ensconced themselves in the center of power.

Their problem was that they still had to deal with the foreign threat and that in removing the bakufu they had set a grave and ominous precedent, namely that violence against insufficiently chauvinistic officials was nothing more or less than the will of heaven.  It was a precedent that would haunt the new state for the duration of its existence.  “Patriotic” violence became an everyday reality for officials of the new Meiji state and quite a few of them paid with life or limb for the services they tried to render their country.

By itself, this would likely not have been enough to lead Japan down the fateful road to Pearl Harbor, but the state of insecurity in which the new state found itself led some of its more influential leaders to make fatal mistakes.  These mistakes would, in time, lead to a situation in which no fewer than six of Japan’s interwar or wartime prime ministers would fall to assassins’ blades and bullets (though one became prime minister only after he survived the attempt on his life).

The largest and most fateful of these mistakes is known as the Right of Supreme Command and its institutionalization in the constitution of the new state was one of the greatest tragedies Japan, and the world at large ever suffered.

Kido Takayoshi and Yamagata Aritomo: The Indispensable Man and The Father of Japanese Militarism

James Thomas Flexner once called George Washington the indispensable man for the success of the American Revolution and it is a judgment with which I have come to concur.  However, it wasn't his actions on the battlefield that made him truly indispensable.  There were other commanders that were arguably as gifted if not more so.  The Yorktown campaign was essentially the brainchild of the French general le Comte de Rochambeau and Washington initially opposed it.  No it was not battlefield brilliance that made Washington indispensable, rather it was his integrity and his commitment to the idea that the civil and military authorities must be separate and the civil ultimately superior.  George Washington's greatest act was the resignation of his commission as commander-in-chief on Dec. 23, 1783.


John Trumball: George Washington Resigns His Command

That act was so extraordinary that no less a personage than Great Britain's King George III, upon hearing that was his intention, declared "If he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world."  Washington did do it, just as through the course of the war, he remained resolutely committed to the principle of civil supremacy, regardless of how militarily inexpedient it might be.  Intriguingly, Washington was almost universally admired among Japan's imperial extremists, but this had more to do with his personal qualities and the fact that prior to the opening to the West, Japan got most of its news about the wider world from Dutch traders, who may have colored history in Washington's favors.

The one man among Japan's founders that did seem to appreciate the importance of Washington's principles was Kido Takayoshi.  Kido, at first glance would have seemed an unlikely exponent of any Western idea, let alone that of civilian supremacy.  He was the leading figure in the extremist faction of the most extreme of Japan's feudal domains.  As a youth and young man he had been at the forefront of the shishi and he was responsible for unleashing a reign of anti-foreign terror in the feudal capital of Edo.

Moreover, he was initially an advocate of aggressive expansion, at one point demanding of his comrades, why they had worked to overthrow the bakufu if they did not intend to remedy its weak-kneed foreign policy: "If we do not aim at making Imperial prestige shine across the seas and at standing pre-eminent in the universe, how do we differ from the bakufu?"

However, like many of his peers Kido came of age rather quickly after he was put into a position of real responsibility.  Just thirty-four when the shogunate was overthrown, Kido was a member of an extraordinary mission to the West undertaken just three years after the establishment of the new government.  The embassy, whose initial purpose was to win the revision of Japan's semi-colonial status by revising the unequal treaties that had been forced on the old feudal government, soon adopted a more immediate purpose: studying the West and identifying the sources of its strength.

While all of the members of that mission proved their mental acuity by their determination to learn from the West, Kido alone came to appreciate the true source of Washington's greatness:

If I were to single out for praise the fundamental virtue in the governments of the enlightened countries it would be the established distinction between the duties of the civil and the military.
This realization led Kido to exercise his considerable prestige to quash a plan concocted by the more belligerent members of the new government.  His prestige may well have enabled him to enshrine this principle as one of the pillars of the new Japanese state had fate not intervened.  Unfortunately for Japan, and the world more generally, Japan's indispensable man grew ill and died in 1877 at the age of forty-three, well before the foundations of the new state had been established, and before he was able to convince others of the need for civil supremacy.


Kido Takayoshi and Ito Hirobumi as statesmen.  It seems of no small significance that Kido is dressed in a suit and Ito in military regalia.

After Kido's passing, the job of constructing the new state fell upon a new generation of leaders.  The one most responsible for shaping its new constitution would be Kido's former underling, Ito Hirobumi.  By the time Ito was assigned the task of heading up a team to draft a new constitution, Kido was fondly remembered as a friend and comrade-in-arms, but his ideas died with him.  Ito did not share Kido's commitment to civilian control.  (In fact, almost no one in Japan did.  When, after the Second World War, the Far Eastern Commission insisted on a provision that all ministers of state be civilians, a special committee had to be established to translate the word "civilian" because the concept was so alien to Japan's experience.  To this day, aside from a few scholars, civilian control is not generally understood in Japan and when it is discussed, most people use the English loan word "civilian control".)  Moreover, the general enthusiasm for Western liberalism that had dominated public affairs in the 1870s was fading fast.  Ito would use a Western model for the new state, but it would be that of Germany, where civilian control was not firmly established and where the lack of that principle would help to lead Germany into the disaster of the First World War.

Ito was no militarist, but neither was he a committed liberal.  When it came time to write the new constitution he would, partly on the insistence of his long-time comrade and rival, Yamagata Aritomo, work to insure that the new state was not subject to the whims of corrupt politicians.  The Army, Yamagata insisted, must be above politics.  The unfortunate result of this was two articles in the new constitution that effectively guaranteed that both the Army and the Navy would be beyond the control of politicians, but, alas, very far from apolitical.


Yamagata Aritomo, chief architect of Japan's modern army and bureaucracy

These articles, which collectively comprise the Right of Supreme Command, read as follows:

Article 11. The Emperor has the supreme command of the Army and Navy.

Article 12. The Emperor determines the organization and peace standing of the Army and Navy.

Taken together, what these articles guaranteed was that Japan's Prime Minister had no direct control over the military.  Although, in theory the emperor would retain control over his military, in practice the Japanese emperor, though not the total figurehead portrayed in postwar propaganda, rarely involved himself directly in military affairs.  In practice what this meant was that the military answered to no one but itself.

Yamagata, still not satisfied that meddling politicians would not gum up the works later insisted on the establishment of a particularly pernicious law that required both the Army and Navy Ministers to be active duty members of the services they represented.  As the power to appoint and dismiss ministers was reserved to the emperor, the Prime Minister could not dismiss a service minister obnoxious to his purposes nor could he appoint a replacement in the event that one resigned.  Thus, because the ministers were active duty members of the military and under military discipline, either service could topple a cabinet by ordering the minister to resign and refusing to appoint a replacement.

The military thus had an effective veto over the selection of prime minister and could topple any cabinet whenever it chose.

Yamagata had established military supremacy in Japan.

Taisho Democracy or Government By Assassination?

The period immediately following the First World War is seen by many scholars as one of increasing liberalization and cultural efflorescence.  This view has much to recommend it.  It ushered in some of the most enduring literature Japan has to offer.  It was driven with the energy of a traditional society trying to come to terms with modernity.  It was a period of extraordinary openness to the outside world.  In addition it was marked by a spirit of cooperation on the international stage.  Moreover, for the first time popularly elected politicians were appointed to lead the government.  Indeed if it had not been for some unfortunate developments, economic downturn and rural immiseration most salient among them, Japan may well have embarked on a gradual development into something very much like it is today.

However, it was also the period in which the inherent defects of the young state began coming prominently to the fore.

Despite the shaky foundations on which the new state was built, in practice it functioned rather well for the first few decades of its existence.  This was in large part due to the fact that modern Japan's founding fathers, despite being hothead in their youths, matured into sober, reflective and insightful statesmen.  Moreover, despite sometimes rancorous disagreement, they managed to identify areas of agreement and to work reasonably well together.  They had, in fact, pulled off one of the most remarkable feats in recorded history, taking a semi-feudal and tradition-bound backwater and remaking it as one of the world's great powers in the span of their lives.

Their principal failure was that they had do so by constructing a state that relied on their personal supervision.  They had failed to create a system which could outlast them.

The inherent defects of the system would not become clear until they had passed from the scene.  When they did it gradually became clear that the next generation of Japanese leaders lacked both the prestige and capacity to govern an increasingly complex society with the same efficacy as their mentors.

The Imperial Japanese government had come to power through patriotic violence which was dedicated to preserving the prerogatives and dignity of the manifest deity that led their country.  As such, it was impossible for them to completely delegitimize violence committed in the name of the Emperor.  Political violence had been a plague on the new system from its inception, but in the exuberant chaos of the Taisho Democracy its severity and impact grew apace.

While many of Japan's common people may have been enjoying a renewed love affair with internationalism, many in Japan's military were not.  They remained steadfastly committed to a vigorous and expansionist foreign policy.  As such, they, or those acting in the name of their interests undermined much of the liberal spirit of the new age almost from the moment of its inception.

The Right of Supreme Command came back with a vengeance as hard-liners in the military developed a pernicious doctrine, namely that the civilian authorities in Japan's government not only had no right to interfere in any military decisions, but that doing so represented an affront to the prerogatives of the august sovereign.  Put simply, any substantive attempt to control the military was nothing less than an act of lese-majeste, of treason.

Radical officers and ultra-nationalist activists began to see it as their patriotic duty to eliminate those who would so offend the honor of their monarch and nation.

As a result, during this period of "democracy" no fewer than three of the men who served as Prime Minister would fall to "patriotic" assassins.  Both the first ministry and the last would end violently.  Assassination would end this brief flirtation of liberalism and it would continue to be a factor until the end of the war.  In all five men who had served as Premier would die in this fashion.  A sixth, who was shot and left for dead, would recover to lead his country into peace.  


Prime Ministers who were victims of militarist violence: From top left, Hara Takashi, assassinated in office 1921; Hamaguchi Osamu, shot in office 1928, died after a six month struggle;  Inukai Tsuyoshi assassinated in office 1932;  Bottom Row, from left: Takahashi Korekiyo, assassinated while later serving as Finance Minister 1936;  Saito Makoto, assassinated while serving as the Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal, the Emperor’s chief advisor; Suzuki Kantaro, shot and left for dead in 1936 while serving as Grand Chamberlain, he would later become Prime Minister in 1945 and oversee Japan’s surrender.

In short every man in public life in Japan understood in a visceral manner that he was putting his life in jeopardy every time he urged conciliation or moderation.

Prime Minister Konoe Fumimaro, the man who served as Prime Minister at the time Japan began the Second World War, made specific reference to the need to appease radical elements in explaining his decision to take a hard line with China.

Even Yamamoto Isoroku, the chief architect of the Pearl Harbor attack and, for a time, the biggest villain in America, was once the object of a plot of such young patriots.  There was no one with whom America could deal in Japan, because no one had the power to enforce his decisions and moderation might well cost him his life.  As a result, a policy of continuing aggression became inevitable.  That simple fact would not change until Douglas MacArthur debarked at Atsugi air base at the conclusion of the most destructive war the world has ever known.


Yamamoto Isoroku as he appeared in an American propaganda poster that inaccurately portrays him as a mindless jingoist.  Yamamoto was the most reviled of all Axis military commanders and the only one the United States assassinated during the war.

The insecurities of Japan's founders ultimately caused them to create an inherently aggressive state that could not control the nationalist passions of its most radical elements.  That failure was the principal reason that Imperial Japan became a manifest evil that could not be appeased.  That failure was the principal reason that war between Japan and the United States became inevitable.

So what are the lessons of Pearl Harbor?  Why should we remember Pearl Harbor?

While one should always be wary of over-simplifying complex historical occurrences, no matter how iconic they have become, these are the lessons that I take away.

First, the lessons of Pearl Harbor are inseparable from the lessons of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  In the long run Pearl Harbor was a much bigger disaster for Japan than it was for America.

Second, though the causes of that disaster were manifold we can identify some which were necessary and fundamental, rather than merely contributing.

Third the greatest single cause of that disaster was the failure to establish firm civilian control over the military.

Forth, was the widespread acceptance of patriotic violence and the feeling that spurred it, namely that it is more important that foreign policy be muscular than that it be wise.

When you think of the disaster of Pearl Harbor, recall the neglected wisdom of Kido Takayoshi:

If I were to single out for praise the fundamental virtue in the governments of the enlightened countries it would be the established distinction between the duties of the civil and the military.
Reflect on the true reasons for Washington's greatness.

Know that any nation that fails to keep sacrosanct the principle of civil supremacy has already sown the seeds of its own destruction and will inevitably come to ruin.

So, the next time someone says to you that it is a good thing that the military be given authority over civilians of a certain class, the next time someone suggests that military strength must always take precedent over the creation of a strong civil society with a robust education system and effective social safety net, the next time someone urges the need to increase the government’s powers of surveillance or the military’s ability to act without constraint, the next time someone disparages targeted foreign aid as foolish idealistic charity, the next time some idiotic politician or pundit refers to the President of the United States as “our commander-in-chief” rather than the commander in chief of our armed forces, look them straight in the eye reply with three simple words:

 “Remember Pearl Harbor.”

Originally posted to journeyman on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 05:48 AM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  The anti-New Dealers (10+ / 0-)

    ...were largely isolationists didn't want us involved in the fight against fascism. They pretty much had to shut up after Pearl Harbor. Seems like they would rather have forgotten Pearl Harbor.

    The Birchers, coming along in the 1950s, were also isolationist.

  •  Holy Crap (33+ / 0-)

    What excellent work. As I was reading I'm thinking but, but, but what about and then you've addressed it. I only got about 2/3 through before I had to stop and say this is exceptional work. Will save this diary.

    music- the universal language

    by daveygodigaditch on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 06:26:25 AM PST

    •  Thanks. (12+ / 0-)

      That means a lot.  I put way more work into this than I ought to have and was afraid no one would see it.

      History is won by the writers.

      by journeyman on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 07:00:57 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  "Fair and Balanced", really! (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

            When I saw the familiar and grotesque racist representations used frequently in U.S. propoganda up front in the diary, my thought was "oh,no. Its a' We were mean to the Japanese and shouldn't have made them glow in the dark and we only did that because we're racists'" theme. In fact, the Japanese military was a brutal foe that due to cultural and historic reasons (Bushido warrior's code, emperor as deity, short man's disease, etc.) had to be killed cuz they were not surrrendering. I was pleased to see that the Japanese atrocities and barbarism were pointed out, though perhaps not extensively enough. Nanking calling...

      •  I'm saving this diary too- (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        anyway on Hulu there's a Japanese anime called 'The Sky Crawlers' that has some deep thinking about war, good to see from Japan. I wish we could do the same.

      •  wow (6+ / 0-)

        you are a wonderful writer of history.
        I am not a good reader but you had me spell bound.

        I know very little about history however I have seen some of Akira Kurosawa's film focusing on Samurai culture and also the Kabuki Theater from Japan with stories focusing on the soft, wise outsider who stands for justice and kindness not military might.

        So with very little knowledge of the history, I have believed that as in all cultures, there exists this dichotomy among people, with shades of gray in between.

        Your insight that international power imbalances underpinned the unfortunate circumstances where in Japan those who believed in war rose to the top of the government was brilliant and sad at the same time.  

        International law to protect against these imbalances might be a goal to strive for?
        I don't understand the thirst for power on a conscious level....
        An example of it that is running through my head was from the comments made about Newt Gingrich by E.J Dionne - that people have said about Newt that when he is out of power he's an interesting and agreeable guy but when he gets some power his head seems to become inflated with helium and he turns mean and very aggressive.

        That may or may not be relevant here but I wish to believe that regardless of where people are from, no matter what country or culture, they cannot be or perhaps should not be stereotyped so your Dr. Seuss cartoons were both fascinating and very troubling given my once admiration for this children's author.

        Thank you for a fascinating history. Extremely well written.

      •  Absolutely fantastic (4+ / 0-)

        I've read a number of good diaries, but this one makes it into the "greatest hits of dailykos" if I am editor.

        Intelligent, passionate, perceptive people will always disagree, but we should not let that disagreement, however heartfelt, lead us to become deaf to those better angels of our nature.

        by Mindful Nature on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 03:51:28 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Indeed (11+ / 0-)

      A fitting and excellent remembrance of this horrible day in the midst of a tragic period of human history.

      The rise of Imperial Japan is especially excellent - and just to put an exclamation point on the totality of the period's militarization, even the atomic bombs alone didn't seal the surrender, it would take a coup/near-coup, Soviet troops storming into Manchuria, and a couple back-and-forths over peace terms before the bloodshed of WWII would finally be stopped.

      This is much more worthy of the time to read than anything you'll find in today's paper or watch on cable TV tonight...

      Full Disclosure: I am an unpaid shill for every paranoid delusion that lurks under your bed - but more than willing to cash any checks sent my way

      by zonk on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 07:09:31 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Tipped, recced, and hotlisted. (6+ / 0-)

    Fog of War is excellent. Regarding the actual attack at Pearl it seems doubtful that Prange was wrong in any significant detail.

  •  Powerful, well-written, (5+ / 0-)

       ...intense. Thanks, this diary has it all! Well done!

    Best, Hoghead99

    Compost for a greener piles?

    by Hoghead99 on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 07:03:05 AM PST

  •  Fairly safe to say Pearl Harbor doesn't get this (10+ / 0-)

    much detailed attention in most schools public or private. And that's a shame.

    Thanks very much for an outstanding post.

    Ds see human suffering and wonder what they can do to relieve it. Rs see human suffering and wonder how they can profit from it.

    by JTinDC on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 07:10:58 AM PST

  •  Great diary. I see you've read "Dr. Seuss Goes... (5+ / 0-)

    to War."

    Is that where the reference to the motivation for "Horton Hears a Who" comes from?

    Art is the handmaid of human good.

    by joe from Lowell on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 07:22:21 AM PST

    •  Dr. Seuss Goes to War (8+ / 0-)

      an excellent book!  And it captures very well the racial zeitgeist of the early 40's.  Theodore Geisel was a bit ahead of his time with race relations.  He wrote no few cartoons about the evils and counterproductivity of racial discrimination in the war effort; be it through segregation of the military or labor and hiring discrimination on the home front.  One particular comic drove this point home by showing a concert pianist being heckled by a member of the crowd: "If you want the song to sound right, you've gotta play the black keys too!".

      But even a forward-thinking and socially conscious man like Geisel couldn't move past his own racism against the Japanese and even Japanese Americans.  An interesting paradox, but not entirely difficult to understand given the times.

  •  Many details I hadn't known before. One addendum: (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    70 years of lying about Pearl Harbor

    Also informative and well worth the effort of looking beyond the provocative title.

    48forEastAfrica - Donate to Oxfam The Dutch kids' chorus Kinderen voor Kinderen wishes all the world's children freedom from hunger, ignorance, and war.

    by lotlizard on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 07:31:17 AM PST

  •  On Sunday morning, December 7th, (29+ / 0-)

    I was reading a book; I think it was a Big Little Book, when the news of the Pearl Harbor attack came over the radio.  I had no idea where Pearl Harbor was nor did anyone in my immediate family.  From the tails told by the Military people I served with our Army was in pathetic condition in 1941.  Some Infantry units did not even have rifles but drilled with wooden sticks.   I was ordered to Europe in late 44 and got as far as England when that war ended.  I was in New York City on my way to the Pacific when VJ day occurred.  I went to Time Square.  The Japanese girl I married in 1952 was working in a munitions factory at that time and practicing a couple of hours a day with a bamboo spear to fend off the enemy when they arrived.  She was 13 years old in 1945.  Had it not been for the induction of the CCC boys, we would have been in very difficult shape.  The idea that war is a glorious enterprise is complete horse shit, it’s an atrocity.  I retired from Military service in 1967,          

    •  Thank you for your service (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
    •  Amazing that the "pathetic" or (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Egg, Calamity Jean

      peacetime US Army and US Pacific Naval fleet that was decimated at Pearl Harbor in 1941 managed(with the considerable USSR military forces) to defeat two highly industrialized military nations in less than five years.  Yet, being continuously mobilized at great cost since then and the only wars we can find to fight last twice as long and no V-day ever comes.  

    •  Pearl Harbor Survivor once removed (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JFinNe, journeyman, johanus, dougymi, raines

      My dad (nicknamed "PeeWee" during his service for his 5' 6" stature and weight of 110 lbs dripping wet) was 17 years old and first in Pearl Harbor on December 5.  He had dropped out of high school and joined the Navy in October 1941.

      He was taken off of his ship (USS Salt Lake City) on December 6 and assigned to shuttle duty on the 40' launches that ran sailors from the ship to shore and back again.  His ship steamed out of the Harbor to anchor 200 miles out. . . the navy didn't want to risk having all their ships in the harbor.

      My dad was shuttling sailors to chapel with two other crewmen on Sunday morning December 7 when the attack commenced.  He spent the first two hours pulling oil soaked survivors from the water and the next 14 hours pulling bodies out and stacking them like cordwood on the beach.

      He spent the next 4 1/2 years on the Salt Lake City and participated in 13 of the 14 major Pacific battles.  He casually told me of his hatred for the "Japs" whenever he talked about the war.  He and his shipmates machine-gunned 300 Japanese sailors looking for rescue from the water after the the Salt Lake City had sunk their destroyer.  He had over 100 shipmates killed during the many battles.  He was informed during the war that his two favorite cousins had been killed during the Batan Death March in the Phillipines (one from dysentary, one from beheading).  He thought the U.S. should have dropped 5 atomic bombs instead of just 2.

      His reactions were totally personal.  He loved the fighting.  He hated the Navy (taking orders was never very big with him).  He rolled up his uniform and affects and threw them in the trash when he was mustered out in 1946.  I came to value and understand his views even though I vehemently argued with him from my abstracted view (especially about the bomb).

      He swore he would never buy anything Japanese.  He loved his Toyota Avalon that he bought in 1992 shortly after attending the 50th anniversary of Pearl Harbor in Hawaii (he had previously refused invitations to go with my family, saying "I've already seen it.").  His grandson still drives his car and we're allowed to keep his "Pearl Harbor Survivor" license plate (he passed in 2005).

      This is how I "Remember Pearl Harbor."

      the fact that you're right is nothing more than interesting

      by Egg on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 11:05:45 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  This comment was sent-in .... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      deha, journeyman

      .... to the Top Comments diary tonight.

      "We should pay attention to that man behind the curtain."

      by Ed Tracey on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 07:04:46 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  About the attack on Pearl Harbor (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    journeyman, radarlady, Plubius

    The U.S. had broken Japanese codes weeks if not months before the attack and had sent out alerts across the world that an attack by Japan was going to be real and be prepared for the pending event, where ever it occurred.  The message was wired to (was it the navy or the army?) in Pearl Harbor, but because of the friction between army and navy commanding officers, it was only delivered by an aide on a bicycle during the attack itself.  Neither the army nor the navy was prepared.

    That aside, this learned article is worthy of posting all over the web, as you have clearly done massive research on the subject.  

    •  IIRC (7+ / 0-)

      There were a number of warnings dispatched due to suspicious cable traffic as well as activities in the embassy in Washington.  There were, I believe, at least two messages sent out that were labeled war warning.  Kimmel's defense about these messages was that they did not mention Hawaii and he did not want to do anything provocative.  He did take anti-sabotage protocols.

      Because the army (or navy) cable was down on the morning of the seventh when the last bit of the Japanese message was received and decoded, Marshall (again IIRC) ordered the message sent by commercial service.

      The message probably would not have been received in time to make a material difference, but it was further delayed because the delivery boy was a Japanese-American and the measures taken against sabotage meant that he was delayed at the gate of the base until his identity could be confirmed.

      One thing many people don't know is that Japan had a code-breaking operation of its own and was reading the traffic coming out of Washington to the home embassies of other countries.  The State Department was initially considering a more lenient reply to the Japanese demands for concessions.  Having been apprised of this the peace faction in Tokyo (including Foreign Minister Togo Shigenori, who would be instrumental in bringing the war to an end) despaired when they got a much firmer response from Washington than their own decrypts had led them to expect.  At that point he threw his lot in with those pushing for war.  He would later die in jail for having made that decision, but had he not he probably would have been assassinated in 1941.

      History is won by the writers.

      by journeyman on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 09:02:06 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Not true, JFinNe (5+ / 0-)

      The Japanese codes weren't broken until May of 1942 when a fabricated message was sent from the US airfield on Midway Island dealing with a broken water pump.  When the Japanese acknowledged this in code, it confirmed the last variable in its breakdown.

      The pieces were now in place for their long slide to defeat, beginning at the battle of Midway.

      "I'd like to thank spiritplumber and LieparDestin for fixing oopsaDaisy's computer who can tip, recc, and hotlist now. I tried but couldn't do it despite her constantly foulmouthing me, so thanks U two." -God

      by oopsaDaisy on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 09:58:46 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Actually I think those were different codes. (7+ / 0-)

        The "Purple" diplomatic code was broken at the time of Pearl Harbor.

        The Naval code, IIRC JN25, was still partially unbroken until just before Midway.

        History is won by the writers.

        by journeyman on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 10:19:46 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  "Did FDR deliberately precipitate WWII?" (0+ / 0-)

          was the question for my then boyfriend's Senior Seminar in college.  This was way before computers, but our small college had many resouces accumulated over the years on this topic, so the research was fantastic for the senior history majors.  I was neither a senior nor a history major, but I could type, and boyfriend couldn't, so it was a major learning experience for me as well.  The question was if FDR sat on the broken codes, including learning about many Japanese invasions into other countries, did that lead us into the war?  In some circles, the question is still being argued today.

          •  Umm,No he didn't. (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Plubius, TofG

             " In some circles" Dealey Plaza was jam-packed with Castro hit men, Mafia chieftans, CIA operatives, Oswald doubles, rogue Dallas cops and the irate husbands of all the skanks banged by JFK.
                 FDR did not need the battleships destroyed nor 2,300 men killed to "drag" us into the war. The mere attack on our ships and forces was an act of war and he would have gotten his war if we had knocked every damn Zero out of the sky and launched a counter- strike against Japanese carriers from our carriers that were out at sea. This theory of leaving the fleet wholly unprepared while having knowledge of an imminent attack on Pearl on or about December 7 (versus all the "noise" in the transmissions that something was going down somewhere soon) makes no sense.
                 It makes less sense in light of FDR's unwaivering "Europe First" strategy he followed until the day he died.

          •  In some circles (0+ / 0-)

            people believe the earth is less than 10.000 years old.

          •  The question is NOT being argued. It was, and is, (0+ / 0-)

            a fantasy of right wing propaganda. There is zero proof of such nonsense. And btw, if the U.S. had known the navy/air force could have attacked the IJN carriers and zeros as they were approaching Pearl harbor. It would still have been an act of aggression by the Japanese.

      •  We should also remember that both army and navy (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        were at the time, in a peace time stance. Certainly in Hawaii they had to be careful not to appear too threatening. Also, the number of fatalities was astoundingly low for such a devastating attack; something that would probably not have been true if the Navy and Army were at wartime strength.

        After studying this for forty years, it's my opinion that the only two warnings that were specific enough to predict the attack would happen was the encounter of a destroyer with a minisub, and the suspicious signals on an army experimental radar device.

        Both of those came too late to do much of anything in the way of response.

        Should Kimmel have been more diligent in protecting his ships? How? Conventional wisdom was that you protected your ships by keeping them in a safe harbor. The idea that planes small enough to be flown off a carrier could wreak havoc on battleships was hardly accepted anywhere.

        Given the man's time and place, I find it hard to find fault; but then I don't give much credence to all the theories about how much warning they had, the conspiracies about getting us into the war, etc.  There's no documentation to support them.

  •  Should probably mention... (3+ / 0-)

    ...that the Soviets had as much if not more to do with Japan's ultimate surrender than the Americans.

    •  The firebombing of Tokyo with conventional bombs (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      radarlady, JayBat, Marie, mookins, TofG

      ...killed more than the atomic weapons used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

      That's not to diminish the horror of nuclear weapons, but the government of Japan considered to learn to live with atomic strategic bombing to continue the war.

      It was when the Soviets took Manchuria that really was the impetus to agree to unconditional surrender.

      •  Actually, I think the Americans on Okinawa had (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Geekesque, TofG

        more to do with it than that. The USSR was a tiny player in the pacific that did little to tip the balance.

      •  Chronology does not determine causality (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        International Progressive

        Manchuria fell so rapidly because Japan was already hollow by that time. Saying the USSR contributed more to Japan's defeat is like saying the 12th man on an NBA team won the game, because his only shot of the game went in at the buzzer during a 120-80 blowout.

      •  The Soviets were of little consequence in Japan's (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        International Progressive

        surrender. In 1943 1944, when it looked like a major invasion of the home islands was necessary, Russia's involvement was important to reduce American casualties, but by mid-1945 it wasn't needed, and Manchuria wasn't essential to ending the war. Just as well for Japan, since it might have been occupied like post war Germany was.

        •  I misspoke (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Of course Americans did the brunt of the fighting against Japan.  I probably should have qualified my post with a more detailed explanation for what I meant to say.

          I was influenced by another article I had read years ago that made the case that the dramatic effect of the atomic bombs on Japan overshadowed traditional bombing methods and the conventional fighting by American military forces.

          But when the Soviets broke the non-aggression pact with Japan and took Manchuria, that was the straw that broke the camel's back.  They were barely holding their own against the Americans to their East, and now they would have to contend against the Soviets on their West.

          •  My attempt at over-simplification. (0+ / 0-)

            Downfall get getting delayed. It probably would not have happened until 1946. Wiki points out--not sure if it's true but I've heard it before--that Soviets had plans to invade Hokkaido by the end of 1945. Even if Downfall had gone off in 1945 at the planned time, the Japanese had planned to throw the majority of their defenses against the Americans leaving little left to use against the Soviets.

            From Japan's point of view Manchuria made them think about whether they would prefer surrendering to the Americans or the Russians. Which is why I say that the actual impetus to surrender was driven by the Soviets, especially when you only compare it to the effects of the atom bombs as opposed to other western allied operations in the Pacific.

    •  Uh, no. Japan was ready to surrender when the (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      journeyman, Geekesque, Marcus Graly

      USSR finally entered the was, just in time to claim two islands from the Japanese homeland.

      The USSR's attention, properly, was to the existential threat the Nazis posed on their European frontier. But entering the pacific war just days before the surrender cannot be said to have contributed to that war effort at all.

      •  I don't know about that. (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        T100R, Plubius, the fan man, zonk, TofG

        I think that there has long been a tendency of some of those on the left to give too much credit to the USSR (usually ignoring the fact that more noncombatants died as a result of the Soviet intervention than did because of the bombs) and downplay the significance of the bombs.  It always sort of confuses me as to why, if the bombs had no effect, they were then such a transcendental atrocity.

        That said, I think the Soviet intervention was certainly a contributing factor.

        Was it sufficient to force a surrender?  I don't think so.

        Was it necessary?  I'm less sure here, but again, I don't think so.

        However, it certainly added to the atmosphere of crisis that helped the peace faction to push surrender through.  But my guess is that they may have been more concerned with reports that Tokyo was the next atomic target than they were with the still distant Soviets.

        History is won by the writers.

        by journeyman on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 12:07:31 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I don't think it was any one thing.... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          journeyman, TofG

          ....that caused the surrender.

          After Tojo resigned (Summer, 1944), the Japanese War Cabinent started to feature some more pragmatic voices (instead of the fatalistic war mongers dominating the entire discussion)

          The XXth Air Forces conventional bombing campaign played a part as did the USN's submarine warfare program (as mentioned, the Japanese lost her shipping fleet meaning that whatever war booty left in the South Seas was pointless....they couldn't ship the raw materials back to the Home Islands.)

          The use of the Bomb plus the rapid advance of the Red Army in Manchuria sealed the deal.

          Fantstic piece of work.  Rec'd and saved in my 'Favorites' for further reading

          I got yer 'pony'.....RIGHT HERE (don't ask what I did with the 'unicorn.')

          by jds1978 on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 02:10:28 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  The war had long since been lost. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            The fire raids and the sub campaign were certainly a lange part of that, but I think the big question was when those with the wisdom to know that would wrest control from the hard-liners.  I think the bombs and the Soviet intervention made it possible for them to do just that.

            History is won by the writers.

            by journeyman on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 02:32:08 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  The Japanese radioed offers of surrender weeks (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              before the Soviet declaration of war. Truman turned down the first and ignored the second, because they were requests to negotiate a surrender, but the US had long before demanded unconditional, full surrender.

              I think if anything collapsed the militant opposition to peace, it was the bomb at Hiroshima, though many denied that just one bomb could do that. It was right after the Nagasaki bomb that MacArthur accepted their surrender on behalf of the US.

              I've never been a fan of criticizing Truman for the use of the bomb. He was facing the loss of more than 100,000 soldiers if he had to invade Japan, and he wanted to avoid that. To him, it was just a bigger bomb.

              But I'll say it one more time: the Soviets didn't even enter the equation. While the US had been begging them to enter the Pacific war since the start of Germany's collapse, they dithered until the last minute. The Japanese were beaten already.

              •  The Japanese were beaten after Midway (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                TofG, fidel

                The question was under what terms a peace could be reached.  

                On that question, they didn't dither.  They were dead-locked: The Supreme War Council was split 3 -3, with Anami simply refusing surrender while Japan still had 3 million soldiers in China.  

                There was no 'they' to dither.    The military simply did what it wished, and the civilians could do nothing. There simply was no mechanism to change that, to compel Anami et al to do what they did not wish.

                This was how the war started.   It was how the war ended.

                It was the same problem: why we fought them and why we decided to invade them and restructure their society.

              •  They most certainly entered the equation (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                I think it's a question of degree.

                The Japanese had been heavily working diplomatic channels with Moscow all throughout the summer of 45 -- and were fairly shocked when the Soviets invaded, and also lost nearly their entire Kwantung Army in the opening advances of the attack.  

                The Red Army's advance into Manchuria actually covered more miles in a shorter amount of time than the Nazi invasion into Russia -- if memory serves, they took nearly half a million prisoners in the course of about a week and a half.

                I'm not at all lauding the Soviets -- Stalin just wanted to get his chess pieces in place in the east before it was over -- but the Japanese Army in particular was rife with radical elements that were quite willing to go to suicidal lengths to avoid an unconditional surrender... The Manchurian invasion didn't necessarily change their minds - but I think it did convince enough of the IJA that their situation was hopeless... that they were soon going to lose all of the territory they still held on mainland Asia... and that the Soviets/Stalin - who remember, had pretty much crushed the Japanese army in a couple of late 30s skirmishes before the Soviet-Japanese non-aggression pact - weren't going to be deterred into a negotiated surrender like they believed the Americans would because the casualties got too high.

                I'm not saying it was 50% or even 30% of the equation... but I think it played a measurable and significant part in ensuring that Hirohito's speech is broadcast and the surrender signed.

                Full Disclosure: I am an unpaid shill for every paranoid delusion that lurks under your bed - but more than willing to cash any checks sent my way

                by zonk on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 05:16:49 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

              •  I'm sorry, but this is not true (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                As I have demonstrated here, Japan was nowhere close to surrender before August 6.

                History is won by the writers.

                by journeyman on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 05:54:50 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  I've not read any of the reports on the inner (0+ / 0-)

                  workings of the Japanese government, so I will yield to superior knowledge; I do know there are reports of the US recieving radio transmissions requesting peace negotiations, which Truman ignored. Those reports may not be accurate; I've not bothered to source them. I do agree that the military was not ready to surrender even the day after the first bomb.

                  The main point I was arguing, which you support, was that the Soviets didn't enter the war until the very end and, therefore, had no real role in the Pacific war. Their only role was to take the islands that Japan now wants back (the Kurile Islands?).

                  The victory in the pacific was really ours and Australia. The "island hopping" strategy proved successful. The Soviets had no part of it.

                  Wait, I'm repeating myself. But thank you for the response to my comment.

                  •  You are correct that there were some (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:

                    diplomatic initiatives seeking to attain a settlement of the war in the summer of 1945, but these have to be distinguished from a "surrender" offer because either they lacked official backing or they had no real substance to them.  American intelligence did intercept and decrypt some of these messages, but their conclusion concerning them is that they did not represent a serious effort with any chance of achieving success even within Japan.  Their analysis was, I believe, fundamentally correct.

                    I agree with you about the United States having the main role and Australia certainly played an outsized role in the war considering the size of its population, manufacturing base, and economy.

                    Also, I agree that the Soviets did not play as much of a role as many people seem to think.

                    At any rate, thanks once again for taking the time to read my diary and thanks for sharing your thoughts.  I quite enjoyed our exchange and I hope you did as well.

                    History is won by the writers.

                    by journeyman on Thu Dec 08, 2011 at 02:26:09 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

        •  I don't know... (0+ / 0-)

          As you note - the Tokyo firebombings actually produced higher casualties than the atomic bombs, and elements of the Japanese Army in particular were prepared to fight to the point of utter extinction.

          The Soviet's storming into Manchuria -- and even after the Potsdam acceptance with conditions followed by a week of back-and-forthers, the Soviets were absolutely rampaging -- was actually what gave the realists the upper hand in finally suppressing the madness of Anami and others.

          The Japanese still held large swaths of Asia - and while they lacked any transport and industrial capacity at that point to make use of it, there were definitely those who felt that they could at least use that for a face saving settlement rather than unconditional surrender.

          Remember, too -- before the US Island hopping campaign, it had been the Soviets in the late 30s border war that really scared the Japanese... Early Zhukov utterly overwhelming and crushing the Japanese 6th army at Khalkhin Gol had led the Japanese to insist on having no part of the Red Army after Danzig.  

          Both certainly played their role -- and I'm not coming at this from any "give the USSR credit in the east" perspective (in fact, the Soviets kept right on rolling even after the peace accords were done... they were no heroes in that regard -- Stalin just wanted to get his pawns set in the east even as his curtain was descending in the west), but I just have to wonder... even after the 2nd bombing - the cabinet was still split, and there was the officer's coup that very nearly was able to prevent Hirohito's 'endure the unendurable' speech.

          If the Red Army wasn't rampaging on mainland Asia and they took enormous chunks of ground quicker than the German blitzkrieg had done so in the early 40s (if memory serves, they had even captured the puppet emperor in matter of days) -- does Hata not decide to throw in the towel?  Does Hatanaka succeed in winning more higher up allies?  Does Tanaka either decide not to convince the officer's coup to leave the palace -- or -- is he unsuccessful?

          Full Disclosure: I am an unpaid shill for every paranoid delusion that lurks under your bed - but more than willing to cash any checks sent my way

          by zonk on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 05:07:17 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  This is how I see it (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            fidel, TofG, raines

            It's a bit like a situation where a man wakes to find his bed empty.  He then finds a note on the kitchen table from his wife informing him that she has decided to leave him.  Staggering into work in a daze he is greeted by his boss with the news that he is fired.  Later that day, while he is drowning his sorrows at the local watering hole, the bartender asks him what the problem is.  After the man tells him, the bartender asks, "So are you depressed because your wife left you, or is it because you lost your job?"

            It doesn't seem a particularly fruitful line of inquiry to me.

            That allowed, I am confident that the Soviets had nothing to do with suppressing the coup.  It was a question of what constituted loyalty to the nation and the emperor.  The fanatics had their definition and the loyalists had theirs.  The Soviets had nothing to do with it.

            Moreover, there is evidence that the move for surrender began prior to the Soviet declaration of war.  On August 7, Foreign Minister Togo met with Hirohito in private conference.  Although we have no record of this meeting, we do know that Togo later told an associate that the Emperor had instructed him to begin exploring a peace settlement along the lines of the Potsdam Declaration.  Admittedly, this is not first hand testimony, but we also know that the Foreign Ministry began burning their records on that day, before the Soviet declaration of war.  To me, the evidence seems pretty clear that, though it was certainly a contributing factor and helped, as one member of the peace faction later put it, "make things go smoothly", that it was likely neither a necessary nor sufficient condition to end the war.

            History is won by the writers.

            by journeyman on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 05:50:33 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

    •  Um, no. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Geekesque, Marcus Graly

      The Soviets did not war upon japan until August 1945. It is ludicrous to suggest the Soviets had as much as the US WRT to defeat of Japan. By 1945 Japan was starving, out of fuel and metal. Her navy and more importantly, her fleets of cargo ships were sunk. Japan was defeated long before a single Soviet soldier entered that war.

      The Soviets did a lot more fighting against German than the USA, but that does not apply to Japan.

    •  If you ignore the first 42 months of the war. eom (0+ / 0-)

      "[R]ather high-minded, if not a bit self-referential"--The Washington Post.

      by Geekesque on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 01:40:52 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  No. The Soviets were of no consequence to the (0+ / 0-)

      Japanese surrender. Earlier FDR wanted Russia in because it looked like major attacks on Manchuria and the home islands would be called for but, as it happened, that was not required. Fortunately for Japan, since there would probably have been a divided Japan, like post-war Germany.

  •  Wow, outstanding piece! (5+ / 0-)

    Perceptive, and fine analysis. Thanks for this.

    Hotlisted for reference.

    "I mean, it -- I mean -- and I tell somebody, I said, just because you have a group of scientists that have stood up and said here is the fact, Galileo got outvoted for a spell." -- Rick Perry, 9/7/11

    by Senor Unoball on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 08:42:20 AM PST

  •  Day of Infamy Speech (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    journeyman, radarlady, Plubius

    You can listen, or download FDR's Day of Infamy speech here.

    "I mean, it -- I mean -- and I tell somebody, I said, just because you have a group of scientists that have stood up and said here is the fact, Galileo got outvoted for a spell." -- Rick Perry, 9/7/11

    by Senor Unoball on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 08:45:14 AM PST

  •  Diary of the Year (12+ / 0-)

    Fabulous effort. What more can one say?

    An empty head is not really empty; it is stuffed with rubbish. Hence the difficulty of forcing anything into an empty head. -- Eric Hoffer

    by MichiganChet on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 09:06:35 AM PST

    •  Wow. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Plubius, varii, johanus, fidel

      Thanks.  That really means a lot.  I put a lot of effort into this, but I thought it was too long and would just kind of scroll down the list into oblivion.  You really made me feel like the effort was worthwhile.

      History is won by the writers.

      by journeyman on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 09:25:08 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I had heard (0+ / 0-)

        I think I read it in modern times - that Prime Minister Konoe had left a copy of De Profundisby his bedside when he died with the following quote underlined:

        Terrible as was what the world did to me, what I did to myself was far more terrible still.

         A epitaph of militaristic Japan, and sadly, a quote that serves for another horrible day of rotten remembrance - 9/11.

        An empty head is not really empty; it is stuffed with rubbish. Hence the difficulty of forcing anything into an empty head. -- Eric Hoffer

        by MichiganChet on Fri Dec 09, 2011 at 02:36:39 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Sorry I didn't see this sooner. (0+ / 0-)

          I would have definitely rec'ed it.  I'm sorry I can't do that now.  I don't know for certain that this is true, but it is definitely in character.  Konoe was a complicated man.  He admired both Adolf Hitler and Oscar Wilde and achieved a certain amount of renown for translating Wilde's The Soul of Man Under Socialism when he was a young man.  He read Wilde extensively, and I can easily believe that he would have left such a note.

          History is won by the writers.

          by journeyman on Thu Dec 15, 2011 at 04:46:50 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Don't park the ships in the same place everyday? (4+ / 0-)

    The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. --George Orwell

    by jgkojak on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 09:12:23 AM PST

    •  My mother (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      DorothyT, the fan man, raines

      who was a Wave during the war still hangs out, both in meatspace and online, with a bunch of WWII vets. According to the scuttlebutt she's heard not only were all the ships tied up "in the same place" but it was inspection day so that the access hatches in the inner hulls were all open, thus defeating any protection double-hulls would have provided.

  •  A great history lesson. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    journeyman, radarlady, Plubius, worldlotus

    Thank you.

  •  The tipping point was decades ago (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    radarlady, mightymouse

    We ARE very far down the road to an imperialistic, military-controlled society, and there are major flaws in the American psyche that will prove even uglier than anything Imperial Japan ever did. If we let it happen. If we fail to stop it. If there's no way we can reverse course.

    Mundus vult decipi, decipiatur

    by TheOtherMaven on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 09:35:46 AM PST

  •  This diary is so excellently researched & written, (9+ / 0-)

    with nearly an endless series powerful insights, that I would be ashamed to mention my own difference of opinion on the emphasis on one aspect to the neglect of another. There's always time to do that in later threads or diaries. Now I just want to say this is a truly astoundingly well-done diary.

    Atlatl Cauac...Jatz'om K'uh.

    by catilinus on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 09:50:11 AM PST

  •  Outstanding diary - will be shared. Thx. (5+ / 0-), where did I leave my torches and villagers?

    by FrankSpoke on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 09:53:22 AM PST

  •  Engrossing, Thoughtful, Excellent Reading (6+ / 0-)

    It was a little longer than most diaries, but I think making it shorter would have oversimplified things.  With that in mind, though, I wonder how many will read to the point of your apparently deploring U.S. motives and actions and stop short of your explanation of how things developed in Japan.  (Not that I am complaining.  I was truly absorbed as I read it.)

    "Facts are meaningless. You could use facts to prove anything even remotely true." -- H. Simpson

    by midnight lurker on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 10:04:53 AM PST

    •  To be honest, (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      midnight lurker

      I was considering breaking into two diaries (at dawn I didn't sleep) and didn't precisely because I was afraid people wouldn't later read on after the "In a word, no."

      History is won by the writers.

      by journeyman on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 10:18:07 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  nice diary (0+ / 0-)

        but I would like to see more on the real causes of the war.  Of course we are brought up to believe they were just " evil sneaky japs", when of course the real reasons are never taught.  The reasons of course are because does anyone really want to talk about trade deals, currency manipulation, tariffs, etc.. you know the real causes.

        What is scary and relevant, is if you look at the causes of much of world war, you start to see a pattern, a scary one that is not unlike what we are seeing today.

        Bad is never good until worse happens

        by dark daze on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 12:54:20 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  "We are brought up" (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          TofG, journeyman, midnight lurker

          Speak for yourself.

          As for the real reason for the war, Journeyman addresses it when he writes:

          The most important thing to understand about Imperial Japan is that it was created by military men in response to the existential threat posed by the encroachment of a technologically superior civilization.

          •  what a load (0+ / 0-)

            You still dont even understand what the war was about ir seems.

            Hint: the war was about money/debt/leverage/power/taxes, etc

            Bad is never good until worse happens

            by dark daze on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 03:29:33 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Every War in History ... (0+ / 0-)

              has ultimately been about acquiring and/or controlling resources; land, waterways, people (to subjugate), minerals, agricultural capacity, manufacturing, technology (from arrows to laser-guided missiles), and almost anything else you could think of.

              I think you are criticizing the diarist unfairly for not having written a comprehensive history of the between-the-wars era.  Ones and zeros don't cost anything, but the act of writing does.

              "Facts are meaningless. You could use facts to prove anything even remotely true." -- H. Simpson

              by midnight lurker on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 07:23:55 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  yeah so? (0+ / 0-)

                your are saying the reasons for a specific war are not important?  I'm actually think its probably THE MOST important aspect to any war.

                If you kids starts a fight in the playground, whats your first question?  Its why...

                Bad is never good until worse happens

                by dark daze on Thu Dec 08, 2011 at 09:08:54 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  I'm Saying the Reasons for War ... (0+ / 0-)

                  have always been variations of the same set (and the winners write the history.)

                  Was the war in the Pacific because Japan attacked Pearl Harbor or because the U.S. had put great pressures on Japan's economy?  You answered your own question below.  A U.S.-Japan conflict was likely inevitable.

                  "Facts are meaningless. You could use facts to prove anything even remotely true." -- H. Simpson

                  by midnight lurker on Thu Dec 08, 2011 at 03:53:01 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

          •  before the outbreak of hostilities (0+ / 0-)

            Japan was expanding basically looking for resources.  Expanding population, limited resources.  In response

            In 1938, this led the United States to place an embargo on exporting aircraft to Japan. The government also froze all Japanese assets in the United States. Relations between Japan and the United States became increasingly tense in the fall of 1941.

            The attack of Pearl Harbor was hardly out of the blue.

            Bad is never good until worse happens

            by dark daze on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 03:33:21 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  Civilian Control of the Military (4+ / 0-)

    Thank you for an excellent diary.  Well done.

  •  what a great diary!! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    journeyman, Plubius, TofG

    it really provides a lot to think on.


    As the world warms, the reigning ideology that tells us it’s everyone for themselves, that victims deserve their fate, that we can master nature, will take us to a very cold place indeed - Naomi Klein

    by mightymouse on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 10:19:40 AM PST

  •  It would be really great (0+ / 0-)

    If this same level of support for this diarist had been expended to all those here that have been for years decrying War and US intervention in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya, etc., etc and been derided for doing so.

    Spread the word
    Rich or poor
    Save the earth
    Stop the war

    Indeed a great diary.  Thank you.

    Listen, strange women lyin' in ponds distributin' swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.

    by EdMass on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 10:59:34 AM PST

  •  I learned so much today from this diary. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    journeyman, Calamity Jean, Plubius

    Thank you! I look forward to time tonight when I can read it again.

  •  One of the finest diaries ever on dKos (5+ / 0-)

    The nutshell history of Japan from 1854 - 1941 was especially informative. Thank you very much.

    Hige sceal þe heardra, heorte þe cenre, mod sceal þe mare, þe ure mægen lytlað

    by milkbone on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 11:05:45 AM PST

  •  Astute analysis and well written. This is a very (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    journeyman, Plubius

    thoughtful, and thought provoking bit of writing; the best of what Kos has to offer.

    Thank You.

  •  Outstanding! NT (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    journeyman, Plubius

    "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

    by HeyMikey on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 12:43:42 PM PST

  •  My mom's Pearl Harbor story. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    journeyman, Marcus Graly, TofG

    My mom grew up in the small town of Booneville, Mississippi. When Pearl Harbor was attacked, she was 10 years old.

    A man from Booneville was in the Navy, stationed at Pearl Harbor. He lived with his family near the base. When the attack came, he was standing in his front yard, holding a garden hose, watering some plants. A Japanese plane strafed him, missed him, but shot the hose in two, and put several holes in the family car parked nearby.

    After the attack, of course the military sent all soldiers' and sailors' families back to the mainland. They shipped the car back to Booneville with the family. You couldn't buy new cars again until after the war, so for the rest of WWII the family drove around Booneville with Japanese bullet holes in their car.

    "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

    by HeyMikey on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 12:49:34 PM PST

  •  A worthwhile book to read (0+ / 0-)

    IMO, is Historian David Bergamini's Japan's Imperial Conspiracy.  The then young emperor and his cousins were touring Europe during the First World War era, circa 1916-1917, already planning for a conflict with the Western  Powers in the Pacific. Pearl Harbor was hardly the linchpin event in causing WWII.

  •  Hitler had to declare war on us! (0+ / 0-)

    Hitler had to declare war on us...
    Thank badness he was that loony…
    Most Americans believe we were automatically at war with the Nazis… no, no, no.
    The real lesson is that we did nothing while the world burned…

    Nudniks need not apply.

    by killermiller on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 05:25:32 PM PST

  •  excellence (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TofG, journeyman

    I am a United States Marine and military historian...
    this was one of the THE MOST insightful, clear , and thoroughly informative diaries/articles/submissions that i have ever read on ANY subject. you, sir,  have earned a fan for life...

    I am the MZA! Wherever I go, TRUTH will live and REMAIN...

    by InvincibleMZA on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 06:00:50 PM PST

  •  Amazing diary! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TofG, journeyman

    Definitely one of the best of the year, and so much work! I have never before learned about Japan's history and how it came to be the militarilistic power it turned into. I never before gave a single thought to the other side of Remember Pearl Harbor.
    Both my father and stepfather served in the USN submarine service in the Pacific throughout the war, and my stepdad was at Pearl Dec. 7, 1941, at an all-night poker game on the far side of Wheeler Field. He couldn't get back to his boat, which was immediately taken out to sea to avoid destruction. A submarine wasn't much use at that moment.
    Despite the huge loss of life, it seems like we did the Japanese people an enormous favor by defeating them so completely, freeing them from their overarching militarism. Now look at us and our militarism.
    Another aspect of the detention of Japanese-Americans is that many other Americans took advantage of that shameful episode to steal their valuable land and property.  Our government had passed laws in previous decades denying them the right to become American citizens then demonized them as non-citizens.
    Lessons indeed!

    Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please -- Mark Twain

    by OnePingOnly on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 06:32:49 PM PST

    •  Yes, the detention was a crime against humanity. (0+ / 0-)

      It wasn't as egregious as many other crimes against humanity, but it was one nonetheless.

      I once met a man who had been living in Aberdeen, Washington (home of Curt Cobain) when the war broke out.  His was the only family of Japanese descent in town.  The father, before he died had completely embraced America.  His name was Morse and his brothers were Lincoln and Perry.  No one in town suspected them of anything, primarily, I suppose because they had no independent community.  Still, one day he came home from school to find that his mother was gone.  The Army or the WRA or the feds (he never found out) had simply abducted her off the streets.  He was in grade school at the time.  Can you imagine being a grade-schooler and coming home to find your mother gone?  Only after, IIRC, three days did she return and she never told him anything about her detention.  Some time after that the WRA came and took them off to the Tule Lake camp.  Tule Lake was the camp where the WRA had many people from the northwest, but it was also where they sent the hard cases, the ones who had returned to Japan to be educated and steeped in ultranationalist education.  As a result, Morse found that he was being rejected by the country of his birth and upbringing (he spoke no Japanese at that point) and threatened by those of his ancestry.

      It was just stupid thing to do.

      Anyway, I just wanted to thank you for reading and thank you for your kind words.  They mean a lot to me.

      History is won by the writers.

      by journeyman on Thu Dec 08, 2011 at 06:10:26 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Tis a good thing (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TofG, journeyman

    that the civilians run the US military. But also a very good thing that we defeated Japan and they have a Democracy now. Very good.

  •  Thanks for the diary. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TofG, journeyman

    Not ready to read all of it tonight, but will save it.

    I've been thinking a lot about Pearl Harbor dad was there.  He would never talk much about it until a few years ago...and then only when his grandsons asked him because they were writing high school reports.

    Because I knew dad had been there, and had he not been lucky I might never have been born, I've always been interested in the history of the that war.  It was interesting watching attitudes of the country in general change as I grew up.  

    "Because inside every old person is a young person wondering what happened." -Terry Pratchett

    by revsue on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 09:03:05 PM PST

    •  The Role of Fortune is Fearsome to Contemplate (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      TofG, revsue

      I had a relative (I believe my great grandmother on my father's side, but I'll have to check) who was held up and missed passage on the Titanic.

      My wife's mother's family hails from Kokura, the primary target for the second atomic bomb.  Had it not been cloudy that day, they might have been destroyed.  Here I should add that my mother-in-law would have been safe as she and her immediate family were colonists in Korea, but having lost everything they had in Korea only to return to a nuclear wasteland, it is unlikely she would have been in a position to meet my father-in-law.

      Thanks for reading.

      History is won by the writers.

      by journeyman on Thu Dec 08, 2011 at 06:46:48 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Western Models.... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    The section "Imperial Japan" poses a question but evades one part of the answer: Japan consciously modeled itself after Western powers, and viewed acquiring an empire as a necessary part of becoming a modern power to be reckoned with among the great nations of the world.  

    Racism was part of this, and most of the cruelest acts had precedents among the other Great Powers, the US not entirely excluded.

    Overall, an excellent overview.

    •  It is true that Japan modeled itself on the West (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I had been hoping to go into that a little more, but ran out of time and believed I was already presuming on my readers' patience by that point.  Imperialism in its modern form was indeed modeled on the western nations encroaching upon Japan and other Asian lands.  That said, it is not as if Japanese imperialism did not have native precedents to build upon.  Japan had plenty of experience with bigotry, expansionism, aggression and atrocity well before the coming of Perry.

      History is won by the writers.

      by journeyman on Thu Dec 08, 2011 at 06:39:36 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for this great piece. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Well-researched and nicely written. A keeper.

    Just because it's made up doesn't mean it isn't true.—Plan 10 from Outer Space

    by mofembot on Thu Dec 08, 2011 at 12:21:49 PM PST

  •  Arrogance and trickery are self-defeating. (0+ / 0-)

    In retrospect, the smartest way the Japanese could have started WW II was not to reprise their sneak attack victory at Port Arthur in 1905 (amazing how few Americans at the time thought to use that example as a warning) but to do just the opposite.

    Just think of what would have happened if Japan had given the USA a month's warning and explicitly said it was sending a fleet to attack Pearl Harbor. The US would probably have assembled all its fighting ships, including our priceless aircraft-carriers, and gone to meet the Japanese to protect Pearl Harbor.

    With sufficient Zero fighter planes and their painful superiority over the Wildcat; plus carrier odds of (8/10) to (2/3)  the Japanese would almost certainly have sent nearly every US ship down to Davy Jones locker, and could have then conquered Hawaii, and threatened the West Coast. If things got close enough for cannon fire the Japanese would still have had a major advantage in fire-power.

    I still don't think that would have given Japan any chance at victory, but besides the fact that the US losses out in the deep blue sea would have been much more catastrophic, the gentlemanly quality of a kind of formal naval duel would almost certainly have greatly reduced the US hatred of "Japs". Plus defeating us in fair battle after due warning would have made a victory MUCH more impressive, and eventual peace negotiations easier.

  •  Great diary from a different perspective. (0+ / 0-)

    What a great diary....having grown up with parents who lived through the Japanese occupation of Singapore, I guess I somewhat had a skewed view of how the Japanese army had tortured many in South East Asia.  This diary gave me a good history lesson and also a different perspective on what happened to the Japanese who were here in with all wars, we pay a price on both sides but often we don't see both sides.  Thank you..I would have to agree that this diary should be posted on the web as it was fabulous.  

    A 'No' uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a 'Yes' merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble. Mohandas Gandhi

    by SingaporeSpunk on Sun Dec 11, 2011 at 05:48:02 AM PST

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