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Saturday, December 6, 2014

Japanese Pearl Harbor Not A Real Surprise

So… it's the morning of December 7, 1941, and Pearl Harbor, where the U.S. has a military base on Oahu, Hawaii—a separate country that is a protectorate of the U.S.—gets sneak-attacked by the Japanese - catching the Americans unaware, and dragging them kicking and screaming into World War II.

Historical people will note that the war actually began in September of 1939 - over two years earlier… or maybe some tour years earlier if you are Chinese and have been invaded and suppressed by Japan.

While Europe tends to look at the beginning of World War II as when Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939.

Other say World War II began in:
  • 1931 when Japan seized Manchuria from China;
  • 1935 when Italy invaded and defeat Abyssinia (Ethiopia);
  • 1936 when Hitler re-militarization Germany saying Eff U to everything other countries imposed on the tiny nation after WWI;
  • 1936 when the Spanish Civil War began;
  • 1938 when Germany occupied Czechoslovakia.
But no one declared war other than those involved… and when Germany marched into Poland, that's when France and Great Britain got scared enough to declare war on Germany.

For those with a less European-centric view, although not the start of World War II, a contributing factor was Japan’s unexpected victory over czarist Russia in the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05) that then allowed for unabated Japanese expansion in Asia and the Pacific.

Realizing that Japan was already getting too big for its britches after being forced to open its doors to foreign trade and relations back in the 1850s by Commodore Perry under direct order from the office of the President of The United States of America, Japan had begun to modern itself very quickly and emulating the best (and worst) of many a western power, building up quite the arsenal and army.

By 1890, the U.S. Navy had already conceived of plans for a naval war with Japan should Japan think itself unstoppable. KNown as War Plan Orange, this plan was continually updated and maintained as technologies and facts about Japan grew - right up to World war II.

It's like Batman knowing that green kryptonite and magic can screw up Superman in case the gaijin, I mean alien goes rogue.

For Japan, having already occupied Manchuria, on July 7, 1937 - a date also bandied about as a possible start date for World War II - though again one other than those involved countries were at war here - the infamous Marco Polo Bridge Incident took place which led to a prolonged war/skirmish between Japan and China…

At this point in history, though much of Japanese culture and language was derived from China, Japan was the big brother and China was the weak sister who was always aware that Japan wanted to violate it.

China's plan was to fall back and stretch out Japan's forces away from the sea so that it might eventually get some help from other countries to take out the invaders.

That eventually did occur when Japan spread itself too thin in trying to take over nearly every country in Asia while also engaging the U.S in a near-impossible task of keeping the Yankees busy to avoid them going in to Europe to bother the Germans or Italians.

I suppose Japan got the short end of THAT stick.

Which brings me back to Pearl Harbor.

If you glance at the date on the newspaper above or anywhere else on this blog, you will note that it says November 30, 1941… a full week before the supposed sneak attack on the US base…

Published on Sunday, November 30, 1941 in the Hilo Tribune Herald newspaper, the headline proclaims that "Japan May Strike Over Weekend"… meaning that very day, seeing as how the weekend would be over in 24 hours. 

Or did the newspaper imply the next weekend? Doubtful… still, the real attack on Pearl Harbor did not happen till one week later.

An accompanying article in the paper was entitled: "Tokyo Desperate As Talks Collapse".

Heck... I watched an episode of Merv Griffin (a 1965 episode that I will include in a much more detailed account of Pearl Harbor told from Japan's side) recently in which he had on a former FBI agent who was part of a team that tried to warn the higher ups in the US government to be aware that since they had decoded a few secret Japanese messages, that Japan was going to attack Hawaii soon.

It was ignored, obviously.      

Tensions for U.S. personnel must have been high after seeing this news, that I am sure it knew beforehand…

Great Britain seemed to think that Japan had already invaded Thailand…

Singapore was also afraid it would be next to be attacked by Japan…

Cavite in the Phillipines would hold nightly blackouts.

One US senator on the Foreign Relations committee said that the US should increase economic pressure if Japan attacked Thailand and deploy some naval forces to the South Pacific to "see that our rights are respected".

-Another senator thought Japan would try or be induced to bluff its way out of the situation, but basically the time was coming when it [Japan's choice] would be war or a reasonable adjustment.

- US forces in Hawaii were on alert thanks to the Pacific goings-on….

Yes… talks between Japan and the U.S. had broken down… Japan wanted to continue expanding throughout Asia, and the US had placed embargoes on Japan to halt Japanese aggression.

So Japan simply said 'fug it' and attacked the U.S. essentially without warning - a smart ploy (I'm sorry to say) to destroy America's naval and aerial might in the Pacific Theater before it had to face it in a real war.

It worked… but the U.S. is one offing huge country, and eventually recovered from the shock to war effectively and later much better-smarter against Japan.

So how the hell did Japan do a sneak attack on the U.S. forces at Pearl Harbor?

Surely there were scouts in the area?

Now... I apologize to any and all if I have sounded flippant - it was not my intent... 

On November 26, 1941, the Japanese attack force, led by Vice Admiral Chuichi Nagumo, left Etorofu Island in the Kurils (located northeast of Japan) and began its 3,000-mile journey across the Pacific Ocean. Sneaking six aircraft carriers, nine destroyers, two battleships, two heavy cruisers, one light cruiser, and three submarines across the Pacific Ocean was not an easy task.
Worried that they might be spotted by another ship, the Japanese attack force continually zig-zagged and avoided major shipping lines. After a week and a half at sea, the attack force made it safely to its destination, about 230 miles north of the Hawaiian island of Oahu.
On the morning of December 7, 1941, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor began. At 6:00 a.m., the Japanese aircraft carriers began launching their planes amid rough sea. In total, 183 Japanese aircraft took to the air as part of the first wave of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
At 7:15 a.m., the Japanese aircraft carriers, plagued by even rougher seas, launched 167 additional planes to participate in the second wave of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
The first wave of Japanese planes reached the U.S. Naval Station at Pearl Harbor (located on the south side of the Hawaiian island of Oahu) at 7:55 a.m. on December 7, 1941. Just before the first bombs dropped on Pearl Harbor, Commander Mitsuo Fuchida, leader of the air attack, called out, "Tora! Tora! Tora!" ("Tiger! Tiger! Tiger!"), a coded message which told the entire Japanese navy that they had caught the Americans totally by surprise.

That... that led to America's inclusion into a global world war... a couple of years late, but until then, there was no real need for it to have risked its own personnel in an European conflict.

Still... despite popular opinion to the contrary, Japan's Pearl Harbor attack was not a surprise to anyone on Hawaii.

Andrew Joseph

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