Japan, Roosevelt, and the Attack on Pearl Harbor

There are a plethora of sites out there for those whose tastes run to conspiracy theories and revisionist history according to which FDR knew all about the Japanese attack in advance, used masterful and insidious psychological tricks to provoke an otherwise peaceful nation, hoodwinked the American people, etc., etc. Examples can be found here, here, here, and here, along with the occasional sober voice to balance the scales. In fact, Roosevelt wasn’t the only one expecting an attack. People who were paying attention were aware it was coming at least as early as 1924. If the American people were “hoodwinked,” it was their own fault. As Exhibit A for the Defense, I cite an article from the “American Mercury,” issue of January 1924, entitled “Two Years of Disarmament,” authored by one Miles Martindale (nom de plume), pp. 62-68.

“Prior to 1854, Japan’s whole history was a sequence of efforts to prove herself independent of China. The influx of foreigners, backed by fleets of war vessels, brought the added fear of partition and domination by white men. Seventy years ago the Elder Statesmen advised avoidance of all disputes until Japan grew strong enough to deal with one rival at a time. This advice underlies the amazing modernization of Japan, centuries of development being compressed into decades. In accordance with the program, China was humbled in 1894, and Russia in 1904. Germany’s turn came in 1914, for to the peasant’s mind, the opera bouffe campaign of Tsing Tao bulks as large as if the entire war power of Germany had been engaged. The years ending in “4” were thus fixed in the Japanese mind as years of invincibility. The Americans were plotting war on Japan? Then let them have it; but it will be when we choose, and that is in 1924!

“Our lavish expenditure and great effort during the world war impressed even Chosiu (Japanese military party) with the difficulties of the program. The scheme of invasion through Mexico, once in favor, was abandoned, and the Japanese prepared for a swift blow without warning, like the naval blow with which they opened the war with Russia. (!) Seizing the Philippines, and isolating Manila Bay if it did not fall easily with the advantage of defense and distance, waiting for our attempt to recapture the islands. They counted two years as necessary for us to organize the required effort; expected a majority of our people to consider the Philippines not worth recovering; believed the war would be intensely unpopular in America and that we would ask for peace rather than undertake the pain and loss of fighting it out to the end. Whether their plan correctly appraised our psychology or not, it involved heavy losses on our part. To attack across several thousand miles of empty sea in a war involving land forces would require at least a 5-3 superiority in fighting ships, a million tons of auxiliaries and at least three million tons of transports.

“The war was not desired by the Japanese for aggrandizement, nor to provide extra room for their people. Japan has not yet filled some of her own home islands, notably Hokkaido and Saghalien. The war was simply a part of the Chosiu program, considered necessary to preserve the edivinity of the Emperor and the cohesion of the Empire. The Chosiu politicians were not over-optimistic, but they believed it was the safest course. Like the occupation of Belgium, it was planmässig, and the plan had three times succeeded in the past.”

So there you have it, as much ammunition as you need for proving the obvious: That high officials in the State Department suckered a junta of generals into suckering Roosevelt into suckering the Japanese into attacking Pearl Harbor. Have fun! In retrospect, one might add that a larger dose of oriental patience would have served Japan well. If she’d waited until the first decade of the 21st century, she could have relied on bloggers like Andrew Sullivan to egg the US on into attacking first, then morph into hand-wringing, hysterical defeatists as soon as the first shot was fired. Chosiu’s program would have been a sure thing.

Author: Helian

I am Doug Drake, and I live in Maryland, not far from Washington, DC. I am a graduate of West Point, and I hold a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering from the University of Wisconsin. My blog reflects my enduring fascination with human nature and human morality.

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