- May 26, 2020
Events Transpired between 1937 and 1941 that Led to War between Japan and US
EventsTranspired between 1937 and 1941 that Led to War between Japan and US
Althoughthe war between Japan and the United States had been anticipated,such that both forces planned for it from the 1920s, the level oftension rose in 1931. The period between 1937 and 1941 wascharacterized by various incidences that culminated in the warbetween the two countries.
Theseries of events began in 1931 when Japan invaded Manchuria. Japancontinued its invasion of China, which led to the secondSino-Japanese war in 1937. These activities were not received by theWest, especially the US, which issued trade embargos on Japans’major imports, including war supplies. When Japan invaded FrenchIndochina, US further responded by instituting tighter sanctions suchas restricting oil exports to Japan(Rhodes 45).At the time, Imperial Japanese Navy had been planning to seize oil inthe Dutch East Indies and add it to the Greater East AsiaCo-Prosperity sphere, but they were limited from carrying on themission because they only had two bunkers of oil remaining.Philippine was an attractive target to Japan to cater for oildeficits, but it was also a valuable colony for the US. Japan wasaware that any attempts to seize the Philippines would provoke aresponse from the US military. Japan decided to concentrate on PearlHarbor attack as a coercive strategy to let the West back down(Gordon34).
Thus,Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto of Japan military began to plan for thePearl Harbor attack in early 1941 by seeking assent from the navalhigh command. After a series of negotiations, the attack would belater approved, paving the way for necessary preparations, includingtraining pilots, and preparing ships and tankers. At the secondimperial conference, Emperor Hirohito signed to allow Japan to attackthe Pearl Harbor in December 1941 (Alexander174).During the early militaristic rule of Emperor Hirohito and theimperialist government policy, tensions between Japan and westerncountries such as the US, Netherlands Britain, and France heightened,triggered by various conflicting geopolitical interests. Forinstance, the foundation of Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphereand Asia under Japan`s Hirohito`s rule raised eyebrows among Westerncountries, which saw it as a threat to their political interests(Gordon34).
Indeed,Japan’s policies of expansionism were a threat because they had ledto the First Sino-Japanese War and the Russo- Japanese war between1894-1895 and 1904-1905, respectively. After mass condemnation on theattack of Manchuria, Japan had also decided to withdraw from theLeague of Nations in March 1933, followed by its absconding fromSecond London Naval Disarmament Conference, and this was in responseto the decision of the US and Britain to refuse granting parity tothe Japanese navy. Shortly after, the second war between Japan andChina broke out in July 1937. The resultant atrocities, such as theNanking Massacre, attracted international outcry and condemnationagainst Japan by the members of the League of Nations, includingAustralia, France, Britain, Netherlands, and the US, which hadcolonies in Southeast Asia and the East. Besides, the new Japan’smilitary prowess and its willingness to deploy it threatened thegeopolitical interests of the West. In 1938, the US began to imposetrade restrictions on Japan to coerce it to stop its costlygeopolitical occupations in the far East. The US terminated itscommercial treaty with Japan in 1911, and the Export Control Actin1940, but the efforts did not stop Japan from carrying on itsexpansionist policies. If only, Japan entered into power pactrelationships with the Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy in 1940. Theterms of the treaties made it difficult for the US to intervene,while the pact strengthened Japan’s position to pursue furthergeopolitical interests (Gordon34).
Becauseof the economic challenge, the US committed pledged to help Britainand China through loans and raw materials to aid their economicrecovery, a move that shifted its status from a neutral power to avested interest in China and Britain affairs. Therefore, in 1940,when Japan invaded Vichy, it further escalated the level of tensionsbetween the US and Japan. This action led to further sanctions by theUS on scrap metals and closure of the Panama Canal from the access ofJapanese ships, a decision that adversely affected Japan’s economy,which was now heavily reliant on the import of raw materials such asiron and copper from the West. Japan`s invasion of southern Indochinain 1941 also added to the brewing tensions, attracting the concernsof Britain, North Borneo, and Brunel(Prange 54).
TheUS attempted to use negotiations to resolve its differences withJapan in a peaceful way on the course of 1941. The US wanted China tomove from China and cease its expansionist policies. However, thenegotiations fell through when Japan’s war minister, Tojo opposedthe move to withdraw from China. This action further made the USfreeze Japan’s assets on July 26, 1941, together sanctioning theexport of oil and gasoline to Japan. This led to a massive shortageof oil and gas in the country (Kershaw33).
Japanstarted looking to Brunei and Malaysia as a source of oil and rubber,but the region happened to be an area of particular geopoliticalinterest of the US. Forced by the complete embargo of oil, Japandecided to try the East Indies, triggering war with the US (Lee56).
TheJapan ambassador in the US, Kichisaburō Nomura, and the US secretaryof state, Cordell Hull held several meetings that were, however,unfruitful because the parties could not agree on the terms andconditions. Japan offered to withdraw from Indochina as long asBritain and Netherlands stopped supporting China, but this was notaccepted. Besides, General Tojo held that withdrawal of troops fromChina would lead to loss of all the gains of the Second Sino-JapaneseWar, endanger Manchukuo, jeopardize their control of Korea, urgingthat Japan should not relent. The Japanese representatives hadalready planned for the attack on the Pearl Harbor 30 minutes intothe negotiations that were being held in Washington. The ImperialGeneral Headquarters, the military leaders, minister of war GeneralHideki Tojo and Admiral Osami Nagano went ahead to plan for theattack. They mobilized the army to attack the American and Europeancolonies in Hawaii and Southeast Asia. TheJapan’s military leaders had met on several occasions in 1941 todeliberate a strategy to launch attacks and annex Hawaii. It wasbelieved that a successful annexation would mean that Japan would nowhave a strategic base of shielding its empires and denying the US theaccess to establish bases beyond the West coast, cutting it from NewZealand and Australia. Despite the fact that this plan received muchsupport, the planners later decided against it for various reasons.One of the reasons was that Japan had already committed manyresources to other military activities, yet the invasion of Hawaiiwas quite risky to call. Having decided against the Hawaii invasionplan, Japan considered that launching an attack on Pearl Harbor wouldbe adequate to send a strong message against the West occupationsand, at the same time, incapacitate the Pacific Fleet and cause theUnited States to negotiate with Japan for a compromise. On26 November 1941, the carrier force, commanded by Chuichi Nagumo, theVice Admiral, embarked on the mission to attack Hawaii. At the time,Japan was among the few countries capable of carrying out the carrierinvasions. Therefore, the country was confident about the success ofthe mission (Gordon 34).
Atthat time, the United States’ civil intelligence had someinformation concerning Japan’s imminent attack but was not surethat the Pearl Harbor would be the target. It had been initiallyreasoned that Japan was most likely to launch an attack on Thailand,Philippines, Thailand, or other regions lying in the Far East.Therefore, when the Japanese forces arrived, it found the PearlHarbor unprepared. The was no manning of anti-aircraft weapons, theanti-submarine systems were not active, there was no combat airpatrol on the standby and no scouting aircraft was in the air at thetime. While some of the signals from the Japans traffic to PearlHarbor were intercepted, very limited information could be decrypted.Therefore, Washington was unable to respond on time because even theinformation could not be acted upon on time Japan attacked the PearlHarbor using over 353 air fighters, torpedo planes, and bombers thatwere launched from its six state-of-the-art aircraft carriers. Theattack resulted in the damage of the US destroyers, cruisers,minelayer, and anti-aircraft training military equipment. The attackalso resulted in the killing of 2,403 Americans, also wounding wellover 1,282 people. Japan lost 64 members of the armed forces, as wellas 29 planes (Gordon 34).
TheUnited States response to the attack was marked by PresidentFranklin Roosevelt addressing the Congress a day after the attack,labeling the incident as “a day which will live in infamy,”further declaring war on Japan (Stokesbury5).The Japanese Americas were also sent to internment camps on thecourse of the period to minimize the chances of espionage andsabotage. In 1941, Japan also declared War on the United States andits allies, the British Empire. The conflict would later attract theintervention of fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, who came in to aidJapan, legitimating the entry of the United States into Europe,culminating into a full-fledged Second World War.
Inconclusion, the period between 1937 and 1941 was characterized byvarious incidences that led to the war between Japan and US. The warbetween Japan and the United States had long been anticipated. Bothmilitary forces planned for it from the 1920s, but the level oftension started building as 1931 when Japan invaded Manchuria. Japancontinued its invasion of China, which led to the secondSino-Japanese war in 1937. These activities attracted the concerns ofthe West, resulting in sanctions. Although there were attempts forpeace deals, they did not succeed. Tensions escalated when Japanformed power pacts with Germany and Italy and Japan’s organizedattack on Pearl Harbor. The attack caused the United States to wagewar on Japan.
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