Pearl Harbor Essay

Category: History
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The attack on the Pearl Harbor, a naval base belonging to the United States, was the bombing of the base by the Japanese on December 7, 1941, in a surprise attack. The Japanese had been in a rivalry with the United States and planned this attack as a way to eliminate the risk that the US naval base posed.

The attack astonished the people leading many to believe the constant tension between the two nations made war inevitable, and simply a matter of time, while others believed it “was not inevitable and that it could have been avoided, even at the last moment” (Metraux). Demonstrating that many sources and articles might be biased due to personal believes and nationality. By analyzing factors that lead to tension and those that do not, the extent of tension factors on the attack on Pearl Harbor can be determined.

One of the major factors that dramatically amplified the tension between the United States and Japan was the seizing of the French Indo-China by the Japanese in late 1941. The Japanese took these actions when they saw that East Asia and the Southwest Pacific colonies were not able to defend their colonies (Morgenstern 10). And although negotiation with the United States was taking place, the Japanese proceeded with their expansion (Trefousse).

As a result, President Roosevelt placed an embargo on Japan’s export of oil and steel, cutting off critical supplies, and immobilized their credit placing them on the risk of “economic strangulation”, all things that were essential for Japan to proceed with the invasion of Indo-China (Morgenstern 11). The United States’ economic welfare, which was a tension factor following the stiff circumstances following Japan’s seizing of Indo-China, placed Japan in an “untenable position” knowingly by the United States since they knew that Japan would try to escape the stronghold of going to war (Burtness). 

These actions were taken as a way of demanding Japan to depart Indo-China and China, reject the tripartite pact with Italy and Germany and to not trade with the Far East, which was considered by the Japanese people, such as Takeo Iguchi, who was a Japanese ambassador, to be “four years of blood and sacrifice” of the military “for naught” and would have catastrophic consequences on their control of Manchuria, Korea, and Taiwan (Metraux). Although being one of the numerous factors, it displays how the rivalry between these countries fueled the decisions and actions taken, in a way that not only sought to accomplish their goals but to demonstrate the power and capability of accomplishing the assertion made by themselves.

Takeo Iguchi, Japanese ambassador, wrote a book called “Demystifying Pearl Harbor: A New Perspective from Japan” evaluating the causes and events of the Pearl Harbor, in which he expressed that around the time of the attack the Japanese government and military often disagreed on Japan’s priorities and goals, which could highlight a possible reason for their decision of course of actions (Metraux).

Iguchi’s arguments and opinions can be considered valuable since throughout his book he kept research objective and was sometimes more critical on the Japanese rather than the Americans (Metraux). While others, like Milton Mayer, a journalist, believed that if the “United States insists upon a colonialist policy in Asia, then this nation must be prepared for a militaristic backlash” (Knoll). Likewise, was the opinion of R.J.C. Butow, who believed the problem was not could not find a sustainable way of stopping the Japanese from trying to accomplish their objectives (Butow). These arguments demonstrate that the uncertainty of decisions of both countries, which lead to their tension, had a major part in the development of the attack since this uncertainty prevented them from coming to a solid agreement.

Tension later escalated when Japan replaced Prime Minister Konoye and assigned General Hideki Tojo, who believed war with the United States was crucial. And pushed through with the Tripartite Pact in an attempt of making the United States agree with all their demands, or they would proceed with war. General Tojo was willing to make various negotiations with President Roosevelt for “preside over Japanese expansion”, but if this failed and their opinions failed to change toward his favor, he wanted to be prepared to attack and go to war (Trefousse).

The Japanese made many efforts to negotiate by suggesting a personal meeting with President Roosevelt in the Pacific, which was turned down since no agreement could be reached (Trefousse). Thus, leading to the Pearl Harbor attack since he was determined to go to war and desired to have an advantage over the United States by grasping them by surprise. The failure to come to an agreement caused them to be in a tense situation since there were obvious problems that needed solutions as quickly as possible. Since no agreement could be created, the tension leads Japan to act by the measures they considered to be best.

Although there are a large number of factors related to tension, there are also some factors that lead to the attack that must be evaluated to fully establish the extent of tension factors in leading to the attack. One of the major factors considered by historians to have led to the attack on Pearl Harbor not associated with tension was communication lapses. Shortly after the attack on the Pearl Harbor, the government was determined to figure out why the Japanese airstrike attack was undetected and one of the primary investigations to answer their questions was their weak communication.

Various investigations were conducted by different sources, like an investigation appointed by President Roosevelt, or simply a thorough look at records from the attack, each focusing on different aspects. When General George Marshall, the Army Chief of Staff, warned General Short in February 1941 that the risk of sabotage was the “constitute [of] the real perils of the situation”, it led to great fear in General Short leading him to appoint 120,000 residents of Japanese withdrawal (Burtness).

Actions like such, lead many to believe that sabotage had indeed occurred, especially with the large presence of people involved. A grave and major mistake by General Short was his misinterpretation of the “War Department’s clumsy war warning” which might have influenced the failure of American forces in defending the Pearl Harbor. (Burtness). Although this was a factor that impacted the possible response of the attack, it was not a concrete factor that significantly caused the attack. In other words, even if there was strong communication, the Pearl Harbor attack would have still taken place only that the United States might have anticipated and prepared for the attack.

There were many perspectives from people who experienced the attack first-hand, that must be considered to fully comprehend the importance of tension factor. An important account to be taken is that of Mitsuo Fuchida, who served in the Imperial Japanese Navy and lead the attack. He described his assignation to the task as the more he heard about it the “more astonishing it seemed” (Fuchida).

In his account, Fuchida proceeds to explain in great detail all the strategies and statistics of the planning of the attack, describing how “a more favorable situation could not have been imagined”, also noting the resilient efforts of the Americans although they were losing (Fuchida). He also explains his moments of doubt when he questioned if Japan had the proper certainty for carrying out war and if attacking the Pearl Harbor would be effective as he believed they should have attacked the east directly since the United States was the “main foe” (Fuchida).

Meanwhile, the thoughts of Edward C. Raymer, who served in the US Navy for thirty years, were distinctively different in his book “Descent into Darkness”.  Raymer begins explaining his training for war and expresses his reaction to the announcement of the Pearl Harbor attack as going from “disbelief” to “white-hot anger” (Raymer 11). He recalls his desire to fight this enemy and “kick their butts”, which he later depicts as being a “horror” (Raymer 11).  These perspectives demonstrate the enormous role nationality plays on a person’s beliefs and how they observe and interpret issues.

The Pearl Harbor was one of the largest natural harbors which then became a naval base, it was bombed in 1941 by the Japanese causing major damages, consequently leading the United States to declare war on Japan (Pearl Harbor). Through the analysis of a variety of factors, non-tension, and tension, it can be concluded that tension factors, like economic welfare, had far more significance in causing the attack as they created resentment and rivalry. Notably, the additional analysis of first-hand accounts loaded with personal opinions depict and highlight the influence of nationality on viewpoints.

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