Where one man sorts out his thoughts in public


Bruce M. Russett


Essays by Me

Essays by Others


No Clear and Present Danger

A Skeptical View of the U.S. Entry into World War II

Harper & Row, 1972 


Bruce M. Russett


Chapter 3

A Hobson’s Choice for Japan

Japan in China

If one rejects the purely moral justification of American entry into the war against Hitler, no very effective moral brief can then be made for the war in the Pacific.  True, the Japanese were often unkind conquerors, though this can easily be exaggerated by American memories of the Bataan death march and other horrors in the treatment of prisoners. Japanese occupation was often welcomed in the former European colonies of Southeast Asia, and Japan retains some reservoir of good will for its assistance, late in the war, of indigenous liberation movements.  In any case it is Hitler, not Tojo, who is customarily presented as the personification of evil. Possibly Americans did have some vague obligation to defend Chinese independence, but more clearly than in Europe the basis for American participation has to be realpolitik.  The case has to be founded on a conviction that Japan was too powerful, too dangerously expansionist without any apparent restraint, to have been left alone.  An extreme but widely accepted version is given by an early chronicler of the war:

Japan in the spring and summer of 1941 would accept no diplomatic arrangement which did not give it everything that it might win in the Far East by aggression, without the trouble and expense of military campaigns.1

The evidence, however, shows quite a different picture both of intent and capability.  Nor is it enough simply to assert that, because Japan attacked the United States at Pearl Harbor, America took no action to begin hostilities.  This is formally true, but very deceptive.  The Japanese attack would not have come but for the American, British, and Dutch embargo on shipment of strategic raw materials to Japan.  Japan’s strike against the American naval base merely climaxed a long series of mutually antagonistic acts.  In initiating economic sanctions against Japan the United States undertook actions that were widely recognized in Washington as carrying grave risk of war.  To understand this requires a retracing of the events of the preceding years.

By the beginning of the 1940s Japan was involved in an exhausting and seemingly endless war on the Asian mainland.  The “China incident” dated back to the Japanese seizure of Manchuria in 1931, and was greatly escalated by the clash at the Marco Polo Bridge which expanded into severe open warfare with China in 1937.  Although the Army did willfully create an incident at Mukden in 1931, the Marco Polo Bridge affair seems not to have been a deliberate provocation by Tokyo.  Nevertheless most Japanese military and political leaders did seek a “Co-Prosperity Sphere” of economic and political predominance.  They apparently believed that their Empire’s status as an independent world power depended on military equality with Russia and the United States in the Far East; that in turn depended on a hegemonial position, preferably economic but achieved by force if necessary, in the area of China.2 Though this seems strange now, an adequate view of Japanese policy in its contemporary context has to remember Tokyo’s position as a latecomer to colonialism, in a world where France, Britain, and the United States all had their own spheres of influence.

Japanese forces made important initial gains by occupying most of the Chinese coast and most of China’s industrial capacity, but with a trickle of American aid the nationalist armies hung on in the interior.  By 1941 the Japanese armies were bogged down, and their progress greatly impeded by raw material shortages.  In 1940 Congress placed fuel oil and scrap iron under the new National Defense Act as goods which could not be shipped out of the Western Hemisphere without an export license.  Although commerce in these products was not actually cut off for another year, the threat to Japan of a raw material scarcity was obvious, and deliberately invoked by an American government seeking to apply pressure against the Japanese campaign in China. This strategy was exercised in a series of dozens of gradually tightening economic measures—an escalation that was to drive Japan not to capitulation, as it was intended to do, but to war with the United States.3

Following the July 1941 freeze on Japanese assets in America, and the consequent cessation of shipment of oil, scrap iron, and other goods from the United States, Japan’s economy was in most severe straits and her power to wage war directly threatened.  Her military leaders estimated that her reserves of oil, painfully accumulated in the late 1930s when the risk of just such a squeeze became evident, would last at most two years.  She was also short of rice, tin, bauxite, nickel, rubber and other raw materials normally imported from the Dutch East Indies and Malaya.  Negotiations with the Dutch authorities to supply these goods, plus extraordinary amounts of oil from the wells of Sumatra, had failed, ostensibly on the grounds that the Dutch feared the material would be re-exported to the Axis in Europe. The United States, and the British and Dutch, made it quite clear that the embargo would be relaxed only in exchange for Japanese withdrawal from air and naval bases in Indochina (seized in order to prosecute better the war against China) and an agreement which would have meant the end of the Japanese involvement in China and the abandonment of any right to station troops in that country, not just a halt to the fighting.  The purpose of the Western economic blockade was to force a favorable solution to the “China incident.”

Under these conditions, the High Command of the Japanese navy demanded a “settlement” of one sort or other that would restore Japan’s access to essential raw materials, most particularly oil. Without restored imports of fuel the fleet could not very long remain an effective fighting force.  While the navy might have been willing to abandon the China campaign, it was utterly opposed to indefinite continuation of the status quo.  Either raw material supplies had to be restored by a peaceful settlement with the Western powers, or access to the resources in Thailand, Malaya, and the Indies would have to be secured by force while Japan still retained the capabilities to do so.

If the navy demanded either settlement or war, most members of the Japanese elite were opposed to any settlement which would in effect have meant withdrawal from China.  No serious thought was given to the possibility of peace with Chiang’s government, for it would have meant the end of all hopes of empire in East Asia and even, it was thought, of influence on the continent of Asia.  Moderate Foreign Minister Shigenori Togo reacted to the most forceful statement of American demands, on November 27, 1941, “Japan was asked not only to abandon all the gains of her years of sacrifice, but to surrender her international position as a power in the Far East.”  In his view, that surrender would have been equivalent to national suicide.4

In any case, the Army High Command simply would not have tolerated any abandonment of its position in China.  Its own prestige and influence had been built up step by step during the war there, and its position in China became its power base in Japanese domestic politics.  General Hideki Tojo, by no means the most violent of the Army war hawks, feared that any concession on the China issue would risk an actual revolt by extremist elements in the Army.  In fact, on the resignation of Prince Ronoye’s government in October 1941 Tojo had urged the appointment of Prince Higashi-Runi as Premier, on the principle that, should a compromise with the United States be decided upon, only a member of the royal family would have a chance to control the Army and make peace.  In the context of Japanese politics of the 1930s, when there had been several plotted coups and when one after another of the political leaders thought to be too conciliatory toward foreign elements were assassinated by extreme nationalists, this was hardly a far-fetched fear.  Tojo once characterized the Japanese internal political situation in these terms to Joseph C. Grew, American Ambassador to Tokyo, “If Japan were forced to give up suddenly all the fruits of the long war in China, collapse would follow.”5  Before we judge the Japanese too harshly Americans must remember their own difficulties in terminating a stalemated war 30 years later.


The hardening American commitment

Thus, for the various elements in the Japanese government, and for somewhat different reasons, a peaceful settlement ultimately become unaccep-table.  They could not accede to the American demands, and they could not even continue to drag out the negotiations because of the increasingly precarious nature of the war economy and especially the Navy’s fuel supplies.  On rejecting this unpalatable alternative they were again thrown back on the other; the necessary raw material could be obtained only by seizing Thailand, where there was rice; Malaya, with its sources of tin, nickel, and rubber; and the Dutch East Indies, with their oil.  But, according to the Japanese calculations, the United States was certain to fight if British or Dutch territory in the Far East were attacked.  Japanese analysts reached the latter conclusion despite the absence of any American threat or promise.  At the Atlantic Conference, Roosevelt had acceded to Churchill’s plea that he issue a “war warning” with regard to any further conquests by Japan in the Far East.  After he returned to Washington, however, the State Department dissuaded him and no such warning was ever issued.  The nearest equivalents were two statements by President Roosevelt to Ambassador Nomura in July and August of 1941.  The first declared:

If Japan attempted to seize oil supplies by force in the Netherlands East Indies, the Dutch would, without the shadow of doubt, resist, the British would immediately come to their assistance, and, in view of our policy of assisting Great Britain, an exceedingly serious situation would immediately result.6

On the second occasion Roosevelt stated:

If the Japanese Government takes any further steps in pursuance of a policy of program of military domination by force or threat of force of neighboring countries the government of the United States will be compelled to take immediately any and all steps which it may deem necessary toward safeguarding the legitimate rights and interests of the United States and American nationals and toward insuring the safety and security of the United States.7

Despite its firm language, this was not an unequivocal warning.  On presentation to Nomura it was, as Langer and Gleason point out, not given the status of a “written statement” or even of an “oral statement.”  It was merely private “reference material,” for Nomura’s use in communicating with his own government.  No unequivocal warning could be given, simply because President Roosevelt could not be sure of American reaction in the actual event of crisis.  He was fully aware of the need to secure congressional approval for war, of the strength of isolationist sentiment in the United States, of the difficulties involved in demonstrating that an attack on British and Dutch colonies was a direct threat to American interests, and of the dangers inherent in going to war with the country deeply divided.

By autumn 1941, however, opinion was crystalizing in the highest levels of the American decision-making system.  In November, Roosevelt informally polled his cabinet on the question of whether the country would support war against Japan in the event of attack on Malaya or the Indies. All members responded in the affirmative.  General Marshall and Admiral Stark, the Chiefs of Staff, concluded that the United States should fight if Japan attacked British or Dutch territory, or Siam west of 100 degrees East or south of 10 degrees North.  In two conversations on December 1 and 3 Roosevelt assured Lord Halifax, British Ambassador to Washington, that the United States would give Britain armed support if the Japanese attacked British or Dutch territories, or if Britain went to war as a result of a Japanese landing in Siam.  This assurance was communicated to London, and from there to Sir Robert Brooke-Popham, British commander in the Far East.8  On the morning of December 7 in Washington (before the Pearl Harbor raid, which took place at dawn, Hawaii time) Secretaries Hull (State), Knox (Navy), and Stimson (War) discussed the anticipated Japanese attack on Siam or Malaya.  They agreed the United States should go to war if the British did. Roosevelt then expected to go before Congress the next day to explain why a Japanese invasion of Siam threatened the security of the United States.

These decisions came too late, however, to affect directly the Japanese deliberations.  By the beginning of December their attack was irrevocably set in motion.  The Japanese conviction that war could not be limited to the British and Dutch had to be based wholly on inference.  Yet it was a correct analysis and a solid conviction, as shown by the otherwise inexplicable risk they took at Pearl Harbor.


The perception of encirclement

Rather close links had been forged between the United States and the colonies in Malaya and the East Indies, bonds that were known to the Japanese and considered to be of great importance.  The Southwest Pacific area was of undeniable economic importance to the United States—at the time most of America’s tin and rubber came from there, as did substantial quantities of other raw materials.9  American political involvement in the area was also heavy.  The United States was cooperating closely with the British and Dutch governments, and according to the Japanese evaluation, if the United States failed to defend the Indies it would lose its influence in China and endanger the Philippines.10  Premier Tojo even referred in this context to the approval given Pan American World Airways to establish an air route between Singapore and Manila.11

Unilateral American actions to build up their military forces, both generally and in the Pacific in particular, were seen as evidence of aggressive intent.12  But most convincing of all were the military ties apparently being established among the ABCD (American-British-Chinese-Dutch) powers.  The United States was known to be supplying munitions and arms, including aircraft, not just to China but to British and Dutch forces in the Pacific.  In cooperation with the British, Dutch, Australians, New Zealanders, and the Free French (at New Caledonia), the United States had begun construction of a string of airfields to the Philippines.  Furthermore, the United States had participated in staff conversations with British and Dutch military personnel at Singapore.  The Japanese came to associate these conversations with an “Anglo-American policy of encirclement against Japan in the Southern Pacific Ocean.”13  This notion of encirclement appears time and again in Japanese official documents and memoirs.   The freezing of Japanese assets by the United States, British, and Netherlands East Indies governments occurred on the same day: July 26, 1941.  Although that act was in direct response to Japan’s occupation of southern Indo-China, her leaders nevertheless saw it as the final link in their bondage.14

As early as spring 1941, in fact, the Japanese army and navy general staffs had agreed among themselves that military action in the Southwest Pacific meant war with the United States.  As we have seen, no definite decision by the United States had been reached, due largely to the state of American public opinion.  But President Roosevelt and Secretary Hull were quite willing to have the Japanese believe that a joint American-British-Dutch plan of defense of the Indies existed.15  The conviction only grew stronger with time, and was reinforced by the intelligence received from the Japanese embassy in Washington.  On December 3, 1941, for example, the Washington embassy cabled Tokyo: “Judging from all indications, we feel that some joint military action between Great Britain and the United States, with or without a declaration of war, is a definite certainty in the event of an occupation of Thailand.”16

The American fleet in the Pacific, while inferior to the Japanese in many respects, was strong enough to endanger seriously a sustained offensive and quite possibly strong enough to postpone Japan’s effective occupation of the Indies until her raw materials ran out.  The oil fields might be put out of operation for many months, and in any case the shipment of these supplies to Japan under the threat of American air and naval attack would be too risky.  Japan simply dared not undertake such operations while the American fleet remained intact.

Having decided against withdrawal from China, failed to negotiate a settlement with America, and decided on the necessity of seizing supplies from Southeast Asia, they were faced with the need to blunt what they regarded as the inevitable American response.  Thus they launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor to destroy any American capability for immediate naval offensive.  For all the audacity of the strike at Hawaii, its aims were limited; to destroy existing United States offensive capabilities in the Pacific by tactical surprise.   The Japanese High Command hoped only to give its forces time to occupy the islands of the Southwest Pacific, to extract those islands’ raw materials, and to turn the whole area into a virtually impregnable line of defense which could long delay an American counteroffensive and mete out heavy casualties when the counterattack did come.  As a result of their early success the Japanese naval and military chiefs extended this line a little farther than they had first meant to do, but their original intentions were not grandiose.

In deciding to attack Pearl Harbor the Japanese took what they fully recognized to be a great risk. There is no doubt but that the Imperial government realized it could not win a long war with the United States if the Americans chose to fight such a war. Japanese strategists calculated that America’s war potential was seven to eight times greater than their own; they knew that Japan could not hope to carry the war to the continental United States.  General Suzuki, chairman of the Planning Board, had reported that Japan’s stockpile of resources was not adequate to support a long war.  Admiral Yamamoto, the brilliant inventor of the Pearl Harbor attack plan, warned; “In the first six months to a year of war against the U.S. and England I will run wild, and I will show you an uninterrupted succession of victories; I must also tell you that, should the war be prolonged for two or three years, I have no confidence in our ultimate victory.”17

Because the proposed attack seemed an escape from the dilemma it was grasped with more enthusiasm than it deserved.  The Japanese never seriously considered exactly what would cause the United States to forego crushing Japan, or how Japan might best create the proper conditions for a negotiated peace.  Certain key elements, such as the probable effect of the Pearl Harbor attack on the American will to win, were left completely unanalyzed.  Japan’s sole strategy involved dealing maximum losses to the United States at the outset, making the prospects of a prolonged war as grim as possible, and counting, in an extremely vague and ill-defined way, on the American people’s “softness” to end the war.


A considered decision

Nor, certainly, can the Japanese decision be explained simply as an act of “irrationality,” an impulsive act by an unstable leader.  Such explanations depend either upon a situation of great stress, which would warp the actions of all or most of the participants in the decision process, or really apply only to circumstances where a single individual in fact makes the decision.  Some of Hitler’s most costly mistakes in World War II, for example, were highly individualistic decisions for which he alone was responsible.  Typical of the pattern was his order to stand and fight at Stalingrad rather than allow his army to retreat and regroup.  High stress plus the peculiarities of the Fuehrer’s personality produced a command different from what other men would have given.

The Japanese decision to attack Pearl Harbor, however, was neither the decision of a single individual, where much of his behavior could be explained by his own personality, nor a decision arrived at under time pressures.  It was reached incrementally and reinforced at several steps along the line.  On July 2, 1941, it was decided to press ahead with expansion in Southeast Asia even though this meant a high risk of war with the United States. After deep consideration by high Japanese military and naval officials for months, a formal commitment was made at the Imperial Conference of September 6 that either negotiations must result in lifting the United States embargo on strategic raw materials, or Japan would have to fight the Americans.  October 15 was set as the deadline for success in negotiation. But even though the strategic commitment (in the sense of a decision for the next move dependent upon the opponent’s reaction to this one) had seemingly been made, it was the subject of a great deal of reexamination over the subsequent three months.  Prince Konoye’s government resigned following the expiration of the deadline, but the new cabinet formed under General Tojo took office not as a regime determined to take the nation into war, but rather as one still seeking a way out.  Serious negotiation with the United States continued through November.  A new secret deadline of November 25 was once set, “after which things are going to happen automatically,” but it too was extended until November 30.

Whatever the nature of the decision to go to war, it was arrived at and reinforced over a long period of time, and was not the result of anyone’s possibly “irrational” impulse.  In any case, the decision was in no important sense the act of a single man whose peculiar traits can be used to explain it.   Rather, it was a carefully—if incompletely—considered collec-tive attempt to break out of a dilemma that no man would relish.

This analysis is meant to establish an important proposition: that the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and for that matter on Southeast Asia, is not evidence of any unlimited expansionist policy or capability by the Japanese government.  It was the consequence only of a much less ambitious goal, centering on an unwillingness to surrender the position that the Japanese had fought for years to establish in China.  When that refusal met an equal American determination that Japan should give up many of her gains in China, the result was war. Japanese expansion into Southeast Asia originated less in strength than in weakness; it was predominantly instrumental to the China campaign, not a reach for another slice of global salami.  Of course there were Japanese political and military leaders with wider ambitions, but they were not predominant in policy-making.

Throughout the 1930s the United States government had done little to resist the Japanese advance on the Asian continent.  There were verbal protests, but little more.  Even in early 1941 Washington apparently would have settled for a halt in China, and saw little danger of a much wider move into Southeast Asia.  But the application of economic sanctions against Tokyo was very successful; it was obviously hurting, and the moderate Premier Prince Konoye proposed a direct meeting with Roosevelt to try to reach an understanding.  At about that point the American Government seems to have been so impressed with its success that it rebuffed Konoye’s approach, demanding that he agree in advance on terms of a settlement.  Konoye’s cabinet fell, and American observers concluded—on the basis of untestable evidence that sounded a bit like sour grapes—that he could not have enforced a “reason-able” settlement in Japanese politics anyway.  Washington then raised the ante, calling for a Japanese withdrawal from all occupied territory in China.  Several officials in the State Department proposed settling for a halt, giving China a breathing spell that would have served it better for several more years of war while America made its main effort in the Atlantic.  Hull considered and then rejected their plan for such a modus vivendi, which rather closely resembled the second of two Japanese proposals (“Plan B”) that represented Tokyo’s last efforts.  Economic sanctions continued to provide a warm moral glow for those who disapproved of trading with an aggressor, but they then served to make inevitable an otherwise avoidable war which was peripheral to American vital interests and for which the country was ill-prepared.

It was widely understood in Washington that the next move would probably be some sort of Japanese attack in Southeast Asia.  Ambassador Grew in Tokyo had long been warning of the limited nature of Japanese goals and the consequences of resisting them.18  As early as 1940, Under-secretary of State Sumner Welles had cautioned that an embargo would bring Japanese occupation of the Dutch East Indies.


America in China

Why then did President Roosevelt and his advisers embark on a series of incremental pressures that had the effect of pushing the Japanese into war?  In large part, of course, they decided that Japanese ambitions in China posed a long-term threat to American interests, and so they forced a confrontation.  A sentimental American attitude toward China as a “ward” also must not be forgotten. From missionary days they had been a people “we had always helped,” to whom there was a sense of obligation.19  Roosevelt had a long-time emotional attachment to China, and from his days as Assistant Secretary of the Navy had allegedly “become imbued with the Navy’s conviction that Japan was America’s Number One enemy.”20  Nor should economic, as opposed to strategic, motives be ignored as they have been in most conventional histories of the period.  Beginning with Dr. Sun Yat-Sen’s idea that Chinese reconstruction would have to be brought about in collaboration with other countries, the nationalist government sought foreign economic and technical assistance.21  Some interest was expressed in the United States, with a few loans forthcoming. Nondiscrimination in East Asian trade was almost always included in American demands on Japan. According to one analyst with a revisionist perspective

Although the Great China Market never materialized, many American leaders in the New Deal period . . . acted upon the assumption that it would, and this gave them reason to oppose Japan’s forward movement in Asia.22

Another demonstrates the importance of perceived commercial possibilities in China in the first American extension of economic assistance to belligerent China.23  Yet another, commenting on policy toward all the Axis states, says:

The actual defense of the United States was one factor involved in the move to an “all-out aid short of war” policy, but the restoration of the Open Door world order was of at least equal importance to the Roosevelt administration.24

Such considerations surely applied, and probably in greater strength, to continental Europe, where Nazi plans for autarchy threatened an American market that was quantitatively very much more important.25  The economic prospect of a German-Soviet dominated Europe must have seemed unattractive—though, objectively, the threat to the national interest as a whole amounted to less than two percent of American GNP for those exports and imports combined.  There also was some fear of German economic penetration into South America. But as for the Far East, by embargoing Japan in 1941 the United States was giving up an export trade at least four times that with China.  While one must not equate dollar volume perfectly with relative political influence, the impact of China traders can easily be exaggerated.26

It is of course impossible to separate and weigh the relative importance of the various influences. Strategic considerations, however muddled, were in the forefront.  Certainly the above evaluation implies no conspiracy by Roosevelt against the general welfare of the United States, but it does require us again to evaluate the military and political situation of the day, in light of what was known then and of what we know now.

On purely strategic grounds some observers might argue that the danger was not from Germany, Italy, or Japan alone, but rather from their combination in an aggressive alliance encircling the Western Hemisphere.  The rhetoric of the time could suggest such a threat, but in fact the Tripartite Pact of Germany and Italy with Japan had become quite fragile.  As explained in the preceding chapter, it was designed to deter United States entry into either of the then still-separate conflicts.  The Japanese foreign minister in early 1941, Yosuke Matsuoka, had negotiated the Pact and was by far its strongest supporter in the cabinet.  He tried to persuade his colleagues to follow the German attack on Russia with a similar act by Japan, but failed and was deposed.   Thereafter the Pact faded in importance to the Tokyo government.  In considering their subsequent negotiations with the United States the Japanese leaders were fully willing to sacrifice the Pact in return for the necessary economic concessions.  Had Hitler managed to get himself into war with America in the Atlantic he could not successfully have invoked the Pact unless the Japanese clearly had seen war to be in their own interests.

Moreover, this drift away from Germany was, it has been well argued, adequately known to American and British officials-Ambassadors Grew and Craigie, Cordell Hull, Roosevelt and Churchill-thanks in part to American ability to crack the codes used in all Japanese secret cables. “After Matsuoka’s fall . . . no Axis leader was able even to keep up the pretense of expecting Japanese intervention in behalf of Germany and Italy.”27 In the context of late 1941, therefore, the prospects of close cooperation among Germany, Italy and Japan were not very menacing. Given their very diverse long-run interests, and Hitler’s racial notions, a “permanent” alliance surely does not seem very plausible. A special irony of the situation is that Roosevelt was particularly anxious to see Hitler beaten first, and that British and Dutch colonial possessions in Southeast Asia, which seemed essential to the European war, be unmolested. His belated insistence on Japanese evacuation from China then pushed the Axis back together and endangered his other goals.

Would Japanese success in China alone, without reference to their allies, have posed such a long-term threat as has sometimes been imagined?  It is easy subconsciously to invoke old Western fears that still plague American China policy.  Even limited to the home islands, after two decades of spectacular growth Japan today has the world’s third largest GNP.   Yet it is only about one-sixth as large as that of the United States, and a third of Russia’s.  This third-ranking power is still manifestly weaker than the United States, as it was in 1941.  From a thirty year perspective it is hard to argue that the great war made much ultimate difference either way in Japan’s potential power in the world.

Firm Japanese control of all China would of course be a different matter, and would indeed have put at Tokyo’s disposal an empire of awesome size.  Still, really what are the prospects that Imperial Japan could effectively have ruled a population seven times larger than her own?  Herbert Hoover at the time urged:

We must remember some essentials of Asiatic life that while Japan has the military ascendancy today and no doubt could take over parts or all of China, yet the Chinese people possess transcendent cultural resis-tance; that the mores of the race have carried through a dozen foreign dynasties over the 3,000 years . . . No matter what Japan does . . . they will not Japanify China and if they stay long enough they will be absorbed or expelled by the Chinese.  For America to undertake this on behalf of China might expedite it, but would not make it more inevitable.28

The Japanese War in China was going so badly in 1941 that it seems rather far-fetched to imagine firm domination ever being established.  Japan was already bogged down on the Asian mainland, as other powers have done since.  The Chinese nationalists, and the Communists, probably could have continued to resist for years with continuing American and Russian military assistance short of war.  Maybe not, but even so it would seem that there would have been substantial warning, still allowing the United States to institute a tough policy against the Japanese later on when the evidence was clear.



1 Basil Rauch, Roosevelt, from Munich to Pearl Harbor (New York: Creative Age Press, 1950), p. 396.

2 James B. Crowley, Japan’s Quest for Autonomy: National Security and Foreign Policy, 1930-1938 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1966).

3 On the slow, very deliberate application of economic sanctions see John Morton Blum, From the Morgenthau Diaries: Years of Urgency, 1938-1941 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1965), Chapter 10.

4 Quoted in Herbert Feis, The Road to Pearl Harbor (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1950), p. 327.

5 See David J. Lu, From the Marco Polo Bridge to Pearl Harbor: Japan’s Entry into World War II (Washington: Public Affairs Press, 1961), p. 304. See also the statement of the Japanese minister of war at the cabinet meeting of October 12, 1941: “The problem of the stationing of the troops in China in itself means the life of the Army, and we shall not be able to make any concessions at all.” Quoted in the memoirs of Prince Konoye, U.S. Congress, Joint Committee on the Investigation of Pearl Harbor Attack, Pearl Harbor Attack: Hearings Before the Joint Committee, 79th Congress, 1st Session (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1946), Part 20, p. 4009.

6 Quoted in Langer and Gleason, Undeclared War, p. 650.

7 Ibid., p. 695. On the contrast between these and the agreement with Churchill see Theodore A. Wilson, The First Summit: Roosevelt and Churchill at Placentia Bay, 1941 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, I969).

8 Raymond A. Esthus, “President Roosevelt’s Commitment to Intervene in a Pacific War,” Mississippi Valley Historical Review 50, no. 1 (June 1963): 34.

9 The economic importance of the area to the United States was not left to Japanese imagination. On July 11, 1940 Ambassador Grew pointed out to foreign minister Arita that in I937 I5.8 percent of the foreign trade of the Netherlands East Indies had been with the United States, and only II.6 per cent with Japan. He further emphasized the interest of the United States in continuance of the open door there. See Cordell Hull, The Memoirs of Cordell Hull, Vol. 1 (New York: Macmillan, 1948), pp. 895-96.

10 See the Japanese Foreign Office memorandum of early November 1941, International Military Tribunal for the Far East (hereafter cited as IMTFE), Document No. 1559A. Similar conclusions were expressed in the Liaison Conference Meetings of October 1941, according to Robert J. C. Butow, Tojo and the Coming of the War (Princeton: Princeton University Press, I96I), p. 317-18.

11 Butow, Tojo, p. 225.

12 IMTFE, Transcript of Proceedings, p. 36246.

13 See the Foreign Office memorandum so entitled, July 1941, IMTFE: Defense Document No. 1982. Foreign Minister Shigenori Togo in his memoirs, The Cause of Japan (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1956), pp. 84, 156, 163, repeatedly referred to the conversations this way.

14 IMTFE, Transcript, p. 36273.

15 Feis, Road to Pearl Harbor, p. 190.

16 Quoted in U.S. Congress, Joint Committee on the Investigation of the Pearl Harbor Attack, Investigation of Pearl Harbor Attack: Report of the Joint Committee, 79th Congress, 2nd Session (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1946), p. 172. See also Nobutaka Ike, ed., Japan’s Decision for War: Records of the 1941 Policy Conferences (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1967), p. 350.

17 Quoted in Roberta Wohlstetter, Pearl Harbor: Warning and Decision (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1962), p. 350.

18 See Schroeder, Axis Alliance, esp. pp. 168-82, and on the earlier period Dorothy Borg, The United States and the Far Eastern Crisis of 1933-1938 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1964). Grew’s warnings are related in his Turbulent Era: A Diplomatic Record of Forty Years, 1904-1945 (Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 1952).

19 For a penetrating documentation of these and other superficial attitudes by “representative examples of American leadership types” see Harold R. Isaacs, Scratches on Our Minds: American Images of China and India (New York: John Day, 1958). See also John K. Fairbank, The United States and China (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1959), rev. ed., Chapter 14.

20 Sumner Welles, Seven Decisions that Shaped the World (New York: Harper and Row, 1951), p. 68.

21 Borg, Far Eastern Crisis, p. 56.

22 Lloyd C. Gardner, Economic Aspects of New Deal Diplomacy (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1964), p. 328.

23 Frederick C. Adams, “The Road to Pearl Harbor: A Reexamination of American Far Eastern Policy, July 1937-December 1938,” Journal of American History 58, no. I (June 1971): 73-92.

24 Robert F. Smith, “American Foreign Relations, 1920-1942,” in Barton J. Bemstein, ed., Towards a New Past: Dissenting Essays in American History (New York: Pantheon, 1968), p. 251.

25 See Trefousse, Germany, p. 16, and William Appleman Williams, The Tragedy of American Diplomacy (New York: World, 1959).

26 See A. Whitney Griswold, The Far Eastern Policy of the United States (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1938).

27 Schroeder, Axis Alliance, p. 155, also pp. 154-67 passim. Schroeder establishes Churchill and the Ambassadors’ knowledge of the estrangement, and although he has less evidence for Hull and Roosevelt is nevertheless quite confident. Other recent books supporting this argument that a halt to Japanese expansion in China could have been obtained without the Pacific War include Ike, Japan’s Decision, and John Toland, The Rising Sun (New York: Random House, 1970).

28 R. L. Wilbur and A. M. Hyde, The Hoover Policies (New York: Scribners, 1937), p. 600. Quoted in Isaacs, Scratches, p. 166.


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