Critical diplomatic change leading to Pacific war

Jul 2011
170
After reading about the events leading up to the Pearl Harbor Attack.
I think the most critical event, leading to war with the Japanese. Took place in the diplomatic negotiations, during the fall of 1941.

FDR and Sec of State Hull, gave the Japanese an ultimatum. Despite
being told this would lead to war, by US ambassador to Japan, Joseph Grew. Raw materials having been embargoed, was also a factor, but that had been going on for a while by Dec 1941.

This ultimatum offended Japan's "super sentitive sensibilities" according to the Naval Court of Inquiry. At issue was no longer a lack of raw materials,
but more one of honor, or to put it the Japanese way, losing face.

Right after the ultimatum was given, in late Nov, 1941. The 6 carrier Japanese strike force, headed for Pearl Harbor and the Day of Infamy.

Kimmel and Short should have been, told of this fundamental change in the diplomatic situation. They did get a war warning on Nov 27th, 1941. But this did not explain, this major diplomatic change with Japan.

They had also rec'd other such warning and for a while now and nothing had happened. Local newspapers were filled with headlines, War with Japan soon, then later, No War with Japan is going to happen. Wolf had been cried many times and never shown up.

But, after the ultimatum things were really different. FDR & his admin, along with many high military officials in Washington DC, all understood this and did not share this change with the Hawaiian commanders.

This was the most critical piece info, Kimmel and Short were not given.
It changed the whole situation and relationship the US had with Japan.

While I know this is speculation, it might have suggested to Kimmel & Short and the others in Hawaii, war was coming soon and all defensive
measures should be taken.

The lack of Pursuit Aircraft (fighters for defense against bombers) and anti-aircraft weapons and other deficiencies with the Pearl Habor base, was very well known to Adm Kimmel.

The solution he had disscussed with Navy Chief, Adm Stark was to
take the fleet to sea and away from Pearl Harbor. The training exercises the fleet was engaged in, would have to be stopped, but that would no
longer be an issue, the fleet was going to have to do battle with what
training the men had.

I think this is the biggest factor, in why the Pearl Harbor disaster took
place and why it was so devastating and why our military was caught so unprepared.
 

botully

Ad Honorem
Feb 2011
3,547
Amelia, Virginia, USA
Ironic, isn't it, that appeasement is said to have led to the European war while the opposite is said to have caused the Pacific War.

By Nov. 26, 1941 the Pearl Harbor operation had been planned, practiced, gamed, and the fleet had sailed.
 

diddyriddick

Historum Emeritas
May 2009
14,692
A tiny hamlet in the Carolina Sandhills
To be clear......

1. The Japanese began formal planning for the Pearl Harbor attack in September of 1941.

2. The Kido Butai sailed from Hitokappu Bay BEFORE the supposed "Hull Ultimatum" was even delivered to the Japanese.

3. NOTHING in the "Hull Ultimatum" was new. The US had already placed sanctions on the Japanese for their military expansion into China, Manchukuo, and Indochina. Moreover, the requirements that the US had before they would back off of their stance. And what were those horrible, heavy handed requirements? Merely that the Japanese withdraw from Manchukuo, China, and Indochina.

The Hull Ultimatum is a myth.
 
Jul 2011
170
The 6 carrier task force sortied, Nov 26th at 0600, from Hitokappu Bay. This is on one of the most northern islands, that make up Japan. The force could have been recalled, if some sort of settlement had been reached.

FDR did send a last minute message to Emperor Hirohito. Which I believe was an
attempt to cover-up, the reality, that FDR chose to give the Japanese an ultimatum.
Despite full knowledge this would lead to war with Japan. After being told this by US
ammbassador to Japan Grew and Sec of State Hull. And despite being asked not to
do this, in a written memo, from US Army Chief of Staff, Gen Marshall and Navy Chief
Adm Stark. Marshall and Stark acknowledged war with Japan as inevitable, but were
pleading with FDR for more time to build-up US Military strength in the Pacific.

Documented in SecWar Stimson's diary is FDR's contemplating, how to maneuver the Japanese into firing the first shots of the Pacific War, with as little damage to US Military forces as possible.

In 1940, the Two Ocean Navy Act was signed into law. This would build the new
Essex Class carriers, that would be so successful in the coming Pacific War. A lot
of other new ships and state of the art aircraft, were also on there way. While
this is speculation, had the start of the Pacific War been posponed. The US might
not have had lost so many of the Pacific island bases, like Wake and Guam. As it was
forces in the Philippines, held out for 6 months. The Japanese had great difficulty taking Wake Island and suffered many casualties in the battle. Then we would not
have had to retake those Pacific Islands and take all those casualties in the process.

In short, the Pacific War would not have lasted as long, or been so costly. On the
other hand, after the war started. FDR started listening to his military commanders,
like Adm Nimitz. Who was able to turn the balance of power in the Pacific, around in
only about 6 months at the Battle of Midway. The war in the Pacific, really did go
pretty well after that. With the exception of Battles of attrition, like Guadalcanal,
Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Some of which were probably not avoidable, because the
Japanese had been fortifying those islands for decades before the war started.
 

Edratman

Forum Staff
Feb 2009
6,792
Eastern PA
Ironic, isn't it, that appeasement is said to have led to the European war while the opposite is said to have caused the Pacific War.

By Nov. 26, 1941 the Pearl Harbor operation had been planned, practiced, gamed, and the fleet had sailed.
To be clear......

1. The Japanese began formal planning for the Pearl Harbor attack in September of 1941.

2. The Kido Butai sailed from Hitokappu Bay BEFORE the supposed "Hull Ultimatum" was even delivered to the Japanese.

3. NOTHING in the "Hull Ultimatum" was new. The US had already placed sanctions on the Japanese for their military expansion into China, Manchukuo, and Indochina. Moreover, the requirements that the US had before they would back off of their stance. And what were those horrible, heavy handed requirements? Merely that the Japanese withdraw from Manchukuo, China, and Indochina.

The Hull Ultimatum is a myth.
These two posts pretty much sum up the facts.

It is possible and very easy to "if" everything that ever happened. The problem with "if" chains is that they always lead to the point desired and never address the complexity of any situation.
 
Jul 2011
170
To be clear......

1. The Japanese began formal planning for the Pearl Harbor attack in September of 1941.

2. The Kido Butai sailed from Hitokappu Bay BEFORE the supposed "Hull Ultimatum" was even delivered to the Japanese.

3. NOTHING in the "Hull Ultimatum" was new. The US had already placed sanctions on the Japanese for their military expansion into China, Manchukuo, and Indochina. Moreover, the requirements that the US had before they would back off of their stance. And what were those horrible, heavy handed requirements? Merely that the Japanese withdraw from Manchukuo, China, and Indochina.

The Hull Ultimatum is a myth.
Planning an attack on Pearl Harbor had even been a final exam question,
from the Japanese Naval acadamy. So, no it was not a new idea.

The Kido Butai observed radio silence, but was able to listen and could
have been recalled, if a settlement was reached.

US requests were not new, in the Hull Ultimatum, that is correct. But the way it was presented as an ultimatum to the Japanese was.

The Kido Butai sortied the same day it was given to the Japanese.
I'm not suggesting, that asking the Japanese to stop making war on China was an unreasonable request, or we should have kept selling them things like aviation fuel, Japan was using to make war.

My source for a lot of my post is the NCI (Naval Court of Inquiry):

http://www.ibiblio.org/pha/pha/navy/navy_0.html

(italics and the underlining mine)

On 5 November, 1941, the Chief of Naval Operations and the Chief of
Staff, U. S. Army, submitted a joint memorandum to the President,
recommending that no ultimatum be delivered to Japan at that time and giving, as one of the basic reasons the existing numerical superiority
of the Japanese Fleet over the U. S. Pacific Fleet.

Later on in the NCI:

statement was based upon the note delivered by the State Department
to the Japanese representatives on 26 November, a copy of which was
furnished the Navy [1197] Department. It did not in itself discontinue
negotiations and conversations, but, on the contrary, gave an "outline
of proposed basis for agreement between the United States and Japan."
The stipulations contained therein were drastic and were likely to be
unacceptable to Japan.

The reply to this note was anxiously awaited by the high officials of the
War and Navy Department because of the feeling that Japan would not
accept the conditions presented, and that diplomatic relations would be
severed or that war would declared. The sending of the note therefore
began the final phase of the critical period which culminated on 7
December.

The reply to this note or ultimatum, was the 14 part message, that Magic (US codebreaking) allowed FDR, Harry Hopkins, SecNavy Knox, SecWar Stimson, to read. Along with Generals Marshall and Gerow (Army Chief War Plans), Admirals Stark and Turner (head of Navy War Plans).

They were anxiously awaiting this 14 point message, because they thought it would be a declaration of war.

After the first 13 parts of the message came in and were distributed, another message to present the 14th part at precisely 1 PM, also came in
and was decoded. This became known at the 1 PM Message. Leading some to conclude a surprize action of some sort was planned, in the Pacific, at or shortly after 1 PM.

I don't think it is real clear, who figured out, this was a strong suggestion
of the tactic of a dawn carrier attack. 1 PM Washington DC time, being
dawn in Hawaii. This tactic was well known at the time, I think it was
Lt Cmd Kramer, who first suggested this to Adm stark. Col Bratten also
tried to get a hold of Gen Marshall, but was no able to, right away. A
message was sent, but got there too late and was not very clear anyway.

Some of these people involved even testified they thought Kimmel and
Short had access to Magic messages, but they did not.
 

diddyriddick

Historum Emeritas
May 2009
14,692
A tiny hamlet in the Carolina Sandhills
The 6 carrier task force sortied, Nov 26th at 0600, from Hitokappu Bay. This is on one of the most northern islands, that make up Japan. The force could have been recalled, if some sort of settlement had been reached.

FDR did send a last minute message to Emperor Hirohito. Which I believe was an
attempt to cover-up, the reality, that FDR chose to give the Japanese an ultimatum.
Despite full knowledge this would lead to war with Japan. After being told this by US
ammbassador to Japan Grew and Sec of State Hull. And despite being asked not to
do this, in a written memo, from US Army Chief of Staff, Gen Marshall and Navy Chief
Adm Stark. Marshall and Stark acknowledged war with Japan as inevitable, but were
pleading with FDR for more time to build-up US Military strength in the Pacific.

Documented in SecWar Stimson's diary is FDR's contemplating, how to maneuver the Japanese into firing the first shots of the Pacific War, with as little damage to US Military forces as possible.

In 1940, the Two Ocean Navy Act was signed into law. This would build the new
Essex Class carriers, that would be so successful in the coming Pacific War. A lot
of other new ships and state of the art aircraft, were also on there way. While
this is speculation, had the start of the Pacific War been posponed. The US might
not have had lost so many of the Pacific island bases, like Wake and Guam. As it was
forces in the Philippines, held out for 6 months. The Japanese had great difficulty taking Wake Island and suffered many casualties in the battle. Then we would not
have had to retake those Pacific Islands and take all those casualties in the process.

In short, the Pacific War would not have lasted as long, or been so costly. On the
other hand, after the war started. FDR started listening to his military commanders,
like Adm Nimitz. Who was able to turn the balance of power in the Pacific, around in
only about 6 months at the Battle of Midway. The war in the Pacific, really did go
pretty well after that. With the exception of Battles of attrition, like Guadalcanal,
Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Some of which were probably not avoidable, because the
Japanese had been fortifying those islands for decades before the war started.
This flawed argument has been going around for years. While I have no illusions that I will convince revisionists, a full understanding is in order for those who care to understand.

Firstly, a chronology will help us put this in context. In 1931, the Kwantung army invaded Manchukuo. The western world, including Washington expressed its unease with Japanese aggression, but no further action was taken. In 1937 the Kwantung army again attacked a neighbor in China. Under the guise of a "greater east asia co-prosperity sphere," the Japanese demonstrated again that they were prepared to use military force to obtain the real estate and resources they wanted. Again, Washington expressed its disaproval, but the IJA continued unabated. In May of 1940, Japan again opportunistically attacked a weak neighbor. But significantly, Washington did two things in response to this Japanese militarism. Firstly, sanctioning of exportation of essential war materiel to Tokyo forced the Japanese to a fateful conclusion that we will explore further momentarily. Secondly, the Roosevelt administration moved the US Pacific Fleet to Pearl Harbor from San Diego in spite of reservations in the US naval community.

Against this backdrop, Tokyo was stuck between a rock and a hard place. To continue their aggressive actions in China they absolutely had to have resources that they couldn't provide for themselves-namely iron, oil, tin etc. The US and others had provided much of these raw materials, but the well had dried up because of sanctions. Therefore, the only option available to them was their neighbors to the south, namely Malaya, Borneo, and the Philippines. However, Tokyo understood that the world wouldn't stand idle while they invaded these neighbors.

So if you don't want to fight a lengthy war with your an opponent who has an exponentially larger industrial and human base from which to draw, what do you do? You knock him out at the beginning of hostilities and force him to negotiate from a temporary position of weakness. Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto planned the Pearl Harbor attack with this in mind. Having served in Washington as a naval attache, he understood that Japan couldn't compete with the US in a drawn out slugfest. His goal in Operation Z was to bloody the Americans so much that public opinion would force Washington to sue for peace. He categorically informed Tokyo that he could control the Pacific for 6 months to a year, after which he offered no guarantees. His timeframe proved remarkably prescient.

Now for a point by point rebuttal......

1. No army (or navy for that matter) has ever been recalled when fully mobilized. Inertia ensures that war is going to happen when two forces are standing toe to toe. When Japan decided to move south, the die was cast. War in the Pacific was inevitable, and everybody in Washington, Tokyo, and London knew it. They even knew where it was coming with the exception of the brilliant Pearl Harbor attack.

2. Roosevelt DID send a last minute message to Emperor Hirohito. But it was NOT to cover up anything. He had no illusions that it had much chance of success, but hoped that the Emperor could force the IJA to back off.

3. The facts belie an American "ultimatum." In fact, if anybody delivered an ultimatum, it could be strongly argued that it was Tokyo. As stated, Washington's demands were clear, and nothing new. Tokyo's instructions to Kurusu and Nomura were intended NOT to bring peace, but rather to delay and obfuscate. Either the Americans cave on their demands of withdraw from Manchukuo, China, and Indochina or Japan was going to attack.

4. Roosevelt DID want Japan to draw first blood. This is unquestionably true. However, the notion that this was some attempt to "maneuver" the Japanese into war is simply unfounded. Roosevelt understood that war was inevitable; given that, he didn't want there to be any chance that public opinion, domestic or international, was misled on who started the war. Statesmanship, not deception.

5. American "Orange" planning assumed that the Philippines would fall. The navy understood something that the army couldn't. In the event of war, all the bravery and commitment of the US and Philippino forces defending the archipelago wouldn't matter if they couldn't be supported from the sea. Rainbow planning HOPED that the Philippine defenders could hold out for 18 months while the ABCD allies mounted a relief expedition.

6. Guam was a non issue. Again, "Orange" planning ignored Guam after about 1930 because it wasn't a significant base.

7. For any failings that Husband E. Kimmel may have had, timidity wasn't one of them. In one of his last official acts as CinCPac he ordered a relief expedition to cover Wake. The intermediate CinC, Pye cancelled this operation, much to the consternation of both the White House and Navy Department. Wake was lost because of naval missteps, not civilian.

8. Again, the notion that the bases in the western Pacific could be defended is simply not borne out by the facts. Edward Miller demonstrated convincingly in War Plan Orange that the US planning apparatus understood that these bases were of limited military value, unsupportable because of their distance from the supply base, and indefensible by the limited forces available. The military people KNEW that they would have to be retaken-it was just a question of how long it would take.

9. Finally, the notion that Washington could forestall is perhaps the most erroneous notion of all. To recap, Operation Z was largely borne of desperation-Tokyo had enough war resources for about 6-7 months of operations. Tokyo couldn't afford any delays-They HAD to undertake the southern operations, regardless of any Hawaiian operation. Pearl Harbor was always a sideshow to Malaya, Borneo, the Philippines, etc. Pearl Harbor was NOT an end-it was a means. It was now or never for the Japanese.

In conclusion, then, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on their own. They did so to fulfill THEIR militaristic national goals....NOT because America forced their hand. The record is clear.
 

botully

Ad Honorem
Feb 2011
3,547
Amelia, Virginia, USA
Good post, diddyriddick.
I would add one thing. Yamamoto forced the Pearl Harbor operation on a reluctant General Staff. The other option was attacking the East Indies and seeing if the Americans would go to war for Dutch colonies. I understand that leaving the Philippines would have left the supply line vulnerable, but it is an interesting what-if.
Japan was under no illusions about their ability to defeat the US in a total war, and Pearl Harbor guaranteed a fight to the finish.