If the US wasn't in the Philippines in 1941, would it have made any difference in Japan's decision to attack Pearl Harbor?

Apr 2018
446
India
#11
That's a possibility. Another possibility is if the Philipines were still Spanish. Could Japan make war on a fascist ally of Germany and Italy? Or would Franco make a non-aggression pact with Japan?
Before that another question has to be answered - would Philippines have become Francoist or would it have become sort of a last bastion of the Republicans? In the second case Philippines would have surely been attacked and occupied.
 
Likes: Futurist
Jul 2009
9,613
#12
One point to mention, the souring of relations began long before the embargo. The Washington Naval Treaty was actually the first nail in the coffin.
I would argue that the "first nail" was re-positioning the US navy battle fleet to the West Coast in 1919. The Japanese knew what the reason for that was.

The US had more interests in Asia than just their presence in the Philippines. Trade with China and other commercial considerations were virtually a vital interest, and US presence in the P.I. was becoming a liability rather than a strategic asset. With possession of Pearl Harbor the US had a forward-deployed base from which it could still reach and affect Japan's lines of communication to the East Indies oil and also S.E. Asia where other raw materials were available - Malaya; Indochina; even Australia.

Had the US removed itself from the P.I., another power would have filled the void. The other European powers were France and Britain, the Dutch not being an important factor. In 1941, they were in no position to contest Japan in Asia. The only other possibility was Japan itself. Japan securing its lines of communication by a presence in the P.I. would have eliminated all rivals in the Far East. US policy with regard to trade in Asia meant that Japan was still a threat to US interests. Moving the fleet to Pearl from San Diego and San Pedro/Long Beach would have looked much the same to Japan even if there was no US presence in the Philippines.

The first nail was the fleet on the West Coast. The second was the fleet (IIRC 10 battleships) visiting Australia and New Zealand in 1925. That was a blunt statement that the US had vital interests in the south Pacific and S.E. Asia. Apart from the Manchurian crisis and the diplomatic response, the last nail was the embargo on oil and other strategic materials (along with freezing Japanese assets in the US - all in summer, 1941).

The IJN had begun planning for a possible war with the US early in 1941. The plans took shape later in the year, and the diplomatic dance in Washington was only a charade to gain time for the final preparations.

Without the US presence in the P.I., Japan may have (1) occupied the islands subsequent to withdrawal of US military forces, or (2) just bypassed the islands initially if either war distracted Britain or France were in possession of them. Regardless, Japan would then have had extra assets in 1941 with which to occupy Midway and Johnston Island, and perhaps even Samoa, creating an additional strategic problem for the US. That is all conjecture, but it would present problems along the lines for the flow of troops and supplies to Australia, given the IJN doctrine of submarine and other torpedo craft, and aircraft, interdicting an advance by the USN. Those positions would likely have to be retaken before any other parts of War Plan Orange were put in motion.

In one way, the "first nail" could be considered the circumnavigation by the Great White Fleet in 1908. Regardless of nail-counting, the Japanese would have probably attacked Pearl anyway as their best opening option. In that event, it may not have been as much of a surprise, but who knows?
 
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Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
16,916
SoCal
#13
That's a possibility. Another possibility is if the Philipines were still Spanish. Could Japan make war on a fascist ally of Germany and Italy? Or would Franco make a non-aggression pact with Japan?
Couldn't Japan have conquered the Philippines from Spain before Franco actually came to power, though?
 

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
16,916
SoCal
#14
Before that another question has to be answered - would Philippines have become Francoist or would it have become sort of a last bastion of the Republicans? In the second case Philippines would have surely been attacked and occupied.
Attacked and occupied by Japan or by Franco's forces?
 
Jul 2009
9,613
#15
That's a possibility. Another possibility is if the Philipines were still Spanish. Could Japan make war on a fascist ally of Germany and Italy? Or would Franco make a non-aggression pact with Japan?
I think the Japanese would have made diplomatic excuses and just occupied what they needed in those "pre-war Spanish P.I." Japan didn't care about Spain. Japan cared little enough about their Axis buddies as it was.
 
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Chlodio

Ad Honorem
Aug 2016
3,674
Dispargum
#17
Before that another question has to be answered - would Philippines have become Francoist or would it have become sort of a last bastion of the Republicans? In the second case Philippines would have surely been attacked and occupied.
Agreed. If the Philipines were Republican I can see Japan signing a treaty with Franco to invade the Philipines with Spanish permission. That would be more difficult for the US to oppose, given that Germany and Italy intervened in Spain in the 1930s without western opposition. Japan went through the motions of getting Vichy permission to occupy Indochina. That resulted in a US embargo because the US considered Vichy to be an illegitimate government, but I'm not so sure a Japanese siezure of the Spanish Philipines would get Japan in the same degree of trouble.

I think the Japanese would have made diplomatic excuses and just occupied what they needed in those "pre-war Spanish P.I." Japan didn't care about Spain. Japan cared little enough about their Axis buddies as it was.
Japan seemed to value their membership in the Tripartite Pact with Germany and Italy. I doubt Japan would have risked that relationship for the Philipines. Without the alliance with Germany and Italy Japan may have had to fight the US all by themselves after Pearl Harbor. I'm sure that one way or another Japan could have occupied or neutralized the Philipines without risking a break with Germany or Italy. It would have been embarassing if Japan siezed the Philipines just as Hitler was trying to get Franco to attack Gibraltar.

Another aspect was Soviet support for the Spanish Republicans. Would Japan risk their non-aggression pact with the Soviets by invading a Republican Philipines?
 
Jan 2015
3,244
Front Lines of the Pig War
#18
Without the US presence in the P.I., Japan may have (1) occupied the islands subsequent to withdrawal of US military forces, or (2) just bypassed the islands initially if either war distracted Britain or France were in possession of them. Regardless, Japan would then have had extra assets in 1941 with which to occupy Midway and Johnston Island, and perhaps even Samoa, creating an additional strategic problem for the US.
Good points, but one point is missed.
There is no reason to "bypass" PI, as there would be no reason to go to war, unless the US pushes aggressively to counter Japan.
The only reason that Britain (followed by the Dutch ) agreed to support the embargo was part of a strong Pacific strategy, led by the US - which included a promise from FDR to Churchill for military support from the US in event of war.

If the US is not leading an active strategy to counter Japan there would be no dutch embargo, and hence no Pacific war of any kind.
 

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
16,916
SoCal
#19
Agreed. If the Philipines were Republican I can see Japan signing a treaty with Franco to invade the Philipines with Spanish permission. That would be more difficult for the US to oppose, given that Germany and Italy intervened in Spain in the 1930s without western opposition. Japan went through the motions of getting Vichy permission to occupy Indochina. That resulted in a US embargo because the US considered Vichy to be an illegitimate government, but I'm not so sure a Japanese siezure of the Spanish Philipines would get Japan in the same degree of trouble.
I thought that the US recognized the legitimacy of the Vichy government until at least 1942?
 
Apr 2018
446
India
#20
I would argue that the "first nail" was re-positioning the US navy battle fleet to the West Coast in 1919. The Japanese knew what the reason for that was.

The US had more interests in Asia than just their presence in the Philippines. Trade with China and other commercial considerations were virtually a vital interest, and US presence in the P.I. was becoming a liability rather than a strategic asset. With possession of Pearl Harbor the US had a forward-deployed base from which it could still reach and affect Japan's lines of communication to the East Indies oil and also S.E. Asia where other raw materials were available - Malaya; Indochina; even Australia.
In one way, the "first nail" could be considered the circumnavigation by the Great White Fleet in 1908. Regardless of nail-counting, the Japanese would have probably attacked Pearl anyway as their best opening option. In that event, it may not have been as much of a surprise, but who knows?
See, power projection in the Asia Pacific is something that (to a good extent) defines the course of civilization in modern times. That's nothing unique. It's so established a practice even today that without it nobody can actually become anything serious in the global arena. Everyone has/had interests in Asia and everyone with a geopolitical ambition has projected/projects power in this region. The US only did it from the other side, that's all.

The Pacific Fleet would have been useless in Long Beach or San Diego with those oil guzzling Battleships. If the US never had its Pacific bases, not only Pearl but all its hop points to the end - Palmyra, Fiji, New Zealand, Samoa, Tonga, New Caledonia etc then people would be calling California 'Kariforunia' by now. It was even impossible to conduct the war from the US mainland given the expanse of the Pacific.

As for the Great White Fleet, considering it as first nail is something like blaming apes for evolving into humans and then dropping a bomb on Hiroshima (Just joking). That power projection was probably the first step towards what the US Sea Power is today.

The IJN had begun planning for a possible war with the US early in 1941. The plans took shape later in the year, and the diplomatic dance in Washington was only a charade to gain time for the final preparations.
They had their war scenario as early as 1920s. Read the Capital Ships section.

Without the US presence in the P.I., Japan may have (1) occupied the islands subsequent to withdrawal of US military forces, or (2) just bypassed the islands initially if either war distracted Britain or France were in possession of them. Regardless, Japan would then have had extra assets in 1941 with which to occupy Midway and Johnston Island, and perhaps even Samoa, creating an additional strategic problem for the US. That is all conjecture, but it would present problems along the lines for the flow of troops and supplies to Australia, given the IJN doctrine of submarine and other torpedo craft, and aircraft, interdicting an advance by the USN. Those positions would likely have to be retaken before any other parts of War Plan Orange were put in motion.
It wouldn't have made much different. The Japs already had Truk from the League of Nations mandate.