Backing Japan Into a Corner
by Jonathan Goodwin
Betrayed, by Herbert Hoover
Japan was the direct route by which the United States entered
the war it is necessary to examine the major actions during this
period which brought about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
This is the more necessary since not only were the actions of
our government not disclosed to the American people at the time,
but a generation of school children have grown up who never knew
the truth of these actions.
This is how
Hoover begins this section covering the time leading up to the Japanese
attack on Pearl Harbor. I would only add that not only were the
actions of the government not told to the people at the time, but
much of the official government statements regarding this subject
was misleading at best and lies at worst. Additionally, it isnt
just that the school children didnt know the truth of these
actions, but that they were purposely told an inaccurate story.
Sadly, more than one generation of children have been told this
story, and believe it with a faith stronger than religion.
many episodes of Japanese attempts to secure peace or at least a
truce, including the replacement of the anti-American Foreign Minister
Yosuke Matsuoka with Admiral Teijiro Toyoda, who was pro Anglo Saxon.
Hoover counts this as a signal to Roosevelt and Secretary Hull that
more liberal elements in Japan had now come into ascendency. However,
this was lost on the American administration:
July 25, 1941, a month after Hitlers attack upon Stalin,
President Roosevelt, suddenly ignoring the Japanese proposals,
announced further economic sanctions upon them.
I have previously
written about the myth
of Pearl Harbor here.
It is a review
of the book by George Victor, The
Pearl Harbor Myth: Rethinking the Unthinkable. I will refer
to this book further while discussing this section of Freedom Betrayed.
a significant change came to Roosevelt regarding his view toward
Japan in the summer of 1941. Roosevelt became suddenly much more
aggressive and provocative toward the Japanese. Victor believes
this change was prompted by the German invasion of Russia, and Roosevelts
desire to draw Japanese attention away from Asia and the Russians
and toward the Pacific and Americans. Whereas prior to the German
invasion Russia faced little in terms of risk in the war to date,
post the German invasion Russia was fighting a fierce and able enemy.
Why Roosevelt had this concern for Russias fate is unknown,
at least to me. Hoovers statement above is consistent with
this idea that Roosevelt suddenly took a different approach during
multiple and continual efforts by the Japanese to meet and negotiate
with the Americans:
8, 1941, Ambassador Nomura, on instructions from Tokyo, formally
proposed to Secretary Hull a meeting of Prime Minister Konoye
with President Roosevelt at some place on the American side of
the Pacific. Secretary of War Stimson was against the meeting.
in Ambassador Grews diary
dated August 18, 1941, summarized
a long discussion between Ambassador Grew and Foreign Minister
Toyoda. As to Konoyes visit, Toyoda commented that:
Premiers going abroad would have no precedent in Japanese
18, Grew telegraphed Washington his recommendation:
is here presented
for an act of the highest statesmanship
with the possible overcoming thereby of apparently insurmountable
obstacles to peace hereafter in the Pacific.
It seems statesmanship
was not on the minds of the statesmen in Washington.
28, Nomura presented a personal letter from Prime Minister Konoye
to President Roosevelt
.This communication again urged the
President to agree to a meeting
After a meeting
between Ambassador Grew and the Japanese Prime Minister on September
6, Grew informed the Prime Minister that his report to the President
on this conversation would be the most important cable of his
Konoye, and consequently the Government of Japan, conclusively
and wholeheartedly agree with the four principles enunciated
by the Secretary of State as a basis for the rehabilitation
of relations between the United States and Japan.
four principles touched upon in this proposal, also
known as the four Hull principles", are the four points
for the territorial integrity and the sovereignty of each and
of the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of
of the principle of equality, including equality of commercial
of the status quo in the Pacific, however the status quo may be
altered by peaceful means.
agreed wholeheartedly with these four principles would
have seemed like a strong basis by which to discuss peace, if peace
was the desired objective.
In a further
report to Hull, Grew reported
Konoye feels confident that all problems and questions at issue
can be disposed of to our mutual satisfaction during the meeting
with the President
29, Grew sent a dispatch to Roosevelt and Hull. This was supported
by a dispatch from British Ambassador Craigie in Japan. Hoover describes
these dispatches as a sort of prayer for peace
hope that we shall not allow this favorable period to pass
is now endeavoring to get out of a very dangerous position in
which it has enmeshed itself by pure miscalculation.
that if our exploratory conversations can be brought
to a head by the proposed meeting between the President and the
Prime Minister, substantial hope will be held out
the Far Eastern situation from moving from bad to worse
that in the proposed direct negotiations Prince
Konoye is in a position to offer to the President far-reaching
assurances which could not fail to satisfy us.
to Japan, Robert Craigie, sent a message to Foreign Secretary Eden
and Ambassador Halifax, with comments similar to those made by Grew:
United States colleague and I consider that Prince Konoye is
in his desire to avert the dangers towards which he now sees the
Tripartite Pact and the Axis connection
are rapidly leading
States colleague and I are firmly of the opinion that on balance
this is a chance which it would be
folly to let slip.
to this section regarding Japanese attempts at negotiation and reconciliation,
war, records disclosed that the Japanese Navy had urged peace.
In the latter part of July, Admiral Osami Nagano, Chief of Naval
General Staff, advised the Emperor that the Japanese must try
hard to make peace with the United States, even abandoning the
alliance with Germany if necessary.
clearly that Konoye had commitments from the Emperor and the Navy
that they would back him in any terms he might make to get peace,
even to defiance of the Army.
Grew made strong statements in regards to the notion that Japan
could be brought to her knees via economic sanctions. Grew repudiated
against the illusion in some sectors of the Washington Administration
that Japan would not fight:
if Japan were faced with an economic catastrophe of the first
magnitude, there is no reason whatever to doubt that the Government
however reluctantly would with resolution confront such a catastrophe
rather than yield to pressure from a foreign country.
By early October,
the Japanese were coming to the conclusion that the United States
never had any intention of coming to an agreement with Japan. Hoover
states the Japanese were right! He cites a Stimson note from this
fear that such a conference if actually held would produce concessions
which would be highly dangerous to our vitally important relations
By this time,
the Japanese government was almost pleading for a meeting, or for
a more specific set of conditions under which the Americans might
come to terms. Toyoda had instructed Nomura to ask Hull:
the United States Government would set forth in precise terms
the obligations which the United States Government wished the
Japanese Government to undertake
In the subsequent
days, Toyoda made further such statements to Grew. Hull, in his
Memoirs give little credence to this Japanese overtures,
stating Japan was not prepared to make a general renunciation
of aggression. Hoover states: This statement was scarcely
the truth in the face of the record of Konoyes proposals
any event no harm could come to the United States by exploring their
proposals. It also flies in the face of the statement that
Prince Konoye, and consequently the Government of Japan,
conclusively and wholeheartedly agree with the four principles enunciated
by the Secretary of State as a basis for the rehabilitation of relations
between the United States and Japan.
Once it was
clear that Konoyes efforts failed and there was to be no direct
meeting with Roosevelt, the Konoye Cabinet fell. Hoover describes
this as one of the tragedies of the twentieth century
was a man dedicated to peace, at any personal sacrifice. In
a footnote, Hoover comments:
subsequent life was a confirmation of this. He refused to take
part in the war but did agree to undertake a special mission to
Moscow in an effort to seek peace
.After the war Konoye offered
his services in the problems of reconstruction. But he was accused
of being part of the war conspiracy. He committed suicide rather
than bear the humiliation of a trial as a war criminal.
is the one accused of war crimes. This is the way the peacemaker
was treated after the war.
In 1952, Grew
reflected on this summer of 1941:
believed that Prince Konoye was in a position to carry the country
with him in a program of peace
telegrams seldom brought responses
reporting to our government
was like throwing pebbles into a lake at night; we were not permitted
to see even the ripples
.Obviously I could only assume that
our recommendations were not welcome.
recommendations likely would have been welcome is some form of peace
was desired. That there was not even one attempt by the administration
to secure the high level meeting indicates that peace was not an
option for the administration. Hoover indicates that no word of
these negotiations or cables was revealed to the Congress or the
American people until years later.
outlines steps taken by Japan after the fall of Konoyes cabinet.
After this, Japan formed a cabinet under General Hideki Tojo as
Prime Minister, a cabinet described as composed of militarists with
one exception, Foreign Minister Shigenori Togo. Further attempts
at negotiations were made, and rebuffed. Grew again warned that
the Japanese would not be stopped via the sanctions, that war
would not be averted by such a course
At this time,
the U. S. military leaders also stressed the desire that the Washington
Administration exert a restraining hand. In the conclusion of a
memorandum sent to President Roosevelt on November 5, Chief of Staff
General Marshall and Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Stark stressed
that No ultimatum be delivered to Japan.
4 and 5, Washington intercepted secret dispatches from Tokyo to
ambassador Nomura. Japan was proposing new terms to avoid war, in
two parts. In case Proposal A was not accepted, Proposal
B should be presented.
was rejected. In Proposal B, Japan offered to agree
with the United States not to make any armed advances into regions
of Southeastern Asia and the Southern Pacific. Japan would withdraw
its troops from French Indo-China. Additionally, Japan looked to
normalize trade relations with the United States.
the conditions wholly unacceptable, despite seeming to be not too
distant from the four Hull principles" discussed above
. Certainly these would be unacceptable if war was the desired objective.
These proposals otherwise would seem a basis for discussion if peace
25, President Roosevelt held a meeting of the War Council. From
this meeting came the infamous notes from Secretary Stimson, as
submitted to the Pearl Harbor inquiry:
question was how we should maneuver them into the position of
firing the first shot without allowing too much damage to ourselves
26, Hull presented a ten-point proposal to the Japanese. The Japanese
considered this an ultimatum. American military leaders felt the
same, as General Marshall notified his area commanders on November
27 that negotiations appear to be terminated.
Minister Casey also came to me on November 29 and suggested
that Australia would be glad to act as a mediator between the
United States and Japan. I answered that the diplomatic stage
was over, and that nothing would come of a move of that kind.
In a stunning
(or not) coincidence of timing, on December 6 President Roosevelt
sent a telegram to the Emperor asking for peace. After all of the
diplomatic attempts outlined by Hoover in this section, it truly
seems a cynical gesture on Roosevelts part. Secretary Hull
seems to have agreed:
in drafting the Presidents message that its sending
will be of doubtful efficacy, except for the purpose of making
Yes, and an
amazingly timely record at that.
Grews repeated warning that Japan would rather fight against
all odds than submit came true on December 7. Roosevelt asked Congress
for a declaration of war with Japan on December 8.
in his diary that a crisis had come which would unite all
. Just as had been planned and desired, it
in to discuss the Congressional Pearl Harbor inquiries conducted
after the wars conclusion. The majority opinion basically
followed what is commonly held wisdom: the Japanese attack was unprovoked;
the Administration did everything possible to avert war with Japan;
everyone was surprised that the Japanese struck when they did; the
fault was primarily with the local command in Hawaii.
members objected. Some witnesses were examined under oath, others
were not; permission to search files was denied, even if accompanied
by Committee counsel; permission to search for missing records was
denied it was denied that any records were missing, although
this was subsequently demonstrated not to be the case.
opinions and analysis followed. For example, Admiral Robert Theobald,
Commander of the Destroyer Division at Pearl Harbor, later concluded:
President Roosevelts strategy of forcing Japan to war by
pressure, and by simultaneously holding our fleet
in Hawaii as an invitation to a surprise attack, was a complete
In 1947, George
Morgenstern published an exhaustive study of the attack:
the benefit of every doubt
all of these men [the high authorities
in Washington] still must answer for much. With absolute knowledge
of war, they refused to communicate that knowledge, clearly, unequivocally,
and in time, to the men in the field upon whom the blow would
was the first action of the acknowledged war, and the last battle
of a secret war upon which the administration had long since embarked
processes existed only to be circumvented, until finally, the
war making power of Congress was reduced to the act of ratifying
an accomplished fact.
brings us back full circle; to the truth that U.S. entrance into
World War II might have been technically declared by Congress, but
not prior to entry into the war by the U.S. War was not declared
prior to the military and war-like actions taken by the administration
prior to the declaration. The vote by Congress was simply an after-the-fact
rubber stamp approval, a certainty to occur once the administration
set their plan in motion.
It is scarcely
possible, in light of this [Admiral Starks testimony regarding
President Roosevelts October 8, 1941 order to American warships
to fire on German ships] and many other known facts, to avoid
the conclusion that the Roosevelt Administration sought the war
which began at Pearl Harbor. The steps which made armed conflict
inevitable were taken months before the conflict broke out.
a lifelong diplomat, summarizes:
carefully and realistically aimed at the avoidance of a war with
would certainly have produced a line of action considerably
different from that which we actually pursued and would presumably
have led to quite different results.
Yes, for instance
one of the many Japanese overtures toward peace might have been
honestly acted upon.
Captain Russell Grenfell, in his study of the war, concludes:
informed person can now believe that Japan made a villainous,
unexpected attack on the United States. An attack was not only
fully expected but was actually desired. It is beyond doubt that
President Roosevelt wanted to get his country into war
was meant by the American President to attack the United States.
As Mr. Oliver Lyttelton, then British Minister of Production,
said in 1944, Japan was provoked into attacking America
at Pearl Harbour. It is a travesty of history to say that America
was forced into the war.
will conclude with a passage from The Pearl Harbor Myth: Rethinking
the Unthinkable. The author, George Victor comes to a conclusion
similar to those outlined above. It should be noted, Victor is a
self-described admirer of President Roosevelt: he accepts that this
type of behavior is what leaders do. He is also realistic: we shouldnt
believe that the only manipulative political leaders in the world
are someone other than our political leaders. He also
doesnt take the easy path of concluding Roosevelt just made
a mistake or was somehow misled.
there is little doubt that the administration took steps to provoke
Japan and knew when and where Japan would attack. These leaders
knew what they were doing and achieved the result that was desired.
poorly explained by making assumptions that crucial acts by competent,
conscientious leaders were capricious, careless, or negligent.
And U.S. leaders who figured in the Pearl Harbor disaster were
highly competent and conscientious.
stationed the fleet at Pearl Harbor, Commander McCollum wrote
a memo for him, recommending its use as a lure. Roosevelt implemented
the recommendation. Admiral Richardson concluded the administration
use of the fleet endangered it gravely, and he argued the point
over and over with his superiors. When he took measures to protect
his fleet, Roosevelt relieved him. Stark then kept Kimmel uninformed
of Japans plans to attack it at Pearl Harbor. And Marshall
kept Short uninformed.
To most Americans,
manipulating ones nation into war is something done by foreign
tyrants not our own leaders. Since 1942 U.S. history has
been distorted by the idea that presidents simply do not do what
Roosevelts enemies said he did.
But of course
presidents do, and Roosevelt did.
with permission from the Bionic
© 2012 Bionic