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 Pearl Harbour - the victory that led to Japan's defeat?

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nordmann
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PostSubject: Pearl Harbour - the victory that led to Japan's defeat?   Fri 13 Jan 2012, 14:18

Much has been written about how catastrophic and shocking the attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941 was to the Anerican public at large, and how so much of the destruction was made possible by a combination of unpreparedness, bad intelligence and downright incompetence on the side of the US Navy administration. Yet an analysis of the attack reveals that, while its effect in terms of "shock and awe" was undeniable and immediate, its effect in terms of incapacitating US ability to counter Japanese initiatives in the Pacific region proved negligible. Even the majority of the ships which were attacked and immobilised were back in operation in a relatively short time. While the loss of human life was traumatic to Americans, the ensuing surge in recruitment sparked off by the attack replenished those human resources within weeks. It was a victory for Japan, right enough, though a short-lived one.

But more importantly, in my view, the attack not only settled a long-standing debate within US society but completely removed it from the agenda for decades (I would suggest the Vietnam War was the next time it flared back into life) - namely that debate between those who wished to prosecute war against all aggression designed to assault "western" society and those who adhered to an isolationist principle in which the USA did not get involved in "other people's" wars, itself actually a view with a long tradition in US foreign policy up to that point. After December 7th 1941 this debate, like a lot of US ordnance, was completely blown out of the water. The US mobilised, the War in the Pacific ensued. Japan eventually lost. US troops augmented their allies' forces in Europe and played a deciding part in Hitler's defeat. etc etc

Which is where the question arises: what if the Japanese had pursued a different policy? Had they not bombed Pearl Harbour but simply got on with their other business and allowed internal division in US opinion, both public and in congress, take care of stifling any potential opposition to their aims and strategies?

Or put another way: had their emphatic "victory" on December 7th 1941 a deciding part to play in their ultimate (and horrific) defeat?
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Gilgamesh of Uruk
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PostSubject: Re: Pearl Harbour - the victory that led to Japan's defeat?   Fri 13 Jan 2012, 15:16

I concur. If the Japanese had turned their attention exclusively to the colonies of Britain and the Netherlands, they would have secured more or less all the raw materials they lacked, allowing them to shrug off US sanctions. I'm more or less certain FDR would have been unable to secure funding to go to war, and I'm not certain he would have attempted to do so.
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Triceratops
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PostSubject: Re: Pearl Harbour - the victory that led to Japan's defeat?   Fri 13 Jan 2012, 15:47

For Japan, the Pearl Harbor attack has a logic of it's own. As Gil says, they wanted the natural resources of SE Asia, to secure the route to and from SE Asia, they had to take the Philippines, which meant automatic war with the United States. Ergo the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Trike.
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: Pearl Harbour - the victory that led to Japan's defeat?   Fri 13 Jan 2012, 17:03

Holders keepers - had they advanced through South East Asia (including even the Philippines, though not necessarily so) as fast as they later proved themselves actually capable of doing while being really at war with USA, then who is to say that a continued lack of American resolve would not at least have allowed them to consolidate their hold?

Their notion that an assault on British territories would have automatically induced US involvement was what had led them to make the preemptive strike in Hawaii in the first place. We now know that this was not the case. Had they not made that miscalculation and just ploughed on with their primary objective then they might even have found a way to neutralise the Philippines too, especially if negotiating with a non-belligerent US. Its importance was strategic rather than in its resources, and that strategy would have been fundamentally different had the Pacific not been a general theatre of war outside of what Japan itself started.
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Gilgamesh of Uruk
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PostSubject: Re: Pearl Harbour - the victory that led to Japan's defeat?   Fri 13 Jan 2012, 17:53

Whilst the Phillipines were still an American colony (whatever name the US used to describe them), then attacking them would have provoked a US response. Once at least nominally independant, was that still true? I'm not sure it was.
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: Pearl Harbour - the victory that led to Japan's defeat?   Fri 13 Jan 2012, 21:14

Before the "Hull Note" was delivered in November 1941 (a final demand from the USA that Japan withdraw from China, Indo-China and its alliance with Germany and Italy), Cordell Hull summarised the extent of negotiations with Japan to his boss, FDR, up to that point. In his memoirs Hull remarked that at this meeting Roosevelt was not impressed with the Japanese "offer" of withdrawal from the Tripartite Act of Alliance and to "safeguard" American interests in the Philippines if they were allowed retain their territories in China and Indo-China. Roosevelt felt justified in being tough - his oil embargo on Japan meant that the country was deprived of what had been 80% of its oil. He duly instructed Hull to stick to the three demands without compromise. It was the delivery of this ultimatum which forced Japan's hand in the weeks that followed. Faced with a negotiator who was tightening the screw rather than negotiating its leaders concluded that war with the US was invevitable, and so struck first.

But there were ironies which even Hull was not afraid to admit as early as 1948 when his memoirs were published. The US had presumed that Japan's primary interest was oil. It had only a few months reserve left and would be forced either to capitulate or "grab" the nearest alternative for itself, Dutch Indonesia. Roosevelt thought he was forcing a "win win" situation by pressuring Japan into either option. If they capitulated, they lost. If they attacked Dutch Indonesia they would not only engage a new and powerful enemy in the Pacific but they would be forced to lessen their stranglehold on Manchuria while they concentrated all their resources on Indonesia. Roosevelt calculated that he had the backing of Congress to engage in that version of a war in the Pacific, and the resources to win it quickly. Japan's failure to capture an alternative oil supply would mean it was guaranteed to be a war concluded within three months.

But what the US did not appreciate in the slightest was Japan's determination to hold on to its Asian conquests. It had sacrificed much to attain them and regarded them as essential to their own security and survival in the region. This was why they embarked on such a desparate strategy against the US, and this was why the US never saw it coming. Up to December 7th the opinion in the White House was that this war had already been won by default.

When Japan offered to avoid the Philippines and respect US interests in the area (which included that they not invade Dutch Indonesia) it was to reopen the supply of American oil. However to do so would have scuppered Roosevelt's overall plan so he simply ignored the offer and continued the sanctions in place. The Philippines' security was an expendable in the greater strategy of isolating and strangling Japan. Cordell Hull, wise after the event, remarked that if only the US had actually listened to the nations in Japan's firing line (who all implored the US to negotiate) they would not have ended up in that firing line themselves.
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PaulRyckier
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PostSubject: Re: Pearl Harbour - the victory that led to Japan's defeat?   Sun 15 Jan 2012, 20:10

Nordmann,

I have no time at the moment to do some more research for an in depth answer. I participated already in such debates (on French fora or on the Beeb. Don't recall it anymore) But there, was the conclusion that sooner or later the war would have occured between Japan and the US due to the circumstances of that time. But I agree that the "when" is important in that discussion. One of the crucial steps in that conflict was the iron scrap and oil embargo of the US. And if I recall it well it was started because of the ungoing Sino-Japanese war.

For lack of time that is all that I can add for the moment.

Kind regards and with esteem,

Paul.
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Giraffe
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PostSubject: Re: Pearl Harbour - the victory that led to Japan's defeat?   Tue 17 Jan 2012, 17:36

I also think it was inevitable that the USA would fight Japan at some stage, if the Japanese did not 'roll over and play dead' in the face of US pressure. The only question was where and when, and what reason the USA could give to convince it's people that war was needed.

Japan gave them that reason, and in so doing it 'united' the United States as it has never been united before, or since. The imbalance in power can be illustrated by the fact that the USA lost most of it's battleship fleet, it lost it's bases in the Phillipines, it lost all the early battles, it 'put 'Germany first' in it's priorities, and STILL defeated Japan well before the resources in Europe were transferred to the Pacific.
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Triceratops
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PostSubject: Re: Pearl Harbour - the victory that led to Japan's defeat?   Fri 20 Jan 2012, 16:01

I would agree Giraffe. After the US had passed the two-ocean navy bill in July 1940,there was only one possible opponent for the greatly expanded US Pacific Fleet.

T
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PostSubject: Re: Pearl Harbour - the victory that led to Japan's defeat?   Wed 07 Dec 2016, 11:13

75 Years ago today;

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