This is a famous quote that Admiral Usurious Hampton uttered just after the attack on Pearl Harbor. He was nervous that one of the most important surprise attacks in recent history would turn out to be a complete failure. Over the course of history there have been numerous decisions to attack other nations with some of them being successful and others not so much. However, few have been as difficult as the decision to attack pearl Harbor.
Most of the high ranking officers in the Japanese military were split on the decision to attack. Even Admiral Hampton was against the decision to attack. Eventually it was decided that attacking Pearl Harbor was a necessary step in order to take over southeast Asia and its oil rich land. That is so because Japan believed that the United States would attack them if they tried to take over southeast Asia. Thus Pearl Harbor was attacked in order to disable the United States Pacific fleet. In hindsight, many have argued that Japan made the wrong decision and should not have attacked
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Pearl Harbor due to the fact that it dragged the resource rich United States into war with Japan. Although Japan ended up losing the war, based on their options at the time, Japan made the correct decision of attacking Pearl Harbor. At the time it was inevitable that the US would get into war with Japan, it significantly weakened the US Pacific Fleet, and it gave Japan time to start their conquest of Southern Asia before the US could respond. War between Japan and the United States was almost inevitable. Japan was fighting as an axis power and the United States was a member of the allies.
War between the allies and axis powers had been going on for a couple years in Europe and there was no end in sight. On top of that a series of events between the Japanese and the united States significantly weakened their relationship. The Japanese left the League of Nations, the United States froze trade with Japan, and the united States was against Japan taking over Southeastern Asia (World War 2 Pearl Harbor, Online). The deterioration of the relationship between the Japanese and the Ignited States came all the way back in 1933. In early 1 933, Japan invaded Manchuria and the League of
Nations ordered Japan out of Manchuria. Japan decided not to listen to the League of Nations and they ended up leaving it (Pearl Harbor, AAU – The Attack: Facts and Information, Online). This is the first step in the deterioration of their relationship because it gives Japan a label of not being trustworthy and cooperative. Japan could have easily listened to the League of Nations and left Manchuria, but they chose to not cooperate and stay in Manchuria. Based on that move the United States had no idea if Japan could be trusted because they left an organization that was designed to keep the world at peace.
This was a very important move by the Japanese. Besides the trust issues, it showed that if need be Japan was willing to go to war with the United States. This was so because Japan didn’t want to have an alliance with them. The League of Nations was similar to an alliance in that it was a group of countries that were trying to keep peace so Japan leaving showed that they weren’t necessarily interested in peace (World War 2 Pearl Harbor, Online). Although this was an important event in the relations, it alone wasn’t enough to spark a war. In order for a war to happen a couple other events had to cake place.
One of the major concerns of the United States was Japan taking over Southeastern Asia. The United States was against Japan taking over Southeastern Asia for many reasons. A couple in particular were that Japan was a threat to the United States and the United States didn’t want Japan to exploit the resource rich land to help their military. Although the United States was and is a lot bigger than Japan, Japan had a very firm grip on their people with their militaristic government. This caused the united States to be a little weary of Japan because their goal was to conquer and eventually the
United States would have to be one of Japan’s potential targets (Goldstein 7). Also the United States din it want Japan to get the resources in Southeastern Asia because they would have allowed Japan to continue to be a militant country and they will allow Japan to become more powerful. This is so because more resources would have given Japan more material to build guns and things like that. All of this hurt the Ignited States Japanese relations because Japan’s main goal was to conquer Southeastern Asia while that is exactly what the united States din ‘t want Japan to do.
At that point they had opposing views which hurt the relationship because Japan was going to try and conquer Southeastern Asia no matter what. That meant that it was up to the United States to determine the impact on their relations it would have. By choosing the opposing side it had a huge negative impact on their relations because the United States had control over a few Pacific Islands and Japan was going to try and take them over so if Japan attacked them then the United States would certainly send in troops to stop the Japanese from taking over their islands (Bowdon, Online).
The tension from their opposing views ay have resulted in a war but the last event Japan had no control over and that is what forced them to attack the United States. The final event that pushed Japan over the edge was when the United States froze trade with Japan in an attempt to stop them from attacking southeast Asia. The united States believed that if they stopped supplying Japan with resources (mainly oil), it would stop Japan from attacking south. This was so because they wouldn’t have the necessary oil to do so. However this had the opposite effect.
It made Japan want to attack southeast Asia even more cause they needed the resources down there to replace the ones that the United States once traded with them. At the time, Japan’s goal was to conquer land and to become more powerful (Bowdon, Online). The United States cut off all of the supplies that Japan needed in order to achieve this goal so it forced Japan to take action. The leaders of Japan decided that it was necessary to conquer land in southeast Asia so they could continue to achieve their goal of taking over land.
By not attacking the Japanese leader would have given up on their goal and there is no way they could have done that. The Japanese were too proud of a people to do so, so the only real option was to attack southeast Asia (Pearl Harbor, AAU – The Attack: Facts and Information, Online). Based on all of these events, war was inevitable. Tensions had escalated so much between the United States and Japan that the only feasible option was war. The United States was completely against Japan’s want to take over southeast Asia, but the United States ultimately forced Japan to do so (Bowdon, Online).
By cutting off trade, Japan was forced to take over southeast Asia to recover the resources that were lost when the trade with he Lignite States ended (Pearl Harbor, AAU – The Attack: Facts and Information, Online). The only way for Japan to conquer Southeast Asia was to attack the United States and take out their Pacific fleet so the United States couldn’t interfere with Japan’s plans of takeover. An attack on the United States was also possible because Japan had left the League of Nations eight years prior so Japan had no alliances with the united States (World War 2 Pearl Harbor, Online).
Other than war, Japan had no real options because not attacking southeast Asia was unthinkable since it completely went gag insist their goal of conquering other countries. Also, the United States had troops in the Philippines, so if Japan were to get anywhere close, the United States would attack the Japanese fleet. Thus in order to protect their fleet, the Japanese had to take out the United States fleet. Once Japan had determined that war was inevitable, they decided that they needed to attack the American fleet at Pearl Harbor in order to give themselves some time to take over the land that they were after in southeast Asia.
It just so happened that in 1940 a large portion of the United States fleet that was stationed at San Diego was moved to Hawaii (The Day That Will Live in Infamy but it Didn’t Have to). On top of this, in 1 932 a war game was conducted by Admiral Harry Yarned against Pearl Harbor. Back in those days, a fake attack was attempted against Hawaii every year in order to insure that it was safe from invasion. Usually Pearl Harbor successfully defended themselves from this attack but in 1932 Yarned tried a different strategy. He used a small group of two aircraft carriers and three destroyers.
He studied shipping routes and weather patterns for months. He determined a path so that they would encounter no other ships, they would be hidden from radar y storms, and they kept radio silence so the people on Hawaii wouldn’t be able to detect them. His fleet successfully made it into range of Hawaii and he launched an air attack on Hawaii. He successfully sank many of the ships at Pearl Harbor by dropping bombs on them and his attack was a complete success. However, the united States never did anything in order to improve their air defenses because the United States still felt that their Naval defense was more important (Symons, Online).
Japan knew about both of these things and they felt that if they were to replicate Admiral Harness’s attack, they would be able to decimate the United States pacific fleet. Japan ended up doing just about exactly the way that Yarned did it and they had great success. Japan ended up damaging or sinking all eight battleships at Pearl Harbor, which were the pride of the United States fleet. On top of that a nurse is quoted as saying “l really couldn’t see too much from the hospital because of the heavy smoke. This attack was initially viewed as a huge success for the Japanese because they were able to destroy so many battleships which were the ship of choice at the beginning of World War 2 (Erickson, Interview). Japan was able to do so cause the United States made two key mistakes. First, they allowed a majority of their fleet to be in one particular place and they didn’t do anything to improve their air defenses. One very basic concept of defense is to never keep a majority of your ships in one place because your fleet can get decimated by one attack.
That is what happened in this instance, and it took the United States some time to recover from this attack. The Ignited States also didn’t do anything to improve their air defenses. This was their major mistake because Japan was able to do whatever they wanted with their lanes over Pearl Harbor and the United States soldiers couldn’t do anything to stop them since their planes got bombed and they had poor air defenses (Goldstein 4). Just after the attack, it was viewed as a huge success because of the extensive damage that the Japanese did. They crippled the fleet at Pearl Harbor as well as all of the planes there.
The Japanese did exactly what they wanted to by severely weakening the Pearl Harbor fleet. That allowed them to send the rest of their navy south and conquer Hong Kong, Singapore, Burma, the Philippines, Malay, and New Guiana with no opposition from the U. S (World War 2 Pearl Harbor). Had the United States been there it may have been a very different story with Japan possibly on the losing end of it. The attack on pearl Harbor not only wiped out a huge part of the United States’ pacific fleet, it delayed the united States, giving Japan time to take over the previously mentioned places.
The whole reason Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in the first place was so they could get time to attack southeast Asia. By crippling the United States Pacific Fleet Japan had plenty of time to go into Asia and take over a few places. This is the main reason why Japan made the erect decision because they ended up accomplishing their goal. Japan’s goal was to take over resource rich southeast Asia and since a few islands in this area were controlled by the United States, Japan knew that they needed to first stall the United States (Bowdon, Online).
Japan ended up doing this by attacking Pearl Harbor because they knew that war between the two countries was inevitable. The Attack on Pearl Harbor successfully accomplished this step because it destroyed much of the United States pacific fleet so there weren’t many ships left to attack the Japanese fleet with (World War 2 Pearl Harbor). Thus, the Ignited States had no choice but to watch for a little bit as the Japanese conquered the Pacific. Many historians believe that since the united States ended up winning the war, Japan made the wrong decision by attacking Pearl Harbor. However, that is not the case.
Japan was in a tough situation where they were going to end up getting defeated no matter what they did. Had Japan not went after the resources in southeast Asia, they would have betrayed the Axis powers by not trying to be a part of the war. This would cause Russia to attack Japan cause Russia wanted to convert the whole world to Communism. By not attacking, Japan would have itself appear weak and Russia would have almost certainly attacked Japan. At that time the Russian army greatly outnumbered Japan’s, so they would have lost to Russia (Pearl Harbor, AAU – The Attack: Facts and Information, Online).
This would have never happened because they had an attack first mentality so there wasn’t really an option when it came to attacking Pearl Harbor. Historians who believe that the decision to attack Pearl Harbor was a bad decision are also misguided. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japan was inning most of the battles in the Pacific and at one point they were almost able to isolate Australia. Japan had a pretty firm control on the Pacific (World War 2 Pearl Harbor, Online). This continued for about six months, until they got into the Battles of Coral Sea and Midway.
These two battles were decisive victories for the allies. At the Battle of the Coral Sea, the Allies scored a key victory by stopping the Japanese from isolating Australia. At the Battle of Midway, the Allies got their second victory in a row by sinking four of Japan’s aircraft carriers and keeping air superiority throughout the whole battle. Japan was never able to recover morale wise and ships wise after these two battles. These two battles are what caused Japan to lose to the United States, not simply getting into war.
Japan had plenty of time to win and if they made better decisions regarding Midway and Coral Sea they might have won (World War 2 Pearl Harbor, Online). If after Pearl Harbor; the United States immediately dominated in the Pacific, then historians would have a reason to argue that Pearl Harbor was a mistake. However, after Pearl Harbor Japan dominated in the Pacific for six months before the Allies finally started to win battles. Therefore the Attack on Pearl Harbor couldn’t have caused the Japanese to lose the war in the Pacific. In conclusion, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was the correct decision.
Based on the situation that Japan was in, Japan only had one option after the United States froze trade with Japan. That option was to attack Pearl Harbor because war was inevitable. The attack was an immediate success because it destroyed a majority of the United States pacific fleet. On top of that, the Japanese accomplished their goal of stalling the United States so they could have some time to go into Southeast Asia and attack. Finally, historians who believe that Pearl Harbor caused the Japanese to lose the war need to re- evaluate their cause & effect connections.
There was a gap of six months where the Japanese were dominating in the Pacific when the United States should have. Overall, the attack on Pearl Harbor was a justifiable attack for the Japanese based on the circumstances and their overall goals for World War 2. Annotated Bibliography Primary Sources: Erickson, Ruth. Interview. 7 April 2013. This is a very good interview because it gives a bit of insight as to what the American public was thinking during the attack. This interview helps to prove my thesis because it shows that the Japanese were able to catch the US by surprise and there was a ton of destruction.
Lecturer, John E. Interview. 6 April 2013. This is a neat source because it shows that the Americans did exactly what the Japanese wanted them to do. This guy had slept at a friends house and on the morning of the attack he was away from the harbor and had to drive over. By the time he got there the first wave of Japanese had finished and the second wave was coming. Roosevelt, Franklin D. Pearl Harbor Address to the Nation. 7 April 2013. This is a very important source because it is the American response to Pearl Harbor. This officially made a war between the U. S. And Japan.
It probably spelled the beginning of the end for the Japanese because the U. S. Ended up winning. Saucy, Lee. Interview. 6 April 2013. This is another insightful source because this shows just how unprepared Pearl Harbor was for an attack. Saucy was on the U. S. S. Sixth and he saw planes bombing F-rod Island and he thought that it was the U. S. Doing so. He believed that someone had made a huge mistake and put real bombs on the planes instead Of fake ones. Warden, Horace D. Interview. 23 March 2013. This is an interesting source because it comes from a surgeon who was on the U. S. S.
Breeze (destroyer) at the time of the attack. He was on the deck at the time of the attack and he never saw the planes coming until he heard explosions. Secondary Sources: Bowdon, James K. “Pearl Harbor – 7 December 1941 26 February 2013. The Pacific War Historical Society. Web. This was a very insightful website because it gave me a solid understanding as to what the overall Japanese goals were just before Pearl Harbor and it started to dissect the disagreement between all of Japan’s naval personnel ever the decision to attack Pearl Harbor. “The Day That Will Live in Infamy but it Didn’t Have to. 19 March 2013. The US Flier Project. Web. This was one of my better sources because it went pretty in depth into the war games that took place at Pearl Harbor in 1932 and in 1938. Both of these war games used a mass attack from the sky and both of them were extremely successful. Goldstein, Donald M. And Katherine V. Dillon. The Way it Was: Pearl Harbor?? the Original Photographs. New York: Brasses, 1 991. This was a good book source for me because it really showed the divide in the session to attack Pearl Harbor and it also went through the process of devising the plan to attack Pearl Harbor.
This book also went into some of the short term effects of Pearl Harbor such as Japan’s Navy getting upgraded significantly to carry out the attack. “Pearl Harbor, AAU – The Attack: Facts and Information. ” 26 February 2013. The Official Pearl Harbor Tour Site. Web. At first this website was a little hard to read but after a couple attempts it proved to yield valuable information about certain events which may have forced Japan to attack the US. It also gave some good information about the actual attack itself. Symons, Bob. Pearl Harbor Attack Foretold in 1925, Carried Out in War Games in 1932. ” 19 March 2013. History. Com. Web. This website is very interesting and although its title talks about the war game that was played in 1932 in is mostly about Admiral Hammock’s history and particularly the time he spent living in America. “World War 2 Pearl Harbor. ” 5 March 2013. History. Web. This website wasn’t too important but I did give some information on the effects of the attack; specifically what Japan did after the attack and on how the US responded to the attack militarily.