Tokyo Won’t Go to War… This Time
Tokyo Won’t Go to War… This Time by Nick Giambruno – International Man
When I visited the memorial at Pearl Harbor, I briefly wondered if the Japanese were simply suicidal.
Why start an uncertain battle with a much more powerful opponent?
Japan’s leaders knew the US military was far superior when they attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on December 7, 1941. The attack killed over 2,400 people and brought the US into World War 2.
But Japan’s leaders had a powerful reason to gamble with their nation’s fate…
Access to energy.
For Japan—an island nation totally dependent on imports—access to oil was a matter of life and death. The country needed to secure its energy supply. That made attacking Pearl Harbor a practical proposition.
Turns out, the Japanese thought not attacking Pearl Harbor was suicidal.
In the early ’40s, Japan had big plans to dominate East Asia. The imperial Japanese military was on the march. And the US was the only country that could stop it.
The US wanted to block Tokyo and protect its geopolitical position in the region. So it moved to restrict Japan’s access to oil, which Japan needed to feed its economy and war machine.
Not surprisingly, the Japanese considered this hostile and aggressive. The US government didn’t expect it to provoke an attack, though.
The Assistant Secretary of State for Economic Affairs at the time, Dean Acheson, said, “No rational Japanese could believe that an attack on us could result in anything but disaster for his country.”
The Japanese disagreed.
They knew they would run out of vital commodities soon. So they had two choices… let the US slowly strangle their country and ultimately surrender… or take their chances on a risky war against a vastly superior opponent.
In Japan’s samurai culture, surrender was the ultimate disgrace.
Death in battle was better. So they chose option two. It was the only honorable choice.
Japan’s leaders thought the Pearl Harbor attack could knock the US Navy out of the Pacific for at least six months. This would give Japan a sizable window to secure its energy sources without US interference—and to fortify its military positions across the Pacific.
By the time the US could respond, it would face a deeply embedded opponent and decide it was best to leave East Asia to Japan.