By Marc Kelley
Syndicated by: Montana News
When most of us think about the beginning of WW II, we associate the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, as the point of beginning; in reality, there is a great deal more to this story. It has been 77 years since that fateful December morning and as we pause to reflect on this anniversary, it is my hope, once again, you will see for yourself, those who choose not to study history, are destined to repeat it.
In order to understand the hostilities which resulted in WWII, we must first begin to understand, Japanese Imperialism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Japanese religion of "Shinto", which has been practiced since the 8th Century, is a Japanese ethnic religion, which teaches ritualistic practices aimed at continuing a connection between present day and the ancient past. Shinto teaches, upon the death of an individual, their spiritual energy (Kami) is released into an alternative spirit world. This energy is the means by which communication is possible with ancestors through rituals, prayers, and offerings. The ancestor is believed to guide the living and offer protection in return for these honors. Shinto also teaches, it is possible to lead such an honorable and exemplary life, that upon death, the individual becomes a "God" themselves. This is this greatest of honor, which is often bestowed upon the bravest and most successful warriors. The Japanese were taught, their leader Hirohito, the 124th Emperor of Japan, was a direct descendent of the Sun Goddess who ruled the universe; and as such, the Japanese people believed they were of "Devine Origin". As direct descendants of the "Sun Goddess", the Japanese believed they were commanded to rule over the other races of the world.
In the early 20th Century, Japanese activist and nationalist Tanaka Chigaku, coined the phrase "Hakko Ichiu", which translates to "all the world, under one roof". Tanaka then penned what has come to be called, the Tanaka Memorial. This document outlined the strategy by which Japan would make Hakko Ichiu a reality.
The Tanaka Memorial
1. Conquer Manchuria for its iron and coal
2. Conquer China for its labor force
3. Conquer the Soviet Union for its oil, coal and wheat
4. Establish bases in the Pacific to launch attacks against the US
5. Conquer the United States
Many historical scholars question the authenticity of the Tanaka Memorial and believe it was used as a "U.S propaganda tool" and justification for the declaration of war on the Japanese.
In August of 1940, Marxist revolutionary, Leon Trotsky wrote an article in support of the authenticity of the Tanaka Memorial. Today, most historians question the authenticity of the document; however, Japans sequence of aggressions do follow Tanaka's outline. Once again, we see an example of one foreign government attempting to manipulate foreign policy of another.
Hakko Ichiu, became the political slogan, used to justify Japans' aggressions in the 1930's. The Japanese economy has always been subject to economic limitations, brought upon by its lack of natural resources. If Hakko Ichiu was to become a reality, additional resources must be acquired. In the late 1800's, many nations were engaging in expansion by way of colonialism. Great Britain, The United States, Turkey and Russia, all moved to expand their territory and reap the benefits of natural resources as well as, trade agreements. Many believe, Japan viewed these expansions as a "green light" to further expand their own territory. Biding its time, and remaining virtually untouched by WWI, Japan seized on the opportunity to increase its industry and trade; thus, filling the vacuum left by the wartime devastation of the european industry. By remaining semi-neutral during WWI, the Japanese greatly increased their industrial ability. Add to this, the population of Japan expanded tremendously between 1918 and 1930, allowing Japan the means and the labor pool to become a global economy and all that would be needed now, were the natural resources to fuel that economy. Following the concept of Hakko Ichiu, Japan made its first bold move by invading sparsely populated Manchuria, in 1931. The Japanese saw Manchuria as the answer to the second problem needed to fuel their expanding economy. Less than 20% of the Japanese land mass is suitable for agriculture, feeding the rapidly growing population was imperative and expansion into Manchuria, would solve the problems of both raw materials as well as provide the land mass necessary to expand their agricultural production.
Following what can only be considered a horrific campaign of waging total war, the burning, looting and mass murder of the Manchurian people by Japanese troops, drew sharp condemnation from both the League of Nations, as well as U.S. President, Hubert Hoover. Much like today, this angry rhetoric led to congressional investigations and grandstanding by our politicians, without any meaningful action.
When the comparison is drawn between U.S. foreign policy of 1932 and the 2014 foreign policy of the Obama Administration, following the Russian annexation of Crimea and Syria's use of chemical weapons on its own people; it is clear, the U.S. followed the same flawed thinking. Paying lip service to the world, drawing a red line, then failing to act, as the aggressions continued, allowing the "common man" to suffer, at the expense of weak, U.S. leadership. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was indeed a surprise; however, there where many signs that foretold the event, but all went unheeded by the United States. Failing to act against Japan's aggressions allowed the Imperial Military to become the controlling factor in Japanese Politics and would ultimately result in the longest period of aggression in WWII.
Holding to our isolationist policies and ideology, the United States called on then Secretary of State, Henry Stimson, to draft a written response to Japan. In what would come to be known as the Stimson Doctrine, the United States outlined our position, to protect U.S. interests in the Far East, namely the U.S. territories of the Philippines, Guam and Hawaii. The Stimson Doctrine stated the U.S. "would not recognize any treaty or agreement between Japan and China which would violate U.S. rights or agreements to which the U.S subscribed." This doctrine of non-recognition did nothing to stem Japan's aggressions and only served to highlight a U.S., Isolationist Policy.
On December 7, 1941, step 4 of the Tanaka Memorial was implemented by the Japanese. At 7:48 A.M. Hawaii time, 353 Japanese fighter / bombers and torpedo bombers were launched from the flight deck of 6 Japanese aircraft carriers. The U.S. Fleet was in port at our Naval Base on Pearl Harbor. Along what was was called "Battleship Row", eight U.S. battleships, the Pennsylvania, California, Maryland, Tennessee, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Nevada and the Arizona were all struck and damaged in the attack. Four of our battleships were sunk, but all were raised and returned to service, with the exception of the Arizona, which would become part of the Pearl Harbor Memorial. In addition to the battleships, the Japanese attack also sunk three cruisers, three destroyers an anti-aircraft training vessel and one minelayer. One hundred eighty eight U.S. aircraft were also destroyed, most of which never made it off the ground. The U.S. lost 2,403 of our citizens and another 1,178 were wounded. The Japanese battle plan for Pearl Harbor outlined four objectives:
1 Prevent the U.S of establishing advanced bases of operations
in the Philippines.
2 Acquire staging areas on the Islands within the Pacific, to
enhance operations against Netherlands, East Indies.
3 Secure lines of communications between occupied areas and
4 Destroy the U.S. Pacific Fleet and prevent its interdiction in
the assault on mainland United States.
While the Japanese did inflict heavy losses on our personnel and on our Pacific Fleet which they considered to be a great victory, another piece of the puzzle was missing. The Pacific Fleet included three aircraft carriers: The Lexington, The Enterprise and The Saratoga. None of these carriers were in port the morning of December 7, 1941. By missing the carriers, the Japanese Command knew they had not inflicted the knock-out blow to our fleet which they had intended. Japan would pay a heavy price for its failure to damage or sink the U.S. carriers and the stage would for the largest carrier battle in history.
On December 8, 1941 President Franklin D. Roosevelt, went before Congress asking for a Declaration of War against Japan. In a speech lasting about ten minutes, Roosevelt stated,
"Yesterday, December 7th, 1941, a date which will live in infamy, the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the empire of Japan. The facts of yesterday and today speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions, and well understand the implications for the very life and safety of our nation. With confidence in our armed forces, with the unbounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph so help us God."
In response to the Presidents request, the U.S. Senate voted 82-0, approving the resolution. In the House of Representatives, the vote was 388-1 in favor of the resolution. The lone vote against declaring war on Japan was cast by Montana, Republican Congresswoman, Jeannette Rankin, a long time pacifist who also voted against the U.S. entering WW I. In a public statement, Rankin said " As a woman, I cannot go to war, and I refuse to send anyone else."
On December 8, 1941 the United States declared war on Japan, our people underwent a tremendous social and economic change. We would begin producing the weapons of war as opposed to the materials of peace and we would come together as a nation; understanding, we must defend what we believed in, or risk losing it. This change required great courage on behalf of our people.
Today, we find no shortage of examples of individuals who clearly, have either not studied history or are trying to rewrite it to fit their narrative. President Trump and his supporters are called white supremacist, fascists and Nazi's. Caravans of migrants attempting to enter the U.S. illegally, are compared to the suffering of 6 million Jews, systematically murdered by the real Nazi's. True to form, we once again, find the elected members of Congress, calling for investigations, pounding their desks and posing for photo ops with their favorite "fake news" media outlet….and once again, nothing gets done to solve the real problems at hand. As we reflect and remember those we lost on December 7, 1941, we must decide, are we a nation of strong and united people or have we misplaced the courage and values we held so dear, in 1941.