Japan: Rising Sun Notes

for The U.S. War Against Asia
by William P. Meyers

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Notes from The Rising Sun, The Decline and Fall of the Japanese Empire 1936-1945 by John Toland

Book Club Edition, Random House, New York, copyright 1970

“In the name of national defense the Army proposed a national mobilization law, designed to take away the Diet’s last vestiges of control over war measures and direct every aspect of national life toward an efficient war economy … passed in March 1938 – the Diet, in effect, voting for its own capitulation to the Army.” [66]

Two words were broadly used: kokutai, meaning the national essence, and kodo, the Imperial Way, which “was twisted now into signifying world order and peace to be achieved by Japanese control of East Asia. Both kokutai and kodo underlined the father relationship of the Emperor to the people as well as his divinity and were already rousing millions with ardor for a holy war to free Asia from both colonialism and Communism.” [67]

Recap of Japan, Wilson, League of Nations after WWI; 1924 Exclusion Act; Japanese feeling (after invading north China) “Why should there be a Monroe Doctrine in the Americas and an Open Door principle in Asia? The Japanese takeover in bandit-infested Manchuria was no different from American armed intervention in the Caribbean… Why was it perfectly acceptable for England and Holland to occupy India, Hong Kong, Singapore and the East Indies, but a crime for Japan to follow their example?” [70-71]

The Japanese and Russians (Communists) fought a war in the summer of 1938 “for possession of a barren hill on the Manchurian-Soviet border,” with Japan losing, then agreeing to a settlement. “Ten months later” they battled “near Nomonhan on the Manchurian-outer Mongolian border.” [See also: Battle of Khalkhin Gol] The Japanese lost again, with 50,000 casualties; included was “[? One of] the first large-scale tank battles in history.” The settlement was not complete when the August 23, 1939 pact between Germany and the U.S.S.R. was signed. On September 1, 1939 Germany invaded Poland. Konoye’s cabinet collapsed. [74-75] [WPM: shows Japanese willingness to negotiate]

Japanese military strategy was affected by events in Europe. “As the fighting in China dragged on into 1940, the Japanese Army General Staff decided in secret that unless total victory was achieved within the year, forces would be gradually withdrawn, leaving only troops in the northern part of China as a defense against Communism.” But when Hitler defeated the Dutch and French in June 1940, the sections of the Japanese military suddenly wanted to go on the offensive, seeking oil and other resources in Southeast Asia. [75-76]

Konoye formed his second cabinet in July 1940, with Yosuke Matsuoka as foreign minister and general Hideki Tojo as war minister. Tojo was noted for willingness to discipline rebellious army elements. Matsuoka, who had been president of the South Manchurian Railway, was a graduate of the University of Oregon who had lived for about a decade in the United States. The cabinet quickly passed a plan for “world peace” that included the uniting of Manchukuo, China, and Japan, bringing about a “new order in Greater East Asia.” [76-77]

“Moreover, a tripartite pact would be signed with Germany and Italy, and a nonaggression treaty arranged with the Soviet Union. Although America had place an embargo on strategic materials to Japan, attempt would be made to placate her as long as she went along with Japan’s “just claims.” In addition, Japan would move into Indochina and perhaps farther.” Military leaders had convinced civilians in the cabinet that the plan was “Japan’s last hope for survival in the chaotic modern world.” They did not even expect to have to go to war (with the Western Powers) to implement the plan. “Within two months Japan forced the impotent Vichy government to sign a convention in Hanoi allowing Japan to set up air bases in northern Indochina.” [78-79]

Some military leaders opposed the new policy, including Army Chief of Staff Prince Kanin, who resigned in protest. [79]

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