Japan: Rising Sun Notes

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

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Page 7 of 20

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

Threatened by Toyoda, on July 23, 1941 the Vichy government [See also Marshal Petain] gave permission for the Japanese Army to enter Indochina. Hull read intercepts of Japanese diplomatic wires, so he knew Vichy acquiesced only because it was in no position to fight the Japanese Army. [WPM: but Vichy was controlled by Petain and Hitler, so this interpretation would be saying the Japanese went to war with Hitler!] [107]

Hull pressed for a further embargo against Japan, despite Navy warnings that this would force the Japanese to attack Malaya and the Netherlands East Indies to obtain raw materials. Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes and others also pressed Roosevelt for action. On July 26 he froze all Japanese assets in the U.S.; Britain and Netherlands joined in. All trade between the US and Japan stopped and “the fact that America had been Japan’s major source of oil imports now left Japan in an untenable situation. To the New York Times it was “the most drastic blow short of war.”” International law favored the Japanese, since they had secured the Indochina bases by negotiations with a government (Vichy France) recognized by the U.S. and other nations. [107-108]

Most Japanese leaders concluded that the U.S. was determined to have a war, and preferred to wait until Japan had no oil to fight it with. “Under such circumstances, we had better take the initiative,” said Naval Chief of Staff Nagano “a cautious and sensible man.” But no one believed Japan’s chances would be good in a war against the U.S. [108-109]

Discussion of why militarists in Japan were able to force the hand of Konoye [113-114]

On August 4, 1941 Konoye announced to Tojo and Oikawa that he would meet with Roosevelt to settle the China question. The Navy supported this, the Army opposed it. The Emperor approved the meeting on August 6. A message requesting the meeting was sent to Hull on August 7. Hull rejected the request, possibly without even asking Roosevelt, who was meeting Winston Churchill in Newfoundland, where Japan was one of the topics. Churchill urged FDR to be tough on the Japanese, but not get too quickly into a war with them. Roosevelt wanted to delay the war so that Britain could strengthen its position in Singapore [WPM: and the U.S. could continue to ramp up weapons production and troop recruitment and training, and reinforce the Philippines]. As to the delay, Roosevelt said “Leave that to me, I think I can baby them along for three months.” Churchill believed Roosevelt left the meeting intending to threaten war with Japan. [114-116]

Hull was determined on war to stop Japanese expansion, but urged a more moderate course than Churchill. On August 17 Roosevelt met with Nomura and offered to take the meeting with Konoye if Japan promised to “embark upon a program of peace in the Pacific.” Nomura cabled Tokyo, and Foreign Minister Toyoda proposed a Roosevelt-Konoye meeting to Ambassador Grew, who wired Hull urging that the meeting be set up. [117-118]

America must have already been drafting soldiers because Toland notes that a bill to extend the draft passed by only one vote. There was also opposition in the U.S. to aid to China. In general, Japanese who visited the U.S. did not feel the people of the U.S. wanted war. [118-119]

Iwakuro made the power circuits in Japan, arguing for continued negotiations. But even the Navy now felt Japan had been encircled and her only chance for survival was a breakout to the south. But one thing did sway the militarists: a comparison of U.S. to Japanese industrial capacity. “In steel, he said, the ratio was 20 to 1; oil more than 100 to 1; coal 10 to 1; planes 5 to 1; shipping 2 to 1; labor force 5 to 1. The overall potential was 10 to 1.”  As a result “The military leaders had finally agreed, after long arguments, to avoid war with the United States even at the cost of major concessions.” On August 28, 1941 Tokyo requested  meeting with Roosevelt and proposed “to withdraw all Japanese troops from Indochina once the China Incident was settled or a just peace was established in East Asia.” … “Far more important, the Japanese consented to abide by Hull’s basic four principles – which had by now arrived in an official U.S. missive.” [119-120]

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