Japan: Rising Sun Notes

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

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Page 10 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

At the November 1, 1941 Imperial Conference, despite a pre-conference plea by Tojo to army chief of staff Sugiyama to honor the Emperor’s wish for continued negotiations, the army argued that U.S. demands made war the only alternative. Navy chief Nagano agreed. Various deadlines for an end to negotiations were discussed. It was agreed negotiations could continue until midnight, November 31. [158-160]

America had, in fact, already started fighting Japan in China. The Army believed this showed the U.S. was not interested in a peaceful settlement, and was just stalling to build up its forces while crippling Japan with the embargo. On April 15, 1941 FDR secretly authorized U.S. military personnel being added to the American Volunteer Group already fighting (mainly flying planes) for the Kuomintang government, using the Central Aircraft Manufacturing Company of China as a dummy, front organization. [footnote 161]

Foreign Minister Togo’s plan to offer to withdraw from China, and also from Indochina, in return for peace was regarded by Sugiyama as likely to cause an army rebellion because it represented “a humiliating concession.” Navy rep Nagano urged peace in private with Tojo, but war in the actual meeting. [160-162]

 Tojo felt peace could be achieved if the Americans would meet the Japanese partway. Because of the impending deadline, he recruited Saburo Kurusu, whose wife was American-born Alice Jay, to help with the negotiations in Washington. [164]

November 5, 1941. Meeting with the Emperor, the December 1 deadline was put forward. The chances of a successful war were slim. A secret naval battle plan would increase the chance of success. American military strength was gaining daily. The Emperor was silent throughout the conference. [166-167]

Grew pleaded with Hull to negotiate seriously, but the State Department ignored him. Stanley Hornbeck did not like the fact that Japan was negotiating peace while preparing for war [WM - even as the U.S. did the same] and also believed the Japanese were bluffing [168].

General Marshall and Admiral Stark urged FDR to avoid war with Japan to concentrate on Germany, or at least to avoid war until the Philippines were reinforced. The Americans continued to decode secret Japanese diplomatic cables, but they were often mistranslated, and led Hull to believe the Japanese were not negotiating seriously. [168-172]

When Ambassador Nomura brought Hull the Japanese proposal on November 7, Hull only pretended to read it, because he had already read the intercepted messages. [172]

As the U.S. did not respond in any way to the Japanese proposal, hope dwindled among Japanese leaders. On November 20, 1941 Togo ordered Nomura to offer further concessions to Hull. Instead of treating this as a concession, Hull treated it as an ultimatum and rejected it. [175]

Roosevelt, however decided to respond with a short handwritten note to Hull. Quoted in full [176]:

  • U.S. to resume economic relations – some oil and rice now – more later.
  • Japan to send no more troops to Indochina or Manchurian border or any place South – (Dutch, Brit. Or Siam).
  • Japan to agree not to invoke tripartite pact even if U.S. gets into European war.
  • U.S. to introduce Japs to Chinese to talk things over but U.S. to take no part in their conversations.

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