Japan: Rising Sun Notes

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

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Page 11 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

Kurusu on November 22 went to the State Department declaring nothing in the Tripartite Pact obligated Japan to the U.S., but Hull refused to believe that because of an intercepted message, reminding the Ambassador of the deadline for negotiations. Hull interpreted this as meaning the Japanese were only pretending to negotiate. [177-178]

Chiang Kai-shek conveyed to Hull his opposition to the Japanese peace plan. [178]

Hull considered sending the FDR proposal to the Japanese on November 25 because he thought the Japanese would reject it, and “a Japanese rejection would serve more fully to expose their predetermined plan for conquest of the Orient.” [179]

“MAGIC (the code interception unit) had assured him [Hull] that Proposal B was the last offer Japan would make and that the negotiations would definitely be terminated at the end of the month. That Tojo was prepared to make still further concessions in a sincere attempt for peace he did not know, nor would he have believed it.” So he shelved FDR’s peace response. [179]

On November 25, 1941, a meeting of the “so-called War Cabinet” was held at the White House. Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson recorded that Roosevelt thought there might be a Japanese surprise attack as early as December 1, but possibly it would be against the Dutch or British, not the U.S. “The question was how we should maneuver them into the position of firing the first shot without allowing too much danger to ourselves.” The main concern was that they might cut off “our vital supply of rubber from Malaysia.” [180]

On November 26, 1941, Henry Morgenthau was present when Hull called FDR to tell him of Chinese protests against a peace settlement. Stimson informed FDR of a new Japanese expedition into Indochina, to which FDR reacted violently, at which point Hull arrived and got permission to shelve the FDR peace proposal. Instead he handed Kurusu and Nomura an Oral Statement with an attachment demanding a complete Japanese withdrawal from China and Indochina and abrogation of the Tripartite Pact. It also called for a multilateral agreement among the Japan and the U.S. with the British, China, Netherlands, USSR and Thailand. [WM: Hull knew that would take months to negotiate, and that the Japanese had a deadline to complete negotiations. So in effect he was declaring war.] [181-182]

Tokyo received the bad news on November 27, during a liaison conference. Hull’s Oral Statement was viewed as an ultimatum and a play for time while the U.S. prepared to attack Japan. [183]

Toland claims that Hull did not intend to include Manchuria in China, but there was no written evidence of that in the Hull ultimatum. The Japanese might have been less angry had it been clear they would be able to keep Manchukuo. [184]

Japan’s “course of aggression had been the inevitable result of the West’s efforts to eliminate Japan as an economic rival after World War I, the Great Depression, her population explosion, and the necessity to find new resources and markets to continue as a first-rate power.” [185]

“Nor were Stimson and Hull villains, though the latter, with his all-or-nothing attitude, had committed one of the most fatal mistakes a diplomat could make – driven his opponents into a corner with no change to save face and given them no option to capitulation but war.” [187]

Toland believes that if Hull had not been so inflexible, the Japanese would have extended negotiations long enough to see that Russia would stand against Germany. Then they would not have dared to fight the U.S., Netherlands, Britain, China and Russia. [187]

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