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Notes on The Memoirs of Cordell Hull
by William P. Meyers

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Page 27
Prelude to the Battle of Pearl Harbor

Hull titled Chapter 77 "Warlords Rule Japan." He describes Japanese Minister Hideki Tojo as "a typical Japanese officer, with a small-bore, straight-laced, one-track mind. he was stubborn and self-willed, rather stupid, hard working, and possessed a quality drive." Foreign Minister Shigenori Togo was "a good technician in his craft but also rather narrow in his views and unable to gain a broad perspective." However, the new Japanese cabinet emphasized they wanted to reach a peace agreement with the United States. [1054]

Hull claims that Japanese peace demands included a full capitulation of the U.S. in East Asia. [1055]

Saburo Kurusu was sent to aid the ambassador to the U.S. on November 3. [1056] Decrypted Japanese telegrams indicated a deadline had been set for successful negotiations with the U.S., the first deadline identified at November 25, 1941. [1056]

In early November Chief of Staff General Marshall with Admiral Stark recommended "maximum strengthening of the American Volunteer Group in China" and "the acceleration of material aid." Hull and Roosevelt agreed. [1057]

On November 7 Hull lectured Roosevelt's cabinet on situation. He said: "We should be on the lookout for a military attack by Japan anywhere at anytime." Over the next several days Roosevelt, Secretary Knox, and Under Secretary Wells delivered public addresses "to prepare the country at large for such a development." [1057-1058]

Winston Churchill said on November 9 that if the U.S. went to war with Japan, the British Empire would declare war on Japan "within the hour." [1059]

Ambassador Nomura met with Hull and President Roosevelt on November 10. Nomura reviewed the situation, "argued that Japan had made considerable concessions, and pressed for a quick decision." Roosevelt indicated he was in no hurry to come to an agreement. [1059]

When Ambassador Saburo Kurusu first met Hull on November 17, Hull remembers "Neither his appearance nor his attitude commanded confidence or respect. I felt from the start that he was deceitful." Kurusu, Nomura and Hull also met with Roosevelt that day, Hull again indicating he had been reading decrypted secret telegrams and knew the 25th had been set by the Japanese as the deadline for a peaceful settlement. [1062-1063]

Hull just continued making demands that he knew would be rejected by the Japanese, and otherwise stalling, right through the November 25 deadline. [1064-1080]

The Japanese government, through Nomura and Kurusu, made a proposal for a temporary accommodation on November 20, 1941. Hull's summary of the proposal is worth quoting at length:

Japan and the United Sates to make no armed advance into any region in Southeast Asia and the Southwest Pacific area;
Japan to withdraw here troops from Indo-China when peace was restored between Japan and China or an equitable peace was established in the Pacific area;
Japan meantime to remove her troops from southern and northern Indo-China upon conclusion of the present agreement which would later be embodied in the final agreement;
Japan and the United States to cooperate toward acquiring goods and commodities that the two countries needed in the Netherlands East Indies.
Japan and the United States to restore their commercial relations to those prevailing prior to the freezing of assets, and the Untied States to supply Japan a required quantity of oil;
The United States to refrain from such measure and actions as would prejudice endeavors for the restoration of peace between Japan and China.

Hull pronouned this proposal "utterly unacceptable." [1069]

Hull and Roosevelt and the U.S. military wanted to "avert or delay war. Secretary of War Stimson ... [and the higher ranking military officers] ... pleaded for more time in which to prepare American resistance." [1071]

Hull made a 3-month counterproposal agreement [modus vivendi], which he expected the Japanese to reject, so he could blame them for the war. He consulted the British Empire and Dutch Empire about the proposal. Hu Shih, the Chinese Ambassador, had his concerns alleviated by Hull telling him the Japanese were not likely to accept the proposal. The main point of the proposal was that Japan would withdraw its troops from the area of the French Empire known as southern Indochina, while a settlement was made between Japan and China. [1072-1074]

Through an intercepted, decoded Japanese diplomatic telegram, Hull learned that the deadline for peace had been extended to November 29; "After that things are automatically going to happen." [1074]

Chiang Kai-shek himself reacted violently against Hull's new proposal. He had long wanted the U.S. to declare war on China. He was not informed that Roosevelt and Hull valued forcing Japan to declare or start war first. [1077-1078]

A White House War Council meeting was held November 25, 1941. While outlining the likelihood of war, Cordell Hull said, "any plan for our military defense should include an assumption tht the Japanese might make the element of surprise a central point in their strategy." [1079-1080]

On November 26 President Roosevelt agreed with Hull that instead of presenting the Japanese with the modus vivendi proposal, which the Japanese might possibly accept, they would present the Japanese with the US. "propsoal for a general peaceful settlement." Given his statement about the November 29 deadline, it is again clear that Roosevelt and Hull preferred to go to war. Hull says he did not know, but only learned later, that Japan "had already put her naval forces in motion for the attack on Pearl Harbor." [WPM: Hull conveniently omits here that the final okay for the Battle of Pearl Harbor was not given until later.] [1081-1082]

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