Leaving aside our flaccid failure to fight fascism in Europe during the 1930s, let us focus on the Pacific and the “surprise” attack on our fleet in Pearl Harbor. While the European conflict was a semi traditional fight over territorial control by one or another nation state. The war in the Pacific, by contrast, was the beginning of the end of imperialism in the 20th century.
The nation of Japan underwent vast change at the turn of the last century, going from isolationism in the 1880’s to an industrialized and militarized society in less than a quarter century. By 1906 Teddy Roosevelt had to intervene and negotiate a peace between Russia and the newly minted Japanese, who had destroyed the pride of the czars fleet in less than 20 minutes at the Sushima straits and captured vast armies of prisoners in the land campaigns in Korea. The stage was set for the rising sun to build an empire throughout the Pacific basin: The Greater Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere.
Skip ahead 30 years, in which the Japanese have moved to set up economic dominance from the remote island of Yap through the Solomons Gilberts and Marianas to Okinawa and the homelands. Modernization and goods traded for recourses was the plan, but the colonial regimes of the western nations were holding the largest share of Asian wealth, standing in the way of the Hirohito’s dominance of the region. Plans to “liberate” their neighbors from European conquest were developed and in December of 1941 they went to war.
Americans are told that Pearl harbor was a treacherous act of undeclared war, but in fact our embargo on oil and other colonial recourses was an act of war the previous June. In fact, the Japanese attacks on Malaysia, the Philippines and the Dutch and French in Indo-China were the major stroke of the Samurai assault on the west, and Pearl Harbor was only the naval element of the overall plan.
The American fleet had only recently been transferred to Pearl Harbor as President Roosevelt prepared for what he well knew was going to be a conflict between the Rising Sun and the American Eagle, ever the white man’s burden in Asia. By destroying the U.S. Pacific fleet with a surgical strike would keep the western nations from defending their colonies and was a brilliant strategic move. Only the absence of our aircraft carriers on the morning of the attack saved the scheme from success.
Likewise we are told a myth about the need to drop the atom bomb to avoid mass American casualties in the pending invasion of the home islands. In point of fact, Japan was already beaten, its cities destroyed by Gen. Curtis LeMay and his incendiary bombing campaign. The invasion of Japan was scheduled for the same day we killed 140,000 people — mostly civilians — in a demonstration for the Russians that we were the new big dog of war. The Russians were the invading forces, from the Sakhalin peninsula, as promised at the Yalta conference between Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin the past spring. The Russians promised to join the war in the Pacific three months after Germany surrendered, the second week of August. The United States’s military contribution was continued air power and a possible diversion landing in the southern coast. It was not the avoidance of mass casualties that moved Truman to bomb
Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The bombing was the first act of the new Cold War, which we all lost over the next half century.
On this anniversary of the mass murder that ended the war that made America a super power, we do well to understand hat happened and what’s happening again.
“Travus T. Hipp” is a 40-year veteran radio commentator with six stations in California carrying his daily version of the news and opinions. “The Poor Hippy’s Paul Harvey,” Travus is a member of the Nevada Broadcasters Hall of Fame, but unemployable in the Silver State due to his eclectic political views.