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Inevitable Conflict: The Strategic Japanese Assault on Pearl Harbor

World War II between the Americans and the Japanese empire is seen as an attack on an unsuspecting nation. The European war had not urged America to arm herself and prepare for it. However, the Americans and the Japanese were aware of the future war. It was unclear whether it came as a surprise or not to the American people, who were very reluctant to engage in it from the start. Yamamoto, a Japanese war veteran and a naval attaché to Washington standing against the war with the Americans, doubted its success since he had seen the industrial capability and might. However, he had confidence that the attack on Pearl Harbor would result in America being on the defensive and trying to mend the damages caused.

Meanwhile, the Japanese would try to win by acquiring more raw materials, other resources, and machinery for war with other nations. All this time, tension among different countries grew more and more. Every nation was keen to see the movement and might of the other. The Japanese government attacked the USA starting from Pearl Harbor because it wanted to control a considerable area of the Pacific Ocean and Asia. In addition, the only way it could do this was by attacking the USA. Thus, the daring war by the Japanese was inevitable for the Americans.

The Japanese initially had intentions of seizing the “southern-east Asian colonies of Britain, France and the Netherlands” to establish an empire in Asia, but America stood in their way. The planned attack on the USA through Pearl Harbor in the Pacific Ocean was very strategic to the Japanese because while countries focused on the war in Europe, America supported the Chinese by enforcing sanctions on Japan. The latter was sure of its victory in seizing Pearl Harbor.

It was also strategic in that the Japanese-acquired resources would be used to counterattack the USA and other nations. At this point, the Japanese were determined to build an empire and acquire weapons, machinery, and vital commodities and resources owned by countries around the Pacific Islands, India, Indochina, and Malaysia. To demonstrate its needs and drive for war, on November 20, 1941, the Japanese government requested the Americans to withdraw support to China, lifting trade burns and supplying Japan with one important commodity: oil. It was a farfetched request, with which the USA refused to comply. The country thought that conceding to the Japanese demands, China would fall alongside British possessions, including Africa, leaving America facing more enemies. Therefore, America had to defend itself, which was too late since the Japanese government had released its fleet to attack Pearl Harbor.

The Japanese Navy started a surprise attack on the USA on the morning of December 7, 1941, under the directions and commands of Chuichi Nagumo, who was the leader.

Hundreds of highly sophisticated warplanes were designed in all directions, some horizontal and others vertical. The Navy targeted American ships and military bases established in Pearl Harbor. Thousands of people perished, and many ships were destroyed. At almost the same time, the Japanese had other plans to attack the US Navy Base in Hawaii, Philippines, 3000 miles from Pearl Harbor. It indicated to the USA that the fight was not worth ignoring. It infuriated the people of the United States of America and led to the declaration of war against Japan.

Initially, the USA had declared clearly that the American people would not engage in the European war and had no intentions of fighting, except if the enemy attacked within the American borders. It was conceded by President Roosevelt when he said, “The American people will never agree to enter the war in Europe unless they are attacked within their borders”. Could the United States have avoided being pulled into the war? The answer is no, because the Japanese attack was within the American borders, and as promised by the president in his words, they were going to fight only if there was an attack on their borders.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the American people were willing and eager to go to war because they felt the Japanese government was provoking them. It led to several people being blamed. Many of them were top security officials of the Pacific fleet, including Kimmel, who was demoted, and others were relieved of their duties. The military base’s intelligence and security state was seen as a shortfall on his side. He confessed he had no idea how to protect it from air attacks.

British prime minister Winston Churchill and American President Franklin Delano Roosevelt were good friends. However, their friendship was not portrayed during the war since Britain had accessed information by breaking codes showing that the American Pearl Harbor would be attacked, and the prime minister did nothing to prevent it. He did not inform the Americans of the imminent threat. The attack on Pearl Harbour was received in Japan as a victory and proof of power over the United States of America. There was even a suggestion made by the Japanese leader to strike another third attack, which Nagumo declined. It was because there were doubts that Commander Yamatoto US marine ships would attack the Japanese territories, and he did not opt to send more troops. By then, he had succeeded in giving Japan some breathing space, which turned out to be short-lived because the counterattack of the US Navy on the Japanese fleet in June 1942 ended in the decisive victory of the USA in the war. Planes from Hornet, Enterprise, and Yorktown, all carriers that the Japanese had hoped to catch in Pearl Harbor, launched a revenge attack. It destroyed Japan’s first-line carrier fleet and killed most pilots who had attacked Pearl Harbor.

Consequently, no matter how hard the Japanese fought, their defeat was evident. Concerning the Americas and Roosevelt, the war served their long-term interests, and the one declared against them by Hitler allowed Britain to protect its colonies in the Atlantic Ocean. In conclusion, Pearl Harbor, which the Americans saw as a defeat on their side, was a relief to many nations who were not Japanese allies. Western countries benefited in many ways, including China, which shared the enemy with the USA, France, India and other British colonies. It forced Britain and America to partner with China in the war against Japan.

The consequences of World War II between the USA and Japan led to positive and negative results, depending on which nation one is looking at. The war was a great victory for the Japanese government when it attacked Pearl Harbor. However, looking at the long-term benefits, it worked against Japan. On the other hand, the Americans found it hard to accept the defeat and the series of events. The partnership with other nations to defeat Japan was successful and ended in the eventual state of the USA being a superpower and the most stable economy in the world.

📎 References:

1. Taylor, A. J. (1962). The Origins of the Second World War (1st ed.). New York: Atheneum.
2. Churchill, W. (1953). The Second World War. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co.
3. Gilbert, M. (1989). Second World War. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson.

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