Pearl Harbor Part 2

Earlier, we talked about the Japanese decision to go to war. Actually, it was a chain of totally logical decisions (aren’t they always?):

Phase 1
1. Japan has the capability to be a major world power, but in order to be a major world power, Japan must acquire overseas colonies

2. Korea and China stand in the same relation to Japan that Africa does to Europe, so that’s where the empire building should occur

Result: Japan starts a land war in Asia September, 1931.

Phase 2
1. The countries of the West are trying to prevent Japan from becoming a powerful state, and the US, in particular, has demonstrated hostility by cutting off or threatening Japan’s lifeblood: steel and oil

2. If Japan is to succeed, it must have natural resources of its own, available in South East Asia, and since the Axis has defeated France, the UK, and The Netherlands, their colonies (and resources) are open for encroachment. Besides, SEA is in the Japanese sphere of influence, not Europe’s.

Result: Japan decides to invade SEA July, 1940

We now pick up at the start of Phase 3.

Phase 3
1. Japan is a small country, like Prussia, and must strike quickly and hard if it is to win over the European colonies before the UK and Netherlands can act.

2. The US is an ally of the European Alliance, if not formally, then by cultural association. A move on the European colonies in SEA will almost certainly involve war with the US.

3. Japan must strike the most powerful enemy forces quickly, at the very onset of the war, and take them out of the equation.

Result: Japan decides to attack Pearl Harbor September, 1941

This decision made, all that was required was to decide on when, and with what force. According to Iguchi, professional diplomats like Ambassador to the US Nomura warned against attacking without a formal declaration of war, while the senior levels of the JFO went along with the military’s requirement for secrecy and surprise. The first result was that the embassy was cut out of the information chain. The government was worried that agents, or diplomatic slips, might reveal the intent to go to war. A side effect was that this intent never showed up in Magic signals traffic.

The document the JFO, and army, finally came up with was not a declaration of war. It was not even a breaking off of diplomatic relations. It was a breaking off of negotiations surrounding Japanese aggression in China an Indochina. This was not enough for the military. They then reduced the number of code machines at the embassy, from three to one, and delayed the transmission of the 14 part message until two days before it was to be delivered, completing transmission just after midnight on December 6/7th (JST, which was still the morning of December 6th in the US). The release of the final section of the message was scheduled (as per a Japanese government war conference) for Dec 7 at 4AM JST, Dec 6 at 2PM EST.

According to Iguchi, the embassy started decoding the first 13 parts, but they encountered numerous garbled characters. when they got to 189 errors, including 75 errors part 3 alone, they decided to stop decoding and request a retransmit. Both the corrected sections and the final section were delayed, probably by Army staffers, in the Tokyo Central Telegraph Office for over 15 hours from the agreed-upon transmission time, arriving at the embassy in DC at 7AM on Dec 7th. Since the code clerks, who had been sent home at 3AM, were not due back until 9AM, that left only four hours to decode, translate, and deliver the message, and by that time it was too late.

Second of three posts Post 1 Post 3

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