What is billed as the last big gathering of survivors of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor takes place Wednesday [07Dec2016] in Hawaii -- 75 years to the day after the bombing which brought the United States into World War II.
Another poignant and historic event will occur 20 days later at the naval base, when Shinzo Abe becomes the first Japanese prime minister to visit the memorial dedicated to more than 2,400 military personnel and civilians who died in the aerial raid. But those who expect Abe to apologize are likely to be disappointed.
"The purpose of the upcoming visit is to pay respects to the war dead, not to offer an apology," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Tuesday in Tokyo.
Six months ago, U.S. President Barack Obama became the country's first sitting leader to visit a memorial in the Japanese city of Hiroshima, where in 1945 the United States detonated the world's first atomic bomb intending to end the war.
Abe is scheduled to visit Hawaii December 26-27, 2016 and go to the site with Obama, who spent part of his childhood in the state. "This visit is for the sake of consoling the souls of those who died in the war, not for the sake of an apology," Suga said.
The Japanese prime minister, who visited U.S. President-elect Donald Trump last month in New York, is concerned about a possible weakening of the U.S.-Japan alliance under the new administration, according to Koichi Nakano, professor of Japanese politics at Tokyo's Sophia University.
"So he is doing all he can to send signals that U.S.-Japan relations are strong and indispensable," Nakano told VOA.
During his campaign, Trump at times criticized Japan and other nations where the U.S. plays a role in security and bases troops. Trump asserted that those governments should shoulder more of the cost.
Grant Newsham, a senior research fellow at the Japan Forum for Strategic Studies, said Trump's win in November "has really thrown the Japanese for a loop."
Candidate Trump’s statements “suggesting that Japan was not doing enough for its defense and not paying enough for the services effectively of U.S. forces really frightened the Japanese government," Newsham told VOA.
"Japan once erred and challenged the emergent U.S.-centered international order, but has since repented and is now serving the international order as a good sidekick of the U.S.," said Professor Nakano in Tokyo. "The irony is that Abe at heart doesn't believe any of it, and now he is met by Trump, who doesn't believe any of it either."
The strengthening of the U.S.-Japan military alliance has been justified in recent years as crucial to maintain the liberal international order, Nakano told VOA. "And the entire logic is now bankrupt as neither of the two leaders of the alliance will be a liberal, so God knows where the U.S.-Japan alliance will drift to."
Asians look for apology
Abe's words at Pearl Harbor "will be very closely parsed, as are all statements by high Japanese officials about the war," said senior fellow Denny Roy at the Hawaii-based East West Center. "I would like to hear some kind of recognition that it was an act of aggression for Japan to attack Pearl Harbor."
But many of Abe's supporters "don't want him to apologize or say anything near an apology," Roy told VOA.
Japanese and American citizens will not be the only ones monitoring Abe's statement, which he will deliver while standing beside Obama.
Aggrieved Asian peoples "would like a strong apology for issues involving their countries," Roy explained.
"Prime Minister Abe, regardless of what he may believe personally and privately, has fully accepted the official Japanese government's view on these issues," Yuki Tatsumi, senior associate for East Asia programs at the Stimson Center, told VOA.
Remorse and apologies have been expressed to other countries by various Japanese prime ministers since the 1950s.
Tatsumi, who served as a special assistant for political affairs at Japan's embassy in Washington, expects Abe's Pearl Harbor remarks "to be very similar to the speech he gave to the U.S. Congress in April 2015 to remember the terrible history of Japan's conduct in World War II and to reaffirm Japan's commitment of not resorting to war to resolve international disagreements."
"Apologies are not necessary," according to Tetsuo Kotani, senior fellow at the Japan Institute of International Affairs.
Abe, he said, only needs to express remorse for those who suffered and died in the human tragedy and express a sincere commitment to peace.
Both Tatsumi and Kotani tell VOA that this aspect of history remains politicized in China and Korea -- which were occupied by Imperial Japan -- while the United States and Japan are setting an example of true reconciliation.
The Hawaii visit by Abe will be an "appropriate complement to President Obama's visit to Hiroshima this summer. The message is that Japan acknowledges its past, and that it is ready to move forward," said retired U.S. Air Force Brigadier General Dave Stilwell.
More than 2,300 U.S. servicemen were killed in the Japanese aerial attack at Pearl Harbor, which sunk the USS Arizona battleship while damaging or destroying 20 other ships and 164 planes. The attack will be marked Wednesday by a remembrance ceremony and a moment of silence at 7:55 a.m., when the Japanese planes first struck their targets.
Three and a half years later, the world war came to an end after the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing 210,000 people in the two attacks.
VOA’s Victor Beattie contributed to this report.
On Dec. 8, 1941, Franklin Roosevelt took the rostrum before a joint session of Congress to ask for a declaration of war on Japan.
A day earlier, at dawn, carrier-based Japanese aircraft had launched a sneak attack devastating the U.S. battle fleet at Pearl Harbor.
Said ex-President Herbert Hoover, Republican statesman of the day, “We have only one job to do now, and that is to defeat Japan.”
But to friends, “the Chief” sent another message: “You and I know that this continuous putting pins in rattlesnakes finally got this country bit.”
Today, 70 years after Pearl Harbor, a remarkable secret history, written from 1943 to 1963, has come to light. It is Hoover’s explanation of what happened before, during and after the world war that may prove yet the death knell of the West.
Edited by historian George Nash, “Freedom Betrayed: Herbert Hoover’s History of the Second World War and Its Aftermath” is a searing indictment of FDR and the men around him as politicians who lied prodigiously about their desire to keep America out of war, even as they took one deliberate step after another to take us into war.
Yet the book is no polemic. The 50-page run-up to the war in the Pacific uses memoirs and documents from all sides to prove Hoover’s indictment. And perhaps the best way to show the power of this book is the way Hoover does it -- chronologically, painstakingly, week by week.
Consider Japan’s situation in the summer of 1941. Bogged down in a four year war in China she could neither win nor end, having moved into French Indochina, Japan saw herself as near the end of her tether.
Inside the government was a powerful faction led by Prime Minister Prince Fumimaro Konoye that desperately did not want a war with the United States.
The “pro-Anglo-Saxon” camp included the navy, whose officers had fought alongside the U.S. and Royal navies in World War I, while the war party was centered on the army, Gen. Hideki Tojo and Foreign Minister Yosuke Matsuoka, a bitter anti-American.
On July 18, 1941, Konoye ousted Matsuoka, replacing him with the “pro-Anglo-Saxon” Adm. Teijiro Toyoda.
The U.S. response: On July 25, we froze all Japanese assets in the United States, ending all exports and imports, and denying Japan the oil upon which the nation and empire depended.
Stunned, Konoye still pursued his peace policy by winning secret support from the navy and army to meet FDR on the U.S. side of the Pacific to hear and respond to U.S. demands.
U.S. Ambassador Joseph Grew implored Washington not to ignore Konoye’s offer, that the prince had convinced him an agreement could be reached on Japanese withdrawal from Indochina and South and Central China. Out of fear of Mao’s armies and Stalin’s Russia, Tokyo wanted to hold a buffer in North China.
On Aug. 28, Japan’s ambassador in Washington presented FDR a personal letter from Konoye imploring him to meet.
Tokyo begged us to keep Konoye’s offer secret, as the revelation of a Japanese prime minister’s offering to cross the Pacific to talk to an American president could imperil his government.
On Sept. 3, the Konoye letter was leaked to the Herald-Tribune.
On Sept. 6, Konoye met again at a three-hour dinner with Grew to tell him Japan now agreed with the four principles the Americans were demanding as the basis for peace. No response.
On Sept. 29, Grew sent what Hoover describes as a “prayer” to the president not to let this chance for peace pass by.
On Sept. 30, Grew wrote Washington, “Konoye’s warship is ready waiting to take him to Honolulu, Alaska or anyplace designated by the president.”
No response. On Oct. 16, Konoye’s cabinet fell.
In November, the U.S. intercepted two new offers from Tokyo: a Plan A for an end to the China war and occupation of Indochina and, if that were rejected, a Plan B, a modus vivendi where neither side would make any new move. When presented, these, too, were rejected out of hand.
At a Nov. 25, 1941 meeting of FDR’s war council, Secretary of War Henry Stimson’s notes speak of the prevailing consensus: “The question was how we should maneuver them (the Japanese) into … firing the first shot without allowing too much danger to ourselves.”
“We can wipe the Japanese off the map in three months,” wrote Navy Secretary Frank Knox.
As Grew had predicted, Japan, a “hara-kiri nation,” proved more likely to fling herself into national suicide for honor than to allow herself to be humiliated.
Out of the war that arose from the refusal to meet Prince Konoye came scores of thousands of U.S. dead, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, the fall of China to Mao Zedong, U.S. wars in Korea and Vietnam, and the rise of a new arrogant China that shows little respect for the great superpower of yesterday.
If you would know the history that made our world, spend a week with Mr. Hoover’s book.
December 10, 2012 -- Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor 71 years ago this month was a “day that will live in infamy” according to US President Franklin Roosevelt.
Seven decades later, it increasingly appears that the president’s surprise and outrage may have been synthetic. Roosevelt had been maneuvering for more than a year to bring the United States into World War II.
However, most Americans were against joining Britain’s war against Germany, and had little interest in Asia.
Something dramatic was needed to arouse war fever in the United States – particularly so since American-Germans constituted one of the largest ethnic group in the United States. In 1900, New York City was the third largest German city after Berlin and Hamburg.
Washington had been demanding since the mid-1930’s that Japan cease its occupation of strategic Manchuria, an autonomous state on China’s northeastern border. America’s warnings to Tokyo intensified after Japan invaded China in 1937. By 1941, Japanese armies were deep in China, a nation that the US considered its sphere of commercial and political interest.
Roosevelt issued an ultimatum to Tokyo to get out of China – or else. When Japan ignored the warning, Roosevelt cut off all US exports to Japan of crude oil, aviation gas, scrap iron and other strategic commodities on which Japanese industry depended. At the time, the US produced over 50% of the world’s oil supply. Japan produced no oil and imported all of its strategic materials and much of its food.
Washington should have known an attack was coming. The 1904 Russo-Japanese War began with a surprise attack on Russia’s important northern China naval base of Port Arthur. When President George Bush I ordered US forces to war against Iraq in 1991, he justified the attack by claiming America’s oil supply was threatened.
Japan’s war against the ten times more powerful United States was folly. The architect of the Pearl Harbor attack, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, who had lived in the United States, warned beforehand “we are going to war for oil, and I fear we will lose it because of oil.”
In 1941, Japan had a two-year strategic reserve of oil. The US embargo meant that Japan had to either go to war while it still had oil, see itself crippled by the embargo, or pull out of China, something the Imperial Army would not accept.
Yamamoto was absolutely correct. Japan’s main source of oil was the Dutch East Indies (today’s Indonesia), which it quickly conquered. But mid-1944, US submarines and mining had cut off 96% of Japan’s imports of oil, strategic material and food. Japan’s navy and air forces became inoperable. Japan began to starve; half its cities were leveled by US fire bomb raids.
From 1939, the Imperial Japanese Navy had been at samurai sword’s drawn with the Imperial Army. They in effect ran two separate wars: the Navy wanted the East Indies’s oil and to dominate the Pacific Ocean. The Army demanded resources be poured into its wars in China and Southeast Asia.
Strategists calling for Japan’s Kwantung Army in Manchuria to attack Russia’s Far East were ignored. Had Japan done so, Stalin would not have been able to transfer 41 tough Siberian divisions just in time to halt the German advance on Moscow.
Had Germany and Japan coordinated their offensives, Russia would likely have been defeated. But they did not. Japan’s Emperor, Hirohito, dithered and failed to force the Army and Navy into a coordinated war effort. Recent research in Japan has uncovered the tragicomic bungling and squabbling of the Imperial generals and admirals, and a weak emperor paralyzed by indecision.
Even worse, Hitler for some reason declared war on the United States soon after Pearl Harbor, giving Roosevelt the pretext he had long sought to enter the war against Germany.
Historians will long battle over whether Roosevelt lured Japan into attacking Pearl Harbor. The absence of the only two US aircraft carriers in the Pacific from Pearl Harbor during the attack, and Washington’s ability to read Japan’s naval codes add suspicions that the White House saw the attack coming. At minimum, the embargo of strategic material to Japan was a huge provocation. Japan foolishly took the bait and paid a terrible price.COMMENTS:
stage 1 Dave
December 18, 2012 at 5:01 am:
If memory serves, even the US Congress absolved Adm. Kimmel of all responsibility for this “sneak” attack by special session in 1946. (He was relieved of his command after the attack) Barbara Tuchman has commented on the FDR administrations’ motivations as well…apparently, not too many Americans were (or have been) listening.
It’s worth mentioning that the congressmen in 1946 were well aware that the relevant code-breaking machines HAD NOT been supplied to PH but were in other command areas. It should also be remembered that the Pacific Fleet HQ was moved from San Diego to Pearl shortly before the attack…violating an ancient naval warfare edict of quartering a fleet in a port that had one entry & exit.
Pop culture trumps history every time!
December 17, 2012 at 3:22 am:
A new book ( 2000 ) reveals the absolute truth about the FDR inner circle having full access to all the Japanese diplomatic and military communications cryptographic codes. Admiral Kimmel at Pearl Harbor was excluded from getting them, so that he wouldn’t move the ships out of harms way. FDR needed enough damage and death there to swing the American public sentiment into supporting war in Asia.
The 2000 book : ” Day of Deceit, The Truth About FDR and Pearl Harbor”, by Robert B. Stinnett, ISBN 0-684-85339-6
So Japan was “maneuvered ” into attacking the US by FDR.
After 7 decades we might ask if it was really necessary, because the Japanese eventually were able to create their needed economic empire in Asia. And, subsequently , China has been able to create an even larger economic empire .
So, was the loss of life and the expenditure of treasure really of benefit to America in the long run ?
December 16, 2012 at 7:43 pm:
Hi Eric… this column is clearly ‘easy filler’, and I’m looking forward to something more timely to appear. Hopefully you’re researching North Korea or Syria.
As for Pearl Harbour, they lost far too much during that air
raid to say that they were certain about the attack. Such speculation
might only feed into right-wing revisionists looking to undermine FDR’s
great leadership (as in “he knew, but let all those brave boys die
anyway … those darn Democrats!”).
Maybe they had an inkling and hedged a bit with the aircraft carriers … who would really know? Will they ever disclose ?
December 11, 2012 at 1:13 am:
The Pearl Harbor attack is one of the most talked about story. The better story is our attack on Iraq? That is an event that took place in our recent history, and our media/government was used to sell us some lies. This is clear recent story, and how the average Republican has never allowed any truth or facts to interfere with the lies simply explains to me why most Americans today never question the OFFICIAL history of Pearl Harbor, or the civil war!
Now, I was not around during the Pearl Harbor time to personally detect the lies, but many contemporaries of that era written different version from the official government story. Having been aware of many government, historians, and media lies; I tend to think there is a possibility of our government have lied again!
Even today, as our joe-si-packs have looked at the news over the past decade and perhaps learned that America is fighting the fanatic Islamists as led by an a bad group called Al Qaeda; they are still unable to be outraged at our government helping AL QAEDA to destroy Syria.
My conclusion is the majority of the American public have been transformed into robots, or Pavlov dogs only reacting to the signal from the overlords. It does not matter how big are the lies, the majority will never question the lies unless they are told GO AHEAD QUESTION THAT STUFF!