Oil fig­ured in Dec. 7 at­tack

The Sun News (Sunday) - - Opinion - BY THE MYR­TLE BEACH SUN NEWS Ed­i­to­rial Board

In five days, Pearl Har­bor Re­mem­brance Day will mark the Ja­panese at­tack on U.S. mil­i­tary in­stal­la­tions in Hawaii – an in­fa­mous ac­tion that pre­ma­turely pulled Amer­ica into World War II and pro­foundly shaped today’s world.

“Re­mem­ber Pearl Har­bor” be­came a ral­ly­ing point for the na­tion, which came to­gether in ways not fore­seen by the lead­ers of Ja­pan and the other Axis na­tions of Ger­many and Italy. War was un­der­way across Europe and through­out the Pa­cific. Hitler’s ar- mies in­vaded Poland in Septem­ber 1939 and France the fol­low­ing spring. Lon­don was un­der air at­tacks. In the Pa­cific, Ja­pan had con­quered China.

In July, Ja­panese troops in­vaded In­dochina and U.S. Pres­i­dent Franklin Roo­sevelt froze Ja­panese as­sets here and cut off high-oc­tane gaso­line to Ja­pan. FDR’s cabi­net was di­vided on an em­bargo on oil ship­ments, some mem­bers push­ing for a to­tal em­bargo. Roo­sevelt feared an em­bargo “would sim­ply drive Ja­pan to the Dutch East Indies and that would mean war in the Pa­cific,” Doris Kearns Good­win writes in “No Or­di­nary Time | Franklin & Eleanor Roo­sevelt: The Home Front in World War II.”

Roo­sevelt needed time to train troops and mo­bi­lize mass pro­duc­tion of air­planes, mu­ni­tions, ships, tanks nec­es­sary to de­feat Hitler, the first ob­jec­tive of U.S. for­eign pol­icy. Early war with Ja­pan would be “the wrong war in the wrong ocean at the wrong time.”

The high-level dis­agree­ment on the em­bargo in the sum­mer of 1941 il­lus­trates that pro and con dis­cus­sion about mod­ern em­bar­goes, and their ul­ti­mate ef­fec­tive­ness, is hardly new. And the fact is that the em­bargo on Ja­pan was one fac­tor in the Dec. 7, 1941, Ja­panese at­tack on the United States.

The sunken bat­tle­ship Ari­zona per­haps is the best-known Pearl Har­bor sym­bol. Ja­panese war­planes killed 1,177 Ari­zona crew mem­bers, al­most half of the U.S. ca­su­al­ties on other ships, no­tably the cap­sized bat­tle­ship Ok­la­homa, and at Wheeler Field, Schofield Bar­racks and Naval Air Sta­tion Ka­neohe Bay.

For Im­pe­rial Ja­pan, the at­tack on Hawaii was sec­ondary to Op­er­a­tion Num­ber One in the Philip­pines, Guam and East Indies. Ja­pan’s mil­i­tary lead­ers had a big de­bate about at­tack­ing the United States, and Ad­mi­ral Isoroku Ya­mamoto warned that an at­tack would awaken a sleep­ing gi­ant. As the Ja­panese planned the at­tack, they in­structed Ja­pan’s diplo­mats in Wash­ing­ton to con­tinue meet­ing with Sec­re­tary of State Cordell Hull. The at­tack was un­der­way as Hull and the Ja­panese were sched­uled to meet on Sun­day.

In his 2016 book “Pearl Har­bor: From In­famy to Great­ness,” Craig Nel­son shows that the Ja­panese, known for sur­prise at­tacks, in­tended less than an hour’s no­tice of the at­tack, but that was de­layed by a lack of typ­ists in the em­bassy. FDR, mil­i­tary lead­ers, in­tel­li­gence people and diplo­mats felt Ja­pan might at­tack U.S. Pa­cific forces, but few thought the tar­get would be Hawaii. That said, there was com­mand fail­ure by Ad­mi­ral Hus- band E. Kim­mel and Army Gen. Wal­ter Short.

In 1941, be­fore the De­part­ment of De­fense, there was in­tense ri­valry be­tween the Army and Navy. Pres­i­dent Roo­sevelt was a Navy booster, call­ing naval men “us” and Army people “them” un­til he was ad­vised to stop.

Iso­la­tion­ism was the pre­dom­i­nate ide­ol­ogy through the 1930s, and Pearl Har­bor ended that. In his dec­la­ra­tion of war mes­sage on Dec. 8, Roo­sevelt fa­mously de­clared the pre­vi­ous day “... will live in in­famy.” Only 21 min­utes af­ter FDR spoke, the Se­nate voted 82-0 to de­clare war on the Em­pire of Ja­pan. Twelve min­utes later, the U.S. House vote was 388-1. The one rep­re­sen­ta­tive vot­ing against was Jeanette Rankin of Mon­tana, a life­long paci­fist.

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