Thursday, October 15, 2009 10/15/09 - before pearl harbor

In today's encore excerpt - Japan, the
leading power
in Asia in the 1930s, knew from the
experience of World War I that it needed oil
in order to remain a military power. Japan
had the same imperial expansionist desires
that European nations had long held, and had
recently invaded both China and Korea. But it
had virtually no oil. Japan's bombing of
Pearl Harbor was flanking maneuver for its
primary objective - the oil of the Dutch East

"By the late 1930s, Japan produced only about
7 percent of the oil it consumed. The rest
was imported--80 percent from the United
States, and another 10 percent from the Dutch
East Indies. ... The [Japanese] Navy had its
sights set on the Dutch East Indies, Malaya,
Indochina, and a number of smaller islands in
the Pacific, particularly the prime and
absolutely essential resource - oil.

"Here was the deadly paradox for Japan. It
wanted to reduce its reliance on the United
States, especially for most of its oil, much
of which went to fuel its fleet and air
force. Japan feared that such dependence
would cripple it in a war. But Tokyo's vision
of security and the steps it took to gain oil
autonomy [through a takeover of East Indies
oil] created exactly the conditions that
would point to war with the United States.

"On July 24, 1941, ... a dozen Japanese troop
transports were on their way south to effect
the occupation of southern Indochina, [a
steppingstone to the East Indies]. On the
evening of July 25, the U.S. government
responded ordering all Japanese financial
assets in the United States to be frozen
[and] ... a virtually total oil embargo was
the result. ...

"Tokyo had worked itself into a corner.
Japan's petroleum reserves would, without
replenishment, last no more than two years.
... Foreign minister Teijiro Toyoda wrote on
July 31, 1941, 'Our Empire to save its very
life must take measures to secure the raw
materials of the South Seas.' ... [Diplomatic
negotiations ensued but on] November 27 the
United States had completely given up on
negotiations with Japan. ...

"The bombs began to fall on the American
fleet in Pearl Harbor at 7:55 a.m., Hawaiian
time. ... Senior American officials had fully
expected a Japanese attack, and imminently.
But they expected it to be in Southeast Asia.

"Pearl Harbor was not the main Japanese
target. Hawaii was but one piece of a
massive, far-flung military onslaught. In the
same hours as the attack on the U.S. Pacific
Fleet, the Japanese were bombing and
blockading Hong Kong, bombing Singapore,
bombing the Philippines, bombarding the
islands of Wake and Guam, taking over
Thailand, invading Malaya on the way to
Singapore - and preparing to invade the East
Indies. The operation against Pearl Harbor
was meant to protect the flank - to safeguard
the Japanese invasion of the Indies and the
rest of Southeast Asia. ... The primary
target of this huge campaign remained the oil
fields of the East Indies."

Daniel Yergin, The Prize, Free Press,
Copyright 1991, 1992 by Daniel Yergin, pp.


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