Why did Japan Attack Pearl Harbor?

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The bombing of Pearl Harbor is a day in history that defines our ultimate involvement in World War II. December 7, 1941 was a most unfortunate day as the people of Honolulu were attacked by Japanese Navy Air Services landing bombs on Pearl Harbor just before 8 in the morning.

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‘There was no other option,’ Shigenori Togo, Japanese Foreign Minister in 1941, justified the Japanese attack on the US naval base at Pearl Harbor, 78 years ago. An aggression that changed the course of the Second World War – forcing our isolationist United States into the depths of war – and that, from the Eastern perspective, broke the dynamics of history in Asia.

Precisely from the Japanese perspective, the basis of the attack on Pearl Harbor was found ten years earlier, with the Japanese invasion of China that ended up generating the state of Manchukuo. The crash of 1929 also affected Japan, whose population surrendered to the military and the solution they proposed: territorial expansion through war to feed on raw materials. Manchukuo was the bridgehead in continental Asia, legitimized by the presence of Pu Yi, former emperor of China, and which served as a base for expansion to the south: from French Indochina to British Malaysia or the Netherlands Antilles. That is to say, towards the colonies of Europe that the 1930s had left in a state of semi-abandonment.

By 1940, Japan’s continental expansion made it a strategic ally in an already-guessed global conflict. After committing not to attack the USSR, Tokyo joined the Berlin-Rome axis in the Tripartite Pact signed on September 27, 1940, which gave Japan territorial primacy in Asia. And it was at that moment that the United States felt the threat. With the USSR concerned about its European front, the expansion in the Pacific – on the mainland the rival was China – of the Japanese Empire met only one possible resistance: that of Washington.

“The emperor seemed calm and unwavering after making a decision.” This was Hideki Tojo’s testimony written by Michio Yuzawa, Deputy Minister of the Interior, three hours after the meeting he had with the Prime Minister and another of his advisers preluding the attack on Pearl Harbor. After spending a decade in the hands of an acquaintance of some descendants of Yuzawa, the fact that he now sees the light has a plausible value, and it is that the document indicates Hirohito as responsible for approving the affront to the United States.

The written message meddled with a highly sensitive issue for Japanese society: the degree of guilt of the emperor in the war disaster, who met Tojo on the eve of the attack. Quotes such as ‘If Her Majesty regretted anything about the negotiations with Britain and the United States, you would have seen something bleak. There was no such indication, which must be the result of his determination ‘or’ I am completely relieved. Given the current conditions, I could say that we have practically already won,” confirm Hirohito’s support for the Government’s decision to inexorably reject the diplomatic channel in favor of weapons.

In any case, Takahisa Furukawa has characterized Tojo’s relief confessions as symptoms of a good bureaucrat but a bad leader. Tojo was a bureaucrat unable to make his own decisions, so he turned to the emperor as his supervisor. If he did not say otherwise, then he would proceed. The report clearly reveals a total lack of political leadership in Japan, ‘says this expert in the history of war from Nihon University, who has confirmed the authenticity of the document. Yuzawa himself holds an opinion of the Prime Minister as a passionate and loyal man but short-sighted and without a philosophy of political chief.

While Tojo was blamed for forcing the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and executed as a first-degree war criminal in 1948, Hirohito was protected from prosecution in the Tokyo trials. Many historians have been questioning the efforts of General Douglas MacArthur and his clique to exonerate the emperor by placing all the blame on the backpacks of the other visible heads of the Japanese Empire, both political and military.

The United States considered its representative importance to be fundamental to rebuilding a ruined nation and used it as a guarantee of stability in the democratic future of Japan. So much so that, despite having to renounce his condition at the end of the conflict, Hirohito, devoid of all responsibility, died in 1989 after more than 62 years on the throne. But history, sometimes later than usual, always ends up doing justice.   

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Why Did Japan Attack Pearl Harbor?. (2021, Jul 11). Retrieved December 8, 2022 , from

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