SAN JOSE, CA: On a somewhat peaceful Sunday morning a few weeks before Christmas in 1941, all hell broke loose at the United States Naval Base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Contemporary military historians usually agree that Japan’s surprise attack on U.S. planes and ships on December 7, 1941, was one of the most successful in the history of warfare. Many Americans, no matter how old, are often at a loss to explain how that horrible event was orchestrated. Fewer would know that the attack upon Pearl Harbor was the outcome of a long-enduring and slow developing coup d’état conducted by the Army of the Japanese Imperial government.
Despite numerous variations of conspiracy theories regarding the basic cause of the horrific attack, the essential fact is that the horrific attack of December 7 was the outcome of a military coup that succeeded in toppling the Japanese government.
The immediate response from the United States plunged the nation into World War II.
However, the people of Japan were ultimately the ones who suffered the greatest loss as a result of the coup and the result of both outcomes. These include the direct consequences of the coup and consequences from the miscalculations of global militarists who orchestrated the coup.
The attack upon Pearl Harbor was a horrendous atrocity and an act of war upon the United States.
This, at least, is crystal clear. In just two hours, nearly 2,400 Americans are killed. 1,178 military personnel and civilians wounded. 188 aircraft are destroyed with an additional 159 more aircraft damaged. Approximately 20 ships were either completely sunk or severely damaged.
That vision is usually the limit of what American citizens may recall about the horrific incident, but Americans need to know how such actions originated because there is a coup d’état taking place in the United States right now. And coups have a way of leaving a trail of disastrous unintended consequences — something about “the best-laid plans of mice and men…”
In reality, the empire-building ambitions of militarists in Japan are centuries old.
Initially, Japan had a great interest and colonial ambitions with regard to the Korean peninsula. In the mid-1800s, Japan was victorious in a war with China, eliminating Chinese influence in the area. At the turn of the century, the Japanese gained strong economic and military influence over Korea.
In time, a rivalry with Russia over the greater control in the developing nation led to the Russo-Japanese War, fought from 1904 to 1905. Through victory in this war, Japan eliminated the final rival for dominion over Korea.
Essentially, Korea came under Japanese domination. It became a protectorate through the Japan–Korea Treaty of 1905. Ironically, President Teddy Roosevelt succeeded in hosting the peace negotiations in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Yet, in less than 40 years, Roosevelt’s cousin, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, asked Congress to declare war on Japan.
This irony reveals dramatic changes in the world of the 1900s.
Through the Treaty of Portsmouth, the U.S. government recognized Japan’s “paramount political, military, and economic interests in Korea.” It permitted Japan’s Imperial government to attain complete dominion over Korea. Unfortunately, the colonization of Korea led to the Empire of Japan’s formulation of a model of colonial dominion.
“Reforms,” were designed to weaken any chances of Korean resistance, and they transformed the new colony. The Korean Army was reduced from 20,000 to 1,000 troops as Japan disbanded all garrisons, leaving only one garrison in the capital, Seoul. Japan also eliminated the Korean police in Seoul and installed a Japanese police inspector in each of the Korean prefectures. Korea was established and a pacified colony of the Empire of Japan long before the outbreak of the Great War in Europe.
The Japanese government had been aligned with the allies during World War I, and it was beginning to become more democratic during the 1920s. However, such a major change in government was poorly timed.
The effects of America’s Great Depression lingered throughout the world
The Japanese people struggled in the 1930s, and their democratic experiment became increasingly distrusted as leaders in the Japanese Army distrusted “democracy.” Like militarists in Europe, the Japanese military was extremely nationalistic. Yet, unlike fascist efforts in Europe aimed at destroying traditional systems of government, the Japanese army sought to restore political control to military leaders.
After World War I, significant efforts among the Japanese people pushed their government toward greater democracy; but from 1921 to 1941, Japan gradually became a divided nation. At its center was a bitterly fractious government.
Such a weakened government ultimately proved powerless to control the mad dog behavior and tactics of the Japanese Imperial Army. The military leaders were intent on world dominion. And, as the extreme militarists within Japan’s army ascended to power, they trampled upon the quest for democracy.
They even murdered democratically-inclined political leaders that got in the way of their treachery.
Japan seeking absolute Military Power over its people
More specifically, a study of the efforts of these militarists in this period reveals a slow and deliberate ascent to absolute power by a small fraction of military elitists. These elitists strongly believed in the old Japanese Empire and the romanticized notions of an Asian feudal system under the orderly protection of the legendary Samurai.
This history of Japan in the early 1900s reveals the violent internal political strife within Japan. This period of Japan’s history reveals what led to the brutal confrontation between Imperial Japan and the U.S. and unprovoked aggression against neighboring nations.
The extreme militarists eventually initiated a chain of events that culminated in the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor. That attack was essentially the result of a very clever plan intended to limit or eliminate any opposition from the U.S. to Japan’s ultimate goal. That ultimate goal was the complete domination of the nations in the Pacific Ocean region from Manchuria to Australia.
The leaders in the Imperial Army believed Japan’s economic problems could be solved by foreign expansion.
To the Japanese military leaders, this translated into empire building or foreign domination. Dominion over China becoming a goal. They sought to duplicate the Korean “protectorate” throughout the rest of Asia in the 1930s and 1940s.
In September of 1931, Japanese troops from the Kwantung Army blew up a section of their own Japanese-controlled railway line that stretched across Manchuria. They blamed it on Chinese “terrorists” and seized the town of Mukden, nearby. The Japanese parliament, which supported a free people’s right of self-determination, was shocked by the army’s actions.
Unfortunately, those in the Japanese parliament who favored democracy had little power to control the highly militant army.
Through a deliberate and determined effort throughout Japan’s political system, extreme militarists in the Japanese army increasingly secured more power. The self-directed destruction of the railway line provided a convenient excuse to simply take over Manchuria and to transform it into a colony, which they renamed “Manchukuo.”
By this time, the militarists had realized that they could control Japan by utilizing the emperor as the central symbol of national power, and this ensured popular support for strong army leaders ruling in his name.
The true obstacle for the extreme militarists within their nation was the democratic-minded civilian government.
One incident in May of 1932 is quite revealing. Nine army officers went to the home of Prime Minister Tsuyoshi Inukai to challenge his views. After he cordially invited them in, instead of talking, the leader of the officers shouted, “No use talking!” The officer pulled out his pistol and shot Inukai. This action prompted the others to also shoot the civilian leader in what was like a Mafia-style execution.
The outrageous incident essentially generated serious intimidation of other civilian government leaders considering control of the army, which only became bolder and bolder.
Between 1921 and 1944 there were at least 64 incidents of political violence in Japan.
During this period, Japan gradually eroded into a divided nation, and at the core was a bitterly divided government.
Yet, when the emperor learned of the coup, he immediately ordered it quashed, and boldly stated if there were any problem with doing so, he would personally lead an effort to subdue the “rebels.”
The rebellion had to be suppressed by the Japanese navy, and most of the coup leaders were secretly executed.
From the 1935 coup, circumstances worsened, and Japan‘s civilian government grew weaker
, incapable of controlling the militants in the Kwantung army. In July of 1937, Chinese soldiers clashed with Japanese troops from the Kwantung army on the Marco Polo Bridge in Peking. The leaders of the Japanese Army ignored Tokyo’s order to create a ceasefire, and from Manchukuo began an invasion of China. This bold action only strengthened the power of the militarists, and Japan’s civilian government eventually became powerless.
The army’s mad dog behavior and tactics ultimately led to the Sino-Japanese War, which can be viewed as part of World War II, but it is not recognized as such by western historians.
When President Roosevelt addressed Congress on Dec. 8, 1941, he revealed that the Empire of Japan “had undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area.” F.D.R. reported to Congress that he was aware that the Japanese government had launched simultaneous attacks against Hong Kong, the Philippine Islands, Malaya, Guam, Wake Island, and Midway.
The militaristic government of Japan attacked the U.S. military installation in order to keep the only free nation that could stop it out of its way. The Empire of Japan, via its military, had calculated the benefits of such an outrageous act, and Admiral Yamamoto had developed a very good plan to execute it. This extreme outcome started well before the planning of Admiral Yamamoto, the officer who predicted that such an unprovoked attack would “arouse a sleeping giant.”
Remembering the political lessons of Pearl Harbor
In remembrance of Pearl Harbor, American citizens need to be absolutely clear that the concentration of political power in a small centralized, absolutist controlled, political faction led to Pearl Harbor. This determined political faction seized control of the imperial government. Then, it instigated severe results from violent internal political strife.
From there, the elitists intended to expand an already growing empire. Through the unprovoked aggression against neighboring nations and the United States, the elitists secured dominion over many free nations.
Remembrance of the atrocities at Pearl Harbor should not evoke hatred or ill-will toward Japanese people.
Suspicion of and opposition to unrestrained government power is the proper object of concern. Clearly, a devious, destructive, and deadly dictatorship deliberately attacked the U.S. to achieve regional domination of free nations. This brief moment in history should serve as a reminder for all in the “Free World” to be absolutely wary of extreme militarists.
A nation’s free citizens must be quite vigilant to prevent too much power from being concentrated in the hands of extremely determined and poorly restrained absolutist leadership. It is a lesson for political division in America today.