December 7, 1941: The Bombing of Pearl Harbor and Japan’s Early Conquests 81 Years Ago

December 7, 1941: The Bombing of Pearl Harbor and Japan’s Early Conquests 81 Years Ago

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From the outset of World War II, the Franklin Roosevelt administration envisaged that America would emerge from the conflict in a position of global dominance. The United States had boasted the world’s largest economy since 1871, surpassing Britain that year, and the gap increased through the early 20th century and beyond.

Diplomatic historian Geoffrey Warner summarised, “President Roosevelt was aiming at United States hegemony in the postwar world”.

From 1939, high-level US State Department officials highlighted which regions of the globe the US would hold sway over, titled by Washington planners as the Grand Area. In the early 1940s, the Grand Area of US dominion was assigned to consist of the following regions: the entire Western hemisphere, the Far East, and the former British Empire which contained most crucially of all, the Middle East’s oil sources.

President Roosevelt made deliberate and significant steps towards war during 1941. On 11 March of that year he signed into law the Lend-Lease Act which, for the majority, would benefit Britain by furnishing her with vast quantities of war matériel, oil and food supplies (amounting to around $30 billion in all); to a much lesser extent, US deliveries of such commodities were sent to the Soviet Union from December 1941, months after the Germans invaded, and it would come to about $10 billion altogether; despite the Soviets bearing the war’s burden from June 1941.

The German Army’s high command, on hearing of the Lend-Lease Act, believed in general that it “may be regarded as a declaration of war on Germany”, and Hitler also “agreed that the Americans had given him a reason for war” with the introduction of Lend-Lease, according to Ian Kershaw, the English historian. Through 1941 a state of almost undeclared hostilities existed between America and Nazi Germany, as their vessels dangerously rubbed shoulders with each other in the Atlantic Ocean. War against America was officially declared by Hitler, a few days after Imperial Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor.

The Japanese militarists viewed the Lend-Lease Act with grave misgivings too. Their opinions were strengthened further when, on 26 July 1941, Roosevelt’s government froze all Japanese assets in America, a cruel and drastic move which immediately eradicated 90% of Japan’s oil imports and 75% of its foreign trade. Britain and the Netherlands followed suit. The date 26 July 1941 was not one “which will live in infamy”, as Roosevelt later described Japan’s bombing of Pearl Harbor, rather it was forgotten, in the West at least but not in Japan.

Roosevelt’s decision to freeze Japanese assets, in response to Tokyo’s occupation of southern French Indochina (over 8,000 miles from Washington), amounted to a virtual declaration of war on Japan. For a resource-poor nation of 73 million people dependent on food and petroleum imports, Japan had for example only an 18 month supply of oil left.

It was no shock, therefore, that when the Japanese cabinet discussed the options open for it, they shifted towards war with America and further conquests. Military author Donald J. Goodspeed wrote, “In the light of the evidence, it seems probable that in the autumn of 1941 Roosevelt wanted war – against Nazi Germany if possible, but if necessary against both Germany and Japan. He maintained the economic stranglehold on Japan, and refused to relax it expect on terms he knew Japan would not meet”.

Already in November 1940, a US military plan to “bomb Tokyo and other big cities” met the warm endorsement of Cordell Hull, the US Secretary of State, and Roosevelt himself was “simply delighted” when informed of the idea. With this intention in mind, from July 1941 increasing numbers of American B-17 heavy bombers were sent to US air bases, like in the Philippines, just over 1,000 miles south of Japan. The Japanese were of course aware of this hostile military build-up, and we can note there was no Japanese military presence in the Western hemisphere.

On 26 November 1941, just 11 days before the Pearl Harbor attack, Roosevelt consciously made war with Japan a certainty. Secretary of State Hull told the Japanese envoys, Saburo Kurusu and Kichisaburo Nomura, that a “general peaceful settlement” between America and Japan could only be reached should Tokyo – among other things – withdraw its armies from China and French Indochina, and effectively revoke its membership of the Tripartite Pact with Germany and Italy, while recognising the US-backed Chinese government of Chiang Kai-shek. These proposals were totally unacceptable to Japan’s administration and the country’s commanders.

Goodspeed wrote of the Roosevelt government’s offer of 26 November that it “made war inevitable and it was intended to do so. For two days after the receipt of the American reply, the Japanese cabinet debated the issue, but on the 29th [of November] it reached a firm decision to go to war”; while Japan’s resolution to take up arms against America “was also an indirect result of the rapacity of the industrialized West, which had led the way in the exploitation of China and the corruption of Japan”.

On 25 November 1941 the US Secretary of War, Henry L. Stimson, wrote in his diary that he and colleagues had pondered at a White House meeting on that day “how we should maneuver them [the Japanese] into the position of firing the first shot, without allowing too much danger to ourselves”. Stimson continued that Roosevelt “brought up the event that we were likely to be attacked perhaps next Monday [1 December 1941], for the Japanese are notorious for making an attack without warning, and the question was what we should do”.

The Japanese Army was, itself, artificially inculcated with the extreme samurai traditions of the ancient warrior class. The military wielded a huge influence on Japanese policy. Japan’s army leaders were, on the whole, poorly informed of world affairs, and dismissive of the materialism and perceived softness of America. They were also grossly overconfident in their armed forces.

The Japanese Navy leadership were more realistic, because they were regular travellers who had a better understanding of the world before them. The Japanese strategy for war against America was designed by the commander-in-chief of the Combined Fleet, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, an experienced and popular officer aged in his mid-50s. Admiral Yamamoto knew quite clearly that his country could not decisively defeat America in a conflict.

What Yamamoto proposed for Japan was a limited but still ambitious war aim: the establishment of a defensive perimeter in the Pacific Ocean, stretching out in a giant arc from the north-east to the south-west, from the Kuril Islands to the borders of India. This would enhance Japan’s status as a major power, but could not have prevented America from attaining pre-eminence across much of the remainder of the globe.

Within this final Japanese line lay various countries they would take over or retain, including the Philippines, British Malaya (Malaysia), Burma, Indochina and, of greatest significance, oil rich Indonesia (Dutch East Indies). If Japan could secure this area in the first three or four months of their war with America, it should be possible to consolidate a powerful defensive barrier the US would dare not breach. Or so that is what Yamamoto hoped. He advocated a surprise attack on the US military, similar to the Japanese assault which destroyed the Russian fleet at Port Arthur in 1904.

Yamamoto boldly picked out the formidable US naval base at Pearl Harbor in Oahu, Hawaii, 3,865 miles from Tokyo and 2,580 miles from the American mainland coast at Los Angeles, California. Yet in his planning, Yamamoto committed two serious errors – he misjudged how a surprise raid on US forces would be viewed in America, which in the event united the US Congress and the American people firmly behind Roosevelt; and Yamamoto underestimated the true potential of US industry which, within two or three years, would easily outstrip that of Japan.

The 54-year-old Vice Admiral, Chuichi Nagumo, commanded the Japanese fleet which would attack Pearl Harbor. His task force set sail on 18 November 1941. Almost three weeks later at 5.30 am on 7 December, a Sunday, Japan’s assault force neared its launch area. Two Japanese reconnaissance planes flew south to observe the Pearl Harbor base, and reported back that all was quiet.

Despite Washington having cracked Japanese codes in 1940, including Tokyo’s highest diplomatic code, the Purple Cipher, US personnel at Pearl Harbor were not informed of the imminent Japanese attack. This was an incredible occurrence. Neither the direct scramble telephone, nor the US naval radio communications, were used to contact the American officers at Pearl Harbor. A warning message, not marked urgent, was instead sent through a much slower medium, as Kershaw noted via “Western Union’s commercial telegram service, which had no direct line to Honolulu [Hawaiian capital]. It had still not arrived in Hawaii when the attack began”.

From 230 miles north of their target, the opening wave of Japanese warplanes departed from their aircraft carriers shortly after 7 am. As they reached Pearl Harbor, below them were the US Pacific Fleet warships, lined up neatly and close together, as though the world had never been at war. The first group of Japanese aircraft descended at 7:55 am. They bombed and strafed to their hearts content for 30 minutes. A mere 25% of the US anti-aircraft guns at Pearl Harbor had crews to fire the weaponry. Most of them were on shore leave, as previously agreed by Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, commander of the US Pacific Fleet.

Within minutes, the US Pacific Fleet was in tatters. The Japanese bombs had set aflame the battleships, ‘Arizona’, ‘Oklahoma’, ‘California’, and the ‘West Virginia‘, all of which were in the process of sinking. Likewise in flames and going under were three US cruisers, three destroyers, and some ships of smaller size. Heavy damage was inflicted upon the American battleships the ‘Nevada’, ‘Maryland’, ‘Tennessee’ and ‘Pennsylvania’.

The second wave of Japanese aircraft arrived over Pearl Harbor at 8:40 am. Along the nearby air fields, Japan’s bombers destroyed 188 US warplanes, most of them on the ground. By the time the Japanese pilots had returned to their aircraft carriers at 11:30 am, 2,403 Americans were dead, while the Japanese had lost 29 planes out of 350 and suffered 64 deaths.

The Pearl Harbor attack was a severe blow to American pride and naval power, but it was not a deadly one. Pearl Harbor’s installations such as the submarine pens were undamaged, as were the large oil tanks in the dockyard. Of major importance, the three American aircraft carriers were by luck out to sea at the time. Their survival would allow the US military to rapidly launch offensive operations. Nevertheless, Japan’s commanders were pleased with the devastation inflicted at Pearl Harbor, which had exceeded their expectations.

The Japanese generals did not rest on their laurels either, and morale was very high among their troops. A few hours before the bombing of Pearl Harbor had even started, the Japanese 25th Army (commanded by Lieutenant-General Tomoyuki Yamashita) landed at British Malaya in south-east Asia. On 8 December 1941, the Japanese 15th Army (Lieutenant-General Shojiro Iida) led the way in invading neutral Thailand, just a few hundred miles north of Malaya. Thailand, which until then had escaped colonisation, capitulated quickly and signed a formal alliance with Japan.

Four hours after the bombing of Pearl Harbor ended, the Japanese 14th Army (Lieutenant-General Masaharu Homma) attacked the Philippines, a south-east Asian country and US colony since the late 19th century. Much to their delight, Japan’s troops destroyed dozens of US aircraft on the ground at Clark Air Base, in the northern Philippines.

On 10 December 1941 Japanese soldiers landed at Luzon, the Philippines’ largest and most populous island in the north of the country. On that same day, 10 December, the Japanese 55th Infantry Division (Major-General Tomitaro Horii) captured the strategically important Pacific island of Guam from the Americans, almost 1,500 miles to the east of the Philippines. So for now ended the four decade US occupation of Guam.

Another 1,500 miles further east again in the Pacific a US territorial possession, Wake Island, was taken comfortably by Japanese marines from the outnumbered Americans on 23 December 1941. Christmas that year was not celebrated with wild enthusiasm in America.

On 16 December 1941 Borneo, the world’s third largest island and less than 1,000 miles south of the Philippines, was attacked by Japanese units comprising mainly of the 35th Infantry Brigade (Major-General Kiyotake Kawaguchi). Landing in north-western Borneo, the Japanese met little resistance from the British, and they swiftly took the coastal towns of Miri and Seria.

Further north, Hong Kong, in south-eastern China, a British colony from the days of London’s drug trafficking wars, was assailed by Japan’s forces on the morning of 8 December 1941, led by the Japanese 23rd Army (Lieutenant-General Takashi Sakai). The Battle of Hong Kong turned into a rout, as the Japanese captured at least 10,000 Allied troops, among them British, Free French and Canadians. The myth of the white man’s invincibility was evaporating like mist in a morning breeze.

On Christmas Day 1941 Mark Aitchison Young, the British Governor of Hong Kong, surrendered in person to Lieutenant-General Sakai, the victorious commander of the Japanese 23rd Army. Much to Winston Churchill’s disappointment, the Allied soldiers at Hong Kong withstood Japan’s rampaging troops for just 18 days. Britain’s century-long rule over Hong Kong was broken.


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Ian Kershaw, Fateful Choices: Ten Decisions That Changed The World, 1940-1941 (Penguin Group USA, 31 May 2007) Chapter 8, Tokyo, Autumn 1941 & Chapter 9, Berlin, Autumn 1941

Evgeniy Spitsyn, “Roosevelt’s World War II Lend-Lease Act: America’s War Economy, US ‘Military Aid’ to the Soviet Union”, Global Research, 13 May 2015

J. C. Butow, “How Roosevelt Attacked Japan at Pearl Harbor”, National Archives, Fall 1996, Vol. 28, No. 3

Noam Chomsky, Who Rules The World? (Penguin Books Ltd., Hamish Hamilton, 5 May 2016) Chapter 5, American Decline: Causes and Consequences & Chapter 15, How Many Minutes to Midnight?

Chris Bellamy, Absolute War: Soviet Russia in the Second World War (Pan; Main Market edition, 21 Aug. 2009) Chapter 12, Black Snow, The turning point of the war? 7 December 1941

Donald J. Goodspeed, The German Wars (Random House Value Publishing, 3 April 1985) Book 4 [Section 4]

Peter Chen, “Battle of Hong Kong, 8 Dec 1941 – 25 Dec 1941”, World War II Database, June 2007

Featured image is from Wikimedia Commons


America Still Has Lessons To Learn From Pearl Harbor About Taking Foreign Threats Seriously

America Still Has Lessons To Learn From Pearl Harbor About Taking Foreign Threats Seriously

As we commemorate the 81st anniversary of the infamous Pearl Harbor attack which stirred the American colossus and brought us into the second World War, it is critical to not only mourn the dead, but also to learn the historical lessons that day left for us to discover. Primarily, that means being clear-eyed about the dangers we face and pursuing a policy of deterrence through strength. Today, we face a more existential threat to our nation than even our forebears in the 1930s did: a rising, militaristic, aggressive China led by the totalitarian Chinese Communist Party. Recent events have proven that peril to be just as real.

According to the U.S. Secret Service, hackers linked to the Chinese government have stolen at least $20 million in coronavirus relief funds over the past two years. Compared to the total fraud (nearly $1.5 billion worth) seen in the relief programs passed by Congress since 2020, this is a drop in the bucket. But it speaks to a deeper challenge. It is only one of the hundreds of hacking attacks the group known as APT41 has conducted in the United States or against U.S. actors since the start of the Biden administration. This includes hacks of U.S. state agencies, private companies, and databases with the personal information of millions of Americans. These cyberattacks, conducted with a pretense of plausible deniability by the Chinese Communist Party, are themselves a drop in the bucket of the overall Chinese assault on American hegemony.

China has aggressively militarized international waters and menaced private shipping in one of the busiest transit corridors on the planet. It has expanded its international reach through predatory investment programs, the cooption of international institutions like the World Health Organization to fit its authoritarian agenda, and the establishment of military bases throughout the world. It has weaponized technology through the penetration of 5G systems and its pernicious TikTok app. It has been preparing for a military invasion of Taiwan, a sovereign democratic American ally, for years now. And, of course, it has lied about the spread and the origins of the coronavirus pandemic since late 2019.

All of this shows that China is a major threat to American power and prosperity, seeking to overturn American hegemony and the world order that has made us the preeminent global player. Still, it seems like far too many in our government, business community, and the general public are ignorant of this dangerous challenge — especially as they believe that it has not yet hit us here at home. Unfortunately, this ignorance is a common thread in American history.

The most well-known instance of this trend came on a clear Sunday morning in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. On that day of infamy, the United States lost 2,400 servicemen, over a dozen warships, and nearly 300 aircraft to a surprise attack by the Imperial Japanese Navy against our key Pacific naval base. The raid itself may have been a shock to many, but the warning signs were clear, as Japanese-American tensions rose in the years leading up to 1941.

Japan saw the US as a serious threat to its expansionist goals of controlling the Pacific region and dominating Asia, one which must be faced head-on eventually. The U.S. government likewise viewed Japan warily, but with less clarity than the Japanese had; FDR’s advisors were themselves split on whether to treat Japan as a foe and sanction it economically for its invasion of China, or whether to offer conciliation and de-escalation. The non-interventionist sentiment is noble, but the complacency and ill-preparedness which so often accompanies it can be dangerous. The American public was similarly situated, with large anti-war movements pushing for the U.S. to stay out of the conflicts raging in Europe and Asia.

Those feelings changed dramatically after the Pearl Harbor assault. America entered both the Atlantic and Pacific wars with gusto, bringing our economic might to bear and ramping up manufacturing production to levels never before seen. Men around the country enlisted in the armed forces, women signed up for crucial home front factory work, and the whole of government and society oriented themselves to winning the war.

We funded and equipped ourselves and our allies, and sent that materiel to nearly every corner of the map. We developed new technology at a lightning pace, from advanced manufacturing to efficient and effective weaponry and vehicles, to the project which unleashed the furious potential of the atom. Americans sacrificed immensely on the battlefields and in daily life in the States, and all based on a single attack on the American homeland.

Pearl Harbor would not be the first or the last example of our national predilection for reluctance in foreign affairs leading to a deadly event and subsequent overwhelming American response.

It happened in the lead-up to our entrance into the first World War as well. Americans and our politicians saw the war in Europe as a fundamental problem of the Old World, missing the danger Germany posed to our own rise in prosperity and world position. We were only shaken out of that complacency by direct threats and deadly events – the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915 and the Zimmermann Telegram seeking Mexican entrance into the war in 1917. Once America was firmly involved in the conflict, our manpower reserves and manufacturing prowess made Allied victory almost inevitable.

This trend has also reared its ugly head in the decades since Pearl Harbor, most tragically in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. As with Pearl Harbor, there were warning signs that Al Qaeda terrorists were targeting American facilities, including actual attacks on embassies in Africa and the USS Cole in the Persian Gulf. Still, Americans were, by and large, ignorant of this danger, seeing the token cruise missiles sent by President Clinton after the embassy bombings as enough of a response.

Instead of seeking to deter these bad actors through overwhelming, concerted responses when they attacked our citizens, we swept the problem under the rug in favor of more interesting domestic conflicts. Unfortunately, this was not enough; thousands of American civilians paid with their lives for that error.

As we now face another serious threat – perhaps the most significant we have faced in a century – Americans and our politicians must buck this trend of complacency leading to catastrophe. China is not Imperial Japan in 1939, the German Empire in 1914, or a bunch of terrorists plotting in Afghan caves in 1998; it is a much larger danger to our way of life, our liberty, and our prosperity.

History shows that the United States, when it recognizes a global challenge, rises to meet it and pushes back with all the force our nation can muster. This amazing ability to get hit once and, in response, to swing back ten times harder for ten times longer, is uniquely American. It is a hallmark of American exceptionalism and we should be proud of it. This time around, however, we should try to be strong and resolute enough to not get hit in the first place. That requires learning the lesson taught so painfully to our nation on that bright Sunday in December 1941.

Mike Coté is a writer and podcaster focusing on history, Great Power rivalry, and geopolitics. He blogs at, hosts the Rational Policy podcast, and can be found on Twitter @ratlpolicy.


If You Liked ‘Top Gun’ You Have To See The Showstopping Korean War Drama ‘Devotion’

If You Liked ‘Top Gun’ You Have To See The Showstopping Korean War Drama ‘Devotion’

Following the sky-high box-office numbers of “Top Gun: Maverick,” anyone who glanced at the movie trailer for “Devotion” — a true story of heroic U.S. Naval pilots, currently in theaters — probably thought producers were trying to cash in on the craze. 

This historical film has been in the works for over six years, however, starting shortly after the book, “Devotion: An Epic Story of Heroism, Friendship, and Sacrifice,” began to make waves. It recounts how two long-overlooked pilots led a mission that turned the tide in the Korean War’s most brutal battle. 

“That entire war has been woefully forgotten,” author Adam Makos told me in a phone interview. “The last major Korean War movie was ‘Pork Chop Hill’ starring Gregory Peck, released in 1959 — over 60 years ago. And Hollywood hasn’t gone there since.”

Diverse talent came together to produce “Devotion.” Actor Glen Powell, known for “Hidden Figures” and recently as one of the “Top Gun” pilots, read the book and ultimately met real-life pilot Tom Hudner to secure the film rights prior to the decorated veteran’s death in 2017. 

Then there’s film director J.D. Dillard, whose father was only the second African American pilot in the Navy’s Blue Angels squadron. 

Dillard proved to be the ideal pick to helm the story of Hudner and Jesse Brown, the first black aviator in Naval history. Brown is played by actor Jonathan Majors, who will soon be seen in “Creed III” and multiple “Avengers” films as baddie Kang the Conqueror.

When Authenticity Is Costly

The author, who spent months with Hudner and Brown’s family members for research, said interacting with them left him in awe even more so than meeting Hollywood stars. 

“If we’re to become better people as Americans, to grow as a country and culture, we have to remember our heroes,” said Makos. “A culture that forgets its heroes has no future.”

Such a rare ethos of honor permeates the film — including with another key player, aerial coordinator Kevin LaRosa Jr., known for deploying the CineJet system on “Top Gun: Maverick” for maximum in-flight realism. Here they took it a step further, restoring four authentic F4U Corsairs for their lead pilots to fly. 

Makos, who has also authored three books on key World War II figures, was thrilled. “The moment I saw those planes coming into the hangar, I knew we were going to have something very serious, real, and visceral,” he said. “They could’ve done one or two planes and the others digitally, but they didn’t.”

He also points out that the visuals look so good some will assume it’s all CGI. “That Corsair really is ripping down the river, with the prop tips at five feet above the waves. Sure, a little bit of CGI comes in from the scenery and the bullets being fired at him. But the scene is actually happening.”

Prelude to Heroism

The climax of the story is set in November 1950, at a critical flash point in the conflict. But prior to taking viewers into the trenches and above the mountains of North Korea, viewers are introduced to a half-dozen Naval pilots serving at Quonset Point Air Base in Rhode Island. 

World War II looms large. Many of the 20-something pilots, like Hudner, joined the military following the attack on Pearl Harbor and the subsequent wave of national unity. 

Then the war ended a few months prior to his graduation from flight school. By early 1950 the fleet is largely mothballed, and pilots are doing post-war busy work. 

These early scenes provide insight into what drives Brown, who faced the same grueling challenges as any Naval aviator — and then some. Brown confides in his wingman Hudner: “A slap on my wrist, it’s not the same as a slap on yours.”

Strength to Overcome

“Jesse Brown ultimately loved America,” Makos told me. “He wanted to fight for a country that made him sit in the back of the bus because he loved the idea of what it can be.” 

In the years following the WWII heroics of the Tuskegee Airmen, the U.S. Navy began to take steps toward racial integration — starting with Brown. On base, some fellow pilots refer to him using racial slurs. Later in the film, Brown is called a “circus act” when a Life Magazine reporter interviews him.

Actor Jonathan Majors draws out Brown’s zeal beyond simply long-suffering. In a memorable scene where Brown is alone in a locker room, he gazes into a mirror and repeats insults that had been spoken to him. “He actually did that,” said historian Makos, who interviewed Brown’s now-elderly brothers Fletcher and Lura for his book. 

“They had one mirror in their house,” explained Makos. “As a young kid, Jesse would look in the mirror and say these insults until they didn’t hurt anymore. He did that to defuse the power of those words — until the point where he could be called anything, and it just didn’t impact him.” 

Years later, Brown’s character and determination won over his prejudiced critics. That was especially clear once crisis hit. The commander of Strike Fighter Squadron 32, decorated WWII pilot Richard “Dick” Cevoli, briefs his men that they’ll be heading to Korea.    

Action-Packed Acts of Valor

Much of the film’s crucial second act — including several edge-of-your-seat training sequences — occurs on board and in the skies above naval aircraft carrier USS Leyte. When Makos arrived in Georgia to visit the film set, including appearing in a brief cameo, the scale of their recreation shocked him.

“Near this small airfield in Savannah, they literally built the superstructure of an aircraft carrier from the ground up — to scale,” said Makos. “Everything from the gun mounts to the radar domes, to the bridge with the windows, the whole thing was made out of steel.” 

The film’s stunning finale, which includes air, land, and sea forces working in tandem, depends on some high-level production work to recreate the Hagaru-ri base camp in North Korea. 

For all the spectacle, “Devotion” is a story of two men learning to be more than a “squadron of one.” Having interviewed countless veterans, Makos says he has seen something remarkable in them. 

“I think patriotism is a great unifier, and we realize it usually when our country is in trouble,” he said. “That’s when we’re suddenly patriotic, and we’re all together.”

Rated PG-13 for strong language, some war action/violence, and smoking, “Devotion” is currently playing in theaters nationwide.

Josh Shepherd covers culture, faith, and public policy for several media outlets including The Stream. His articles have appeared in Christianity Today, Religion & Politics, Faithfully Magazine, Religion News Service, and Providence Magazine. A graduate of the University of Colorado, he previously worked on staff at The Heritage Foundation and Focus on the Family. Josh and his wife live in the Washington, D.C. area with their two children.


Exclusive — Rep. Lee Zeldin: ‘Pearl Harbor Tells Story of How Many Young Adults Answered the Call’ for ‘The Ultimate Battle of Good Vs Evil’

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY), a Republican candidate for governor in New York, said on Tuesday’s edition of SiriusXM’s Breitbart News Daily with host Alex Marlow that America’s response to Imperial Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor demonstrated the willingness of the nation’s youth to combat evil.

“It was a massive shock that put us in the middle of [World War II],” Zeldin said on the 80th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack. “Fortunately, we had these men and women all across this entire country who stepped up, who fought back. This was the start of what was a very successful campaign of the ultimate battle of good versus evil.”

He continued, “Evil struck that day, but at the end of the day, we triumphed.”

“We live in the greatest nation in the history of the world for many reasons, but it’s not because of how great our elected leaders are today,” he remarked. “It’s because of decades and generations of those who came before us, and Pearl Harbor tells that story of just how many young adults answered the call. Whether they were there or they were somewhere else around America, they stood up. They fought back. They saved the world.”

US Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole (C) waits to be introduced at a campaign rally in Findlay, OH. 11 October. Dole is in the second day of a two day bus tour of Ohio. (ELECTRONIC IMAGE) (Photo credit should read J. DAVID AKE/AFP via Getty Images)

US Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole (C) waits to be introduced at a campaign rally in Findlay, OH. 11 October. Dole is in the second day of a two day bus tour of Ohio. (ELECTRONIC IMAGE) (Photo credit should read J. DAVID AKE/AFP via Getty Images)

Zeldin noted Bob Dole’s recent death and the late senator’s military service in World War II — including being severely wounded and receiving two Purple Hearts — while reflecting on the Pearl Harbor attack.

“I have a tremendous amount of respect for our nation’s greatest generation [and] what they sacrificed,” he remarked.

He added, “Bob Dole … sacrificed personally. He was physically harmed. He then dedicated the rest of his life to fighting for disabled Americans, especially and including disabled veterans. There are many different ways you could define success in life, and for Bob Dole, he wasn’t defining success in certain material ways.”

Breitbart News Daily broadcasts live on SiriusXM Patriot 125 weekdays from 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. Eastern.


Lest We Forget: Pearl Harbor Survivors Gather to Honor Those Who Made Supreme Sacrifice

Eighty years to the day since Japan’s infamous surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 launched the U.S. into World War II, survivors will gather Tuesday to humbly honor those who made the supreme sacrifice.

Some 30 survivors and about 100 other veterans of the war are expected to be in Hawaii for the occasion,  remembering a seminal event in American history, as AP reports.

They will observe a moment of silence at 7:55 a.m., the same minute 183 warplanes from the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service began their attack. Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro is expected to deliver the keynote address.

The bombing killed more than 2,300 U.S. service personnel. Nearly half — or 1,177 — were Marines and sailors serving on the USS Arizona, a battleship moored in the harbor.

Herb Elfring, 99, told AP he’s glad to return considering he almost lost his life during the aerial assault.

“It was just plain good to get back and be able to participate in the remembrance of the day,” Elfring told reporters over the weekend.

Pearl Harbor survivor Herb Elfring speaks at a news conference in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021. A few dozen survivors of Pearl Harbor are expected to gather Tuesday, Dec. 7 at the site of the Japanese bombing 80 years ago to remember those killed in the attack that launched the U.S. into World War II. (AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy)

Pearl Harbor survivor Herb Elfring speaks at a news conference in Hawaii on Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021.  (AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy)

Elfring was in the Army, assigned to the 251st Coast Artillery, part of the California National Guard on Dec. 7, 1941.

He recalled Japanese zero planes flying overhead and bullets strafing his Army base at Camp Malakole, a few miles down the coast from Pearl Harbor.

Elfring, who lives in Jackson, Michigan, said he has returned to Hawaii about 10 times to attend the annual memorial ceremony hosted by the Navy and the National Park Service.

Several women who helped the war effort by working in factories have come to Hawaii to participate in the remembrance this year.

Mae Krier, who built B-17s and B-29s at a Boeing plant in Seattle, said she was proud to be there to represent those who went before.

“And we fought together as far as I’m concerned. But it took so long to honor what us women did. And so of course, I’ve been fighting hard for that, to get our recognition,” said Krier, who is now 95. “But it was so nice they finally started to honor us.”

The American destroyer USS Shaw explodes during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, home of the American Pacific Fleet during World War II. (Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty)

An explosion at the Naval Air Station, Ford Island, Pearl Harbor during the Japanese attack. Sailors stand amid wreckage watching as the USS Shaw explodes in the center background. The USS Nevada is also visible in the middle background, with her bow headed toward the left. (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty)

Another Veteran traveling to Oahu, Hawaii, is World War II Navy Veteran James Golding.

As Breitbart News reported, he will be looking to find the grave of his neighbor who died in the attack.

“Pearl Harbor was the first time America was invaded essentially, it was just unquestionable, and it just, it shouldn’t have been. I really wanted to go right then,” Golding told KCRA.

Soon after the attack, then 14-year-old Golding learned his neighbor Roland “Rolly” Wilson was killed during the Japanese offensive, KCRA reports. While the 94-year-old wanted to serve his country immediately after the events of December 7, 1941, he had to wait until he was of age.

At 17, Golding enlisted in the Navy and was deployed to Panama “where he was a tail gunner on a combat crew in a patrol bomber squadron,” according to KCRA.

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In all, 15 of the U.S.’s  highest awards for valor were awarded for actions that day, 10 posthumously, for distinguished conduct in the face of the enemy.

This year’s ceremony takes place as a strong storm packing high winds and extremely heavy rains hits Hawaii, flooding roads and downing power lines.

Navy spokesperson Brenda Way told the Associated Press in an email Monday that she has heard of no discussion of canceling the event because of the storms.

Follow Simon Kent on Twitter: or e-mail to:


History: US-led Pressures on Japan Performed a Central Role Leading to Pearl Harbor

History: US-led Pressures on Japan Performed a Central Role Leading to Pearl Harbor

First published on August 13, 2019


By 1920, America had become by far the world’s richest country, whose strength held sway over much of the Western hemisphere, and was stretching further eastwards. As her influence expanded, the United States was posing a serious problem for the Empire of Japan, a major power with its own territorial ambitions.

Unlike Japan, the US had access to some of the earth’s most resource-rich areas while enjoying unequalled security and scope. To justify US claims, pertaining to the Americas, Washington’s statesmen occasionally invoked long-held principles of the 1823 Monroe Doctrine.

US president Calvin Coolidge (in office 1923-1929) said, in a White House statement of January 1927, that the Monroe Doctrine has a “distinct place” in US foreign policy – allowing American governments to act as they see fit in countries such as Nicaragua, in Central America. President Coolidge informed Congress on 10 January 1927 that,

“The US cannot, therefore, fail to view with deep concern any serious threat to stability and constitutional government in Nicaragua tending towards anarchy and jeopardizing American interests”.

The US marines once more entered Nicaragua to remove any “outside influence”, in a nation whose capital city Managua is almost 2,000 miles from Washington.

The Monroe Doctrine prevailed with little dispute. Yet in the east Asian and Pacific regions, very different attitudes were at large. An “Open Door Policy” existed for decades with regard to China, the world’s fourth largest country, which allowed elite Western power far from home to encroach upon Japanese regional designs. After all, eastern China is situated just a few hundred miles west of Japan. By the late 1920s, there was also more than 5,000 US marines stationed on Chinese soil.

Resource-laden Manchuria, located in the north-east of China, constituted a land area that became an obsession for the Japanese. By 1931 Manchuria was under threat not only from Chinese nationalists, but from the mighty USSR looming on northern horizons.

Come the early 1930s, Manchuria was home to thousands of Japanese, many of whom were making a livelihood by tilling its rich, fertile soil. Manchuria was pivotal to Tokyo’s aspirations. Without control over Manchuria, a territory more than twice the size of France, Japan would be relegated to an inconsequential state, burdened by a steadily growing populace.

As the American author Noam Chomsky explained in one of his earliest books,

“Manchuria remained independent of the Kuomintang, but Chinese nationalist pressures for unification were increasing. At the same time, the Soviet Union had significantly expanded its military power on the Manchurian border, a fact that could not fail to concern the Japanese military. Japan had a substantial investment in the South Manchurian Railway and, rightly or wrongly, regarded Manchuria as an extremely important potential source of desperately needed raw materials”.

Scanning their eyes seaward, the Japanese were surrounded by great foes: Soviet Russia to the north-west, China to the west and south-west, the US to the south. In the late 1890s, America was embarking upon its conquest of the Philippines, an island country lying less than 1,000 miles southward of Japan. America’s capture of the Philippines was an early example of her saltwater imperialist ventures, and it clearly infringed on Japan’s sphere of interest.

Yasaka Takagi, an expert on US history, outlined that,

“the peace machinery of the world is in itself primarily the creation of the dominant races of the earth, of those who are the greatest beneficiaries from the maintenance of the status quo”.

In the early 1940s America, Britain and “free” France held dominion over approximately 70% of the world’s resources, that is 30 million square miles of territory. The Axis powers of Germany, Italy, Japan and Hungary – who were supposedly winning the war while rampaging across the earth – held dominion over 15% of the planet’s mineral riches, and a mere one million square miles of land.

The US political activist, A. J. Muste, envisaged in 1941 “a new American empire” and that the US “shall be the next nation to seek world domination – in other words, to do what we condemn Hitler for trying to do”.

For many years, America had been well positioned for planetary supremacy. Among the flies in the ointment was Japan, a nation comprising an obstacle to US hegemony over the lucrative Pacific and Asian zones.

Agreements hammered out, like the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922, were formulated mostly to reduce Japanese power in her own waters, while leaving entirely unharmed American and British capacities. The terms reached here, in the US capital, rendered Japan a second rate imperial power, as intended. However, Tokyo would strictly adhere to the Washington accords through the 1920s.

It was reinforced with the London Naval Treaty of 1930, signed in the English capital, which again compromised Japanese naval freedom in the seas encompassing her shores. With the Great Depression having struck in late 1929, the contingencies of the London treaty were bitterly resented by opposition in Japan; which resulted in Japanese militarists gaining greater control over the country’s civilian hierarchy, which was felt to be endangering national security with its weak-willed strategies.

The capitulation of Tokyo’s political entities in London during 1930 furthermore “was a great stimulus to the fascist movement” in Japan, as the historian Masao Maruyama wrote. Rising fascistic elements within the army, was a pronounced underlying factor behind appalling war crimes later committed by Japanese soldiers.

Image on the right: Osachi Hamaguchi (Source:

Image result for Osachi Hamaguchi

Shortly after the 1930 London treaty, moderate politicians in Japan were assassinated, including the prime ministers Osachi Hamaguchi and Inukai Tsuyoshi; the former killed by a far-right terrorist and the latter shot to death by young navy personnel. These grisly acts deliberately undermined the nation’s civilian infrastructure, and represented another boost for Japan’s diehard military men.

The rise of Japanese militarists, along with its extremist factions, was as an indirect consequence of increased Western pressures.
Analyzing the developments, Chomsky noted,

“it seems clear that the refusal of the United States to grant Japan hegemony in its waters (while of course insisting on maintaining its own hegemony in the Western Atlantic and Eastern Pacific) was a significant contributory cause to the crisis that was soon to erupt”.

On 24 February 1933, Japan caught the world by surprise in withdrawing from the League of Nations, an organization founded in 1920 whose stated primary goal was maintenance of global peace. The League of Nations roundly condemned Japan’s occupation of Manchuria, and later recommended that Tokyo withdraw her troops and “restore the country to Chinese sovereignty”. Not mentioned were Western policies that treated China as a semi-colonial state.

There were no international conferences organized so as to scrutinize US or British claims in the Eastern hemisphere, let alone in the Western half of the planet. Japan’s desire in the early 1930s to absorb Manchuria, and subsequently north-east China, is at least comparable to the US government annexation of about 50% of Mexico’s territory during the mid-1840s.

Tokyo’s foreign actions were often reported in the West as examples of “Japanese aggression”; much as it is recently “Russian aggression” when moves are undertaken by Moscow along her borders which cross US red lines.

Japanese imperialists looked on with growing displeasure as American corporate influence embedded itself within China. In 1931, Japan was overtaken by America as the major exporter of goods to China. Japanese exports destined for America also declined sharply, partly because of the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of mid-1930 – signed into law in the US, which ensured protectionist trade initiatives that further stymied Tokyo.

As Japan was an advanced industrial state, hampered by lack of access to natural materials, the decline in world trade was a catastrophe for Tokyo, compounded by the aforementioned Great Depression.

Image below: Yosuke Matsuoka (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Image result for Yosuke Matsuoka

Japan’s future foreign affairs minister, Yosuke Matsuoka (who later met Hitler and Stalin for separate discussions) complained in January 1931 that,

“we feel suffocated as we observe internal and external situations. What we are seeking is that which is minimal for living beings. In other words, we are seeking to live. We are seeking room that will let us breathe”.

On 18 September 1931, the Japanese invaded Manchuria with Tokyo foreseeing the intervention as crucial to her nation’s survival. Manchuria is indeed flowing in riches; from coal, iron ore and steel, to copper, gold, lead, tungsten, etc. Manchuria comprised a windpipe that would allow Japan to breathe somewhat easier.

Matsuoka asked,

“Is it for the United States, which rules over the Western hemisphere and is expanding over the Atlantic and Pacific, to say that these ideals, these ambitions of Japan are wrong?”

In addition, the Japanese viewed Manchuria as a most willing market for her manufactured goods, which by 1931 were largely excluded from Western countries by Depression-era tariffs. As a rapidly growing commercial state, Japan had an insatiable thirst for fossil fuels and other mineral deposits.

Tokyo’s use of “indiscriminate air power” in the early 1930s, such as during the Shanghai Incident of 1932, generated feelings of shock and revulsion in the US and Britain. Just over a decade later, there was little indignation expressed when American and British aircraft were razing dozens of Japanese and German cities to the ground.

In April 1934, Tokyo was expounding on a “Japanese Monroe Doctrine” which “argued for a Japanese mission in East Asia to achieve peace and stability in cooperation with China, and criticized the other powers’ intervention in China”. Japan’s version of the Monroe Doctrine was modest in scope by comparison to its US rival. Still, Tokyo’s aspirations caused a commotion in Washington and London, whose elites felt that their far-reaching aims were threatened.

As late as 1939 Joseph Grew, long-time US Ambassador to Japan, said that Tokyo’s imperial concepts were “depriving Americans of their long-established rights in China” and foisting “a system of closed economy” on the US. Ambassador Grew did not highlight China’s close proximity to Japan and the latter’s understandable concerns, nor did he raise the issue of Chinese independence.

During the autumn of 1939, US Secretary of State Cordell Hull resisted negotiating a new commercial treaty with Tokyo “unless Japan completely changed her attitude and practice towards our rights and interests in China”.

Japanese diplomats were not so bold as to outline Tokyo’s potential “rights and interests” in the Western hemisphere.

On 26 July 1939, Washington gave formal notification to Tokyo that they would terminate the Japanese-American commercial treaty of 1911. This came into effect in January 1940, forcing the Japanese to shift their gaze, such as towards French Indochina and in “gaining independence” for the Philippines.

In July 1940 the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration hit Japan with an embargo on aviation fuel, which the Empire could acquire from no other source – and on 27 September 1940, Washington placed a complete ban on scrap iron against Japan, as Tokyo invaded Northern French Indochina in a bid to bolster her still insufficient resources. Japan’s foreign policy acts were in advance all known in Washington, with the Americans having cracked Tokyo’s diplomatic codes.

On 19 December 1940, Roosevelt sanctioned $25 million in aid to Japan’s neighbour, China, worth over $400 million today; while on 11 March 1941, America’s president introduced the Lend-Lease Act, a program furnishing extensive war materiel to China; and likewise to other states with unfriendly dispositions towards Japan such as the USSR, Britain and the Netherlands.
Even more seriously, on 26 July 1941 Roosevelt froze Japanese assets across America, in response to Tokyo’s move in occupying the southern half of French Indochina.

Roosevelt’s policy amounted to a declaration of economic war on Japan, with Tokyo stripped of a massive nine-tenths of its oil imports, along with three quarters of her foreign trade. Due to American pressures, Japan would run out of oil by January 1943, unless she implemented further invasions of resource-rich states. Washington was in effect stoking the fires of war with Japan, and Tokyo would not need much persuading with her fervent militarists holding key positions of power, such as General Hideki “Razor” Tojo, prime minister for much of World War II.

Chomsky elaborated that,

“The immediate cause of the attack on Pearl Harbor was the recognition, by the Japanese military, that it was ‘now or never’. The Western powers controlled the raw materials on which their existence depended, and these supplies were being choked off in retaliation for expansion on the mainland and association with Germany and Italy in the Tripartite Pact”.

As the 1930s gave way to the early 1940s, there was a widening propaganda campaign to denigrate Japan, stirred up by US government sources and media. Unsurprisingly, there was ongoing public antipathy towards Japan in the West. Paul W. Schroeder, the American historian, noted that the motive for this in part was “selling the anticipated war with Japan to the American people”.

US strategists had long been planning a large-scale conflict with the Japanese. In January 1932 General Billy Mitchell, the “father of the US Air Force”, wrote that

“Japan offers an ideal target for air operations” and that her towns “built largely of wood and paper, form the greatest aerial targets the world has ever seen”.

In November 1940 these opinions were supported by America’s renowned pre-war planner, General Claire Chennault, who revealed how US B-17 Flying Fortresses would destroy “the teeming bamboo ant heaps of Honshu and Kyushu”.

Three weeks before Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, US General George Marshall informed journalists in an “off-the-record briefing” that the “Flying Fortresses will be dispatched immediately to set the paper cities of Japan on fire. There won’t be any hesitation about bombing civilians. It will be all-out”.

Even had Hitler refrained from initiating a European war in 1939, it is likely that a deadly conflict would have erupted before long with America and Japan, possibly sparking a world war regardless. As seen, tensions between Washington and Tokyo were building for years prior to Nazi Germany’s invasion of Poland. The breaking point would surely have been reached.


Note to readers: please click the share buttons below. Forward this article to your email lists. Crosspost on your blog site, internet forums. etc.

Shane Quinn obtained an honors journalism degree. He is interested in writing primarily on foreign affairs, having been inspired by authors like Noam Chomsky. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.


COVID-19: Single-day U.S. virus deaths surpass 3,000

COVID-19: Single-day U.S. virus deaths surpass 3,000

As the United States marches closer to distributing a COVID-19 vaccine, the nation experienced one of its highest single-day death toll in its 243-year history on Wednesday, which saw over 3,000 Americans die from the novel coronavirus, making it one of the deadliest days in American history and the deadliest so far during the pandemic, the Associated Press reported Thursday afternoon.

At the time of publication, this bone-chilling number makes Wednesday deadlier than both the first day of the 1944 D-Day invasion of France (2,500) and the September 11, 2001 attacks (2,977).

For additional perspective, prior to this month, the December 7, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor (2,403) was arguably the fourth-deadliest day in U.S. history, which President Franklin D. Roosevelt called “a date which will live in infamy”. Recent single-day COVID-19 death tolls have been significantly topping that of Pearl Harbor, pushing that day down the list.

The two single-deadliest days are typically agreed to be the 1862 Battle of Antietam (3,600) from the Civil War and then the 1900 Galveston Hurricane (8,000).

So far, the pandemic has taken the lives of more than 290,000 Americans, with well over 15 million confirmed cases, according to Johns Hopkins University. Reporting 3,124 deaths on Wednesday, this makes it the deadliest day of the pandemic for the United States to date, with April 15 previously holding that record with 2,603 deaths.

Unfortunately, trends don’t point to the virus’s spread slowing down in the immediate future. In just five days, the U.S. has seen its number of cases rise by one million. On top of that, more than 106,000 infected Americans in hospitals, which is causing many of them to run low on space and staff.

New pandemic-related records, however, are being set almost every day now.

Despite the data painting a grim picture for the United States’ current situation, the future does hold some promise.

A U.S. government advisory panel endorsed Pfizer’s vaccine late on Thursday, with a final decision from the Food and Drug Administration approving the shot expected in days, per the AP. The FDA is widely expecting to follow the panel’s recommendation. While shots could start being distributed to frontline medical workers and others in days, the vaccine availability to the general public is expected to not happen for months.

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.


Why Bombing Hiroshima Was The Moral Thing To Do

Seventy-five years ago, a U.S. Army Air Force B-29, the Enola Gay, dropped an 8,900-pound bomb over the Japanese city of Hiroshima.

Decorated with crude messages for Emperor Hirohito, Little Boy whistled downward for 44 seconds before bursting 1,900 feet above the center of the city. With a temperature eclipsing a million degrees Celsius, the detonation ignited the air, resulting in a fireball 840 feet in diameter with a brilliance 10 times that of the sun. The blast wave shattered windows over a distance of 10 miles and was felt over 37 miles away. With a destruction radius of one mile, the thermal pulse sent fires raging over four-and-a-half miles.

Hiroshima toppled, buildings were ripped from their foundations, bridges were twisted, and 70 percent of the city’s structures were broken to pieces. Radiant heat traveling at the speed of light caused flash burns, charring skin to charcoal. Somewhere between 70,000-80,000 souls were consumed instantly. Tens of thousands more would die slowly, days or weeks or even years later, succumbing to injuries or radiation sickness.

The bombing of Hiroshima was a moral horror. It was a godawful and terrible horror — but it was a moral horror. It was right. Not to have dropped that bomb would have been morally wrong.

Detractors Call the Bombing ‘Morally Indefensible’

Unsurprisingly, an increasing number of people find this idea abhorrent. In 1946, the Federal Council of Churches censured the bombings as “irresponsible” and “morally indefensible.” A decade later, the Oxford philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe, the most formidable of the early detractors, penned a ferocious essay opposing her university’s awarding an honorary degree to President Harry Truman. Her critique hinged on two assertions that remain the primary objections today.

First, she condemned as “stupid” and “barbaric” the Allied demand for the unconditional surrender of the Japanese, who, she asserts, “were desirous of negotiating peace” and were desperate enough to accept any terms for ending the war “but for their loyalty to their emperor.” Second, against the obliteration of a populated city, Anscombe argued that “choosing to kill the innocent … is always murder.”

The first task of the ethicist is to get as accurate a description of the facts as possible. This is why ethics is so often best paired with history — with actual cases that clarify what’s at stake. If you get your historical facts wrong, your ethical analysis is hamstrung. Anscombe is undone by the history.

Japan Wasn’t Going to Surrender

Father Bill Miscamble’s indispensable “The Most Controversial Decision” ably lays out the historic record — including intercepted communications between Japan’s political leadership, the minutes from the Japanese war cabinet’s meetings, and post-war interrogations — dismantling the assertion that Japanese leadership were anywhere close to surrender.

Instead, while the Japanese knew relatively early that they could never defeat the United States in a full-contact brawl, they gambled that they would not have to. They hoped only to bloody the United States enough to gain more favorable surrender terms, which included much more than continuation of the imperial system. Such a refusal to stand down not only unjustly prolongs war, it compromises achieving a durable peace, which is best guaranteed by a decisive victory. Looking at the concord that now exists, it seems a great good that the Japanese came to know they had been licked.

In any case, assurances regarding the safety of the emperor would have been premature prior to an examination of his wartime record. The legend of Hirohito’s pacifism, Max Hastings argued in “Retribution,” has been firmly discredited. Hastings found no evidence suggesting that Hirohito, at any point prior to August 1945, desired peace with any real conviction. While it was Hirohito who did finally orchestrate the surrender, we recall he did so only after two atomic bombs. If he wanted peace earlier on, his equivocating proved as deadly as the hardliners’ fanaticism.

One could argue against prosecuting the emperor, even had he proved guilty of war crimes, but the motivation could not have been justice. To have exonerated the emperor out of hand would have been to forward the suggestion that the lives of murdered Chinese, Malay, Koreans, Indonesians, British, Dutch, Americans, and near countless others counted for nothing. Justice demands the vindication of victims. Prudence or charity might overrule the requirements of justice, but it is not for the victimizers to demand that justice be overruled.

When Innocent People Die, Context Matters

Anscombe’s insistence on the inviolability of innocent lives carried the stronger claim. But here, too, she collided with history. While her insistence that one must not “choose to kill innocent” is important, it is also very precise. One cannot say — though Anscombe appeared to — that American leadership chose the killing of innocents in Hiroshima in quite the same way as the Nazis chose to kill the Jews. Taking a more contemporary case, Truman did not desire the deaths of the people of Hiroshima in the same way that William Calley desired the deaths of innocents in My Lai.

It also matters that Truman and his advisers didn’t start their deliberations about how to end the war by contemplating out of whole cloth whether to drop a nuclear bomb on a city full of people. Context matters. Europe was rubble, her infrastructure and economy were ruins, and her people were broken and starving, homeless and displaced. The ghastly reality of Hitler’s war against the Jews was being laid bare as the horrors of Birkenau entered human consciousness. Stalin’s own rapaciousness was becoming increasingly evident even as communist insurrections and civil war threatened to engulf newly liberated nations. Across the Pacific, whole populations were suffering under the torment of Japanese occupation. The British were set to invade Malay.

The conventional bombers of Gen. Curtis LeMay’s 20th Air Force continued to incinerate whole cities. In the midst of all this, casualty estimates for the planned land invasion of the Japanese home islands continued to grow exponentially as Japan poured men and arms into Kyushu, strengthening the beaches that would be the first American objective.

This reminds us that innocents were found beyond Hiroshima. While it is true that American Marines are combatants, it remains equally true that many of them were conscripts or post-Pearl Harbor volunteers. This is to say that before they were Marines, they were civilians: sons and brothers, husbands and fathers, clerks, schoolteachers, and mailmen. That matters, especially in the face of Japanese intransigence in continuing a war they knew they’d already lost. Moreover, the invasion would have weighed most severely on the Japanese themselves, both the military and civilians, but primarily civilians. Okinawa served as grim forecast of what to expect in fighting across the homeland.

Doing Nothing Would Have Been Deadly

Detractors might argue that the United States would never have accepted the costs of forcibly entering Japan from the sea. Japan, they insist, was on her heels, tottering, and would soon starve. All America had to do was nothing. By simply maintaining the naval blockade, neither the bomb nor land invasion would have been necessary.

Such glib assurances ignore the human toll of doing nothing. The number of Japanese civilians who would have perished while the Allies waited for Japan to starve is horrific to contemplate. Moreover, as she died, Japan almost certainly would have made good on her commitment to slaughter thousands of Allied prisoners of war. Meanwhile, the fate of civilians in Japanese-occupied lands would have been horrendous. From January 1945 onward, an estimated 250,000 occupied persons died per month. Some have pegged it even higher, estimating that by August, nearly that number were dying per week.

A shortened war was a boon to the lives of the innocent. For American leadership and beleaguered people throughout the Pacific, locked in a contest with Japanese leadership and popular sentiment that preferred national suicide to defeat, the promise of the atomic bomb must have felt like deliverance.

The history is clear: If you wanted to save innocent lives, you dropped that bomb. The history, in turn, clarifies the ethics: The atomic bombing of Hiroshima was a horror, but it was a moral horror.


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