The Road to Infamy 1895-1941
CASE FILE 003
TOPIC: US Prewar Preparedness 1895-1941
ORGANIZATIONS: US Navy, US Army
INCIDENT: Pearl Harbor attack, December 7, 1941.
NOTE: Due to the extreme lack of public knowledge regarding US military preparations against Japan prior to Pearl Harbor, a timeline for the “Road to Infamy” will be published below the standard case file and is linked HERE.
“Few Wars in American History have been so long anticipated, so long planned for.” (1)
The United States prepared for the war against Japan in WWII more than any conflict in its history. Plans were developed in 1908 and worked on and improved every year. Full-scale training exercises were conducted on those war plans every year since 1923. Equipment was designed, produced, and evaluated based on the needs of the plans and the results of the exercises.
The plans themselves were remarkable in how much they correctly forecast not only the military capabilities and shortcomings of the eventual wartime foe but the geopolitical events that would modify their planning. The forecasts by military planners were so good that events were predicted and inserted into the exercise training, sometimes decades before they became a reality. U.S. Army planners forecast in 1911 that Japan would take Manchuria, which didn't occur until 1932. In 1935, the Army War College began to expand the war plan against Japan and began to include Germany, noting that Japan and Germany would eventually align, which they did in 1940. And in 1935, planners already estimated that U.S. forces would have to face a simultaneous conflict between Japan and Germany which eventually occurred in late 1941. (2) In each of these forecast estimates, the U.S. military designed not only its response to the new battlespace but accurately measured how much industrial capacity was required to develop and sustain the equipment necessary to win those fights.
War Plan Orange was the U.S. plan to wage war against Japan. In 1907 President Teddy Roosevelt asked his Admirals if the US had a plan to go to war against Japan. In 1908 War Plan Orange was started amidst a propaganda campaign in the U.S. agitating for war against Japan. War Plan Orange focused on a three-phase operation against Japan that accurately predicted the eventual course and requirements of combat operations in WWII against the Japanese. From its inception, the U.S. plan had always envisioned an economic siege and destruction of the Japanese home islands as the ultimate goal.
The preparations for War Plan Orange that America engaged in were not small intellectual exercises on par with the other color war plans for nations such as Mexico, Canada, and Portugal.
As the Office of the Chief of U.S. Army History wrote:
“For about fifteen years, the strategic concepts embodied in the Orange Plan formed the basis for most American war planning. Variations of the plan were prepared and discussed at length. Every conceivable situation that might involve the United States in a war with Japan, including a surprise air attack on Pearl Harbor, was carefully considered, and appropriate measures of defense were adopted. At least half a dozen times between 1924 and 1938, the plan was revised, sometimes in response to military changes and sometimes due to Congressional sentiment or because of the international situation. Each time, all the implementing plans had to be changed. The Army and Navy had their own Orange plans, based on the joint plans and complete with concentration tables, mobilization schedules, etc. In addition, U.S. forces in the Phillippines, Hawaii, Panama, and other overseas bases had their joint and service plans, as did the defense sectors and continental commands within the United States. Rarely have plans for a war been so comprehensive and detailed, so complete at every echelon, and so long in preparation.” (3)
The training against Japan was not an intellectual exercise on paper either. The plan was tested and refined every year since 1923 with full-scale, joint service exercises lasting up to 2 months called somewhat deceptively Fleet Problems. Various aspects of War Plan Orange Phase I and II operations were tested, evaluated, refined, and redrawn based on realistic exercises that were rarely notionalized. For example, if the plan had the fleet sailing from Hawaii to attack an island 1400 miles away, the Navy looked on a map and found a safe area to sail 1400 miles for training with all the ships they could muster to match the plan. It was realism in large-scale, long-duration, joint service training that was rarely matched in later years. The deficiencies in equipment, tactics, procedures, and staffing were laid bare before not only the Navy leadership but Congressional guests and occasionally the press for good measure to ensure that funding for procurements to address the deficiencies was rapidly given visibility at the budgetary authorization level in the Federal Government.
Many naval weapon platforms in WWII resulted from designs forged during the Fleet Problems. The U.S. had a tremendous advantage over all international navies in researching and developing Naval warfare systems in peacetime. Only actual combat could have given a more thorough evaluation and evolution of systems. By contrast, due to limited resources and focus, the Japanese only conducted a handful of fleet exercises during the same period; most were defensive in response to the previous U.S. Fleet problem. There is still an ongoing investigation to determine if the Japanese could conduct any full-scale exercises tied into any form of a strategic plan similar to War Plan Orange. To date, none has been found.
The U.S. Admirals in WWII grew from Ensigns training to fight the Japanese and, for the Navy, did so every year for their entire Naval career. Admiral Halsey, Admiral Fletcher, Admiral Nimitz, Admiral Spruance, Admiral McCain, Admiral Oldendorf, and others were all Ensigns when War Plan Orange was created, and young Lieutenants and Captains when the full-scale Fleet Problems began in 1923. For the most part, the leadership in the Pacific Campain had studied and trained their entire career for war against Japan.
It wasn’t just the U.S. Military planning and, in some cases advocating for war with Japan well before “The Day of Infamy” on December 7th, 1941. The press, business interests, politicians, and bureaucrats all were at various times from the 1900s advocating for war or whipping up disinformation campaigns against, in some years, America's own ally, such as during the later years of World War I. For more information about the war scares of 1908 and 1913, including the efforts to whip up Japan as an enemy, see the Source Document Paper Links in CASE FILE 003 TIMELINE section.
The main assertions in the myth cycle on Pearl Harbor are:
1. After WWI, the US retreated back into isolationism.
2. The US military atrophied and became domestic-focused, and therefore ill-prepared for war.
3. The US was sleeping on December 7, 1941, and was surprised by the attack or knew the Japanese would attack but were surprised by the location of Pearl Harbor as a target.
4. After Pearl Harbor, the US mobilized the military and industry to win the war on two fronts. “Citizen Soldiers” were crucial for the US victory over the “professional” militaries of Germany and Japan (Stephen Ambrose).
5. The US was responding in the late 1930s and early 1940s to Japanese military operations in China but was ill-prepared for and didn’t expect the economic sanctions to lead to war. Before 1937 (or 1932 in some variations), the US got along with Japan.
None of the above assertions were supported by the facts.
What the evidence shows:
1. America was not isolationist after the war. The US maintained and, in some cases, increased international involvement on economic, diplomatic, and military levels globally between the wars. Diplomatically involvement actually increased due to America’s economic power and keeping the Entente alive during the war.
2. The US military did not atrophy and became unprepared for WWII. It was more prepared interwar through plans, training, and equipment procurement than at any time in its history. America focused since 1908 on fighting Japan, and in 1935 began planning a two-front war against Japan and Germany. The US military evaluations of geopolitical and military events proved remarkably accurate, sometimes anticipating actual events by a decade or more. The military’s planning, training, and equipping, particularly the Navy, reflected this.
3. The US knew that Pearl Harbor was highly vulnerable to the Japanese attack and had trained during full-scale exercises and smaller drills for that eventuality. Bestselling books such as those by the “Tom Clancy” of the day, read by Admirals and Ensigns alike, went into theoretical details about a war between Japan and the US precipitated by a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. The US had even fired Admiral Richardson, who bravely spoke out against basing the US fleet in Pearl Harbor in 1940 after a full-scale training exercise against Japan due to its vulnerability to sneak attacks.
4. The US mobilized well before Pearl Harbor. It started to some degree with the demobilization after WWI when the US did not conduct a traditional return to pre-war levels of the military but instead instituted a system that would be ready to mobilize National Guard, Reserves, Reserve Officers, and push ROTC quickly into the pipeline. At no time did post-WWI levels in budget or staffing reach lower than or equal to prewar levels.
5. The US began planning for a total war against Japan in 1908 at the direction of the President. The plan, known commonly as War Plan Orange but encompassing many other smaller plans, early on developed into a three-phase campaign that had the complete destruction of Japan as its end state. The economic blockade, Island Hopping (after WWI), and unrestricted warfare on commercial ships all were part of the plans of the US well before the 1930s. The US and Japan had two major “War Scares” in 1908 and 1913, well before the 1930s.
1. Spector, Ronald H. Eagle Against the Sun. New York: Free Press, 1985., p. 9
2. Gole, Henry G. War Planning at the U.S. Army War College, 1934-40: The Road to Rainbow. Army History, Winter 1993, No 25 (Winter 1993), pp. 13-28. U.S. Army Center of Military History. Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/26304120 The Army war planners excelled at integrating information beyond military-focused data in order to draft their assumptions for the war planning process. As Gole points out in his Conclusions, “The data produced in considering the strengths and weaknesses ...(of Japan) across the full spectrum of national power, political, economic, psycho-sociological and military - were voluminous and useful in real-world planning.” (pp.The entire article is extremely valuable at looking into the Army War College utilization as conducting massive “spade work” in research and development of component tasks the Army General Staff and Joint Board would use for their War Plan Orange. Most of the heavy lifting in war planning was done at the War College and, as a result, has been overlooked or ignored by researchers. “..all of the elements of RAINBOW are to be found in the college planning. Further, some combination of elements are also visible.” (pp. 23)
3. Ed. Kent Roberts Greenfield. “Command Decisions.” Department of the Army, Office of the Chief of Military History, Washington DC., 1959.
Allegations that after WWI, the US retreated back into isolationism:
“The US ambivalence about the war grew out of the isolationist sentiment that had long been a part of the American political landscape and had permeated the nation since World War I... President Woodrow Wilson’s idealistic plan to ensure permanent peace through international cooperation and American leadership failed to become a reality...
Neither the rise of Adolf Hitler to power nor the escalation of Japanese expansionism did much to change the nation’s isolationist mood in the 1930s...But by 1940, the deteriorating global situation was impossible to ignore.” From The National WWII Museum in New Orleans.
Facts on Claim #1:
The highly flawed statement above by the private museum in New Orleans reflects the residual effects of wartime and immediate post-war propaganda by politically and economically motivated elements. It attempts a form of historical denialism by ignoring or obscuring the engagement by the US unilaterally using diplomatic, economic, and on occasion, military means far more after the “Great War” than it did before. Woodrow Wilson was not desirous of permanent peace but of a global system run by the victors of the First World War, highly tied to economic advantages by the United States interests that he was tied to. The U.S. Congress that voted down Wilson’s League of Nations proposal did so with a clear view that the U.S. should only stay out of “foreign entanglements,” not a nullification of the Monroe Doctrine or the ability of the U.S. to enact action overseas when American interests were involved.
Indeed as an article in Oxford University Press Foreign Policy Analysis noted,
“A cottage industry has grown around the subject of American isolation interwar period—so much so that “isolationist” has become the standard characterization of America’s foreign policy between the two World Wars. It is often asserted that American isolationist sentiment was responsible for inaction in foreign affairs, from the rejection of American membership in the League of Nations through the turbulent 1920s and 1930s and right up to the American failure to respond Nazi aggression. Only the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, we are typically told, was sufficient to rouse America’s insular torpor. Unfortunately, the characterization of America as an isolationist in the inter-war period, when isolationism supposedly reached its peak, is simply wrong. The image of American isolationism has persisted in large part due to misinterpretations and misconceptions ... The United States in the 1920s and 1930s was not uninvolved in security politics in Europe, nor were its citizens unwilling to be involved in European security affairs. ..The security policy of the 1920s was relatively invisible because, thanks to America’s overwhelming strength, it could rely on banks rather than tanks: American financial muscle was more than adequate to manage those security-related quarrels that did arise among war-weary contestants throughout the decade.” (The Myth of American Isolationism Author(s): Bear F. Braumoeller Source: Foreign Policy Analysis , OCTOBER 2010, Vol. 6, No. 4 (OCTOBER 2010), pp. 349- 371 Published by: Oxford University Press Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/24909828) (pp. 349)
America sent representatives, non-voting but very influential, throughout the life of the League of Nations. As the U.S. essentially supported the financial health of the U.K., France, and many voting member nations, U.S. opinion on matters dealt with at the U.N. carried far greater weight than most voting nations. The U.S. would frequently provide its opinions on matters that shaped League policy. And the U.S. was very supportive of League programs like White Slavery, Anti-Malaria, and Opium Policies. The U.S. was a prime mover in multiple international accords, including Naval arms limitations treaties, the Kellogg- Briand Pact, and continued international agreements dealing with China. All the efforts during the 20s and 30s dwarfed similar periods before the war in scale and scope.
America was not averse to sending military units to protect its interests, overthrow governments (Haiti), and influence policy dozens of times in the 1920s and 1930s. The American colony of the Phillippines continued to see American forces forward deployed. In China, U.S. Marines, Soldiers, and Naval assets continued to occupy what was seen as “American territory” in actions, if not in written form, and occasionally deployed against various Chinese factions to maintain U.S. power and interests in continental Asia. Some of the many examples in continental Asia can be found in the US Navy’s Annual Reports from the time;
“In December 1923, Sun Yat Sen, President of the Republic of South China, threatened to seize the customs in Canton, hitherto under international control. The United States sent six destroyers to Canton in concert with other forces. The firm stand and cooperation shown by the various naval forces compelled Sun Yat Sen to recede from his threat to use force, and the customs continued to be administered as formerly.
Expressions of thanks and gratitude were received from American commercial interests and from the resident bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church in China for the work done by the vessels of the Yangtze River patrol in protecting American lives, property, and business.”
(Annual Reports of the Navy Department for the Fiscal Year (Including Operations to November 15, 1924) 1924. (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1924): 6-7.)
“Philippines. In January 1924, a fanatical Philippine organization known as the “Colorum” rebelled against the authority of the Governor General of the Philippines. The Governor General accepted the offer of assistance of the commander in chief, Asiatic Fleet. The Sacramento landed a force of marines and constabulary with machine guns at Socorro, their stronghold, drove the insurrectionists from the town, and order was restored.”
(Annual Reports of the Navy Department for the Fiscal Year (Including Operations to November 15, 1924) 1924. (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1924): 6-7.)
“The past year in China has been one of intense naval activity. Not only have the regular forces of the Asiatic Fleet been almost constantly employed in guarding American interests, but these forces have had to be increased by the addition of 3 cruisers, 2 transports, and a brigade of marines consisting of some 4,400 officers and men.
The protection of American citizens in China has been most difficult ... in the face of tremendous provocation and insult by the various local authorities, as well as actual assault and attack by mobs of frenzied zealots. That the loss of American life has not been greater can be ascribed in large measure to the efficient and devoted manner in which the naval personnel have performed their arduous duty...
...when used force has been prompt and effective, and sufficient only to accomplish the object of protecting American lives. The principal clash occurred at Nanking on March 24, 1927. There can be no doubt that this attack on foreigners, including Americans, was premeditated, carefully planned, well organized, and efficiently executed by organized troops. Nor can there be any doubt that the energetic and prompt action of the naval forces of America and Great Britain in laying down a barrage around Socony Hill, where our consul general and other Americans were congregated, and later in the firm stand demanding the safe evacuation of other foreigners in the city, prevented a possible wholesale massacre.
Practically the entire Asiatic Fleet was assembled in Chinese waters toward the end of the fiscal year 1927. The regularly assigned forces of the Asiatic Fleet were augmented by the temporary assignment of Light Cruiser Division 3 to the Asiatic Fleet. Marines were transported to Shanghai by the USS Chaumont and USS Henderson, these vessels remaining in Chinese waters under orders of the commander in chief, Asiatic Fleet. The USS Gold Star was used to transport marines and equipment from Guam to Manila.
The following aircraft were made available for service with the United States Marine Corps expeditionary force sent to China: 9 fighting planes, 6 observation planes, 5 amphibian planes. This aircraft force has been held at Olongapo.
VT Squadron 20 was established as a cruising unit attached to the USS Jason and is now operating independently of the shore establishment.”
Annual Reports of the Navy Department for the Fiscal Year (Including Operations to November 15, 1927) 1927. (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1927): 5-6.
Conclusion on Claim #1:
Disinformation and propaganda.
Narratives like the one the privately owned National WWII Museum in New Orleans put out are misleading and either ignore or deny the evidence to promote a version of events that promotes a false vision that America was unprepared, disengaged, and didn’t have a plan. This disinformation is insulting to the military that served between the wars and prepared the nation for the upcoming conflict better than any military generation before or since. It is also dangerous because it implies that global wars can be won without massive preparation.
The US military atrophied, became domestically focused, and therefore ill-prepared for war...
After Pearl Harbor, the US mobilized the military and industry to win the war on two fronts.
“The United States faced a mammoth job in December 1941. Ill-equipped and wounded, the nation was at war with three formidable adversaries. It had to prepare to fight on two distant and very different fronts, Europe and the Pacific.
America needed to raise, train, and outfit a vast military force quickly. At the same time, it had to find a way to provide material aid to its hard-pressed allies in Great Britain and the Soviet Union.” (https://www.nationalww2museum.org/students-teachers/student-resources/research-starters/america-goes-war-take-closer-look)
Facts on Claim #2 and #4:
This claim falls entirely into the realm of disinformation. The United States Navy was not “ill-equipped” or “wounded.” The loss of ships at Pearl Harbor did not impact the operational readiness of the United States to conduct combat operations long planned for in Phase I of War Plan Orange, nor did it impact the operational ability to conduct Rainbow 5 or the Victory Plans, which forecast requirements and conditions for the US engaging in the global war against Germany and Japan while maintaining material support to Allies including the Kuomintang (oddly omitted in the museum’s disinformation piece), USSR, an UK. The misleading statement “At the same time, it had to find a way to provide...” infers that it had not been planning and providing aid before Pearl Harbor, both legally and illegally, to all three allied organizations and more.
The United States, as noted, had planned since 1908, trained annually in full-scale exercises since 1923, and forecast economic and industrial requirements throughout, including the Rainbow and Victory plans since 1935 that included planning for operational requirements against Germany while supporting the UK, KMT China, and eventually the Soviet Union. The United States had begun the industrial capacity growth of civilian shipyards that could handle warship construction in 1933. When the program began, seven shipyards existed that could build warships. By 1938 it was 10. By 1941, it was already 40, and almost 100,000 shipbuilders had been added in the run-up to 1941, well before the first bomb was dropped on Pearl Harbor. The massive industrial increase necessary for supporting the expanded war aims of the United States could not have been performed after December 7th, 1941, in time for the ships necessary to conduct operations in both theaters to be christened prior to 1943-1945. The industrial capacity was expanded almost a decade before the war began, not the day after the bombing.
“The peacetime rearmament efforts of President Roosevelt and Representative Vinson contributed 95 percent of the modern warships available for the war-over 40 percent of the total active fleet on December 7, 1941...The ships already under construction soon more than quintupled the size of the fleet-a feat that would have been impossible to accomplish without the deliberate building program of the 1930s that the Vinson-Trammell Act of 1934 authorized...Rebuilding the U.S. Navy in the 1930s provided not only the ships that held the line in 1942 but also the necessary time and experience for American shipyards to recover from a decade of neglect. By doubling the shipbuilding industry’s workforce between 1934 and 1938, the rearmament effort restored the nucleus of skilled labor that would prove so crucial over the next seven years of increased naval construction.” (PEACETIME NAVAL REARMAMENT, 1933–39Author(s): Jamie McGrath Source: Naval War College Review, Vol. 72, No. 2 (Spring 2019), pp. 83-103 Published by: U.S. Naval War College Press Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2307/26607135 ) pp.92
The planning, as mentioned before in War Plan Orange, was extensive and covered both concepts of operations for each phase and, in some cases, remarkable detail about tactics such as amphibious operations on an island hopping campaign.
“For about fifteen years, the strategic concepts embodied in the Orange Plan formed the basis for most American war planning. Variations of the plan were prepared and discussed at length. Every conceivable situation that might involve the United States in a war with Japan, including a surprise air attack on Pearl Harbor, was carefully considered, and appropriate defense measures were adopted. At least half a dozen times between 1924 and 1938, the plan was revised, sometimes in response to military changes and sometimes due to Congressional sentiment, or because of the international situation. Each time, all the implementing plans had to be changed. The Army and Navy had their own Orange plans, based on the joint plans and complete with concentration tables, mobilization schedules, etc. In addition, U.S. forces in the Philippines, Hawaii, Panama, and other overseas bases had their joint and service plans, as did the defense sectors and continental commands within the United States. RARELY HAVE PLANS FOR A WAR BEEN SO COMPREHENSIVE AND DETAILED, SO COMPLETE ON EVERY ECHELON, AND SO LONG IN PREPARATION.” (Ed. Kent Roberts Greenfield. Command Decisions. Department of the Army, Office of the Chief of Military History, Washington DC 1959)
Conclusion on Claim #2 and #4:
False claims. Omission of Evidence. Omission of timelines.
The United States was preparing industrial capacity almost a decade before Pearl Harbor. Plans such as the Army War College Preliminary work on a joint Orange Black plan, Rainbow Series, and eventually the Victory Plan all factored in industrial requirements for a multi-hemisphere war against Germany and Japan while supporting allies with the material to support their operational needs. In addition, a myriad of plans, all coalescing initially into War Plan Orange (Japan), then later into a global war in the Rainbow and Victory Plans, provided a roadmap that was not only thorough but remarkably accurate when compared to the actual prosecution of the war by the U.S. in the Pacific Theater. Training in full-scale joint exercises from 1923 provided necessary feedback and validation on what worked and what didn’t that refined the plan and procurement requests for the following year. The U.S., from 1923 to 1941, trained as close as you can get to wartime conditions and more thoroughly than for any war before or since.
The US was sleeping on December 7, 1941, and surprised by the attack. VARIATION: The US knew the Japanese would attack US interests in Asia but didn’t imagine it would be Pearl Harbor.
Facts on Claim #3:
Coming in the next update. For now, see CASE FILE 003 TIMELINE for various Pearl Harbor attack drills the US conducted.
Conclusion on Claim #3:
Bias by severe omission. Misleading contextualization. Intentional distortion.
After Pearl Harbor, the US mobilized the military and industry to win the war on two fronts. VARIATION: “Citizen Soldiers” were a key to the US victory over Germany and Japan.
Facts on Claim #4:
Included in the Conclusion in Claim #2
The US was responding in the late 1930s and early 1940s to Japanese military operations in China but was ill-prepared for and didn’t expect the economic sanctions to lead to war. Before 1937 (or 1932 in some variations), the US got along with Japan.
Facts on Claim #5:
The U.S. began consistent and continuous war preparations against Japan with a verbal executive order. President Teddy Roosevelt, in 1907, asked his military leadership if they planned to go to war against Japan. In 1908 the outline of War Plan Orange was developed and gradually improved upon until very rapidly a three-phased operation to respond to a forecasted Japanese attack against the then U.S. colony of Hawaii or the Philippines, gradually fighting the Japanese until eventually cutting off the island from trade and food and reduce Japan completely. Japan, in 1908, had given back land it had won from Russia during the Russo-Japanese war, unlike European nations, and had agreed a few years earlier during the Taft-Katsura agreement, not to contest U.S. colonization of the Philippines if the U.S. would recognize Japan’s colonization of Korea. Despite Japan's cooperation with the international community up to this point, the U.S. was developing plans in earnest for total war. The motivation was twofold: Economic dominance and control of Continental Asia and the Pacific and White Supremacy. Until then, the U.S. had engaged with or supported more military expansionism in the Pacific, Manchu Empire (China), and the Phillippines than Japan had.
1897, 1907, and 1913: Three War Scares with Japan.
There were three “war scares” with Japan, as Oligarchs and white supremacists began to push for conflict with Japan, then seen as an Asian nation that had gained parity against white nations without converting to Christianity. The first war scare was in 1897, as the U.S. ignored Japanese diplomatic protests against the U.S. annexation of Hawaii, where Japanese were a quarter of its population and which had a Royal Hawaiian embassy in Japan for decades. The Japanese sent a cruiser to protect its citizens, and the U.S., in turn, alerted the Navy to use military means, if necessary, against Japan to ensure the U.S. takeover. The USS Oregon, the most powerful ship in the U.S. fleet, was dispatched to Pearl Harbor. Assistant Secretary of the Navy Teddy Roosevelt gave the Naval War College the following task: “Japan makes demands on Hawaiian Island. This country intervenes. What force will be necessary to uphold the intervention...Considering possible complications with another power on the Atlantic Coast (Cuba)” LaFeber, Walter. The New Empire An Interpretation of American Expansion 1860-1898. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1963, p.364.
Image from U.S. Naval Institute. https://www.usni.org/magazines/naval-history-magazine/2020/august/theodore-roosevelt-naval-expansion-and-guaranteeing
Then in 1908, just after President Teddy Roosevelt and his military began to plan for total war against Japan, and the second on the eve of the First World War in 1913. During this period, there was an arms race, as all nations attempted to outbuild the other in the new “superweapon” of the day: The Dreadnaught (Battleship). American Oligarchs, such as Charles Schwab, even stated publicly in July 1908 that he would personally request contracts to build 10 of these new superweapons against Japan. American papers, particularly those owned by the media Oligarch Hurst, printed mass disinformation campaigns against Japan on a national and racial level. Every story, from the Japanese eating American Brains to the Japanese creating a secret military base in Baja, Mexico, was printed and distributed to the American public in order to whip up a war frenzy. In California, various race riots against Japanese were instigated alongside exclusionary laws by city and state legislatures that included school segregation against Japanese in San Fransisco. White supremacist groups sprang up against Japanese and Asians. One version was the Japanese and Korean Exclusion League (Later Asian Exclusion League) in California, which were very influential with state and local politicians and organizations.
Some examples of the newspaper headlines exposing the myth that America got along with the Japanese and their actions in China were the reason America started to prepare for war against her:
“Japan War is Inevitable Says Captain Richard Hobson Hero of the Merrimac. Uncle Sam Would Lose In the Conflict He Declared Because of Weak Navy; Thus the United States Would Lose her Oriental Lands” “As soon as Japan declares war a movement against the Phillippines and Hawaiian islands will be made and before Uncle Sam can get even a respectable squadron there the yellow man will have established himself in possession...Japan will dictate to China and other Asiatic countries and will be in absolute control of the great Pacific Ocean. After this condition will be borne for a long time the White Race will rise superior and conflict for supremacy with the yellow race.” Link to archive paper here
War Editorial about complete destruction of Japan Link to archive paper here
Japanese editorial regarding US war threats. Side article about the recommendation for US and Japan to provide the Philippines with independence as it is a burden for the US and against US interests. Link to archive paper here
“ARE THE JAPANESE A WORLD MENACE?” Link to archive paper here
Asleep in Danger article noting the propaganda of Japanese designs to invade the West Coast of the US, quotes General Lea comment regarding troop strength for Japan vs. US Army. “some morning with the Philippines, Hawaii and Alaska in the hands of a hostile foe; and unless the fleet of Admiral Evans can prevent, the guns of hostile squadrons battering down the cities of the Pacific Coast, with great armies of invasion pouring in from Alaska and Mexico.” Link to archive paper here
“VISION OF WAR WITH ORIENT HAUNTS HOBSON.” Excellent insight into the House of Representatives debate on future war with Japan and American Naval development. Roosevelt asks for Four Battleships. Noting the link to arms and contracts to war scare and promise of war. Link to archive paper here
“WILL ENGLAND STAND BY TREATY? JAPANESE WAR PREPARATIONS! JAPAN WANTS TO LEAD ASIA!” More militaristic pro-war propaganda against Japan Link to archive paper here
Article on the “inevitable war with Japan” by experts and the need to unburden the US of the Philippines before it happens. US Congress debates the need for the Philippines and sees continued American occupation as a source of conflict with Japan. In 1911 many noted, as this article shows, that the Philippines could not be held and would be quickly occupied by Japan. Link to archive paper here
California land grabs, vote against Japanese, etc. Link to archive paper here
Editorial for going to war against Japan because California is the same white race as the nation, and Japanese immigration “threatens the white race.” Link to archive paper here
Editorial on the Real Open Door in China and how Japan’s “Monroe Doctrine” and Pan Asian concept of Asia for Asians threatens Europe and America. Notes the shock of race and religion in Japan’s victories. Link to archive paper here
It was not only militaristic newspaper owners, racist editorial writers, and California white supremacists that were promoting war against Japan as a white vs. Asian or a Christian vs. Pagan conflict. General Leonard Wood, then military governor of The Philippines, stated his views on why America could never let the Philippines gain independence or remove American military presence from that colony which was only 90 miles from the Japanese Island of Formosa. The Philippine colony said General Wood was the “greatest outpost of Christianity and Western civilization in the Far East.” (War Plan Orange p.123).
“We can not think of this Philippine question without thinking of civilization in the Pacific. Filipinos, as to all but a tenth of the population are Christians. Christianity’s humanizing influence shows in their faces and is recorded in their steady moral advance. Paganism and non-Christianity can be broken down only by the impact of spiritual and cultural influences, and these will be projected from the base of a highly developed Christian Philippines as they can not be projected from the distant bases of America and Europe.
America in the Philippines, in other words, ensures the effective deployment of Christianity for the regeneration of the world. These are solemn obligations and great opportunities. We can be false to them only at the cost of treason to that faith which we believe to be essential to the highest human development.” Link
As Brigadier General Anthony C. Zinni, the Deputy Commander of the USMC Combat Development Command, noted when he was commenting on the views of some of the war planners against Japan during the interwar period.
“...there is a racist tone that is as undeniable as it is regrettable. It accurately reflects the sentiments of a substantial, if not predominant, segment of American society in the early 20th century. These racist views had tragic consequences. They helped precipitate the diplomatic climate which contributed to the outbreak of war in the Pacific. Further, a belief in an innate racial superiority made military strength seem less critical from a national perspective, and that fostered the lack of preparedness for war against Japan. That belief also caused many Americans --in and out of uniform - to experience a rude shock when U.S. forces encountered firsthand the genuine fighting abilities of the Japanese armed forces. In short, it must be realized today that these racist attitudes helped to cause the war as well as probably to raise the number of American casualties in the early months of the Pacific War.” Brigadier General A.C. ZINNI, Deputy Commanding General, USMC Combat Development Command. 1992 Link
General Zinni was specifically commenting on the brilliant but morally flawed work of Major Earl H. Ellis, USMC, in developing the plan for island hopping and amphibious campaign operations by the Marines during the Phase II planning section of War Plan Orange. Maj. Ellis’s plan is discussed at length elsewhere in this CASE FILE but his views on the Japanese, developed long before Japan invaded Manchuria, are worth noting:
“Our advantages over the enemy will be those generally common to the Nordic races over the Oriental; higher individual intelligence, physique and endurance. These superior qualities will manifest themselves directly in our superiority in the use of hand weapons and in staying power. The Japanese sometimes reach a high peak of morale, but react quickly and, being excitable, they become rapidly disorganized - not only in defeat, but often in victory. The key of our tactics should therefore be to get his individual “goat” and keep it.” Link
A gross example of using the logical fallacy of Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc.
There is no causality between American preparation for war in 1908 and Japanese actions during the 1930s. America used the 1930s as a post facto justification, but it was not the cassus belli for America to view Japan as the enemy for almost 40 years.
This CASE FILE is a work in progress. The volumes of evidence were so large that it was impossible to incorporate all of them prior to publication. Please check back for updates. The first draft is currently the one published above and focuses on the little-known planning timelines stretching back to 1908 and the war scare of 1897 with the annexation of Hawaii.
The second draft will add information specific to the evolutions of War Plan Orange.
The third draft will add information specific to the Fleet Problems and the specific planning and training for the defense of Pearl Harbor against a surprise air attack.