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Why Did Japan Bomb Pearl Harbour?

“As long as there are sovereign nations possessing great power, war is inevitable.” December 7th, 1941. This was one of the most important attacks in the United States’ history. This is the date that the Japanese attacked the US Naval base at Pearl Harbour, in Hawaii. The attack was the deciding factor for Franklin Roosevelt to lead the United States into World War II (WWII) fighting alongside the Allied Forces. Japan was a country growing in power and stature and America soon came to realise that this growth could prove a threat to them. America aimed to stop Japan’s growth in its tracks as they realised that if the situation was left to evolve much longer than the situation may be out of their control. However, it can be argued that by not seriously dealing with this threat until the 1940’s, America had left things too late and faced an opponent who would not back down. Many historians debate whether the infamous attack was justified.

Many believe that they were justified considering the factors that lead to the attack and other believe that it wasn’t considering the factors that preceded it. The main factor that lead to the attack was the restrictions set on Japan by the United States accompanied with Japan’s desire to expand into the Pacific. The factors that preceded the attack on Pearl Harbour to a medium extent justify the attack. Japan is a small country that was almost totally reliant on import; its small country’s resources could not continue to feed its dense population. The difficult situation was only worsened by the Wall Street crash of 1929, which hit Japan a lot harder than a lot of other countries, of which some were much more self reliant. It was the post depression period, which saw an even more nationalistic party come into power. With the depression Japan reverted back to the idea of the Samurai code, something that has always been a part of the Japanese culture to an extent. But the Japanese propaganda machine helped in conscription, and get society on the Government’s side.

The Government needed to have as little opposition on their own ground as possible, as well as a vast amount of Propaganda – those with power who opposed the Government’s aims were often assassinated. During the 1920s there were tense times when the Japanese, allies of the Germans (American opposition), struggled for Far East Pacific power against the U.S.A. Japan tried to gain control of the majority of trade in the Pacific. They entered trade agreements with countries that had before traded with the United States. It was merely an attempt to increase power and earn her place in the sun. In an attempt to stop this, America placed tariffs on Japan and also signed a treaty putting a halt to Japan’s increasing Navy. The Japanese were only allowed to build three ships for every five ships Britain and America built, these attempts to squash the increasing power of Japan merely increased tensions. Japan was one of the most quick up-and- coming countries in terms of modernisation. Just 60 years before they had fought Manchuria or Manchuko as it was known, with the medieval technology of swords and warriors. Whilst Britain had achieved plans and Blueprints for the world’s first Dreadnought. Clearly Japan was a long way behind. Once Japan learned of how technologically advanced the world superpowers were to them they introduced a modernisation policy in the mid 19th century.

Japan’s aim was to become a superpower. It was in a time of overpopulation and starvation subsequently, it would not be able to raise price of trade and would not be able to compete with other nations in such a ‘Backward state’. It needed ‘Living space’, it needed to expand. So in 1931 Japan started her campaign, she invaded Manchuria, Japan went into China and by 1937 controlled the majority of China. Showing great militant strength, Japan’s empire became the Greater Eastern Co-Prosperity sphere. Japan infuriated the League of Nations and when asked about her actions in Manchuria, Japan became the first Nation to abdicate from the League of Nations of her own free will, showing the League Of Nations as weak. Soon others followed Japan’s actions. Soon the League of Nations reputation diminished and subsequently disbanded. For the people of Japan morale was high, they had defied and shocked the world.

Once the War started the colonies of Britain and France were unprotected, hence Japan’s later capturing of French Indo-China.But the fact of the matter is Japan attacked America in a militant aggressive way in order to expand her power and living space. To have control of the pacific would undoubtedly be very economically and militarily beneficial. It was the U.S.A that stood in the way. So the actions were that of determination and self help. The consequences did not go to plan, even though the attack was as successful as it could have ever been. Japan took on more than she could have bargained for. If America did not fear the increasing power of Japan and tried to stop her in ways like Tariffs Japan would not have attacked America. By placing the Trade Tariffs America was running Japan into bankruptcy. Her people would starve. America essentially only left Japan with one option. Otherwise Japan would be devastated her people would up rise and the possibility of Revolution would increase against the Government.

Germany would have also wanted Japan to attack America, as America entering the war became more possible the longer the war went on. If Japan could have success over America it would only make Hitler’s aims easier. America’s actions to try and decrease the power of Japan in a non-physically aggressive way. Put Japan into a corner, and her only option left was to attack. So Japan attacked Pearl Harbour for a multitude of reasons: to decrease her Naval power, so she could take control of the majority of the Pacific for economic reasons before America took revenge. To help her allies aims in the European theatre of War. But mainly in self interest, in that if Japan wanted to continue in her increase of power, whilst continuing to feed her people without her previous imports Japan could not rely on her own exports for money and was left with no other option to attack America, when the trade embargoes were put in place.

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