Sunday, November 30, 2014

Events Leading to Pearl Harbor

The decision by the Japanese government to attack the United States in 1941 was argued for a very long time in Japan, possibly years, before being approved.  Not all were in favor of the attack:  The Imperial Japanese Navy was not, while the Army and enough members of the Diet were.  It should be remembered that from the visit of U.S. Commodore Mathew Perry during the 19th century and earlier years, japan had never lost a war and the Army fed on this information. 

My July 2014 essay Leyte Gulf was prepared to describe some unusual and unexplained events and behavior by the IJM during their multipronged effort to destroy the United State landing force on Leyte Island and possibly wrest a major naval victory in a losing war.  While researching this last great naval battle it became evident that the decision to attack Pearl Harbor may have been made, not during the months preceding the attack, but many more months, possibly years, earlier.  While Leyte Gulf described the last major battle of World War – II, my current essay Events Leading to Pearl Harbor will discuss the first.


Japan realized that fighting a long war with the United States was risky as long as the U.S. fleet was a threat, and so their decision to destroy the fleet at Pearl Harbor, especially the carriers, was a prime element of the battle plan.  Attacking on a Sunday or a holiday was equally important because it would find the fleet at a most vulnerable time.  One of their major pre-war concerns had been their lack of resources, but with Manchuria and French Indo China under their control and a plentiful supply of oil and raw materials available, it would no longer be a deterrent.  So the decision was made for a short war.  To accomplish this, resources would be stocked in reserve, the fleet would be reinforced and modernized and training for the pending battles would begin.  Overall, the strategy was simple enough:  Destroy the U.S. fleet at Pearl Harbor, capture the U.S. bases at Guam, Midway and the Philippines, protect their supply lines, and threaten Hawaii and the West coast of the United States homeland.  With their fleet destroyed, the United States would be unable to continue the war and would sue for peace.  In the post-war negotiations, Japan would acquire Guam, Midway, the Philippines and Hawaii, the Pacific Ocean would become a Japanese lake and the United States would no longer be a threat to Japan.

But something went wrong.  The American carriers had left Pearl Harbor before the Japanese attack and were loose in the Pacific Ocean.  Midway was successfully defended with these very same carriers in 1942 while destroying the Japanese fleet carriers.  In the space of six months, instead of having a battle line at Hawaii, the IJN was forced to retire to a battle line centered on their island fortresses acquired from the League of Nations under mandate.  A short war was no longer possible.

After Midway, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, Commander of the Combined Japanese Fleets, voiced his concern when he made the prophetic statement, “I fear we have awakened a sleeping giant.”
Admiral Isoroku Yamamato

                                                                 In the Beginning . . .   

Invasion of Kublai Khan 1274, 1281.  The earliest known military successes of Japan date to 1274 and 1281 when they repulsed two attempts by Kublai Khan to invade the home islands.  Khan is known to have landed troops on Kyushu in both wars, but was forced to withdraw partly due to two severe storms which destroyed much of the Mongolian fleets.  The Japanese attributed both events to Kamikaze (Devine Wind). 

Japan continued their closed culture until 1593 when, for the first time, the Black Ships of Portuguese explorers landed at what is now Nagasaki.  At the time Japan was in the midst of a civil war which is probably why the Portuguese were permitted to remain.  With the help and co-operation of Daimyo Lord Sumitada, the Portuguese were permitted to establish a permanent trading base which lasted for nine decades.  Japan entered their Edo Period (1600-1868) during turbulent times and in 1637 Portugal abandoned Japan because of the internal problems.  During the stay of the Portuguese a Dutch enclave was established at Dejima, Nagasaki, apparently as a part of the Portuguese trade colony, to provide a study of Western sciences.  It appears that the Dutch departed with the Portuguese.

In 1854, United States Commodore Matthew Perry and a squadron of military vessels convinced the rulers of Japan to open Japan to the outside world.


A class of strong regional lords called Daimyo was in control through the end of the Edo Period when a new constitutional monarchy was established , headed by the Meiji Emperor, breaking the power of the Shoguns, the Samurai Lords who ruled the government from 1185 to 1868.  The Samurai held both military and political power over much of Japan by 1100 and all of Japan by 1185.

Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895. During the Meiji Period (1868-1912) Japan’s road to war continued with the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895.  While the war was between China and Japan over Korea, the land battles were fought in Korea.  Japan had a navy of 12 modern warships and 22 torpedo boats, but no battleships.  The crews were well-trained and she had a well-equipped army.  China had no national army depending upon a number of regional armies for defense.  The Chinese fleet was the dominant navy in the Far East, with2 battleships, 4 cruisers of different types, and lesser vessels, but poorly maintained.  Discipline was poor, rubbish was dumped down gun barrels, gunpowder was sold and replaced with cocoa and in one instance, a battleship gun was pawned by one of the Chinese admirals.  In a major engagement between the two navies in 1894, Japan easily destroyed 8 of 10 Chinese warships.  By 1895 the war was over, Korea’s independence was assured and China ceded some islands to Japan together with some monetary awards.

Japanese Soldiers in China (1894)
 With the Japanese victory, fleet dominance in East Asia shifted from China to Japan and the world’s sea power nations increased their respect of the IJN.      

The Boxer Rebellion.   Foreign influence in China’s trade, politics, religion and technology bred an anti-foreign, anti-imperialistic peasant-based movement in the north.  Called Boxers, they attacked foreigners and Chinese Christians in November 1899 who were building railroads.  By June 1900, they attacked Beijing and killed 230 foreigners.  Tens of thousands of Chinese Christians were also killed in the provinces.  Diplomats, foreign civilians, soldiers and some Chinese retreated to the legation quarter occupied by the eight-nation alliance of Austro-Hungary, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States.  The legation quarter was besieged for 55 days before being relieved by an international force of 20,000 troops.  The uprising ended on September 7, 1901 with the Manchu Dynasty being subsequently overthrown by Sun Yat-sen, leading to the formation of modern China. 
Boxer Soldiers

In suppressing the Boxers, Japan provided slightly less than half of the final allied force of 49,255 and just under a third of the warships, gaining prestige in the process, and for the first time was considered as a power.  In July 1900, while the Boxers were attacking Beijing, Russia made inroads into the eastern provinces of Manchuria.  By the end of the year Russia had occupied all of Manchuria, an area which Japan considered within its sphere of influence, setting the stage for the Russo-Japanese War. 

The Russo-Japanese War.  Russia had a major port at Vladivostok which was useable only during warm weather.  It was essential for future trade interests that Russia obtain a warm-water port, such as Port Arthur.  Previously, in 1891, construction of the Trans-Siberian railroad was begun by Russia.  Five years later, China and Russia signed a secret treaty granting Russia the right to build the Chinese Eastern Railroad through Manchuria and in 1898, granted Russia a 25-year lease on the Liaotung Peninsula and the right to build a South Manchurian Railroad.  That same year the Russians begin work on the Chinese Eastern Railroad.  The effect of the treaties and grants was to give Russia direct access into China, through Manchuria, into Port Arthur before the Boxer Rebellion.  In 1901, the Trans-Siberian Railroad was completed except for the Lake Baikal gap, where ferries were used. 

Negotiations in 1902 recognized Chinese sovereignty over Manchuria and Russia agreed to remove its troops but failed to do so creating public protests in Japan during 1903.  That same year, both Russia and Japan reinforced their Far Eastern Fleets.  The following year, Russia opened the Chinese Eastern Railway to regular traffic and reinforced its troops in Manchuria, but a frozen Lake Baikal and the not yet completed South Manchurian Railroad, delayed deployment.  During 1904, efforts by France, Japan, Korea, Russia and China to reach a settlement failed.

On February 9, 1904, Japan attacked and mauled the Russian Far Eastern Fleet at Port Arthur.  Russia moved its Baltic fleet to the Far East where it was destroyed at Tsushima.  Concurrently, Japan defeated Russia’s armies at Mukden and other land locations.  For the first time in modern history, an Asian military force had soundly whipped an army and navy of a major western power.  The prestige of Japan, already on the rise from its activities in the Boxer Rebellion, rose again seriously affecting the reasoning of the Japanese military command.    

Russo-Japanese War
 After the Russo-Japanese War was completed, the maritime nations of the world moved Japan to sixth of the naval powers and another step had been taken by Japan on the path to anarchy. 

While Japan’s military stature was being raised as a naval power, it was suffering humiliation by the United States, though not intentional, in an entirely different area of international relations, immigration. 

Japanese emigration to the United States was never more than a tiny percent of the U.S. population, but organized campaigns in the press and unions portrayed Japanese as enemies of the U.S. and pressed for exclusion laws.  In 1908 the U.S. and a very reluctant Japan arrived at a “gentlemen’s agreement” to limit emigration to the U.S.  In 1913, California passed the Alien Land Law which barred aliens from being citizens and barred them from owning land, including land purchased years before. The Immigration Act of 1924 imposed restrictions on all immigration from non-European countries effectively ending Japanese immigration.
Japanese Immigration (2)
The Japanese residents of California easily avoided the restrictions of the California Alien Land Law by consulting an attorney and amending the title to their land to satisfy the new law, but there was little they could do to avoid the immigration act.  However, the 1924 act did not affect existing Japanese residents. 

From 1639, Japan had maintained an effective policy of isolation from Europe in trade and immigration.  After the visit of Commodore Matthew Perry, many Japanese immigrated to the United States viewing the U.S. as a desirable way of life.  The declining Japanese economy acted as a driving engine and by 1868 with assistance, at times, from the Japanese government, the flood began.  By 1911 immigration had begun to grow such that more than 400,000 men and women had left for the United States, a flood which continued for an additional ten years.  Most Japanese chose to live in Hawaii and the west coast of the U.S., profoundly transforming their new home by their presence.  In 1853, indigenous Hawaiians made up 97% of the islands’ population.  By 1923, their numbers had dwindled to 16% and the largest percentage of Hawaii’s population was Japanese. 

In California by 1920 Japanese farmers were tilling more than 450,000 acres of land and marketing more than 10% of crop revenue.  Ten years later found that the Japanese immigrants and their children had set down deep roots in Hawaii and the mainland, though immigration to the mainland grew more slowly.  There were many who resented the Japanese progress, but there were many more who accepted the Japanese as friends and neighbors.  When war broke out in 1941, not one incident of sabotage happened.  To the contrary, the young Japanese enlisted in the armed forces of the U.S. and served with valor in the European Theater of operations. 

                                                     Continued Japanese Progress

World War.  The world went to war when Archduke Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated by a Serbian.  Japan joined the Allies against the Central Powers.  During the World War, Japan’s contribution was primarily one of joining Australia and New Zealand in attacking and occupying Germany’s Pacific Ocean colonies.  When the war ended, the League of Nations recognized Japan’s effort by mandating to Japan a number of Pacific Islands and chains, including three archipelagos:  The Mariana Group, the Carolina Group, the Marshall Islands Group, approximately 600 smaller islets, and reefs totaling about 700 square miles.  When doing so, the League specifically directed Japan to not militarize or fortify its new acquisitions.  The action of the League effectively extended Japan’s defense perimeter 3,000 miles to the East and that much closer to the United States, a fact noted by the Japanese military.  In violation of its mandate, Japan fortified the islands during the period between world wars, violated its naval treaty obligations with Great Britain and the United States, and left the League.

With the Great Depression, Japan turned to Fascism, but unlike Germany and Italy, established economic goals for developing an empire, but “…due to the lack of resources on Japan’s home islands, in order to maintain a strong industrial sector with strong growth, raw materials such as iron, oil and coal largely had to be imported.  Most of these materials came from the United States” (Emphasis added).  In fact, so much scrap iron was being sold to Japan that in the years following Pearl Harbor humorists joked that Japan was only returning the elevated subways that the United States had dismantled, scrapped and sold to them.   So, for the sake of the military-industrial development scheme, and industrial growth on a whole, mercantile theories prevailed, and the Japanese felt that resource-rich colonies were needed to compete with European powers.  Korea (1910) and Formosa (Taiwan, 1895) had earlier been annexed as primarily agricultural colonies as had the mandated islands for defense and sugar cane.  Manchuria’s iron and coal, Indochina’s rubber, and China’s vast resources were future prime targets for Japan’s industry, a fact that the military used effectively.    While the Taisho Period (1912-1926) was extremely beneficial to Japan’s expansion plans, they still had concerns about natural resources.

During the Showa Period (1926-1989) a financial crises led to a long period of economic depression which allowed a considerable increase in the power of the military such that they gained control of the government and Japan returned to a period very similar to the Shogun/Samurai period that existed prior to the Edo Period.  With the military firmly in control of the government, an incident was created by Japan and in 1931 Manchuria was invaded and successfully conquered with little trouble.  Ostensibly, Japan did this to liberate the Manchus from the Chinese, just as the annexation of Korea was supposedly an act of protection.  As with Korea, a puppet government (Manchukuo) was installed.  Jehol, a Chinese territory bordering Manchuria, was conquered in 1933 and another destructive step had been taken. 

The 1930s of the Showa Period were the most eventful and turbulent times of contemporary Japan.  Other than the army engineered seizures of Manchuria and Jehol, there were 4 assassinations of prominent politicians, plotting of an abortive coup, the start of a second war with China and the Panay incident.  The new occupations caused many nations and the League of Nations to object, precipitating Japan leaving the League in 1933.  In 1936 Japan joined with Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy and became a member of the Axis Powers. 

The following year, Japan initiated the Second Sino-Japanese War when it invaded China, creating what was essentially a 3-way war between Japan, national China under Chiang Kai-shek and communist China under Mao Zedong.  Japan took control of much of China’s coast and port cities, but was very careful to avoid disturbing European spheres of influence. 
The Panay Incident.  The Yangtze Patrol was initiated in 1854 after the first Opium War, causing many countries to maintain fleet units in and around China to “show the flag” and defend commercial traffic.  The stability of China deteriorated markedly in 1890 after the second Opium War and the American naval presence in the form of gunboats patrolling the Yangtze together with units of the British Royal Navy increased, as did other naval units patrolling the China coast.  The purpose of the Yangtze Patrol was to escort American merchant ships through bandit infested gorges, fight pirates and bandits and represent American interests.

USS Panay

“On December 12, 1937, the river gunboat USS Panay, well-marked and escorting neutral merchant ships, was attacked and sunk near Nanking by renegade Japanese air and ground forces.”  With neither government willing to risk war at that time, Japan extended apologies and offered restitution which the United States accepted.  That same day Japanese shore batteries had fired on the British gunboat HMS Ladybird.  Opinions of knowledgeable parties center about the attack being an effort of the Japanese government to determine how the British and American governments would react, allowing for both vessels being relatively minor fleet units and Japan making quick apology and an offer of restitution. 

                                                          Contingency Plans

Businesses have contingency plans in place to provide guidance for operations in the event something unforeseen happens that negatively affects planned corporate operations.  Governments have contingency plans to protect against emergencies, such as floods, tornadoes or hurricanes.  In general, contingency plans attempt to anticipate an unplanned event and to provide a plan for correcting it. 
Governments are responsible for protecting their citizens and their homeland against possible incursions by a neighbor and so, have contingency plans for providing one or more means of defense.  Some nations will have contingency plans to protect against more than one neighbor, and then there are the more aggressive nations who maintain contingency plans for attacking their neighbors.  Such was the plan of Germany during the early 20th century when it created war plans for attacking France.  It was called the Schlieffen Plan.

“By 1914, both Germany and France had plans prepared for an outbreak of war. The French High Command had drawn up Plan 17 in 1912-13. It was based on an attack from Champagne across the German border into Alsace-Lorraine. In August 1914 it went into immediate effect.

“In Germany, the 'Schlieffen Plan', drawn up by the German Chief of Staff, Count Alfred von Schlieffen in 1905, was set in motion. It was intended to win the war in the west in six weeks. . . .”
Robert Burns’ prophetic statement, “The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men,” certainly applied to the war plans of Germany in 1914.  Many parts of the plan failed because Schlieffen could not anticipate what Belgium, England, France and Russia would do. 

And so it was with Japan in 1941.  While they knew exactly what they planned to do, as with Schlieffen, they were wrong on most other accounts: The assumption that the attack on Pearl Harbor would catch the American carriers in port, the assumption that Japan would capture the Islands of Midway, the assumption that the United States would be crippled with its fleet destroyed, would be unable to continue the war and would sue for peace, but most of all, the assumption that it would be a short war, though Japan had prepared contingencies for a long war.

                                                         The End of the Beginning

During 1940, the Japanese acquisition effort continued.  Japan occupied the Northern Province of Tongking, French Indo China after Vichy France refused to restrict railroad shipments to Southern China.  Faced with the threat of Japan to occupy all of French Indo China and not being in a position to prevent it, Vichy granted Japan the right to station sizable bodies of troops in Indochina and the right to move troops and supplies through the countryside.  By so doing, Japan established a base from which they could expand into Southeast Asia with its rich resources without the added problem of a sea borne landing on a hostile shore.  From the view of France, the agreement was made to save what was left of their country.   The Japanese, however, were not that honest and after establishing themselves in the Indochina countryside, occupied all of French Indo China.      

Japan now had all the resources they needed to complete their plan for expansion and war or no war with the United States; they had enough oil reserves to complete a short war.  Should it happen that they found themselves in a long war, they would have time to complete occupying the oil fields of Southeast Asia before any country, including the United States, could interfere. 

In an effort to cement their gains for the long term, in 1940, Prime Minister Konoe Fuminaro  made an attempt at forming a Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, similar to the current European Union, to include Japan, China, Manchukuo and Southeast Asia.  The Philippine Islands were never included perhaps for lack of loyalty.  Under the Japanese plan Asia would be able to compete with the west and prosper.   While the members were less than enthusiastic, the plan was implemented despite its obvious propaganda nature.  The plan collapsed with the end of the war.

The United States and Japan at War – 1941-1942.  Japan was totally dependent upon the United States for the bulk of its oil supply – in fact, 93%.  That it would even consider a major war with its supplier seems ludicrous, but Japan was thinking of Southeast Asia as discussed previously.  The United States had already imposed hard economic sanctions on Japan in an effort to protect Southeast Asia, something they had never done for China.  There was no reason to expect that they wouldn’t add more sanctions to the growing list.  Japan did recognize their precarious position and responded with the Tongking occupation and subsequent negotiation with Indochina.

The United States demanded that Japan withdraw from and evacuate both French Indo China and China as the price for restoration of trade with the United States, in effect, that Japan abandon its empire and accept a position of economic subordination relative to the United States. 

Japan refused what they felt was a demeaning demand.  The United States placed an embargo on all shipments of oil to Japan leaving Japan with 1½ years of oil reserves.  In addition, the United States froze all of Japan’s assets.  All this was done on top of the existing sanctions.

In December 1941, Japan assembled a mighty fleet and, without a declaration of war, attacked the fleet of the United States on December 7, 1941 at Pearl Harbor, TH, sinking many warships and doing severe damage to others, but the United States carriers were safely at sea.         

Concurrently, Japan moved another fleet against Southeast Asia and its plentiful supply of oil, rubber and other resources.  After the war with the United States had started, in 1942 Japan occupied, with little effort, the balance of French Indo China, Thailand, Burma, British Malaya, the Netherlands East Indies and the Philippine Islands.  Singapore was a British bastion at the foot of British Malaya at the time and was well-fortified against an attack from the sea.  They felt the jungles north of Singapore were impenetrable.   When Tongking fell, the British moved many of their big guns from positions north of Singapore to defend the southern sea approaches.  Unfortunately, the Japanese recognized the difficulty of taking Singapore from the sea, attacked from the north and occupied Singapore taking 80,000 prisoners.

Surrender of Singapore

The war was primarily a naval war centered on an endless campaign of assaulting islands (from the League of Nations mandate) and capturing many.

                                                             The Carrier War

While many battles from Guadalcanal through the Leyte Gulf were fought with all classes of warships, basically it was a carrier war involving hundreds of aircraft carriers and thousands of carrier based aircraft.

At the end of 1941 Japan had ten fleet carriers, a violation of the 1930 Washington treaty limiting her to two carriers. Six of the ten were involved in the attack on Pearl Harbor:   Akagi (1927), Kaga (1928), Soryu (1937), Hiryu (1939), Shokaku (1941) and Zuihaku (1941). The six carriers launched 470 aircraft in the attack.  The four additional carriers rounding out the ten were:  Ryogo (1931), Shoko (1941), Taiho (1940) and Unyo (1939).  The dates following the names are dates the carriers joined the fleet.  The six carriers attacking Pearl Harbor were all fleet carriers as was Taiho.  Ryogo and Shoko were light carriers and Ungo was an escort carrier.  During the war, Japan appears to have built 31 carriers from two ways until later in the war when she appears to have had three ways assigned to carrier construction:  18 Fleet, 7 Light and 6 Escort.  The accuracy of this information is questionable.        

Japanese carriers in December 1941 carried as few as 69 aircraft or as many as 91. Aircraft types varied from 18 to 27 each of Zero fighters, Aichi dive bombers and Nakajima torpedo bombers.

The Japanese disaster at Midway cost them about 400 of their best trained, first-line pilots.  At the Marianna’s turkey shoot, they lost hundreds more.  During the battles of the Philippine Sea, the losses from Formosa alone were 600 more pilots.  Replacements were never as competent as the pilots lost since it takes years to train a good fighter pilot.  By the end of the war the Japanese combat air force was non-existent and by Okinawa they were forced to resort to suicide Baka bombs and Kamikaze attacks. 

At the start of the war the United States had 8 carriers, but only 3 were operational in 1942.  It wasn’t until 18 months later that new carriers were joining the fleet.  During the war the U.S. had 40 fleet carriers, 9 light carriers and 127 escort carriers.  The carrier class used most by the fleet was the Essex each of which could launch 100 aircraft.  Of the 32 ordered, not one was sunk, though several were damaged.  Of the escort carriers built, at least 30 or more were loaned to Great Britain who used them primarily for convoy protection.  At the peak of carrier production, the U.S. was launching one fleet carrier per month from multiple ways, but it was Henry Kaiser’s ingenuity that permitted the U.S. to launch one escort carrier per day or one Liberty ship per day from multiple ways.  At war’s end, there were 20-25 additional carriers on the ways in various stages of production.

It appears that both Japan and the U.S. could build individual carriers in about 18-20 months, but once U.S. mass production started, Japan was hopelessly outclassed.  Had the war continued the production rate would have improved in favor of the U.S. as a result of both increased productivity by The U.S. and reduced productivity by Japan due mainly to the heavy bombing raids of Japanese manufacturing facilities and U.S. submarine activity.      

The ability of the U.S. to move its fleets, with multiple units of fast fleet carriers, such as the 5th Fleet, as it pleased to anywhere it chose to go was a major factor in ending the war with Japan.

The war ended in 1945 when the United States dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

                                                      Post-War Speculation

The war-plans of Japan were simple enough:  Build an army capable of occupying lands having resources needed by Japan.  Build a navy strong enough in size and strength to support the army and to protect the homeland and new lands acquired through mandate and occupation.   Most historians agree that the action of the United States in embargoing oil shipments and seizing Japanese assets created a tipping point that forced Japan to attack.  But could Japan have already decided to attack at an earlier time? 

When Japan attacked China in the 1937 Second Sino-Japanese War, it did so with an army experienced from its occupation of Manchuria and Korea in 1932.  The war with China served to provide Japan with a large pool of well-trained, battle hardened veterans needed to satisfy their requirements for an army capable of seizing and holding foreign lands rich in natural resources. 
The navy depended on a construction program designed to give Japan superiority not yet achieved, but achievable in a reasonable space of time.  The islands mandated by the League to Japan provided Japan with dozens of unsinkable aircraft carriers that the army could maintain while leaving the navy to build the fleet unencumbered, so that Japan was close to having the capability of going to war with the U.S. around the time of their leaving the League. 

But when did they really start to plan the war?

After the major part they had played in putting down the Boxer Rebellion and the astounding victory in the Russo-Japanese War of 1906, Japan had reason to believe that she would be accepted more readily in the community of nations.  This did not happen, though her prestige soared.  In fact, one of her major complaints to President Theodore Roosevelt was that she was being treated as the losing nation in the war with Russia. 

Then in 1908, while her resentment still simmered, she was pressured by the United States to restrict her people from emigrating to the U.S. and entered into a “Gentlemen Agreement” to do so.  The Alien Land Law of 1913 by California and the Immigration Act of 1924 by the U.S. followed.  These actions were thinly veiled offensive restrictions which Japan had to resent.  It is easy to see how the actions of the world community and especially the United States were deeply resented.  With an aggressive military government in power and the fortifications in the island mandate nearing completion, Japan sought to distance herself from the nations which had rejected her and in1933 she left the League of Nations.  In1936 she entered into a military agreement with Germany and Italy joining people who accepted her without conditions.  The following year she opened the Second Sino-Japanese War and, in an act of defiance, caused the Panay incident.              

Flushed with success and undoubtedly encouraged by her new found friends in Germany and Italy, she began considering her options against the U.S.  The Year was 1937. 

That year Japan’s carrier fleet consisted of four fleet carriers:  Kaga (converted from a battleship) 1921, Akagi 1925, Soryo 1935 and Hiryo 1937.  Indications are that in 1937 Japan had only one way for building carriers.  It would also appear that the decision to attack the United States was considered, but not acted on, though all of the actions that were taken would lead an observer to think that Japan was preparing to go to war.   A second decision was made to expand the carrier fleet from four to ten .  In 1938 she added the Kaiyo.  During 1939-1941, she added a second way and five carriers:  Shokaku 1939, Zaikaku 1939, Junyo 1941, Hiryo 1941 and one additional unidentified carrier, all fleet class. 

By then, all the parts of the puzzle were in place:  The IJN had their modern carrier fleet, the army had completed fortifying the islands which gave Japan additional land based carrier strength, natural resources sufficient to support a short war were in place and provisions had been made to acquire additional resources in the event a long war was necessary.  Still, the navy hesitated, but despite their hesitation the army fiercely pressed for war, the Diet agreed with the army and the decision to attack the United States was made in 1941 as historians have long stated.  Yet, all of the facts that led to the 1941 decision existed in 1937.  One could say that the decision to go to war started in 1937, but took until 1941 to reach a conclusion.

When the history of Japan is compared to the history of Western industrialized nations, one fact becomes exceedingly clear --- the Japanese are different in many ways.

September 2014


Encyclopaedia Britannica Multimedia Edition DVD.
Wikipedia, various subjects.
Library of Congress.  Japanese Immigration.
Cremona, Leonard F.  Events Leading to the Pacific War.  2007
Dhahran British Grammar School.  The Schlieffen Plan.  Date?
Hotta, Eri.  Japan 1941.  2013.
Kaigan.  Imperial Japanese Navy.  2010

Friday, November 28, 2014

More on the Great Rift Valley

In 2001 I prepared an essay describing the Great Rift Valley from its origin in the Jordan Valley to Mozambique.  In the essay I described its structure and expressed my views on the possibility of the rift rupturing at the many faults from movements of the tectonic plates.  While my views were entirely speculative and didn’t appear to be seriously considered by the scientific community, the facts of the matter were that the tectonic plates were slowly tearing apart eastern Africa.  

In a July 2006 story posted by Sara Goudarzi, Staff Writer for LiveScience, she reported that the Earth’s crust had split along a 37-mile section of the East African Rift [part of the Great Rift], in Afar, Ethiopia.  As she put it, “The Red Sea is parting again, but this time Moses doesn’t have a hand in it.”

 The East African Rift is a small part of the Great Rift Valley, which extends about 3,000 miles from southwest Asia through a series of faults to eastern Africa, from the Jordan River valley to Mozambique.  In my essay of 2001, I described the route of the Great Rift in some detail and concluded my paper with the possible effects of the rift on Eastern Africa in geological time.  One of my described risks was the formation of an inland sea, a subject included in Sara Goudarzi’s story.  Another possible event included in my essay, but not discussed in the LiveScience report, was the possibility of part of Eastern Africa breaking away from the mainland due to the weight of infiltrating water on the fault areas.  Once again, time is geological time.  This problem of infiltrating water is well known to scientists who have studied the problem for the past 10-20 years and possibly longer.  These studies have been made primarily of the rift in the Kenya / Tanzania regions where an increasing flow of water, probably from an aquifer, deep well, underground river or such other water source, has been infiltrating parts of the Great Rift for years.  While the local and short-term irrigation benefits of such flows are obvious, there is concern of the long-term effects. 

What is happening?  Nature reports that Earth’s tectonic plates are moving away from each other, stretching the Earth’s crust and widening the southern end of the Red Sea.  This movement has been verified by images from the European Space Agency’s Envisat radar satellite.  

Specifically, over a period of three weeks, the crust on the sides of the rift moved apart by 26 feet over a 37-mile section, and magma moved from storage chambers at depths of 1.9 to 3 miles into the vertical crack, forming new crust.  Scientists estimate that enough magma was released to fill a football stadium 2,000 times.         

When the Great Rift leaves the Dead Sea and the Jordon trough, it is 1,292 feet below sea level, the lowest point on Earth.  From the Dead Sea, it continues to and through the Gulf of Aqaba, a northern arm of the Red Sea, which separates Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula from Jordon and Saudi Arabia, into the Red Sea. The Red Sea, as part of the Rift Valley, separ-    ates northeast Africa from the Arabian Peninsula.  It includes the area from the Gulf of Aqaba and the Straits of Tiran at the northern end to the Bab el Mandeb at Djibouti at the southern end, where it meets the Gulf of Aden.   The Red Sea did not exist 20 million years ago.  At that time, the Great Rift was the center of a trough in a land mass, which included the Arabian Peninsula.  The Red Sea was formed from a long-term tug-of-war between the Arabian Plate (moving northeast) and the African Plate (moving southwest).  The trough in the land mass widened and deepened over time from the two plates pulling away from each other.  Eventually, the strain caused a rupture in the land that is now Egypt and Sinai and the Mediterranean Sea poured into the trough forming the Red Sea.  

The Great Rift continues to form the boundaries of the tectonic plates in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.  However, it is far  more complex than two plates pulling against each other, and it is this complexity that creates the possibility, the probability, of a new inland sea.
The Arabian Plate is moving northeast, but the Eurasian Plate and the Indian Plate restrict its movement.  The combined effect of the two plates is only to slow the movement of the Arabian Plate, not stop it.  The African Plate has two parts: the Nubian part southwest of the Arabian Plate and the Somalian part south of the Arabian Plate and southwest of the Indian Plate.    

The Great Rift Valley - Kenya/Tanzania Area

 The Afar Triangle is a plate tectonic triple junction located in the Afar Region of Ethiopia, where three plates are pulling away from one another: the Arabian Plate and the two parts of the African Plate causing splitting along the East African Rift Zone.  The Afar Triangle is also called the Afar Depression or the Danakil Depression.  It is a geological depression in the Horn of Africa, where it overlaps the southern extension of Eritrea and northwest Djibouti.  However, the greater part of the depression will be found in Ethiopia.  Over millions of years, geologists expect the Red Sea to erode through the barriers surrounding the Afar Depression and flood the valley.  In about 10 million years, geologists predict that the whole 6,000 km length of the East African Rift will be submerged, forming a new sea as large as the Red Sea is now.   

In terms of the Great Rift, the Afar or Danakil Depression is where the Great Rift returns to land after moving the length of the Red Sea from the Gulf of Aqaba. 

 In her report, Sara Goudarzi notes that this is the first rifting episode to have occurred since 1970, but it is the largest single rip in the Earth’s continental crust during the satellite-monitoring era.  It was preceded by 163 earthquakes in the Afar rift alone. 

This latest split, added to the long-term rifting process, which is tearing the northeast of Ethiopia and Eritrea from the rest of Africa, could eventually create a huge new sea.  What has scientists especially excited. Is that this event has given scientists an unprecedented opportunity to monitor the rupture in real time.  This region of Africa will undoubtedly be one of the most investigated in the future of all the geological places of interest on Earth.  

In the preparation of this article, liberal use has been made of the story by Sara Goudarzi, Staff Writer for LiveScience.  Maps are from the main World Atlas, MapQuest, information on the Afar Region and Depression is from Wikipedia and the Encyclop├Ždia Britannica 2006 Ultimate Reference Suite CD, references to geomorphology are from NASA, and references to the route of the Great Rift Valley and other references are from my original essay of 2001.    

January 2007   

Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Beatles

When I saw the photo in the February 9, 2009 issue of The Record, it was total recall.  It was 1964, supper was on the table and the Ed Sullivan show was about to appear on the tube.  Lynn, then 14 and in high school, was all exited about a new very popular musical group that was appearing on the show – I think it was an 8 o’clock program.  When Ed announced their appearance, barely heard over the screams of the audience, we all left the table to view what ultimately became an historical television event.  

 And there they were!  Ed, known for his total control of his programs, could do little more than introduce the Beatles and get out of the way while they played to their very appreciative screaming studio audience.

I’ll never forget it, though my interest in their performance was nil.  It took many years, but I finally came around to acknowledging their many contributions to music and the entertainment world.

February 9, 2009