This week, we take the final plunge to Pearl Harbor. Backed into a corner by foolish decision-making and serious misreadings of their situation, the leaders of Japan will scramble at the last minute to avoid war, but refuse to make any serious concessions to do so. In the end, war will happen not because anyone really wants it but because no one wants to avoid it badly enough.
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Threshold of War
The Origins of the Second World War in Asia and the Pacific
Images and Media
Admiral Toyoda Teijiro, Matsuoka Yosuke’s replacement as foreign minister. Though less actively incompitent than his predecessor, he was not a skilled diplomat and did not have a plan to avert war. German troops crossing the Soviet border in June, 1941. The invasion of the Soviet Union was a diplomatic disaster for Japan.
Japanese troops entering Saigon in southern Indochina in July, 1941. The Japanese miscalculated, thinking that the United States would not put too much pressure on Japan as a result of the move. Japanese bicycle troops riding into Saigon. Bicycles were a cheap, effective way of speeding up troops on the move in the 1940s. Tojo Hideki at the time of his nomination as Prime Minister in October, 1941. Togo Shigenori, the liberal Foreign Minister appointed by Tojo in the hopes of averting war. Ambassador Nomura Kichisaburo (left) and Special Envoy Kurusu Saburo (right) after meeting with American Secretary of State Cordell Hull on November 27, 1941. Just 10 days later, Japan and the United States would be at war. Cordell Hull (center) with Ambassador Nomura (left) and Kurusu Saburo (right) on the way to the White House in November, 1941. The attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. This photo was taken from an attacking Japanese warplane. The strike on Pearl Harbor was a tactical stroke of genius but utterly failed to accomplish its strategic goal of hitting the US hard enough to effectively knock it out of the Pacific.
Franklin Roosevelt declares war on Japan on December 8, 1941.