1941: Countdown to Infamy

At first I didn't think this book would be that interesting but it turned out to be really, really interesting after all. It deals with the year leading up to Pearl Harbor and is a fascinating inside look at the discussions and decisions that the Japanese leaders made which led up to the act of war against the United States.

Basic Conclusions of the Book

1. Japan could have avoided going to war with the U.S.

2. The leadership in the military leaders consisted mostly of people who did not want to stand up for any thoughts of their own if they didn't agree with what the majority wanted.

3. The Japanese government kept their U.S. ambassador out of the loop.

4. The military leaders expected quick victories that would lead to a peace settlement with the U.S. and thus keep the war short.

The problem with this was that the Japanese would be essentially fighting a four-front war. They had troops in the north of China in order to meet any Soviet attack. Then they had troops in China who were in a war started in 1931 and which was expected to also have led to a quick resolution. They wanted a war in south Asia where they could take over colonial possessions. Then they also expected to fight the US., all at the same time.

They refused to recognize they would not have the resources and could not even begin to keep up with the U.S. ability to produce weapons. They underestimated the amount of their shipping that would be sunk by U.S. submarines.

5. They had major problems with their Army and their Navy not really cooperating much at all and in constant competition with each other.

6. They did not have enough trained pilots and could not replace good pilots lost fast enough.

7. They were utterly convinced that Japan could not be defeated.

The book itself

There's a good list of dates of significant things that Japan did related to wars.

The long war already taking place in China had led to food shortages of rice in Japan. The best men had already gone to the war but the farmers that were still there were expected to produce even more food. Starting in April of 1941 rice rationing was put into effect. A major anti-luxury program was begun.

The patriotic women's associations became a sort of moral, fashion and austerity police of their own.

Department stores were told to sell only one item per customer. On November 1, 1940, dance halls were shut down as the country expanded their anti-Western culture campaign and wanted to purify the Japanese people and their culture. People could be arrested for 'insufficient patriotism.' Strict censorship of all media was put into effect helping to keep the Japanese people themselves unaware of Japanese military setbacks.

The Japanese people celebrated the attack on Pearl Harbor in a major fashion. They even thanked the Emperor for his divine guidance.

On the day of the attack on Pearl Harbor (Dec. 8th in Japan) theaters ran a recorded speech by Tojo.

The rationing program was not backed up with enough goods which led to the development of a black market economy. Even with that, though, by the third year of the war Japanese caloric intake among civilians was about 1400 calories a day, well below the 2000 or so calories a day that one needs.

The leaders of Japan focused so much on avoiding conflict among themselves that this led to decisions being delayed, never made or made unwisely. They also did not want to stop their imperialistic moves. They were incredibly confident that they would win the war no matter what information was given to them.

The military had been hoping that they atrocities they committed in China would help break the will of the people but they had little success just as Hitler had little success in breaking the will of the British people.

The Japanese knew the discrimination against them that was going on in the U.S. and also knew about the history of slavery in the U.S.

One thing that helped Japan were the Axis victories in Europe which drew the attention of colonial countries away from their colonies in S.E. Asia.

There were police informers in the mandatory neighborhood associations.

The book has a great deal of information about the various negotiations between Japan and the U.S. and what was going in behind the scenes.

On June 24, 1941, the Japanese Navy agreed to a plan where they would take over the southern part of French Indo-China. Hirohito not only knew of this plan but was kept almost constantly in the loop of what was going on and at no time did he try to stop the imperialistic snowball. On November 2, 1941, the Emperor was given the details on the planned Japanese attack against Pearl Harbor. Again, he did nothing to stop it.

Censorship of the media was announced on January 11, 1941.

The turning point of the war was the Japanese defeat at Midway

All of this is just a part of the load of information in this book making this book a must-have for those doing research on the Pacific War.

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Japanese-American Internment Camps index page
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