Academic journal article Military Review

"EXECUTE AGAINST JAPAN": The U.S. Decision to Conduct Unrestricted Submarine Warfare

Academic journal article Military Review

"EXECUTE AGAINST JAPAN": The U.S. Decision to Conduct Unrestricted Submarine Warfare

Article excerpt

"EXECUTE AGAINST JAPAN": The U.S. Decision to Conduct Unrestricted Submarine Warfare, Joel Ira Holwitt, Texas A&M University Press, College Station, 2009, 245 pages, $37.50.

U.S. Navy submarine officer Joel Ira Holwitt has performed an impressive feat with this book. Of the questions bothering historians and others about the aftermath of the attack on Pearl Harbor, surely the decision to engage the Japanese in unrestricted bombing and submarine warfare has puzzled most. Up until the Japanese attack, freedom of navigation of the seas and stalwart opposition to unrestricted warfare - a "shoot first ask questions later" approach to war perfected by the Germans in World War I - were pillars of American foreign policy.

For the American government to have overturned 160 years of naval and diplomatic precedent was astonishing since the decision makers all had clear memories of German provocation in 1917. Most historians have tended to simply consign the decision to anger and revenge over the dastardly attack at Pearl Harbor. Yet the abruptness of the decision still boggles the mind - at one stroke pretense and precedence were swept aside. Holwitt's book examines this question closely and reveals a much more nuanced and complex process that led to this stunning turnaround in foreign policy. Combining expert use of primary archival sources and the records of wargaming and policy papers at the Naval War College, he has found that the U.S. Navy had been thinking about the issue of submarine war zones for some time and had institutionally decided that unrestricted submarine warfare would be instituted as a matter of course (along with strategic bombing). …

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