The War in the Pacific: From Pearl Harbor to Tokyo Bay

By Harry A. Gailey | Go to book overview

Chapter 4
The Day of Infamy

THE DIPLOMATIC AND military developments during the last year before the war have given rise to various interpretations as to why the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and why the attack came as such a surprise to America. The reasons for the differing interpretations, even the allegation that President Roosevelt conspired to bring on the war, are not hard to find. The diplomatic maneuverings on all levels in Tokyo and Washington are difficult to follow and their very complexity tends to mask how fundamentally simple was the disagreement and how the respective positions taken by the two governments by mid-1941 made any peaceful settlement extremely difficult. This central fact was recognized by the highest level Japanese and American officials. American intelligence agents, utilizing logical deductions, devised a code-breaking machine they named "Magic" to break the Japanese diplomatic code. Thus President Roosevelt and selected advisers in the war and navy departments were kept fully abreast of presumably secret information that was passed from Japan to Washington. Given this advantage, one need not be a severe critic of the Roosevelt-Hull policy to ask how it was possible for the disaster at Pearl Harbor to have occurred. To answer this question one must look at the sequence of events immediately preceding and following Japan's occupation of Indochina on 24 July 1941.

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