The attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese and the infamous atom bomb attack on Hiroshima, Japan by the Americans were the two pinnacles of World War II between the Japanese and Americans. Although both of these attacks were extremely sudden and executed whilst the other country was unprepared, the events which led to the beginning of the Jap-American war had begun nine years prior. Following in the footsteps of countries such as Germany and Italy, Japan had begun to take a more aggressive approach in raising their status in the world.
The easiest route to power is through imperialism, and therefore, Japan sought to gain power through domination of city-states of other countries, namely China. The problem with this was that Britain also owned parts of China, and Japanese advances into China would also affect Britain rule. The United States, being both allies to Britain and “peace-keepers” at this point in time, thought to involve themselves in this fray. Over the next few years, a diplomatic battle was being fought between the U.S. and Japan, leading to a trade embargo, frozen funds in the two countries, and throughout Europe, and a battle for peace in China.
In 1932, in the very beginning of the conflict, the Stimson Doctrine was written.1 This doctrine, written by the Americans is basically summarizing a state of affairs going on between Japan and China. Japan has been advancing on China, and at this point in time, the United States in absolutely neutral.2 There is no intention that The U.S. wishes to involve itself in the war between China and Japan, but does want to see and end to it. They indirectly state that they, as a member of the League of Nations, do not want a repeat of the events of World War I. Also, as a member of the Pact of Paris, along with Japan and China, these countries should be at peace with one another.3
Five years later, as the conflict with Japan and China pursues, President Franklin D. Roosevelt makes a proposal. Again at the time of this proposal, The United States is still feeling the effects of World War I, and would avoid war at any cost. Roosevelt goes as far as mentioning the Briand-Kellogg Peace Pact, which unclearly “outlaws” war.4 With false hopes that war can be avoided throughout the world, Roosevelt clearly states that he will have no part in war other than to end it, and to bring upon peace. He also stresses the fact that many countries have reduced their armament so that funds can go into making their countries better places. With the fear of another World War being too much for the world, Roosevelt stresses the need for peace.5
In 1938, Japan reveals its vision for a new order throughout East Asia. For the first time, Japan shows signs that they too would like peace. The “new order” which Japan speaks of would include a tripartite relationship between Japan, Manchuria, and co-operation from the Chinese government.6 This new attitude of Japan is greatly encouraged by the powers of the world, especially by the United States, as long as China cooperates with Japan willingly, there would be peace in East Asia. The problem is that once the partite would be created, Japan would want most of the control, and China may not stand for that.7 This would ultimately lead to Japan using force to control China, and this would ultimately lead to war.
In this same year, 1938, the first signals of war between Japan and America have been shown. It has become clear that Japan will definitely march on China, and it is also clear that if Japan is successful, they will become more powerful, and become a larger threat to the rest of the world.8 The United States knows now that it is time for them to get involved, but war with Japan must be avoided. The plan eventually, is to see that Japan does not succeed over China, and to help China, the U.S. decides that they must create a trade embargo with Japan, seeing how Japan receives most of its oil from the U.S. Without oil from the United States, China just may be able to defend itself, but at the same time, the Americans are running the risk of war against the Japanese.9
By 1939, The United States realizes Japan will stop at nothing to get what they want, and that is China (or at least parts of China) under their control.10 Because of the economic sanctions brought against Japan, war has now become a reality. The Americans also understand that a war with Japan would not be an easy war, as they have struggled through many hardships before, and have always come out of them. They realize that Japanese history is a history of warriors, as the samurai has been an extremely large part of Japanese culture since medieval times.11 At this point in time, The U.S. is realizing the economic sanctions may not have been the best idea, as now they may be on the brink of war.
In November of 1941, the first stages of war have come, proposals from the Japanese, to the Americans. These proposals can mean one of two things, either these countries will come to a settlement and be at peace, or war will breakout. Japan makes the first proposal, and in some way, show that they are prepared to go to war, as the U.S. has known all along. They make many requests, involving the withdrawal of troops in certain areas, and the lifting of the trade embargo.12
It is now the Americans turn to make proposals to the Japanese, showing that they do not agree with all of Japans demands. The United States would like to lift the trade embargo, so that frozen American assets throughout Europe an in Japan can be released, but they demand the withdrawal of Japanese troops in certain areas, which Japan will not adhere to. The Americans want Japan to have peace with China by also showing cultural and economic equality.13 Both these countries want peace, but the conflict arises in that they want peace in different ways.
On December 7th of 1941 before the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japan released its “unofficial declaration of war” on the Americans. In this statement, Japan declines the proposals of the Americans. Japan states that the reasons for why these negotiations have come to this point are because of differences in cultural values. They go on to put blame on the United States and on Britain as to why peace with China was not possible. Basically, they want the United States to know that it is their fault that it has come to this.14
The attack on Pearl Harbor has just been executed, and the Americans are left with only the one option, to retaliate. Roosevelt addresses the nation with his War Message. The U.S. was caught unaware that Japan had been preparing for war against them, although they had anticipated a war very soon. After the attack they also realized that Japan must have been planning this attack for days.15 By the end of his statement it is clear, the inevitable has happened, war has been declared.
The war against Japan had almost been won by the Americans, and it was finally ended with two of the first atomic bombs being dropped onto two unsuspecting cities, leaving Japan in its worst economic state. Next to the Cold War, the attack on Pearl Harbor (which was the single event which brought the United States into World War II) was the main event which had the greatest impact onto changing America’s status in the world into the most dominating and feared power which they are today. Not only did they change the state of their own nation, but by introducing and using the first nuclear weapon, the United States have changed the entire world, and the realization of what war can do to our world.