“I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.” – Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto –
19th Century – Japan – Japanese military leaders watch Western countries establish colonies in Asia and the Pacific to secure natural resources and markets for their goods. The tiny country, about the size of California, has little natural resources and a thirst for expansion.
1931 – Manchuria – Japan takes its first step toward building a Japanese empire in eastern Asia by invading Manchuria, a fertile, resource-rich province in northern China. Many people in the United States believe that the nation has no business at all in the international conflicts developing around the world.
1937 – Manchuria – The first major atrocities are committed by the growing Japanese military. Estimates show that between 100,000 and 200,000 helpless Chinese military prisoners and civilians are murdered. Tens of thousands of Chinese women are raped. This foreshadows the suffering that the Empire of Japan will cause in the years to come.
But, there is a glaring problem. The Japanese High Command knows that to expand, they must acquire more natural resources; particularly oil to fuel their war machine.
Meanwhile, relations between Japan and the United States get worse. Many Japanese believe that Americans are weak, lazy, and indulgent. But, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto knows that this is a myth. He studied English at Harvard while studying the American people. His time in America would later give him great uncertainty about attacking the American people. He saw the hard working, independent, and patriotic America first hand. His fear of the United States would forever live within him.
1940 – Asia – The war in Europe begins to have a significant impact in Asia because Germany’s military successes unsettle the other European nations’ Asian colonies. Japan seizes this opportunity to become the dominant imperial power in Asia. The United States begins to realize that Japan poses a threat; but not a large one. Japan is thousands of miles away from Washington. Americans just want to be left alone.
July 1940 – President Franklin Delano Roosevelt cuts off shipments of scrap iron, steel, and aviation fuel to Japan even as he allows American oil to continue flowing to the empire. Japan responds by entering resource-rich French Indochina, with permission from the government of Nazi-occupied France. This cements its alliance with Germany and Italy as a member of the Axis Powers.
July 1941 – Japanese troops invade southern Indochina in preparation for an attack against both British Malaya, a source for rice, rubber, and tin, and the oil-rich Dutch East Indies. This prompts Roosevelt to freeze all Japanese assets in the United States. This decision has a huge impact on Japan’s expansion efforts. It basically cuts off Japan’s access to desperately needed oil to fuel their planes, tanks, and other weapons of war.
This move pushes Japan to secretly ready its “Southern Operation,” a massive military attack that would target Great Britain’s large naval facility in Singapore, American installations in the Philippines, and at Pearl Harbor, thus clearing a path for the conquest of the Dutch East Indies. While “diplomatic talks” continue between the United States and Japan, war is on the horizon. The role of the Japanese negotiators changes from semi-substantive discussion to buying enough time to prepare for an attack on the United States.
November 26, 1941 – The Japanese Imperial Navy orders an armada that includes 414 planes aboard six aircraft carriers to set to sea. The flotilla’s mission is to destroy the US Pacific Fleet based at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The ships maintain strict radio silence throughout their 3,500- mile trek from Hitokappu Bay to a predetermined launch sector 230 miles north of the Hawaiian island of Oahu.
December 7, 1941 – Early Morning – Led by Captain Mitsuo Fuchida, a first wave of Japanese planes lift off from the carriers, followed by a second wave an hour later. The pilots see land and assumed their attack positions around 7:30 a.m. 23 minutes later, with his bomber perched above the unsuspecting American ships moored in pairs along Pearl Harbor’s “Battleship Row,” Fuchida breaks radio silence to shout, “Tora! Tora! Tora!” (Tiger! Tiger! Tiger!) — the coded message informing the Japanese fleet that they had caught the Americans by surprise.
For nearly two hours, Japanese firepower rains down upon American ships and servicemen. While the attack inflicts significant destruction, the fact that Japan fails to destroy American repair shops and fuel-oil tanks mitigates the damage.
Within days, the Empire of the Sun masters of the Pacific.
Americans are stunned and angry. The concept of isolationism disappears. Admiral Yamamoto’s fear is realized. His navy does not destroy America. His navy awakens a sleeping giant that will bring Japan to its knees with our courageous soldiers and eventually two atomic bombs.
In 1941, America was truly asleep and unprepared for war. But, our people always rise to a challenge.
On this 4th of July, I would like to thank our veterans and active soldiers who protect our families, nation, and our sovereignty.
You are genuine American heroes.