Pearl Harbor

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The U.S. decision to enter World War II was not one which was hastily made. World War I had been simmering for some time, over two years in fact, prior to the U.S. entrance into this bloody affair. Endless debate had occurred at all levels of our government, and even among the general population, to the appropriate role of the U.S. in this war. As one factor after another combined to make U.S. involvement more of a probability, one factor in particular would prove to be the final straw which would topple the decision making process from one of restraint to one of action. This factor was, of course, the Japanese bombing at Pearl Harbor. Pearl Harbor was attacked on the morning of December 7, 1941 and would prove to be Japan’s greatest mistake, a mistake for which the consequences would extend throughout the war and well into Japan’s post-war future. More immediately, however, it would serve to drop the restraint which the U.S. had maintained as the war had raged on in Europe for over two years. The U.S. would have entered WWII even if the Japanese did not attack Pearl Harbor. The axis powers, Germany and Italy, were gaining to much power in Europe and then Japan decided that they were going to join with the axis powers, this was not settling well with the U.S.

World War II spanned a six year period between September 1, 1939 (the date of Germany’s invasion of Poland) and September 2, 1945 (the date of the Japanese surrender) (“Pearl Harbor Raid, 7 December 1941—Overview and Special Image Selection.” 2). After the invasion of Poland, Germany quickly struck again crushing Denmark, Luxemburg, the Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, and France. In June 1940 Great Britain stood alone against Germany and then that same month Italy joined Germany’s side in the war. It was realized even at the time of the U.S. decision to enter the war that it would be a war which would probably result in more long-term and far-reaching political and cultural consequences than any other war in history. This was realized by Japan and the United States as it was in the other major players of the war.

The United States, at first neutral to the events which rapidly unfolded during World War II, entered the battle December 8, 1941on that same day1,000,000 enlisted in the armed forces. Japan, angered by United States resistance to their expansion into the South Pacific (the Philippines and the Virgin Islands), had attacked the United States Pacific fleet (docked at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii) the previous day (December 7, 1941).

Interestingly, the Japanese had decided to enter the war only six days previous to the actual bombing on December 1, 1941 at an Imperial conference. They did so because of the Hull note issued the previous week (November 26, 1941) which required them to liquidate all the possessions they had captured during the previous decade from China.

Indeed the United States had been remotely involved in many aspects of the war up until this point. There was, however, considerable friction between President Franklin D. Roosevelt and other U.S. leaders regarding the exact role the United States should take before the attack (“Remembering Pearl Harbor” 3). Both Japan and Germany had been expanding their territories at a very fast rate and Roosevelt and other key players in U.S. government wanted to halt that expansion (“Remembering Pearl Harbor” 3). Some contend, in fact, that Roosevelt: “began to maneuver the U.S. into the war, even as he assured his countrymen he was taking every step to keep America out” (“Buchanan as Historian” 2). In reality, even Roosevelt had shown reluctance to enter into the actual warfare which was engulfing Europe. Instead the U.S. resorted to embargoes and various other forms of economic restraints which were designed to bring Japan back under control (“Remembering Pearl Harbor” 3). Recognizing even prior to the release of the Hull note that war was more of a probability than a possibility, the U.S.

Navy had...
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