tv Pearl Harbor The Road to War - the Americans CSPAN December 31, 2021 2:48pm-4:07pm EST
>> starting now, on american history tv, it's the international conference on world war ii hosted by the international world war ii museum in new orleans. you'll see several programs on the attack on pearl harbor. first up, a discussion on the lead-up to the bombing on pearl harbor from american perspective. >> we'll ask our first panel to take the stage and talk about them briefly as they come on up. so we're excited, this panel, because we get to feature two of our own from the museum here. the chair will be dr. adam gibbons. he's the defense p.o.w., m.i.a. accounting agency, research partner fellow for the institute of foreign democracy, joining him on stage, our own rob satino, senior historian. certainly many of you know rob
quite well. he previously was dual hatted as the executive director of the institute, claim to fame is the longest title of anybody at the museum. we're also joined on the stage by long-time friend of the historian, rich frank, rich, welcome. let me say a couple things about adam to introduce him to the team here, adam earned ph.d. in military history in 2019, joined the museum just over a year ago. he's got some great background in rand and other places. but here at the museum, adam's expertise is employed to augment our u.s. government effort and capabilities. those efforts are devoted to fulfilling our nation's obligation to maximize the number of missing people that we account for. at the same time, trying to
ensure that we have timely, accurate information provided to families. so it's really an incredible service to our country, our veterans and to their families. adam is sharing this panel on the we'll offer some other perspectives throughout the day. i know this will be an interesting discussion and so would that. i'm going to turn to adm and say take it away. . thanks adam. >> thanks mike. it's my honor to be up here today with these two accomplished colors. please see the kmps program.
[ applause ] >> thank you so much. mention i'm here in the room, i think, con crane is here somewhere. khan is also a recipient and holder of that distinguished prize. khan and i have elevated conversation when we're together. i want to thank you so if we can start the slides, i think rich and i are going to address the symposium from the table today. i had to sort of think about this topic. we have been talking a lot about pearl harbor here at the museum for the last few months, because we had this 80 days to pearl harbor series of postings on our website, so it's been every day
that we have been thinking about pearl harbor for at least three months and trying to put things into perspective and look at new perspectives on it has been in some ways a challenge. you never know how hard it's going to be until you do that deep really deep dive. so let me begin just by saying, and we'll put up this sort of classic slide of pearl harbor as a bolt out of the blue, the explosion of the uss shaw. rich knows everything about everything and can tell you a lot more about have the slide than i have, the fact that the ship was in dry dock, being repaired. let's just leave that one up as kind of a backdrop for a moment. i'll start with this. i don't believe in any way, shape, or form in the concept of historical inevitably. i don't think many historians should believe in it. human beings have free will. even if they have to exercise that free will against a backdrop of sometimes very powerful forces. i especially don't believe in
inevitably when it comes to discussing diplomacy and war. since war is a complex and unpredictable and often chaotic phenomenon, i really am a believer in the teachings of the great philosopher of war, the prussian, i have heard a few people saying, rob is particular familiar to you, so if you have heard me speak before, you have heard the name, and you can sort of play a klausovitz drinking game if i'm on stage. war, he said, is the domain of uncertainty and unpredictability. a space where you can only assess probabilities almost never declare a sure thing. and why is that? well, because it's such a complex phenomenon. it's a mixture of raw violence, passion, and politics. and as such, it's always going to be something of a gamble. you know, war in many ways is about as rational as a bar brawl if you have ever been in a bar and two guys start going at it. from there, it's best to get under the table because you have no idea what's going to follow next.
so he put it a little more elegantly. no other human activity is so continuously or universally bound up with chance. and that's war. so to say that anything is inevitable in the highly complex environment of diplomacy and war seems like a bit of a stretch to me. now, having said that, given the situation in 1941, the strategic imperatives of both the u.s. and the japanese empire, it is hard to see how the two countries could have avoided a war. i don't necessarily mean that pearl harbor in the way, shape, and form it transpired was necessarily inevitable, but some american-japanese war for
mastery of the pacific. and i think we can identify the point of no return. beyond which there was no real avoiding a conflict, and it's the month of june 1940. so consider this kind of a short fuse analysis of pearl harbor leading us up to the event oh for the last 18 months or so before it transpired. so in that month, the people i normally write about, the germans, overran france and the rest of western europe in a lightning campaign that the u.s. military establishment is still studying to this day. now, the president of the united states at the time, franklin roosevelt, was a liberal internationalist to the core. a believer in the sanctity of treaties and international cooperation. he was not, and maybe some of you may disagree, and that's the beauty of q&a, he was not pursuing a war policy. in his famous speech at shitalk was, new york, i happen to think franklin roosevelt was the g.o.a.t., which when i was growing up was a bad thing, the person who dropped the fly ball in the ninth inning, but now
everyone knows it's tom brady, the greatest of all time. in his famous speech in new york on august 1936, fdr reminded his listeners he had seen war. it's easy to talk about when you haven't seen it. i have seen blood running from the wounded. i have seen men coughing out their gassed lungs. i have seen the dead in the mud, he concluded, i hate war, as anyone should. you know, but he had long come to see nazi germany as a real
danger to u.s. security, and june of 1940 crystallized that sense. at the same time, he was trying dissuade japan from aggression, in china, through a series of economic sanctions. in october 1937, he had called for a quarantine versus aggressors in chicago speech. the peace, the freedom, and the security of 90% of the population of the world, fdr said, is being jeopardized by the remaining 10%. he went on. when a physical disease spreads, this is very apropos talk for our own day, isn't it? the community approves and joins in a quarantine of the patients. in order to protect the health of the community against the spread of the disease. today fdr would be reminding us to socially distance and wear our masks, i suppose. so he had embargoed weapon sales to japan in 1938. but he knew he had to move cautiously on that front since the american people were not yet lined up behind him. and june 1940 changes all of that. and i would say for essentially two reasons. it is now clear that there is a real danger to u.s. strategic interests globally, considering a europe under nazi domination,
if not outright conquest, jan these predominance in china and thus in mainland asia. the great land masses of asia and europe in unfriendly hands. it is an existential threat to the u.s. global trade, access to markets, a preponderance of the world's raw materials all closed off. and that accounts, i think, for the flurry of presidential action in the next 12 months. he starts in july broadening the embargoes against japan to include scrap iron, the basis of the japanese steel making industry, and aviation fuel. but he also invites the president of general motors to the white house to discuss conversion of the u.s. economy to a war-time footing. in the fall -- there's the japanese rampaging through china, north china, and there's
the move into france and eventually into the soviet union on the part of the germans. and there is big bill, the man on the left, the tallest of the three gentlemen there, the president of general motors at the time. he's invited to the white house to discuss conversion of the u.s. economy to a war-time footing. i was going to say legend has it, but it's not legend. it's a flat out truth. roosevelt asked mr. cunewtsen, how long will it take to convert our economy to war time production from civilian? he pulled out his computer, which in 1940 was a pencil and a scrap of paper, that's how we did computations in those days, and he said, well, mr. president, looks like 18 months. that's june of 1940 to december of 1941. he said the country would essentially have its economy on a war time footing.
in the fall, he reinstates the draft for one year only, while assuring americans your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars. and there's really the money quote from that fall 1940 speech. and it's a promise that roosevelt will keep, although it seems unusual to say that, but we can talk about that when we talk about the actual attack. he decides to stage the u.s. navy's pacific fleet from its home port in san diego, california, to pearl harbor, hawaii, to project strength
against japan in the pacific. and against all u.s. political traditions, we're still reeling from this one, he decides to run for a third term as president of the united states. his opponent is a republican, of course, wendell wilke, and the campaign sees very little disagreement over foreign policy. the danger to the country is real, both candidates agree. well, in a battle between two candidates who are saying the same thing, i think the more
effective communicator and politician wins handily, and that would be fdr, carrying 38 of 48 states in the fall of 1940 elections. he'll be president, i don't have to tell this gathering, literally, for the rest of his life. now, in a december speech, he rings out the old year by declaring the time has come to take a stand. the u.s. must become the arsenal of democracy against the dictatorships, ready to come to the aid of any free people fighting for their liberty. no man can tame a tiger, roosevelt tells the american people, by stroking it. democracy's fight against world conquest depends upon american rearmament. the capper is, everyone can take their own temperature, to me the capper is the passage of the len lease act in march of 1941. let's leave that there. here is fdr, the great communicator, at the peak of his game. let me give you an illustrator, he says. suppose my neighbor's home catches fire and i a length of garden hose 400 or 500 feet away. if he can take my garden hose and connect it up with his hydrant, i may help him to put out his fire. i don't say, hey, neighbor, my garden hose cost me $15. you have to pay me $15 for it. your neighbor's house is on fire. guess what's about to happen. your house is going to be on fire. you may not be looking for war, as trotssky oncets, war might be looking for you. and roosevelt is saying much of the same sort of thing. one of his classic formulations and for my money, one of his greatest speeches. so after june of 1940, u.s. strength is beginning to wax. japan's strategic position by contrast is deteriorating, and i'm going to say a few words about japan. we're going to delve into that,
i suppose, a bit in this panel and other panels but i'm trying not to step on too many toes. just my own thoughts. japan's strategic position is deteriorating. china has becamquagmire, vetted q word in military affairs. what was supposed to be a quick victory is tying up over 1 million japanese troops. it's an unsustainable burden on japan's economy. they need resources to fight its war, and that's precisely why june of 1940 is such a signal moment. and apparently heaven sent opportunity has provided itself. with a collapse of france, with britain fighting for its life, japan has a chance to seize the wealthy western colonies of southeast asia and the western pacific. the strategic which is of -- for westerners, it used to be spices. but it's strategic commodities. oil from the dutch east indies and especially that last. but japan's first move in that direction, the occupation of the southern half ofindo china in the summer of 1941, brings a dramatic u.s. reaction this time. a freeze on japanese assets in the u.s. and thus, a de facto embargo on oil. japan has no way to purchase american oil. sometimes said an oil embargo, my reading, it's not technically an oil embargo. it's a freezing of assets.
japan has another alternate, a mainland war with the ussr to freeze resources in siberia, but that seems out of question to jan these planners. why? they already planned it. fighting in august 1939. i do love this slide. it's japanese troops marching from one piece of nowhere to another piece of nowhere, but really marching off to their own destruction. i think is really more to the point. and there's the actual map location. so let me finish up with a bit of theoretical talk and then i'll turn it back to adam to turn it back over to rich. you know, we usually think a country goes to war when it thinks it can win, and that's
intuitive and it makes sense to us and i would like to believe it's true, but i think we need to add a corollary. i would call it the citino corollary if 150,000 other analysts hadn't already come up with it, but the corollary is you go to war, not when you think your situation is ideal but when it looks like it's getting worse. when next year will present more serious problems than this year. when the present looks better than the future. i studied german military history for a living and look no further than 1914. germany did not think it necessarily had the 100% chance of winning the war of 1914 when it launched it, but it knew it was going to have a much more difficult time winning a war in 1915, especially as russian rearmament was going to get under way, and 1916 was impossible. that's said outright, and i think it applies here for the japanese as well. and here, i think we arrive at a
kind of strategic inevitably. with all due respect to my mentor, see people jotting that down. remember, we're playing a game here. here's a recipe for war. >> drink, drink. >> down the hatch. here's a recipe for war. take japan's strong determination to win its war in china. sensible. and fdr's equally strong determination to stop it. add in the lure of those wealthy western colonial empires seemingly ripe for the picking, and as the final ingredient, and i think maybe this is the one we have neglected. be sure to add a mercilessly ticking clock.
each minute representing a gain in u.s. strength and a dimunition in u.s. strength. i think you would inevitably get a dish called war. it might be called pearl harbor as well. it may even have generated the need for the surprise attack on pearl harbor. japan can't match up man for man, pound for pound, ton for ton with u.s. production and manpower, but perhaps surprise can be somewhat of an equalizer. so maybe it does add up to pearl harbor. arguing this or that detail, and i'm happy to do it. theory can get you into some pretty treacherous waters. detail usually comes out in the bar after a couple of strong adult beverages and then people are arguing -- getting really into the weeds. but arguing this or that detail, i think, well, let us say the precise wording of the hall note sent by our secretary of state to the japanese at the end of november, sometimes called an
ultimatum and it's often said it drove the japanese to war. but arguing that or arguing other details of the pearl harbor attack, whether or not the note was an ultimatum, it can take our eye off the true state of world affairs in late 1941. i think what happens is we do get to this bolt out of the blue or not a bolt out of the blue at pearl harbor in december. thank you very much. >> thanks, rob. please welcome our second speaker, mr. rich frank. >> i'm not getting any advance in my slides. >> they say they're loading it. >> i'm sorry, okay. well, thank you. my subject is the u.s. commanders at pearl harbor. before i get to the specifics about the commanders, i need to place them in important context. the first involves getting the fleet to pearl harbor.
and the second involves the nature of the surprise the japanese achieve in their attack. president franklin d. roosevelt ordered the pacific fleet to switch its space from san diego to pearl harbor first tentatively in april 1940. the purpose was the deterrence of japan. the date is extremely significant because this was before hitler overran western europe between april and june 1940.
completely upsetting the world strategic balance. roosevelt then made the movement of the fleet permanent. the commander of the pacific fleet at that time was admiral richardson. he objected to the move most vigorously. but the whole basis for his objection was that the fleet would be far more effective as a deterrent of japan if it was left on the west coast where much superior facilities would permit a much higher degree of readiness. and contrary to later assertions, richardson at no point raised the issue of the vulnerability of the fleet to
attack while it was at pearl harbor, and in the extensive post-war hearings about the pearl harbor attack, he again affirmed that was not one of the reasons he advanced against the move. roosevelt fired richardson for his objections. he then appointed admiral husband e. kimmel as commander of the pacific fleet. in the second half of 1941, the relations between the u.s. and japan became very fraught. the diplomatic exchanges became deadlocked. the u.s. was decoding and reading japanese diplomatic traffic, but there had been no
break in the main japanese fleet code. even without actual code breaking, however, radio intelligence provided other techniques like monitoring simply the location and volume of traffic and this clearly disclosed the japanese were amassing air, land, and sea units in the far east. given japan's desperate need for raw materials, the obvious target was resources, and particularly the petroleum in the dutch east indies, which of course, is now indonesia. washington alerted the pacific and asian commands in a series
of what were called war warning messages in november, late november. the problem with these messages was that the war warnings were generic, but when they did speak about likely targets, none of them listed pearl harbor. the u.s. army senior intelligence officer sherman myles proved to be especially inept. on 5 december, just two days before the attack, myles proclaimed germany was, quote, the only axis power capable of launching large scale strategic
offenses, end quote. had president roosevelt and other leaders been reading "the washington post" on the morning of december 7 before news of thutack reached the u.s., he would have found a gallup poll had asked a representative sample of the americans people, do you think the u.s. will go to war with japan in the near future. 52% of the respondents said yes. 27% said no, and 21% declined to answer. so president roosevelt would
have been better served by "the washington post" than by sherman myles. so the overall background of these events, i have to stress, is not that there was no recognition that war with japan might be eminent, but a failure to recognize pearl harbor as a primary target. now, surprise is sort of the baseline explanation for the japanese success in the pearl harbor attack. but i would emphasize that the term surprise is not sort of a singular explanation but really an umbrella term, and it covers three separate levels of war and at four different ways by which the japanese achieve this stunning surprise. now, admiral yamamoto created the strategic surprise. he did this by inverting the bedrock conviction in both
navies of how a pacific war would unfold. the shared perception on both sides of the pacific was that the correct japanese strategy was to keep the main fleet in the western pacific and wait for the u.s. fleet to traverse the central pacific where it could suffer attrition japanese air and submarines. yamamoto had overcome terrific opposition from other senior officers in the navy with his vision to the attack on pearl harbor. finally, he threatened to resign to wine his way. at the operational level of war fare, which is the level between
strategic and tactical, the japanese achieved surprise in two different ways. first, yamamoto's own vision to attack pearl harbor contributed to the first. the imperial navy had never displayed the capability or the intention of projecting a major part of the fleet to the central pacific. we had been monitoring japanese fleet exercises in the 1930s, and there was nothing in those monitored exercises that showed the japanese had any intention other than to keep the main fleet in the western pacific. the second component of the operation of surprise rose from the amassing of six large fleet carriers into one formation. now, both the imperial navy and the u.s. navy had recognized the enormous potential of carrier offensive operations by the late
1930s. the u.s. navy also however recognized the enormous vulnerability of carriers in the days before radar and effective fighter control arrangements. up to 1941, both the u.s. navy and the imperial navy had dealt with vulnerability issue by dispersion or as the saying goes, don't put all your eggs in one basket. in april 1941, the imperial navy created the first air fleet, which by december of that year would hold all six of japan's larger fleet carriers. these would become the instruments for the pearl harbor attack. this step went unrecognized by the u.s. navy. now, while amassing the fleet carriers in one formation created unmatched offensive naval air might, the japanese made no parallel advance. the penalty for this would come about six months later off the
island of midway. now, at the tactical level, the japanese achieved a tremendous level of surprise also by developing air launch torpedos that could be used in the shall so waters of pearl harbor. these would sink 3 of 5 ships sunk at pearl harbor. the british had used torpedos in november 1940, but toronto was much deeper, about twice as deep as pearl harbor, and initially, it was believed there was -- that didn't indicate any vulnerability to pearl harbor. later, there was some indication that was sent to admiral kimmel that we may have torpedos that can be operated there, but he did not believe it was a serious threat. so the surprise pearl harbor attack temmed from three levels of war in four distinct parts. it's mew view when you understand these multiple levels of surprise, no clue about any one level would have detried the
plan for this deadly blow by mass carrier aviation. now, let's talk about the commanders themselves at pearl harbor, but before i get to other specifics, i need to give some background. lieutenant walter c. short was the senior u.s. army officer at the time of the attack. while chemal was the senior officer. the two immediate points that arise about their situation is neither was the leader. it was one of cooperation, not unified command. kimmel had made ad hoc arrangements for command, but these were not in place at the time of the attack. second, in 1936, in interservice agreement on relevant roles officially made the army responsible for protecting infleet while it was at a base within army territory. that of course included pearl harbor. now, historian brian lynn's excellent book, guardians of empire, discussed the fact that the hawaiian department was the largest overseas command that the u.s. army had between the wars.
it was also potentially the one that seemed most likely to be subjected to an attack. prior to 1941, there had been multiple prior commanders, all of whom were recognized as outstanding field commanders. short's background in contrast was in training. he was the army's highest ranking expert in machine gun deployment, and he was a micromanager, and this had served him well in his rise to this position, but now he was commanding the equivalent of an army corps, and he must be an efficient delegator, and that short was not. roosevelt appointed the 58-year-old husband kimmen and elevated him over several other senior -- several other more senior admirals to command the pacific fleet. some of those officers had previously been his senior resigned rather than serve under him. he assumed command of the pacific fleet, it was somewhat more powerful than the battleships of the imperial navy. in the spring of 1941, washington transferred about a third to the atlantic to counter the german threat. this left kimmen inferior to the japanese fleet. during the rest of the year, most of the new construction was
to the atlantic ocean. by pearl harbor day, the u.s. fleet was split almost exactly evenly between the pacific and atlantic. now at the naval war college, they taught never divide the fleet, but that's where we were in december 1941. kimmel had a current plan once the u.s. was at war, he intended to conduct an audacious scheme to draw out and defeat a major portion of the japanese fleet. a key feature of this plan was that he would need every long range search plane he had for effective reconnaissance. this is the underlying reason why no addition to his inventory of catalina ppy long range search planes would have increased their protection of pearl harbor. he was offensively minded. kimmel possessed an inextremely invaluable resource, a radio organization. this had been tracking japanese fleet movements for year, even at the time of december 1941. they were without the ability to break imperial navy operation codes. but his radio intelligence organization lost the japanese carrier force. and would not identify where it was again until it attacked pearl harbor. the japanese also cleverly
created the appearance that the carriers had remained in japanese home waters by detaching the normal carrier radio operators to remain in japan, creating dummy traffic. because radio communications at that time were generated by the human manipulation of a telegraphic key, each operator had what was called a distinctive fist which was readily recognizable by experienced radio operators. this created the impression that the japanese carriers must be located where their radio men were. now, the navy shielded its radio intelligence under extremely severe restrictions on dissemination. as a result of this, kimmel never informed short that the whereabouts of japanese carriers was unknown. but the miscommunication between kimmel and short was not simply a one-way street. as noted, short was formally tasked with protecting the fleet at pearl harbor. his tools for that mission were anti-aircraft guns and the hawaiian department's air command. they had 138 modern fighter aircraft on hand. during the increasing tension in the fall of 1941, short had ordered a significant level of
alert. but after washington sent him a war warning message on 27 november, short decided to lower not raise his level of alert. why he did that has never been satisfactorily explained. they remained mainly in storage rather than deployed. the pilots, they listed men at the radar center didn't bother to mention the contact they were looking at must indicate many aircraft and he had no reason to believe besides the blip, something than the b-17. superiors in washington.
a lot of things happened in that summer. southeast asia. that's the germans invade union. a big thing happens. lot of energy to devote to ploking their drive for empire to the western pacific. i always like to remember the quote and he's not only been a mentor to me but he's been kind of a load star.
in oklahoma. one of the things about the attack is the japanese can assess the attack for the amount of damage in the attack in the first ten minutes and the ships put up much more anti-aircraft fire. you figure they are already start for the japanese is going to diminish the effect. >> i've always been fascinated by the concept of the japanese thought this would be a good decision. the united states didn't have the will. they would sue for peace after a
period of time. was there something in particular that the japanese learned about us or thought about us that made them think we would give up and sue for peace after a period of time? >> that's a really good question. the germans had a variety of it. material factors and almost always denigrates or racial purity or tradition to go toe to toe with us.
i think the notion to democracy is a democracy was played out liberal democracy was so 19th century. it was the powers who refuse to say die and refuse to let things like rational planning and intelligence and material get in the way a drive for global power. those were the powers who would say inherit the earth. we woends up going to war with. i think those kinds of thoughts are shared widely. the variety looking at the hungarians as a weak and played out power.
racism assigning specific characteristics to a group of people by virtue of their race. >> let me add to that. if you really go back and take away, looking at the wreckage of tokyo and berlin in 1945, and you look at what happened in hostilities say when italy rolled into ethiopia in 1935 to the summer of 1941, the axis powers were winning almost unbroken stream of tremendous successes. many of them humiliating. this whole notion that both germany and japan pitched themselves as supreme warrior races that material factors didn't count because they simply had this x-factor that made it sure that they would win, and when the japanese were going through this decision-making process in the second half of '41, remember, the germans are
driving deeply into the soviet union for quite some time. it's by no means clear the soviets are going to survive. so the japanese are looking around saying to themselves, you know, we signed up on the winning team, and those americans, it's not like they're thinking it's just us versus the americans. they're thinking the americans are going to have to split their effort here. this is going to diminish their ability. one of my favorite stories, biography of yamamoto, immediately prior to japan attacking pearl harbor, he goes searching for someone to comment upon the rationality of that decision, and of course, yamamoto was not available for comment, so he turned to one of his classmates who was an imperial officer and asked him, can you explain this decision, and he says, well, it was those idiots in the imperial army and the civilians. they thought america was dominated by its women.
and if the war started, the american women would demand the war end immediately. when i read that, this thought went through the back of my mind, if they had only read or seen "gone with the wind." they would have realized they were going the wrong way. years later, i'm reading assessment by another japanese naval, post war, long essay, gets to this one section, about the americans, says we underestimated their national character, we thought they were soft and decadent whatever, it proved to be they would make any sacrifice. it was exactly like the people with gone with the wind come back to life unchanged. so if you're looking for a cocktail demonstration of your wit, say, gosh, if we had only shown them "gone with the wind" this would have been avoided. >> in you grew up in the house with my mother, you would have also not attacked pearl harbor. i miss her dearly, too. >> gentleman in the center, about halfway back.
>> you mentioned about the japanese doing their songs. was there ever any serious debate or calculation made for them going to war with just the french and british? because the rubber and tin and petroleum were colonies held by those countries and not necessarily the united states. >> that's a really good question and yes they did think about that. in fact if you flip it on the other side, roosevelt was quite concerned through the second half of '41, what if the japanese only attack the british, french and dutch, don't touch u.s. territory, will the american people rally to go into the war? and one historian found evidence they assigned a state department person to try to write a speech in december 1940 that would explain why we should go to war if our territory was not touched, but ultimately, what the japanese, when they assess this, they said look, even if we
don't immediately start war with the u.s., the philippines sit astride our essential line of communications to the resource area. if the americans ever come in, you know, we're, in a technical term, we're screwed. the realized they had to go whole hog, it was all or nothing. and one of the other ironies about this is they had made the final decision for war officially on the first of december. within that little span of a week when it looks like finally the russians are going to hold out, had they waited maybe two weeks longer, who knows what would have happened in terms of contingencies about these whole events. >> if i could build off of richard's contingency, there's intelligence flowing into german headquarters the japanese are planning some kind of strike on the americans. not necessarily pearl harbor, but japan is seriously thinking of rolling the iron dice and launching a war against the united states.
and hitler says in his, within his small circle of advisers, the okw, armed forces, on several occasions he says that's why we have to keep the drive on moscow going, he is getting intelligence on the front, we're running out of this, out of that, frost bite casualties, you imagine the bad news on the eastern front. november of 1941. one of the reasons hitler keeps that drive inching forward to moscow, he doesn't want to call it off, because that might give the japanese cold feet in their war against the united states. which he's really excited about. it will keep the americans busy, won't be able to give so much lens lease to the british, sort of give him, at least in indirect way, a fleet, japanese fleet, which is his big strategic lack, germans really don't have a big battle fleet by now. so again, what's happening in the west is having material impact on what's happening in asia, if i may quote gerhard wineburg one more time, it's because the earth is round.
>> gentleman all the way to your left in the back. >> good morning. one of you mentioned about the battle at nomanhan, and i think that's one of the great underreported battles in the war. would you -- a lot of historians pretty much dismiss its impact on where the japanese drove and whether they would actually attack russia and the peace treaties that came about shortly after that battle's conclusion. >> sure, i'll be able to make some comments on it. certainly i would not be counted amongst the historians who discount nomanhan as a figure in japanese planning. the japanese, there were some border disputes in inner mongolia between the soviet sphere and the japanese puppet colony, if you will, puppet empire. both sides had some cavalries,
some mongolian cavalries, a soviet surrogate, is that it? >> close enough? >> close enough. fighting on behalf of the japanese, that leads to bigger skirmishes, eventually divisions, and i would say roughly a re-enforced corps on both sides, both designated armies. in the course of the fighting through the summer of 1939, the better part of two japanese divisions are encircled and destroyed. they went through their entire playbook of we don't need heavy tanks, we don't need heavy artillery? why? because we have the spirit or superior morale on the part of our soldiers that will allow them to triumph, even when the material odds are against them, and there's that fascist formulation one more time, and of course, at least in inner mongolia in 1939, it proves to be bunk. the soviets have real tanks. bt-5s, if you're sort of keeping track of what soviet stage of
armor developments, not jet the t-34, but the forerunner of it, but they have tanks used en masse. they have a very skilled commander on the operational level, a young general by the name of jukot, who will go on to fame and fortune for the rest of his career in world war ii, and you have an absolute disaster on the part of the japanese. there's obviously no real, what, no real enthusiasm about having a second go at the russians in siberia, people often say, well, the russians would have been otherwise engaged. they're fighting for their lives against the germans. good point. the japanese are otherwise engaged. they have practically their entire army in china. how many land campaigns can the japanese launch? this big strategic debate that our friend ed wrote about so well in the book about the japanese army about the northern road and the southern road. north into siberia or south into the pacific to seize our resources. i think it's a debate that kind of resolved itself. still make a case both ways but
expecting the japanese are already unable to conclude a land campaign in china to be eager to have a go at the red army again in the far east after what happened 1939, that's too much even for a fascist. >> yeah, let me add on that. i obviously agree with everything rob said. the one thing is there were advocated in the imperial army that wanted to have another go at the soviets, but only if it was clear that soviets were being administered lethal damage by the germans. they thought then would be an opportunity and in fact, may flowed reenforcements into manchuria, up to 7,000 men, and other imperial officers became concerned given the lack of discipline and mutiny in the imperial army, they were afraid, hey, if we continue this build-up, someone in manchuria might decide to attack the soviets without even authorization, and they began to
throttle back the build-up, but ultimately in mew view, what really did it was when we cut off the oil, there was no rational basis to drive against the soviets without a secure oil petroleum supplies. that was -- there was one japanese historian i quote who says basically, once the oil was cut off, that settled any real serious dispute about going north or south. they had to go south for the resources. >> that would have been a battle of big battalions, dutch east indies. >> right, right. >> next question is going to be in the center here. please. >> did the japanese and the tacit declaration prior to the attack, even like minutes before that was either ignored or not received and lamented by yamamoto? >> rich i'll let you handle the details of that one, happy to jump in. >> thank you, hey, these are really good questions as always.
>> as always. the sweet spot of the conference. >> one of the things for us up here on the podium, one of the things that is so gratifying, to get an audience that asks these really astute questions. in my answer is i don't know -- no. >> and we're all out of time, sadly. [ laughter ] >> so the question, again, quickly. >> did they sign declaration of war -- >> oh, okay, i was already halfway down the path on that. interesting question, strangely enough, the japanese foreign minister didn't want to issue declaration of war, then the emperor and the prime minister said no, i think we need to do that, but the imperial navy said we can't issue anything that's going to tip off the attack, so they came up with this formula of this 14-part message, the first 13 parts we intercepted and read
and it looked like it was a wind-up for a declaration of war. that's what was being interpreted. fdr when he read the 13 parts said this means war. then, the 14th part actually said, not that we're going to war, not that we're breaking off diplomatic relations, just that we're breaking off negotiations right now. it was a tremendous letdown, and that message, they were told to deliver the message at 1:00 p.m. washington time, to secretary of state hull, which worked out to be about 7:30 in hawaii, which was a calculated effort to make sure, although technically they would have delivered some message they could claim was a declaration of the war before the attack, but not soon enough that the americans would be able to communicate to their four eastern commands a level of alert before the attack actually arrived. well it turns out that was a colossal strategic mistake
because there was nothing that so riled up the americans as the fact here they had these diplomats acting as if in good faith in diplomatic relations and then the attack comes out of the blue, and by the way, neither numura or the ambassador assistant in washington, had any inkling about the pearl harbor attack. they could read the tea leaves and know it was close. >> that sounds like a bridge to too far in terms of planning. a 13 parter and then we'll do that. so to quote one last time, in war, everything is simple. it sounds so simple. it always sounds so simple, but the simplest thing you try to do is difficult. there's an example, you can't even declare war on somebody cleanly. the italians, they fought the war and then couldn't even leave it. everything about war is difficult. that's why you should keep your plans as basic and as simple as possible. but that's a complex operational prescription that you just laid down. that's amazing.
>> gentlemen, we have one last question to your left, halfway back, please. >> can you, either one of you comment, given his service in the united states, before the war, how yamamoto felt about going to war with the americans? >> i'll give the high view, then rich can maybe get into more details, more learned on this question than i, but we always hear we've awakened a sleeping giant, hard to find the provenance of that quote, he did plan it. so how we felt about it relatively less important than the fact he was deeply involved in the planning for the read. every german general reported after the war not to be in favor of the striking the soviet union. every one of them was involved in the planning process. those are my comments, rich. >> that, you've awakened the sleeping giant is a complete made-up thing.
we don't have any -- we don't have any clear indication yamamoto thought that, his exact attitude towards americans, there's conflicting evidence on that. he clearly said at some times that, you know, we're going to war with him, we shouldn't go to war with him, and their national character is such that if we get into war with him. my view on yamamoto's ultimate thinking was this, that he did not want to go to war with the u.s., he was quite opposed to it. in fact, he was moved from a high ministry official out to the fleet to make sure he wasn't assassinated because of his opposition. but finally, when the war came down from on high, going to war, yamamoto sat down and tried to think out, well, now that i've committed to this, what's our best option? in my view, yamamoto's concept was that the only american vulnerability japan could strike at was the will to continue the war, and the attack on pearl
harbor plus repeated blows after that were his estimate of the one vulnerability japan could reasonably strike at and get the war over quickly before japan was overwhelmed, and my view is yom amotte did not embark on this with a high confidence that the war was going to be successful. he did it because it was in his view the only conceivable way he could see for japan possibly to succeed. that's why he embarked upon the attack. >> ladies and gentlemen, our panelists, rob citino, rich frank, and our chair, adam givens. >> next from the recent international conference on world war ii a discussion to the lead-up of the bombing on pearl harbor from the japanese perspective. >> we just heard from rob and rich on essentially the american perspective on pearl harbor. thers