Dear Commons Community,
Seventy years ago, at dawn on December 7, 1941, hundreds of Japanese warplanes laid waste to the United States Pacific Fleet. The “date which will live in infamy” was the turning point of World War II, which had been raging for more than two years. The Imperial Japanese Navy destroyed five U.S. Navy battleships, along with 188 aircraft, one minelayer, and three destroyers and inflicted over 4,000 casualties.
In today’s New York Times, there is quite an interesting op-ed piece by the historian, Ian W. Toll, which provides insight into the Japanese admiral, Isoroku Yamamoto, who planned the attack. Toll includes background on his experience including spending two years at Harvard and time as the Japanese naval attaché in Washington, D.C. While he masterminded the attack on Pearl Harbor, he also persistently warned his government not to enter into a fight with the United States.
“Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto foresaw that the struggle would become a prolonged war of attrition that Japan could not hope to win. For a year or so, he said, Japan might overrun locally weak Allied forces — but after that, its war economy would stagger and its densely built wood-and-paper cities would suffer ruinous air raids. Against such odds, Yamamoto could “see little hope of success in any ordinary strategy.” His Pearl Harbor operation, he confessed, was “conceived in desperation.” It would be an all-or-nothing gambit, a throw of the dice: “We should do our best to decide the fate of the war on the very first day.”
“He [Yamamoto]was one of the few Japanese leaders of his generation who found the moral courage to tell the truth — that waging war against the United States would invite a national catastrophe.”