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Donovan Dicks

US History GT
2/19/13

Why Did Japan Attack Pearl Harbor?

December 7th, 1941, a day that will live in infamy. On this day, the Japanese air force and

navy attacked Pearl Harbor, a United States naval base in Hawaii. The attack was a surprise to

the Americans, and there were heavy loses. The day after, the U.S. officially declared war on

Japan, and on December 11th, Germany and Italy declared war on the U.S. The question here is:

why did Japan attack the United States? Japan attacked the U.S. out of fear of its growing

military power and threat to expansion, to prove Japan was a major international power, and to

begin its move to the New Order.

Americas military power and size, specifically in the Pacific, was rapidly growing, and

blocking Japans expansion. Hideki Tojo, the Prime Minister and War Minister of Japan, said

when I think about the strengthening of American defenses in the Southwest Pacific, the

expansion of the American fleet, [] I see no end to difficulties (Document E). It is clear from

Tojos statement that the American military posed a threat to Japan as well as creating other

problems. Japan wanted to expand for multiple reasons, one being that it is a country comprised

of thousands of islands. The only way there can be trade conducted is by sea. They needed to

expand to conduct trade in other ways, so they began to conquer parts of Southeast Asia. To keep

sea trade going, they needed oil, and they had to invade the Netherlands and East Indies to do so,

which were being protected by the U.S. as well as the Philippines (Document B). Japan needed

to expand to keep trade going and provide the supplies necessary to run the island nation. The

American military stood in the way, and needed to be removed in order for Japan to continue

growing. When the U.S. imposed an embargo on oil shipments to Japan (Document C), they had
to take action. Tojo predicted their supplies would only last them 2 years (Document E), and the

U.S. had to be taken out of the Pacific.

Supported by expansion, Japan wanted to be known as an international power, a first

class nation. Being an island nation, it needed the supplies necessary to travel by sea and expand,

but the supplies were blocked by the U.S. This meant Japan could not continue expanding, it

could not continue trade for very long, and thus its world importance would diminish. Tojo

recognized this, stating I fear that we would become a third-class nation after two or three years

if we just sat tight (Document E). Tojo was worried about the future of Japan, and he knew he

had to take action to its survival and status. Through war, Japan could force American troops out

of the Pacific and obtain the oil they needed. This would at least keep them afloat, but say Japan

defeated America. Then Japan truly would have been a first class nation, dominating the most

powerful nation in the world. Japan didnt want to slip away; it didnt want to fall behind. It

wanted to be known, to have power, and the only way to obtain it was to defeat the obstacles in

its way. The biggest obstacle, in this case, was the U.S.

Japan wanted power and an empire to start its New Order, the idea that the old powers

of the world (European and American nations) would fall and the new power (Japan) would rise

(Document A). This idea and many others, including the thought that the pure Japanese race was

the master race, were widely spread among all ages all across Japan. It was clear that loyalty to

the Emperor was of great importance, as well as loyalty to the Empire. Japan wanted to rule over

the countries that had power. The nation was unsatisfied with the Treaty of Versailles and the

lack of change it discussed. Japan wanted to change how things had been, especially the

dominant nations of the world. Once again, America was the biggest and closest obstacle in

Japans path to Asian dominance and later world domination. In order to move forward, the U.S.
had to be removed. Pushing them out of the Southwest Pacific increases their rule of Southeast

Asia, and opens the way for further expansion in Central and Western Asia. Beyond this, if Japan

had defeated the U.S, it would have gained a vast addition to its empire, and one of the lead

countries in the Old Order would already be defeated. This truly would have been the ideal

solution to Japans New Order.

Japan had a lot of problems to face that prevented its expansion and blocked its path to

completing its goals. Japan wanted to become a major world power, create a vast empire, and rid

the world of anything that stood in its way. The U.S. was its biggest and closest obstacle, and so

Japan attacked Pearl Harbor to distract them and start a military campaign to destroy the

opposition. However, their plans did not quite succeed.