** war and social upheaval: World War II Japan road to World War II the 1930s

World War II Japan: Road to War -- The 1930s

Figure 1.--Japan was at peace in 1930 and still a country willing to work within the established norms of the interntional system. It had a parlimentary system that was not yet fully dominated by the military. The country was unique, it was the only industrialized country in Asia. And it was the only Asian state (except the American Philippine Islands) that had a public school system. Even girls attended school in large numbers. Scenes like this make Japan look like a very normal country. One that was trying to be accepted as civilized nation. The press caption read, "Ambassador Presents Trophies: United States Anbassador W. Cameron Forbes presents Internatuinal Basketball Trophies to Japanese school girls. Team trophies and several individual medals were won by girls of the Shonei Higher Girls' School of Tokyo in the 1930 Internatiinal Basketball Freethrow Tournament, held under thevauspices of the YMCA. The cuos and mnedals, received from the United States, were presented by the Ammbassador in a cremom=ny held at the School, Oct. 8." Against all that modernity was a still very traditional system with a military with amedieval code preparing to challenge the civilian authorities, albeit in the name of the Empror. Then a series of major events led Japan down the road to war. First was the Great Depression with hurt Japan more than other countriesd because of its dependence on foreign markets (1930). (Germany was similarly affected.) Second, the Kwantung Army without approval of the civilian government seized cointrol of Manchuria from Chiina (1931). Thus was the beginning of a series of steps including assaination by which the military seized control. Third, the Governmnt under presure from the military began to lavish vast sums on armanments. Fourth, Japan withdrew from the Naval Arms Coinference (1935). Fourth, Japan began seiing the Momgol border lands. Fifth, Japan began to reach out the new NAZI regime that was challenging the esablished internatioinal order. The initial result was the Anti-Comintern Pact (1936). Sixth and most importantly, Japan invaded China (1937). This time the Chinese fought. Thevdeciusion for war was not taken by the Emperor or the Prime-minister, but rather the actions of local Japanese commanders that led to war. The War in China will dominate Japanese policy making for the next decade. The Japanese Army sciored impressive victories, but was frustrated by its inability to actually force Chian to seek terms. Seventh, the stunning Soviet victory along the Mongolian-Marchurian border should have given pause to war with more heavily industrialized nations--it did not (1939). Eighth, the rise of the NAZIs in Europoe and the declining ibluence of the Allies (Britain and France) began to build the iudea that Japan would benefit from wideding the war beyound China.

Japan and the United States faced some difficult differences, but much more difficult surfaced at the very beginning of the decade. As in Europe, the Depression had a major impact, strengthening the position of those who saw the answers to Japan's problems as expanding the Empire. And the military responded by first rejecting London Naval Accords (1930) and then seizing Manchuria which it converted in the Manchukuo puppet state (1931). Historians generally view this as the first act of aggression of the World War II era. This began a steady series of actions by the military to seize control of the civilian government. Any one who criticized or opposed them made himself an assassination target, including prime ministers. The military demanded and the Diet responded with steadily increased military budgets. This would allow Japan to amass a military force to carry out an invasion of China, but also launch one of the most successful military campaigns in history against poorly prepared America and Britain. The turning point for Japan was its invasion of China (1937). While Japan achieved battlefield victories, it was surprised with the level of Chinese resistance. Japan achieved victory after victory, but found it impossible to achieve victory in what proved to be a long, grueling and expensive war. The Japanese invasion generated tremendous sympathy for China in America which gradually escalated diplomatic protests to economic sanctions. After the Soviet Red Army smashed a Japanese army on the Mongolian-Manchurian Army (1939), the Japanese Strike South Faction rose in strength and began to target the United States which had begun aiding China. With the outbreak of World War II in Europe, am intense debate emerged in Tokyo as to how Japan could take advantage of the growing international crisis. Japan had entered World War I with minor military forces to achieve territorial gains. Now with a major military force after a decade of massive military budgets, Japan had the ability to achieve major advances. The defeat by the Red Army on the Manchurian border does not seem to have diluted the desire for military aggression, only a decision to avoid another conflict with the Soviets.

London Naval Arms Conference Treaty (1930)

The world naval powers convened in London to discuss continued naval arms limitations. The London Conference was strongly promoted by British Prime Minister Ramsey MacDonald who desired to continue if not increase the limitations established by the Washington Naval Treaties (1921). The Conference was held as the Wall Street Crash (1929) was spiraling into a serious world-wide economic crisis and the major powers desired to cut back on government spending, especially military power. A Treaty was signed (April 1930). The signatories agreed to build no replacements of capital ships before 1937. American, Britain, and Japan agreed to avoid a arms race in destroyers and submarines. They also for the first time placed limits ob cruisers. America and Britain were allocated a cruiser tonnage about one and half that of Japan. The participants agreed to another naval arms conference in 1935. The inferior status of Japan has caused considerable resentment after the Washington Naval Conference (1921-22). After the London Conference it set in motion political changes of serious consequences.

Constitutional Question

Britain and America were pleased with the apparent success of the London Naval Conference, but it was not a major development (1930). A very different reaction occurred in Japan. The Government accepted the continued inequitable treatment of Japan and the Privy Council ratified the Treaty. Elements in the increasingly assertive military, however, were outraged. The Chief of the Navy Staff resigned in protest. A controversy arose in Japan. Military and nationalist forces began to question the authority of the civilian government to reject the advise of the service chiefs on security matters. Here there was some ambiguity in the Constitution. The Constitution provided that the Emperor determined the size of the armed forces and he acted on advise. The question arose as to who would tender that advise. The military believe that it should be provided by the service chiefs rather than the civilian cabinet. [Jones, p. 10-11.] Secret societies within the military such as the Aikyojuku raised the intensity of nationalist feeling on this and similar matters.

Manchuria (1931)

Manchuria is the northeaster province of China. The weak Imperial Chinese Government at the turn of the 20th century was losing control of the Province. Both Russia and Japan were extending their influence there. This was a major cause of the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05). Japan at the time was pursuing the same policies as the European powers, forcing the weak Imperial Government unequal treaties giving foreign countries virtual control of major Chinese ports. Japan's influence in Manchuria was strengthened by their victory in the Russo-Japanese war. The Chinese Nationalists which replaced the Imperial regime defeated the war lords and began to rebuild a strong central government. The Nationalists this began to challenge the Japanese occupation of Manchuria. The Japanese move toward war began when the Japanese Army in Manchuria seized what at the time was a Chinese province. Although the Kwantung Army (Japanese military force in Manchuria) acted without Government authorization, the officers involved were not disciplines. The Government in fact set up the puppet state of Manchuko (1932). The Japanese action fomented increased hostility in China toward the Japanese. Boycotts of Japanese goods were organized and anti-Japanese rioting broke out in some cities. The Japanese bombarded the known-European sections of Shanghai as a punitive measure (1932).

League of Nations (1933)

The League of Nations was the first international organization established on the basis of collective security to preserve world peace. It was created by the Versailles and other peace treaties ending World War I. The unbridled nationalism that had inflamed Europe in the early 20th century was widely seen as a major cause of World War I. The horrendous losses in the War convinced many Europeans that there must never be another war. A League of Nations as proposed by President Wilson was seen as a way of preventing war in the future through a system of collective security. The League was a culmination of other political thinkers who had laid the intellectual background, men like the duc de Sully and Immanuel Kant. There had also been the development of international organizations in the 19th century with more limited objectives. These included the International Telegraphic Union (1865) and the Universal Postal Union (1874). The Red Cross, the Hague Conferences, and the Permanent Court of Arbitration (Hague Tribunal) were all organizations that before World War I were drawing nations together in an expanding web of international relations. President Wilson was unable to convince the American Senate to ratify the Versailles Peace Treaty which included a provision for the League as its leading provision. This weakened the League from the onset as did the exclusion of the new Soviet Union. The victorious Allied nations, Britain and France, during the 1930s refuse to insist on decisive action against Japanese militarists and Italian and German Fascism. Japan's invasion of Manchuria brought international condemnation and Japan withdrew from the League of Nations (1933).

Economic Sanctions

It would be the United States and not the League of Nations that would eventually confront Japan over its aggressive policy. The principal instruments that the United States would use would be diplomacy and a new diplomatic instrument, economic sanctions. The basis for this was the unsuccessful League of Nations efforts. President Lowell of Harvard University and firmer Secretary of War Newton Baker suggested that the United States support any sanctions adopted by the League (1932). Senator Borah, a principal opponent of the League and an ardent isolationist insisted "That way lies madness." The failure the Hoover Administration to support the League was a factor discouraging the League from pursuing any effective action. [Williams] It would be the Roosevelt Administration that would adopt the policy of using economic sanctions to dissuade Japan from aggression and war.

London Naval Arms Conference (1935)

The Americans and the British attempted to convene another naval arms conference (1935). The major naval powers met in London for another round of naval talks to renew the existing limitations decided on at the Washington Naval Conference (1921-22) and London Naval Conference (1930). These limits were due to expire (1935-37). The militarists in Japan were now in virtual control of the Government. The Japanese demanded parity with America and Britain. When this was not granted, the Japanese withdrew from the planned conference. This meant the existing limitations would expire. All three nations initiated battleship rebuilding programs with expiration of the treaty in 1936. Japan initiated the largest building program, a massive program to build 150 ships. The Japanese laid down two super battleships, Yamoto and Musashi, but the actual dimensions of these massive ships were kept secret. They were 69,100 tons, twice the size of treaty limitations. Germany built Bismarck and Tirpitz at 52,600 tons. The failure of the Conference created enough concern in Congress to approve an American naval building program, although a smaller program than initiated by the Japanese, only 100 vessels. Even so the new ships would only bring the Navy up Treaty limits. Two aircraft carriers were laid down in 1936 and 1937, each within Treaty limits. (These were USS Wasp (CV-7) and the larger USS Hornet (CV-8). No one knew at the time just how important these carriers would be. Both would reach the fleet in 1941 in time to participate in the critical Pacific battles of 1942. The Roosevelt Administration justified the appropriations in part as they would create jobs. The Isolationists and peace lobby opposed the appropriations with the slogan "Schools, not battleships". New battleships were authorized, but actual keels were not laid until after the war began in Europe. Only the USS North Carolina (BB-55) reached the fleet before Pearl Harbor.

Japanese Naval Building

Japanese nationalists were outraged by the Washington Naval Treaties (1922). Ironically Japan was the greatest beneficiary of the treaties. While Japan was the most industrialized country in Asia, its heavy industry was only a fraction of the American industrial capacity. Japan could never had prevailed in a naval arms race. What occurred in the 1920s and 30s, however, was that the United States lulled into a false sense of security, severely limited naval construction. Japan on the other hand spent lavishly, significantly expanding the Imperial Navy to the point that it could successfully challenge the United States Navy. Influenced by the innovative naval commander, Isoroko Yamamoto, gave considerable attention to naval aviation. Japan had four carriers in the early 1930s. Akagi and Kaga were rebuilt, but were not as fast as the American carriers Lexington and Saratoga. Hiru and Soryu were fast, but smaller than Yorktown and Enterprise. The Japanese resented from the beginning the Washington Naval Treaties because they were not given parity. The Treaties actually limited the United states with a far greater industrial capacity more than Japan. The Japanese seizure of Manchuria led to rising tensions in the Pacific. As the Washington capital ship limits were due to expire in 1936, the London Conferences were organized to prevent another naval arms race (1935-36). The Five-Power Treaty of 1922 and the 1930 Treaty were also set to expire. Thus the major naval powers powers met for a second London Naval Conference (1935). The Conference failed when when Japan essentially withdrew from the earlier limitation agreements. Japan withdrew from the London Naval Conference (January 15, 1936). The Japanese representative stated " ... as it has become sufficiently clear at today's session of the First Committee that the basic principles embodied in our proposal for a comprehensive limitation and reduction of naval armaments cannot secure general support. ... we regret to state that we cannot subscribe, for the reasons we have repeatedly set forth, to the plans of quantitative limitation submitted by the other Delegations." The The Japanese Cabinet decided formally not to adhere to the London Naval Treaty (June 23, 1936). A factor here was secrecy. The Washington Treaty provided all signatories details on each participating country's naval construction. Here the Japanese saw no real advantage as they could learn about American and British ship construction in the newspapers. (Secrecy and misinformation about Japanese carriers would prove to be a primary reason that American naval strategists did not believe that an attack on Pearl Harbor was possible.) Japan after withdrawing from the Washington Naval Treaties began a naval building campaign to surpass the United States. The principal carriers built were Shokaku (laid down 1937) ans Zuikaku (1938). The Japanese called these carriers super carriers and at the outbreak of the Pacific War were the two best carriers in any navy. The Japanese of course did not just build carriers. The Japanese began building the two greatest battleships ever constructed: Yamoto (1937) and Musahi (1937). Their 18 inch guns outclassed every other battleship afloat. They were twice as large as the largest American battleship. Four Kongo-class battleships were modernized, primarily to give them the speed to keep up with the carriers. Japan upgraded six light carriers to heavy carriers. Two of these cruisers (Tone and Chikuma were equipped to escort carriers by increasing to five the number of catapult launched seaplanes that could be used for reconnaissance.

Pacific Islands

The Japanese withdrawal from the Washington Naval Treaties re-opened the possibility that the United States might fortify Guam. Naval planners waned to fortify Guam to neutralizing the Japanese Marianas Islands (Rota, Saipan, and Tinian) and other Pacific Mandates. The Japanese restricted access to its Mandates and U.S. Naval strategists with good reason believed that they were being fortified. The budget-minded U.S. Congress refused to authorize the funds to fortify Guam or the other American Pacific outposts. As a result, when the Japanese invaded Guam, the small marine garrison had no weapons heavier than a few machine guns (December 1941).

Japanese Army Coup Attempt (1936)

The Japanese military led by the Army steadily expanded their influence during the 1930s. Military commanders viewed civilian politicians as weak and ineffectual. Officials who supported the Washington Naval Treaty limits in particular were disparaged. Politicians who attempted to stand up to the military were assassinated. Communists were also persecuted. An Army revolt in Tokyo failed, but left the Army essentially in control of the Japanese Government (1936). Military rule brought intensified political indoctrination in the public schools. The military also controlled the media. Military officers were appointed to key posts in government agencies. Emperor Hirohito was shaken. [Hota] He says that he feared that he would be forced to abdicate in favor of a more radical brother. After the War he indicated that this was a reason he did not question the military's steady move toward war.

Mongol Border Land (1936-45)

Japanese leaders after invading Manchuria and establishing the Manchukuo pupet state (1931), decided they needed to expand their influence in Mongolia and control of more of northern China. The Japanese occupied Chahar (1933). They then created the fiction of ane independent Mongol Military Government which would be a Japanese ally under Mongol nobleman Prince Demchugdongrub. The Japanese then invaded and occupied Suiyuan privince (1936-37). The Japanese were concerned about Soviet-controlled Mongolia and hoped to capitalize on Mongolian national sentiment. They then after invading China propt to proceed to created a political struture along the lines of Manchukuo--Mengjiang (蒙疆) / Mongol Border Land. This was an autonomous area in Inner Mongolia, formed as a Japanese puppet state (1939). The Japanese nomilally transferred it to the Reorganized National Government of the Republic of China (Wang Jingwei puppet state). It consisted of the Chinese provinces of Chahar and Suiyuan. This is riughly the central part of modern Inner Mongolia--part of modern China. It has also been called Mongukuo or Mengguguo (Mengkukuo 蒙古國), relating it to the already Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo (occupied Manchuraia). The capital was Kalgan and the Japanee continued ising Prince Demchugdongrub as a frontman, but like Puyi in Manchukuo, je was allowed no real power. The territory returned to Chinese control after the Pacific War ended with the Soviet invasion and Soviet invasion (1945).

Emperor Hirohito's Role

A militaristic party rose to dominate the Japanese government during the early era of his reign. His complicity with the militarists is a not well researched subject. Not every authority agrees with the widespread belief that Hirohito had no hand in Japan's conduct in World War II. Far from it. One example is Imperial Conspiracy written by David Bergamini (1971) who found that Hirohito was behind all the major decisions in the war, but that his role was covered up, and that General MacArthur knew, but went along with the whitewash for pragmatic reasons. Loyal Japanese officials and military commanders, unwilling to see the Emperor soiled by association with crimes committed in his name, saw their honorable duty as taking the punishment. What ever Hirihito's role, the militarists during his reign pursued expansionism, war with China (1937-45), and military alliance with the Axis powers (1940). The alliance led to Japan's participation in World War II and its attack on the United States in 1941. Toward the end of the war Hirohito sought peace, and in August 1945 he broadcast the unconditional surrender of Japan to the Allies.

Anti-Comintern Pact (November 1936)

The NAZI seizure of power in Germany (1933) meant that there was another aggrieved power anxious to overturn the existing world order and willing to use force to bring that about. The first formal diplomatic step was the Anti-Comintern Pact (November 1936). This was an agreement between Germany and Japan aimed at the Soviet Union. The foundation for the Axis agreement was laid with the signing of the Anti-Comintern Pact. The NAZIs when they seized power were hostile to the Soviet Union so Japan with its similar Fascist outlook was a natural ally. Germany agreed to recognize the Japanese puppet regime of Manchuko. Italy subsequently joined the Anti-Comintern Pact (1937). Italy joined the pact a year later (1937). The Pact strengthen the hand of the Strike North Faction as it gave the Japanese a powerful ally in a future war with the Soviets.Hitler subsequently violated the terms of the pact when he negotiated NAZI-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact (August 1939).

Invasion of China (1937)

Japan invaded China proper (1937). Many historians date this as the beginning of World War II. Fighting began with an incident at the Marco Polo Bridge (1937). Japanese forces in Manchuko poured south and a full-scale war erupted. Again the Kwantung army acted independently, but was soon supported by the Japanese Government now dominated by the military. Within months the Japanese had seized Shanghai and reached the Chinese capital at Nanking and conducted one of the most appalling atrocities of modern times, known as the Rape of Nanking. The Japanese occupied the entire coast of China and attempted to move inland to attack Nationalist strongholds. The Japanese seized large areas, but away from the coast with China's primitive transportation network and rugged terrain were unable to defeat the Nationalist Army and the Communists in even more remote areas in the northwest. Press reports of Japanese cruelty engendered considerable sympathy for the Chinese in the Western democracies. As the Japanese proved unable to fully defeat the Chinese, the war thus dragged on absorbing enormous resources. The Chinese were able to get small quantities of military assistance through British and French controlled ports in Burma and Indo China.

War Preparations

China was not the limit of Japan's imperial aspirations. Huge military expenditures were approved by the increasingly military-dominated Diet. Many of these expenditures such as naval expansion and modernization had nothing to do with the war in China. The attack on the USS Panay was in fact an attempt to spark a war with the United States. At the time the senior Army leadership did not want such a war nor did the Japanese Government. More and more military leaders, however, did desire for Japan to use its growing military might to expand the Empire. The question thus became was not if, but who Japan would attack. And there were two major factions in the Japanese Army--the Strike North and the Strike South Factions.

The Imperial Army

Japan as a country no longer had an open parliamentary political system by the mid-1930s. Japan was a nation governed by the senior service--the Imperial Army. Thus Japanese politics was basically a struggle within the Army as to what country with which Japan would go to war. The objective was obtaining the natural resources that Japan lacked. There were two primary resource-rich areas that the militarists coveted: Soviet Siberia and Southeast Asia which Japan referred to as the Southern Resource Zone (SRZ). The leading faction was at first the Strike North Faction. And they wanted to attack Japan's old enemy--Russia. The Bolshevik Revolution had increased Japanese enmity with Russia. Right-wing military sentiment was stridently anti-Communist and war with the Soviet Union had the advantage that the Soviets had no allies. The Japanese Army had seized control of Manchuria (1931). And across the long Manchurian frontier was the virtually endless vastness of Soviet Siberia. And Siberia was a tremendous attraction to the Japanese militarists. Siberia was lightly populated and had immense natural resources. And Japan with its Manchurian Army was well positioned to attack and seize Siberia. The other principal faction was the Strike South Faction. This was a stronger argument to make. It involved seizing the SRZ. This was a more difficult case to make. The Japanese Army was not in a position to easily reach the area. It would mean war with not only Britain and France, but also the United States. The American possession of the Philippines Islands meant that it would be impossible to transport the oil and other resources of the SRZ without destroying the American Pacific Fleet. And even the Japanese military was unwilling to take on the America, Britain, and France by themselves.

Military Training

The Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) established the Office of Inspectorate General of Military Training ((教育総監部 Kyoiku sokanbu--OIGMA) (1898). Its mission was to provide centralized oversight for the Imperial Japanese Army training efforts. This included the Imperial Japanese Army Academy, specialized weaponry and technical training schools, and the various military preparatory schools located around the country. The OIGMA was also responsible for tactical training. Over time the OIGMA acquired added responsibilities concerning over Army logistics, transportation, and support matters. The OIGMA also acquired considerable prestige and political power within the Japanese Army. He reported directly to the Emperor through the Imperial General Headquarters rather than to the Army Minister or the Chief of the Imperial Japanese Army General Staff Office. The IG post thus by the 1930s had become the third most powerful position within the Imperial Army. As a result, the IG position was one of intense competition among senior Army commanders. Competition for the IG post played a role in February 26 incident in which IJA soldiers staged a coup d'etat in Tokyo (1936). The Imperial Japanese Navy also had a training agency. The tactical competence of the IJA officer core proved lacking during World War II. There was no lack of discipline in the IJA, but tactical competence is a different matter. The Japanese proved highly effective against poorly led and armed Chinese troops. And they scored a major victory over the British in Malaya, but against well led Allied trips the Japanese fared badly. Officers were prone to lead frontal attacks into entrenched positions. This proved disastrous on Guadalcanal (1942). They did prove adept at defensive tactics designed to kill as many Americans as possible, although Japanese soldiers were sacrificed in much larger numbers. The quality of naval training seems much higher than that of the IJA. There was also military training in Japanese schools, although we have few details on such training at this time. We think school military training was primarily in the secondary schools, although in the final year of this War this seems to have been extended to the primary schools as part of the Ketsugo program. There were also gender differences. The military training was primarily for the boys. We note school girls being mobilized for factory work.

War in China (1937)

The Japanese militarists got what they had wanted for some time--a war. This was a war in China. They demonstrated considerable military prowess and in battle after battle defeated the Nationalist Chinese Army. The quickly seized Beijing and than attacked the Nationalist capital at Nanking. The brutality of the Imperial Army in Manchuria had gone relatively unnoticed. The presence of Western diplomats and journalists meant that the Army's appalling brutality was witnessed and reported on in all the gory detail by which the Japanese brutalized the soldiers and civilians in Nanking. The Rape of Nanking to this day stands as a chilling barbarous outrage that stains the reputation of the Japanese nation. It even moved Isolationist-minded America. The Nationalist Army resisted the Japanese drive on Shanghai, but after the city fell, the retreat south began a route. Again Westerners witnessed the Japanese barbarity--the bombing of civilians. Despite the military successes, the war in China did not go as the Japanese militarists had intended. There were several outcomes of the War. First, Japan became branded as a barbarous aggressor nation, especially in the United States which because of the missionary movement had close emotional ties with China. Second, there was no quick victory. The Chinese retreated into the mountainous vastness of central China where the Japanese could not bring its military superiority to bare. And the war dragged on fir several years. The Nationalist Government protected by geography began to receive military aid from the Western powers through Indochina and Burma. Third, rather than secure Chinese markets and resources to strengthen the Japanese economy, the war had just the opposite impact. The Japanese were forced to make huge expenditures to continue the war. And rather than obtaining resources, the Japanese had to use its resources to prosecute the seemingly endless war. Thus the war in China, rather than satiating the militarists, increased Japan's need for raw materials and began to turn the focus of the militarists from the Soviets to the western powers, especially the United States which became China's principal champion.

Strike North Faction

The Japanese military was divided by factions. There was little disagreement over the idea that Japan should use its growing military power to expand the Empire. The primary division was how best to use military power. The Strike North Faction became the dominant orientation of the Japanese Army, strongly influencing the Japanese High Command. The Strike North Faction grew out of Kōdōha (the Imperial Way). This was a political/social outlook enunciated by Sadao Araki and his protégé Jinzaburō Masaki. Araki was a respected political philosopher within the Army. His central thesis was linking the ancient samurai Bushido code with modern nationalism. Kōdōha had many ideas similar to European Fascism which also embraced militarism and rejected liberal democracy. Araki feudal devotion to the Emperor, the people, the land, and morality into a unified nationalist spirit. Despite the fact that it was Japan's industrial development that had enabled Japan to emerge as an important power, Kōdōha saw a need to return to a nostalgic notion of an idealized pre-industrialized Japan, uncorrupted by the West. Araki saw the need to purge the state of corrupt bureaucrats, opportunistic politicians, and greedy zaibatsu capitalists. The corrupt, greedy, and opportunistic were often simply those who had question the ideas held by impressionable young officers. He saw a purified state as being led by the the Emperor n a "Shows Restoration" backed by the military. For Araki and his followers, central to military preparation was ideological or spiritual training, something akin to French élan. important. Prime Minister Inukai appointed Araki Minister of War (1931). Mazaki was appointed Vice Chief of the Imperial Japanese Army General Staff. From those positions, both proceeded to purge followers of their chief rival General Kazushige Ugaki from key posts in both the Ministry and the General Staff. Ugaki in contrast to philosophy saw the need to modernize weaponry as more important. Kōdōha emerged as a major component of the Strike North Faction, in part because of its strident anti-Communist orientation. This orientation was especially strong in the Kwantung Army stationed in Manchukuo. There strategic concept was simple--sever the Soviet Trans-Siberian lifeline. The Railway was vulnerable because for over a thousand miles in ran close to the Manchukuo border. And if Japan could seize Mongolia there were even more places to cut the rail line. The Strike North Faction argued that if Japan could cut the Tran-Siberian Railroad, the Soviets would have no way to supply military forces in the Far East. The Imperial Japanese Navy could prevent supply by sea. The potential gains were immense: Mongolia, the Soviet maritime provinces, and large parts of Siberia. These buffer territories would shield the Japanese Empire in the north and provide the Japanese the enormous natural resources of Siberia. Striking north would also cut the Chinese Nationalists off from Soviet assistance. And advocates within the Army believed that this was the most achievable as it required war only with the Soviet Union.

American Aid to China (1938-39)

The Japanese invasion of China did not go as planned. The Chinese resisted, and the Japanese while conquering large areas of the country were unable to force a conclusion to the War. And war is expensive. And extended inconclusive war meant a major drain on the Japanese economy. And Japanese aggression caused both concern within the American Government and great sympathy among the public. Here American missionaries were a major factor in shaping public opinion. Isolationist sentiment against involvement was not as strong as that against involvement in Europe. The result was a series of non-belligerent American actions to convince Japan to end its aggression in China. A reports of terrible atrocities reached America and bombing of civilians, the U.S. Government responded. The first significant response was informal executive pressure on U.S. exporters, what the Roosevelt Administration called a 'moral embargo', expressing America's moral outrage at Japanese atrocities in China. [U.S. State Department, 1943] The initial American reaction was conducted at the Japanese bombing of civilians in China which the Japanese escalated when they failed to force the Nationalist Government to capitulate. Secretary of State Cordell Hull condemned the slaughter and its 'material encouragement' (June 1938). The first actual action occurred a month later, the State Department notified American aircraft manufacturers and exporters that the U.S. Government was 'strongly opposed' to the sale of airplanes and related materiel to those nations using airplanes to attack civilian populations (July 1938). Thus was essentially a non-binding embargo. The U.S. Government extended this non-binding embargo was extended to airplane manufacture and to plans, plants, and technical information for the production of high-quality aviation gasoline. These measures resulted in the suspension of the export to Japan of aircraft, aeronautical equipment, and other materials within the scope of the moral embargoes. As Japanese purchases of items other than aircraft and aeronautical equipment were minuscule, the moral embargo ultimately stopped the exportation of arms to Japan. American companies complied with the Government requests. The moral embargo/non-binding embargo thus result in the termination of exports to Japan of aircraft, aeronautical equipment, and other materials within the scope of the State Department requests. Almost all Japanese military purchases in America were aircraft and aeronautical equipment. Thus State Department by 1939 had stopped exports of American arms to Japan. The moral embargo was clearly not working. Nor were the Japanese responsive to American initiatives to protect endangered American lives, rights and economic interests in China. American economic interests in China were limited, but there were many missionaries there and this also provide a justification need to address Isolationist criticism of Administration policy. American responses to Japanese aggression was constrained by the 1911 commercial treaty with Japan. The Treaty granted Japan most favored nation status. Thus legally prevented the adoption U.S. Government from taking retaliatory measures against Japanese commerce which included Japanese operations in occupied China. The United States as a result gave 6-month notice to Japan that it attended to withdraw from the treaty (July 1939). This removed the primary obstacle to a formal legal embargo. And that embargo could be extended to any part of American trade with Japan. [U.S. State Department, 1943] The U.S. Government in addition to embargoes on Japan, offered direct assistance to the Nationalist Government. Congress approved the Administration's request for a $25 million loan to China (1939). This allowed the beleaguered Chinese Nationalists to buy American planes for the Chinese Air Force. Since the invasion of China in 1937, the Japanese had been using terror bombings of unprotected Chinese cities as a major part of their war effort. Of course $25 million in 1939 dollars was much more than current dollars, but still in terms of China's needs was not a massive sum. But it was not just the money, but the commitment America was making to support beleaguered China and oppose Japanese aggression that was more important. America was the only country in 1939 that could make this sort of commitment. And the Japanese militarist were furious over American efforts to frustrate their designs on China. .

Victory of the Strike South Faction (1938-39)

While the Strike North Faction was initially the preeminent Army faction, a series of shocking events after Japan's invasion of China led to the victory of the Strike South Faction within the Imperial Army. The Japanese were shocked at the very vocal American reaction to their war in China. This was of some consequence, not because of the moral outrage, but the fact that Japan was very dependent on America for raw materials, especially oil. The American Moral Embargo (July 1938) was thus a very real threat. Next came the NAZI-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact (August 1939). NAZI Germany was Japan's principal ally against the Soviet Union which the Strike North Faction wanted to attack. NAZI diplomats had not consulted with the Japanese before signing the pact. This led to the Japanese questioning the value of the Anti-Comintern Pact and their German ally. Perhaps the most important development was an undeclared and poorly reported border war with the Soviet Union (August 1939). The Red Army routed the Japanese along the Khalka River. This seems to have significantly reduced the Imperial Army's enthusiasm for invading the Soviet Union. The result was the Strike South Faction emerging as the dominant group in the Imperial Army.


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Jones, F.C. Japan's New Order in East Asia (London, 1954).

Kristof, Nicholas D. "Japan's Plans for museum on World War II mired in dispute," The New York Times (May 20, 1995).

Morgenstern, George. “The Actual Road to Pearl Harbor,” in Harry Elmer Barnes, ed. Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace: A Critical Examination of the Foreign Policy of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Its Aftermath (Caldwell, Id.: Caxton Printers, 1953). Critics of President Roosevelt charge that he was provoking the Japanese. This is probably a fair characterization, but the critics often do not provide a nuanced assessment including the extent of Japanese aggressions and what the President knew aboit it as aesult of the Magic decripts. They rarely mention that the President refrained from the key action, an embargo on crude oil until after it was clear that Japan had decided on war. They also do not mention that the President gave Japan an option, they could stop making war and withdraw from Indochina and China. Those were hardly aggressive demands.

Nakajima, Michio. Tennō no daigawari to kokumin (Aoki Shoten: 1990).

U.S. Department of State. "Peace and War: United States Foreign Policy, 1931-1941," Publication No. 1983 (U.S. Government Printing Office: Washinton, D.C., 1943).

Williams, Benjamin H. "The coming of economic sanctions into American practice," The American Journal of International Law Vol. 37, No. 3 (July 1943), pp. 386-396. Published by: American Society of International Law


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Created: 10:46 PM 8/17/2020
Last updated: 10:46 PM 8/17/2020