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Why Did the Japanese Attack Pearl Harbor? Research Paper

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Updated: Apr 28th, 2020

Despite the great industrialization of the Japan, it has never had any natural resources such as petroleum and Ores. Therefore, it had always depended on importation of ores and petroleum in order to supply its industries with the needed raw materials. Before 1939, the United States of America was Japan’s major supply of ores and petroleum. Nevertheless, the situation changed when Japan continued its hostility towards China.

In an effort to stop the hostility of Japan towards China, the president of United States of America president Roosevelt and the Secretary of States Cordell Hull exerted pressure on Japan. When Japan refused to yield up to their demand, the United States of America stopped supplying Japan with the raw materials that were needed to run their industries.

Japan’s refusal to heed to the demand of the American government was highly attributed to the fact that Japan was not willing to give up the control of the Manchuria region in China that acted as a very strategic location, where it could get unlimited supply of raw materials for its industries as well as a strategic market for its manufactured products. Japan had always coveted the rich resources that were present in British and Dutch colonies of Southeast Asia.

Thus, with the shutdown of U.S.A. supply, Japan increasingly looked southwards for the supply of raw materials for its industries. Japan considered the U.S. as its only hindrance in its effort of obtaining raw materials from the Southeast and especially its naval base at Pearl Harbor (U.S. Army Center for Military History par. 2-4)

The United States of America Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor was the only existing power that could negate Japan’s navy. From a long time association of Americans and Japanese as they transacted business along the Pacific, the Japanese knew that the American had established a very strong naval base at Pearl Harbor.

Therefore, they knew that by bombing the Pearl Harbor which held Americans naval force, they will be able to completely destroy the American military force in Pacific region. Subsequently, the bombing of the Pearl Harbor surely enabled the Japanese to completely cripple down any American immediate retaliation effort.

The Japanese also understood that the American military bases at Philippines could also interfere with their effective communications between Japan home Island and the East Indies. Therefore, after bombing the Pearl Harbor, Japan proceeded with an immediate attack of the American military bases that were located in Philippines in order to negate any immediate Americans retaliation force (Answers. Com par. 3).

Every oil tanker that was heading to Japan had to pass through the Pearl Harbor that was heavily manned by the American troops. Consequently, the Japanese did not have another option, but to attack the Pearl Harbor in order to weaken the U.S. fleet that was based there.

The Japanese organized a surprise attack on the U.S. fleet at Pearl Harbor in order neutralize the American fleet at the Harbor. Consecutively, Japan had planned to destroy American central pacific bases at Guam and Wake Island as well as those located in Philippines. Japan believed that by crippling the American naval power at Pearl Harbor, Japan will be better placed to conquer Malaya, Singapore, Burma as well as Dutch East Indies.

Through this process, Japan had anticipated to establish a defensive ring around its conquered areas by fortifying island in the south and Central Pacific. The attack of the Pearl Harbor was meant to convince the Americans to participate in World War II, which Japan anticipated was a strategic move that will force America to accept a negotiation of peace in the Pacific region (Christie 85).

The Pearl Harbor was preferred as the best Japanese striking spot because of its strategic location. The Japanese had other options where they had planned to strike the Americans. San Francisco as well as the large costal cities were among the other options that Japan had anticipated to strike.

They opted for Pearl Harbor due to its proximity to Japan than other alternatives they had considered. Those Islands that comprised of Philippines and Pearl Harbor were located 8,000 miles from the American west cost, but only 200 miles away from Japan. Therefore, Japan troops had had considered that they had lesser distance to travel compared to the American troops. Japan knew that the closer they came to American coasts, the higher their risks of being detected was.

They also realized that they could not attack Americans from the mainland because they had to pass the Hawaii on their way back which will make the Americans retaliation force catch up with them. Therefore, by Japan considering all those factors, they opted for the Pearl Harbor as the most strategic location for striking.

Japan had anticipated that by striking the U.S Pacific Fleet that opposed its conquest of the South East Asia and the Pacific Island, they would be successful to conquer all the territory they had desired to conquer. They believed that even if the American will be able to rebuild their Fleet back, they will not be in a position to dislodge the Japanese from their conquered territories.

America had established an international movement to isolate Japan economically in order to force it to withdraw its control over Manchuria in China. Subsequently, the USA had already taken some appropriate measures by cutting off credit to Japan that was tailored to make Japan economically unstable to afford to purchase petroleum which was a vital resource for its industries and military. Japan petroleum mainly originated from USA, Dutch East Indies and Burma with the last two being British colonies.

Japan knew that by destroying the USA naval forces in the Pacific region, Japan navy will then be the strongest in the pacific region which will help Japan to overcome the economical consequences of the USA ultimatum. By defeating the USA navy, Japan had anticipated to conquer the Dutch East Indies as well as Burma and control the oil that was produced there in order to use it in their industries and military.

The striking of the Pearl Harbor was as anticipated by Japan. Japan was successful in crippling the American Fleet. Consecutively, Japan was successful in defeating the Dutch East Indies and Burma. The British navy under the instructions from Churchill tried to intervene and contain the Japan naval, but was not successful to fight the Japan strong navy. Therefore, Japan eventually succeeded to control all the oil producing areas in Southeast Asia (Marshall 216).

In addition, Japan opted to attack the Pearl Harbor because they believed that since America was a nation that was comprised of diverse races of people that Americans could not act as a united singular force. This was a mistake for the Japan, because when Japan continued with their attacks on US navy and Air forces in order to extend their territory to include China; the United States of America was successful in negating Japan’s efforts and thus defeated Japan when it bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki towns in Japan that led Japan to surrender (Rosenberg par. 3).

Works Cited

Answers. Com. “Why did the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor?” 2011.

Christie, Clive.Southeast Asia in the twentieth century. New York: Tauris Publishers.

Marshall, Jonathan. To Have and Have Not: Southeast Asian Raw Materials and Source of Pacific War. California: University of California Press, 1995

Rosenberg, Jennifer. Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 2011.

U.S. Army Center for Military History. “A Brief History of WWII: Japan on the Offensive.”2011.

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