The attack on Pearl Harbor, which occurred on December 7, 1941, was a pivotal moment in the history of World War II and the relationship between the United States and Japan. For decades, historians and scholars have debated the reasons behind Japan’s decision to launch this surprise military strike against the US naval base in Hawaii. While there is no single answer to this question, there are a number of factors that may have contributed to Japan’s decision. In this article, we will explore ten possible reasons why Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, including its expansionist policies, its need for natural resources, the failure of diplomatic efforts, and the influence of military leaders. By examining these factors, we hope to gain a better understanding of the complex historical and geopolitical context in which this event occurred.
#1 Japan’s expansionist policies
In the 1930s, Japan pursued a policy of expansionism to create a “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere” that would give it economic dominance over the region. This policy was partly driven by Japan’s need for natural resources, which it hoped to obtain by conquering new territories. Japan had already occupied Korea, Taiwan, and parts of China. The country’s leaders saw the US as a potential obstacle to their expansion plans, especially because of its naval presence in the Pacific.
#2 US economic sanctions
In July 1940, the US imposed an embargo on Japan, prohibiting the export of aviation fuel and other resources to the country. This move was a response to Japan’s invasion of China and its expansionist policies in Southeast Asia. The embargo caused significant economic hardship in Japan, which was heavily dependent on imports for its industrial and military needs. To break free from the embargo, Japan needed to secure new sources of natural resources, such as oil and rubber, which were abundant in the Dutch East Indies (present-day Indonesia).
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#3 The failure of diplomatic efforts
Japan attempted to negotiate with the US to lift the embargo, but these efforts were unsuccessful. The US was unwilling to lift the embargo without Japan first withdrawing from China and Indochina. Japan in return was unwilling to make such concessions, as they would be seen as a sign of weakness and would compromise Japan’s position in the region. As a result, diplomatic relations between Japan and the US deteriorated rapidly in the months leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor.
#4 The influence of military leaders
Some Japanese military leaders believed that a war with the US was inevitable and that attacking first was the best course of action. A quick and decisive attack on the US Pacific Fleet would give Japan the upper hand. Some military leaders, such as Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, were initially skeptical about the idea of attacking the US, but eventually came to support it as a last resort. Ultimately, it was the military leaders who pushed for the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the political leadership followed their advice.
#5 The desire to preempt a US attack
Some Japanese leaders feared that the US would launch a preemptive strike against Japan, and that attacking first would give them an advantage. This fear was fueled by the US’s increasing military presence in the Pacific, including the deployment of the US Pacific Fleet to Hawaii. Japan’s leaders believed that attacking first would allow them to destroy a significant portion of the US Pacific Fleet and prevent the US from launching a successful counterattack.
#6 The belief in Japanese superiority
Some Japanese leaders believed that their military and technology were superior to those of the US and that they could win a quick victory. These leaders also believed that Japan’s military training, discipline, and fighting spirit would enable them to overcome any technological or numerical disadvantage they might face. Japan’s leaders were also influenced by the country’s recent military victories in China and Southeast Asia, which they saw as proof of Japan’s military prowess. There were, however, more reasons. Admiral Isoroku was heavily influence by a book he read.