Why is it okay for Japan to attack Pearl Harbour, but not okay for America to fight back?

I've always wondered this...

Japan attack Pearl Harbour without any warning.

After the attack, we warned Japan to surrender, or they'll be very sorry. But, no.... they didn't surrender so we the dropped the nuclear bomb. (we also dropped a second, with a CHANCE TO SURRENDER BEFORE IT HAPPENS)

Now, several decades later, everybody always calls America a cruel evil country for bombing Japan; but they never say anything about Japan attacking us FIRST.

Are the people that are angry at America saying that we should've just ignored Japan, and let them strike again; most probably on the main land the next time?

6 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    ~William H is correct about some people being ignorant of history. Count him among them.

    The attack on Pearl was NOT unprovoked. FDR wanted to get into the war in Europe (well, we already were, but he wanted a declaration of war so we didn't have to lie about being neutral and so we could step up the aid against Hitler). He knew Congress would never give him his declaration of war and he knew the American people wouldn't stand for it. Even after he effectively declared war on Germany during his Fireside Chat on 9/11 1941 by bragging that he had ordered US Navy vessels to fire on German warships spotted in US 'defensive waters' on sight and without provocation (going on to describe US defensive waters as the entire Atlantic Ocean, especially from the US coast along Canada, past Greenland and Iceland to the shores of the British Isles), he continued to get resistance from Congress and the electorate. He figured that if Japan could be provoked into attacking, he could get into the war in Europe through the back door.

    For a basic primmer in how the attack could be provoked, read the McCollum Memo. Pay particular attention to the conclusion that "if Japan can be provoked into attacking, so much the better". Then follow US conduct toward Japan. The embargoes were bad enough. Violating treaty after treaty and building up bases all across the Pacific, especially on Luzon, at Subic Bay, at Clark Field, on Guam, on Midway, on Formosa, throughout the Philippines and at Pearl was surely not designed to win friends. US policy since the days of Matthew Perry and the Black Ships had been designed to subjugate Japan and relegate her the the ranks of wannabe nations.

    On the same day FDR ordered the seizure of all Japanese assets in the US, he also created an entire new army, the USAFFE, pulled Douglas out of retirement to lead it and stationed it in the Philippines. Then he added an air wing to that army, the USAAFE, and stationed the largest collection of US warplanes outside the US in the Philippines. The ever increasing US military presence astride vital Japanese trade and military routes was a dagger to Japan's throat. Then FDR ordered the Pacific Fleet to be moved from the safety of San Diego to Pearl Harbor. CinCPac James Otto Richardson complained of the stupidity of such and order, claiming the move was an unnecessary provocation likely to induce a Japanese military response, and he complained that the fleet would be a sitting duck for a carrier launched Japanese air attack. He complained that neither he nor anyone else could protect the fleet at the indefensible base at Pearl. After twice refusing to obey the order, Richardson complied but he continued to voice his concerns. For his effort, he was relieved of command. Chester Nimitz was offered the post. Nimitz agreed with Richardson, expected the fleet to be attacked and destroyed at Pearl and knew that whoever was in charge would be the fall guy, the scapegoat who got the blame. Nimitz declined the job and it went to Husband Kimmel. Kimmel echoed Richardson's warnings, and he too was ignored. As anticipated by Nimitz (and a host of others), the attack came and Kimmel got the blame. Now Nimitz took the promotion, because he was in a position where he could actually do some good in command (once he rebuilt the fleet).

    The aid the US was sending to Ho Chi Minh and the Vietminh was icing on the cake. Back when they were our allies, we called them patriots, nationalists and freedom fighters and we promised to help them in their fight for independence. Later, we would stab them in the back at Tehran, at Tokyo Bay and again in 1946, 1954 and 1956. The result of that treachery was the Vietnam War.

    The last straw was the Hull Note. Before the ultimatum was delivered, it was pretty much agree by all concerned that the reply would be a surprise attacks. From code intercepts, the date of the attack was known (within a few day span) but the target was unsure. However, the logical targets to anyone with half a brain were the Philippines and Pearl, with Midway being very near the top of the list. Japan's goal in launching Kido Butai was to destroy the Pacific Fleet in one attack, before it was launched against Japan, and to bring the US to the bargaining table to force a reduction of the US military presence in Japan's sphere of influence, to stop the constant and ever escalating provocations, to obtain the release of Japan's assets and to relieve the embargoes. Japan did not want war with the US and had no intention of invading US soil. Even Tojo acknowledged that Japan would have no chance to win a prolonged war against the industrial might of the US. The Japanese goal with the US, and the intended purpose of Pearl Harbor, was to obtain peace and an honest neutrality from Uncle Sam.

    Now let's consider Little Boy and Fat Man. After the defeat at Saipan, the Tojo Cabinet fell and the peace movement within the Japanese government grew. The peace feelers that the Japanese had been sending through Sweden, Switzerland and Moscow increased - and continued to be disregarded and ignored by FDR and later by HST. Nothing short of unconditional surrender (a ludicrous, immoral and self-defeating demand) was politically acceptable. By August 1945, the Japanese Navy had ceased to exist. The few remaining ships were rotting at their moorings, decommissioned and unmanned. The army was bogged down in China; the Sawleen Campaign had been successfully concluded and the Chihchiang Campaign was well underway. Even if Japan could somehow slip troops through the blockade to bring them home to defend the home islands, even if ships were available to attempt that impossible task, the troops couldn't be spared because of the reversals they were suffering in China.

    Japan has never been able to feed her people from resources available on the home islands, and most of her strategic raw materials were imported. The blockade was slowly starving the nation (and the troops trapped on the home islands) to death and Japanese industries had all but shut down. With no steel and rubber, weapons could not be manufactured. While the Imperial Air Force still had some planes, she lacked trained and experienced pilots to fly them and she lacked the fuel to put them in the air. In fact, the Japanese watched both Enola Gay and Bockscar for hours on radar as they were inbound, but it was decided not to risk precious pilots and fighter aircraft in an effort to intercept such small formations (perhaps had the Japanese command known what cargo they carried, that decision would have been different.

    By August 1945, 67 Japanese cities had been destroyed by conventional TNT and incendiary bombs. Two million Japanese civilians had been killed in the bombing. Curtis LeMay complained that he had no targets of value against which to task his bombers. [Hiroshima had been spared, as had Kukura, because they were off limits, being the intended targets of the nukes and the brass wanted damage assessments of the effect of the weapons on virgin targets. Nagasaki was a secondary target and had been hit, but only lightly. When cloud cover prevented good pictures of Kukura, Sweeney diverted Bockscar to Nagasaki and incinerated it instead.]

    Dwight Eisenhower, Chester Nimitz, Douglas MacArthur, Chief of Staff Leahy and most of the Pentagon planners who were in on the secret all recommended against using the nukes because they were not necessary to end the war, would not save lives and would damage the US reputation in the post war world. The military leadership asked that the bombs, if they must be used, be used on military targets or troop concentrations, that they be held in reserve until sometime near the kick off date of Operation Downfall (the planned invasion of Japan) and that they be used somewhere near the invasion sites. Most planners did not believe the invasion would be necessary, especially since Japan had been requesting peace. MacArthur recommended negotiating, perhaps with a cease fire in place. Nimitz agreed. A majority of the Manhattan Project scientists opposed using the weapons at all or asked that they be dropped on an uninhabited target. At the very least, they asked that the bombs be used on military targets.

    Harry Stimson told HST that anything less than unconditional surrender would cost him votes. Truman knew the Red Army had won the war in Europe, on its own with very little significant help from the Western Allies. After Stalin kept his promise and declared war on Japan after Berlin fell, the Red Army was eating up the Imperial Japanese Army in Manchuria just as efficiently as it had defeated the Heer Army in Europe. He saw what a formidable foe the Chinese would be and it was obvious that Mao was going to prevail in the power struggle taking place in China, even as the various Chinese armies were driving the Japanese invaders out. Mao and Stalin had to be told that not only did the US have such heinous weapons, but it was barbaric enough to use them, even on a defeated foe who lacked the wherewithal to continue to fight.

    In July 1946, the US Strategic bombing survey confirmed Nimitz, Ike and company had been right. It concluded that the Japanese surrender would have come within 2 or 3 months, even if the bombs had not been used, even if the Soviets had not declared war on Japan, even if the invasion of Japan had never been contemplated, let alone planned. In other words, the war was already over when the bombs fell. Had Truman chosen to, he could have had a cease fire in place and achieved a negotiated peace, as was recommended by his top battlefield commanders.

    These basic facts were known by 1946 at the latest by the rest of the world. I find it strange and more than a little frightening that they still seem to be unknown to most Americans even today, some 65 years later.

  • 1 decade ago

    Obviously, either the people that are talking to you are completely ignorant of history or you did not understand what they were trying to say.

    First problem with your question is "everybody always calls America a cruel evil country for bombing Japan". This is a complete generalization that isn't even close to being true. Not even a majority of Americans believe that the US was cruel to drop A-Bombs on Japan to end WW2.

    SOME people may believe that, but what they believe is irrelevant, the only people that matter was Harry Truman and the military personnel who would have been at risk during the invasion of Japan.

    The second problem with your question is "Are the people that are angry at America saying that we should've just ignored Japan, and let them strike again; most probably on the main land the next time?" is that Japan did not have the ability to strike at America again after the Battle of Midway on June 4-6, 1942. The question becomes was it more effective to do a full scale invasion and risk all of those casualties to American military and Japanese military and civilian casualties that an invasion would entail or go with the A-Bomb and hopefully end the war immediately. In addition, going with the A-Bomb would hopefully send a message to everyone that the cost of the next war against the USA would be to terrible to contemplate, let alone actually to start.


  • 1 decade ago

    You're presenting a false dichotomy. There were a range of choices between doing nothing and using atomic weapons on Japan some four years later. There are arguments to justify the bombing of Japan with atomic weapons, however none of them have anything at all to do with Pearl Harbour or who started what.

  • 1 decade ago

    Japan attacked the United States Navy at Pearl Harbor.

    The United States detonated a nuclear device in two major Japanese cities.

    I'm not necessarily giving my stance, but I believe a lot of the criticism has come from the fact that while Japan chose a military target, the United States knowingly killed thousands of civilians.

  • How do you think about the answers? You can sign in to vote the answer.
  • 1 decade ago

    Because America is supposed to be a loving country. But i think we should've bombed there asses earlier.

  • 1 decade ago

    I think they thought it was more wrong for us to drop the bomb is all. I don't think they would of stopped if we hadn't though.

Still have questions? Get your answers by asking now.