How did American intelligence fail to give warning of the devastating Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, nearly three years into World War Two? According to BBC, the conspiracy theorists have got it all wrong.
It all happened so quickly. At 7.55am on Sunday 7 December 1941, the first of two waves of Japanese aircraft began their deadly attack on the US Pacific Fleet, moored at Pearl Harbor on the Pacific island of Oahu. Within two hours, five battleships had been sunk, another 16 damaged, and 188 aircraft destroyed. Only chance saved three US aircraft carriers, usually stationed at Pearl Harbor but assigned elsewhere on the day. The attacks killed under 100 Japanese but over 2,400 Americans, with another 1,178 injured
Although swift in execution, the attacks had been slowly brewing for years. The US had once looked upon Japanese ambitions with a level of sympathy, even indulgence. Hit hard by the Great Depression of the early 1930s, however, Japanese disillusion with party government grew and moderates gave way to militants. In 1931 Japan occupied Manchuria in northern China. Over the decade conflict intensified and in July 1937 war was declared. As Japanese aggression increased, its relations with the US deteriorated.
Although Pearl Harbor started the Pacific War, a war that Japan would lose badly, the attack itself was no failure. The Japanese wanted to cripple the Pacific Fleet and give them the space to invade South-east Asia. They did: Japan won every major battle until Midway in June 1942. By that time it occupied territory from Manchuria to the East Indies, and from India's borders to deep into the Pacific. The attack on Pearl Harbor bought Japan the space and time it needed. But instead of crushing American morale, it fuelled American determination to fight on!
Pearl Harbor and the invasion of South-east Asia showcased Japan at its best - capable of massive daring and painstaking preparation. Operationally brilliant, the attack was nonetheless strategically disastrous. Never again would Japan have the opportunity to act with such forethought and planning. It got itself the short term breathing space it wanted, but also a war against both Britain and America. To invite such confrontation was the result of courage, optimism and (possibly) madness on a massive scale. Japan lost. Faced with American military and economic might, it could never really win. So why all the conspiracy theories? Maybe because some just cannot accept that on the day, in round one, their boys were beaten by the better team.
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