Skip to comments.Why would Japan attack the United States given the vast difference in petroleum production?
Posted on 06/09/2012 10:58:24 PM PDT by moonshot925
I am going to use the data from the "League of Nations Statistical Yearbook" for the year 1937. It has accurate figures for production.
CRUDE PETROLEUM PRODUCTION(metric tonnes)
United States = 148,070,000
Japan = 354,000
Because we cut off petroleum sales to them, that’s one of the reasons.
Thanks for more neat statistics, moonshot925.
The Japanese knew they would never win a war with the United States.
Why they attacked Pearl Harbor is complex.
BTW, FDR wanted to bomb Japan from China in 1940.
They went after Indonesia, which had plenty of oil.
The US didn’t have much of a military at the beginning of the war. It amazes me still how quickly and dramatically we created a fleet and an army from almost nothing to an armada big enough to fight two major wars simultaneously. And win.
That’s a very complex question, one with no simple answer, but a bare bones version is China. Japan invaded China in ‘37, and by 1941, the US government, which had a large and rather vocal Chinese lobby, had had enough. The US enacted trade embargoes on many materials declared to be related to the war in China, such as oil and steel. Trade would be reopened if certain goalposts on an American-backed plan for peace were met. Japan didn’t feel like it could back down, and the embargoes were hitting the import-reliant Japanese economy hard. Therefore, it was decided that Japan would attempt to seize the resource-rich European colonies in the Pacific. The Philippines were (erroneously in retrospect) seen as a dagger straight into the heart of the supply lines of a potential invasion of the Dutch East Indies, and the British holdings in the Pacific. Therefore, it was felt that the US must be quickly knocked out in order to achieve their ultimate goal of conquering China.
Japan underestimated the US military, overestimated their own forces, and completely misread the politics of the US. They were hoping that a swift series of military victories could bring the US to the negotiating table like Russia in 1906. They were very, very wrong.
“oil-rich Dutch East Indies”
Compared to the United States, the Dutch East Indies were NOT oil-rich. The Dutch East Indies produced 7,262,000 metric tonnes of petroleum in 1937. That is only 5% of what the United States produced in the same year.
They believed they were a superior race and invincible. Americans were not much more than apes to their way of thinking.
“The US didnt have much of a military at the beginning of the war.”
We had 17 battleships and 7 aircraft carriers on 6 December 1941. 8 battleships and 5 aircraft carriers were under construction. The US Navy was a strong force.
Of the battleships, 8 were in the Atlantic and the Colorado was at Bremerton, WA being overhauled. We all know what happened to the others.
Of the aircraft carriers, 4 were in the Atlantic and the three Pacific carriers - Lexington and Enterprise were at sea and Saratoga was in CA - were saved. None of the carriers under construction were available before December 1942. We were in bad shape after Pearl Harbor; only America’s mighty manufacturing base saved us.
We also cut off steel, ore and scrap steel too didn’t we?
Also important to remember that many strategic US weapons were in full development BEFORE Pearl Harbor.
The B-29, the P-51 Mustang, the Jeep, which gave field officers unprecedented mobility.
America also developed and deployed the finest battlefield telephone and radio system in military history.
Also, the C-47, which was the finest cargo aircraft in the war.
Rather than commit national economic suicide they attacked.
Logistics did not seem to be their strong point. Instead of field kitchens, they would issue cookable food to the individual soldiers before the campaign, enough for a week or so, even before long campaigns. Capture what you need when you finish this.
I wonder how much that had to do with the atrocities? Take a bunch of prisoners when you’ve been out of food for two weeks and what happens next...
Don’t forget Japan had invaded Manchuria in 1931 , had defeated Russia in the 1904 war, and had invaded Korea before that. Japanese militarists and emperor thought they could do no wrong. The oil embargo also didn’t stop Japan from the scrap with Russia in 1939-40. Japan was in an aggressive mood and needed to take out the U.S. and Britain to further her plans of Asian domination. They miscalculated.
In 1937 we probably produced 400 times more than the rest of the world.
Japan shot their wad at Pearl Harbor and by the end of the war they were parking their ships due to a lack of fuel. The same lack of oil caused Germany downfall.
The Japanese considered anyone not Japanese as inferior ( they still do). They also regarded surrendering as disgraceful and scorned Allied troops who surrendered as cowards who didn't deserve normal enemy prisoner treatment. By contrast, the Nazis treated pows fairly well with the exception of the Russians who they were pretty awful to. Japan's atrocities in China towards the civilian population rival anything the Nazis did, but they did not limit their atrocities to the Chinese. They slaughtered over 100k Filipinos in Manila when retreating after we invaded in 1944 with the return of MacArthur.
So keep that in mind the next time the leftists start whining about Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The A-bomb saved about 100k American lives who would have died in an invasion of the home islands... and also about a million Japanese civilian lives who would have been sacrificed to try to stop us.
It is amazing. D'Tocqueville had something to say about why that is:
In the Japanese extimation, the United States didn't have the moral strength or unity to fight a bloody war of attrition in the Pacific. They believed that one or two quick, decisive blows would eliminate our naval power and our advance bases in Asia and they would assert control and that we would accept the new reality.
They didn't know us.
It didn’t make much sense for the US to have the majority of its major ships on the Atlantic. Italy’s Regia Marina was confined to the Mediterranean and the Nazi surface fleet was virtually insignificant (apart from a few pocket battleships which were a nuisance...
Precisely. The American psyche, at that time, was such that the only acceptable outcome of the Pacific war was Unconditional Surrender. No other outcome was acceptable.
Mecca still stands. Times have changed.
That the relatively backwards East Indies didn't produce much isn't a surprise. Japan was interested in what was still in the ground, not what had already been pumped.
Japan produced only 7% of their oil needs prior to the war.
but they didn’t need more than a certain basic amount to fuel their manufacturing and military requirements
Maybe Tojo and some generals espoused the above, but the Admirals understood the fuel crisis. The first thing after Pearl Harbor was to try and secure the shipping lanes to the Indies and the oil there.
WWI and WWII ended the same way with the losers stuck without the fuel to continue fighting.
Agree on all counts. The Japanese believed that they were racially superior (and btw, still do)to westerners and even their fellow Asians. Thereby, they held a deep resentment that white westerners were the colonial masters of large chunks of Asia which they considered their right to rule. Also, being that they (Japanese) did have aspirations to have hegemony over the Pacific and all the land associated with that region, including much of China they needed large quantities of natural resources such as iron and oil. When the U.S. embargoed them from access to these resources they had to look elsewhere, such as to SEA, Australia and China. However, they (Japanese) knew that inorder to conquer these countries and to rule the Pacific it would have to take out the U.S. Pacific fleet. Hence, the attack on Pearl Harbor and the following coordinated attacks on strategic countries along the Pacific rim. Btw, initially, the citizens of these various countries perceived the Japanese not as conquerors but as welcome hero's who had arrived to free them from the “white man's yoke”. Sadly, they soon learned that enslavement is enslavement regardless of the color of one’s master - and the Japanese were very harsh masters indeed...
plato told him:
he couldn’t believe it
(jesus told him;
he wouldn’t believe it)
lao tsze certainly told him,
and general (yes mam) sherman ;
and even (believe it or not)
you told him:
i told him;
we told him
(he didn’t believe it,no sir)
it took a nipponized bit of
the old sixth avenue el;
in the top of his head: to tell him
— e. e. cummings
I think we still would have prevailed (due to the atomic bomb which was going to be developed regardless) but short term, the situation in the Pacific would have been much grimmer.
Almost certainly, the Japanese would have gone on to occupy the Hawaiian island and our all-important Pearl Harbor base would be useless to us. Further, the Japanese would have had a free hand in the entire Pacific and would also have captured and occupied Australia as well as the Aleutian islands and quite possibly the oil-rich area of Alaska.
The U.S. Navy would have been forced to retreat to the West Coast of the U.S. until such time that additional battleships and carriers could be built for Pacific operations. Remember that at that time, the focus was on the European War and the priority was to establish a beachhead in northern Europe - which was still two full years away.
It was because of Midway that the Allies saw fit to continue to pour resources into the Pacific - in order to keep the Japanese on the defensive. If not for the turning point of Midway, in which U.S. naval forces were able to achieve parity with the Japanese virtually overnight, the island hopping campaign that brought us virtually to the shores of mainland Japan by the time of the German surrender would not have been possible.
Instead, we would have been forced to put the Pacific War in a holding pattern and focus our efforts there on defending the West Coast until such time the battle in Europe could be won. The Japanese empire would have become just as powerful as Nazi Germany and it would likely taken us into 1946 or 1947 before we could be in position to drop atomic bombs on Japan because first we would need to get close enough to stage aircraft within striking distance (our atomic bombs were delivered by B-29s that were stationed on the island of Tinian) because at that time, our bombers did not have the range that they have today.
Still can’t figure how dumb they were to attack the USA
NO way we would have attacked them for going into SE Asia
Hell the vast majority of the American public wanted no parts of war with Germany or Japan until Pearl harbor
Big blunder on their part
The Japanese vastly underestimated America’s resolve. They thought we’d act like Czarist Russia after getting our nose bloodied.
Yamamoto, who had studied at Harvard and been assigned to the embassy in Washington warned the War Cabinet, “We’ll have to march into Washington and dictate the peace treaty.” in order to win. The Japanese thought that after the defeats at Pearl Harbor, the Phillipines and the western Pacific, the Americans would sue for peace.
We did not feel obligated to honor their assumptions.
What if the Japanese had invaded Pearl Harbor on December 8th?
The Japanese missed the really important target in Hawaii: oil storage facilities. On December 8, 1941, there was more oil in Hawaii than in Japan. If they had wrecked the oil storage facilities, there would have been no Battle of Midway, because there would have been no fuel for the ships and planes that won it. Instead of “The Battle of Midway” it would have been the “Unopposed Occupation of Midway”.
Plus the fact that neither Germany nor Japan bombed any major infrastructure here also helped us win the war.
And why did we do that, exactly? The story does not start with the U.S. embargo on Japan.
Also Hitler didn’t want to declare war on us either. A false promise was made by Japan that they would attack the Soviet Union if Germany declares war on us.
Not necessarily foolish on their part. The West had gotten together to fight the Chinese during the Boxer Rebellion despite the non-existence of any standing military pact. The Japanese probably feared a sneak attack by US forces if they forged into SEA Asia, ex-US possessions like the PI. They also under-estimated the logistical capabilities of US forces, and for good reason - no one in the history of man had ever transported millions of fighting men across so many time zones to fight a war using the amount of equipment needed for modern warfare. The troops and equipment used in colonial ventures like the Philippines-American War were puny in comparison.
Then you have the fact that long distance war is tough on the nation with the long logistical tail (Uncle Sam and every European colonial power in Asia). The Russians sent their Baltic fleet thousands of miles to fend off the Japanese and were crushed at the Battle of Tsushima. Surely the Russians, with the largest empire in the world, were a more formidable opponent than the US.
Besides, Uncle Sam had always been a penny-pincher in terms of military expenditures. Would he spend vast sums of money to recover a soon-to-be ex-colony to which independence had been promised (the Philippines) and a set of islands of marginal economic value (the Hawaiian Islands) whose status at the time wasn't all that different from the Philippine Islands? From a pure dollars-and-cents perspective, it made no sense for us to fight that war. And from a security perspective, it probably never occurred to the Japanese that Uncle Sam would feel threatened by the potential Japanese conquest of the Hawaiian Islands, which are over 2000 miles away from California.
They turned out to be very wrong in their calculations, but I'd say they were unlucky rather than dumb. It never occurred to them that freedom-loving Americans would subject themselves to conscription and that US defense expenditures would ever eat up 50% of American industrial output from a pre-war base of 1% of industrial output.
Perhaps if the Japanese had embarked upon a "peaceful occupation" of the Dutch East Indies, they might have gotten away with it. The British, who were preoccupied in Europe, would probably have done nothing, and so would the US.
If the Japanese still see themselves as superior to everyone else, why do they seem not to express it as in the past and why the seeming ‘’worship’’ of sorts of things (and sometimes people of American descent) American?
Like I said the USA would not have gone to war over SE Asia
In addition attacking the USA insured the Russians that they didn’t have to worry about Japan’s treaty with Germany and aiding Germany by attacking Russia so the Russians were able to bring their Siberian divisions in to defeat the Germans at Stalingrad
Look at the difference for coal production in 1937.
United States = 451,223,000 metric tonnes
Japan = 45,258,000 metric tonnes
The worst possible scenario would be one ending with Japan in control of Hawaii and possible control of Australia. However I would have to doubt if the taking of Australia would even be possible based on its large size and with China being the main priority for the Army. An invasion of the US mainland would not be possible, those same marine divisions storming beaches, would be stationed on the west coast for defense (I for one would not want to charge beaches on entrenched marines). Shipyards on the West Coast would be rendered useless, by attacks or threat of attack. Japan would also probably hit Panama to knock out the canal.
Our submarine forces would continue to wreck havoc on Japanese shipping until they had no forward areas to stage from, and any damage they would inflict would be pretty much permanent.
Germany would still fall. Japan would be facing holding island bases while their supply networks were over-extended. At some point the US would have naval superiority and force a confrontation with the JVN. Any remaining forces would be hunted down with airborne radar.
The Japanese failed to upgrade much of their military during the war, it is doubtful they would have the opportunity do so when faced with shipping problems even with their victories.
After US operations and landings in the south of France there would be little need for a large naval presence in the Atlantic and much of those forces would be moved to the Pacific.
Facing another long drawn out campaign the Japanese might have been able to secure some sort of peace (without an unconditional surrender), if they would be wise enough to see it (I doubt the Japanese military which pretty much ruled at that time would have been).
So more of the same, an island hopping campaign 2 years later than when we started, probably ending with nukes once we got Tinian
The first A6M Zero prototype went to the test airfield in an oxcart - using trucks on Japan’s unpaved roads tended to damage the aircraft. California alone had more paved roads and more railroad than Japan. In American we would have called that a clue.
The Japanese went to war with us because they imagined that we would not fight. That difference in petrol production was one of the reasons they went to war. They wanted to “unite” (i.e. conquer) all of SE Asia and grab the resources for themselves.
Interesting set of opinions.
I think something that is partially being left out of this is that the Japanese home islands have almost no natural resources. Few minerals, oil, gas, coal, etc. Even farmland is in short supply to support the population.
Japan cannot possibly exist as an industrialized modern nation based strictly on its own resources. It must bring in resources from elsewhere.
Like anybody else, they have the choice of taking resources by force (which has a cost of its own) or trade for them.
The problem is that in the 1930s nobody much wanted to buy what Japan had to sell, generally for protectionist reasons. If they couldn’t sell stuff, they wouldn’t have money to buy what they needed. The invasion of China was to a considerable extent a search for markets.
So in 1941 the Japanese had a very real dilemma: Option A - retreat out of China to the empire or even to the home islands. They would be unable to support a modern military, leaving them at the mercy of any power that still had one. They might not even be able to feed their whole population.
Option B - they could strike for an expanded empire large enough to provide both the resources and the markets they needed to support their military and industry.
They were aware Option B was a huge gamble, but to their minds Option A wasn’t even a gamble, just a guarantee of slow or fast decline back to powerlessness.
With B they had a chance, with A none. It’s difficult for me to argue with their analysis given the situation at the time.
Japan has done well since WWII, but that’s because the USA and the rest of world is willing to buy what they have to sell.
If the Japanese still see themselves as superior to everyone else, why do they seem not to express it as in the past and why the seeming worship of sorts of things (and sometimes people of American descent) American?
Although over the years I have had considerable interaction with the Japanese at the business level and my experiences correlate with my comment, this is not an original thought by me. Actually there have been lots of books and articles written about this. So, if this is something you are really interested in you can find all the information you want just by doing a little Googling. I think you will find your journey most interesting :)
Yep, i am intereste in the subject.
Why do I get the impression you know I will discover some things are not as they appear to be.
Rhetorical, I know.
The Japanese missed the really important target in Hawaii: oil storage facilities.
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
I have ‘always’ thought they left the storage tanks alone because they believed we would have turned tail and run back to the West Coast, and they could steamed back into a pretty decent Naval and Air facility with fuel in place.
They must have calculated that the U.S. would destroy the facilities before we left. Capturing the Phillipines, Wake and other western Pacific outposts was of much less strategic value than Hawaii. Without U.S. control of Hawaii, Australia is pretty much out of the War, the western Aleutians cannot be held and the U.S. starts the War on it’s own goal line.
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