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Lest We Forget: Pearl Harbor - December 7, 1941


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Prelude to War - The Plan for War is Completed
Lest We Forget: Pearl Harbor - December 7, 1941

Captured Japanese photograph taken during the attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941. In the foreground, part of Battleship Row. In the distance, the smoke rises from Hickam Field.

photo and caption credit: National Archives and Records Administration Public Domain Photographs
The outbreak of war between the United States and Japan on December 7, 1941 was, in many ways, inevitable. An oil embargo and the freezing of Japanese assets in the summer of 1941 were signs of the United States' foreign policy of opposition to Japan's aggression and conquests in China and Southeast Asia.

Japanese policy was one of non-compromise. The need for additional resources was becoming paramount.

Once a stalemate was reached it was only a matter of time before war would break out, but the summer and fall of 1941 were needed by both sides to prepare for the inevitable.

The civilian government in Japan had hoped for a peaceful resolution. The militarists needed time to plan their strategy. The United States also needed time to prepare for war on the home front and to reinforce its army and naval forces in the Pacific.

When General Hiddeki Tojo was appointed premier of Japan in mid-October 1941, any chance of a peaceful resolution was gone. In early November, the Japanese Army and Navy concluded a "Central Agreement" outlining the scheme for conquest.

A principal part of that scheme involved the destruction of the United States Pacific Fleet based at Pearl Harbor. The plan for war was completed.

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