“A Day that Will Live in Infamy”
Americans today recognize that line, especially in conjunction with December 7. Hopefully they also know where that line came from: the speech FDR gave to Congress on December 8, after which Congress pretty much unanimously declared war on Japan and brought America into World War 2. Japan’s ultimate goal of destroying the Pacific Fleet backfired in a major way and had the opposite effect of keeping America out of their hair. America, for its part, realized how much it had underestimated the Japanese. [note: FDR actually said “a date that will live in infamy”]
However, there are a couple of interesting and much lesser known stories surrounding the attack on Pearl Harbor. I came across them separately, but putting them together is surely a seed for a lot of interesting research.
For one, 75 years ago today, in the evening of December 6, 1941, the young Japanese diplomat recently stationed near Pearl Harbor received the message “East wind, rain” from Tokyo.
The “diplomat”, Takeo Yoshikawa, known by the code name Tadashi Morimura, had spent the previous nine months in Oahu moving about freely and taking careful note of the business of the American Naval base Pearl Harbor: what types of ships, the number of each, their comings and goings. All of this he sent back to Japan as he continued to fly, walk, and swim around the island, collecting information. His dispatch on December 6 was met with the reply “East wind, rain. East wind, rain.” and he knew Japan was going to attack America. He did not know when the attack would happen, but promptly destroyed all evidence of his work.
American intelligence officials knew there were spies in Hawaii. A few even strongly suspected Yoshikawa/Morimura of espionage, but could find no hard evidence with which to charge him. If they arrested him with no concrete evidence, they were afraid they would upset the tenuous relationship with Japan and alienate the large Japanese population on Oahu. I think there was some hope left that the increasing hostility could be resolved peacefully so America could carefully watch, but not interfere with, the conflict in Europe.
If you read any of the links below, Yoshikawa liked to think he was the vital player to the success of the attack. He certainly knew how important to History his final message was. Much to his dismay, instead of being hailed as a national hero, he was blamed for bringing the war, the atomic bombs, and the ensuing suffering to Japan.
At the same time, totally unrelated yet equally important, the Taiyo Maru (nee Kasuga Maru), an ocean liner-turned-escort carrier-turned-army transport that sailed between Japan, Hawaii, and California, arrived in Pearl Harbor in November, 1941, taking the route that the Japanese aircraft carriers would take a month later from the north. I believe this route was desirable because the majority of the traffic was in a different direction and so there would be less attention focused north. Basically, the Taiyo Maru was doing a trial run in preparation. There were a few spies aboard as well. The ship anchored for a couple of days and took observational notes before heading back to Japan. (It was torpedoed by the USS Grenadier less than six months later in May, 1942.)
(Read the article from the Smithsonian Magazine. It has a good breakdown of the day.)
If you consider the fact that Yoshikawa sent is message on the evening of December 6, and Japanese warships showed up before 8am on December 7, it is obvious that the Japanese fleet was already in motion. If they had flown all night, they would not have had the fuel or energy for a two hour bombardment and then a return home. I think the Japanese warships were only a couple of hours away and for whatever reason hadn’t contacted, or actively ignored, the port authorities at Pearl Harbor. (I need to fact check this.)
December 7 is the Date that will live in Infamy. It’s the date that gave America a kick in the pants and America decided to kick back. But it’s interesting to think of December 7 as the result of long-planned aggregate operations. It is very hard to pin blame or praise on any single person on either side. Nazi Germany invaded Russia in June 1941, changing the course of the war in Europe. Yoshikawa arrived in Hawaii four months prior in March, barely two months after FDR was sworn in for his unprecedented third term, but, arguably, setting in motion an equally dramatic shift in the war in the Pacific.
Addendum:Maybe I should read more about Pearl Harbor. Looking up links, articles, sources, and pictures for this blog wasn’t nearly as difficult as I had initially imagined.
Image Source: https://www.amazon.com/East-Wind-Rain-intimate-intelligence/dp/B0006BYRH0
Image Source: https://www.navalhistory.org/2016/05/06/the-necessity-of-the-fight
Image Source: http://johnsonhansonfamily.com/showmedia.php?mediaID=78
Image Source: http://www.ww2f.com/topic/59241-posters-related-to-pearl-harbor/page-2