Contents - Hirohito's War
5 Pearl Harbor: Yamamoto’s Great Mistake
[7 December 1941 in Hawaii and Washington: 8 December 1941 in Tokyo]
[Drawing: 5.1] [Maps: 5.2, 5.3, 5.4]
The Conquest of Hawaii and Captain Mahan (p 161) ‘Range Extension’ and Armament Technology Developments in the Interwar Years (p 161) Yamamoto’s Great Gamble (p 165) Pearl Harbor Prepares for War (p 170) Tora! Tora! Tora! (p 171) Meanwhile in Washington (p 174) Reaction in America and the World (p 176) The US Navy: Recriminations and Blame (p 177) Debunking the Conspiracy Theories (p 180) Reflections on Yamamoto’s Failure at Pearl Harbor (p 181)
The Conquest of Hawaii and Captain Mahan: While surveying the Pacific Ocean in 1845, US Navy Commodore, Charles Wilkes, opined that on the Hawaiian Island of Oahu, Pearl Harbor “would afford the best and most capacious harbor in the Pacific.”1 The natural harbor was seemingly carved into the center of Oahu for this very purpose.
However, it was opportunity for missionaries, trade and sugar cultivation that first attracted American settlers to Hawaii. In 1875 President Ulysses S. Grant beat off competition from France and Great Britain to conclude an exclusive trade agreement with Queen Liliuokalani. Twelve years later, the port of Pearl Harbor was ceded to the United States. The creep of Empire continued. After a coup by American missionaries and sugar planters on 17 January 1893, which deposed Queen Liliuokalani and replaced her with a Committee of Safety, Hawaii was formally annexed by the United States on 7 July 1898. In 1908 Congress authorized the dredging of the harbor’s entrance to enable it to take the Navy’s largest ships; this was followed by the construction of harbor facilities and dry docks and in 1919 by the acquisition of Ford Island in the center of the harbor. By then, not only had Hawaii’s native population been decimated by disease, but also Pearl Harbor’s strategic importance had been fully recognized.
In part this was due to the strategic thinking of Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan, a flag officer who became a geopolitical strategist and lecturer at the US Naval College in Annapolis, Maryland in 1885 and subsequently its President where, among other important contacts, he befriended Theodore Roosevelt. Mahan’s major work on The Influence of Sea Power upon History 1660–1783 , with its emphasis on naval power as the route to world power, became a must-read for navy officers around the world, including Japan, where it was translated. In addition, Mahan authored over 100 articles. He was without question the most influential naval strategist of his age. The development of Pearl Harbor as a major naval base was central to his creed of growing US naval power in the Pacific. Inevitably Japanese politicians, naval planners and ultra-nationalists took note of the implicit aim of expansion of American power in the Pacific. Confirmation of America’s expansionary intent came with the conquest of the Philippines after their sinking of the Spanish fleet in 1898.
‘Range Extension’ and Armament Technology Developments in the Interwar Years: [Drawing: 5.1] Historically ‘Davids’ have shown that ‘Goliaths’ can be defeated.