Pearl Harbor: Documents: The Rising Sun in the Pacific

Attack on Pearl Harbor. Reuters

On 6 December President Roosevelt played his last card for peace-a personal message to Emperor Hirohito, begging him for the sake of humanity to withdraw the military and naval forces from southern Indochina which threatened the Philippines, Malaya, Thailand and "the hundreds of islands of the East Indies." Hirohito did not want war with the United States, but he wanted still less to lose his throne. Showa Restoration would have been turned into Showa Deposition if he had refused to go along with Tojo at this point. So he said nothing.

On Sunday morning, 7 December 1941-the "day that will live in infamy"-the Japanese ambassadors, as instructed by their government, asked for an interview with Mr. Hull at 1300 in order to read Tojo's reply to the proposals of 26 November. That time had been selected because it was just twenty minutes before the scheduled hours (0750 Honolulu time) of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Owing, it seems, to a delay by the embassy staff in deciphering and translating this note, the interview was postponed until 1400. Mr. Hull had already been handed a copy of Admiral Kimmel's message, "Air attack on Pearl Harbor. This is not a drill," but he thought it might be a mistake; and having no official word of war he believed he should hear what Nomura and Kurusu had to say. So he received them at 1420.

It was now 0900 December 7 in Hawaii. The first sad and bloody hour was over. The burned and shattered bodies of more than a thousand Americans lay strewn along airfields, on charred decks, or trapped beneath the waters of Pearl Harbor.

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was but a part, and in their estimate not the most important part, of a comprehensive plan for the Greater East Asia War. Formulated bit by bit, this plan was finally brought together at a Supreme War Council on 6 September 1941. Not Pearl, but pearls of greater price were the objective: populous islands fabulously rich in natural resources and strategic

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