Saturday, December 8, 2018

September 6, 1941: Japan Prepares for War

Saturday 6 September 1941

Japanese Imperial Conference 6 September 1941
Emperor Hirohito presides over the Imperial Conference of 6 September 1941.

Japanese Government: The Japanese hold an Imperial Conference to discuss the next steps to take regarding the United States and its allies. Those steps are decidedly warlike. Under consideration is a decision is to commit to war with the United States unless progress is made in peace talks with the United States by 10 October 1941.

Hirohito attends the conference. Typically, a sitting Emperor says little at such affairs and merely ratifies the decisions taken by others. This is not, however, how this conference turns out.

Everyone at the Imperial Conference expresses their support for war with the United States. However, under questioning by Baron Yoshimichi Hara, President of the Imperial Council and the Emperor's representative, the service chiefs qualify their eagerness by saying that war should be a "last resort." This is a very sharp turnabout from their usual bellicose posturing.

Now very concerned, Emperor Hirohito breaks with tradition and begins questioning the service chiefs himself. He recites a poem written by his grandfather, Emperor Meiji:
The seas of the four directions—
all are born of one womb:
why, then, do the wind and waves rise in discord?
This does not change the course of events but does reinforce the importance that the emperor places on a peaceful resolution. War planning continues and the net effect of the conference is to leave the current course of action - a military solution - intact.

US Government: US Ambassador to Japan Joseph Grew has a good idea of the power of the military in the Japanese government. After meeting with Prince Konoye, who pledges to respect President Roosevelt's four principles and other requirements. Grew submits a report to the State Department. He writes in part:
The Prime Minister hopes that as a result of the commitments which the Japanese Government is prepared to assume . . . a rational basis has been established for a meeting between the President and himself.
Grew concludes, however, that a failure to reach an agreement with the Japanese will result in a Japanese military dictatorship and eventual war. In any event, President Roosevelt already has informed the Japanese that he does not intend to have a summit meeting with Prince Konoye or anyone else.

President Roosevelt 6 September 1941
President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the bible previously used in administering the oath of office to Francis Biddle, new attorney general, in the executive offices at the White House, Washington, Sept. 6, 1941 (AP).


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