Attack on Pearl Harbor at 7:55 AM on December 7, 1941 may have changed the course of American history for once and all. The attacks led to US entry into World War II both in European and Pacific theatres. This attack also iterated that an isolationist country was equally vulnerable to external attacks. And the US have followed this lead throughout their later history. But all these lessons came at a very high cost. As per official records, no less than 1500 lives were lost in the attacks. Despite the following success of the US in World War II, many have speculated that the attack on Pearl Harbor could be easily avoided with a little more attention to details. However, some documents suggest that Pearl Harbor might not have been the only target. A failure at Pearly Harbor would have instigated attacks on other areas of the US.
But coming to Pearl Harbor attacks by the Imperial Japanese forces, it should be said that both military and government had plenty of clues suggesting that an attack was imminent. The relations between Japan and the US were crumbling. Japan had already entered World War II on the part of Axis powers. They had invaded China in an aggressive move. China fell rather quickly. But this was hurting the US interests. In July, 1941 US President declared a ban on trading relations with Japan. Japan needed the American oil to power their war machines. So, they were angered by this move. Many diplomatic meetings between contingents of both nations failed because Japan were not in a mood to give up their claim on China.
Japan had already started a propaganda war against the US. Their television was airing statements suggesting that the US was their enemy. US intelligence had information regarding such statements and the anti-American sentiments that ran within the nation. Some Intelligence officials had even suggested that an aggressive move by Japan was imminent. But the American diplomats felt that Japan was simply not capable of waging such a war.
The American ambassador to Japan in those days was Joseph Grew. Grew had received information from his Peruvian counterpart that Japan was planning an attack on Pearl Harbor. Grew received this information January 27, 1941 which was nearly one year prior to the attack. Grew passed this information immediately to the higher officials sitting in Washington. But the information was blown away due to lack of any concrete evidence. After the attacks, Grew went on record to criticize President Roosevelt for America’s involvement in World War II and attack on Pearl Harbor.
In the memoirs of people within the close circles of Roosevelt, it is known that the President was seeking a war with Japan and Germany. He had said in one statement that Allied forces could not win without American help. So, could he be paving the way for such a participation with his inaction? There are many facts that point in the affirmative. After the ban on trading with Japan, the Japanese Prime Minister Prince Konoye wanted to meet Roosevelt in Hawaii (the choice of location would remain suspicious). After initially agreeing, the meeting was rescheduled in Alaska. This meeting never happened. In October, Konoye was replaced by aggressive minded Prime Minister Tojo Hideki. Some diplomats felt that the meeting could have temporarily avoided the attacks.
Another suggestion is that, the American code-breakers had already broken through most of the ciphers used by the Japanese during World War II. They had given many suggestions that the Japanese were planning for attacks along the coastline. Maybe, as a precaution plenty of naval fleets and fighters were deployed in Pearl Harbor. But the problem was they were not ready for war. It was down to American complacency, they kept on blowing away realistic suggestions that the war was coming to their land.
Plenty of live could have been saved had the American top officials taken a proactive rather than reactive approach. It seems logic was over-ruled in favor of pride.