Why the United states already feared war with Japan in the 1930s

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Why the United states already feared war with Japan in the 1930s

Postby lordroel » 2016-07-03 07:35am

I discovered that in the 1938 there was a magazine called Los Angeles Examiner in the United states who ran a article about the United States being invaded by the Japanese, i have posted them at my forum (Alternate Timelines Forum) but i think people like this.

Japan Attacks L.A. (and the Rest of the US) in 1938

Introduction

On November 7th 1937, the Los Angeles Examiner published a prescient map predicting how Imperial Japan could attack the US during World War II.

Created by Howard A. Burke, the map imagined a Japanese attack on the US that closely predicted the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor four years later on December 7, 1941. Burke rightly noted that Japan's first target would be Hawaii and the US fleet docked at Pearl Harbor.

"The first objective must be capture of Hawaii," Burke notes on the map. "This would mean crippling or annihilating the United States Pacific fFeet, giving Japan one of the world's greatest naval bases — Pearl Harbor."

After that attack, Burke then imagined that Japan would follow up the assault with a two-pronged naval and aerial strike from Hawaii against Los Angeles and San Francisco, with a simultaneous Japanese assault from Alaska working its way down the Pacific Northwest.

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Re: Why the United states already feared war with Japan in the 1930s

Postby madd0ct0r » 2016-07-03 01:07pm

Thats a neat little find.
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Re: Why the United states already feared war with Japan in the 1930s

Postby lordroel » 2016-07-03 01:29pm

madd0ct0r wrote:Thats a neat little find.

Yes it is, there is also one published in 1935 called 1935 scenario: the Invasion of America which is about a a enemy invading the United States (by Germany or Japan), then in 1942 we have What If The Nazis Had Invaded America in 1942 after the end of World War II the scenarios shrift to World War III with nuclear weapons with one called World War III, The 36-Hour War of 1948 wich was published in 1945 and my favorite so far,Preview of the War We Do Not Want which is a entire magazine about World War II in 1952 to 1960.
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Re: Why the United states already feared war with Japan in the 1930s

Postby Simon_Jester » 2016-07-03 05:28pm

People have been writing "what if we are invaded by INVINCIBLE FOREIGN HORDE" stories for a very long time. In the modern era the genre has its roots in what are called "invasion novels," which arose in Britain in the late Victorian era. The authors capitalized on the fact that Britain was a dominant military power, which relied on its navy for safety, and which was relatively weak in terms of land forces and fortifications to repel attack. So they would write stories about armies of Frenchmen or Russians or Germans somehow totally bypassing the British fleet and landing armies that would ravage the English countryside, burn London, et cetera.

Some authors did this because they felt they were warning the British public about foreign threats; others just wanted to make some money.

Wells' novel The War of the Worlds, which is famous as a science fiction novel, actually has its roots in this genre and draws a lot of inspiration from it.

The US got into the business of writing invasion novels too, for the same reasons the British had: a general public which was well-read and imaginative, but which didn't really believe in the possibility that anything could threaten them because all enemies were far away across an ocean.
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One of the shared limitations of the genre is that "invasion novels" usually handwave important military or logistical realities in order to have the invasion occur in a nice, dramatic, scary fashion.

And quite a few such realities are being overlooked here, to make it practical for Japan to rapidly seize Hawaii (which was, historically, at the fingertip limit of the effective combat range of their fleets) and then rapidly turn it into a base for attacks on California while simultaneously launching a 'massive' attack through random airstrips and harbors in Alaska (!)
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Re: Why the United states already feared war with Japan in the 1930s

Postby Patroklos » 2016-07-04 04:50am

In the 1930s the US created what were known as the color plans, the most famous being the "Rainbow Plans" that were created at the start of WWII. These included all sorts of scenarios, some very off. But since Japan had been in a massive naval buildup since the end of WWI and represented the only real rival to the US in the Pacific its unsurprising that it was included as an adversary from the very beginning.

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Re: Why the United states already feared war with Japan in the 1930s

Postby lordroel » 2016-07-04 12:49pm

Patroklos wrote:In the 1930s the US created what were known as the color plans, the most famous being the "Rainbow Plans" that were created at the start of WWII. These included all sorts of scenarios, some very off. But since Japan had been in a massive naval buildup since the end of WWI and represented the only real rival to the US in the Pacific its unsurprising that it was included as an adversary from the very beginning.

Therefore i mange to find so many articles from the 1930s, the United states already suspected that in the future a war with Japan would be likely to happen.
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Re: Why the United states already feared war with Japan in the 1930s

Postby Lord Revan » 2016-07-04 01:40pm

Some parts of US goverment suspect that, however it doesn't mean it was seen serious threat by US goverment collectively, I mean modern day US has made plans in case Canada attacks them but that doesn't mean anyone seriously belives that's gonna happen anytime soon. We should also remember that there might be more then a bit racism involved, basically using the "threat" of Japanese invasion as an excuse to invade them (obviously since US didn't invade Japanese main islands people in charge didn't think it was that big of a threat).

You got to remember that By modern standards people in the 1930s were increbibly xenophobic.
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Re: Why the United states already feared war with Japan in the 1930s

Postby Simon_Jester » 2016-07-04 02:22pm

Although there were a lot of scare articles about a lot of things; Japan was only one of them.

Have you heard of the "Yellow Peril?" It's important to understanding the way that European and US whites thought about Asians in general during this era.
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Re: Why the United states already feared war with Japan in the 1930s

Postby lordroel » 2016-07-05 12:52pm

Simon_Jester wrote:Although there were a lot of scare articles about a lot of things; Japan was only one of them.


there are plenty of those articles there and they change by time, in the 1930s you had the Japanese threat and after World War II you had the nuclear threat that saw many articles, some of which i already posted links to several post above.
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Re: Why the United states already feared war with Japan in the 1930s

Postby Lord Revan » 2016-07-05 01:11pm

That doesn't mean the "yellow peril" was something the goverment thought was a serious threat though, as I stated people at the time were really, really racist by modern standards thus you have to take that into consideration.
Basically it's vital to remember that times change and thus these "fears" could be nothing racist paranoia.
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Re: Why the United states already feared war with Japan in the 1930s

Postby Sea Skimmer » 2016-07-07 08:23am

Of course they thought it was a serious threat. Notice the date, 1937. The year Japan invaded China with an entire Army group, bombed the international settlement, sank a US warship and then murdered 300,000 civilians at Nanjing.

At the time the Pacific was almost completely undefended except for the US navy, which thanks to the dumbest treaties and long term lack of funding was only about one quarter stronger then the IJN, while covering two oceans, and very poorly supported. Many sites weakly defended in 1941 were entirely undefended in the 1930s, nothing could even delay the Japanese short of Hawaii itself.

Japan meanwhile was a blatant military dictatorship garrison state (and proclaimed itself as much in propaganda) progressively invading and annexing China since 1931. This wasn't some god damn paranoia. It was reality, and we only got the historical result because from 1935 onward the US took it more and more seriously and began to prepare, such as by creating the Phillippine Army. Yet as we see all steps taken were still not nearly enough to be a deterrent or militarily effective in a war. How the shit is this racist paranoia when JAPAN WENT AND DID IT?
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Re: Why the United states already feared war with Japan in the 1930s

Postby Lord Revan » 2016-07-07 08:47am

Did the imperial Japanese Navy and Army have logistical capabilities to maintain a supply line accross the Pacific? the Chinese front IIRC was already streaching the japanese logistical capabilities quite heavily and it was practically right next to Japan. Was the fear of war against Japan totally unfounded, no of course not, as you stated Japan was expansionist military dictatorship, fears of attacks on Mainland US aren't as well founded in facts, remember it doesn't matter how big your gun is but rather can you use it.
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Re: Why the United states already feared war with Japan in the 1930s

Postby Adam Reynolds » 2016-07-08 06:09pm

They certainly didn't have the reserves for such an attack. When they hit the various islands all at once in '41, they did so with virtually no reserve.

Not to mention the problem of being able to supply such an invasion. They already had this problem with the island of Midway. Their landing force was unsustainable and would have likely perished in the face of USMC machine guns and artillery if they actually tried such a landing.

But had the two ocean navy not been built starting in 1940, the USN would never have been able to contain them in any real sense.

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Re: Why the United states already feared war with Japan in the 1930s

Postby JamesStaley » 2016-07-11 01:28am

Did you know that Japan was an ALLY of ours in World War 1? In the first world war, they were in the allied camp and had declared war on Germany, though of course they never did any fighting: it was more of a "political" statement, like "we want to announce to the world that we've arrived and we want to run with the big boys, so we're going to declare war on Germany".
Japan's ACTUAL declaration to the world that they had arrived and were now looking to be considered a "major" player on the World Stage was actually the Battle of Tsushima Straight in 1905 where the Japanese Navy took on, and took "out", a much larger Russian force. That was the 1st time some US Navy planners took a SERIOUS look at Japan as a possible invading force. OF COURSE, HOW MANY PEOPLE IN THE U.S. WERE "SERIOUSLY" GOING TO THINK OF JAPAN AS A THREAT TO THE UNITED STATES IN 1905?!!

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Re: Why the United states already feared war with Japan in the 1930s

Postby Simon_Jester » 2016-07-11 02:54pm

Sea Skimmer wrote:Of course they thought it was a serious threat. Notice the date, 1937. The year Japan invaded China with an entire Army group, bombed the international settlement, sank a US warship and then murdered 300,000 civilians at Nanjing.

At the time the Pacific was almost completely undefended except for the US navy, which thanks to the dumbest treaties and long term lack of funding was only about one quarter stronger then the IJN, while covering two oceans, and very poorly supported. Many sites weakly defended in 1941 were entirely undefended in the 1930s, nothing could even delay the Japanese short of Hawaii itself.

Japan meanwhile was a blatant military dictatorship garrison state (and proclaimed itself as much in propaganda) progressively invading and annexing China since 1931. This wasn't some god damn paranoia. It was reality, and we only got the historical result because from 1935 onward the US took it more and more seriously and began to prepare...
The fear of the Japanese managing significant invasions on the West Coast, with what sound like corps-sized forces and hundreds of airplanes operating against targets well inland, sounds... overblown. That is where I start to smell a hint of the traditional 'Yellow Peril.'

In fact, 'Yellow Peril' was always informed by a combination of racism and realism. The racist element was the idea that Asians were intrinsically scheming, violent jerks*. The realist element was "wow, there are actually quite a lot of Chinese and Japanese people in the world, and if they had the same level of technology and resources Europeans do, they'd be pretty powerful contenders."

Observant 19th century Westerners probably could not help but realize that if Japan succeeded in modernizing it would be capable of competing on the same level as a European power, and that China would have economic weight comparable to all of Europe put together. The first of those predictions did in fact come true in the 20th century, and the second is in fact coming true now. Even if the consequences of those predictions were misunderstood thanks to racism, the basic logic of population and economics remains sound.

...

I do have to admit, also, that if the US had done literally nothing to prepare against such threats, the Japanese might have been able to do something like this. So you make a good point about the level of realism of the picture linked in the original post. Which is why, yes, the US is fortunate that it prepared against the Japanese threat, in a way that it was not prepared circa 1937.

At the same time, it's worth viewing this in the broader context of what people said to each other about military history, invasion threats, the potential of high technology weapons (e.g. Douhet's notion that a decent-sized air force could wreck entire nations with a few sorties per plane), and racial fears.
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*And the Imperial Japanese of the 1920-40 period did a pretty good job of hyping themselves up into scheming violent jerks.

Lord Revan wrote:Did the imperial Japanese Navy and Army have logistical capabilities to maintain a supply line accross the Pacific? the Chinese front IIRC was already streaching the japanese logistical capabilities quite heavily and it was practically right next to Japan. Was the fear of war against Japan totally unfounded, no of course not, as you stated Japan was expansionist military dictatorship, fears of attacks on Mainland US aren't as well founded in facts, remember it doesn't matter how big your gun is but rather can you use it.
A Japan that had continued building up its military, in the face of a US that didn't build up military defenses, might well have some day been able to operate against the West Coast after capturing points like Midway and Hawaii.

Sure, that's not a realistic picture based on what we know now. But Skimmer is right that in 1937 the US was exactly that unprepared, and Japan's military capabilities were growing rapidly. The US certainly had the potential to build up a totally overwhelming defense and then crush Japan with overwhelming offense. But the thing about potential is that it doesn't do you any good unless you actually put it to work. And the first step in putting your potential to work in order to stop a threat is... taking the threat seriously.
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