Aug 1

This Day in History – August 1st, 1941

Wednesday, August 1, 2018 12:00 PM

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1941 – President Franklin Roosevelt embargoes the export of oil and aviation fuel from the United States except to Britain, the British Commonwealth countries and countries of the Western Hemisphere

U.S Navy Fleet during World War II in the Pacific

U.S Navy Fleet during World War II in the Pacific (U.S.Naval Institute)

The oil embargo on Japan set the stage for the attack on Pearl Harbor and the U.S’s involvement in the Second World War.
Japan is an island nation that lacks natural resources, which led to its imperialist conquests leading up to the events of World War II.

Japanese infantry moving up a street in China, during the fighting in Chinese sections of Shanghai, circa August 1937 (U.S Naval Institute)

Japanese infantry moving up a street in China, during the fighting in Chinese sections of Shanghai, circa August 1937 (U.S Naval Institute)

Japan, in coordination with Nazi Germany’s European expansion, invaded China in 1937 and started expanding to Islands in the South Pacific seizing countries such as Brunei, and Malaysia to fuel its war efforts.

The United States in 1938 responded by adopting restrictive trade agreements with Japan as a means of deterring Japanese expansion in the Pacific. As time went on, the United States felt threatened by the spread of Fascism. From that point, the United States moved away from neutrality and towards active preparations for war.

Over time, the United States embargoes on trade with Japan deprived the Japanese of scrap iron, copper, and most importantly oil. Japan imported at least 75% of these resources from the United States. Japan without the United States trade would need to tap into its reserve oil which could only last two years.

Photo of Japanese Prime Minister and architect of the attack on Pearl Harbor Hideki Tojo (Credit: National Diet Library of Japan/Public Domain)

Photo of Japanese Prime Minister and architect of the attack on Pearl Harbor Hideki Tojo (National Diet Library of Japan/Public Domain)

Diplomats from both the United States and Japan began negotiations to avoid escalation to war. However, they failed for three key reasons.

1. Japanese alliance to the Axis Powers
2. Japan’s claim to economic and political dominance in Southeast Asia.
3. Japanese refusal to leave Mainland China and Manchukuo.

Thus with the oil embargo, Japanese military leaders began to plan the attack on Pearl Harbor as they saw further negotiations as futile. The Japanese military leaders, who had seized control of the political institutions of Japan, targeted the U.S Naval base in Hawaii as they thought the attack on Pearl Harbor would force the United States into conceding to Japanese interests.

Aftermath of the Pearl Harbor attacks (U.S. Naval Institute)

Aftermath of the Pearl Harbor attacks (U.S. Naval Institute)

Thus Japan was set on a warpath and brought the United States into World War II.

 
 
 
  • Rick

    Brunei and Malaysia are not islands but nations on the island of Borneo. Neither were invaded and occupied by Japan until after Pearl Harbor.