Some years ago, I was in a trade show in Dallas. It was my first time in that city. My hotel room windows looked down across boulevards and an overpass and gave me a direct view of the Book Depository and the grassy knoll(s). Naturally I walked there, wanting to see for myself one of the most jarring and unforgettable locations of my life. When I reached the sidewalk in front of the infamous building, I was surprised to see several people with posters, signs, diagrams, dvds and the like. They were Conspiracy Theorists, each one rabidly railing about “what really happened here.”
All these years later, conspiracy theorists of every ilk have so permeated our daily lives and the media with their rantings that I think it has become increasingly difficult for us to “separate the wheat from the chaff”. I mention all this, because in this last segment looking at the major things that led up to the attack on Pearl Harbor, U.S. trade embargoes in the months leading up to the “Day that lives on in Infamy” pushed Japan into desperate measures. Much of the info available online drips with political overtones suggesting the FDR pushed the embargoes knowing it would cause Japan to retaliate militarily and “force us” into war; thus assuring he would be re-elected. Writers suggest the FDR knew the attack on Pearl Harbor was coming, and looked the other way so we would have an excuse to declare War on Japan and get re-elected. My experience in Dallas with “deep state” plot(s) theorists rings all sorts of flashing lights and waves red flags in my little brain at these assertions. (If you are a “Believer”, I imagine you’ll call me naive.)
Let’s look at the highlights of the trade embargoes against Japan in the years leading up to Pearl Harbor.
In 1938, our government, concerned by the sabre-rattling and mushrooming armament manufacturing in Germany and Japan, began urging aircraft manufacturers to cease selling planes to countries who were using them for attacks on civilian populations. In 1939, the list was expanded to any aviation materials or technology. The Treasury Dept urged banks to stop extending credit to Japan.
In July, 1939, the U.S. terminated it’s 1911 Commercial Treaty with Japan.
In July, 1940, Congress passed the Export Control Act, which authorized FDR to restrict and prohibit the export of war materials. In September, export of iron and scrap steel to resource-poor Japan was prohibited. On September 27, 1940, Japan signed the Tripartite Pact, becoming allies with Germany and Italy (“Axis Powers”.) On October 16, FDR imposed an embargo on all exports of steel ans scrap iron to any destination other than Britain and Western Hemisphere nations.
On July 26, 1941, FDR froze all Japanese assets in the United States. A week later, he embargoed all oil exports to Japan. British and Dutch oil embargoes from their Asian colonies to Japan were also put into effect.
On Dec 7, 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor.