Japan Prepares for Total War

Japan Prepares for Total War: The Search for Economic Security, 1919–1941

Michael A. Barnhart
Copyright Date: 1987
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 292
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  • Book Info
    Japan Prepares for Total War
    Book Description:

    The roots of Japan's aggressive, expansionist foreign policy have often been traced to its concern over acute economic vulnerability. Michael A. Barnhart tests this assumption by examining the events leading up to World War II in the context of Japan's quest for economic security, drawing on a wide array of Japanese and American sources.

    Barnhart focuses on the critical years from 1938 to 1941 as he investigates the development of Japan's drive for national economic self-sufficiency and independence and the way in which this drive shaped its internal and external policies. He also explores American economic pressure on Tokyo and assesses its impact on Japan's foreign policy and domestic economy. He concludes that Japan's internal political dynamics, especially the bitter rivalry between its army and navy, played a far greater role in propelling the nation into war with the United States than did its economic condition or even pressure from Washington. Japan Prepares for Total War sheds new light on prewar Japan and confirms the opinions of those in Washington who advocated economic pressure against Japan.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-6846-9
    Subjects: Political Science, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-6)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 7-8)
  3. Preface
    (pp. 9-12)
    Michael A. Barnhart
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. 13-15)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 17-21)

    From the commencement of the Meiji Restoration to the conclusion of the Pacific War, Japan pursued the status of a great power through expansion abroad and reform at home. The requisites of that status, however, changed over the decades. This book traces one such change.

    Japanese statesmen of the Restoration looked first to restore the elemental aspects of national sovereignty. They worked toward the abolition of Western rights of extraterritoriality and the restoration of Japan′s tariff autonomy. Such achievements were not to be had simply for the asking. Japan had to construct domestic laws and institutions that would satisfy foreign...

  6. [1] The Rise of Autarky in Japanese Strategic Planning
    (pp. 22-49)

    The Japan that Commodore Matthew Perry found had no means to support modern warfare. Conflict was waged with swords, shields, and bows and arrows, which skilled artisans manufactured one at a time.

    The Meiji Restoration changed all this. Its slogan ″Rich country; strong army″ illustrates the commitment of Japan′s new leaders to create factories that could produce modern weapons. The Yokohama Iron Works began constructing warships in 1865. Six years later the Imperial Army acquired its own arms factories and by 1880 was producing the first rifle of Japanese design. Both services directed the growth of a military industry that,...

  7. [2] International Law and Stove-Pipe Hats
    (pp. 50-63)

    The United States was what Japan sought to be. Interwar America was self-sufficient in every major respect, from food and energy to coal and iron. Indeed, the United States was a principal and often the world′s leading exporter of such strategic goods as petroleum, rare metals, and sophisticated machinery. America boasted an immense industrial base unmatched by any other great power. As a result, the American War Department could assume in its industrial mobilization plans that even if the United States were denied all imports for two years of hostilities, substantial shortages would occur only in manganese, chromium, and rubber.¹...

  8. [3] Merging the Drives for Autarky and Reform
    (pp. 64-76)

    Plans for the total mobilization of Japan′s economy for war could not ignore that economy in peace. In the 1930s the economy, like those of other powers, was wracked by the Great Depression. Although the skillful guidance of Finance Minister Takahashi Korekiyo mitigated the worst effects for much of Japan′s industry, conditions throughout the decade in the farming and fishing villages far from Tokyo, Osaka, and Hiroshima were miserable. In 1934, for example, northeastern Honshū experienced genuine social panic. Suicide rates skyrocketed, and some peasants resorted to a traditional practice for relieving economic pressure by selling their daughters.¹

    At first...

  9. [4] The Road to Ruin: Japan Begins the China Incident
    (pp. 77-90)

    The total war officers, led by Ishiwara in the General Staff and Suzuki in the Cabinet Investigative Bureau, were gratified by their success in forging a coalition at home. But they realized that a second success—peace abroad—was equally important for achieving self-sufficiency. Peace had been jeopardized in late 1935 by the dramatic increase in friction with China. Hopes raised by Chiang Kai-shek′s favorable response to Hirota′s Three Principles had subsequently been dashed by the silver crisis and the creation of Japanese-dominated autonomous units in north China. Ishiwara and his fellow-advocates of autarky had employed their growing influence within...

  10. [5] Bitter Mortgage: The Economic Consequences of the China Incident
    (pp. 91-114)

    The Imperial Army commenced the China Incident in July 1937 with plans assuming that three divisions, three months, and 100 million yen would be sufficient to conclude the affair. Its troops would clear the Peking-Tientsin area, destroying the enemy′s main force in the process, and then occupy key surrounding areas while Tokyo awaited for Chiang to sue for terms.¹ By the spring of 1938, however, though his capital of Nanking far to the south had been seized, the Chinese leader was still fighting. The Japanese General Staff found itself preparing new orders, readying the entire army for indefinite action. Twenty...

  11. [6] To Defend the Open Door
    (pp. 115-135)

    From the aftermath of the Manchurian Incident to the attack on Pearl Harbor, American policy in East Asia attempted to uphold the principles of the Open Door. These principles in essence committed the United States to equality of commercial opportunity in Asian markets and territorial integrity for all Asian nations. Often it proved difficult to support one without injuring the other. Even more often it proved awkward to support either without becoming involved across the Pacific.

    In late 1933 most Americans, including Stanley Hornbeck, chief of the State Department′s Far Eastern Division, and Joseph Grew, America′s new ambassador to Tokyo,...

  12. [7] Swastika and Red Star: The Imperial Army′s Economy and Strategic Dilemmas of 1939
    (pp. 136-147)

    Konoe′s failure to bring the China Incident to a quick conclusion had critical economic, and therefore political, implications. Because material allocations to the military could not rise in 1939, the interservice consensus forged in 1936 broke down. The army, the key actor for the next eighteen months, sought to end the fighting in China if possible; but in any event it looked to safeguard its existing allocations by stressing the Soviet threat and the necessity of alliance with Germany to meet that threat. The Imperial Navy attempted to preserve the huge quotas, especially of steel, necessary for its construction plans...

  13. [8] Caretakers and the Quest for Autarky: Marking Time
    (pp. 148-161)

    In the immediate aftermath of the outbreak of war in Europe, it appeared that Japan would be compelled to become relatively autarchic whether prepared or not. Initial studies of the economic impact of European war warned that Japan′s current policies—a refusal to retrench in China and the beginnings of the Southward Advance, as well as an inability to address the grave economic situation even before the German invasion of Poland—could lead to disaster. A fundamental redirection of Japan′s foreign and domestic policies was in order. None took place under the caretaker cabinets of Abe Nobuyuki and Yonai Mitsumasa....

  14. [9] The Navy′s Price: Japan Commences the Southward Advance
    (pp. 162-175)

    In early July 1940 spirits in the Imperial Army were high. Abroad, the resource-rich lands of French Indochina and the Netherlands East Indies were vulnerable to diplomatic intimidation or, if necessary, armed force. At home, Konoe′s return to power put a charismatic leader and powerful supporter of army programs for expansion to the south and reform inside the nation in a key position. Japan at last seemed set firmly on the path to autarky. There remained to determine only the precise course of that path.

    This proved difficult. Although Yonai was gone, although the rising mid-level officers indeed favored a...

  15. [10] To Arm and Appease
    (pp. 176-197)

    By the end of January 1940 the trade treaty between America and Japan had expired, opening the way to formal economic pressure against the empire. Throughout the year that followed, American leaders debated the wisdom of applying such pressure even as the United States commenced its own rearmament program. The effort to arm America while, in essence, appeasing Japan led to a confused, ill-considered stance that pleased few in Washington and sent unhelpful signals to Tokyo

    The debate was opened forcefully by Henry Stimson in a letter to the New York Times two weeks before the treaty lapsed. America′s might,...

  16. [11] Unsettled Details: The Debate over the Southward Advance
    (pp. 198-214)

    At the start of 1941, three fundamental questions concerning the Japanese Empire′s foreign and economic policies awaited answers. What was to be the nature and timing of the strike to the south? Could the economy sustain such a strike? Would the economy be reformed along the lines of the New Economic Order?

    The first question drew the most attention, in large part because the Imperial Army and Navy still held widely divergent views. The generals were increasingly frustrated about their inability to halt the draining conflict in China, either by backdoor negotiations or by limited campaigns in the south to...

  17. [12] Soft Words and Big Sticks
    (pp. 215-236)

    By early 1941 the United States had in place an imposing number of embargoes on the shipment of materials to Japan. Nearly all of these had been justified, and most of them correctly justified, as measures necessary for the American rearmament effort. But for this very reason they had a substantial impact on Japan′s own war economy. Tokyo′s only source of materials crucial for war—scrap iron, steel, machine tools, ferroalloys, aluminum—was, excepting a trickle of supplies from Germany that came over the trans-Siberian railroad, the United States.

    U.S. measures had been enacted on the initiative of officials involved...

  18. [13] A Final Wager: Japan Consummates the Southward Advance
    (pp. 237-262)

    The second liaison conference of the third Konoe cabinet met on 24 July in a mood of optimism and relief. The troublesome Matsuoka was gone. Vichy authorities had now signed the necessary local agreements permitting an unconfused occupation of the remainder of Indochinese territory. That occupation would commence within days. And harmony between the army and navy, however temporary, was intact.

    Only Matsuoka′s successor as foreign minister, Toyoda Teijirō, a former navy vice-minister and most recently minister of commerce and industry, was troubled. With uncanny foresight, Toyoda warned that the United States would react to the Indochina occupation by freezing...

  19. [14] The Pacific War
    (pp. 263-274)

    The immediate ″cause″ of the Pacific War was the failure of the Hull-Nomura negotiations. But could they ever have succeeded, or were they, to use Jonathan Utley′s phrase, ″reaching for the moon″?

    Events inside both capitals provide the clear answer that the negotiations had no chance. The Japanese, particularly after July 1941, would not have accepted and probably could not have accepted anything less than a comprehensive agreement governing the future of the entire western Pacific and eastern Asia. The reason was that, after the asset freeze, Japan could not accept any interim solution that left it dependent on American...

  20. Bibliography
    (pp. 275-282)
  21. Index
    (pp. 283-290)
  22. Back Matter
    (pp. 291-292)