Does declaring "War" make sense? Pearl Harbor & Japan

Discussion in 'Postwar' started by Ramiles, Mar 28, 2015.

  1. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    Interesting idea.

    I was just thinking that perhaps there weren't too many "wars" that have actually been "won" by countries that don't first declare "war".

    It seems like not declaring war might be a tactic employed by the "weaker" party and hence success is actually less likely as a result.

    Of course if you are powerful enough you might think that you can just walk in without saying "war" and no one will oppose, but there always seems to be a bigger power in the playground that's gonna call foul and then even for the more powerful countries things don't ultimately tend to go their way.

    Of course there's always the option of two countries fighting each other hammer and fist without actually declaring war ;)

    But even then doesn't the aggressor usually come off worse?? Or at least the aggressor gets a pasting in the press - assuming the aggressor doesn't own the press, ah, maybe that's when it makes sense not to declare "war" :eek:

    But it still doesn't always work out :salut:

  2. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY


    Since...."Since 1945," (apparently...) ;)

    ...developments in international law such as the United Nations Charter, which prohibits both the threat and the use of force in international conflicts, have made declarations of war largely obsolete in international relations.

    Whereas: In addition to this, non-state or terrorist organizations may claim to or be described as "declaring war" when engaging in violent acts.

    & whilst Japan and Germany are not allowed to declare war, the Emperor of Japan (at least!) is allowed to declare peace. :)

    & Watch out for Queen Elizabeth :salut: by the way!
  3. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Very Senior Member

    Ramiles - the position of belligerents, and the rights/protections afforded individuals, have all changed since 1945, and also under the 1949 Geneva Convention....

    Or rather - the right/s protections lie ON the individual rather than be incumbent on belligerents to treat him in a particular way.

    Yes - in many conflicts, the element of surprise provided by a few hours' or days' freedom of action without a formal Declaration of War USED to make sense when the wars of the world were less than mechanised I.E in the years when the Hague Conventions were drawn up and accepted...and war physically moved far slower than today, or even in 1939 or 1914....

    But if you look at the Hague Conventions - note how many of them are about conducts of other parties during a war than the actually belligerents fighting it ;) They're about the governance of trade, the freedom of the seas, the behaviour of neutrals time of war - a "time" of war, that was, in Hague terms, only formally begun as of a Declaration or Conditional Declaration of War being made by one party on another.

    Nowadays - with no real delay between the "start" of a war and first contact between enemies - the formality of a Declaration of War is redundant because there is no time for all those other parties and other responsibilities to be triggered. Thus, for example, you have a lot of the Hague guff regarding the freedom of the oceans, the governance of trade etc. written instead into the Maritime Law Of the Sea (MLOS) and it applies all the time instead ;)
  4. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    Having been raised during a period where a 4 minute warning might have been all that we got - I'd have to agree!

    The shortest war in history might have been 4 minutes and a very brief bright bit :eek:

    I always assumed that we would get the "warning" though - but now in retrospect I can imagine someone "in charge" thinking what's the point - they'll know soon enough ;) I remember someone mentioning there would be a siren or something....

    It's odd though how declaring war is actually thought the "decent" thing to do and you can see why in our attitude anyone attacking another state without "warning" looks a bit rogue. I always understood that the Japanese would have looked at things differently, and this was at the time something that could have been more commonly understood, after all an ethos that it wasn't wise to tell an enemy that you were about to attack, was there to be read:

    All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near. Hold out baits to entice the enemy. Feign disorder, and crush him.
    - Sun Tzu, the Art of War

    but they did at least seem to try declare war on the US before Pearl Harbour - albeit rather ineffectively as it actually turned out. And I'm not entirely sure where this fits in.

    Germany attacked without warning against numerous nations but for some reason Hitler declared war first on Greece and the US.

    The last attack "without warning" in WW2 seems to have been Japan against the US & British Empire

    After that the practice seemed to have died off for a bit as it didn't seem to have quite the desired effect. :)

  5. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Old Hickory Recon

    The "14-Part Message" delivered to Cordell Hull was not a declaration of war but merely a listing of grievances by the Japanese government, ending with a statement that they (Japan) thought it to be impossible for the two nations to come to an agreement. No where in it did it mention that war was being declared.

    Unfortunately, the document did not reach Hull's desk until after the attack at Pearl Harbor had already begun
  6. Bernard85

    Bernard85 WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    good day ramiles.advanced member, declaring "war" make sense?.it does not seem to mater.the japs attaked the 1941.without declaring anything.they did the same against you know they were beaten for there troubles.i dont think declaring war helps if your enemy is armed to the teeth.regards bernard 85
  7. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    Again there's a wiki (of course!) on this:

    The "translation" of the Japanese into hyperbolic English is a joy to behold, I wonder how it sounded to a typical "Japanese" - I think that court "Japanese" was a wee bit flowery in effect :D

    Intriguingly no mention of the Netherlands or Dutch though - I assume that this was because after the Germans took over the Netherlands the axis were working on the basis that the Netherlands either "no longer existed", or was actually "an ally" of their's like "Vichy" in effect - so they couldn't exactly "declare war on the Netherlands" - unless in Japanese eyes the Dutch they fought were fighting for the British Empire or the US :)
  8. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer Pearl Harbor Myth Buster

    How about June 25, 1950.
  9. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer Pearl Harbor Myth Buster

    Actually, 13 parts had reached him the day before, even before the Embassy had got around to decoding it.
  10. Staffsyeoman

    Staffsyeoman Member

    Don't forget that for several years Korea was referred to as a "police action" and the weaselly get-around of calling something a "Conflict" so as not to use the "W" word. (Falklands, etc..)
  11. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer Pearl Harbor Myth Buster

    It was a police action due to United Nations weaseling. It was a war for the boots on the ground.
  12. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    "Al Murray on nations" - on you tube (I haven't linked to it as warning some strong language so might cause offence - but it should be very easy to find. Underneath his heart's in the right place and it is firmly tongue in cheek and very funny imo for all that). :)

    If he's not known in the US his character is firmly fictional "British" character - a bit of an Archie Bunker in some ways (I guess?).

    All the best, ;)

  13. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Old Hickory Recon

    Actually, 13 parts had reached him the day before, even before the Embassy had got around to decoding it.

    This is true, but the Japanese know this little tidbit?
  14. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer Pearl Harbor Myth Buster

    I seriously doubt it.

    Here's my boilerplate breakdown on the timing of delivering Teikoku Seifu no Taibei Tsucho Oboegaki:

    The timing of the delivery of the 14-part message, 1/2 hour before the attack on Pearl Harbor, ensured that it would have no effect on the attack. For a warning to occur based on that message the following events would have had to happen:
    (Note: No parties in Washington would have any idea that there was a deadline looming. FDR could have easily have waited until Monday to make a reply. Yamamoto would have been aware of this possibility.)
    Japan delivers note on time.
    Hull reads note.
    Hull responds to Nomura and Kurusu.
    They reply, etc.
    Hull talks to FDR, explains note.
    FDR correctly interprets this as a war warning.
    FDR advises SecWar and SecNav to alert all forces.
    SecWar and SecNav compose warning message.
    Warning messages are handled through military channels, if available, to all commands.
    Local commanders assimilate warning message and act properly.

    On the other hand, if the US had acceded to every demand in the 14-part message:

    Japan delivers note on time.
    Hull reads note.
    Hull responds to Nomura and Kurusu.
    They reply, etc.
    Hull talks to FDR, explains note.
    FDR agrees to completely change US policy without consulting Congress.
    FDR communicates this to Hull.
    Hull explains things to Nomura and Kurusu.
    They discuss any fuzzy details.
    Nomura and Kurusu return to their embassy to contact Tokyo.
    (Originally they were ordered to destroy all codes, but got permission to retain one low level code.)
    Somehow they get the information to Tokyo.
    Gaimudaijin receives message.
    Foreign Minster interprets message correctly.
    Foreign Minster goes to Prime Minister and explains message.
    Prime Minister contacts SecWar and SecNav, who contact their forces to halt attack.

    In both the above cases you can see that more than 1/2 hour was needed. So the timing issue is just a farce.
  15. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    An essential part of the Japanese plan (I guess?) was maintaining the element of surprise. What could have been served by getting a "breaking off of diplomatic relations" notice in and thereby potentially risking putting the US on even greater alert. The US after all fired on and rammed midget subs near Pearl Harbor - on the (reasonable to assume) chance that they were (/had to be?) there with ill will and intent. I think the chance of risking adequate prior warning of an attack would only serve to risk scuppering the plan and the Japanese fleet (if discovered lurking near Pearl harbor) might even have had to turn tail and race back to home waters (and home island bomber cover) in what to a group of people that saw themselves as their "warrior class/elite" would be - in effect - an ignominious retreat.

    It looks like their communique was designed not to land on any one's lap in time, it was ill thought out "just-in-time" diplomacy that went askew - and hence wasn't truly a "prior" declaration of anything. They could have sent a fighter/bomber in 30 seconds before the attack to drop leaflets saying the same thing and it would have got to those on the ground slightly earlier than the means they took to route it so "officiously" through official channels via Washington etc. - so it wasn't really meant to put the US in the picture to any extent. or allow the US any "special" time to plan for anything "new" in the event.

    What's slightly perplexing to some that are not so versed in all of this (and only occasionally watch films, or see the passing popular "histories") is what the communique was actually meant to be all about, if not the Japanese way of saying "a plague on all your houses this means war" these sort of diplomatic messages always go to and fro, and a great deal has been "built up" about this "particular one". It really adds to the effect of the story and that's the sort of thing that the public and those serving them love to lap up.

    Japan would have been wise to declare war and then surrender immediately to the US. The US could then have gone in quickly and fixed their political system and their economy and they could have become one of the world's greatest economic powers in say less than as few decades or so.... :)

    That was the happier time when it was great to be defeated by the US :D

    All the best,

  16. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer Pearl Harbor Myth Buster

    Teikoku Seifu no Taibei Tsucho Oboegaki was a "dashed off thing". Yamamoto gave them permission to send it so long as it did not get delivered more than thirty minutes before the attacks started. Insofar as I know the only purpose of the document was to give the Gaimudaijin the last word. I'll have to dig out Tōgō Shigenori's Japan's Cause to refresh my memory as to what purpose he thought it served.

    Oh, and Kido Butai's orders were that they would press home the attack if discovered within 24 hours steaming time of the launch point.
  17. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    Interesting, was there a chance that there was a PBY rescue operating north of Hawaii on December 6th? and that if there this might have shaken things up?

    I'm trying to remember some of the scenarios war games played out, there was bad weather wasn't there, and the First Airfleet were fortunate to be able to emerge as if by magic from behind a storm front to pop-up and line up some 220 miles north of Oahu. I think that they came ready (and hoping to meet US carriers somewhere. Obviously they hoped to catch the US carriers at anchor in port, but presumably had already had reports from some eye witnesses that the US carriers were not currently there, so had to advance with some sense of caution (but with 2x to 3x to even 6x the numerical advantage if the US had 1,2 or 3 carriers operating somewhere about there) they must have thought that they had the iron might to poleaxe this opposition.

    In the event 2 of the US carriers were delivering squadrons to Wake and far islands to the south and west of Oahu. Whereas the Saratoga (?) was away on the west coast of the continental US. The Japanese perhaps actually kicked themselves (?) for not being aggressive enough (and launching a 3rd wave) - through fear of the US getting together some kind of response and sometimes when I think about the damage done a little later by the Nagumo's force in Dutch East Indies, Australia and Ceylon I think that deserves more written about it than it gets, and Nagumo's not dragging his feet there was almost as a result of not wishing to "underperform" like the First fleet did at Pearl Harbor, as without the carriers sunk, or the fuel dumps burned it was never enough. (The Japanese made a great play of their midget subs successes at Pearl Harbor and this could have rankled with the airmen a wee bit?)

    As the US carriers were still there though the Japanese felt like they had to try to take out Midway and protect the Emperor in Japan, and even more especially after the Doolittle raid in April, rather than push focus further on, into the Indian ocean and threaten a rise in unrest for the British in India and disconcert further the Australians and have them pull back troops serving in the near and far east. protecting Egypt, the Middle East Oil fields, and route to Russia through Persia and Iraq.

    It feels like they were playing some kind of "ultra chess" trying to think 20-30 even 60 moves ahead, and in the event they fell foul of a fools mate after 4 moves and thought, rats, how did that occur ;)
  18. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer Pearl Harbor Myth Buster

    An SOS could be received at any time. Kaneohe would have sortied at least one PBY in that instance. However, Kido Butai had fighters up and the Catalina may not have had a chance to get off a message.

    As for a second attack, the IJN didn't have the power to do damage to Pearl that would be worth the risk. The force would have to return to the carriers, land everybody, refuel/rearm, and repeat the morning attack in two more waves.

    Alan Zimm points out that the fuel tanks were not appropriate targets for the dive bombers or fighter, they didn't pack enough punch. Add the 15% bombing accuracy and you get 8 out of 54 tanks that were actually hit. The Japanese didn't know which tanks had fuel in them, and just hitting them wouldn't guarantee the fuel would destroyed.

    Finally, Eta Jima, the Japanese Annapolis, taught "You do not attack a fortress with naval forces." This was a raid, and it served that function reasonably well.

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