Japanese professor rewritesAssociated Press
story of Pearl Harbor
TOKYO (AP) -- A Tokyo law professor on a quest may be rewriting a bit of World War II history.
Documents uncovered by Takeo Iguchi and publicized in the Japanese media this year appear to show that Japanese officials took pains in the tense days before the devastating Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor to keep it secret, softening a warning to Washington about the lack of progress in talks.
While historians generally agree that Japan hit Pearl Harbor with a meticulously planned surprise attack, it is widely believed in Japan that diplomatic bungling at its Washington embassy kept Tokyo from issuing an ultimatum beforehand.
Not so, said Iguchi, of Tokai University: "They deliberately hid the intention of entering into hostilities." The difference matters to Iguchi on more than historical grounds.
His father, Sado Iguchi, was a top official at Japan's Washington embassy at that time, and the professor wanted to dispel the popular notion that the staff there was at fault.
Iguchi's research sheds new light on a Japanese memorandum that was written to then-U.S. Secretary of State Cordell Hull in the days before the attack -- saying Tokyo was disappointed in its negotiations with the United States.
But it was not delivered until shortly after the attack, because the cable arrived from Tokyo garbled.
Iguchi discovered a draft of the memo in February that contained much stronger language, showing that Japan was ready to fight.
But the tougher talk was gone from the final version, bolstering the view that Tokyo was determined to keep its plans secret.
An official at the Foreign Ministry confirmed the authenticity of the documents, but had no further comment.
In the memo, the phrase "You will be held responsible for any and all consequences that may arise," for example, was replaced with a vaguer line saying that unless Washington changed its attitude, it would be "impossible" to reach an accord.
It may not mean much for historians elsewhere, but it hits hard at Japanese efforts to cast the attack in a softer light, Iguchi said. The air assault killed 2,343 Americans and devastated the U.S. fleet in the Pacific.
"Many Japanese believe that the final memorandum was an official declaration of war, and a fair one," said Iguchi, even though it was delivered after the fact. "So this discovery is something that would surprise them, given what they've been told by some Japanese historians and writers." Daniel Martinez, a historian at the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, said media reports about the memos could give Japanese a better understanding of their country's role in the war.
"Japanese who are visiting Pearl Harbor on vacation often seem stunned to find out the role that their country played in the attack," he said.
Iguchi searched for two years for the drafts, said to have been lost. He finally found them in the Foreign Ministry Diplomatic Record office. Accounts of the discovery appeared in the Yomiuri newspaper in April and then in an English-language newspaper in Tokyo this week.
The documents do not address two other popular ideas in Japan: that Japan was pushed into the assault by aggressive U.S. policies, and that Washington was aware of attack plans beforehand, but let it happen as a way of getting into World War II.