Answer to Question #157141 in History for Chris

Question #157141

According to Lyttleton and Vandenberg, should American officials have been surprised by the attack on Pearl Harbor? Why or why not?

Expert's answer

In December 1941, the Empire of Japan carried out a surprise attack on America by raiding its Pacific fleet that was situatated at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. President Roosevelt had cut all trade ties with Japan and frozen their assets in the United States.Japan hoped a surprise attack would prevent the United States from interfering with its military operations in China and push them to negotiate for a compromise peace. President Roosevelt declared war against Japan instead.

Some critics blamed the US government for the Pearl Harbor attack, among them Lyttleton and Valdenberg. They believed Japan had been forced to take action because of America's restrictive policies and therefore American officials should not have been surprised by the attack. Oliver Lyttelton, a minister under the British Government, was of the opinion that US had provoked Japan into attacking it. He exclaimed that the dispatch that America had been forced into war was misrepresenting as it was never genuinely neutral even before the wars. He implied that America's loyalty lay with Britain.

US Senator Arthur Vandenberg believed the United States should have done more to make peace with Japan. He wrote that the US would have had to yield little to appease Japan. He believed his country had inessentially driven Japan into the hostility through its hostile diplomatic policies and rigid attitude. "We asked for it, and we got it," he wrote. Though he remained bitterly partisan about the attack by blaming Roosevelt's diplomacy, he began to moderate his push for isolationism. 

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