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The Warning Shot

Eight years before the Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, a Japanese-language publication hit Honolulu like a bombshell, predicting war with the United States and an inevitable Japanese victory.


(page 3 of 3)

Fukunaga’s novelette laid bare the fantasies of Japanese militarists. It made no secret of Japan’s designs on China and Russia’s Maritime Provinces. Underdog Japan could outmaneuver and defeat the superior forces of the United States through courage and guile. Meanwhile, the United States would be disoriented by saboteurs, racial strife and isolationists. “It is our country’s duty to stir up and incite the Japanese in Hawaii to attack the Americans there,” declared one Japanese character.

“Japanese spies are everywhere,” mumbled the captain of the USS Oklahoma moments before his ship’s magazine detonated, sabotaged by a rebellious African-American sailor to show solidarity with the progressive Japanese. Fukunaga really believed that downtrodden races looked to Japan to free them from white oppressors, resurrecting false hopes of the 1916 scheme of Mexican and Japanese intelligence that became known as the Plan of San Diego. As enlightening as it was of battlefield innovations, the novelette was equally informative of dangerous misconceptions that predisposed Japanese hawks to the idea of a quick, easy war.

Alas, the greatest irony of Fukunaga’s bombshell could not be realized until 1941, because that first volatile shipment of Account of the Future US-Japan War—dropped upon Honolulu on Dec. 7, 1933. The Japanese intention to attack Pearl Harbor and United States interests throughout the Pacific was hardly any secret, as the 1933 novelette confirmed. The surprise lay merely in the date and execution.

Maryland-based author Jamie Bisher is fascinated with secret history and has just finished writing books about Japanese and other foreign intelligence in Latin America during World War I and the 1920s. His first book, White Terror: Cossack Warlords of the Trans-Siberian, about the Russian Civil War in the Far East, examined the hair-trigger relations between US and Japanese forces in Siberia.

 If the editors of Paradise of the Pacific, our predecessor, were aware of the Japanese publication Nichibei-sen Miraiki—Account of the Future US-Japan War, they didn’t mention it in the pages of the magazine. However, by the mid-1930s, Paradise frequently commented on the likelihood of war. Imperial Japan would invade China by July, 1937, while Germany would invade Poland in September, 1939; America did not enter the war until the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor. These excerpts from Paradise, predating some of those turning points, show tensions running high.

Jan.1936: “[N]ewer chatter has arisen as to what might happen in the Pacific, the theorizing chiefly being directed toward … warring between Japan and the United States since the consensus of vagrant opinion seems to be that Japan would start it, if anything were started. … Says one ‘school of guessing:’ The Japanese might get a number of aircraft carriers within a few hundred miles of Honolulu, then swoop over the city (from an ‘unexpected’ angle) and drop bombs on forts, barracks, government buildings … unavoidably smiting, here and there, a hospital, a hotel or two …”

Feb.1937: “Nations prepare for war in peace. A considerable part of this preparation is the securing of information about possible enemies. … It is the duty of every American citizen to take care that anything he innocently says or writes does not serve to injure his country.”

Aug.1937: “When is a war not a war? When Japan attacks Shanghai in 1932; when Japan carves Manchukuo out of Manchuria; when the Triple Alliance and the Triple Entente use Spain as a battlefield in 1937; when Japan opens hostilities in Northern China in 1937; and as far as America is concerned—not until the President, under the provisions of the [Neutrality] Act of May 1, 1937, says that it is a war.”

Oct.1937: “Over two thousand miles nearer Asia than any other important integral part of the United States, Hawaii will first feel the pulse of war if it ever throbs eastward from Asia. With aviation, radio, and other reducing factors making a teacup of the Pacific basin, Hawaii must be ready.”

— A. Kam Napier


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Honolulu Magazine May 2018
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