A Quiet Crisis in July

The speed and optimism with which the occupation of southern Indochina was approved on July 2 revealed that most of Japan’s leaders felt there was no immediate crisis. The nation was informed by Konoe’s chief cabinet secretary in a press conference that “an important policy decision has been made recently, owing to the present situation.” But the occupation plan, drafted for internal use only and communicated to the Japanese embassy in Washington, was decoded by the United States within a week. Roosevelt welcomed the Japanese reluctance to attack the Soviet Union, his fledgling ally, but was alarmed by Japan’s stated willingness to risk war with Britain and the United States by going south. He remarked to Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes on July 1 that it was “terribly important for the control of the Atlantic for us to help to keep peace in the Pacific,” adding, “I simply have not got enough Navy to go round—and every little episode in the Pacific means fewer ships in the Atlantic.”

While embracing warlike rhetoric, the Japanese leaders acted as if diplomacy with the United States were of secondary importance. On July 10, almost three weeks after receiving the U.S. counterproposal to combat Matsuoka’s hardnosed approach, Konoe chaired a liaison conference to discuss Japan’s U.S. policy. There was a pervasive sense that the content and the tone of the U.S. reply were unfairly harsh to Japan. The new demands were seen as condescending, touching the raw nerve of the nation’s deep-seated, historically nurtured sense of inadequacy as an upstart, nonwhite power. Matsuoka argued that Washington’s response was a provocation, only a step short of racist foreign policy.

Matsuoka, understandably, was upset by Hull’s calling for his dismissal:

Hull’s statement is extremely aggressive. Nomura, despite being a close friend of mine, had the outrageous temerity to relay this “statement” to me. To meddle with another country’s internal affairs, such as the reorganization of its cabinet, is simply astounding. That is especially true when dealing with a great world power like Japan.

Matsuoka restated his dissatisfaction with Hull and Nomura and the whole manner in which the “talks” with the United States had come about. He was furious with everyone involved—most of all Konoe, who was sitting silently a few yards away.

Matsuoka continued to fulminate at a liaison meeting held two days later. “Hull’s oral statement should in fact have been returned to him immediately upon its being read,” he said. “It is truly appalling what it says … [and] only confirms that the United States looks down on Japan as if it were its protectorate or territory.… So long as I am the foreign minister, I cannot accept such a statement.” He proposed to discontinue the talks with the United States. This alarmed even the most conservative and anti-American in attendance.

After a period of silence, Sugiyama spoke up. “Even though I share the same opinion as the foreign minister,” the army chief of staff started politely, “the military is facing a most critical situation” in both the south and the north. One could not afford making an enemy out of the United States, he said, irrespective of one’s personal views: “[It is] inappropriate to talk of severing ties completely with the United States. It is proper that we leave some room for negotiations.”

Home Minister Hiranuma Kiichiro took the floor after Sugiyama. Seventy-three years old, a slender, bespectacled man with a cold and detached air, scholarly and sure of himself, Hiranuma bore some physical resemblance to Woodrow Wilson. He was a Japanese chauvinist and Asia-firster who thought Japan had a preordained mission to lead Asia into a better, more just world. He had been prime minister briefly in 1939 and shared some of Konoe’s rightist views. But he did not take to fascism the way Konoe did, believing that National Socialism and other forms of fascism were just variations of communism. He resisted Konoe’s fascistic political programs, including the creation of the Imperial Rule Assistance Association in 1940.

Hiranuma’s unexpected loquaciousness on this day signaled his concern over the possibility of confronting the West. “On this occasion,” he began,

the Empire has to avoid going to war with the United States at all costs. That is the most important thing.… [If a war broke out], it might continue for fifty or a hundred years. The foreign minister himself has repeatedly referred to the great Japanese spirit represented in our common aim of “harmonizing the eight corners of the world under one roof.” According to that spirit, we had better avoid war. Japan is not a totalitarian country. Neither is it a liberal state. As far as our ideals go, our Imperial Way is to eliminate all wars from this world. The United States might not understand this, but to stop and refrain from war is the route that Japan should take. So it is our task to steer the United States to help us in that endeavor.… If the foreign minister is right in saying that Americans will inevitably go to war, I suppose my reasoning with you serves no real purpose. The foreign minister insists that Roosevelt is leading his people in that direction and that they are following him. But there are those among them who are opposed to such a war.… It is all right, as the foreign minister says, to criticize [Hull’s oral statement]. But even if our hope is small, could we not make an effort [to seek a peaceful settlement]?

After Hiranuma’s heartfelt plea, Matsuoka had no choice but to say he would be amenable to negotiations so long as the United States would retract Hull’s criticism of him. “Even if there is no hope,” Tojo said, “we should pursue [peace] until the very end. I understand how difficult this might be … but as long as we truthfully communicate [to Washington] what we Japanese think is right, our feelings will surely get through to them.” Said Oikawa: “There is an assessment within the navy that Secretary of State Hull wishes to avoid war in the Pacific. Japan does not wish to have a war in the Pacific. So isn’t there naturally room [for peace to be achieved]?”

Here were military leaders seeming to contradict the latest imperial conference decision not to refrain from war with Britain and the United States. Clearly, the leaders were not resolved to fight such a war. Matsuoka, strange as it may seem, was no exception. In suggesting the end of U.S.-Japan talks, he wanted to appear tough and resolute, hoping to restore his credibility. But he miscalculated. “Why are you military men such wimps?” he said to Tojo and the others. According to one account, he even called them “boneheads” for their conciliatory attitude toward the United States. He said that men in uniform simply did not understand diplomacy and so should stop meddling and think only about wars, like proper soldiers. With these words, Matsuoka had definitively offended and alienated his military colleagues.

The unpleasantness was accompanied by ironies. No one acknowledged that Japan had already taken a step closer to the cessation of ties with the United States with its decision to occupy southern Indochina. Matsuoka, of course, understood that risk. And here he was, a man who in many ways knew the United States more intimately than did anyone else in the room, threatening to abandon negotiations entirely. This led the more conservative elements of the leadership, including Hiranuma and Tojo, to plead with him not to speak so impetuously.

Yes, Matsuoka had earlier insisted that Japan claim its sovereign right to exercise force in the south and had said so to Washington. He had also argued for an immediate strike on Singapore after his return from Europe, so as to help the German war cause. Hard though it might have been for other leaders to comprehend, there was a clear distinction in Matsuoka’s mind between the kind of action he had previously advocated and the recent southward expansion program he opposed. He had envisioned a Japanese attack on Singapore as a quick, targeted deterrence gesture, whereas the Indochinese occupation plan risked a bigger war in order, paradoxically, to be able to fight one.

IN THE ENSUING DISCUSSION, Japan’s leaders continued to reveal their superficial understanding of the outside world, focusing primarily on the timing, rather than the substance, of Japan’s belated reply to Washington. Sugiyama recommended that Japan should delay until the military takeover of southern Indochina was complete. Japan was due to commence its negotiations with the authorities in Vichy France in two days, on July 14. Sugiyama said that giving the United States a chance to embrace and influence French Indochina would be a mistake. If the occupation went smoothly, Washington might not like Japan’s initiative, but it would not take any drastic action over a “peaceful” transition so far from the American mainland. Needless to say, Sugiyama did not suspect that the United States already knew about the Japanese plan.

The leaders’ shortsighted and wishful thinking went hand in hand with ready references to Japan’s high moral ideals, the superiority of the Japanese spirit, Japan’s grand mission to liberate the whole of Asia from Western colonialism, and their wish for a peaceful resolution of the diplomatic and economic stalemate. None of these were conflicting aims in their minds—as long as they remained abstract. They created the illusion of ideological consistency and uniformity in Japan’s leadership.

As the conference drew to a close, Nagano addressed the foreign minister: “Matsuoka, if you say that the Americans will not do anything to change their attitude no matter what we tell them, why not do as you say, eh?” Was he saying that Matsuoka should reject the proposal and Hull’s oral statement altogether, thus severing ties with Washington? Or—more likely—that Japan should respond to the United States without waiting for the Indochina takeover to be completed? Nagano did not clarify. Whatever his true intention, his question prompted the Navy Ministry’s Oka to reprimand Nagano, based on his interpretation of what the navy chief had just said: “I can understand that however limited the hope, we should strive to make further efforts. But, Your Excellency, you are now saying that we should stop making such efforts entirely.” Nagano agreed that his suggestion should be ignored, acknowledging his improper understanding of the issue at stake.

On that strangely unsettling note, the tense liaison meeting of July 12 ended. All that was agreed upon was that no reply should be made to the United States until Japan occupied southern Indochina. Konoe continued to sit silently by.

ON JULY 14, Matsuoka, though ill, managed to draft Japan’s second response to the United States. Based on the joint proposal by the military and the government, it was little changed in content from the May 12 plan. It announced to the United States that Japan did not admit to weakness in the wake of the collapse of the alliance between Japan, Germany, Italy, and the Soviet Union. It also said that Japan was not about to abandon the Tripartite Pact. It tasked the United States with urging Chiang Kai-shek to make peace with Japan and with not interfering in the negotiation.

Matsuoka wanted to reject Hull’s oral statement first (with a lengthy reproach of Hull’s behavior), then send the full response to the U.S. counterproposal a couple of days later. Konoe and others felt that rejecting the oral statement alone would be too provocative and might end the “informal conversations” between the two countries. They favored simultaneous delivery. Matsuoka communicated the rejection of Hull’s oral statement to Nomura anyway, though exercising some self-restraint, without his long tirade against Hull. On July 15, Matsuoka sent the draft of Japan’s full response to Germany for its approval. Konoe was beside himself and for once acted quickly. He wanted an end to Matsuoka’s one-man show.

On July 16—almost a year since Konoe’s comeback as prime minister of Japan and Matsuoka’s debut as his foreign minister—the second Konoe cabinet resigned en masse. Matsuoka would not have resigned voluntarily, as Konoe had hoped and as a minister who suffered a political defeat like the one Matsuoka experienced on July 2 would normally have done. Under the Meiji Constitution, Konoe could not fire a minister—hence this roundabout way of ousting Matsuoka. Illness kept Matsuoka from the emergency cabinet meeting where the decision was made. Konoe immediately formed a new cabinet, its key members unchanged save for the new foreign minister, replacing the old cabinet formally on July 18.

A crowd gathered to watch the celebrated national hero, ill as he was, make a symbolic final trip to his office. Asked by reporters to comment on his state of mind, Matsuoka composed a self-deprecating haiku that made reference to his trademark shaved head. In between puffing his pipe and coughing, he recited: “Baldie collapses by the roadside amid a rainy season journey.”

The Japanese people, in the dark as to exactly why Matsuoka had been dismissed, felt a sense of loss. The self-confident and efficient manner in which he’d carried out diplomacy for their country had impressed and captivated them. He was also a public relations genius, knowing instinctively what to say and how to move in the public eye. And the Japanese loved him for it. Some citizens guessed, wrongly but understandably, that Matsuoka’s removal signaled an imminent war with the Soviet Union. The novelist Nogami Yaeko speculated in her diary that Konoe probably wanted to attack the Soviet Union right away but Matsuoka could not accept it, considering “how chummy Mr. Matsuoka is with Stalin.” As usual, Kafu was more perspicacious, observing that the latest development was the result of a power squabble within the government rather than a herald of a profound shift in foreign policy. “This shake-up smacks of a put-up job,” he wrote in his diary on July 18.

That day was an unseasonably cold and windy day for mid-July. Kafu saw leaves being raked and burned in the fields, making him imagine it was late autumn already. His thoughts then drifted to World War I as he read Léon Bloy’s wartime diary La Porte des Humbles (The Gate of the Humble). He noted how lucky he was not to have any family or friends for whose safety he would have to fear. “The rice tastes awful and sugar is scarce, but one can live with that. After all, it’s not as if one’s in prison without having committed a crime”—an everyday occurrence in the existing political climate. His diary represented what was left of his fast-diminishing freedom, which he was determined to keep.

Shortly after his fall, Matsuoka was visited by Saionji Kinkazu. The once-boastful foreign minister was a thoroughly deflated figure now—literally so. He had lost nearly thirty pounds since his return from Europe, likely owing to the relapse of the tuberculosis he had suffered from in his youth. His house, the former villa of a marquis, had always been filled with flatterers and power brokers; it was suddenly deserted. For about two hours, Saionji comforted him over whiskey. In just twelve months in office, Matsuoka had managed to entrench Japan in the very crisis with the United States that he claimed to know how to avoid. With his brinksmanship, he’d done more damage to Japan’s international position than anyone with much less knowledge of the world ever could have.

OUT WENT a singular and explosive personality and in came Admiral Toyoda Teijiro. But the Oxford-educated naval officer was not the right man for the job. Though self-confident to the point of smugness, he had no diplomatic experience. He did, however, have the necessary connections in the military, including Ambassador Nomura, a navy veteran. Familiar with Japan’s disadvantageous material situation from having served as minister of commerce and industry in Konoe’s second cabinet, he could also make a convincing case to his colleagues that going to war in the Pacific would be inadvisable. Yet Toyoda’s record suggested that he tended to be more interested in preserving his own as well as the navy’s position than in Japan’s political future. In the fall of 1940, as vice navy minister to Oikawa Koshiro, he pushed aggressively for the conclusion of the Tripartite Pact primarily because it would mean a budget increase for the navy.

In Washington, Nomura was hopeful. Overestimating Konoe’s political will, he concluded that Matsuoka’s departure was arranged so that there could be a clear shift in foreign policy, including Japan’s exit from the Axis alliance and its suspension of the southern Indochinese incursion. The United States was hopeful, too. On the day of the German attack on the Soviet Union, The New York Times reported that “high circles in Washington hope that the German-Soviet phase of the war may lead to a new policy in Japan. The hope, in fact, is that Japan not only will break her Axis ties in the near future but actually face about and oppose Germany in the war.” Such hopes were fleeting. By July 18, Washington had correctly surmised that there would be no change in Japan’s policy. The Japanese leaders seemed to think that the personnel reshuffling alone would suffice to restore their country’s credibility with the United States. The new foreign minister was already coercing the Vichy government to hand over its southern Indochinese possessions. When the French declined, Toyoda intimated that Japan would be willing to use force to achieve its goal. The French finally gave in to a “peaceful” Japanese takeover on July 22. This would bring Japan access to eight air bases and two naval ports in the area.

The Roosevelt administration became quickly aware of the Japanese agreement with the French (again thanks to intelligence information) and Acting Secretary of State Sumner Welles (filling in for Hull, who was ill) informed Nomura of the termination of U.S.-Japan talks on July 23. Two days later, Roosevelt froze Japanese assets in the United States. The Dutch East Indies, Britain, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines followed suit. Looking to guard the Philippines, Roosevelt then established the U.S. Army Forces in the Far East under the command of Douglas MacArthur. There was talk of a petroleum embargo. The British were extremely concerned about Singapore’s precarious position. Visiting Toyoda before Japan’s formal announcement, British ambassador Robert Craigie objected to the occupation in an uncharacteristically excited manner: “You say that we are encircling Japan in Burma, Malaya, China, and so on. That is simply not true! If you go ahead with this occupation, we must think of other ways to deal with you.”

Japan was caught completely off guard, but its self-delusion persisted. In a liaison meeting on July 24—in the Imperial Palace, rather than at the prime minister’s official residence, presumably for more confidentiality—Toyoda said that it would be a “great problem” if the United States resorted to a total petroleum embargo. The Army General Staff’s log recorded that Toyoda’s worries were an overreaction to Nomura’s “hysterical” reports warning of U.S. retaliation. The next day’s log definitively repeated the old mantra: “We are convinced there will be no [petroleum] embargo as long as we don’t go further than the military occupation of French Indochina.”

The Navy Ministry’s chief of the First Division of Military Affairs, Takada Toshitane—who, along with his belligerent colleague Ishikawa Shingo, had a big role in drafting the southward expansion plan—reflected on the situation many years later.

We had no inkling that the United States would be so angry over our going into southern French Indochina. We, myself included, thought that advancing as far as southern French Indochina would—and should—be all right. It was a groundless conviction.… No, I did not solicit anybody else’s opinions, like the Foreign Ministry’s. Somehow, we seemed to believe it.… That is inexcusable. That was inexcusable.

Nomura, who had been warning the government of such a U.S. reaction all along, now had to try to minimize the damage. On the day Roosevelt froze Japanese assets, July 24, Nomura visited the president at 5:00 p.m. in the Oval Office. Admiral Harold Stark and Undersecretary of State Welles were present. Welles kept a record of the meeting. Roosevelt told the anxious ambassador, not for the first time, that his government suspected that Hitler was behind Japan’s policy in the south. Nomura fiercely denied this. Roosevelt hinted at further U.S. sanctions against Japan, and even the possibility of war, should Japan try to seize oil by force in the Dutch East Indies.

Nomura responded that he was personally against his country’s recent actions in Indochina. Roosevelt mentioned that he was happy to know that Toyoda was an old navy friend of Nomura’s. This presumably was the basis of Roosevelt’s hope that Japan’s planned southward advance could yet be reversed. According to Welles, he then made the following bold proposal:

If the Japanese Government would refrain from occupying Indochina with its military and naval forces, or, had such steps actually been commenced, if the Japanese Government would withdraw such forces, the President could assure the Japanese Government that he would do everything within his power to obtain from the Governments of China, Great Britain, the Netherlands, and of course the United States itself a binding and solemn declaration, provided Japan would undertake the same commitment, to regard Indochina as a neutralized country in the same way in which Switzerland had up to now been regarded by the powers as a neutralized country.

This was the most remarkably conciliatory proposal ever made by Washington. It reflected the strategic importance of French Indochina, which provided the United States tin, rubber, and other critical raw materials. More than that, Roosevelt was eager to dissociate Japan from Hitler’s regime in any way he could. With Roosevelt’s overarching priority of providing optimal aid to Britain—and to the Soviet Union now, too—peace in the Pacific had to be secured, and that would require some creativity. The president, it is important to point out, was also conspicuously avoiding linking the Japanese actions in French Indochina to the bigger issue of Japan’s war with China. This indicated Roosevelt’s eagerness to make his plan appealing to the Japanese.

Nomura was moved by the offer, but he did not strike Welles as being optimistic about its chance for acceptance. Nomura suggested that only a great statesman would be able to reverse the Indochinese policy. It was apparent to the Americans that Japan was under pressure from the Nazi regime, Roosevelt responded, and it disturbed him greatly that the Japanese government did not see that Hitler was bent on world domination. Nomura’s denials that Germany had influenced Japan continued to fall on deaf ears. The ambassador then told the assembled party that he would convey the president’s proposal to his government at once.

JOSEPH GREW, Nomura’s U.S. counterpart in Tokyo, cut a dashing figure at age sixty. Before arriving in Tokyo in 1932, he had served as ambassador to Denmark, Switzerland, and Turkey. His posting to Japan was particularly important to him because he was married to a grandniece of Matthew Perry, the commodore who forced an end to Japan’s self-imposed isolation under the Tokugawa shogunate. After eight years in Japan, the Grews had formed a close attachment to the country and were fixtures in Tokyo’s high society.

Grew was a Boston Brahmin with all the right social connections. Like Roosevelt and Welles (who were related to one another by marriage), he attended Groton. Also like Roosevelt and Welles, he went on to study at Harvard. They all spoke the same language, as it were. Grew immediately comprehended the meaning of the president’s proposal for neutralizing French Indochina. He was excited and felt this could lead to a breakthrough.

Grew received the report of Roosevelt’s meeting with Nomura two days after the fact. He immediately went to see Toyoda, on the morning of July 27, “with a view,” in his words, “to neglecting nothing which might bring about an acceptance of the President’s proposal.” The ambassador acted entirely on his own initiative, acutely conscious that haste was vital and convinced that neither country wanted a war. Considering the nature of the proposal, he was sure its content had been received with a sigh of relief by the Japanese leaders. He could not have been more mistaken.

To Grew’s astonishment, the foreign minister had no idea what the ambassador was talking about. Toyoda left the room to double-check whether a communication of that nature had been received from Nomura. It had not. It is possible that there had been a willful obstruction of information by pro-Axis elements in the Foreign Ministry, or it might simply have been a case of incompetence. Nomura had twice reported to Tokyo on his meeting with Roosevelt: immediately on July 24 and again on July 27.

Grew, naturally, was taken aback. Now it unexpectedly became his task to explain to Toyoda the gist of what the president had proposed. Toyoda’s initial reaction was lukewarm at best. He said he regretted that the president’s suggestion came too late, after public opinion had already been turned against the United States as a result of Washington’s freezing of Japanese assets. He did not see his government reversing its course.

What Toyoda told Grew was only partially correct. True, the Japanese press had begun to employ the term “ABCD encirclement”—with the letters standing for American, British, Chinese, and Dutch—to sensationally describe Japan’s economic plight and had ramped up its frenzied tone of late. That kind of sycophantic alarmist coverage in an undemocratic society was not unusual. It is somewhat surprising, though, that in the face of Roosevelt’s offer, Toyoda seemed disinclined to respond more positively. Nonetheless, he said that the proposal would be discussed with other leaders and a definitive answer would be given.

Grew knew that the kind of concessions made by Roosevelt did not come easily from the United States. He tried to convince Toyoda then and there that the reversal of Japanese policy would mean a better future for Japan. Speaking in an unofficial capacity and strictly off the record, he even hinted at the unfreezing of Japanese assets should Japan respond favorably to the president’s offer. He “fully recognized,” he told Toyoda, “that the element of ‘face-saving’ must of necessity enter into the question.” He added that Toyoda was now

presented with an opportunity to rise above such considerations and to act in conformity with the highest statesmanship and to take a decision which would not only permit him to be relieved of the truly appalling situation … but which might well result in his being regarded by history as one of the greatest statesmen of Japan.

Grew misjudged the foreign minister. Such flattery would have appealed to Matsuoka, but Toyoda preferred to play it safe in the world he knew. Grew also hugely underestimated the problems deriving from the complicated workings of Japanese leadership. As far as the existing records show, the Roosevelt proposal was never even put forward for discussion at a liaison meeting. It seems that Konoe decided to keep this extremely sensitive proposal within the highest circles of government.

Konoe later claimed that he did not act on Roosevelt’s proposal because of its timing. He improperly criticized Nomura for not having reported sooner. If Nomura was guilty of anything, it was his failure to emphasize sufficiently the proposal’s importance. He had also failed to stress, in his earlier communications, the importance, from the U.S. perspective, of Hull’s Four Principles. He should have made clear at the outset of the U.S.-Japan talks that if his government was even remotely serious about reaching a diplomatic settlement with the United States, those points could not be trifled with. Historians have characterized Nomura as a good negotiator but a bad communicator. Perhaps so. But one must take into consideration how the rudimentary nature of communication—primarily by telegram—made it hard to communicate quickly and sufficiently.

According to Konoe, he had done his utmost to find ways of accepting Roosevelt’s proposal once he received it. He said he tried “in a hundred different directions.” No illuminating record of such efforts exists. Konoe certainly did meet with Toyoda, Navy Minister Oikawa, and Army Minister Tojo. It is not difficult to imagine that Tojo, who was initially against “thieving” in the south, resisted a policy reversal on principle: As an already imperially approved matter, the occupation of southern Indochina was sacrosanct.

The president’s proposal had come a bit late, but Konoe was hardly aggressive in taking advantage of the opportunity. No minister in Konoe’s government, for that matter, was man enough to “rise above such considerations” of face-saving and internal conflict, as Grew had hoped, to dislodge a policy that was already in place.

Japan’s leaders let the diplomatic crisis brew. Meanwhile, its people remained ignorant of such developments. In a sweeping national campaign to raise money, citizens were urged to buy national life insurance. In mid-July, it was announced with great fanfare that fifty million policies had been sold (Japan’s population was about seventy-three million), raising 10 billion yen (almost 40 percent of the country’s gross national product for 1941). Most of that money went to purchase government bonds to fund Japan’s war in China. Little did people know that their lives would become very cheap, even worthless, thanks to the government they so earnestly supported with their hard-earned, hard-saved money.

On July 28, the Japanese occupation of southern Indochina formally commenced, putting Singapore within Japan’s reach. The effortless takeover compelled some military men to start talking tough, despite their earlier claim that they were not looking any farther than the Indochinese Peninsula. On the last day of the month, Nagano went to see Hirohito at the palace, carrying a new war plan. The navy chief of staff told Hirohito that a war with the United States should be avoided and that he was vehemently against the Tripartite Pact, which he felt was obstructing Japan’s diplomacy with the United States. But rather than suggesting a Japanese withdrawal from the pact (presumably because that would be a political decision that didn’t concern him or the high command), Nagano warned, “If our petroleum supplies were cut off, we would lose our stock in two years. If a war broke out, we would use it all up in eighteen months.” To maximize Japan’s chance for survival beyond that limited time frame, he concluded, there was “no choice but to strike.”

“Could we expect a big victory, such as our victory [over Russia] in the Sea of Japan?” Hirohito asked.

“I am uncertain as to any victory,” Nagano replied, “let alone the kind of huge victory won in the Sea of Japan.”

“What a reckless war that would be!” Hirohito exclaimed.

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