Commentary: Then on the 26th November 1941, US Secretary of State Cordell Hull wrote to the Japanese, saying they must get out of China as well as cease their aggression in South East Asia. Back in Tokyo this demand that the Japanese leave China was completely unacceptable. Now, with the consent of Emperor Hirohito, plans the Japanese had already made for a surprise attack on the Americans would be put into action. But even as these planes readied themselves to bomb Pearl Harbour, the Japanese leadership knew that they could never win a long war with America. They hoped to inflict a quick, devastating defeat on the Americans, and then make a compromise peace.
“Yesterday,” President Roosevelt said on December 8, “the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked.” He went on to say, “No matter now long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory. I believe I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost, but will make very certain that this form of treachery shall never endanger us again.” After the Pearl Harbor attack, and for the first time after years of discussion and debate, the American people were united in their determination to go to war. The Japanese had wanted to goad the United States into an agreement to lift the economic sanctions against them; instead, they had pushed their adversary into a global conflict that ultimately resulted in Japan’s first occupation by a foreign power.