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Chapter 1

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
Prelude to Pearl Harbor

by
Gerald E. Wheeler

published by
University of Missouri Press,
Columbia, Missouri
1963

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
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Chapter 3
This site is not affiliated with the US Naval Academy.

p27 2

The Problem of Japan

The presence of Japan in the Far East infinitely complicated American Far Eastern policy. Maintaining the Open Door and defending the Philippine Islands became increasingly complex with the growth of Japanese hegemony in eastern Asia. In view of this growth the success or failure of the China or Philippine policies of the United States depended on the nature of Japanese-American relations.

American foreign policy, Japanese foreign policy, or the external policy of any country is formulated to insure the safety of the nation and its inhabitants and to promote their welfare. To realize these great national objectives there are such subsidiary policies as determination to protect the nation by military force and to help the commerce and business of the nation find suitable trade outlets. It was at this all‑important subsidiary policy level that Japanese and American interests clashed.

During the years 1922 to 1932, in the absence of air power as we know it today, both countries relied upon their navies as the first line of defense. The Japanese strategists viewed their problem as similar to that of Great Britain. They were an insular nation, they had no great continental depth into which they could retreat, they had potentially powerful neighbors nearby; thus a battle fleet capable of meeting and destroying an enemy expeditionary force was a vital necessity. For the United States a similar naval problem existed, but the American p28public put almost as much faith in the width of the two oceans as it did in the fleet.1 Had both Japan and the United States needed navies for coastal defense purposes alone, there would have been no problem, but the United States had to consider the defense of the Philippines as well as the security of the continental littoral. The more obvious solution to American naval needs would result in a new dilemma: If the United States had a fleet large enough to defend the mainland and the Philippines, then the fleet menaced Japan; if Japan had a navy large enough to meet the United States Fleet, then the Japanese navy was a direct menace to the Philippines.2 The proposed solution led to the Five-Power Naval Treaty of February, 1922. The Japanese accepted capital ship inferiority to the United States at the ratio of five to three, and the United States agreed to no additional fortifying of her Asiatic possessions. This treaty soon provoked further ill‑feeling between the United States and Japan in naval matters.

The governments of Japan and the United States also collided in promoting their commercial interests. The Department of State felt that insistence upon maintaining the Open Door and the territorial integrity of China would best serve American commercial needs. Basically, this policy assumed that no nation had a greater interest in Far Eastern trade than the United States, but unfortunately for America, the Japanese rejected this premise.

The China market, for the American businessman, remained in the potential stage throughout the 1920's. Industrial jeremiads at the turn of the century had created what was to become a permanent conviction that American business was producing a heavy surplus that required new markets, and out of this conviction arose the belief that China, which still had relatively low tariff due to the unequal treaties, could absorb that surplus. Yet despite China's comparative freedom from the economic nationalism that had gripped most of the nations of the world at this time, American exports to China remained quite low. In the years 1923 to 1931, exports to China by American firms did p29not rise above an average of 3 per cent of all American exports, a figure which represented 18 per cent of China's total imports.3 A glance at the American export figures to Japan shows that the United States was exporting approximately twice as much to Japan as to China during the period.4 A very rough approximation shows that American exports to China and Japan were about 9 to 10 per cent of total American exports. The superior level of economic development in Japan, its greater urbanization, and its sounder trading practices accounted in part for the higher Japanese imports of American goods. Thus Japanese interest in China, commercially speaking, was considerably greater than that of the United States. The Japanese exported an average of 22 per cent of their total exports to China in the years 1923‑31, or 27 per cent of China's total imports.5 The figures (3 per cent of America's exports as compared to 22 per cent of Japan's) show the relative importance of the Chinese market to each nation.

In the field of investments in China, there was an even greater disparity between Japanese and American interests by 1931. Of an estimated $3.2 billions invested in China by all nations, Japanese businessman had invested 35.1 per cent of the amount as compared to American investments of 6.1 per cent. In terms of percentages of total foreign investments of each country, the Japanese had invested 81.9 per cent of their total in China, whereas Chinese investments represented a mere 1.3 per cent of American investments abroad.6

When these figures are viewed with the realization that Japan did not attempt agricultural self-sufficiency in the 1920's, their importance increases somewhat. Japanese concentration on industry had created an urbanized economy that bought imported food and raw materials with exported manufactured goods. A sudden change in the China market could mean possible starvation in Japan, or at the least a heavy government program of agricultural importing. These economic facts of life caused increased pressures on the Chinese to keep p30them within the Japanese economic orbit, and Japanese interference in Chinese affairs to assure that internal chaos did not ruin an all‑important market.7

The Japanese did not place full reliance on the China market alone; the 1920's found them vigorously casting about for other outlets in the Far East and western Pacific area. As early as 1908 the Oriental Development Company had been incorporated to exploit Chosen, and it later established subsidiary agents to develop markets and businesses in the Dutch East Indies, Hainan, the Philippines, and the South Sea Islands. American consuls throughout the Far East noted Japanese economic pressure on the Dutch East Indies and the Philippines and observed how this activity was generally accompanied by anti-American propaganda. From Formosa the American consul, Henry B. Hitchcock, commented, "Formosa is frankly spoken of by the Japanese as their outpost in the commercial conquest of the South Seas. . . ."8 The Dutch Indies were visited annually by Japanese naval vessels and business missions, all desiring to impress the Dutch with the value of close trade connection with Japan. Yet the American consul at Batavia wrote that the Dutch took pains to treat him as well as they did the Japanese, if not better. He felt the islanders were worried about Japanese "peaceful penetration" and its ramifications.9 In the Philippines the Japanese established themselves in such numbers that some caustic American writers were referring to the province of Davao in Mindanao as "Davaokuo." By 1930 they held approximately one‑fifth of the cultivated land in Davao and in the years 1918 to 1930 had increased p31their population from 2,000 to 5,000. To the Chief of the Bureau of Insular Affairs these statistics were ominous. Yet, though the Japanese Government was interested in overseas markets and in exporting some of its surplus population, the oft‑repeated arguments for emigration in Japanese newspapers suggest that the Japanese preferred to remain at home. By 1928 Japanese government officials recognized this trend and merely encouraged investments in rather than emigration to foreign areas.10

Simply stated, Japanese and American national policies, though basically pointing toward similar national objectives, i.e., capturing the Far Eastern markets, clashed due to the relative importance of subsidiary policies. Their Far Eastern markets were a matter of life or death to the Japanese, and as a result of this realization they built a navy capable of supporting their policies in Far Eastern waters. This navy, unfortunately, was strong enough to menace American possessions in Guam and the Philippines. The United States, on the other hand, demanded absolute equality with the Japanese in the Far East, though its interests were in no way equal. While this demand was often expressed, the United States with very slow to build a navy equal to the task of supporting its policy declarations. The American Congress put its faith in multilateral treaties limiting naval armaments, and looked approvingly and hopefully upon the development of air power, which many believed would eliminate the expensive battleship line and provide better security for American shores.11 The Japanese, however, since 1894 had tasted the rewards of "blood-and‑iron" policy in the Far East and thus were willing to place more faith in a sound naval program than in a pious treaty system.

The 1920's represent a period when an American-Japanese war was theoretically possible in the light of such national policy conflicts. It never came off; the Japanese were unable to muster the financial strength to meet the challenge. Years of tension ensued, during which p32time minor matters such as immigration laws or fleet maneuvers served as escape valves for the heat created from the more basic problems of America's frustrating Japan's desires in Asia.

When the curtain was run down on the Washington Conference in February, 1922, many felt that all problems involving Japan and the United States had been laid to rest. The capital ship race had been halted, the Sino-Japanese situation had reached a reasonable resolution, and a new era was surely dawning. Elmer Davis cheerfully commented in the New York Times, "much of the important provocation that might lead to trouble between Japan and the United States has disappeared. There are still, of course, the Japanese in California . . . in Manchuria and Siberia. But a little wisdom and common sense can make it very unlikely that trouble should ever arise from those problems." Davis was obviously too hopeful.

In the early 1920's those Japanese aliens in California became a critical problem in Japanese-American relations. Once again California passed legislation designed to discriminate against aliens "ineligible for citizenship," and such activity was emulated by other coastal states. By December, 1923, the urge to do something about the Japanese reached the national level. Representative Albert Johnson of Washington introduced a new "national origins" immigration bill designed to replace the immigration act of 1921. For inhabitants of the Pacific slope it had special significance; it excluded completely, by the device of denying a quota, immigrants from countries whose citizens were ineligible for citizenship.12 Without naming them, the Johnson bill was p33designed in part to halt further immigration of the Japanese to the United States. Though Secretary of State Hughes and the President were opposed to its passage so long as the exclusion clause was included, the Johnson bill was approved by the House of Representatives 308 to 62, and by the Senate 69 to 9, and on May 26, 1924, it was signed by President Coolidge. In signing the bill the President stated formally his regret that he was unable to exercise an "item veto" and thus eliminate the exclusion clause. As the President signed the bill, Secretary Hughes wrote a dignified letter to Ambassador Masanao Hanihara and in it stated that both he and the President were opposed to the exclusion provision, but they could do nothing in the face of a determined Congress. Hughes reminded Hanihara that a Presidential veto would merely cause additional acrimonious debate, and this would undoubtedly convince the average Japanese citizen that the Congress of the United States was prejudiced completely against him. Sincere as they were, Hughes's letter and the President's statement were poor sops to the outraged Japanese.13

Had the issue of immigration remained completely free of outside pressure on the Japanese and American governments, there is little likelihood that the matter would have taken on the serious proportions that it assumed. However, the press in both countries took up the issue. In the United States there was a great deal of editorializing on whether the Japanese protest before the immigration act was passed constituted unreasonable meddling with a sovereign right of the United States, and later whether it was a veiled threat.14 Once the bill was signed by President Coolidge, it ceased to be an important matter for American newspapers, but not so in Japan. The newspapers that had been remarking a year before that "it seems almost incredible that people of intelligence should have been seriously concerned . . . that there was to be a war between Japan and America . . ." were now printing scare headlines. A few newspapers attempted to rationalize in favor of the United States, but most agreed with the Osaka Mainichi, Tokyo Nichi Nichi, Tokyo Hochi, and Tokyo Kokumin that the immigration act p34was an insult, deliberately perpetrated, and that to accept it would cause Japan to lose face in the Far East.15 July 1 became "national humiliation" day, upon which for a few years mass meetings were held to protest America's action; but by July, 1928, the chargé in Tokyo was able to observe that the Japanese had passed the "blind resentment" stage. He felt that the people as a whole were able to appreciate the immigration issue and its significance to America, but he warned that the Japanese had not dropped the matter completely.16 Occasionally Japanese leaders capitalized on antiexclusion sentiment to obtain support for internal programs; but on the whole the Government accepted Prime Minister Wakatsuki's view that the Japanese should not immigrate to areas where they were not welcome, that the solution to overpopulation was further industrialization.17

Though official relations remained outwardly friendly, evidence soon appeared after the passage of the immigration bill that the Japanese were going to use it to weaken the American position in the Far East. Ambassador Jacob Gould Schurman in Peking had already warned Secretary Hughes that Japan would attempt to replace the United States as China's friend. If Japanese were alienated by an exclusion act, then America could expect the Japanese to assume leadership in a Pan‑Asiatic movement.18 Japanese-owned newspapers in China began to emphasize that they were shouldering the burden of defending Asiatic rights, and Japanese consulates through the Far East became p35information centers for the distribution of anti-American literature. American consuls from Calcutta to Melbourne saw the alarmed reaction of the English to the exclusion act. Englishmen feared it would turn the Japanese toward Australia and New Zealand, yet it was difficult for them to condemn what was clearly the Commonwealth's national policy. From Melbourne, Consul General Maxwell Blake surmised that Australians were upset not by the act but by the clumsy manner in which it was handled. He enclosed an editorial from the Melbourne Herald for April 30, 1924, predicting "America's action must sooner or later lead to war between the two countries. Those who dwell in the Pacific and especially those who declare the trespassing Asiatics will be prosecuted, must look to their defences."

It is difficult to generalize further in regard to the effects of the immigration act upon Japanese-American relations without chronicling the many inevitable and unpleasant incidents resulting from that ill‑considered law. What is significant is that Secretaries of State Hughes, Kellogg, and Stimson were saddled with the problem and were unable to offer any hope of remedy. In his instructions to Ambassador Edgar A. Bancroft in February, 1925, Secretary Hughes warned of the inutility even to hint to the Japanese that the act might be modified. Rather, he expected the Ambassador to treat with the Japanese in a friendly, cordial manner, without brusqueness but also without subserviency. He hoped that time would heal the wound, but he realized the Japanese had been deeply hurt. Secretary Frank Kellogg adhered to this policy, and only at the time of the London Conference was even the possibility of modifying the exclusion act opened to carefully guarded consideration.19

The exclusion act was to prove of lasting importance. Secretary Hughes predicted with terrible accuracy what was to be the Japanese attitude when he wrote to an old friend:

It is a sorry business and I am greatly depressed. . . . Of course, there is no danger of war. Japan cannot threaten anybody. She is overwhelmed with her economic difficulties as a result of the earthquake. . . . That makes the situation all the worse because she feels p36that we have chosen to affront her at such a time. The question is not one of war but of the substitution of antagonism for cooperation in the Far East, with all that that involved. Our friends in the Senate have in a few minutes spoiled the work of years and done a lasting injury to our common country.20

The winter and spring of 1924‑25 found Japanese-American relations additionally burdened by a particularly thorny problem. The Navy Department planned to hold extensive maneuvers in the Pacific around Hawaii and to climax the maneuvers with a cruise to Australia, involving a good portion of the Pacific battleship fleet and supporting units. The Pacific maneuvers and their tactical exercises were the climax of a four-year training cycle, and the department had been planning the Australian cruise since late 1923 as a means of testing Battle Fleet capabilities.21

The Japanese fleet in the summer of 1924 began to balloon the issue — particularly in the vernacular newspapers. Emphasized were the apparent inconsistencies between American interest in naval disarmament and Pacific naval maneuvers. By winter the Japanese press was almost rabid. The English-language edition of the Osaka Mainichi for December 14, 1924, broadened the issues involved:

The United States is going to carry out in the Pacific Naval manoeuvres, the scope of which is so gigantic that no excuse will be of avail against a contention that the American Navy is a menace to the Japanese Navy. Unless the United States will modify the Immigration Act and refrain from such action as to engage in such gigantic Naval manoeuvres as planned by the American Navy, the establishment of a truly friendly relation between the two countries will be out of the question.

p37 In an earlier issue the Osaka Mainichi had predicted that "the cruise of the American fleet to the Hawaiian Islands in fighting trim will make the breaking out of war inevitable."22

The reaction to the Japanese press attack was equally strong in the United States. On December 19, 1924, the House of Representatives rejected a resolution asking the Navy Department to call off its maneuvers, with floor comment against appeasement of Japan. A few months later, Secretary of State Hughes wrote to Ambassador Cyrus E. Woods in Tokyo, opposing cancellation of the exercises. "To change the navy's plans because of ill‑advised agitation would only postpone trouble and make it more difficult in the future to do the ordinary thing. It is better that the agitation should quiet down and such matters should be regarded on their merits. It was the general opinion that it was in the best interests of our relations with Japan that our Navy should go on with its plans."23

Once American determination was clear, the Japanese leadership helped to cool the heated atmosphere. Foreign Affairs Minister Baron Shidehara publicly declared that the Japanese Government could see no harm in the maneuvers, and asked that his people be excused because of their naturally suspicious character. In the later house of the Diet Mr. Nakamura commented in January, 1925, that the American maneuvers in no way endangered Japan or violated the Four-Power Treaty. Once the Government had spoken, the Japanese press returned to quiescence. Occasional articles did appear reaffirming the Government's view that the maneuvers were no menace, yet expressing hope for cancellation of the exercises.24

It is obvious from the timing and the character of the comment that the Japanese protests amounted to less than token resistance. Yet the excitement created helped to maintain the anti-American spirit, still strong as an aftermath of the immigration act.

p38 The Immigration Act of 1924 and the florescence of Japanese interest in the American Battle Fleet maneuvers of 1925 colored to some extent the total milieu in which Japanese-American affairs were conducted; but the clearest picture of conflicting national interests results from an examination of business relationships between the two nations. If international trade and finance can be an agency for promoting friendship, there was ample opportunity to sovereign all problems between the countries; but efforts aimed at closer economic relationships were not wholly successful.

In December, 1922, the State Department was approached by representatives of several prominent American banking houses who desired the views of the department on a proposed loan to the Oriental Development Company of Japan. The course of the conversations revealed the information that the money would probably finance various projects outside Japan in such areas as Singapore, the Straits Settlements, Manchuria, Mongolia, and the South Seas. The answer given to the banking representatives was based on the principle that "this Department will not view with favor the use of American money to provoke [promote?] competition with American enterprises in third countries. . . ." The banking group (National City of New York, Riggs of Washington) was not easily discouraged and returned on January 3, 1923, for further consultation with Secretary of State Hughes, but again it was turned away without department approval of the loan.25

In a confidential memorandum, the Economic Adviser stated the principal reason for denying approval of the loan. He believed that "to strengthen Japan's hand in Manchuria and Mongolia would seem to be borrowing both economic and political trouble for the future." Stanley K. Hornbeck, Chief of the Division of Far Eastern Affairs, concurred heartily. He stated, ". . . the funds in question, if advanced, would contribute either directly or indirectly to the promotion of p39Japan's special economic program on the continent and the department has a perfect right to withhold its approval if and so long as it feels that the prosecution of that program is inimical to American interests."26 Heavy pressure from the embassy in Tokyo and the National City Bank, plus assurances from the president of the South Manchurian Railroad, resulted in a department reversal in February, 1923. The Oriental Development Company received its loan.

The policy that emerged from the Oriental Development Company loan became one of the guides for the State Department during the 1920's. By stating "it is not desirable that American credit be made available to foreign interests for investments or enterprises in third countries in cases in which the use of such American credit would tend to prejudice or circumscribe the opportunities for American enterprises," the department put itself in step with the business-conscious Administration.27 In assuming the right to pass on loan flotations, the State Department consciously made use of the American market as a lever in its conduct of foreign affairs. With respect to Japan, the general policy of not sanctioning loans for use in third countries (though the Oriental Development Company loan was an exception) placed the United States at the side of China as a guardian against Japanese economic penetration and the control that would follow. This policy, though consistent with our China program, continuously annoyed bankers who realized that the Japanese were a better financial risk than their neighbors to the west.

An opportunity to use the American bond market as a means of improving Japanese-American relations came in September, 1923. The Japanese archipelago, particularly the Tokyo-Yokohama area, was violently shaken by a series of earthquakes which left Japan stricken and paralyzed. In the United States and Japan bankers quickly foresaw the need for reconstruction loans. The governor of the New York Federal Reserve Bank suggested to Secretary Hughes that America take advantage of this opportunity to improve Japanese-American p40relations and thus head off any embarrassingly opportunistic consortium formation.28

The Japanese sent financial missions abroad to seek loans, and the Japanese Ambassador in Washington talked with State and Treasury Department officials along similar lines. Ambassador Hanihara estimated the Japanese needs at Yen 100,000,000 ($50,000,000) in 1924 and possibly as much in 1925. In Tokyo the Asahi Shimbun spoke in terms of a billion Yen. In January, 1924, J. P. Morgan and Company sought Secretary of State Hughes' attitude toward a $150,000,000 loan to Japan. The Secretary could see no basis for objection and concluded, in his letter of approval, "I may add that it would be a source of great satisfaction if, at this time of their courageous effort to overcome the devastating effects of the recent disaster, it would be found possible to make this market available to the Government and people of Japan on the most favorable terms possible."29

The loan was made by issuing bonds paying 6½ per cent interest, and these were very quickly sold in the American market. The Japanese partisan press exploded, and public sentiment briefly flared when it was realized that such a high interest rate had been accepted by the Japanese Government, especially in view of the oversubscription in America. Thus the fortuitous financial situation created by a great natural disaster, which might have paved the way for better relations, in the end contributed to a deteriorating situation. The Government of the United States could of course offer no aid because it had pledged itself against foreign loans, particularly when ready capital was available from private sources.30

By the winter of 1927‑28 American bankers again requested the Department of State to consider a prospective loan to Japan. The South Manchurian Railway Company desired to undertake new construction and to refinance some old obligations and was therefore looking p41to the American money market. Thomas W. Lamont of Morgan and Company again did the contact work, both in Japan and with the State Department. In a personal letter to Assistant Secretary of State Robert E. Olds, Lamont said that approximately $200,000,000 had been loaned to the Japanese Government and various municipalities since the earthquake, and that Secretary Kellogg had as recently as September, 1927, requested that Morgan and Company continue its aid to the Japanese. Lamont now stated that more financing was desired by the Japanese and requested an interview at the department. Kellogg told his subordinates that the policy concerning loans for third-country developments would be continued; but at the conference with Lamont on November 17, 1927, no specific loan was mentioned, and thus the department had nothing on which to act.31

In the Far East the prospects of a Morgan loan to the South Manchurian Railway created unusual interest. In Shanghai General Chiang K'ai‑shek and other Kuomintang leaders met with Admiral Mark L. Bristol, Commander-in‑Chief of the Asiatic Fleet, to discuss Lamont's intentions. Bristol denied any knowledge of the purposed loan. Without pressing the matter, H. H. Kung commented, "This loan, although made to the Japanese Government, will be used by the South Manchurian Railway to strengthen Japan's hold in Manchuria, close the open door, and endanger the peace in the Pacific. . . ."32 In Peking Ferdinand Mayer, chargé ad interim, received similar advice from the headquarters of General Chang Tso‑lin. The General felt that any aid to Japan would merely increase her economic grip on the Manchurian provinces. Chang suggested that he would certainly welcome American capital for investment in Manchuria, an area in which he could exert the greatest amount of control. But from Tokyo Ambassador Charles MacVeagh warned of the danger to Japanese-American relations that would arise from United States suspicions of Japan's intentions in Manchuria and of American lack p42of faith in the Washington treaties, in which all participants had pledged respect for the Open Door and China's territorial integrity.33

On the basis of the information received from the Far East, and with the Government's loan policy in mind, Assistant Secretary Olds decided:

. . . it would be far less serious to refrain from objection than deliberately to interpose it and defeat the transaction. The charge of intervening on one side of the controversy would come with considerably more force if we objected than if we refrain and treat the matter as one of simple routine, regarding the loan as made on the guaranty of the Japanese Government to a corporation whose ownership at this time cannot be, and is not, disputed. The fact that our bankers do not propose to take on the property any lien which would run beyond the period of Japan's undisputed ownership [1936‑37] is rather important in this connection.34

Despite Secretary Olds's views, the legation in China brought enough pressure to bear that by the second week in December it had become evident to the Japanese that they would not get their loan — not immediately, at least.35 Dr. Takuma Dan, the head of the Mitsui interests, and probably the most important financial figure in Japan, told Ambassador MacVeagh of the Japanese disappointment over the transaction. He felt the State Department had killed the loan because of Chinese propaganda. Kellogg advised MacVeagh to adhere to the State Department story that no loan proposal had been made, and therefore the department had absolutely no comment. In strictest p43confidence he advised MacVeagh of concern on the part of American bankers set off by the vigorous Chinese clamor; it had been decided, he said, to let the situation settle down before making the loan. In the summer of 1928 Morgan and Company floated a $20,000,000 bond issue for the Japanese Government to refinance two loans made to the South Manchurian Railway. The State Department could find no grounds for opposition, though the money was to be spent in a third country and used against China's interests.36

The delays in granting the South Manchurian Railway loan left a definite feeling of resentment among the Japanese. The State Department's reluctance to use American capital for Japanese exploitation in Manchuria was obvious. It was likewise clear that American Far Eastern policy, at least in terms of loans, was entirely consistent with its traditional policy to protect the Open Door and maintain the territorial integrity of China. In broader outline the Japanese saw that the United States would willingly approve loans to be spent for developments in Japan, but America was quite unwilling to see Japan expand, even financially, onto the continent of Asia, and particularly in China.

While investigating the relationships between the United States and Japan it is pertinent to look at the host of minor irritants that formed a substratum to the major problems. The State Department files are interesting in this regard because of their topical arrangement. The most cursory glance through the records reveals a plethora of letters, reports, and memoranda covering every point of mutual contact from espionage to trademark infringements. When considered by source, geographically and socially, it can be seen that all types of Americans, from Federal Bureau of Investigation agents to small businessmen, took the opportunity to comment on the Japanese and their activities.

American manufacturers found many grounds for complaints against the Japanese about trademark, copyright, and patent violations. To a certain extent it was fruitless to protest to the State Department or to the Japanese Government. The laws covering such areas in Japan were not similar to those of the United States, and few suits, p44once begun, could be fought to a satisfactory conclusion. Trademark infringements constituted a large body of official complaints. The Japanese manufacturers had early recognized the value of American names on their products for prestige purposes. Violations became ludicrous when the Japanese began manufacturing "Wright Whirlwind" [aircraft engines] wearing apparel, "Willys-Knight" wireless apparatus, or "Hudson" overshoes.37 The results were to camouflage cheap Japanese merchandise with an American label and thus decrease the appeal of the American brand over a period of time.

Since copyright law was extremely vague in Japan, Japanese motion-picture exhibitors often appropriated American films. During the years 1924‑25 at least seven major productions, among them "Babylon," "Camille," and "Greed," were stolen by the Japanese. The mere change of title or deletion of a scene was enough to convince a Japanese court that the film had not been pirated and was actually a Japanese creation.38

Patent infringements were a similarly vexatious problem, yet little justice could be obtained for the American inventor, manufacturer, or patent owner. Powerful American firms like the Standard Oil Company found they could get their cases taken to the ministry level but without satisfaction.39 The end result of these business irritations was the creation of a body of American businessmen, increasingly vocal in their complaints, which affected ever-widening circles through membership in business associations and clubs. It was undoubtedly serious to have such an important element in American society prejudiced against Japan.

One could hardly leave the subject of Japanese-American relations as seen from the grass roots without commenting upon the State Department file of reports on individuals. It contains hundreds of letters and reports concerning suspicious activities of Japanese in the United States. The letters run from unverified rumors and crank letters p45to dossiers on certain Japanese agents prepared by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The heaviest number of letters came from the Pacific Coast area, where the inhabitants were somewhat predisposed to see a Japanese spy in every sukiyaki shop. Tourist bureaus and state information centers were particularly suspicious, and some reported Japanese for buying road maps or requesting information about roads in the national parks. The number of communications is impressive in that it shows the continued dislike and suspicion of the Japanese in the western states during the years after 1924.40

America's Far Eastern policy in the years between the Washington Conference of 1922 and the Manchurian episode of 1931 was increasingly China-centered. The administrations of Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover, which had looked upon China as a potential outlet for American industries in the 1920's, exhibited a persistently friendly concern for China's territorial integrity and a dogmatic devotion to the Open Door policy. Many other considerations kept the United States Government firmly on the side of the Chinese, among them the pressure from the churches with missions in China. But the guiding principle was the Republican belief that "the business of government is business."

American possession of the Philippine Islands complicated that Far Eastern policy. The Wilsonian trend toward independence for the former Spanish Isles was quickly reversed in 1921, and in the following ten years the Presidents gave no encouragement to the Filipinos and their movement for autonomy. The White House informed them that they were politically immature and should be grateful that the United States had prevented their falling into the hands of some predatory neighbor. Yet in this same period the American Government made Philippine defense virtually impossible by limiting fortifications to those existent before 1922 and by assuring bare equality of the United States Navy and the Japanese in Far Eastern waters. Philippine defense hinged completely on having a navy five-thirds the size of Japan's, the funds for which Congress failed to provide. Thus the Philippines became, to some extent, a hostage of the Japanese Empire.

During this period, when the United States was pursuing a consistently p46friendly policy toward a slowly uniting China, much was done to harm Japanese-American relations. Basically the Government of the United States assumed that it had as great a stake in the Far East as Japan, and it therefore pursued a policy of blocking any attempt at Japanese economic hegemony in China. While consciously attempting to check the Japanese in order to assure fair competition for American interests, the United States did little in other areas to improve the state of affairs between the two countries. The Japanese considered the Immigration Act of 1924, with its exclusion clause, a gratuitous insult, and spectacular, though minor, incidents such as the 1925 naval maneuvers and the temporary discouragement to the South Manchurian Railway loans led the Japanese nation to believe that the United States was the national enemy.

The defense of American commitments in the Far East of necessity rested with the Navy Department. The United States Army was too small to do the job, and dependence upon strategic air power to support national policy was little more than a projection of Colonel "Billy" Mitchell's active imagination. In assuming the responsibility for upholding America's Far Eastern policy in the 1920's, the Navy did so with complete realization that the task would be extremely difficult. In September of 1921 the General Board of the Navy had drafted a possible paper for the American delegates to the Washington Conference on the Limitation of Armament. In it the Board concluded that Japan's foreign policy consisted of three basic points: (1) Territorial expansion, by peaceful means if possible, by conquest if necessary; (2) Commercial domination of the Orient; (3) Eventual political control of the Far East.41 If the Navy's estimate of Japan's intentions was correct, American Far Eastern policy stood athwart the path Japan would be taking in the years ahead. From its studies the General Board believed that only a preponderance of American sea power in the western Pacific would deter Japan's ambitions. Facing the future, the American admirals seized upon that famous aphorism attributed to Admiral Heihachiro Togo after the Battle of Tsushima Straits:

In the hour of Victory

Tighten your helmet strings.


The Author's Notes:

1 George A. Grassmuck, Sectional Biases in Congress on Foreign Policy, The Johns Hopkins University Studies in Historical and Political Science, Series LXVIII, No. 3 (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1951), pp49‑52.

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2 Gordon C. O'Gara, Theodore Roosevelt and the Rise of the Modern Navy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1943), pp5‑6.

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3 Philip G. Wright, Trade and Trade Barriers in the Pacific (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1935), p482, Table 185; p514, Table 211.

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4 Ibid., pp514‑15, Table 211.

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5 Ibid., p484, Table 187; p482, Table 185.

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6 C. F. Remer, Foreign Investments in China (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1933), pp74‑80.

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7 In view of Chinese boycotts, the Japanese defended their actions in China with the rationalization that "the loss of our economic opportunities in China signifies ipso facto the loss of our right to exist, the anti-Japanese movement presents a grave danger to the national existence of Japan." Japan, Foreign Office, The Present Condition of China: With Reference to Circumstances Affecting International Relations and the Good Understanding Between Nations Upon Which Peace Depends, "Document A" (July, 1932), p74.

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8 Jerome B. Cohen, Japan's Economy in War and Reconstruction (Minneapolis: The University of Minnesota Press, 1949), pp34‑35; U. S. Department of State, File 894.5611/1, Taihoku, Taiwan, March 23, 1921, Archives.

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9 D/S, Files 894.20256d/2, Batavia, Java, July 16, 1923; 894.20256d/1, Batavia, Java, June 27, 1924; 856d.911/-, Soerabaya, Java, August 28, 1925, Archives.

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10 Memorandum, F. Lej. Parker to the Secretary of War, Washington, April 28, 1930, U. S., Interior Department, File 364‑713, Archives; D/S, File 894.00 P. R./11, Tokyo, November 19, 1928, Archives.

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11 Ashbrook Lincoln, "The United States Navy and Air Power, A History of Naval Aviation 1920‑1934" (unpublished Ph. D. dissertation, University of California, 1946), pp12‑13.

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12 The privilege of naturalization was limited by the Naturalization Act of 1906. In this act naturalization was limited to "free white persons" or persons of "African nativity or African descent." The Supreme Court declared that a Japanese could not fit either of these categories and that the 1906 Act was constitutional and applicable. Ozawa v. U. S., 260 U. S. (1922), pp178‑99. An excellent summary of Japanese-American relations in terms of immigration can be found in A. Whitney Griswold, The Far Eastern Policy of the United States (New York: Harcourt Brace & Company, Inc., 1938), pp340‑79, particularly pp370‑79 for the 1924 Act. See also Yamato Ichihashi, Japanese in the United States (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1932), pp298‑310; Rodman W. Paul, The Abrogation of the Gentlemen's Agreement (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Phi Beta Kappa Society, 1936), pp13‑97; Eleanor Tupper and George McReynolds, Japan in American Public Opinion (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1937), pp170‑97.

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13 Memorandum (confidential) of an interview with the Japanese Ambassador, Washington, May 23, 1924, Charles E. Hughes Papers, Box 176, LCMD.

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14 "Exclusion or Quota for Japanese?" The Literary Digest, March 1, 1924; "Congress for Japanese Exclusion, ibid., April 26, 1924.

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15 Japan Weekly Chronicle, June 14, 1923, cited in: George H. Blakeslee, The Recent Foreign Policy of the United States: Problems in American Cooperation with Other Powers (New York and Cincinnati: The Abingdon Press, 1925), pp217‑18. For views a year later see: "Japanese Rage at Exclusion," The Literary Digest, May 31, 1924, pp18‑19.

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16 D/S, File 711.945/1309, Tokyo, July 11, 1928, Archives.

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17 D/S, File 894.30/52, Tokyo, June 28, 1926, Archives. In January, 1929, the embassy in Japan noted that Baron Tanaka had addressed the Diet and assured the members that Japanese inactivity concerning the American immigration act did not mean that the Government was reconciled to exclusion. The Osaka Mainichi of January 25, 1929, heartily applauded Tanaka's stand. D/S, File 711.945/1312, Tokyo, January 26, 1929, Archives.

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18 D/S, File 711.945/1071, Peking, April 30, 1924, Archives. See also clipping from The Shanghai Times for April 15, 1924, enclosed in D/S, File 711.945/1093, Shanghai, April 16, 1924, Archives.

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19 D/S, File 711.945/1215, Washington, February 19, 1925, Archives; also Secretary of State to President Hoover, London, February 17, 1930, D/S, File 500.A15A3/708½, Archives.

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20 Charles E. Hughes to Frank H. Hiscock, Washington, April 24, 1924, quoted in Merlo J. Pusey, Charles Evans Hughes, 2 vols. (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1951), II, 516.

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21 U. S., Congress, House, Naval Subcommittee of the Committee on Appropriations, Hearings on Naval Appropriation Bill for 1926, 68th Cong., 2d Sess., November 17, 1924, H. R. 10724, pp46‑51; Hearings fiscal 1925, 68th Cong., 1st Sess., December 20, 1923, H. R. 6820, pp92‑93; Robert E. Coontz, From the Mississippi to the Sea (Philadelphia: Dorrance and Company, 1930), p429. For an account of the 1925 maneuvers by the Commander, Battleships, Battle Fleet, see Henry A. Wiley, An Admiral from Texas (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, Doran & Company, 1934), pp251‑67.

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22 D/S, File 711.94/531, Tokyo, December 19, 1924, Archives (my italics); "Pacific (?) Naval Maneuvers," The Literary Digest, December 27, 1924, pp7‑8.

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23 Hughes to Cyrus W. Woods, Washington, March 4, 1925, Charles E. Hughes Papers, Box 76, LCMD.

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24 D/S, Files 711.94/533, Tokyo, January 5, 1925; 711.945/1262, Tokyo, January 17, 1925, Archives; "The Troublous Pacific," The Literary Digest, May 30, 1925, p17.

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25 Memoranda, December 16, 1922, D/S, File 894.51 Or4/1,2,3; memorandum of a conversation, January 3, 1923, File 894.51 Or4/5, Archives. The State Department policy was not to go on record as approving a loan flotation in the United States as being a good risk, but merely to refrain from offering objections. Secretary Hughes felt the State Department had to be modified of possible flotations in order to prevent conflicts with larger policies. Herbert Feis, The Diplomacy of the Dollar, First Era 191‑1932 (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1950), p9.

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26 Memorandum by A. N. Y[oung], January 5, 1923, D/S, File 894.51 Or4/7; memorandum by S. K. H[ornbeck], January 6, 1923. File 894.51 Or4/8, Archives.

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27 Foreign Relations, 1923, II, 508.

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28 Benjamin Strong to the Secretary of State, D/S, File 894.51/175, New York, October 7, 1923, Archives.

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29 Secretary of State to Thomas W. Lamont, Washington, January 28, 1924, D/S, File 894.51M82/-, Archives.

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30 D/S, Files 894.51/191, Tokyo, February 14, 1924; 894.51/193, Tokyo, February 29, 1924; 894.51/194, Tokyo, February 18, 1924, Archives; Feis, Diplomacy of the Dollar, p6.

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31 Thomas W. Lamont to Robert E. Olds, New York, November 11, 1927, D/S, File 894.51So8/48; memorandum by Arthur N. Young, November 1, 1927, D/S, File 894.51So8/-; memorandum by N. T. J[ohnson], January 14, 1928, D/S, File 894.51So8/54, Archives.

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32 Resumé of a conversation between Admiral Bristol and Chiang K'ai‑shek at Shanghai on November 14, 1927, D/S, File 811.30 Asiatic Fleet/16, Archives.

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33 D/S, Files 894.51So8/1, Peking, November 19, 1927; 894.51So8/1a, Washington, November 19, 1927; 894.51So8/2, Tokyo, November 21, 1927, Archives.

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34 Memorandum by R. E. O[lds], November 21, 1927, D/S, File 894.51So8/49, Archives.

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35 See particularly the exchange of cablegrams between the chargé at Peking, Ferdinand Mayer, and the State Department in D/S, Files 894.51So8/49, Peking, November 22, 1927, and 894.51So8/8, Peking, November 25, 1927, Archives. The naval attaché in Peking wrote to Admiral Bristol that Mayer had polled the whole legation, then advised the State Department against allowing the South Manchurian Railway loan. Mayer felt that both the Kuomintang and Chang Tso‑lin's government would react quite violently were the loan concluded. [Cdr.] H. Powell to Bristol, Peking, December 1, 1927, Mark L. Bristol Papers, Box 83, MLB 145‑27, LCMD.

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36 D/S, Files 894.51So8/20, Tokyo, December 9, 1927; 894.51So8/20, Washington, December 10, 1927; 894.51So8/28, Washington, April 19, 1928; 894.51So8/28, Peking, April 24, 1928, Archives.

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37 Perry J. Stevenson to Wilbur J. Carr, Washington, August 22, 1928, D/S, File 894.543/19, Archives.

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38 D/S, Files 894.544/- and 894.544B11/-, Archives, are particularly rich in this type of complaint.

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39 D/S, Files 894.542/- (N87, St2, and Se4), Archives, are but a very small portion of the company files dealing with patent complaints.

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40 Reports of Japanese individuals in the United States can be found in the State Department's 894.20211 file at the National Archives.

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41 U. S., Navy Department, Report of the General Board on Limitation of Armaments (Washington, 1921), p8.


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