World War 2
Pearl Harbor
US in WW2

Why did Japan attack Pearl Harbor and how did this affect the European War?

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March 05, 2013 3:34AM

This is a very in depth question to which a short, simple answer

is attempted here.

Japan was involved with a war on the Chinese mainland. A US

embargo of sales of strategic materials to Japan threatened the

Japanese economy. The Japanese felt that the US was trying to stop

their military activity by curtailing the resources they critically

needed. This led to Japan looking to conquer areas containing

strategic raw materials to make itself self sufficient.

The European powers, UK, France, Belgium, etc. held as colonies

those regions it would need to obtain this independence. They were

involved in the European War and would not be able to oppose

Japanese takeover of their Pacific and far eastern colonies.

The US, however, was a major military power not yet engaged in

war, and with substantial interests in the region, including the

Philippine Islands, then scheduled to receive independence from the

US in 1946.

The decision was made to preempt US involvement by making key

strategic strikes at the US bases in the Pacific as part of the

makeover of European colonies.

As for how it affected the European War, the Axis never tried to

coordinate their actions as the Allies did. The primary impact on

the European war was that the US became a belligerent there as well

as against Japan. If Japan had not attacked the US, it is possible

that any US involvement in the European war would have been delayed

so long as to lead to the fall of England and perhaps a peace with

the Soviet Union.

If the Axis had coordinated, things might have turned out

differently. If Japan had attacked the Soviet Union, key resources

that Stalin released to stop the German drive on Moscow would not

have been available. "Germany first" was the decision of the Allies

once the US became an active participant.

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