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Pearl Harbor: Shifting Dynamics and Lasting Consequences

May 25, 2023 | 0 comments

May 25, 2023 | Essays | 0 comments

Experiences of Pearl Harbor

The United States and Japan have has a reputation stemming from treaties signed in 1853, among the main leaders. In Asia, Japan was the first country to open its borders for American expansion of businesses. Both countries in the beginning supported the slow expansion of commercial trade in china. However, Japan seemed to have betrayed this treaty, by taking china into war. The decisions of the Japanese government coupled with the treatment of Chinese citizens in what many Americans considered as hostile ways; finally brought the once healthy relationship between the countries to a head. Americans were vociferous in their critic of Japanese decisions and their intrusion of china. After many public declarations, Japan launched a surprise attack against the US military base in Pearl Harbor.

The losses incurred by America were great in terms of military resources as well as loss of lives. The unprepared base, which was attacked continuously for some time, was completely brought down. Many historians have indicated that the direct attack on US soil, spelled immediate doom for Japan, and completely altered the relationship between America and East Asia (Wallace, 2001).  Both sides were affected by the attack and some of the effects remain to date.


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American: The United States Relationship with Japan

Although the relationship with the Japanese was indeed a sour one, with United States completely and vociferously being against the attacks on china; the Pearl Harbor attack as still unexpected.  The United States immediately declared war on Japan, and the relationship with Japanese went from stand offish to completely hostile. With the support of strong alliances, and a string Navy, the United States took to war. The foundation for a very unlikely relationship had been set. Japanese were no longer tolerated and citizens of East Asian countries become suspects rather than friends.

Military Cooperation

In the past, though daringly, the United States and Japanese military enjoyed a somewhat cordial and even friendly relationship. Both countries had common enemies, and often were found to share intelligence and even technology. As shown by Badsey (1991) the result was that both armies created a formidable force against enemies. Treaties were signed to protect and secure their position as the top most, strongest and most efficient armies. American soldiers were trained in Japanese fighting techniques, and this was especially a privilege for the elite forces. On the other hand, Japanese soldiers were trained in American intelligence. Although the cooperation was not complete, this was completely destroyed by the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Each side attempted to use all knowledge that they had gathered previously, to completely destroy the capability of the others. The result was a complete destruction of all kinds of relationship between the two strong militaries. In fact, there are some historians such as Miller (2001) who indicate that the reduced cooperation between these two militaries brought a sigh of relief in other nations. Newer and much stronger armies who would not have had a chance against this alliance were now crowned topmost in terms of security and technology in warfare. Now the two greatest nations began looking for new aliases, those who could lend tem technology and intelligence with which they could defeat their enemies.

Immigration and admission of aliens

In the past, the admission of Japanese citizens to the United States was an easy process. Beginning from the early 19th century, Japanese workers arrived in plenty to America. There was such an increase in the Japanese population such that a new community came into picture that of the Japanese Americans. For generations, they settled built reputations, owned businesses and began working in the United States (Arroyo, 2001). The Japanese culture for the settled Japanese Americans was influenced by the American culture. America became the land of opportunity for various Japanese citizens. They came to seek education, opportunities for employment and expansion of their businesses.  There were cases of intermarriage, where children born from both cultures became authentic American citizens. With excellent skills and talent, the Japanese immigrants went as far as to take up high ranks in government and business.  They became entrusted friends, who though foreign were looked upon as ideal partners in business, helpful investors and neighbors who could assist each other.

The Pearl Harbor incident however, can be pin pointed as the time in history when all this changed.  Immediately the bombs landed, immigration of Japanese citizens into America was halted sometimes completely.  With immediate effect, visa applications were cancelled, borders were completely closed to the Japanese immigrants. Where once they were neighbors, now they were considered suspicious and enemies. The settled Japanese were moved out of the country in droves, (O’Neill, 2011). Flights, buses and trains full of families seeking refuge left the country in fear of oppression. More and more of the families were put in prison and concentration for suspicion of terrorism. Whereas they had lived in peace with neighbors, now they stayed locked away.

When Japanese started being considered as terrorists, families were separated.  Features, complexion and language became a meter by which citizens were drawn. Friendliness and loyalty started to be measured in terms of race. Japanese citizens some who had lived in America for decades, brought up children and even some who had never seen the soil in their country, were not only considered as terrorists, they were exposed to hostile situations.

Economy, business and trade

The treaties holding these countries together for centuries, many of which had origins in America allowed free trade between the two countries. American companies especially sought the highly advanced technology and resources that Japan had to offer. On the other hand, the companies also enjoyed a good market for the products that they advanced. The result was a great cooperative relationship. Before the bombing of Pearl Harbor, there existed some strained relationships between the two countries, however, business continued to bring good profits. There are historians and economists who indicate that the cost of running business and the profits expected were enough o ensure a positive and continued economic relationship.

The unexpected bombing of Pearl Harbor, caused many business to not only pull out but indeed shut down. American products were shut out of the Japanese markets completely; access to technology necessary for quality production became impossible. Wels (2001) indicated that the result is that the economy and GDP for America came into an all time low. Businesses closed down, income levels lowered, expatriate jobs were lost and all in all the economy became shambles. Although both countries needed to coexist, the relationship was not only strained, economically speaking it ended when the first bomb landed in Pearl Harbor. Americans and their investments walked out of Japan, and these heavy investments were rendered naught.  Only what was safely in America could be salvaged the rest was completely lost.

Japanese Relationship with United States:

For the Japanese, the effects were not much different from what affected Americans.  Since the Japanese government initiated the Pearl Harbor attack, suspicion fell on all its citizens. For America and s friends, it was hard to imagine that the entire country was not aware of the impending attack. The suspicion, anger and disappointment heaved upon them caused the nation to alienated. Where they had enjoyed good working relationships, business environments and being part of the local neighborhoods; they were now not only considered suspicious but in fact thought of as murderers and terrorists.

Loss of employment and income

Even before the dust could settle in Pearl Harbor, Japanese Americans lost their jobs and source of income. The round ups of Japanese meant that Americans were less than willing to trust the Japanese with their businesses and any duties thereof. Contracts were thrown out of the widow, instead of continuing to exist as stable citizens in the country, they became refugees. Those who owned homes were now homeless, children who were in good schools were expelled from the schools and those with good jobs even businesses were forced to shut down (Toland, 1982).

With no source of income, the Japanese Americans became the poorest of the poor. They were forced to live alienated in a foreign country. From good homes, Japanese were moved to concentrated camps. The money sent back home to improve the living standards of the families at home could no longer be found; access to basic necessities became difficult. Savings were depleted, and the once rising race seemed to have been done away with. The economic and financial difficulties facing the Japanese had just begun; the journey to financial recovery would be long and difficult.

Internment camps

As soon as the bombs landed on Pearl Harbor, the military took to fingerprinting and identifying the residents of the country. Hundreds of thousands of Japanese who had settled into the country were forced into internment camps, where they were segregated, put way from the general population. Although at first the American government at first denied the existence of such camps, over time the government did admit to sanctioning and indeed running the camps. Survivors of the war have told stories about the conditions in the camps, which were far from good. These camps brought diminished any sentiment that the Japanese had still with regard to the country America.

The camps were run in the worst conditions possible. Even in the camps, families were separated and friends and neighbors kept apart. It was indeed a lonely place that forced the Japanese citizens o come together and reunite, forgetting their backgrounds, clans and lineages that had kept them apart for some time. Instead, they began working together to find solutions to the problems they were facing (Schom, 2004). The camps were overcrowded, and lacked basic facilities. They had been hastily put together once the bombing began, and therefore were poorly coordinated, and structured.

Laws, rules and regulations

Once the bombing took place, the Japanese citizens immediately went from law abiding citizens, partners in business and reliable friends to criminals. Immigrants were put under new and stricter rules and laws that were designed specifically for them. The new laws assumed already that they were involved in treason and therefore, limited their movement and communication. Keeping in touch with friends and family in what was fast becoming a hostile country became next to impossible. Every in Americans of Japanese descent’s life was dictated in the rules which culminated with thousands being sent to the detention camps.

Issues that had seemed obvious in the past could now become criminal matters. For example, these residents were not allowed to have cash of more than 200 dollars, both in business and personally. This meant that they could not travel easily send as they wanted; in fact since prices had goon high at the time, there was very little they could do. Access to more money was often considered as evidence that one was indeed planning treason (Horn, 2005).

In addition to the new rules and regulations, which in themselves were stringent; courts changed from being run by civilians into complete military courts.  When arrested, citizens and residents of Japanese origin were not treated as civilians with civil rights but rather subjected to hostile interrogation methods and finally short, biased trials with severe punishments as run by the military (Campbell, 2012). They met with no mercy, their defenses were shut down even before trial and for many in fact, cases never came to court.

After a while, the Japanese residents proved to be too many for the courts to handle and deal with factor that caused the cases to take much longer and in many situations never be tried. However, they were held without trials for years and even decades.

Conclusion: The Present Situation

The rise of many world powers, and the globalization which has led to both nations needing either technology, markets or resources from each other have forced them to re-think the situation. Since the advents of the Pearl Harbor bombing, Japanese –American relationship have not only been strained, they have indeed become hostile.  Although the countries have continued to co-exist, the relationship has been marred with suspicions and challenges that have often threatened to lead to another war.

The potential for another conflict has forced many other countries to intervene, including world organizations. The concern has been carried by various governments, many of whom have tried to repair their relationships. This has included various peace talks where the leaders of the two nations have tried meeting each other’s demands. The advancement in technology, various discoveries of resources and even the desire for expanded markets, have led to a somewhat stand offish relationship. Each of the nations has acknowledged the need for the other, the need not just for a friendship but full cooperation directed at economic growth and improved social welfare.

As the camps shut down in 1944, more than 60,000 Japanese were still in America; a number that has increased. In addition, Americans who have invested in Japan have experienced increased growth and increased profits. These two groups have been on the forefront of encouraging and pursuing policies that are directed towards a favorable relationship for both countries. The past few years have seen major strides made towards repairing the relationships between the two countries.

It can be agreed that both nations came out of the war scarred deeply, with wounds that seemed permanent. Memories of the losses incurred have been a stumbling block, towards creation of peace. The relationship will take time to repair, bring back to where the treaties work and are actually used as the boundaries defining business contracts, employment and even immigration policies.


Arroyo, E. (2001). Pearl Harbor. New York: MetroBooks.

Badsey, S. (1991). Pearl Harbor. New York: Mallard Press.

Campbell, J. (2012). The color of war: How one battle broke Japan and another changed America. New York: Crown Publishers.

Horn, S. (2005). The second attack on Pearl Harbor: Operation K and other Japanese attempts to bomb America in World War II. Annapolis, Md: Naval Institute Press.

Miller, P., & National Geographic Society (U.S.). (2001). Pearl Harbor. Washington, D.C: National Geographic.

O’Neill, R. J. (2011). The road to victory: From Pearl Harbor to Okinawa. Oxford: Osprey.

Schom, A. (2004). The Eagle and the Rising Sun: The Japanese-American war, 1941-1943, Pearl Harbor through Guadalcanal. New York: W.W. Norton.

Toland, J. (1982). Infamy: Pearl Harbor and its aftermath. Garden City, N.Y: Doubleday.

Wallace, R., & Copyright Paperback Collection (Library of Congress). (2001). Pearl Harbor. New York: Hyperion.

Wels, S. (2001). Pearl Harbor: December 7, 1941 : America’s darkest day. San Diego, Calif: Time Life Books.

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