Mature Life Features

Cecil Scaglione, Editor

Prescient Arizona Editor Predicted Pearl Harbor . . .

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Editor’s note: This editorial was written by William R. Mathews, who bought the Arizona Daily Star in 1924 and was editor of the newspaper for more than 40 years. He was married to Betty Boyers and died in 1969.

This editorial, predicting that Japan would attack the U.S., possibly at Pearl Harbor, was published in the Star on Nov. 28, 1941, just days before Pearl Harbor was bombed, on Dec. 7, 1941.


Failure of Secretary of State Cordell Hull and the special Japanese emissary, Saburo Kurusu, to find a basis for a peaceful settlement of the differences between the two countries emphasizes once more the apparent irreconcilability of the respective diplomatic policies, and the definite prospect that only with the sword can the differences be settled.

Mr. Hull demands that Japan evacuate French Indo-China and China proper; the Japanese demand that America stay out of that part of Asia, asserting that what goes on in that area is of no more concern to America than South America is to Japan. The Japanese refuse to withdraw. It is probable that any Japanese government that would withdraw from China would be overthrown by the Japanese people. Mr. Hull refuses to modify the American policy. There the matter stands as the economic blockade of Japan pinches tighter and tighter.

Whether American policy is correct or not is now beside the point. The important feature of this affair is that the two policies are manifestly irreconcilable and that unless one or the other gives in war is as certain as the sunrise in the morning. How soon the war breaks out is entirely up to Japan. It is possible that cooler heads in Tokyo will prevent for a while the hot-headed ones from doing anything that might precipitate hostilities. On the other hand as the pinch of the economic blockade grows tighter and tighter the chances are that the feeling this situation generates will precipitate some kind of an incident in Japan and then the war will be on. War may come within a week; it may still be six months off, but hardly more than that.

When war comes with Japan, it will come without warning. The Japanese habitually strike first and then declare war. They did this in the case of Russia when after the failure of the Japanese minister in old St. Petersburg to reach an agreement, the Japanese fleet, without warning, sailed into Port Arthur and sank a part of the Russian fleet. Between that incident and the present situation there is a strong resemblance. America will know that there is war with Japan some fine morning when the people of the country wake up and find that the Japanese have, without warning, seized Guam, surrounded our puny Asiatic fleet or sent submarines into Pearl Harbor and sunk a couple of our battleships. Very definitely Japan will choose her own time.

As matters stand today Japan will probably mark time and go just as far as she can without getting into an additional war. Consequently, since she already has her forces in French Indo-China, she probably can venture to cut the Burma road by a land attack without provoking war with America. With this road cut she will cut the last life line that the Chungking government has and thus weaken China’s ability to resist. Then by waiting for the end of the Russian campaign and the coming attack on Britain she may hope to strike when both America and Britain are desperately engaged in the Atlantic, and our fleet divided between two oceans. And then there will be a real world war on that will require every ounce of American strength to win.

The failure of the Kurusu mission to Washington thus means that war between Japan and America is inevitable. The American people are now in the position where they will soon have to put up or shut up. Since they approve of a policy that calls for war, they must expect to go to war or change that policy.

Written by Cecil Scaglione

December 8, 2016 at 7:52 am

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