Attack then declare – World War II Commemorative Half Dollar Coin

Today, the World War II Commemorative Half Dollar Coin helps us remember the events at Pearl Harbor 74 years ago.

Just a day later, the Waycross Journal described the military history behind the attack on December 7, 1941 in the following article by Glenn Babb, a staff writer for the Associated Press.


Japan Is In Habit Attacking Then Declaring

Japan launched her war against the United States and Britain just as she has begun nearly all her wars of the 20th century, swiftly and without warning, delivering the first smash ahead of a declaration or omitting that formality altogether.

In 1904 her navy slashed at the Russian fleet at Port Arthur before war was declared. In 1931 she struck at Manchuria, in 1932 at Shanghai and in 1937 at Peiping without warning. In the last three cases she never bothered to declare war.

In these three instances there was much evidence to support the view that the army or navy acted without the prior knowledge or consent of the cabinet—as distinguished from the military command—in Tokyo.

Historians may come to the conclusion that the desperate gamble of war against the world’s two mightiest naval powers also was a purely military decision.

Tokyo cabinets, even those headed by generals or admirals, have had little influence on the decisions of the military clique, directing the course of the empire through the army and navy generals’ staffs, now combined in the all-powerful imperial headquarters, in which they have drafted for their own purposes the awe-inspiring influence of the emperor himself, the divine ruler, high priest, father of the race, descended in the “line unbroken for ages eternal” from the sun goddess, Amaterasu.

For ten years neither the Japanese people, their formally constituted governments nor the emperor as an individual has had much to say about the major decisions of the Japanese empire.

The real rulers of Japan have been a clique of army and navy officers whose thought processes, fanatical, mystical, belong to another age. They are a direct throwback to the Shoguns, Daimyos and Samurai, who ruled in ancient and medieval times.

They have imposed on the Japanese people an intellectual, spiritual, moral seclusion as complete as the physical seclusion Japan maintained for the 250 years before an American commodore opened her to foreign intercourse in 1853.

Nearly all authorities who have known Japan well in the past ten years agree that the Japanese people have had no chance to know the truth about their nation’s role in the events which have pushed them into this terrific gamble. By control of information, by intensive propaganda, by the suppression through assassination, intimidation or other means of every Japanese voice that might have been raised against them, members of the military clique have conditioned their people for yesterday’s terrible climax.

Many authorities will agree that the Japanese people as a whole believe sincerely that the militarists have dinned at them for ten years; that their wars in China have been holy wars, to carry civilization and peace to a benighted neighbor, that Japan is the victim of the inability or sinful willingness of the great western powers to understand her true purposes and finally the victim of a cruel conspiracy to keep her from her rightful destiny — mistress of a “greater East Asia co-prosperity sphere,” giver of the “new order” — in cooperation with Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy.

These slogans sound fantastic, silly to westerners. The ominous, tragic fact is that the Japanese people believe in them, that even most of the militarists who coined them believe they form a holy cause in which every Japanese should be glad to die for the emperor.

The Japanese army’s assault on Mukden the night of September 18, 1931 was the first blow of a program of conquest, but it was also the opening gun of a revolution within Japan which has had tragic meaning for the entire world.

It was then that the Japanese army ended all vestiges of civilian, liberal, internationally-minded government in Japan.


The World War II Commemorative Half Dollar Coin shows below a view of Pearl Harbor from a Japanese attack plane on December 7, 1941.

World War II Commemorative Half Dollar Coin