Alternate Realities: The Japanese Don’t Attack the U.S. At Pearl Harbor

missouri-150x150On the Sunday morning of December 7, 1941, the Imperial Navy of the Japanese attacked the American naval forces at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.  The devastating result awoke the sleeping giant of the United States and forced the U.S. into World War Two.  Because of the involvement, the Allied powers were able to repel Germany and the Japanese and make the U.S. a world power.  What if it didn’t happen? What if that Sunday morning went by peacefully?



number1What If No Ships Were In The Harbor That Morning?
The Japanese claimed that attacking the U.S. Pacific Fleet was a preventative action to stop the United States from attacking them.  The result killed over 2300 Americans and sunk four U.S. Battleships.  If those vessels had been out to sea that morning, if they had caught the Japanese in open water, the result may have been different.  Had the U.S. planes had the chance to get into the air would the Japanese been so bold as to make the attack.  In reality, the Japanese force still outnumbered the Pacific Fleet.  Japanese Zeros were more maneuverable than the U.S. planes – which would not have been involved because the planes destroyed included observation planes, outdated bombers and biplanes.  There were no aircraft carriers there, so our advanced fighter planes were not available. It is likely that any fight at sea would not have been the massacre that did occur, but the outcome would have remained a loss for the United States, but with more losses for the Japanese.



number2The U.S. Government Cracked the Attack Code
There is a conspiracy theory that the United States and Franklin Roosevelt had known about the attack on Pearl Harbor before it happened and did nothing to stop it. The information on the attack was withheld and Admiral Husband Kimmel and General Walter Short took the fall for not reacting.  The conspiracy theory has been made popular in the book, “Day of Deceit: The Truth About FDR and Pearl Harbor” by Robert B. Stinnett.  In it, he claims that FDR wanted the U.S. to get into the war and found this a way of expediting that end.  So what would have happened if we had broken the code?  It is conceivable that we would have moved the three aircraft carriers (Enterprise, Saratoga, and Lexington) into the way of the Japanese along with heavy destroyers and the rest of the Pacific fleet that were attacked at Pearl Harbor.  With this type of force, the Japanese may have simply fled when confronted and minimal losses would have occurred.


number3With No Attack, U.S. Nationalism Not As Strong
There is no question that Pearl Harbor became a rallying cry for the nation.  After FDR addressed Congress, thousands of young American men joined the cause to fight in the war.  Even more people formed tire, paper, and other drives to help in the war effort. War bonds were being purchased by good Americans to support the war because we were outraged by the attack. If that fateful morning didn’t happen, how would the government rouse the nation?  Would the esprit de corps of young soldiers been so fervent?  Most likely the outpouring would have been no more than a trickle.  The draft- which actually began in the U.S. in November of 1940, would eventually conscript over ten million Americans, but what reaction would there have been if Pearl Harbor never occurred? I think the U.S. would have had more resentment towards the war had it not been for a rallying point and the anger against the enemy would not have been as present as it was.



number4What if Japan Had Attacked Somewhere Else?
The United States had control on other islands in the Pacific before the war.  The Philippines and Midway Island would eventually be other Japanese targets, but what would have happened if the attacks would have started here?  Part of our naval fleets were located in these places and could have fought the Imperial Navy, but, if caught unawares, the result may have ended in an American defeat.  The devastation would probably not been as bad, because our ships were backed up in the harbor in Hawaii, but the surprise would have been a critical blow.  Similar reaction – to a lesser degree – would have occurred in the United States.  However, if the attacks had taken place at Puget Sound or San Diego on American soil, with more citizens being hurt or killed, then American outrage would have been similar to what did occur.  The attacks did not occur here, however, due to the distance it would be for the Japanese to return to their homeland – with the American fleet between them and the shores of Japan.



number5What Would Have Happened If Japan Had Lost At Pearl Harbor?
This situation is almost impossible since the forces were so unevenly matched during the fateful day.  However, many things could have caused a Japanese failure.  If bad weather had hit the Japanese fleet it could have rendered them off course, giving America a chance of catching them.  Had radio silence been broken (which some claim did happen, though the Japanese claimed no such silence was broken), there would have been a chance to change the tide of the attack.  A couple of minutes of warning could have gotten more U.S. planes in the air if the radar warning had been taken seriously.  If the attack had just taken place two hours later, thousands of U.S. sailors would have been awake to fight back.  The possibilities are endless as to how any series of events could have changed the results of the attack.  While unlikely, the Japanese could have failed in their mission and while the U.S. would have still entered the war, the mystique of early Japanese invincibility would have been nullified.