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Letter to the editor: An embargo on Japan’s exports led to attack on Navy

By Ernest F. Hubacker, Jamestown

Coming soon is the anniversary of Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. Much will be written about it.

But a couple of events I never see mentioned happened before the attack. That was the embargo on exports to Japan. Japan had already invaded China in 1937. Japan’s army was acting like a vicious beast and paid no attention to the rest of the world’s nations’ criticism of its army’s action.

That led President Franklin Roosevelt to embargo shipments of oil and scrap iron and steel. The U.S. had a plentiful supply of oil for its needs. A small population, then had fewer cars, trucks, and many farms used horses. The East Coast did use some imported oil from Venezuela and Nigeria, countries not hostile to us. Many railroads had started to replace steam locomotives with diesel electric locomotives.

There was a surplus of scrap iron and steel from scrapped steam engines. Japan suddenly found itself cut off from two essential materials for its war machine. That is what I think led to the Dec. 7 attack that crippled the U.S. fleet. The U.S. was then a “sleeping giant.” Its people seemed to be reluctant to fight. So Japan would be free to import from Indonesia (then called the Dutch Indies), which they could easily conquer. I think that is the full story of that day of infamy.