Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Guest Post: Day of Infamy

This post originally appeared on Today in Alternate History.

"Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 - a date which will live in infamy - the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan". ~ FDR's OTL "Day of Infamy" Speech 

December 7, 1941 - On this fateful day, the US naval base at Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Territory of Hawaii, was destroyed by an atomic discharge.

This terrifying weapon was developed by the Empire of Japan as a result of technology espionage arising from a chance meeting six years earlier in Nazi Germany. The founding father of modern physics research in Japan, Dr Yoshio Noshina, had travelled to the Max Planck Institute in Munich. It was there that he met a Jewish researcher called Lise Meitner, an Austrian-Swedish physicist praised by Albert Einstein as the "German Marie Curie". Needing to escape Nazi harassment, Noshina convinced Meitner to return with him to Japan to continue her work.

Whether Meitner later developed misgivings is unclear; however, in the medium-term, her work convinced the Japanese leadership to throw national resources at weaponizing the project. This huge programme included the mining of uranium in eastern China as well as the close cooperation of the Armed Services (not easy as much inter-service rivalry had plagued Japan for many years). By the outbreak of war in Europe, Noshina's team had overcome the major technical obstacles and were rapidly in the process of developing the world's first atomic weapon.

The expansion of the Co-Prosperity Sphere had been challenged by what the Japanese saw as a series of unnecessary provocations from President Roosevelt. Although they fully understood that America was expanding and desired greater influence, they believed that it was still possible to expel Western interest from the entire region. Their leadership realized that due to the industrial might of the United States, it was unrealistic to expect that the Japan could ever prevail in a long drawn-out conflict. What they needed then was a knock-out blow that would force the Americans to withdraw from Asia Pacific before overwhelming resources could be brought to bear.

But they had misunderstood the Western mindset because FDR was even more aggressive as a result of the atomic discharge. He was encouraged by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill's words - "What kind of people do they think we are? Is it possible they do not realize that we shall never cease to persevere against them until they have been taught a lesson which they and the world will never forget?" From their bellicose reaction to the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, it was abundantly clear that Britain and America were more than willing to fight on no matter what, despite the imbalance in technology. The next phase of the war was even more frightening, with biological weapons being deployed by Japan in the form of a deadly virus sent over the American West Coast in air balloons.

Despite their many victories and occasional high moments, the Axis Powers never had the overwhelming capability to occupy the vastness of North America. With American and exiled British forces subdued but undefeated, the War dragged on for almost a decade. Finally, a long-running stalemate on the Eastern front led to a Soviet-Nazi armistice. This slowdown of military action triggered a general uneasy peace settlement that left Western Europe in German hands, and the Japanese preeminent in Asia Pacific. But the rivalry continued unabated as the Great Powers continued to develop even more terrifying weapons that would allow them to resume, and then win, a continuation war in the near future.

Author's Note:

In reality, the attack was a surprise military strike with conventional weapons by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service. Disputes about the status of the Japanese Atomic Bomb Development project remain unresolved to this day.

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