Battle of Midway III

Lead: In the late spring of 1942, two great armadas met off the Midway Islands.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: Isoroku Yamamoto opposed the war with America. He had served as Naval Attaché at the Japanese Embassy in Washington and knew first-hand how lethal was the power of the giant American democracy once awakened. However, when the decision to go to war was made he insisted that Japan’s only hope for victory was a surprise attack which would cripple U.S. forces in the Pacific. Pearl Harbor proved him right but he had missed the American aircraft carriers on December 7th, because they were at sea on maneuvers. Yamamoto was back in the Central Pacific in late May 1942 to take out those carriers and to establish an early warning picket line anchored by the two tiny Midway Islands at the tip of the Hawaiian archipelago 1300 miles northeast of Honolulu.

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Battle of Midway II

Lead: Samuel Johnson, the author of the first great English Dictionary once said, “the prospect of hanging clears the mind, wonderfully.” In the early summer of 1942 with two great armadas converging on Midway Island, the mind of the Admiral Chester W. Nimitz was very clear.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: Since civilian Eugene Ely first flew an airplane off a specially constructed platform on the USS Birmingham in November 1910, aircraft carriers played an increasingly important role in strategic planning. If there were any lingering doubts as to the value of the aircraft carrier, these doubts departed with the Japanese dive bombers leaving Hawaii on December 7, 1941. The Japanese attack was very destructive but it failed to take out the greatest prize of all. The three aircraft carriers assigned to the U.S. Pacific fleet were out at sea when Pearl Harbor was pulverized. In the early summer of 1942, a fleet under Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto returned to the Central Pacific to provoke a battle which he was confident he could win, take out those carriers, and establish an early warning line using the Midway Islands as an anchor.

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Battle of Midway I

Lead: In the early summer of 1942 United States forces in the Pacific could have been defeated at the distant tip of the Hawaiian archipelago.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: When the last Japanese dive bombers departed through the smoke that billowed from the ruined U.S. Naval Station at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, they left a job undone. While the line of battleships was hard hit and some of vessels such as the USS Arizona were lost for good, battleships were headed for a diminished role in strategic military planning. Hickam and Wheeler Air Fields were filled with many burning wrecks, but the aircraft could be easily replaced. Japanese had missed the greatest prize. Three aircraft carriers assigned to the Pacific fleet were absent on that fateful Sunday morning and to the Japanese command these ships remained a deadly threat.

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Japanese Naval Alliance II

Lead: In the early 1900s a newly powerful Russia was becoming aggressive all along its borders. This pressure hit at British interests especially in the Far East. Britain needed a partner.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: The logical partner for Britain would be another European power such as Germany. The combination would have probably proven a potent one and sufficient to cool Russia's assertive tendencies, but no such alliance came about despite serious discussions. Britain then turned its attention to the Far East, the most vulnerable part of the Empire, farthest from home, at the end of the long colonial lifeline. There Japan was also concerned about Russian expansion specifically into Manchuria and Korea. For two years, in a delicate diplomatic dance, Japan and Britain drew closer to one another.

 

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Japanese Naval Alliance I

Lead: In 1902, Great Britain ended a century of splendid isolation and cut a deal with Japan.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: For nearly a century the oceans of the world were dominated by the British Navy. It was technologically superior to any other and was backed by an industrial economy that overshadowed all others until the late 1800s when other nations such as Germany, France, Russia and the United States began to catch up. The power of this naval machine was so overwhelming that Britain was permitted a freedom of action unequaled as it established and maintained the largest empire in the modern era. By 1900 this power was under challenge. The greatest threat to British interests at this time was in the Far East. The Chinese Empire was set to rot. Various European powers were nibbling around the edge of that Eastern giant. It could hardly handle its own internal affairs much less resist pressure from the modern states of the West. The weakness of the Chinese meant that Britain had to protect her trading interests there against the infringement of other powers. Russia was expanding into areas of special British interest along Russia's borders: Manchuria in northern China, northern India, and Persia. Germany, France and the United States were increasing their navies which threatened Britain's link with her colonies.

 

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Samurai

Lead: Out of ancient Japanese history emerged a caste of iconic warriors that often had military and political power. They were the samurai.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: The bushi or samurai were members of a powerful class of military combatants who played an increasingly influential role in Japanese political life from approximately CE 800 to fairly late in the modern era. They adhered to the strict ethical code of bushido, the way of the warrior, which stressed Confucian morality, devotion to one’s master, self-discipline and respectful conduct. In defeat, rather than accepting capture, some bushi chose what they considered to be an honorable death by se’ppuku, ritual suicide.

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Japanese Royal Family

Lead: The position of the royal family of Japan has swirled in and between myth and reality until the modern era. Today the Emperor and his kin are respected, even loved, but fulfil a role that is strictly symbolic.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: While Buddhism is Japan’s dominant religion, Shinto is the country’s indigenous faith where originate the ancient creation myths that established the foundation of royal governance. In this mythological tradition, Japanese emperors were thought to possess magical powers and direct divine communication. This cultic role made it unseemly for the emperor to be engaged in day-to-day public administration which was handled by advisors and ministers. From the establishment of the a new capital in Kyoto in the late eighth century, a city following a Chinese design, real power was wielded behind the throne in alternating succession by two powerful clans, Fujiwara and Taira.

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History’s Turning Points: Japan Discovers the Gun II

Lead: Historical study often helps reveal twists in the human journey. Consider history’s turning points: Japan rediscovers the gun.

Intro: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts

Content: In 1543, visiting Portuguese explorers jumped from the deck of a Chinese commercial ship into Japanese shallow waters and with their muskets shot a duck. The unfavorable results on the duck were duly noted by Lord Tokitaka, who purchased from the Portuguese two guns and commissioned his swordsmiths to copy these new weapons. Within a century firearms were playing a widespread, destructive role in the dynastic and feudal warfare consuming the Japanese upper class. These weapons were very good, indeed the Japanese significantly improved on comparable European designs. One such innovation was waterproof rain protection for the ignition platform, but soon the Japanese abandoned firearms and mostly returned to hand-held weapons such as the sword and the bow and arrow.

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