Earliest possible Pacific War? Japan & the US

The origins of War Plan Orange and US Japanese tensions reach back to the late 19th Century. What events might have twisted into a actual war & when? Japan had been in competition with the US and the European powers such as Germany & Britain for the Pacific islands during the 1890s. Could that have taken a wrong turn?
 
The origins of War Plan Orange and US Japanese tensions reach back to the late 19th Century. What events might have twisted into a actual war & when? Japan had been in competition with the US and the European powers such as Germany & Britain for the Pacific islands during the 1890s. Could that have taken a wrong turn?
I can't see an actual Japanese-US war breaking out any sooner than the Panay Incident in 1937 at earliest. Short of an ASB, I'm dubious of war breaking out prior to that.
 
Logically the best chance for an early start would be the Panay Incident.

Another much less probable is that Japan's low grade officers cause an earlier attack against China and many more Americans and Europeans get killed by rabid Japanese troops.

Once the war starts, it will be interesting if the US plays it safe or tries for a quick kill. If the quick, they will lose more ships and men. It might help to spur a more massive building of troop ships, aircraft carriers, and fleet submarines.
 
I'm not sure if the Japanese made this plan, but apparently the militarists had plotted to murder Charlie Chaplin and the US Ambassador to Japan while the former was visiting Tokyo.
 
This is one of those round peg threads that wont easily fit in a single category. it would be equally awkward to split it into two forums.

Thanks for the link to the Shimoseki battle. I guess that technically Japan has been in two shooting wars with the US?

The Panay incident alone was not enough to tip the US leaders and public into war. However there was a incident a few months later where a Japanese soldier struck a US diplomat. Perhaps had he bayonetted or shot the diplomat, killing him, things would have continue to deteriorate into war?
 

GarethC

Donor
I'm not sure if the Japanese made this plan, but apparently the militarists had plotted to murder Charlie Chaplin and the US Ambassador to Japan while the former was visiting Tokyo.
How would that lead to a war, though?
The plot was to assassinate Prime Minister Inukai Tsuyoshi, as well as Chaplin. A militarist successor government (a "Showa Restoration") would embrace the attack and with it the end of Taisho democracy - and thus also embrace the murder of Chaplin, and so offend public sentiment in the US which would drive it to war.

Chaplin was out watching sumo with the PM's third son at the time, so missed being shot.
 
Avoid the Washington Naval Treaty, and keep an East Asian naval race- or the perception and fear of one- alive through the twenties.
As tensions rise, the US backs the KMT earlier than OTL out of the belief that regional security can only be achieved with a China integrated into the world markets.
That helps build the rivalry, but it's not enough for a war yet. Ideas for a flash point?
 

TFSmith121

Banned
Not trying to be a smark aleck, but the question was:

This is one of those round peg threads that wont easily fit in a single category. it would be equally awkward to split it into two forums.

Thanks for the link to the Shimoseki battle. I guess that technically Japan has been in two shooting wars with the US?

The Panay incident alone was not enough to tip the US leaders and public into war. However there was a incident a few months later where a Japanese soldier struck a US diplomat. Perhaps had he bayonetted or shot the diplomat, killing him, things would have continue to deteriorate into war?
"the earliest possible US-Japan war" - hard to get much earlier than 1864, unless it is with Perry's mission.

Along with Panay, there was the SS President Hoover incident, which - if the Japanese reaction had been what one would expect, frankly, in 1937 at the same time as the Panay, rather than what actually happened - might have been another incident along the road to a shooting war.

Best,
 
Isn't there an issue of distraction? Imperial Japan was convinced that the UK and the USA were so in bed with each other that any attack on one would necessarily have to go with an attack on the other. With no war going on in Europe to distract them, Japan might be more hesitant to go to war against the Anglophone powers. After all, even fanatics can add up the RN to the USN and realise that the IJN doesn't quite match up to the combination of them.

Then again, perhaps I overestimate the sanity of Imperial Japan…

{edit} That is, referring to 1937, not 1864.
 
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TFSmith121

Banned
THAT should be a sig.

Then again, perhaps I overestimate the sanity of Imperial Japan….
THAT should be a sig.

As far as 1864 goes, it is worth remembering that even as the US was in the middle of the bloodiest years in its history on the North American continent, the Navy was still doing things like "protecting American commerce" from the likes various locals (like the Japanese warlords), operating in West African waters against slavers, etc.

There were even occasions when US and European warships were shooting at the "same" locals, in ad hoc joint operations; there was a lot of perceived "white man's burden" type gunboat diplomacy going on...

As far as 1937 goes, if there were a series of "Panay" like incidents, I could see events between the US and Japan spinning out of control; given Britain's very real strategic focus on Europe and the Med in the same period, although I don't doubt various reinforcements would be ordered into China and points south, I think the UK would have stayed out of any US-Japan confrontation, for the simple fact they had a lot to deal with much closer to home.

Having said that, maybe the Japanese would be more cautious in 1937-38 then they were historically in 1940-41, but still - as you suggest, it is Imperial Japan...

Best,
 
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THAT should be a sig.
Why thank you. :)

As far as 1864 goes, it is worth remembering that even as the US was in the middle of the bloodiest years in its history on the North American contienent, the Navy was still doing things like "protecting American commerce" from the likes various locals (like the Japanese warlords), operating in West African waters against slavers, etc.

There were even occasions when US and European warships were shooting at the "same" locals, in ad hoc joint operations; there was a lot of perceived "white man's burden" type gunboat diplomacy going on...
Interesting. One would have thought that subduing the South would be more important than conducting imperialism, but I'm not a nineteenth-century imperialist.

Ah, the 19th century: good times. Fighting poor people who can't fight back, together; it's so sentimental!

As far as 1937 goes, if there were a series of "Panay" like incidents, I could see events between the US and Japan spinning out of control; given Britain's very real strategic focus on Europe and the Med in the same period, although I don't doubt various reinforcements would be ordered into China and points south, I think the UK would have stayed out of any US-Japan confrontation, for the simple fact they had a lot to deal with much closer to home.
Please forgive my lack of clarity; I did not for a moment mean to imply that the United Kingdom actually would intervene in an Americo-Japanese war. What I meant was that, in Japan's opinion, the USA and the UK were strongly allied. Whether you think that Japan's main aim in starting the Pacific War was to acquire the UK's colonies or to throw the USA out of the Pacific, it's noteworthy that they didn't even try to restrict the conflict to fighting one world-spanning great power at a time; they were convinced that any attack on the British Empire was equivalent to an attack on the USA and vice versa, so the Britons and Americans were a monolithic bloc. How they came to this conclusion I won't claim to know (perhaps something to do with the Washington Naval Treaty and the Anglo-American dominance established therein) but they did—so we must interpret Japanese policy through that lens.

Having said that, maybe the Japanese would be more cautious in 1937-38 then they were historically in 1940-41, but still - as you suggest, it is Imperial Japan...

Best,
I honestly don't know. They might regard it as a nastier target, but they might decide that the Anglo-American bloc (as they saw it) was an incredibly powerful enemy and therefore ought to be attacked now, because they'd be even more powerful later.
 

TFSmith121

Banned
YAQW - You know the "blood is thicker than water" story from Second Taku?

...Ah, the 19th century: good times. Fighting poor people who can't fight back, together; it's so sentimental!

Please forgive my lack of clarity; I did not for a moment mean to imply that the United Kingdom actually would intervene in an Americo-Japanese war. What I meant was that, in Japan's opinion, the USA and the UK were strongly allied. Whether you think that Japan's main aim in starting the Pacific War was to acquire the UK's colonies or to throw the USA out of the Pacific, it's noteworthy that they didn't even try to restrict the conflict to fighting one world-spanning great power at a time; they were convinced that any attack on the British Empire was equivalent to an attack on the USA and vice versa, so the Britons and Americans were a monolithic bloc. How they came to this conclusion I won't claim to know (perhaps something to do with the Washington Naval Treaty and the Anglo-American dominance established therein) but they did—so we must interpret Japanese policy through that lens.

I honestly don't know. They might regard it as a nastier target, but they might decide that the Anglo-American bloc (as they saw it) was an incredibly powerful enemy and therefore ought to be attacked now, because they'd be even more powerful later.
As far as the Nineteenth Century goes, you know the "blood is thicker than water" story about the Second Taku?

To be fair to MacDougall and Wyoming, they were in the Western Pacific to patrol against rebel commerce raiders; the Shimonoseki action came about because one of the local conflicts in Japan boiled over to involve US merchant shipping. It was definitely a "punitive action" type of action.

As far as 1937 goes, understood. My guess is the Japanese, had something akin to a shooting war with the US boiled up out of the 2nd Sino-Japanese War, would have looked to keep the British neutral.

Best,
 
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Is it too ASB to have Japan join the CP in World War I? Maybe Tokyo decides that they can pick off some low hanging fruit in the French, British, and even Russian Empires while they are tied down?

Granted there are a number of moving parts but if Japan is making a mess in the Far East, US colonies in the Philippines and Guam are threatened even if Japan does not attack them. Could bring the US into the war earlier depending on the timeline.

Just me thinking out loud.
 
Is it too ASB to have Japan join the CP in World War I? Maybe Tokyo decides that they can pick off some low hanging fruit in the French, British, and even Russian Empires while they are tied down? ....
Probablly too difficult. The German posessions in China and Pacifica were fruit that hung even lower. My convoluted thought was a pre 1914 secret protocol between Germany and the US, to sell the German territories to the US were German/British war to break out. That would change a loss of those territories to the Brits & allies into a cash flow from the US, with the possibility of buying them back post war. So, when Japanese cruisers rush off to land occupation forces on German islands they find US Marines raising the stripey flag already :mad:

On a slightly more realistic level: Some Japanese thought the US was less than a fair broker in the negotiations ending the Russian/Japanese War of 1905. Perhaps that might have taken a worse direction, leading the Japanese to seek to 'punish the US a few years later by seizing sundry islands in the Pacific, including Hawaii?
 
Probablly too difficult. The German posessions in China and Pacifica were fruit that hung even lower. My convoluted thought was a pre 1914 secret protocol between Germany and the US, to sell the German territories to the US were German/British war to break out. That would change a loss of those territories to the Brits & allies into a cash flow from the US, with the possibility of buying them back post war. So, when Japanese cruisers rush off to land occupation forces on German islands they find US Marines raising the stripey flag already :mad:

On a slightly more realistic level: Some Japanese thought the US was less than a fair broker in the negotiations ending the Russian/Japanese War of 1905. Perhaps that might have taken a worse direction, leading the Japanese to seek to 'punish the US a few years later by seizing sundry islands in the Pacific, including Hawaii?
I was thinking something similar. Japan seeing WWI as an opportunity to right the wrongs of the Treaty of Portsmouth cast its lot with the CP. Maybe Germany sweetens the pot by offering to sell/gift whatever some of its Pacific colonies to Japan (not sure if the Kaiser would be willing to do that) in exchange for aggressive Japanese action against Entente interests in the Far East. Maybe too ASB but I think that scenario gets the US and Japan into a fight at some point during the war.

I guess an even more ASB scenario would be something like this - US stays neutral in WWI, Japan joins the Entente like it did OTL and whatever ugly ending WWI has, the UK sees Japan as a true friend and ally and the US as a cowardly and traitorous nation that is looking to pick some elements of the British Empire while it is at a low ebb. I'm not sure what the mechanics of this sort of scenario would be but I would love to see somebody try to develop an ATL where UK-Japanese relations blossom in the 1920s (the two great island nations at opposite ends of Eurasia and all that) while US-UK relations go down the tubes (the arrogant North American power that is a threat to both the British and Japanese Empires) and what does that lead too?
 
I guess an even more ASB scenario would be something like this - US stays neutral in WWI, Japan joins the Entente like it did OTL and whatever ugly ending WWI has, the UK sees Japan as a true friend and ally and the US as a cowardly and traitorous nation that is looking to pick some elements of the British Empire while it is at a low ebb. I'm not sure what the mechanics of this sort of scenario would be but I would love to see somebody try to develop an ATL where UK-Japanese relations blossom in the 1920s (the two great island nations at opposite ends of Eurasia and all that) while US-UK relations go down the tubes (the arrogant North American power that is a threat to both the British and Japanese Empires) and what does that lead too?
In such a scenario, who do you think the US would ally with? Who might be willing to help to stand up to the UK and Japan?
 
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