With war on the horizon in the late 1930s, many Americans, still angry over the outcome of the Great War, determined not to get involved in another global conflict. Called isolationists or anti-interventionists, many of them, especially the America First Committee, focused their attention on the European war when it broke out in September 1939. Most were less interested in Japan’s aggression in East Asia, which left an opening for another isolationist group, the Committee on Pacific Relations, which opposed war with Japan right up to the day of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
In this first full study of pro-Japan isolationists, Roger B. Jeans provides a detailed history of the committee, which was launched in September 1941, a scant ten weeks before the beginning of the war. Its driving force was Missourian Orland Kay “O. K.” Armstrong, who traveled widely during the late 1930s and early 1940s recruiting prominent Americans for his movement against war with Japan. He and his colleagues were often critical of US policies and of China, the victim of Japanese aggression. As a result, they were often ostracized as pro-Japanese. Jeans draws on previously untapped sources—the personal letters of committee members and the dossiers the FBI compiled on them—to paint a rich picture of this little-known group.
Roger B. Jeans Jr. is Elizabeth Lewis Otey Professor of History Emeritus at Washington and Lee University. His books include The Letters and Diaries of Colonel John Hart Caughey, 1944–1945: With Wedemeyer in World War II China; The CIA and Third Force Movements in China during the Early Cold War: The Great American Dream; andTerasaki Hidenari, Pearl Harbor, and Occupied Japan.
Introduction: Isolationism, Japan, and the FBI, 1939–1941
1 O. K. Armstrong and the Pro-Japan Isolationists in Prewar America
2 Businessmen and Generals
3 The Professoriat
4 Pacifists and Former Missionaries
6 “We Plan to Prevent War, If Possible, with Japan”: The Committee on Pacific Relations
7 The FBI and Pro-Japan Isolationists
Epilogue: The Afterlife of an Isolationist
About the Author
While the story of Charles Lindbergh and America First with its isolationist, pro-German leanings is a familiar one, less well-known is the smaller pacifist, pro-Japanese movement. Roger Jeans admirably fills the gap with this important new work. Jeans focuses on O. K. Armstrong, a Missouri politician, who tried to get prominent intellectuals, journalists, politicians, and missionaries to join his Committee on Pacific Relations. Because of his contacts with the Japanese Embassy before Pearl Harbor, he drew the attention of the FBI, whose reports Jeans mines for his richly detailed study.
This fascinating book brings to life the diverse group of Americans who attempted to create a pro-Japan isolationist organization before Pearl Harbor. Roger Jeans’s original study reveals the group’s naïveté, growing unpopularity, and unrealistic proposals as it follows the meanderings of an intriguing range of pro-Japan sympathizers whose activities made them targets for Japanese diplomats and FBI agents.