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December 7, 2012 by Ish

An example of the racist caricatures that inflamed Japanese protestors. Germans and Italians were likewise offended and had already begun demonstrations in London, Paris, and northern Africa.

Seventy-one years ago today, the Imperial Japanese Navy came to the Hawaiian Islands in order to protest Anti-Japanese propaganda cartoons made by the Walt Disney Studios. During the protest, eight U.S. battleships were damaged, with four being sunk; 188 U.S. aircraft were destroyed; 2,402 Americans were killed and 1,282 were wounded. Tragically, 29 of aircraft that the Japanese protestors used to reach the site of their demonstration were shot down by racist Americans. All told, 65 of the Japanese demonstrators were killed or wounded.

In his now famous Presidential Address to Congress on December 8, 1941, President Roosevelt expressed dismay at “this outrageous attack” on U.S. facilities, but reassuringly explained that “[s]ince our founding, the United States has been a nation that respects all faiths. We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others.”

The Secretary of State, later on December 8, added that “Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior, along with the protest that took place in the Philippines yesterday, as a response to inflammatory material shown in our movie theaters,” before explaining again that, whether true or not, that was not a justification for violence.

In a press briefing on December 10, three days after the protests, the White House Press Secretary told reporters that “we don’t have and did not have concrete evidence to suggest that this [the Pearl Harbor attack] was not in reaction to the film.” He went on to say: “There was no intelligence that in any way could have been acted on to prevent these attacks. It is — I mean, I think the [Director of National Intelligence] spokesman was very declarative about this that the report is false. The report suggested that there was intelligence that was available prior to this that led us to believe that this facility would be attacked, and that is false.” We have no information to suggest that it was a preplanned attack. The unrest we’ve seen around the region has been in reaction to a video that Shintoists, many many Shintoists find offensive. And while the violence is reprehensible and unjustified, it is not a reaction … to U.S. policy.”

On December 21, two weeks after the protest, in an address before the League of Nations General Assembly, President Roosevelt stated, “The future must not belong to those who slander His Majesty the heavenly sovereign of Japan.”


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