British Novel May Have Given Japan Pearl Harbor Idea

From Associated Press

The Japanese admiral who planned the Pearl Harbor attack got the idea from a British novel, says a new book examining U.S. and Japanese strategy in World War II.

Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto--who masterminded the 1941 surprise raid that destroyed much of the U.S. Pacific Fleet at its base in Hawaii--based his strategy on a book that had Washington buzzing when Yamamoto was Japanese naval attache here from 1926 to 1928, says author William H. Honan.

The 1925 novel, “The Great Pacific War,” by Hector C. Bywater, begins with a surprise Japanese attack in 1931 that wipes out much of America’s Pacific Fleet.


Honan’s book, “Bywater: The Man Who Invented the Pacific War,” went on sale this month in England. It is due for U.S. publication in February with the title, “The Man Who Knew Too Much: How Hector C. Bywater Invented the Great Pacific War.”

Bywater was a British secret agent in Germany who later became a leading expert on the world’s navies in the pre-jet age, when national strength was measured in battleship tonnage.

From 1920 to 1940, he wrote for newspapers and magazines on both sides of the Atlantic and published several books.

It was more than coincidence that the course of the war was predicted in Bywater’s novel, Honan says. He presents evidence intended to show that Bywater’s writings profoundly influenced Japanese strategists led by Yamamoto, supreme commander of the navy’s combined fleet and architect of the Pearl Harbor attack.

“The Great Pacific War” was translated into Japanese and for a time was required reading for Japanese navy officers.

Yamamoto, in a lecture, “adopted Bywater’s ideas as his own,” Honan says. The author adds that Yamamoto threatened to resign in 1941 to force acceptance of his plan “to eradicate the American naval presence” in mid-Pacific at the start of the war.


Yamamoto followed Bywater “so assiduously in both overall strategy and specific tactics at Pearl Harbor, Guam, the Philippines and even the Battle of Midway that it is no exaggeration to call Hector Bywater the man who invented the Pacific War,” Honan says.