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Bankrupting the Enemy: The U.S. Financial Siege of Japan Before Pearl Harbor Hardcover – September 10, 2007


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Naval Institute Press; 1st edition (September 10, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591145201
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591145202
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #275,329 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

EDWARD S. MILLER a Phi Beta Kappa graduate in economics at Syracuse University and the Harvard Advanced Management Program, served as chief financial officer of a major international mining corporation and the U.S. Synthetic Fuels Corporation.

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Customer Reviews

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This book is extremely well researched.
History Reader
Not much to say except that this book is a must read for everyone who is interested in the origins of the Pacific War or World War II.
David M. Dougherty
This book covers in detail the economic relationship between Japan and the U.S. from the Meiji era to the eve of WW2.
Ed B

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By David M. Dougherty VINE VOICE on July 27, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Not much to say except that this book is a must read for everyone who is interested in the origins of the Pacific War or World War II.

Author Miller does an excellent job of depicting Japan's vulnerable economy, desperately needing foreign exchange but being dependent on silk as its mainstay in foreign trade. Japan possessed (& possesses) few natural resources and was forced to import its oil, iron ore, metal scrap, and almost all products needed to grow its economy or carry on a war.

The US played the role of spoiler, attempting to hold Japan's economic survival hostage to its international good behavior (as seen by Roosevelt), and the leaders of Japan could not allow that to continue for many reasons, not the least of which was the belief in Japan's destiny to rule the East. The activities of Acheson under Roosevelt's guidance are fascinating, and the reader is carried along as in a suspense novel leading toward a catastrophic conclusion. The author blends facts and figures with activities and policies with amazing ease.

My only criticism stems from the missing links to external events and the fears and attitudes of others. For example, the freeze of July, 1941, closely followed the invasion of the Soviet Union by Germany, and there is substantial evidence that Roosevelt sought open hostilities with Japan while the Russians were still in the field. By November, 1941, many in Roosevelt's administration felt that Moscow was imperiled and that the Russians could soon collapse, leaving Britain and the US to face Germany alone and the very distinct probability that Japan would then choose to honor the Tripartite Pact and enter the fray at the most opportune moment.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By W. D ONEIL on November 27, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ed Miller is a retired top financial and foreign trade executive turned historian. It would be hard to imagine a better background for an exploration of U.S. economic steps against Japan in the years before Pearl Harbor (and 1941 especially), and it would be equally hard to imagine anyone doing a better job. He has cast a very clear and bright spotlight beam on an important part of the story of the process by which the Pacific War came to be initiated in 1941, a part never nearly so adequately illuminated before this.

The story is complex and technical, and Miller does a masterful job of following multiple interwoven strands and clarifying their relationships, while explaining the technicalities in accessible terms. He explains the rather scattered and uncoordinated process by which the Roosevelt Administration came to impose a pervasive financial freeze and a total embargo of oil shipments within days of one another in July 1941. He shows how and why it was the freeze that was in fact the more fatal blow -- a fact appreciated at the time by the Japanese themselves. The freeze meant that in practice the Japanese were shut out not only from oil purchases but from virtually all purchases of any kind, not only in America but throughout the world. And he explains clearly how the mechanisms of the freeze and the various stages of embargoes worked, making it clear why some of the earlier stages were in fact largely ineffective or symbolic.

Miller explores in detail -- for the first time anywhere, to my knowledge -- the extent of American knowledge and ignorance regarding Japan's actual financial and physical resources. The United States had very little in the way of formal intelligence gathering and analysis on the eve of Pearl Harbor -- certainly nothing resembling the CIA.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Ed B on December 27, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book covers in detail the economic relationship between Japan and the U.S. from the Meiji era to the eve of WW2. It shows how Japan used foreign trade to develop and strengthen its economy. As it moves into the 1930's, it clearly shows the devastating effect of Smoot-Hawley on Japan's efforts to diversify and expand trade with the U.S. Many histories gloss over the economic origins of war. Seeing how U.S. trade barriers imposed duties of up to 600% on Japanese products, you can better understand the reasoning behind military expansion of the Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere to secure markets.

Although a complex topic, the book gives a very good explanation of the U.S. attempts to understand the weak points of the Japanese economy and how to leverage that into political pressure. It is particularly interesting to see how high level political objectives of graduated and flexible pressure were transformed by mid-level bureaucrats into a total embargo of crucial materials. This forced Japan to confront the stark choices of total submission or war, leading directly to Pearl Harbor.

This book is highly recommended for anyone who wishes to understand the economic factors that drove the political calculations for both Japan and the U.S. The question that one is left with (and it isn't in the scope of this book) is why the U.S. was so concerned about Japanese actions in China, given the trivial strategic interests of the U.S. in that country. Was it the hangover of Wilsonian moral rectitude, or some higher calculation of how best to get the U.S. into the Second World War?
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