The Director of the War Plans Division of the Navy Department (Turner) to the Chief of Naval Operations (Stark), July 19, 1941 [The Possible Effects of an Embargo]. From Foreign Relations, 1941, Vol. IV, pp. 839-40.


Effect of Further Restrictions on Exports.

(a) The most important fields for exercising further restrictions exports are petroleum products and raw cotton, which accounted 74% and 13%, respectively, of the trade in May, 1941.

(b) It is generally believed that shutting off the American supply petroleum will lead promptly to an invasion of the Netherlands East Indies. While probable, this is not necessarily a sure immediate result. Japan doubtless knows that wells and machinery probably would be destroyed. If then engaged in war in Siberia, the necessary force for southward adventures might not be immediately available. Furthermore, Japan has oil stocks for about eighteen months' war operations. Export restrictions of oil by the United States should be accompanied by similar restrictions by the British and Dutch.

(c) Restrictions on the export of raw cotton would probably be serious for Japan only if India, Peru, and Brazil should apply the same restrictions. Cotton stocks in Japan are believed to be rather low at present.

(d) It will, of course, be recognized that an embargo on exports will automatically stop imports from Japan.

(e) An embargo on exports will have an immediate severe psychological reaction in Japan against the United States. It is almost certain to intensify the determination of those now in power to continue their present course. Furthermore, it seems certain that, if Japan should then take military measures against the British and Dutch, she would also include military action against the Philippines, which would immediately involve us in a Pacific war. Whether or not such action will be taken immediately will doubtless depend on Japan's situation at that time with respect to Siberia.

(f) Additional export restrictions would hamper Japan's war effort, but not to a very large extent since present restrictions are accomplishing the same result, except with regard to oil, raw cotton and wood pulp. Thus, the economic weapon again Japan has largely been lost, and the effect of complete embargo would be not very great from a practical standpoint.

6. Effect on the United States of a Loss of Imports From Japan.

(a) As previously mentioned, exports and imports are approaching a balance. If exports cease, imports will also cease, as Japan would not have the means to continue her purchases. The same effect would be produced if we stopped buying from Japan, but attempted to continue our exports.

(b) In 1940, raw silk formed 67% of United States imports from Japan. Silk is processed here. It is used in industry and for certain munitions, particularly powderbags. The armed services have large stocks of raw silk, and could get along without further imports, though silk substitutes are not entirely satisfactory. Doubtless industry could manage without silk, although the lack of it would cause a considerable dislocation of labor now employed in the industry. The effect of stopping the purchase of silk would also have an adverse psychological reaction on the part of Japan, though possibly not so great as would an export embargo.

(c) Stopping other imports from Japan would not cause any great hardship in the United States, although the general effect on industry would be adverse.

7. Conclusions.

(a) Present export restrictions, plus reductions of available ship tonnage for use in Japanese trade have greatly curtailed both exports and imports.

(b) The effect of an embargo would hamper future Japanese war effort, though not immediately, and not decisively.

(c) An embargo would probably result in a fairly early attack by an on Malaya and the Netherlands East Indies, and possibly would involve the United States in early war in the Pacific. If war in the Pacific is to be accepted by the United States, actions leading up to it should, if practicable, be postponed until Japan is engaged in a in Siberia. It may well be that Japan has decided against an early attack on the British and Dutch, but has decided to occupy Indo-China and to strengthen her position there, also to attack the Russians Siberia. Should this prove to be the case, it seems probable that United States could engage in war in the Atlantic, and that an would not intervene for the time being, even against the British.

8. Recommendation.

That trade with Japan not be embargoed at this time.

R. K. Turner