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As a schoolboy in England in the late 1940s, I clearly remember seeing much of the world colored in red, the red of the British Empire. We were told that “we controlled one-quarter of the globe.” That empire, with all its faults, was primarily founded on trade, and its trading routes were stoutly protected by the then-mightiest of naval fleets in that world, the Royal Navy, especially in the Far East at Singapore, etc.

Based on this simple fact, I was surprised to read of yet another Japanese writer’s misguided slant on world history, especially the time of World War II: Masamichi Hanabusa’s July 11 article, “Abe’s defense policy from a historical perspective.” He seems abysmally weak on that history when he states that “The situation in which Japan finds itself today closely resembles that of Britain on the eve of World War II in that its overseas economic interests would not be secure without maintaining its strong alliance with the U.S.”

He is wrong!

He further states: “Like Britain in the 1940s [when exactly?], it is in Japan’s interest … to align itself more closely with the U.S.” Japan? Perhaps so. For Britain? Not at all!

Britain had no such reliance on the U.S. It did not need one! Its global position in the late 1930s was unassailable from any quarter save from Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich.

Certainly Britain’s empire was secure, even as far away as the Far East, because of the Royal Navy and overseas ground forces at many bases. Hanabusa should have checked on the very strong antiwar feelings in the U.S. in those times, led in no small way by former U.S. ambassador to Britain Joseph Kennedy. The U.S. had been “dragged” into a European war in 1917, and it had no intention of being involved in another, despite Hitler’s machinations, saber-rattling and later blitzkrieg.

Britain did not need or expect any help from the U.S. When it declared war on Germany on Sept. 3, 1939, both the British and the U.S. knew that Britain was sorely outmatched by Germany in terms of arms, and it took a friendly U.S. president (Franklin Roosevelt) to help it under “Lend-Lease” and other convenient arrangements. But Britain stood alone against the might of Germany through the remaining months of 1939 and throughout 1940. All that changed, of course, from the “Day of Infamy” — Dec. 7, 1941. From then on, the U.S. fought alongside Britain and its empire forces.

paul gaysford
tokyo

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

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