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Kichisaburo Nomura

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Kichisaburo Nomura was an Imperial Japanese Navy admiral, who became Japanese Ambassador to the U.S. in 1941, following service as Foreign Minister. With Foreign Minister Yosuke Matsuoka, also in Washington, he tried to avert World War Two in the Pacific.

Early career

He was a graduate of the Japanese Naval Academy, who served as naval attache to the U.S. in 1916-1918.

Mission to the U.S.

According to Pacific Fleet intelligence officer Edwin Layton, "Nomura was one of the few senior Japanese officials I knew who had real affinity for and understanding of the United States. His appointment at this critical time was a signal of Tokyo's intent to calm American concern. If anyone could have done it, Nomura was the man." [1] Layton, however, considered Nomura naive in proposing ideas that his government, which would have been unacceptable to the Japanese military leadership. Nomura reported that there was special American sensitivity over French Indochina.

After a February 7, 1941, conversation with Nomura, an old friend from Zacharias' stay in Japan in the 1920s, "During what Zacharias termed an "amazingly frank" discussion with Nomura, the ambassador appeared to be deeply fearful of the growing power concentrated in the hands of the Japanese war extremists. Nomura believed that a conflict with the United States would ruin or destroy the Japanese empire, but he appeared resigned that such a war appeared to be inevitable, especially now after the signing of the Axis Pact."[2]

26 November meeting

Cordell Hull negotiated extensively with Nomura, trying to avoid war. A memorandum from Hull to the Japanese,[3] became one of the key factors in the Japanese decision for war in 1941. Privy Council President Yoshimichi Hara, who referred to the memorandum reporting the 26 November meeting with Hull and the Japanese ambassadors, quoting it (emphasis added) as "the United States has demanded we withdraw troops from all of China." The actual English text read only "China". Hara asked for clarification, and Foreign Miniter Togo said it was unclear if Manchuria had been separated. Throughout the Nomura-Hull talks, China and Manchuria had always been separated,a confusing explanation from Togo, no one at the conference assumed so. Hara concluded that war was preferable to accepting the American proposal because
If we were to give in [to the United States, then we would not only give up the fruits of the Sino-Japanese War, and the Russo-Japanese War, but also abandon the results of the Manchurian Incident. There is no way we could endure this....It is clear that the existence of our empire is threatened, that the great achievements of the Emperor Meiji would all come to naught, and that there is nothing else we can do.[4]


  1. Edwin T. Layton, Roger Pineau and John Costello (1985), "And I was There": Pearl Harbor and Midway: Breaking the Secrets, William Morrow & Company, ISBN 0688948838, p. 81
  2. David A. Pfeiffer (Summer 2008), "Sage Prophet or Loose Cannon? Skilled Intelligence Officer in World War II Foresaw Japan's Plans, but Annoyed Navy Brass", Prologue (U.S. National Archives)
  3. Document Handed by the Secretary of State (Hull) to the Japanese Ambassador (Nomura) (26 November 1941), Outline of Proposed Basis for Agreement between the United States and Japan
  4. Herbert P. Bix (2001), Hirohito and the making of modern Japan, Harper Perennial, ISBN 978-0060931308, pp. 431-422