This segment of The Memoirs of Cordell Hull, ending at page 1056, deals largely with relations with Japan in mid-1941.
It opens with Hull and his State Department associates reviewing a Japanese proposal of May 12, 1941. They found little with which they could agree, as Japan suggested that the two nations divide control of the Pacific. Japan, however, would control the portion with most of the people and resources. Japan also intended to stand with her Axis partners, insinuating that they would go to war with the United States if the U.S. were drawn into war with Germany. The Japanese also proposed that the U.S. cease aid to China and persuade China to negotiate with Japan.
This proposal was in keeping with Japan’s consistent approach of offering options that only favored Japan’s expansive ambitions while limiting the U.S. role in the Pacific.
Hull continued his talks with Nomura. These talks made little headway in resolving the conflicting views of the United States and Japan. Complicating these talks was Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union and the possibility that Japan also might go to war with the U.S.S.R.
Then on July 21 Japanese troop advanced into the southern part of French Indochina, giving them complete control of France’s colony. Following this move, Hull broke off talks with Nomura. President Roosevelt froze Japanese assets in the United States. Hull notes that from then on the United States would concentrate on building up its defenses while still seeking a way to avoid war with Japan.
On August 6 Hull again approached Nomura and resumed talks.
At about the same time, Hull notes that he and State Department staff changed a statement to Japan that Roosevelt and Churchill had composed at their Atlantic Conference meeting (during which they also wrote the Atlantic Charter). Hull made the statement less threatening toward Japan, and FDR agreed to the changes.
This chapter deals with the proposed meeting between Roosevelt and Japanese Premier Konoye. Japan pressed to hold the meeting quickly, while Hull and Roosevelt wanted the disagreements ironed out before the meeting. The meeting, of course, never took place, as the Konoye government fell, and he was replaced by General Hideki Tojo.
Hull next deals with relations with Vichy France and the ouster of General Weygand from his role leading French North Africa.
Hull then turns to conflict in the Atlantic and his efforts to repeal parts of the Neutrality Act, to allow the United States to arm merchant ships and to ship military supplies directly to Great Britain. Hull and Roosevelt succeeded in passing these measures through the House and Senate, and Roosevelt signed the resolution on November 17. That date indicates the pressure that Roosevelt had faced for months in trying to prepare the nation for war: He was only able to make meaningful changes to the Neutrality Act less than three weeks before the United States was plunged into war.