The Ambassador in Japan (Grew) to the Secretary of State
[Received November 27—7:25 a.m.]
569. Yesterday evening a prominent member of the Italian Embassy, with whom I have close and cordial personal relations, prefacing his remarks with injunctions of strictest secrecy, especially as regards the British, told me that the Japanese Navy had now made up its mind definitely to declare war; he did not state when but the [Page 723] inference was that it would be in the reasonably near future; that this decision had been made within the last few days and constituted the first step in the prosecution of an understanding of the first magnitude. When asked whether he meant war with Soviet Russia, the informant replied in the affirmative; he also added, and repeated for emphasis, that “he wouldn’t give a nickel for Hong Kong”. He elaborated his remarks by stating that the navy was becoming restive in its role of being merely a beast of burden for the army which has reaped all the glory since 1931, and that the naval authorities had now determined to take advantage of the war pitch to which the nation was aroused to complete Japan’s absolute domination of East Asia by removing her opponents from the sphere; that the navy had come to the conclusion that England, which was now paying for lagging behind in her armament program during the past 15 years, was helpless; and that, most important of all, whereas until a week ago the navy had been deterred by fear of what the United States might do, and the American Fleet was the only force of which Japan took notice, the Japanese had now reached the conclusion that the United States was determined not to become involved in the Far East and that she “would not move at any price”.
I am cabling the foregoing for what it may be worth but it is impossible at this time to apprise its true value. The informant is perhaps prone to exaggeration but on the other hand it may be assumed that he is in a favored position to have access to sources of information not available to others. I am inclined to believe that he may reflect the views of younger naval officers and that their observations are likely to be a question of the wish being father to the thought.