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Title: Misunderstanding and mistranslation in the origins of the Pacific War of 1941-1945 : the importance of 'Magic'
Author: Komatsu, Keiichiro
ISNI:       0000 0000 3747 9327
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 1994
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The thesis is concerned with a specific example of misunderstanding as a factor in international crisis leading to war. The example is the outbreak of the Pacific War in December 1941 and the thesis gives special importance to the mistranslation and misinterpretation of "Magic" (Magic, as the thesis explains, was the name given to the American decoding of the secret Japanese codes). The argument is that misunderstanding was a cumulative factor in relations between the United States and Japan, and that in the final negotiations mistranslation of Magic was a significant factor in the failure to reach an agreement. The thesis argues that as late as the last week in November 1941 the attack on Pearl Harbor could have been averted. The thesis opens with an introduction referring to the literature on the causes of war and misunderstanding in international politics. A brief comparison is made with crises which did not lead to war, such as the Cuban missile crisis. Part I is entitled "The Historical Legacy" and surveys briefly the period from the Spanish-American war to 1940. It does not claim to be a comprehensive account of U.S.-Japan relations. It is designed to show how successive crises increased misunderstanding. It emphasises the importance, for Japan, of the danger from Russia and demonstrates the lack of control in Japanese foreign policy. Part II opens with an examination of the way policy was formed and decisions made in the United States and Japan, discussing the role of Roosevelt, Hull and other influential members of the Administration in the United States, and the lack of a central core of decision-making in Japan. It then proceeds with a chronological study of negotiations from November 1940 to October 1941. Part III examines in detail the mistranslations from Magic, including the technical problems of coding and decoding and linguistic factors and problems of translation. Part IV studies chronologically the final negotiations, including Proposal B and the Hull Note, up to the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. It shows in detail the synchronisation and lack of synchronisation between the two sides and demonstrates the points at which accurate translation and clear understanding might have altered the course of events. The brief conclusion explains how the thesis adds to existing literature, notes the present state of archival material and speculates on the possible course of events had the attack on Pearl Harbor not occurred. There are five appendices: (i) Magic materials; (ii) List of Important Magic Misinterpretations; (iii) Historiographic Developments; (iv) Bibliography; (v) Maps.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: World War II