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Authors: Harry Turtledove

Days of Infamy

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.


Days of Infamy


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Harry Turtledove

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Electronic edition: November, 2004


“Daimon” in

Worlds That Weren't

Rule Britannia

In the Presence of Mine Enemies


, drizzly morning in the first week of March 1941, an automobile pulled up in front of the great iron gates of the Imperial Naval Staff College in Tokyo. The young commander who got out was short even by Japanese standards—he couldn't have been more than five feet three—and so slim he barely topped the hundred-pound mark. All the same, the two leading seamen on sentry duty at the gates (both of whom overtopped him by half a head) stiffened to attention at his approach.

“Your papers, sir, if you please.” The senior sentry slung his rifle so he could take them in his right hand.

The sentry studied them, nodded, and handed them back. “Thank you, sir. All in order.” He turned to his comrade. “Open the gates for Commander Genda.”

,” the second seaman said, and did.

Genda hurried to the eastern wing of the staff college. He hurried everywhere he went; he fairly burned with energy. He nearly slipped once on the wet pavement, but caught himself. The drizzle was not enough to wash the city soot from the red bricks of the building. Nothing short of sandblasting would have been.

Just inside the door to the east wing sat a petty officer with a logbook. Genda presented his papers again. The petty officer scanned them.
Commander Genda to see Admiral Yamamoto
, he wrote in the log, and, after a glance at the
clock on the wall opposite him, the time. “Please sign in, Commander,” he said, offering Genda the pen.

“Yes, yes.” Genda was always impatient with formality and paperwork. He scrawled his name, then almost trotted down the hall till he came to the stairway. Despite his small size, he took the stairs to the third floor two at a time. He wasn't breathing hard when he came out; he might be little, but he was fit.

A captain on the telephone looked at him curiously as he went past the officer's open door. Genda didn't meet the other man's eyes, or even notice his gaze. All the commander's energy focused on the meeting that lay ahead.

He knocked on the door. “Come in.” Admiral Yamamoto's voice was deep and gruff.

Heart pounding, Genda did. He saluted the commander-in-chief of Japan's Combined Fleet. Isoroku Yamamoto returned the courtesy. He was no taller than Genda, but there the physical resemblance between the two men ended. Yamamoto was broad-shouldered and barrel-chested: a wrestler's body, made for grappling with the foe. His gray hair was closely cropped above his broad, hard face. He had lost the first two fingers of his left hand in battle against the Russians at Tsushima in 1905, the year after Genda was born.

After waving Genda to a chair, he asked, “Well, Commander, what's on your mind?” He was no more a time-waster than Genda himself.

Genda licked his lips. Yamamoto could be—often strove to be—intimidating. But the younger man asked the question he had come to ask: “Sir, if war against the United States comes, what do you think of our chances?”

Yamamoto did not hesitate. “I hope this war does not come. If I am told to fight regardless of the consequences, I shall run wild for the first six months or a year, but I have utterly no confidence for the second or third year. I hope we can endeavor to avoid a Japanese-American war.”

“You say this in spite of the blow we have planned against Pearl Harbor?” Genda asked. He had been involved in preparing that blow from the beginning.

Admiral Yamamoto nodded heavily. “I do. If we succeed there, the attack buys us time. Maybe it will buy us enough to take the Philippines and the Dutch East Indies and Malaya and form a defensive perimeter so we can hold what we have conquered. Maybe. I do not believe it myself, but maybe.”

“If the United States can still use the forward base in Hawaii, matters become
more difficult for us,” Genda observed. His thick, expressive eyebrows quirked upward as he spoke.

“Much more difficult,” Yamamoto agreed.

“Well, then,” Genda said, “why do we limit ourselves to an air strike on Pearl Harbor? The Americans will rebuild, and then they will strike back at us.”

Yamamoto nodded again. “Every word of this is true. It is one of the arguments I used against the operation. Should hostilities break out between Japan and the United States, it would not be enough that we take Guam and the Philippines, nor even Hawaii and San Francisco. I wonder if our politicians have confidence as to the final outcome and are prepared to make the necessary sacrifices.”

That went further than Commander Genda wanted. He said, “May we return to discussing the Hawaii problem?” Yamamoto's smile was almost indulgent. He waved for Genda to go on. The younger man did: “We should follow up on our strike at Pearl Harbor with a landing. If Hawaii is occupied, America will lose her best base. If we make this attack at all, we had better make it decisive.”

Yamamoto sat and considered. His face showed nothing. He was an outstanding bridge and poker player. Genda could see why. “Well, Commander, no one will ever accuse you of thinking small,” Yamamoto said at last. “Tell me—have you discussed this proposal with Rear Admiral Onishi?”

That was exactly the question Genda wished he would not have asked. “Yes, sir, I have,” he answered unhappily.

“And his view is . . . ?”

“His view is that, with our present strength, we cannot take the offensive in both the eastern and southern areas,” Genda said, more unhappily still.

“Rear Admiral Onishi is an airman's officer,” Yamamoto said. “He is also a very hard-driving, determined man. If he does not believe this can be done, his opinion carries considerable weight. How do you respond to his objections?”

“By saying that half measures will not do against the United States, sir,” Genda replied. “If we strike a blow that merely infuriates the enemy, what good is it? Less than none, in my opinion. If we strike, we must drive the sword home all the way to the hilt. Let the Americans worry about defending
their West Coast. If they lose Hawaii, they cannot possibly think about striking us.”

Again, Admiral Yamamoto showed nothing of what he was thinking. He asked, “How many men do you suppose we would need to subdue Hawaii after the air strike?”

“If all goes well, they should be flat on their backs by then,” Genda said. “One division should be plenty—ten or fifteen thousand men.”

“No.” Now Yamamoto shook his head. His eyes flashed angrily. Genda realized he'd overlooked something. Yamamoto spelled it out for him: “The Americans keep two divisions of infantry on Oahu. Even with air superiority, one of ours would not be enough to root them out. If this enterprise is to be attempted, it must not fail. You are absolutely right about that.”

Genda didn't know whether to be ecstatic or apprehensive. The Navy could have pulled together a division's worth of men from its own resources. For a force the size Yamamoto was talking about . . . “Will the Army cooperate with us, sir? Their eyes are on China, and on the south—the Philippines and the Dutch East Indies. And they never like to think of anything new.” He spoke with a lifelong Navy man's scorn for the ground-pounders.

“They might like to think about not having to fight the USA so soon,” Yamamoto said. “They might. And they might like to think of fighting the Americans from a position of much greater advantage. The advance in the south may be slower if we take this course. But I do believe you are right, Commander. When we hit the Americans, we can hold nothing back. Nothing! The reward for victory in the east could be victory everywhere, and where else have we any hope of finding that?”

Genda could hardly hide his jubilation. He'd been far from sure he could persuade the older man that this was a needful course. Rear Admiral Onishi hadn't been able to see it. But Yamamoto, as his mutilated hand showed, was of the generation that had fought the Russo-Japanese War, the war that had begun with a surprise Japanese attack on the Russian Far Eastern Fleet at Port Arthur. He was alive to the advantages of getting in the first punch and making it count.

Yamamoto was. Were others? Anxiously, Commander Genda asked, “Are you sure you can persuade the Army to play its part in this plan?” Without Army cooperation, it wouldn't work. Yamamoto had rubbed Genda's nose in that. He hated the knowledge. That those Army blockheads might hold Japan
back from its best—its only, he was convinced—chance to fight the USA and have some hope of winning was intolerable.

Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto leaned forward a few inches. He was not a big man, and it was not a large motion. Nevertheless, it made him seem to take up the entire room and to look down on Genda from a considerable height when in fact their eyes were level. “You may leave that to me, Commander,” Yamamoto said in a voice that might have come from a
's throat rather than a man's. Genda hastened to salute. When Yamamoto spoke like that, who could doubt him? No one. No one at all.

from its stack, the locomotive pulled into the railroad yard at Esashi, in northernmost Hokkaido. Behind it, the troop train rattled and clattered to a halt. Corporal Takeo Shimizu looked out the window and shook his head. “It's not much like home, is it?”

All the privates in his squad hastened to shake their heads. “Oh, no,” they chorused. Shimizu had every right to thump them if they gave him any trouble. He took less advantage of the privilege than some underofficers did. A round-faced farmer's son, he hadn't been promoted to corporal as soon as he might have because his superiors wondered if he was too easygoing for his own good.

One of the soldiers, a skinny little fellow named Shiro Wakuzawa, said, “I'd sure rather be back in Hiroshima right now. It's hundreds of kilometers south of here, and we wouldn't be shivering in our seats.” The rest of the squad nodded again. A coal-fired stove at the front of the passenger car did next to nothing to hold the chill outside at bay.

“No grumbling,” Shimizu said. “We will uphold the honor of the Fifth Division.” His squad was only a tiny part of the division, but he did not want to let the larger unit down in any way. That was especially true because he didn't want to lose face before friends, neighbors, and relatives. The whole division came from the Hiroshima region.

Wakuzawa, who had an aisle seat, leaned forward so he could look out the window, too. He stared this way and that, then shook his head in obvious disappointment.

“What were you looking for?” Shimizu asked, curious in spite of himself.

“Hairy Ainu,” Wakuzawa answered. “They're supposed to live on Hokkaido,
aren't they? They have beards up to here”—he touched his face just below his eyes—“and down to here.” He tapped himself in the middle of the chest.

Corporal Shimizu rolled his eyes. “And you expect to find them in the middle of a railroad yard? What do you use for brains? If they work here, they've got to shave so they look like everybody else. I'm hairy, too”—he was proud of his thick beard—“but I shave.”

The other soldiers jeered at Wakuzawa. The corporal had, so they joined in. He looked properly abashed. That was smart of him. He was just a first-year conscript, with no rights and no privileges. If he got out of line, they'd give him lumps. They might give him lumps anyhow, on general principles.

Lieutenant Osami Yonehara, who commanded the platoon of which Corporal Shimizu's squad was a part, got up and called, “Everybody out! Get your gear! Form column of fours by the car. Move, move, move!” He was shouting by the time he was done. His officer's sword banged against his hip. He was an educated man as well as an officer, which made the gulf between him and the men he led twice as wide. Shimizu didn't worry about it. Officers gave orders and men obeyed. That was how things worked.

A nasty cold breeze blew down from the north. It felt as if it hadn't touched a thing since it started up in Siberia. Corporal Shimizu's teeth started to chatter. Somebody behind him said, “Why didn't they give us winter uniforms? My balls are crawling up into my belly.”

“Silence in the ranks!” Shimizu shouted, to show he was on the job in case one of his superiors heard the grumbler.

“Forward—march!” The command came from Lieutenant Colonel Mitsuo Fujikawa, the regimental commander. March the soldiers did. Shimizu hadn't the faintest idea where he was going. He didn't worry about it. Somebody set above him would know. All he had to do was follow the man in front of him.

Through the streets of Esashi they tramped. Women on their way to shops and workmen gaped at them as they strode past. Some of the workmen had on Western-style overalls and cloth caps. Most of the women wore kimonos, not dresses. Shimizu thought more people back home used Western clothes than was true up here. His slung rifle thumped his shoulderblade at every step. That always annoyed him, and he couldn't do a thing about it.

Around the railroad yard, the buildings were Western style: square, boring structures of brick and concrete. Then the Eleventh Regiment went through
an older part of town. Roofs curved and arched. Wood and paper replaced brick. To Shimizu, that made pretty good sense. In an earthquake, brickwork came down on your head. And the purely Japanese buildings looked a lot more interesting than the ones built on Western lines.

When they got to the harbor, Western buildings predominated again. They went with machinery, as they did in the railroad yards. They seemed more solid and sturdy than their Japanese equivalents. And the machinery, or the ideas behind the machinery, came from the West, too. Perhaps it was more at home in familiar structures.

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