Mrs Ferguson's Tea-Set, Japan, and The Second World War: The Global Consequences Following Germany's Sinking of The SS Automedon in 1940 (英語) ハードカバー – 2007/2/28
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The saga of the sinking of the Blue Funnel Line s ill-fated SS Automedon in November 1940 by the German commerce raider Atlantis is well documented, but in this new work the author argues that he is not just setting the history right in terms of the inaccuracies so far reported, but is also offering significant new information based on direct contact with surviving members of the Automedon s crew and their families, together with access to new primary sources. Offering a Japanese perspective for the first time, the book tracks the role of the Japanese navy as a silent partner and active participant in the war at sea against Britain and her allies prior to Japan s flagrant formal entry into the Second World War at Pearl Harbor. The author argues that the cooperation between the German and Japanese navies led to Japan s final defeat when Admiral Yamamoto was misled by the intelligence obtained from the confidential Cabinet papers recovered from the Automedon. One of the most significant conclusions to be drawn from this fascinating story, that is relived here, is how chance impacts on the outcome of conflict: had not Mrs Violet Ferguson who was on board the Automedon at the time of its capture asked for the trunk containing her precious tea-set to be saved, the German crew would never have found the Automedon s secret strong-room containing the Most Secret papers."
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Thanks to Mr. Seki's research I now have the confirmation I've been looking for. His details, including mentioning my uncle by name and his role, confirm exactly what my Mom told me over 40 years ago. I am very happy with my purchase for this reason.
The book itself is really written for Japanese readers, to make them understand how this seemingly insignificant event led to the formation of Japan's Pacific war plans, and ultimate defeat in 1945. Much of the book is concerned with events that most students of WWII would already know. However, there is little appreciation, outside of Great Britain, of what actually transpired on the Automedon before and during the attack, and the consequences of this attack on Britain, Japan, and the world in general. Mr. Seki provides these details in a very simple to read and entertaining manuscript, at least in my opinion.
There are also some trifling errors but they do not change the basic facts identified in the book: in late 1940 the Japanese came to possess the August 1940 British Chiefs of Staff Appreciation of Far Eastern Strategy which detailed the forces and strategies of the British in the Far East. How that happened is another of the remarkable happenstances of war and history and wonderfully described in great detail.
The important consideration, then, is how that affected subsequent Japanese strategy. After several days of thinking about this I revised this section of my original review. The COS Appreciation certainly laid out in detail the weakness of the British position and exposed the empty bluster of any threats they might make to the Japanese in 1941. Thus the document in Japanese hands could only have stimulated further Japanese aggression and accelerated their timing, but with what targets in mind?
It was the Japanese occupation of southern Indochina in July 1941 that triggered the near total oil embargo which further accelerated the pace to open hostilities. The COS Appreciation indicated beforehand to the Japanese that if they took that action there would be no serious reactions from the British. But the Japanese did not anticipate the near total oil embargo by the American, Dutch and British governments which probably made open warfare a certainty in a matter of months. The captured document also seems to have provided the confidence to the Japanese to attack the American fleet at Pearl Harbor, that is, to concentrate their forces against what they perceived to be the only significant threat to their expansionist vision given the admitted British weakness.
The significance of this document in Japanese hands, placing it in the context of subsequent events, is enough to convince me that without it the Japanese would have been much more cautious, and that likely there would have been no war in December 1941, though this does not preclude the possibility of overt war between Japan and the Americans and/or British after that time.
For historians and history buffs of the Second World War this is definitely a book worth reading, and especially if it is new to you.