Saturday, July 22, 2006
A New Zealand journalist and a Kiwi military historian have
recently uncovered an interesting story about past foreign
relations between the U.S. and New Zealand.
Many believe that the United States and Japan first clashed in
1941...you know, "A date which will live in infamy" and all that.
Franklin D. Roosevelt was the U.S. President. However,
during the presidency of another Roosevelt, Theodore, the U.S.
and Japan nearly met each other in armed conflict 33 years
earlier, in 1908.
At the time, Japan was extending it's reach across the Pacific,
and that was alarming to many in Washington, including
Roosevelt. Japan had defeated the Russians in the Russo-
Japanese war in 1904. Prior to this war, Britain, to hedge it's
bets against Russia, formed an alliance with Japan. This
alliance still existed in 1908. With alliances being what they
were back then (think Sarajevo...Franz Ferdinand...WWI) there
was a real chance that if the U.S. went to war with Japan, they
would also be going to war with Britain.
What does this mean to New Zealand? Well, in 1908, New
Zealand was still very much a part of the British Empire and
if Britain would be fighting the U.S., so would New Zealand.
In 1908, Roosevelt launched the Great White Fleet. It consisted
of 16 American battleships that went on a world tour of sorts,
visiting allies and potential foes alike. Masked as a goodwill tour,
it demonstrated America's strength and ability to send a force
around the world.
While in New Zealand, U.S. Naval officers got a good look
around the country and were able to get a good assessment
of the defensive strengths and wrote a in depth 62 page
document giving details how an invasion could be carried
out. Presumably, Australia would be next in line. When the
war was over and the Japanese presence and threat finished,
New Zealand and Australia would be part of the U.S.
The 1908 war between the U.S. and Japan never happened, and
by the time of Pearl Harbor, Britain and the United States were
allies, along with New Zealand and Australia. They fought Japan
together and to this day, are allies.
But...as a fan of Alternative History, I wonder how things might
have turned out. Would New Zealand currently be our 51st
state? Part of a larger, Pacific republic? Maybe.
Would American music and movies be very popular in the
streets of Wellington and Christchurch? Would there be a
McDonalds, Pizza Hut and Starbucks on every corner in
Auckland. Oh wait...there already is. I guess history wouldn't
have been that much different after all.
Posted by Tom Hamann at 10:25 PM