Tanaka Memorial
The is an alleged Japan
Empire of Japan
The Empire of Japan is the name of the state of Japan that existed from the Meiji Restoration on 3 January 1868 to the enactment of the post-World War II Constitution of...

ese strategic planning document from 1927, in which Prime Minister
Prime Minister of Japan
The is the head of government of Japan. He is appointed by the Emperor of Japan after being designated by the Diet from among its members, and must enjoy the confidence of the House of Representatives to remain in office...

 Baron Tanaka Giichi
Tanaka Giichi
Baron was a general in the Imperial Japanese Army, politician, and the 26th Prime Minister of Japan from 20 April 1927 to 2 July 1929.-Early life and military career:...

 laid out for the Emperor
Emperor of Japan
The Emperor of Japan is, according to the 1947 Constitution of Japan, "the symbol of the state and of the unity of the people." He is a ceremonial figurehead under a form of constitutional monarchy and is head of the Japanese Imperial Family with functions as head of state. He is also the highest...

, posthumously in Japan officially called Emperor Shōwa or , was the 124th Emperor of Japan according to the traditional order, reigning from December 25, 1926, until his death in 1989. Although better known outside of Japan by his personal name Hirohito, in Japan he is now referred to...

 a strategy to take over the world. Today it is generally considered by scholars to be a forgery.


The Tanaka Memorial gained its first publicity when it was first published in the 1929, December edition of Chinese publication "時事月報"(Current Affair Monthly) in Nanking, a Nationalist Chinese publication (also reproduced in 24 September 1931, pp. 923-34 of "China Critic", an English publication in Shanghai).
The English translation of this document was in circulation before February 1934, and formed the foundation of the lead article on the front page of the first edition of The Plain Truth
The Plain Truth
The Plain Truth is a U.S.-based magazine founded by Herbert W. Armstrong, who also founded the Radio Church of God , Ambassador College, and The World Tomorrow radio and television programs. Herbert W...

magazine published by Herbert W. Armstrong
Herbert W. Armstrong
Herbert W. Armstrong founded the Worldwide Church of God in the late 1930s, as well as Ambassador College in 1946, and was an early pioneer of radio and tele-evangelism, originally taking to the airwaves in the 1930s from Eugene, Oregon...

 in February of that year, although it had first appeared in the less widely circulated Communist International magazine in 1931.

The Tanaka Memorial was depicted extensively by United States wartime propaganda
Propaganda is a form of communication that is aimed at influencing the attitude of a community toward some cause or position so as to benefit oneself or one's group....

 as a sort of Japanese counterpart of Mein Kampf
Mein Kampf
Mein Kampf is a book written by Nazi leader Adolf Hitler. It combines elements of autobiography with an exposition of Hitler's political ideology. Volume 1 of Mein Kampf was published in 1925 and Volume 2 in 1926...

. Frank Capra
Frank Capra
Frank Russell Capra was a Sicilian-born American film director. He emigrated to the U.S. when he was six, and eventually became a creative force behind major award-winning films during the 1930s and 1940s...

's Academy Award
Academy Award for Documentary Feature
The Academy Award for Documentary Feature is among the most prestigious awards for documentary films.- Winners and nominees:Following the Academy's practice, films are listed below by the award year...

-winning movie series Why We Fight
Why We Fight
Why We Fight is a series of seven war information training films commissioned by the United States government during World War II whose purpose was to show American soldiers the reason for U.S. involvement in the war. Later on they were also shown to the general U.S...

, the installments The Battle of China
The Battle of China
The Battle of China was the sixth film of Frank Capra's Why We Fight propaganda film series. It follows an introduction to Chinese culture and history with the modern history of China and the founding of the Republic of China by Sun Yat-sen, leading on to the Japanese invasion...

and Prelude to War
Prelude to War
Prelude to War was the first film of Frank Capra’s Why We Fight propaganda film series, commissioned by the Office of War Information and George C. Marshall. It was made to convince American troops of the necessity of combating the Axis Powers during World War II...

 describe the Tanaka Memorial as the document that was the Japanese plan for war with the United States. As presented in Battle of China, the four sequential steps to achieve Japan's goal of conquests are
  1. Conquest of Manchuria
  2. Conquest of China
  3. Establishment of bases in the Pacific
  4. Conquest of the United States

Even though its authenticity is not accepted by scholars today, the Tanaka Memorial was widely accepted as authentic in the 1930s and 40s because Japan's actions corresponded so closely to these plans. The 1931 Mukden Incident
Mukden Incident
The Mukden Incident, also known as the Manchurian Incident, was a staged event that was engineered by Japanese military personnel as a pretext for invading the northern part of China known as Manchuria in 1931....

, 1937 Second Sino-Japanese War
Second Sino-Japanese War
The Second Sino-Japanese War was a military conflict fought primarily between the Republic of China and the Empire of Japan. From 1937 to 1941, China fought Japan with some economic help from Germany , the Soviet Union and the United States...

, and the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor
Attack on Pearl Harbor
The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike conducted by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on the morning of December 7, 1941...

 and the subsequent Pacific War
Pacific War
The Pacific War, also sometimes called the Asia-Pacific War refers broadly to the parts of World War II that took place in the Pacific Ocean, its islands, and in East Asia, then called the Far East...

 seemed to confirm this suspicion. Some historical experts such as Edwin P. Hoyt, state unequivocally that "...the Tanaka Memorial was real. It was just too good a copy of what Prime Minister Tanaka had said and what the supernationalists had been saying for months to be otherwise." Others, such as Meirion Harries, state just as unequivocally that the Tanaka Memorial "...was one of the most successful “dirty tricks” of the twentieth century – a bogus document so brilliantly conceived that thirty years later Westerns were still being taken in by it". Likewise, historian WG Beasley states that "…the nature of this document, as published variously in English and Chinese, does not carry conviction as to its authenticity". Dr. Haruo Tohmatsu, Professor of Diplomacy and War History of International Relations at the National Defense Academy of Japan, states that "The 'Tanaka Memorial' never existed, but the Darien conference of that year adopted resolutions that reflected these ideas."

Leon Trotsky
Leon Trotsky
Leon Trotsky , born Lev Davidovich Bronshtein, was a Russian Marxist revolutionary and theorist, Soviet politician, and the founder and first leader of the Red Army....

, despite being an opponent of the USSR and Communist Party of China
Communist Party of China
The Communist Party of China , also known as the Chinese Communist Party , is the founding and ruling political party of the People's Republic of China...

, vouched for the authenticity of the document, in one of his last works.

Speculation of forgery

In the summer of 1927 (June 27 – July 7), Tanaka convened a ‘Far East Conference’ with members of the Japanese Foreign Ministry, Army Ministry
Ministry of War of Japan
The , more popularly known as the Ministry of War of Japan, was cabinet-level ministry in the Empire of Japan charged with the administrative affairs of the Imperial Japanese Army...

, Navy Ministry
Ministry of the Navy of Japan
The was a cabinet-level ministry in the Empire of Japan charged with the administrative affairs of the Imperial Japanese Navy . It existed from 1872 to 1945.-History:...

, and Finance Ministry
Ministry of Finance (Japan)
The ' is one of cabinet-level ministries of the Japanese government. The ministry was once named Ōkura-shō . The Ministry is headed by the Minister of Finance , who is a member of the Cabinet and is typically chosen from members of the Diet by the Prime Minister.The Ministry's origin was back in...

. However, instead of producing a master plan for world domination, the result of the Conference was a rough consensus that Japan should support the Kuomintang
The Kuomintang of China , sometimes romanized as Guomindang via the Pinyin transcription system or GMD for short, and translated as the Chinese Nationalist Party is a founding and ruling political party of the Republic of China . Its guiding ideology is the Three Principles of the People, espoused...

 government of China against the Chinese communists, as long as the Japanese could convince General Zhang Zuolin
Zhang Zuolin
Zhang Zuolin was the warlord of Manchuria from 1916 to 1928 . He successfully invaded China proper in October 1924 in the Second Zhili-Fengtian War. He gained control of Peking, including China's internationally recognized government, in April 1926...

 to consolidate his base in a virtually autonomous Manchuria
Manchuria is a historical name given to a large geographic region in northeast Asia. Depending on the definition of its extent, Manchuria usually falls entirely within the People's Republic of China, or is sometimes divided between China and Russia. The region is commonly referred to as Northeast...

, which would serve as a buffer state
Buffer state
A buffer state is a country lying between two rival or potentially hostile greater powers, which by its sheer existence is thought to prevent conflict between them. Buffer states, when authentically independent, typically pursue a neutralist foreign policy, which distinguishes them from satellite...

, and would fall eventually within Japanese domination. It is alleged that the Tanaka Memorial is a secret report of this Conference.

When the Allies
Allies of World War II
The Allies of World War II were the countries that opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War . Former Axis states contributing to the Allied victory are not considered Allied states...

 searched for incriminating documents to support war crime
War crime
War crimes are serious violations of the laws applicable in armed conflict giving rise to individual criminal responsibility...

 charges following the surrender of Japan
Surrender of Japan
The surrender of Japan in 1945 brought hostilities of World War II to a close. By the end of July 1945, the Imperial Japanese Navy was incapable of conducting operations and an Allied invasion of Japan was imminent...

, no drafts or copies of anything corresponding to the Tanaka Memorial appeared among them; a Japanese language "original" has never been produced despite extensive research efforts.

The origin of the Memorial is still in question. Because the initial edition of the Memorial was in Chinese, many historians have attributed it to Chinese, most probably Chinese communist sources.

There have been claims of forgery by the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 to encourage war between China and Japan, and so to advance Soviet interests. The two theories are not mutually exclusive, as the Chinese Communist Party was a branch of Comintern
The Communist International, abbreviated as Comintern, also known as the Third International, was an international communist organization initiated in Moscow during March 1919...

 under control of the Soviet Union, and Soviet policy from the 1930s was to wage a propaganda war against Japanese expansionism. Also, the first translation of the Memorial into English was done by the Communist Party of America and published in the December 1931 issue of Communist International magazine. It was later re-printed in book format.

In 1939, Peter Fleming claimed to have produced an ‘update’ to the Tanaka Memorial, by writing an imaginary report on a secret Allied
Allies of World War II
The Allies of World War II were the countries that opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War . Former Axis states contributing to the Allied victory are not considered Allied states...

 strategy conference attended by Kuomintang leader Chiang Kai-Shek
Chiang Kai-shek
Chiang Kai-shek was a political and military leader of 20th century China. He is known as Jiǎng Jièshí or Jiǎng Zhōngzhèng in Mandarin....

, and having it leaked to the Japanese. This indicates that the Tanaka Memorial was known to be a forgery by the British prior to World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...


Newspapers and school textbooks in the People's Republic of China still mention the Tanaka Memorial as factual. However, most Japanese historians contend that the document is a forgery.

In 1995, Vitaliy Pavlov, a retired high-ranking NKVD
The People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs was the public and secret police organization of the Soviet Union that directly executed the rule of power of the Soviets, including political repression, during the era of Joseph Stalin....

 officer, wrote about the Tanaka Memorial in the Moscow journal Novosti Razvedki I Kontrrazvedki (News of Intelligence and Counterintelligence). Pavlov said the work was a forgery prepared by the Soviet Union in 1931 to sow anti-Japanese feelings in the U.S. and in Europe.

On January 1, 2008, a Japanese newspaper Tokyo Shimbun reported that a Chinese historian group considered the "Tanaka Memorial" to be of dubious authenticity and suggested that the majority of Chinese historians regard the document as a forgery, in a collaborative research meeting held in September 2007.

External links

  • The Tanaka Memorial – Japan's Dream of World Empire – 1942 English translation, on the Internet Archive
    Internet Archive
    The Internet Archive is a non-profit digital library with the stated mission of "universal access to all knowledge". It offers permanent storage and access to collections of digitized materials, including websites, music, moving images, and nearly 3 million public domain books. The Internet Archive...

These sources contest the authenticity of the Memorial:

These sources advocate the authenticity of the Memorial:
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