Photograph of Homer Lea (1876–1912), an American adventurer and writer who served as an adviser to Dr. Sun Yat-sen.
Homer Lea’s enduring fame rests upon his two books of geostrategic forecasting, The Valor of Ignorance (1909) and The Day of the Saxon (1912). The second book, dealing with German designs upon England’s empire and the rise of the Russian menace, is of no concern here. Valor of Ignorance received limited contemporary notice in American tabloids and military service professional journals. Its endorsement by high-ranking U. S. Army officers generated protests by Japanese journalists and trade representatives. The book was largely forgotten until, in the Christmas 1942 edition, the Newsweek military correspondent recalled that Lea had “foretold” the Pearl Harbor attack more than thirty years earlier.
There was a ripple of attention to the neglected Lea when Clare Boothe Luce had visited Charles Willoughby, Douglas MacArthur’s intelligence chief, in the Philippines in 1941 and was dazzled with his intuition about the likely Japanese invasion plan. Willoughby divulged that the whole scheme had been revealed thirty years earlier by Homer Lea. Shortly after the Pearl Harbor attack, Luce’s ruminations on Lea and his works appeared in Harper’s weekly, and later as prefaces to Lea’s reissued works.
Homer Lea, a dilettante military critic, was an outsider-essentially today’s “military buff.” His frail health and hunchback frustrated his desire to serve in the U. S. Army during the Spanish-American War. However, Lea’s knowledge of Asian languages and culture, and his impressive book knowledge of military history and modern theory, gained him an assignment as a mercenary officer in one of the Chinese armed gangs troubling the dowager empress just before the Boxer Uprising. His actual role in the anarchic southern provinces at that time is unclear, although he returned to the United States to much fanfare, sporting a self-designed “general’s” uniform and rank, and boasting of close ties to Sun Yat-sen, who apparently was impressed by Lea’s strategic knowledge. Later, Sun solicited Lea’s advice on strategy, much to the chagrin of the indigenous officers on his staff.
The first half of The Valor of Ignorance condemns America’s moral decay and its consequent lack of the martial spirit necessary to back up its arrogance in a dangerous world. The root of this “effeminacy” was an obsession with accumulating wealth. Lea promotes a calculus of military power applying concepts such as converging spheres of expansion, ratios of relative force, and other asserted, rather than proven, axioms governing international relations. In the second half of his book, he speculates upon the threat that rising Japan will control the Pacific trade routes.
When will Japan strike? Lea doesn’t say, simply hinting that the war could come within months. The clash is motivated by Japan’s superior grasp of the unavoidable showdown and its comprehension of America’s impotence. The presumed operational sequence is implied, inasmuch as Lea does not present a chronological scenario or a recital of a connected chain of events. He begins by dividing the Pacific into six interlocking subsidiary zones of control, each with its “strategic center”: Manila, Guam, Pago-Pago, the Hawaiian Islands, the Aleutians, and Alaska. Unopposed Philippine landings would be followed up with twin columns converging on Manila from beachheads at Polillo Bight and Lingayen Gulf, precisely as it happened thirty-two years later.
Hawaii is taken through a fifth-column stratagem by a de factor Japanese army of occupation, which, according to Lea, was clandestinely slipped in between 1904 and 1909 by replacing some forty-two thousand agricultural workers with skilled combatants who had fought at LiaoYang and Mukden, China.
It appears that the southwestern and southern Pacific key points are taken concurrently with the Philippines operations. Alaska is next to go; a provisional station is set up at Sitka to serve as a depot for the 100,000 men transferred within four weeks of the start of hostilities. This overwhelming force initiates the amphibious assault on Grays Harbor and Willapa Bay, Washington, the only deep-water channels beneficial to a prospective invader on the northern axis. The “strategic centers” of Chehalis and Centralia, Washington, would be taken next. From these points, the Japanese would control rail and road transportation routes. The invaders would next move inland to take up blocking positions at the two bottlenecks through which any relief columns from the east must proceed: passes in the Blue Mountains of eastern Oregon and the Bitterroot Range between Idaho and Montana.
Next, the action moves to southern California, which in 1909 was practically identical with Los Angeles and its surrounding areas. Landings along the open shoreline of Santa Monica Bay a descent by artillery-backed infantry at the unguarded rear of the San Pedro harbor defenses. The victory is consolidated by Japanese occupation of the crucial San Jacinto and Cajon passes. In the three to four months it would take to assemble 100,000 U. S. Army regulars and militia, the Japanese tighten their grip on Washington/Oregon and southern California. This leaves San Francisco as the only avenue of approach for relief columns approaching from the east. When it finally arrives, the ragtag 100,000-man mob is obliged to split into several isolated groups. Five months after the opening moves, the Japanese land 50,000 seasoned troops at or above Bodega bay, three to five days’ march northward from the likely American defense perimeter at Sausalito. Another 120,000 Japanese land at Monterey Bay, 6 miles south of the American entrenchment bridging the San Francisco Peninsula. The larger army marches north to confront the 70,000 Americans manning the fieldworks at the San Francisco approaches. The smaller Japanese army moves southward to flank the American lines extending westward from San Rafael. Naturally, the Japanese initiatives are all successful.
FURTHER READINGS Anschel, Eugene. Homer Lea, Sun Yat Sen, and the Chinese Revolution (1984). Bywater, Hector C. The Great Pacific War: A History of the American- Japanese Campaign of 1931-1933. (1925; repr. 1942). Clarke, I. F. Voices Prophesying War: Future Wars 1763-3749 (2d ed. 1992). Daniels, Roger. The Politics of Prejudice: The Anti-Japanese Movement in California and the Struggle for Japanese Exclusion (1977, 1962). Dower, John W. War Without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War (1986). Hofstadter, Richard. Social Darwinism in American Thought (rev. ed. 1962). Iriye Akiraa. Power and Culture: The Japanese-American War, 1941-45 (1981). Lea, Homer. The Valor of Ignorance (1909; repr., with preface by Clare Boothe Luce, 1942). Vagts, Alfred. A History of Militarism (1967). James Bloom