November 26, 1941 marked Japan’s final turn toward war. During a Washington meeting, Cordell Hull told Nomura and Kurusu the oil embargo would continue.
The Secretary then referred to the oil question. He said that public feeling was so acute on that question that he might almost be lynched if he permitted oil to go freely to Japan.
It wasn’t just the oil, though. Among other things, America wanted Japan to recognize the authority of the current Chinese leader, Chiang Kai-shek. The Imperial Government refused. Apparently resigned to the inevitable, Ambassador Nomura made a fatalistic observation.
The Ambassador took the occasion to observe that sometimes statesmen of firm conviction fail to get sympathizers among the public; that only wise men could see far ahead and sometimes suffered martyrdom; but that life’s span was short and one could only do his duty.
Mr. Kurusu said that he felt that our response to their proposal could be interpreted as tantamount to meaning the end...
In fact, that’s exactly how the Imperial government saw things. They were ready to implement their plan for the South Pacific. On November 26, 1941 the huge fleet left port. Some vessels sailed north. Others sailed south.
Onboard the flagship carrier Akagi, Vice Admiral Chuichi Nagumo was in command of a well-armed, large contingent of the Imperial fleet. He and his men were sailing north of Tokyo, well outside the shipping lanes. Their destination? Pearl Harbor. The carriers were fully loaded with bombers and fighter planes.
But those ships carried something more. Something fatal. Pilots aboard the aircraft carriers were armed with deadly knowledge. As Yamamoto and Genda planned the attack, they had inside help. One of Japan’s best-trained spies, Takeo Yoshikawa, had a job at the Pearl Harbor Japanese Consulate. To everyone outside the Imperial high command, he was known as "Tadashi Morimura."
To Yamamoto’s staff, however, he was known as the man who drew meticulous pictures of the harbor and its naval ships.