Join Us…or Else. Commodore Perry at Edo Harbor…

Today in History, July 8, 1853:

US Navy Commodore Matthew C. Perry and his fleet arrive in Edo Harbor (Tokyo) Japan and by threat of force, demand that the Japanese contemplate relations with the US.

The Japanese had met Europeans before, but for the last 200 years had closed their society to outsiders.

Faced with the threat of bombardment from Perry’s ships, the Japanese accepted a letter from President Millard Fillmore. When Perry returned the next year, the offer of open relations was accepted.

The rest of the story is that Commodore Perry also pioneered steam power in the Navy, served under his famous older brother Oliver Hazard Perry (“We have met the enemy and they are ours!”) during the War of 1812, was a hero in the Mexican-American War, and he and his brother were direct descendants of William Wallace. Wow.

The irony cannot be ignored that America dragged Japan kicking and screaming into the modern industrial world. The Japanese responded with a complete turnaround, embracing the technology of the “modern” world, including battleships and air power. So that less than a century later Western nations…mostly America, would have to fight a thoroughly modern Japanese military in a world war. And then would drop an Atomic bomb on the Japanese homeland to end the conflict.