Contra Costa's Horrific Role in Pearl Harbor

By Dean McLeod

With all the current films about World War II, and particularly Pearl Harbor, we think we know about what happened. Here's a true account of the unwitting role Contra Costans played in that "Day of Infamy". It is not a pretty story. Put the kids and wives to bed.

These events, as with much of history, are revised as more original documents are found and studied. The horrible Nazi Juggernaut in Europe threatened to take over the entire mainland, including Great Britain. Public opinion in America was intensely opposed to getting into a foreign war. President Roosevelt was in a political hot seat.

The United States declared an oil embargo against the Japanese in 1940. But the embargo had one leak in it. Mitsui and Mitsubishi operated oil tankers to import oil to Japan. Apparently with Presidential knowledge, these companies were allowed to purchase fuel oil and gasoline manufactured at Associated Oil (later called Tosco, now called Golden Eagle).

According to a secret dispatch dated 20 August 1940 to his government in Japan, the Consul General in San Francisco assured the high command that, despite the embargo the flow of oil would continue to be made available from oil dealers in the San Francisco area, principally Associated Oil. He assured his government that in addition to the 321,000 barrels loaded through August, there would be "no difficulty" shipping ordinary gasoline to Japan. Between July 1940 and April of 1941, during a petroleum embargo, 9,200,000 barrels of gasoline went to Japan. Navy intelligence identified and tracked eight Japanese tankers during that period. Most loaded up at the docks at Port Costa and delivered the fuel directly to Tokuyama, the main storage facility for the Japanese fleet.

They were tracked the entire time by Navy intelligence. Two of the ships, the Kyokuto Maru and the HIMJS Shiriya, loaded up with fuel at Associated all during 1940-41, filled the storage tanks at Tokuyama and, in December, 1941 accompanied the fleet to the attack on Pearl Harbor.

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