Lest We Forget

By Lieutenant Commander Thomas J. Cutler, U.S. Navy (Retired)

The following February Perry returned. With his ships close inshore where the Japanese could clearly see them, he again went ashore amid much pomp and circumstance. Having effectively played the show-of-force card, Perry understood the importance of allowing the Japanese to save face and now settled into a lengthy process of negotiations. As part of that process it was customary to exchange gifts, and the differences in the respective cultures were evident in what was exchanged. For their part, the Japanese gave the Americans gold-lacquered furniture and boxes, bronze ornaments, delicate porcelain goblets, and a collection of seashells. In turn, the Americans gave firearms, 100 gallons of whiskey, farm implements, clocks, stoves, a telegraph, and a one-fourth scale train, complete with track, locomotive, coal tender, and coach. The track was laid down, and soon Japanese dignitaries were rolling around the oval at 20 miles per hour, their ceremonial robes trailing in the wind.

As the negotiations progressed, the Japanese agreed to properly assist castaways and offered two sites as coaling stations. Still reluctant to agree to trade with the outside world, they compromised by accepting an American consul, which Perry correctly surmised would serve as a catalyst to further negotiations, eventually opening the door to trade.

Perry’s ability to blend implied power with diplomatic skills bore fruit on 31 March 1854, when the Japanese signed the Treaty of Kanagawa. Japan entered the modern world, creating new trade opportunities while opening a Pandora’s Box that would lead to cataclysm in less than a century, when Japanese planes arrived shortly after the rising sun at Pearl Harbor.

 

Lieutenant Commander Cutler is the author of several books, including A Sailor’s History of the U.S. Navy and Brown Water, Black Berets .
 

Thomas J. Cutler is a retired lieutenant commander and former gunner's mate second class who served in patrol craft, cruisers, destroyers, and aircraft carriers. His varied assignments included an in-country Vietnam tour, small craft command, and nine years at the U.S. Naval Academy, where he served as Executive Assistant to the Chairman of the Seamanship & Navigation Department and Associate Chairman of the History Department. While at the Academy, he was awarded the William P. Clements Award for Excellence in Education (military teacher of the year).

He is the founder and former Director of the Walbrook Maritime Academy in Baltimore. Currently he is Fleet Professor of Strategy and Policy with the Naval War College and is the Director of Professional Publishing at the U.S. Naval Institute.

Winner of the Alfred Thayer Mahan Award for Naval Literature, the U.S. Naval Institute Press Author of the Year, and the U.S. Maritime Literature Award, his published works include NavCivGuide: A Handbook for Civilians in the U.S. Navy; A Sailor's History of the U.S. Navy [one of the books in the Chief of Naval Operations Reading Program]; The Battle of Leyte Gulf; Brown Water, Black Berets: Coastal & Riverine Warfare in Vietnam; and the 22nd, 23rd (Centennial), and 24th editions of The Bluejacket's Manual. His other works include revisions of Jack Sweetman's The Illustrated History of the U.S. Naval Academy and Dutton's Nautical Navigation. He and his wife, Deborah W. Cutler, are the co-editors of the Dictionary of Naval Terms and the Dictionary of Naval Abbreviations.

His books have been published in various forms, including paperback and audio, and have appeared as main and alternate selections of the History Book Club, Military Book Club, and Book of the Month Club. He has served as a panelist, commentator, and keynote speaker on military and writing topics at many events and for various organizations, including the Naval History and Heritage Command, Smithsonian Institution, the Navy Memorial, U.S. Naval Academy, MacArthur Memorial Foundation, Johns Hopkins University, U.S. Naval Institute, Armed Forces Electronics Communications and Electronics Association, Naval War College, Civitan, and many veterans' organizations. His television appearances include the History Channel's Biography series, A&E's Our Century, Fox News Channel's The O'Reilly Factor, and CBS's 48 Hours.

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Events and Conferences

Guest Lecturer
12:30pm, “Shifley Lecture Series,” U.S. Naval Academy Museum, 118 Maryland Ave., Annapolis, MD /... Read More

 
 

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