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Many things could have happened in the four-year struggle between Japan and the United States to alter the course of the war. But from the beginning, the Japanese failure to destroy the US carrier fleet (which was out of port) at Pearl Harbor raised serious problems for Japan. American victories in a series of pivotal naval battles, most significantly at the Coral Sea and Midway, enabled them to exploit this failure. Additionally, the Japanese High Command hoped, after the initial wave of attacks that included Pearl Harbor and the conquest of the Philippines, that they could wage a successful defense of their acquisitions until such time as the government could secure a negotiated settlement. Even with the early setbacks, there was very little support for such a settlement among US politicians or the public at large, which viewed Pearl Harbor as a major atrocity. So while the war could have gone differently, and nothing is inevitable, especially in war, the failure to inflict worse damage on the US naval presence in the Pacific early in the war made victory very difficult to achieve for Japan.
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