phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

Phrases, Sayings and Idioms Home > Discussion Forum

Re: Sleeping giant

Posted by Smokey Stover on August 02, 2008 at 16:49

In Reply to: Re: Sleeping giant posted by ESC on August 02, 2008 at 15:48:

: : About Napoleon quote regarding China as a sleeping giant that when awakes the wold will tremble ...

: : Can someone help me, as I always thought Napoleon referred to two giants in their cots, namely America and Russia. Napoleon never mentioned China.
: : Am I right?

: Mr. Safire has a long passage about the term. He says it is "Perhaps derived from the plight of the title character in Jonathan Swift's 1726 novel, 'Gulliver's Travels.'...The term itself may have appeared after the attack on Pearl Harbor." In this case, the Japanese referring to the United States. "In 1978, Vermont Royster offered another possible source in the 'Wall Street Journal': 'China is a sickly, sleeping giant. But when she awakes the world will tremble.' For over a century and a half that prophecy -- attributed to Napoleon by Lord Amherst who visited him at St. Helena on his way back from China in 1816 -- has remained unfulfilled." "Safire's New Political Dictionary" by William Safire (Random House, New York, 1993). Page 715.

: Maybe searching under Lord Amherst would yield a longer quote that mentions Russia.

I'd like to clarify the "Japanese" sleeping giant quote. The alleged quotation was allegedly a remark made after the Pearl Harbor attack that brought the U.S. into the war by Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, the man who planned the attack. In the movie, "Tora1 Tora! Tora!" about the attack, Yamamoto says, "I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve." This quote cnnot be confirmed exactly from any documents so far made available. A similar remark is quoted by a Japanese biographer, similarly without documentation: "A military man can scarcely pride himself on having 'smitten a sleeping enemy'; it is more a matter of shame, simply, for the one smitten. I would rather you made your appraisal after seeing what the enemy does, since it is certain that, angered and outraged, he will soon launch a determined counterattack."

There is no doubt among naval historians that this was actually Yamamoto's view. He was one of Japan's (and the world's) most brilliant naval strategists, which is now the general view. However, when the U.S. Navy planned and carried out Yamamoto's assassination in 1943, it is clear that the motive was more revenge than strategy.

Another well-known remark by Yamamoto was: "In the first six to twelve months of a war with the United States and Great Britain I will run wild and win victory upon victory." Funny he should say that. Almost exactly six months after Pearl Harbor the American navy subjected the Japanese navy to a crushing defeat at the Battle of Midway, a defeat which preseaged the course of the war in the Pacific.
SS