Betrayal of Pearl Harbor
On December 7, 1941, the Imperial Japanese Navy launched a surprise attack on the United States, bombing warships and military targets in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. More than 350 Japanese aircraft attacked the naval base in two waves, strafing targets, dropping armor-piercing bombs, and launching torpedoes toward U.S. battleships and cruisers. The U.S. forces were unprepared, waking to the sounds of explosions and scrambling to defend themselves. The entire preemptive attack lasted only 90 minutes, and in that time, the Japanese sunk four battleships and two destroyers, pummeled 188 aircraft, and damaged even more buildings, ships and airplanes. (Two of the battleships were later raised and returned to service.) Some 2,400 Americans were killed in the attack; another 1,250 were injured, and a huge shock was dealt to United States. After the attack, Japan officially declared war on the United States. The next day President Roosevelt delivered his famous "infamy" speech, and signed a formal declaration of war against the Empire of Japan. Within days, Nazi Germany and the Kingdom of Italy also declared war on the United States, and the U.S. reciprocated soon after.
The Japanese aircraft carrier Zuikaku, seen in September of 1941. The Zuikaku would soon sail toward Hawaii, one of six aircraft carriers used in the attack by the Imperial Japanese Navy. (U.S. Naval Historical Center) #
On Sunday, December 7, 1941, Japan launched a sneak attack on the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, shattering the peace of a beautiful Hawaiian morning and leaving much of the fleet broken and burning. The destruction and death that the Japanese military visited upon Pearl Harbor that day — 18 naval vessels (including eight battleships) sunk or heavily damaged, 188 planes destroyed, over 2,000 servicemen killed — were exacerbated by the fact that American commanders in Hawaii were caught by surprise. But that was not the case in Washington. Comprehensive research has shown not only that Washington knew in advance of the attack, but that it deliberately withheld its foreknowledge from our commanders in Hawaii in the hope that the "surprise" attack would catapult the U.S. into World War II. Oliver Lyttleton, British Minister of Production, stated in 1944: "Japan was provoked into attacking America at Pearl Harbor. It is a travesty of history to say that America was forced into the war."
December 7, 1941: The battleship USS Arizona belches smoke as it topples over into the sea during a Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The ship sank with more than 80 percent of its 1,500-man crew. The attack, which left 2,343 Americans dead and 916 missing, broke the backbone of the U.S. Pacific Fleet and forced America out of a policy of isolationism. President Franklin D. Roosevelt announced that it was "a date which will live in infamy" and Congress declared war on Japan the morning after. (AP Photo)
Although FDR desired to directly involve the United States in the Second World War, his intentions sharply contradicted his public pronouncements. A pre-war Gallup poll showed 88 percent of Americans opposed U.S. involvement in the European war. Citizens realized that U.S. participation in World War I had not made a better world, and in a 1940 (election-year) speech, Roosevelt typically stated: "I have said this before, but I shall say it again and again and again: Your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars."
The USS Shaw explodes after being hit by bombs during the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in this December 7, 1941 photo.(AP Photo, U.S. Navy)
Japanese pilots get instructions aboard an aircraft carrier before the attack on Pearl Harbor, in this scene from a Japanese newsreel. It was obtained by the U.S. War Department and released to U.S. newsreels. (AP Photo) #
Roosevelt's intentions were nearly exposed in 1940 when Tyler Kent, a code clerk at the U.S. embassy in London, discovered secret dispatches between Roosevelt and Churchill. These revealed that FDR — despite contrary campaign promises — was determined to engage America in the war. Kent smuggled some of the documents out of the embassy, hoping to alert the American public — but was caught. With U.S. government approval, he was tried in a secret British court and confined to a British prison until the war's end.
December 7, 1941: Sailors stand among wrecked airplanes at Ford Island Naval Air Station as they watch the explosion of the USS Shaw in the background, during the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. (AP Photo)
December 7, 1941: Heavy damage is seen on the destroyers, U.S.S. Cassin and the U.S.S. Downes, stationed at Pearl Harbor after the Japanese attack on the Hawaiian island. (AP Photo/U.S. Navy) #
Wreckage, identified by the U.S. Navy as a Japanese torpedo plane , was salvaged from the bottom of Pearl Harbor following the surorise attack Dec. 7, 1941. (AP Photo) #
The shattered wreckage of American planes bombed by the Japanese in their attack on Pearl Harbor is strewn on Hickam Field, Dec. 7, 1941. (AP Photo) #
Aircraft prepare to launch from the Imperial Japanese Navy aircraft carrier Akagi during the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. (National Archives) #
This photograph, from a Japanese film later captured by American forces, was taken aboard the Japanese aircraft carrier Zuikaku, just as a Nakajima "Kate" B-5N bomber launched off the deck to attack Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941. (AP Photo) #
Aerial view of the initial blows struck against American ships, as seen from a Japanese plane over Pearl Harbor. (U.S. Navy) #
Captured Japanese photograph taken during the attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. In the distance, the smoke rises from Hickam Field. (U.S. Navy)
• November 5th: Tokyo notified its Washington ambassadors that November 25th was the deadline for an agreement with the U.S.
• November 11th: They were warned, "The situation is nearing a climax, and the time is getting short."
• November 16th: The deadline was pushed up to November 29th. "The deadline absolutely cannot be changed," the dispatch said. "After that, things are automatically going to happen."
• November 29th (the U.S. ultimatum had now been received): The ambassadors were told a rupture in negotiations was "inevitable," but that Japan's leaders "do not wish you to give the impression that negotiations are broken off."
• November 30th: Tokyo ordered its Berlin embassy to inform the Germans that "the breaking out of war may come quicker than anyone dreams."
• December 1st: The deadline was again moved ahead. "[T]o prevent the United States from becoming unduly suspicious, we have been advising the press and others that ... the negotiations are continuing."
• December 1st-2nd: The Japanese embassies in non-Axis nations around the world were directed to dispose of their secret documents and all but one copy of their codes. (This was for a reason easy to fathom — when war breaks out, the diplomatic offices of a hostile state lose their immunity and are normally overtaken. One copy of code was retained so that final instructions could be received, after which the last code copy would be destroyed.)
The task force, keeping its movement strictly secret and maintaining close guard against submarines and aircraft, shall advance into Hawaiian waters, and upon the very opening of hostilities shall attack the main force of the United States fleet and deal it a mortal blow. The first air raid is planned for the dawn of x-day. Exact date to be given by later order.
So much official secrecy continues to surround the translations of the intercepted Japanese naval dispatches that it is not known if the foregoing message was sent to McCollum or seen by FDR. It is not even known who originally translated the intercept. One thing, however, is certain: The message's significance could not have been lost on the translator.
1941 also witnessed the following:
On January 27th, our ambassador to Japan, Joseph Grew, sent a message to Washington stating: "The Peruvian Minister has informed a member of my staff that he has heard from many sources, including a Japanese source, that in the event of trouble breaking out between the United States and Japan, the Japanese intended to make a surprise attack against Pearl Harbor with all their strength...."
Early in 1941 the Dies Committee came into possession of a strategic map which gave clear proof of the intentions of the Japanese to make an assault on Pearl Harbor. The strategic map was prepared by the Japanese Imperial Military Intelligence Department. As soon as I received the document I telephoned Secretary of State Cordell Hull and told him what I had. Secretary Hull directed me not to let anyone know about the map and stated that he would call me as soon as he talked to President Roosevelt. In about an hour he telephoned to say that he had talked to Roosevelt and they agreed that it would be very serious if any information concerning this map reached the news services.... I told him it was a grave responsibility to withhold such vital information from the public. The Secretary assured me that he and Roosevelt considered it essential to national defense.
Dusko Popov was a Yugoslav who worked as a double agent for both Germany and Britain. His true allegiance was to the Allies. In the summer of 1941, the Nazis ordered Popov to Hawaii to make a detailed study of Pearl Harbor and its nearby airfields. The agent deduced that the mission betokened a surprise attack by the Japanese. In August, he fully reported this to the FBI in New York. J. Edgar Hoover later bitterly recalled that he had provided warnings to FDR about Pearl Harbor, but that Roosevelt told him not to pass the information any further and to just leave it in his (the president's) hands.
Seen from a distance, the Battleship Arizona burns as it sinks in Pearl Harbor after the December 7, 1941 raid by Japanese bombers.(U.S. Navy) #
A Japanese bomber, its diving flaps down, was photographed by a U.S. Navy photographer as the plane approached its Pearl Harbor objective on December 7. (AP Photo) #
Japanese aircraft can be seen in the air above Pearl Harbor (top center and upper right) in this captured Japanese photograph taken during the initial moments of the Japanese attack. (U.S. Navy)
Captain Johann Ranneft, the Dutch naval attaché in Washington, who was awarded the Legion of Merit for his services to America, recorded revealing details in his diary. On December 2nd, he visited the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI). Ranneft inquired about the Pacific. An American officer, pointing to a wall map, said, "This is the Japanese Task Force proceeding East." It was a spot midway between Japan and Hawaii. On December 6th, Ranneft returned and asked where the Japanese carriers were. He was shown a position on the map about 300-400 miles northwest of Pearl Harbor. Ranneft wrote: "I ask what is the meaning of these carriers at this location; whereupon I receive the answer that it is probably in connection with Japanese reports of eventual American action.... I myself do not think about it because I believe that everyone in Honolulu is 100 percent on the alert, just like everyone here at O.N.I."
American ships burn during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941. (AP Photo) #
A wide-angle view of the sky above Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, filled with smoke and anti-aircraft fire on December 7, 1941.(National Archives) #
Officers' wives, investigating explosions and seeing a smoke pall in distance on December 7, 1941, heard neighbor Mary Naiden, then an Army hostess who took this picture, exclaim "There are red circles on those planes overhead. They are Japanese!" Realizing war had come, the two women, stunned, started toward quarters. (AP Photo/Mary Naiden)
First Army photos of the bombing of Hickam Field, Hawaii, Dec. 7, 1941. Wreckage of barracks from parade ground off Hangar Ave. (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.) #
Officers' wives, investigating explosion and seeing smoke pall in distance on Dec. 7, 1941, heard neighbor Mary Naiden, then an Army hostess who took this picture, exclaim "There are red circles on those planes overhead. They are Japanese!" Realizing war had come, the two women, stunned, start toward quarters. (AP Photo/Mary Naiden) #
Ford Island is seen in this aerial view during the Japanese attack on Pearl harbor December 7, 1941 in Hawaii. The photo was taken from a Japanese plane. (Photo by Getty Images) #
U.S. Sailors stand amid wreckage watching as the USS Shaw explodes December 7, 1941 on Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii during the Japanese attack. (Photo by Getty Images) #
A Japanese bomber on a run over Pearl Harbor, Hawaii is shown during the surprise attack of Dec. 7, 1941. Black smoke rises from American ships in the harbor. Below is a U.S. Army air field. (AP Photo) #
USS Arizona, at height of fire, following Japanese aerial attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.) #
This December 7th file image shows an aerial view of battleships of the US Pacific Fleet consumed by the flames in its home base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii after 360 Japanese warplanes made a massive surprise attack. (HO/AFP/Getty Images) #
The USS Arizona burns during the bombing of Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941 in Hawaii. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Navy/Newsmakers) #
The US Pacific Fleet burns in its home base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii after 360 Japanese warplanes made a massive surprise attack, 07 December 1941. (Photo credit should read STF/AFP/Getty Images) #
Three U.S. battleships are hit from the air during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Japan's bombing of U.S. military bases at Pearl Harbor brings the U.S. into World War II. From left are: USS West Virginia, severely damaged; USS Tennessee, damaged; and USS Arizona, sunk. (AP Photo) #
Japanese planes over Hawaii during the attack on Pearl Harbor May 4, 1943, are shown in this scene from a Japanese newsreel. The film was obtained by the U.S. War Department and released to U.S. newsreels. (AP Photo) #
Battered by aerial bombs and torpedoes, the U.S.S. California settles slowly into the mud and muck of Pearl Harbor. Clouds of black oily smoke pouring up from the California and her stricken sister ships conceal all but the hulk of the capsized U.S.S. Oklahoma at extreme right. (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, DC) #
A Japanese dive bomber goes into its last dive as it heads toward the ground in flames after it was hit by Naval anti-aircraft fire during surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941. (AP Photo) #
Aerial photograph, taken by a Japanese pilot, of the attack on Pearl Harbor, a Japanese bomber in lower-right foreground.(Library of Congress) #
Sailors stand among wrecked airplanes at Ford Island Naval Air Station as they watch the explosion of the USS Shaw in the background, during the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, December 7, 1941. (AP Photo) #
A U.S. flag flies from the stern of the sunken battleship USS West Virginia after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941.(U.S. Navy)
Kimmel did not give up, however. With the exercise canceled, his carrier chief, Vice Admiral William "Bull" Halsey, issued plans for a 25-ship task force to guard against an "enemy air and submarine attack" on Pearl Harbor. The plan never went into effect. On November 26th, Admiral Stark, Washington's Chief of Naval Operations, ordered Halsey to use his carriers to transport fighter planes to Wake and Midway islands — further depleting Pearl Harbor's air defenses.
The battleship USS Arizona belches smoke as it topples over into the sea during a Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Dec. 7, 1941. The ship sank with more than 80 percent of its 1,500-man crew, including Rear Admiral Isaac C. Kidd. The attack, which left 2,343 Americans dead and 916 missing, broke the backbone of the U.S. Pacific Fleet and forced America out of a policy of isolationism. President Franklin D. Roosevelt announced that it was "a date which will live in infamy" and Congress declared war on Japan the morning after. This was the first attack on American territory since 1812. (AP Photo) #
Struck by two battleships and two big bombs, the USS California, right, settles to the bottom during the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941 during World War II. (AP Photo) #
USS West Virginia aflame. Disregarding the dangerous possibilities of explosions, United States sailors man their boats at the side of the burning battleship, USS West Virginia, to better fight the flames started by Japanese torpedoes and bombs. (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.) #
Firemen and civilians rush to the scene with fire hoses to save homes and stores in the Japanese and Chinese sections of Honolulu, Hawaii, on Dec. 7, 1941. As Japanese aviators rained bombs on Pearl Harbor, starting war in the Pacific, offshore properties are also wrecked and burned. (AP Photo)#
Students of the Lunalilo High School in the Waikiki district of Honolulu watch their school burn after the roof of the main building, at center, is hit by a bomb during the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on Dec. 7, 1941. (AP Photo) #
Rescue workers help evacuate the Lunalilo High School in Honolulu after the roof of the main building was hit by a bomb during the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on Dec. 7, 1941. (AP Photo) #
Wreckage, identified by the U.S. Navy as a Japanese torpedo plane , was salvaged from the bottom of Pearl Harbor following the surprise attack Dec. 7, 1941. (AP Photo) #
The wing of a Japanese bomber shot down on the grounds of the Naval Hospital at Honolulu, Hawaii, Dec. 7, 1941. (AP Photo) #
The shattered wreckage of American planes bombed by the Japanese in their attack on Pearl Harbor is strewn on Hickam Field, Dec. 7, 1941. (AP Photo) #
Wreckage of USS Arizona, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, December 7, 1941. (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.) #
First Army photos of the bombing of the Hickam Field, Hawaii, Dec. 7, 1941. Wreckage of Japanese plane shot down near CCC camp in Wahiawa. (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.) #
Wrecked P-40 airplane, at Bellows Field, machine-gunned on the ground, during the bombing of Hickam Field, Hawaii. (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.) #
Heavy damage is seen on the destroyers, USS Downes (DD-375) and USS Cassin (DD-372), stationed at Pearl Harbor after the Japanese attack on the Hawaiian island, Dec. 7, 1941. (AP Photo/U.S. Navy) #
The jumbled mass of wreckage in front of the battleship USS Pennsylvania constitutes the remains of the destroyers USS Downes and USS Cassin, bombed by the Japanese December 7, 1941 during the raid on Pearl Harbor. (Photo by Getty Images) #
A small crowd inspects the damage, both inside and outside, after a Japanese bomb hit the residence of Paul Goo during the raid on Honolulu Dec. 7, 1941. (AP Photo) #
A mass of twisted metal wreckage lay along a Honolulu street after the city had been attacked by Japanese planes Dec. 7, 1941. (AP Photo) #
A damaged B-17C bomber sits on the tarmac near Hangar Number 5 at Hickam Field December 7, 1941 after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. (Photo by Getty Images) #
This is one of the first pictures of the Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941. A P-40 plane which was machine-gunned while on the ground. (AP Photo) #
The USS Oklahoma, lying capsized in the harbor following the Japanese attack of December 7, 1941. (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.) #
White House reporters listen to the radio in the White House press room as Japan declared war on the U.S., Dec. 7, 1941. (AP Photo) #
"Japanese cabinet meets in emergency session," is the bulletin shown in Times Square's news zipper in lights on the New York Times building, New York, Dec. 7, 1941. (AP Photo/Robert Kradin) #
Employees of the Japanese Embassy in Washington close the main gates to their building after the announcement by the White House that Japan had attacked Pearl Harbor, a U.S. possession in the Pacific, Dec. 7, 1941. (AP Photo) #
Unidentified Japanese men, taken into custody under an order issued by Pres. Franklin Roosevelt, enter the Federal Building in New York, Dec. 7, 1941, accompanied by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. (AP Photo/Matty Zimmerman) #
A crowd gathers in the street outside the Japanese Embassy in Washington soon after the bombing attacks on Hawaii and the declaration of war on the U.S., Dec. 7, 1941. (AP Photo/Max Desfor) #
A Marine stands guard outside the Capitol in Washington, following the Japanese declaration of war on the United States, Dec. 7, 1941. Aiding the Marines were Capitol police. (AP Photo) #
A crowd of young men enlist in the Navy in San Francisco, Calif., Dec. 7, 1941, at the Federal Office Building. (AP Photo) #
Young Japanese Americans, including several Army selectees, gather around a reporter's car in the Japanese section of San Francisco, Dec. 8, 1941. (AP Photo) #
Joe Chiang, Washington correspondent for the Chinese Nationalist Daily, wears an improvised sign that reads "Chinese reporter, NOT Japanese, please" as he shows his press card to a guard and was admitted through a gate to the White House press room in Washington, Dec. 9, 1941. (AP Photo) #
Hundreds of Japanese are shown in a bank located in Terminal Island, San Pedro, Calif., Dec. 8, 1941, trying to learn how new monetary regulations imposed since the outbreak of the war with Japan would affect them. Aliens were not permitted to make withdrawals, while American citizens of Japanese descent were permitted withdrawals only on the first endorsement. (AP Photo/Ed Widdis) #
Rider Joy Cummings examines a Japanese cherry tree that was cut down with the words "To hell with those Japanese," carved into it, Dec. 10, 1941. Irving C. Root, Parks Commissioner, termed it vandalism. In the background is the recently completed Jefferson Memorial. (AP Photo)
Although the final passage officially severing ties had not yet come through, the fiery wording made its meaning obvious. Later that day, when Lieutenant Lester Schulz delivered to President Roosevelt his copy of the intercept, Schulz heard FDR say to his advisor, Harry Hopkins, "This means war."
An A6M-2 Zero fighter aboard the Imperial Japanese Navy carrier Akagi during the Pearl Harbor attack mission. (U.S. Navy) #
The USS Shaw burns in Pearl Harbor. Japanese bombers hit the forward portion of the ship with three bombs. The resulting fires proved uncontrollable, and Shaw was ordered abandoned. Soon after, her forward ammunition magazines detonated in a spectacular blast, completely removing her bow. (U.S. Navy)
On the morning of December 7th, the final portion of Japan's lengthy message to the U.S. government was decoded. Tokyo added two special directives to its ambassadors. The first directive, which the message called "very important," was to deliver the statement at 1 p.m. The second directive ordered that the last copy of code, and the machine that went with it, be destroyed. The gravity of this was immediately recognized in the Navy Department: Japan had a long history of synchronizing attacks with breaks in relations; Sunday was an abnormal day to deliver diplomatic messages — but the best for trying to catch U.S. armed forces at low vigilance; and 1 p.m. in Washington was shortly after dawn in Hawaii!
The USS California sinks into the mud of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. (U.S. Navy)
Marshall had only to pick up his desk phone to reach Pearl Harbor on the transpacific line. Doing so would not have averted the attack, but at least our men would have been at their battle stations. Instead, the general wrote a dispatch. After it was encoded it went to the Washington office of Western Union. From there it was relayed to San Francisco. From San Francisco it was transmitted via RCA commercial radio to Honolulu. General Short received it six hours after the attack. Two hours later it reached Kimmel. One can imagine their exasperation on reading it.
A small boat rescues a USS West Virginia crew member from the water after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941. Two men can be seen on the superstructure, upper center. The mast of the USS Tennessee is beyond the burning West Virginia.(AP Photo)
There are several interpretations of the facts surrounding Pearl Harbor. The first, as expressed by Jerry Bruckheimer, producer of the film Pearl Harbor, is to simply deny the overwhelming evidence.
A second interpretation: President Franklin D. Roosevelt, General George C. Marshall, and Admiral Harold Stark received the warnings and intercepts, but somehow "blundered" and forgot to warn Pearl Harbor. However, there is too much evidence of deliberate calculation. One does not become president of the United States or Army Chief of Staff through gross stupidity. It was FDR himself who said: "In politics, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way."
The forward magazines of USS Arizona explode after she was hit by a Japanese bomb on December 7, 1941. Frame clipped from a color motion picture taken from on board USS Solace. (U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives) #
Japanese planes over Hawaii during the attack on Pearl Harbor are shown in this scene from a Japanese newsreel. The film was obtained by the U.S. War Department and later released to U.S. newsreels. (AP Photo)
According to this latter interpretation, FDR sacrificed the fleet because Hitler had to be stopped. Otherwise, once the Germans and Japanese finished subduing Europe and Asia, they would turn on America, and conquer the whole world, with Hitler's troops eventually goose-stepping through New York City. Also, it is said, FDR cared deeply about those suffering in Hitler's concentration camps. Only by inciting the Japanese to attack would America have the unity and resolve to support Roosevelt in these noble objectives.
Sailors at Naval Air Station (NAS) Kaneohe attempt to salvage a burning PBY Catalina in the aftermath of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. (U.S. Navy) #
The battleships West Virginia and Tennessee burning after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, on December 7, 1941. (U.S. Navy)
A Plausible Explanation
Harry Dexter White, the president's assistant Treasury secretary, has been well-documented in FBI and congressional investigations as a Soviet spy. Besides giving classified information to the Soviets, White supplied them with paper, ink, and printing plates for the production of occupation currency in postwar Germany.
Oil burns on the waters of Pearl Harbor, near the naval air station, after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.(U.S. Navy) #
The USS Maryland, a battleship moored inboard of the USS Oklahoma, which capsized, was damaged slightly in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. (AP Photo)
George Marshall, Army Chief of Staff, was thoroughly documented as a Communist sympathizer in America's Retreat from Victory(1951) by Joseph McCarthy, the U.S. senator whose accusations, though maligned for decades, have been historically vindicated. Marshall's intervention on behalf of Mao Tse-tung, at the height of the Chinese civil war, is just one of many examples of his leftwing leanings. As for his infamous "horseback ride" of December 7, 1941, which allegedly prevented him from warning Pearl Harbor in time, that cover story was inadvertently blown by Arthur Upham Pope, in his 1943 biography of Maxim Litvinoff, the Soviet ambassador to the United States. Litvinoff first arrived in Washington on the morning of December 7th, 1941 — a highly convenient day to seek additional aid for the Soviets — and, according to Pope, was met at the airport that morning by General Marshall.
A sailor killed by the Japanese air attack at Naval Air Station, Kanoehe Bay. Photographed on December 7, 1941. (U.S. Navy) #
The battleship USS Arizona belches smoke as it topples over into the sea during a Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.(AP Photo) #
White House reporters dash for the telephones on December 7, 1941, after they had been told by presidential press secretary Stephen T. Early that Japanese submarines and planes had just bombed the U.S. Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. (AP Photo)
Selling papers on December 7, 1941 at Times Square in New York City, announcing that Japan has attacked U.S. bases in the Pacific.(AP Photo/Robert Kradin) #
Declaring Japan guilty of a dastardly unprovoked attack, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war, on December 8, 1941. Listening are Vice President Henry Wallace, left, and House Speaker Sam Rayburn. (AP Photo) #
President Roosevelt signs the declaration of war following the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, at the White House in Washington, D.C., on December 8, 1941. (AP Photo) #
Young Japanese Americans, including several Army selectees, gather around a reporter's car in the Japanese section of San Francisco, on December 8, 1941. (AP Photo) #
The minelayer USS Oglala lies capsized after being attacked by Japanese aircraft and submarines in the attack on Pearl Harbor.(U.S. Navy) #
Heavy damage is seen on the destroyers USS Downes and USS Cassin, stationed at Pearl Harbor, after the Japanese attack on the Hawaiian island on December 7, 1941. (AP Photo/U.S. Navy) #
An interior shot of a destroyed aircraft hangar at Wheeler Field, in Hawaii, on December 11, 1941. (U.S. Navy) #
In this photo provided by the U.S. Navy, eight miles from Pearl Harbor, shrapnel from a Japanese bomb riddled this car and killed three civilians in the attack of December 7, 1941. Two of the victims can be seen in the front seat. The Navy reported there was no nearby military target. (AP Photo/U.S. Navy) #
Wreckage of the first Japanese plane shot down during the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. (U.S. Air Force photo)
Pearl Harbor's secrets had been successfully preserved before the fact — but what about after? People around the nation, including some vocal congressmen, asked why America had been caught off guard.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt said he would appoint an investigatory commission. Supreme Court Justice Owen Roberts — a pro-British internationalist friendly with FDR — was selected to head it. Also appointed to the group: Major General Frank McCoy, General George Marshall's close friend for 30 years; Brigadier General Joseph McNarney, who was on Marshall's staff and chosen on his recommendation; retired Rear Admiral Joseph Reeves, whom FDR had given a job in lend-lease; and Admiral William Standley, a former fleet commander. Only the last seemed to have no obvious fraternity with the Washington set.
A Japanese midget submarine, part of the attacking force on Pearl Harbor, beached at Bellows Field. (U.S. Navy)
The Roberts Commission laid the blame for Pearl Harbor on the Hawaiian commanders. They had underestimated the import of the November 27th warning; they had not taken sufficient defensive or surveillance actions; they were guilty of "dereliction of duty." On the other hand, it said, Stark and Marshall had discharged their duties in exemplary fashion. Incredibly, the report's section declaring this was first submitted to Stark and Marshall for revisions and approval. Admiral Standley dissented with the findings but did not write a minority opinion after being told that doing so might jeopardize the war effort by lowering the nation's confidence in its leaders. Standley would later call Roberts' handling of the investigation "as crooked as a snake." Admiral J.O. Richardson, Kimmel's predecessor as Pacific Fleet commander, said of the report: "It is the most unfair, unjust, and deceptively dishonest document ever printed by the Government Printing Office." Admiral William "Bull" Halsey, one of World War II's foremost heroes, wrote, "I have always considered Admiral Kimmel and General Short to be splendid officers who were thrown to the wolves as scapegoats for something over which they had no control."
An American seaman looks at the charred corpse of a Japanese flier brought up from the bottom of Pearl Harbor, where he crashed with his burning plane during the Japanese attack on December 7, 1941 in Hawaii. (AP Photo) #
A small crowd inspects the damage, both inside and outside, after a Japanese bomb hit the residence of Paul Goo during the Japanese air raid on December 7, 1941. (AP Photo)
Their Day in Court
More Staged Shows
Except that the testimony you take should be taken under oath so as to be on equal status in this respect with the testimony previously taken, you will conduct your examination in an informal manner and without regard to legal or formal requirements.
Not surprisingly, witnesses who testified against Washington during the court-martials now reversed themselves. Colonel Rufus Bratton had informed the Army Pearl Harbor Board that on December 6, 1941, he had delivered the first 13 parts of Japan's terminative message to General Marshall via his secretary, and to General Gerow. Now in Germany, Bratton was flagged down on the Autobahn by Clausen, who handed him affidavits from Marshall, his secretary, and Gerow denying the deliveries were ever made. Confronted with denial by the Army Chief of Staff himself, Bratton recanted.
Congress Enters the Act
Unidentified attaches of the Japanese consulate began burning papers, ledgers and other records shortly after Japan went to war against the U.S., on December 7, 1941, in New Orleans, Louisiana. Police later stopped the fire after most of the papers had been destroyed.(AP Photo/Horace Cort)
Coercion prevented others from testifying. Major Warren J. Clear, who had warned the War Department in early 1941 that the Japanese were planning to attack a series of islands including Hawaii, was ordered not to appear before the committee. So was Chief Warrant Officer Ralph T. Briggs, the man who had originally intercepted the "winds" message at a United States monitoring station. He was summoned before his commanding officer, who forbade him to testify. "Perhaps someday you'll understand the reason for this," he was told. Briggs had a blind wife to support. He did not come forward as a witness.
This unidentified Japanese man turns to face a visitor at the Japanese Consulate in Chicago, on December 9, 1941. Clad only in underwear, he was startled while in the act of taking papers and files from a cabinet. Confidential papers at the consulate had been burned.(AP Photo) #
Following Hawaiian tradition, sailors honor men killed during the December 7, 1941, Japanese attack on Naval Air Station Kaneohe, Oahu. The casualties had been buried on December 8. This ceremony took place sometime during the following months. (U.S. Navy) #
Aerial view showing oil-streaked waters and the dry docks at U.S. Naval Base Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, following the Japanese attack, seen on December 10, 1941. (U.S. Navy)
So great is the deference Americans pay to the office of president of the United States that it must be a rare event when a United States senator, summoned to the White House for a conference, pounds his fist on the president's desk and demands answers. Yet such a scene was vividly described by George Victor in his 2007 book, The Pearl Harbor Myth: Rethinking the Unthinkable. The encounter took place on the afternoon of December 7, 1941, the "date which will live in infamy." Franklin D. Roosevelt had met with his cabinet and was preparing the speech he would deliver the next day to a joint session of Congress, asking for a declaration of war against the empire of Japan. A bipartisan group of congressional leaders arrived and were listening respectfully to the president's account of what had happened when Sen. Tom Connally of Texas, a Democrat and a strong supporter of the president, sprang to his feet, pounded the desk with his fist and, shouting at Roosevelt, demanded to know:
How did it happen that our warships were caught like tame ducks in Pearl Harbor? How did they catch us with our pants down? Where were our patrols?
The commander in chief of the army and navy expressed a strange bewilderment.
"I don't know, Tom. I just don't know."
The questioning stopped soon after. By the time Roosevelt delivered his "date of infamy" speech the next day, the nation was united behind the president and against the "treacherous" Japanese, who had launched the "sneak attack" on Pearl Harbor. The "cowardly attack" and the "duplicity of the Japanese," were bitterly denounced in editorials across the nation, all conveying the sentiment summed up in the Augusta (Georgia) Chronicle: "Oh the dishonesty and trickery of it all!"
Few were inclined to ask at such a time, "Whose trickery?"
Roosevelt's deceptions were almost too subtle for detection and his countrymen, understandably furious at being attacked, were not in a mood to listen carefully or read between the lines. On December 7, Secretary of State Cordell Hull began his statement to the press with what appeared to be a simple summation of the obvious: "Japan has made a treacherous and utterly unprovoked attack on the United States." The following day Roosevelt, in his "date of infamy" speech to Congress, said "the Japanese Government has sought to deceive the United States by false statements and more expressions of hope for continued peace."
Neither statement, Victor pointed out, said the attack caught the administration by surprise. But each implied so. And nearly everyone assumed it was the case. Roosevelt was a master of communication and for such an historic speech he no doubt chose each word with special care. So while few would notice the difference, he did not say the Japanese government deceived the United States. He said they "sought" to deceive the United States. Did they succeed?
The story has often been told since of how our military intelligence had broken the Japanese military and diplomatic codes and were routinely intercepting and reading their messages; of how exposed and vulnerable our Navy was at Pearl Harbor; of how warnings of the impending attack were sent to Washington, then withheld from the commanders in Hawaii, who later were made scapegoats for the disaster; of how Roosevelt, determined to enter the European war to rescue Great Britain, harassed German ships and otherwise tried to provoke Germany into initiating hostilities; how Japan, with its mutual defense agreement with Berlin, became Roosevelt's "back door to war" with Germany; of how the embargo against Japan was designed to force the Nipponese hand. That story is recounted thoroughly and well by James Perloff elsewhere on this site.
Yet the myth has proved remarkably resistant to the facts. Roosevelt's defenders marched dutifully into the state of denial and many remain there to this day. "The question," wrote Secretary of War Henry Stimson in his diary following a November 25, 1941 meeting with the president and his advisers, "was how we should maneuver them into the position of firing the first shot without too much damage to ourselves." Remarkably, Victor noted, "Stimson's apparent meaning was unacceptable to generations of scholars. Most ignored his diary note. Others explained it away, saying he wrote it in haste, inadvertently making a poor choice of words." In a word from Victor's subtitle, the truth was simply "unthinkable." Even when told by an historian of the stature of Charles Beard in Beard's Roosevelt and the Coming of the War, the account was dismissed as a the work of a "revisionist" historian and a "conspiracy theorist."
The labels are interesting. The use of "revisionist" as an epithet implies an assumption that the first version always gets it right. (The "first draft of history" is a phrase often used to describe journalism, not history.) And to inveigh against a "conspiracy theorist" is to ignore the fact that most evil acts of great consequence are performed by people working together in secret. Perpetrators of dastardly deeds do not often issue press releases announcing them in advance — though we seemed to expect that courtesy from the Japanese warlords, judging by the bitter denunciations of the "sneak attack." We have no problem believing the Japanese conspired to attack Pearl Harbor. Why is it then so hard to believe that Roosevelt, who devoutly believed in the necessity of bringing the United States into the war against the Axis powers, would conspire to do so?
Many deny the truth because they see it (rightly) as a stain on Roosevelt's character. "However, nothing in his history suggests that this man could plot to sink American ships and kill thousands of American soldiers and sailors," came the indignant response of Gordon Prange in Pearl Harbor: The Verdict of History. Stimson's biographer, Elting E. Morison, made the interesting argument that the Pearl Harbor disaster was so bad, no one on our side could have planned it. "Not even a system schemed out in total depravity to produce all the wrong things at all the wrong times could have organized such compounding error and misfortune," he wrote.
No, Roosevelt did not plot all the "error and misfortune" of that day. The now-famous entry in Stimson's diary speaks of getting Japan to fire the first shot "without too much damage to ourselves." How much damage would be "too much"? Anything beyond a minor skirmish would likely be sufficient to pull America into the war. It's possible Roosevelt and his military advisors underestimated both the strength of the Japanese navy and air force and the vulnerability of our defenses at Pearl Harbor. Roosevelt may have calculated the loss of lives, planes, and ships would be far less than it turned out to be. In his calculations, the loss of lives may have been greater later on if we did not enter the war when we did. We can only speculate on how many deaths and injuries to what number of solider and sailors at Pearl Harbor Roosevelt might have thought acceptable in justifying his duplicity.
Yet even historians who have recounted that duplicity have rationalized the deceptions, half-truths, and outright lies that brought a reluctant America into a world conflagration for the second time in less than a quarter of a century. Roosevelt, it appears, had to deceive us for our and the world's own good. "As heinous as it seems to families and veterans of World War II, of which this author is one," wrote Robert B. Stinnet in Day of Deceit: The Truth About Pearl Harbor, "the Pearl harbor attack was, from the White House perspective, something to be endured in order to stop a greater evil — the Nazi invaders in Europe who had begun the Holocaust and were poised to invade England."
In fact, Hitler had abandoned the goal of invading England and had instead invaded Russia in June 1941. Most Americans were willing to let the two enemies of freedom destroy one another without our help. "Despite his pleadings and persuasions," Stinnet wrote, "powerful isolationist forces prevented Roosevelt from getting into the European war."
The "isolationist" label is still used today to discredit anyone who believes in a Constitution that ordains a government to "provide for the common defense," but nowhere authorizes that government to settle all the world's disputes and to, as John Quincy Adams put it, go abroad "in search of monsters to destroy." Nor does it authorize the executive branch to decide for the American people whether or when to go to war.
It is often recalled that World War II was the last time Congress formally declared war, despite the number of conflicts we have entered since then. But in reality, the decision was not made by Congress. Once Roosevelt had maneuvered the Japanese into firing the first shot, Congress had virtually no choice but to grant the president's request for a declaration of war against an enemy that had attacked us. The decision for war had been made months earlier in the White House.
Since then, Harry Truman committed the nation to a war (a United Nations "police action") in Korea without so much as a "by your leave" to Congress. America went to war in Vietnam, twice with Iraq, and into our longest war in Afghanistan, with vaguely worded, open-ended resolutions that basically let the president decide. Even that was conceding too much to Congress, thought former Vice President Dick Cheney, who was Secretary of Defense in 1990 when President George H.W. Bush sought a resolution from Congress authorizing the use of military force to drive Iraq's army out of Kuwait. In his memoir, In My Time, Cheney recalled why he opposed putting the question to Congress.
"I told Garrick Utley [on Meet the Press] that I loved Congress," wrote Cheney, a former Republican congressman from Wyoming. "But I also had a sense of its limitations." As an example of those "limitations," he cited the fact that in September 1941, just three months before Pearl Harbor, Congress had decided by only one vote to extend the military draft. "I also emphasized that putting the nation's security in the hands of 535 members of the U.S. Congress could be a risky proposition," he wrote. "And I cautioned that a drawn-out debate in Congress could convey a sense to our allies and to Saddam [Hussein] that we weren't resolute in our commitment to liberate Kuwait."
Cheney may have loved Congress, but he obviously didn't have much respect for it. The question of putting the question of war or peace in the hands of the Congress had already been decided by our Constitution, regardless of what our allies or some distant dictator might think of congressional debate. The idea that the decision had already been made prompted one member of Congress to challenge the argument that the lawmakers should "support American policy."
"What are we," asked Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), "the Canadian consulate?"
Congress did debate and finally approve the resolution, but President Bush made it clear he considered that a needless formality: "I didn't have to get permission from some old goat in Congress," Bush boasted when campaigning (unsuccessfully) for reelection in 1992.
At least Roosevelt recognized his need for the Congress, if only to validate a decision for war he had made long before the attack on Pearl Harbor.