week, as Americans remember those 2403 men, women, and children
killed – and 1178 wounded – in the Japanese attack on
Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on December 7, 1941, recently released government
documents concerning that "surprise" raid compel us to
revisit some troubling questions.
issue is American foreknowledge of Japanese military plans to attack
Hawaii by a submarine and carrier force 59 years ago. There are
two questions at the top of the foreknowledge list: (1) whether
President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his top military chieftains
provoked Japan into an "overt act of war" directed at
Hawaii, and (2) whether Japan's military plans were obtained in
advance by the United States but concealed from the Hawaiian military
commanders, Admiral Husband E. Kimmel and Lieutenant General Walter
Short so they would not interfere with the overt act.
latter question was answered in the affirmative on October 30, 2000,
when President Bill Clinton signed into law, with the support of
a bipartisan Congress, the National Defense Authorization Act. Amidst
its omnibus provisions, the Act reverses the findings of nine previous
Pearl Harbor investigations and finds that both Kimmel and Short
were denied crucial military intelligence that tracked the Japanese
forces toward Hawaii and obtained by the Roosevelt Administration
in the weeks before the attack.
was specific in its finding against the 1941 White House: Kimmel
and Short were cut off from the intelligence pipeline that located
Japanese forces advancing on Hawaii. Then, after the successful
Japanese raid, both commanders were relieved of their commands,
blamed for failing to ward off the attack, and demoted in rank.
Clinton must now decide whether to grant the request by Congress
to restore the commanders to their 1941 ranks. Regardless of what
the Commander-in-Chief does in the remaining months of his term,
these congressional findings should be widely seen as an exoneration
of 59 years of blame assigned to Kimmel and Short.
one important question remains: Does the blame for the Pearl Harbor
disaster revert to President Roosevelt?
major motion picture based on the attack is currently under production
by Walt Disney Studios and scheduled for release in May 2001. The
producer, Jerry Bruckheimer, refuses to include America's foreknowledge
in the script. When Bruckheimer commented on FDR's foreknowledge
in an interview published earlier this year, he said "That's
Roosevelt believed that provoking Japan into an attack on Hawaii
was the only option he had in 1941 to overcome the powerful America
First non-interventionist movement led by aviation hero Charles
Lindbergh. These anti-war views were shared by 80 percent of the
American public from 1940 to 1941. Though Germany had conquered
most of Europe, and her U-Boats were sinking American ships in the
Atlantic Ocean – including warships – Americans wanted nothing to
do with "Europe's War."
Germany made a strategic error. She, along with her Axis partner,
Italy, signed the mutual assistance treaty with Japan, the Tripartite
Pact, on September 27, 1940. Ten days later, Lieutenant Commander
Arthur McCollum, a U.S. Naval officer in the Office of Naval Intelligence
(ONI), saw an opportunity to counter the U.S. isolationist movement
by provoking Japan into a state of war with the U.S., triggering
the mutual assistance provisions of the Tripartite Pact, and bringing
America into World War II.
in McCollum's secret memo dated October 7, 1940, and recently obtained
through the Freedom of Information Act, the ONI proposal called
for eight provocations aimed at Japan. Its centerpiece was keeping
the might of the U.S. Fleet based in the Territory of Hawaii as
a lure for a Japanese attack.
Roosevelt acted swiftly. The very next day, October 8, 1940, the
Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Fleet, Admiral James O. Richardson,
was summoned to the Oval Office and told of the provocative plan
by the President. In a heated argument with FDR, the admiral objected
to placing his sailors and ships in harm's way. Richardson was then
fired and in his place FDR selected an obscure naval officer, Rear
Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, to command the fleet in Hawaii. Kimmel
was promoted to a four-star admiral and took command on February
1, 1941. In a related appointment, Walter Short was promoted from
Major General to a three-star Lieutenant General and given command
of U.S. Army troops in Hawaii.
1941, FDR implemented the remaining seven provocations. He then
gauged Japanese reaction through intercepted and decoded communications
intelligence originated by Japan's diplomatic and military leaders.
island nation's militarists used the provocations to seize control
of Japan and organized their military forces for war against the
U.S., Great Britain, and the Netherlands. The centerpiece – the
Pearl Harbor attack – was leaked to the U.S. in January 1941. During
the next 11 months, the White House followed the Japanese war plans
through the intercepted and decoded diplomatic and military communications
leaders failed in basic security precautions. At least 1,000 Japanese
military and diplomatic radio messages per day were intercepted
by monitoring stations operated by the U.S. and her Allies, and
the message contents were summarized for the White House. The intercept
summaries were clear: Pearl Harbor would be attacked on December
7, 1941, by Japanese forces advancing through the Central and North
Pacific Oceans. On November 27 and 28, 1941, Admiral Kimmel and
General Short were ordered to remain in a defensive posture for
"the United States desires that Japan commit the first overt
act." The order came directly from President Roosevelt.
I explained to a policy forum audience at The Independent Institute
in Oakland, California, which was videotaped and telecast nationwide
over the Fourth of July holiday earlier this year, my research of
U.S. naval records shows that not only were Kimmel and Short cut
off from the Japanese communications intelligence pipeline, so were
the American people. It is a coverup that has lasted for nearly
after December 7, 1941, military communications documents that disclose
American foreknowledge of the Pearl Harbor disaster were locked
in U.S. Navy vaults away from the prying eyes of congressional investigators,
historians, and authors. Though the Freedom of Information Act freed
the foreknowledge documents from the secretive vaults to the sunlight
of the National Archives in 1995, a cottage industry continues to
cover up America's foreknowledge of Pearl Harbor.
B. Stinnett worked as a journalist for the Oakland Tribune
and the BBC, and is the author of Day
of Deceit: the truth about FDR and Pearl Harbor (Free Press,
2000). His article is adapted from his presentation earlier this
year at The Independent Institute
in Oakland, California.