• A Speech To Remember

    Email Print

    December 8, 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt spoke before a joint session of Congress.
    His opening words have become part of America’s political heritage:
    “Yesterday, December 7, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy
    — the United States was suddenly and deliberately attacked
    by naval and air forces of the empire of Japan.”

    Roosevelt added, “The facts of yesterday speak for themselves.”
    But facts never speak for themselves. They are assembled, sifted,
    discarded, and interpreted by those who come later.

    As proof, let me offer this example. In replaying the recording
    of Roosevelt’s speech at Disney World’s “The American Adventure”
    presentation in the USA pavilion at Epcot, the rest of the sentence
    after “infamy” is cut off. We see ships burning in a harbor, but
    we are not told where or why. Odd, until you recall where people
    see this presentation. When you think ” history,” think “tourism.”
    The Empire of Japan is long gone. The yen isn’t.

    On Sunday, December 5, I interviewed a veteran who had been at Pearl
    Harbor that day. He had been a Marine who was on land, assigned
    to defend the docks, close to Hickam Field. He told me that he fired
    a 50-caliber machine gun at overhead planes. The ammo building had
    been locked, and the officer with the key was missing, so a truck
    knocked in the door.

    I asked him how old he had been at the time. “I had just turned
    18.” He had joined the previous June, gone through boot camp, and
    had been scheduled to be shipped to China. He said the Marines had
    been stationed in Peking. I presume that this was guard duty for
    the Embassy. His unit had been reassigned to Pearl Harbor.

    And so this young man was in the middle of the day of infamy.


    The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was among the most stupid events
    of all time, although shortly eclipsed by the even more stupid decision
    by Adolf Hitler on December 11 to declare war on the United States,
    which the Axis’s Tripartite Defensive Pact did not require of him,
    since Japan had initiated the attack.

    When we watch Tora,
    Tora, Tora
    , we learn of the careful attention to details
    in the planning phase. The Navy was forced into the attack by Tojo
    and the Army, but once assigned the task, the Navy did its job painstakingly.
    The planners did neglect one thing. They forgot what the objective
    was. This is a characteristic feature of all bureaucracies, but
    especially government bureaucracies, which possess a monopoly.

    What was the objective of the attack? Obviously, to put the U.S.
    Pacific Fleet out of commission for a period of time. Admiral Yamamoto
    estimated this to be about 18 months. He estimated wrong. Within
    six months, the U.S. had sunk the four major aircraft carriers of
    Japan at the Battle of Midway (June 4—6), which was the decisive
    turning point of the Pacific war. The Japanese government never
    told the Japanese people about this naval defeat until after the
    war had ended.

    What went wrong? Several things. First and foremost, the Japanese
    Navy was influenced by a military code of honor. Wars are supposed
    to be won by courage and dedication by warriors. A military tactical
    plan had to conform to this requirement — a decidedly pre-World
    War II outlook. Mass bombing of civilians pretty much ended that
    outlook. Japan’s rape of Nanking in 1937 was a prelude of things
    to come.

    So, the Naval planners focused on military targets: ships and planes.
    They devoted attention to such matters as harbor depth, torpedo
    depth, bomb angles, and the shape of the targeted ships.

    Nobody assessed the overall importance of what should have been
    obvious: the fact in 1941 that ships ran on oil. If the first wave
    of the attack had been aimed initially at the oil storage facilities,
    with attacks on the ships only after the oil storage facilities
    were smashed, the attack would have been far more successful militarily.
    But what glory is there in blowing up oil tanks?

    After Roosevelt replaced Admiral Kimmel with Admiral Nimitz as Fleet
    Admiral, Nimitz admitted that “as bad as our losses at Pearl Harbor
    on 7 December, 1941 — they could have been devastatingly worse
    — had the Japanese returned for more strikes against our naval
    installations, surface oil storage, and our submarine base installations.”
    But Admiral Nagumo sailed away after two waves of attacking planes

    Anther fatal flaw in the plan was the absence of America’s aircraft
    carriers at Pearl on December 7. The battleship by 1941 was basically
    obsolete as a primary offensive naval weapon. Despite the fact that
    Japanese naval planners used the aircraft carrier as the primary
    weapon at both Pearl and Midway, the reality of the strategic transformation
    was not yet clear to the senior planners in December. After Midway,
    everyone knew.

    The aircraft carrier was superior. Billy Mitchell sacrificed his
    career in the Army’s Air Service by a series of highly critical
    attacks on military leaders in the mid-1920s. They were ignoring
    air power’s potential, he said. He was court-martialed for insubordination
    in December, 1925. It was therefore no accident that the B-25 airplane,
    16 of which were launched from the USS Hornet in April, 1942, against
    Tokyo, was called “the Mitchell.” It was also fitting that Admiral
    Spruance, who designed the Midway campaign, did so from his ship,
    the Hornet, in June.

    The planners surely did not understand the implications of the IBM
    computer in the underground facility at Pearl Harbor, where Joe
    Rochefort and his decryption staff would break enough of Japan’s
    JN-25 naval code to identify the timing and the location of the
    attack on Midway six months later. They also did not foresee Admiral
    Spruance’s defensive strategy: to hide the three carriers on the
    eastern side of the island, and wait.

    But the most fatal flaw of all was the planners’ inability to foresee
    the immense productivity of the American industrial system. They
    did not foresee the revolution in mass production that American
    capitalism would soon produce. New management techniques, new techniques
    for reporting and assessing information, and the power of machines
    to enable civilian women to match the output of men: none of this
    was foreseen by Japan on December 7 and Hitler on December 11.

    OIL, OIL

    The Japanese imported their oil. Japan’s military leaders ran the
    country. They were convinced that it would take military force to
    ensure the supply of raw materials, especially oil, for Japan. And
    so, year by year in the 1930s, Japan extended its rule by violence.
    Japan attempted to create its “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere”
    by force of arms.

    This created military resistance from China, which was ineffectual
    but constant, and diplomatic resistance by Western powers, who saw
    their own trade arrangements threatened.

    In October, 1940, Lieutenant Commander Arthur McCollum, an Annapolis
    graduate who was fluent in Japanese, wrote a 5-page memorandum.
    He was with the Office of Naval Intelligence. He outlined an 8-point
    strategy on how to get Japan to attack the United States, thereby
    enabling the United States to defeat Japan. He believed this conflict
    was inevitable. The final two points were these: (1) persuade the
    Dutch to block increases in shipments of resources, especially oil,
    to Japan from the Dutch East Indies; (2) put a U.S. embargo on Japan.
    His memo was sent to a pair of Roosevelt’s naval advisors on October
    7. One of them was the Director of the Office of Naval Intelligence.

    Over the next year, seven of the eight points were followed by the
    President. The sixth was already in place: keeping the Pacific Fleet
    in Hawaii, which the Fleet’s commander, Admiral Richardson, strongly
    opposed. The day after McCollum wrote his memo, Roosevelt informed
    Richardson that the fleet would remain at Pearl. Richardson vocally
    opposed the plan one more time. He was replaced by Kimmel the following
    February, which is covered briefly in Tora, Tora, Tora. The
    scene in the airplane is the key scene for the entire movie, where
    Richardson tells Kimmel that Pearl is not easy to defend.

    You can read more about McCollum and FDR’s policies here: Chapter
    2 of Robert Stinnett’s 1999 book, Day
    of Deceit
    . Or you can read Stinnett’s own summary of his
    findings here. There is additional
    information here.

    McCollum understood the Japanese mindset. He had grown up as the
    son of a missionary to Japan. He understood that the preference
    for empire rather than voluntary trade was basic to the mindset
    of the nation’s leaders. Their faith was in power, not voluntarism.
    Today, the suggestion that Japan would be wise to go to war in order
    to gain access to imported oil would be seen as ludicrous. Only
    an empire would do this.

    The problem with empires is that there is always some version of
    McCollum out there, someone capable of manipulating the foreign
    empire’s leaders, luring them into offensive military adventures
    that can only weaken the empire in the long run.


    Pearl Harbor was a shattering event. Only one person in Congress
    voted against declaring war on Japan, Jeanette Rankin of Montana,
    who had also voted against the declaration of war in World War I.
    She had been the first woman to be elected to Congress.

    Today, Congress is not asked by Presidents to declare war, although
    a Congressional declaration is required by the Constitution. So,
    what we have are not wars, but police actions or other activities.

    Note: Jane Fonda was never a traitor, because Congress never declared
    war against North Vietnam. This is also technically why our POWs
    in Korea and Vietnam did not gain protection under the Geneva Convention.

    Congressman Ron Paul, who employed me in 1976 as his research assistant,
    has identified our military problem today: the
    abdication by Congress of its Constitutional responsibilities

    The last
    time Congress declared war was on December 11, 1941, against Germany
    in response to its formal declaration of war against the United
    States. This was accomplished with wording that took less than
    one-third of a page, without any nitpicking arguments over precise
    language, yet it was a clear declaration of who the enemy was
    and what had to be done. And in three-and-a-half years, this was
    accomplished. A similar resolve came from the declaration of war
    against Japan three days earlier. Likewise, a clear-cut victory
    was achieved against Japan.

    Many Americans
    have been forced into war since that time on numerous occasions,
    with no congressional declaration of war and with essentially
    no victories. Today’s world political condition is as chaotic
    as ever. We’re still in Korea and we’re still fighting the Persian
    Gulf War that started in 1990.

    The process
    by which we’ve entered wars over the past 57 years, and the inconclusive
    results of each war since that time, are obviously related to
    Congress’ abdication of its responsibility regarding war, given
    to it by Article I Section 8 of the Constitution.

    has either ignored its responsibility entirely over these years,
    or transferred the war power to the executive branch by a near
    majority vote of its Members, without consideration of it by the
    states as an amendment required by the Constitution. . . .

    authority to wage war, calling it permission to use force to fight
    for peace in order to satisfy the UN Charter, which replaces the
    Article I, Section 8 war power provision, is about as close to
    1984 “newspeak” that we will ever get in the real world.

    Not only
    is it sad that we have gone so far astray from our Constitution,
    but it’s also dangerous for world peace and threatens our liberties
    here at home.


    are easily manipulated by enemies. Japan learned that lesson, 1941—45.

    Empires substitute war for peace in gaining their objectives. Days
    of infamy are then guaranteed.

    Then, one by one, each day of infamy is forgotten. But the federal
    debts that are issued to retaliate against each one roll on forever.

    8, 2004

    North [send him mail] is the
    author of Mises
    on Money
    . Visit http://www.freebooks.com.

    North Archives

    Email Print