Pearl Harbor: The Search Continues

Monday, December 6th, 2010

[Taki’s Magazine]

I’ll make a bargain: tell me one decent reason

Why the United States got into this war...

Don’t say Pearl Harbor though.

That was a trick, a dirty one. They had duped us

Deep into war, they’d fooled us into doing everything

Except declare it and send armies abroad...

Germany wouldn’t attack

Although we sank her boats and supplied her enemies:

They needled the touchy Japs and they did it for them.

--Robinson Jeffers,

The Double Axe


As a history buff, I have tried to come to terms with the "surprise" Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor. That lugubrious anniversary--December 7th, 1941--is fast approaching once again. For its impact upon American history, Pearl Harbor ranks alongside the bombardment of Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina on April 12, 1861.

My view is that the outbreak of the Civil War marked the termination of the U.S. Constitution, the end of the American Republic of 1789. Pearl Harbor ushered in the second irreversible downturn: the collapse of the reconstituted American Republic established by Washington in the aftermath of the Civil War. 

Pearl Harbor made possible the transformation of America, under the dishonest leadership of Franklin Roosevelt, from a republic into a global empire. Nothing remotely like that had been contemplated by Jefferson, Washington, Madison and John Adams. The adverse repercussions of Roosevelt's actions should now be obvious to everyone. 

Garet Garrett called the new circumstance created by FDR "Ex America". In essence, we are living in a postscript era. Thanks to Fort Sumter and Pearl Harbor, America is twice removed from the ideals and constraints of the Founding Fathers. We are now at sea, making it up as we go along...most especially in the aftermath of the Cold War.

Much has been written about Pearl Harbor. My favorite book on the subject remains the first one I read: The Final Secret of Pearl Harbor by Rear Admiral Robert Theobald, published in 1954. He was there during the attack. He was the Commander of Destroyer Flotilla One in the Pacific Fleet, under Admiral Husband Kimmel, Commander-in-Chief.

Admiral Kimmel wrote a brief foreword to the book, in which he states: "...Theobald's studies have caused him to conclude that we were unready at Pearl Harbor because President Roosevelt's plans required that no word be sent to alert the Fleet in Hawaii." Once you read Theobald's book, you realize what a masterpiece of understatement that is. Theobald succeeded in putting all the pieces of evidence together, and they fit.  

Kimmel's foreword is followed by a second one, written by the famous Fleet Admiral William F. Halsey. He states: "At that time, I was one of the three senior commanders of the Pacific Fleet, serving under Admiral Kimmel. I am sure he kept me informed of all the intelligence he possessed. Certainly I did not know then of any of the pertinent "Magic Messages".... Had we known of Japan's minute and continued interest in the exact location and movement of our ships in Pearl Harbor, as indicated in the "Magic Messages," it is only logical that we would have concentrated our thought on meeting the practical certainty of an attack on Pearl Harbor." 

Admiral Theobald's bombshell was followed by another in 1955, Admiral Kimmel's Story. This book has never received the attention and respect it deserves. Kimmel had been cashiered by FDR in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor and was made the scapegoat, along with U.S. Army Lt. General Walter Short, for the successful Japanese attack. Kimmel asked for a court martial to defend himself, but it never happened.

His book, over a decade later, provided the opportunity to make his case in public, free of war hysteria. In the opening chapter, he no longer deals in understatement. "The attack on the morning of December 7, 1941, was a fiery answer to Secretary of State Cordell Hull's ultimatum to Japan of November 26th, which in Hull's own words to Secretary of War Stimson had 'broken the whole matter off.... I have washed my hands of it and it is now in the hands of you and Knox--the Army and the Navy.'" 

Admiral Kimmel continues in the same vein: "Needless to say, neither General Short nor I had any clear perception of the fact that the Roosevelt Administration was pursuing a course of action that made war with Japan inevitable.... The actions in Washington...made our own officers and enlisted men a decoy for a desperate and resourceful nation.... The information received during the ten days preceding the attack clearly pointed to the fleet at Pearl Harbor as the Japanese objective, yet not one word of warning and none of this information was given to the Hawaiian commanders.... This lack of action on the part of both the War and Navy Departments must have been in accordance with high political direction...." The book proceeds to fill out the picture presented by Theobald. It is fascinating.

There have been a number of books published since 1955, utilizing new information and insights. In one way or another, most underpin the Theobald/Kimmel thesis. All signs point in one direction, to the Oval Office, to FDR and his inner circle. Alas, apologists for FDR still claim that there is no smoking gun. They could be right.

Much material still remains buried in classified archives, especially in England. At the same time, there have been rationalizations for what FDR did by those who have proven his culpability with the evidence now available. Here's a sample from the preface to Robert B. Stinnett's Day of Deceit (2000): "This is not an attempt to question the wisdom of America's entry into the war.... President Roosevelt was forced to find circuitous means to persuade an isolationist America to join in a fight for freedom." 

In the most recent (2007) book on the subject, The Pearl Harbor Myth: Rethinking the Unthinkable, psychotherapist George Victor points out that FDR's actions constituted really nothing new. He cites the actions of Presidents James Polk, Abe Lincoln, William McKinley and Woodrow Wilson. All of them decided to launch America into a war, and they resorted to subterfuge and propaganda to do it. Dr. Victor has a point. Still, I would argue that no president before Roosevelt did it in so spectacular and deceitful a fashion as Roosevelt. 

Polk invaded Mexico in 1846 to grab California and Texas and everything in between; Lincoln waged war upon the Southern States in 1861 to prevent the South from withdrawing peacefully from the Union; McKinley provoked Spain in 1898 to grab Cuba, Hawaii and the Philippines; Wilson administered the coup de grâce in 1917 to a war-weary Germany to rescue a beaten John Bull.

None of these escapades, it seems to me, reaches the outer limits of treachery that Roosevelt and his associates achieved when they lured the Japanese into attacking the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor. Not to mention the colossal irony of Roosevelt proclaiming the orchestrated deed "a Day of Infamy" to a joint session of Congress the very next day. It was a brilliant performance.

The question, of course, is why? What was motivation? One needs to understand the background to the attack. One must become acquainted with the unbalanced mind of Franklin Roosevelt. Not an easy assignment.

The December 7th, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor was the culmination of Roosevelt's meddling, incendiary foreign policy going back several years. One can quickly become engulfed in decoded cables and in the secret Japanese codes known as "Magic" (diplomatic) and "JN-25" (Japanese Fleet). The intercepts do not explain why it happened, but they are a window as to how it happened. As such, they are of paramount importance. The intercepts, taken in context, provide strong circumstantial evidence that Roosevelt and his close associates must have been fully aware of the consequences of their actions. 

Roosevelt persevered for months and years in a determined policy that would inevitably lead to an all-out war in both Asia and Europe, to wit, a world war. It was no accident. It was by design.

In his reelection campaign for an unprecedented third term in 1940, Roosevelt said, "While I am talking to you mothers and fathers, I give you one more assurance. 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." Congressman Hamilton Fish called that statement "the most shocking, contemptible and untruthful public utterance of any president in our history."

For the background to Pearl Harbor, the best books still remain George Morgenstern's Pearl Harbor, The Story of the Secret War (1947); William Henry Chamberlin's America's Second Crusade (1950); and  Professor Charles Tansill's Back Door to War (1952).


I must add one more book, which I have just recently discovered. It is provocative and illuminating. I am referring to FDR, The Other Side of the Coin by Congressman Hamilton Fish of New York. If there ever were an exemplar of the old school, Hamilton Fish III was it.

A member of Congress for twenty-five years from Roosevelt's own Congressional district, the ranking Republican member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Fish had fought in France in the Great War and been awarded the Legion of Honor. His ancestors had fought in the Continental Army, and he was related to Peter Stuyvesant, the first Dutch colonial governor of New York. His paternal grandfather served as U.S. Secretary of State under Ulysses Grant. He was a football star at Harvard, where he graduated cum laude with a degree in history and government.

The Other Side of the Coin--written when Fish was 86, published in 1976--amounts to one grand excoriation of Roosevelt, with Pearl Harbor being the centerpiece. The subtitle of the book says it all: How we were tricked into World War II. Fish informs us in his introduction: "I made the first speech advocating war with Japan on December 8, 1941. This speech was heard by over 20 million Americans and it upheld President Roosevelt's theme of the 'Day of Infamy'. I now publicly disavow that speech as a result of subsequent historical evidence." 

Further: "The Honorable Clare Boothe Luce was right when she said that President lied us into war by the back door in order to get into war with Germany. Sir Oliver Lyttleton, British Minister of Productions in Churchill's cabinet, speaking before the American Chamber of Commerce in London in 1944, let the cat out of the bag: 'Japan was provoked into attacking the Americans at Pearl Harbor.... It is a travesty on history to ever say America was forced into the war.'"

The Other Side of the Coin is a goldmine of facts and insights, written by someone who was there, who knew Roosevelt firsthand. Fish's visit to Europe in August 1939, on the eve of the outbreak of the European war--including his meeting with German foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop in Salzburg--is set forth in detail. It is spellbinding.

A few weeks later, September 3rd, Fish was in London, on the floor of Parliament when Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain declared war on Germany in response to the German invasion of Poland on September 1st. A reserved seat had been provided to him by Ambassador Joe Kennedy. Later in the day, Kennedy telephoned Roosevelt and told him, "It's all over. The party is on. It's the end of the world. The end of everything." 

At the annual meeting of the Inter-Parliamentary Union in Oslo on August 17th, Fish had introduced a resolution for a 30-day "moratorium on war" with respect to the German city of Danzig and the "Polish Corridor" so that that this final outstanding issue of the 1919 Versailles Treaty could be negotiated on the basis of self-determination. Fish was president of the American delegation. Surprisingly, the British delegation opposed the idea. 

Fish was stunned and disappointed. "To this day I believe that FDR had quietly slipped a dagger into the back of the proposed moratorium.... It is my definite conviction that if my thirty-day Danzig moratorium proposal had been adopted at the Oslo conference...and submitted for implementation to England, France, Germany and Italy, that the Danzig issue could have been settled on a friendly basis and could have stopped Hitler from signing a nonaggression pact with Soviet Russia to partition Poland." 

My own view, outlined in The Unauthorized World Situation Report in some detail, is that the road to Pearl Harbor began at Danzig in the summer of 1939, if not before. It was Roosevelt's repeated intrigues--chiefly working through the American ambassador to France, William Bullitt, who gave secret assurances to England and France that Washington would come to their aid in any conflict with Germany--that directly caused the outbreak of war in Europe. When war came, Roosevelt was incapable of making good on his promises. He was stymied.

Why? The reason was simple. Americans were overwhelmingly against active involvement in a European war and so was the U.S. Congress, which was the only entity that could declare war under the U.S. Constitution. In the meantime, contradicting all his public pronouncements, Roosevelt tried very hard to get into a shooting match with Germany in the north Atlantic. Hitler declined the invitation. He had his hands full in the East, with the invasion of the Soviet Union.

Here's how I summarized the Roosevelt endgame in my book: 

"Finally, a frustrated Roosevelt, tired of being ignored, decided he had no choice but to take the biggest gamble of his life. To escape the humdrum prospect of sitting out the war--the very war he and his foreign policy team had worked so diligently to instigate--Roosevelt gave up on Hitler and instead focused upon Japan, Germany's ally in the Far East under the Tripartite Pact with Italy. It would be the terrible fate of the Empire of the Rising Sun to propel America officially into the European conflict. In the rarefied, amoral world in which Roosevelt and his closest advisers operated, a strategy requiring high treason and massive duplicity was not treason. It was statecraft." 

In short, the gambit of starting a war with Japan was a final, desperation move, when all else failed. Only by deliberately cornering Japan and getting it to attack first, could Roosevelt galvanize his home front, silence "the isolationists"--led by The America First Committee--and come to the rescue of the British Empire and the Soviet Union.

On its own, England under Winston Churchill was a non-factor. In effect, England, much like in the Great War, had already been defeated on the field of battle. As for Russia, the German army was by then operating in the suburbs of Moscow. Time was of the essence. It was at this moment that Japan bombed Pearl Harbor.


In all human activity, actions have consequences. A sovereign state can take aggressive actions aimed at other countries, but are those actions always wise? What are the consequences of confrontational decisions taken by a nation's leaders? This is not a Right versus Left issue. It is a right versus wrong, or maybe a smart versus not-so-smart issue.

The U.S. has done all sorts of farfetched things in the aftermath of World War II to protect itself from the Soviet Union and world communism. Most were justified. Then, in the aftermath of the Cold War, now acting unimpeded as the lone surviving superpower, Washington flexed it muscles against a purported new adversary. Spearheading the murderous economic embargo of Iraq in 1991 comes to mind. 

We are seeing the consequences of it all now. It can be argued that the USA is near broke and imploding. It is in a similar situation as England was in the wake of World War II, thanks to the brilliant leadership of Winston Churchill. Almost everything done by the USG in foreign policy has been justified by the knee-jerk explanation that it is in America's national interest or for national security. But is it? Often that was a cover story for a hidden agenda. 

As for Roosevelt and Pearl Harbor, he and his associates were free to do as they pleased in the name of the United States.They were the executives in charge, and they operated in secret. But was their foreign policy wise?

There are intelligent people who, looking back at the historical record today, realize that FDR was intent upon deliberately provoking Japan, and that Pearl Harbor was a set-up for launching the U.S. into the war in Europe to save the Soviet Union and the career of Winston Churchill. Nevertheless, they regard it under the circumstances as an astute move by Roosevelt, entirely justifiable. I am not one of them.

Congressman Fish points out in his book that the American people were, at the time of the Danzig crisis in the summer of 1939, 97% in favor of keeping out of another war in Europe unless America were attacked. They had learned a lesson from World War I. He adds, "Over the years the percentage was reduced from 97% to 85% and remained the same right up to the attack on Pearl Harbor." In sum, Roosevelt and his inner circle went against the expressed wishes of the overwhelming majority of the American people of both the Right and the Left.

Thanks to his determined, reckless foreign policy with respect to Japan, Roosevelt caused the deaths of almost 2,500 American military personnel at Pearl Harbor, all to further his and Churchill's private agenda. It was a crime, but was it a mistake? It was both.

--Copyright 2010 Patrick Foy--

Update: A letter from a reader of the article on Taki’s Magazine:

“Since the release of the FDR-Churchill cables (except for the 11/26/1941 communique that is still classified--probably informing FDR that the British had cracked Japan's timetable for attacking Pearl Harbor), Robert Stinnett's Day of Deceit and the 8-point 1940 memo by head of naval intelligence Arthur H. McCollum on how to goad Japan into attacking the US first, there's really no question anymore that Washington and Downing St. both had foreknowledge of the impending attack. The only issue anymore is whether you believe FDR and his cabinet were justified in deceiving America into going to war or not.”