On the morning of December 7, 1941, Japanese planes, launched from aircraft carriers, attacked the American fleet at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, sinking or heavily damaging 18 ships (including eight battleships), destroying 188 planes, and leaving over 2,000 servicemen killed.
The next day, President Franklin D. Roosevelt denounced this “day of infamy” before Congress, from whom he secured an avid declaration of war.
Up until then, however, Americans had overwhelmingly opposed involvement in World War II. They had been thoroughly disillusioned by the First World War:
- although they had been told they would be fighting for “democracy” in that previous war, taxpayers learned from the postwar Graham Committee of Congress that they’d been defrauded out of some $6 billion in armaments that were never manufactured or delivered1;
- atrocity tales about German soldiers (such as cutting the hands off thousands of Belgian children) had turned out to be fabrications;
- the sinking of the Lusitania – the central provocation that ultimately led to the U.S. declaration of war – had been committed by Germany not to kill women and children (as propaganda claimed), but to prevent tens of tons of war munitions from reaching the European front. (Click here for a debunking of the Lusitania myth.)
When the Maine sank, the proactive Assistant Secretary of the Navy had been Teddy Roosevelt. After the 1898 Spanish-American War he became governor of New York, and by 1901 was President of the United States. When the Lusitania sank, the Assistant Secretary of the Navy was his distant cousin Franklin D. Roosevelt – who likewise went on to become governor of New York and then President.
Just as coincident: during the Lusitania affair, the head of the British Admiralty was yet another cousin of Franklin D. – Winston Churchill. And in a chilling déjà vu, as Pearl Harbor approached, these two men were now heads of their respective states.
In a 1940 (election-year) speech, Roosevelt stated typically: “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.”2 But privately, the President planned just the opposite: to bring America into the World War as Britain’s ally, exactly as Woodrow Wilson had done in World War I. Roosevelt dispatched his closest advisor, Harry Hopkins, to meet Churchill in January 1941. Hopkins told Churchill: “The President is determined that we [the United States and England] shall win the war together. Make no mistake about it. He has sent me here to tell you that at all costs and by all means he will carry you through, no matter what happens to him – there is nothing he will not do so far as he has human power.”3 William Stephenson, who ran British intelligence operations in the U.S., noted that American-British military staff talks began that same month under “utmost secrecy,” which, he clarified, “meant preventing disclosure to the American public.”4
The President offered numerous provocations to Germany: freezing its assets; occupying Iceland; shipping 50 destroyers to Britain; and having U.S. warships escort Allied convoys. Roosevelt and Churchill hoped to duplicate the success of the Lusitania incident. But the Germans gave them no satisfaction. They knew America’s entry into World War I had shifted the balance of power against them, and they shunned a repetition of that scenario.
As Admiral Karl Doenitz, commander of Germany’s U-boat fleet, stated during the Nuremburg trials:
A 300 mile safety zone was even granted to America by Germany when international law called for only a three mile zone. I suggested mine fields at Halifax and around Iceland, but the Fuehrer rejected this because he wanted to avoid conflict with the United States. When American destroyers in the summer of 1941 were ordered to attack German submarines, I was forbidden to fight back. I was thus forced not to attack British destroyers for fear there would be some mistake.5
After being pursued by the destroyer USS Greer for more than three hours, the German submarine U-652 fired at (but did not hit) the Greer. President Roosevelt bewailed this to the American public as an unprovoked attac
But most Americans were unmoved. Not even another Lusitania would have motivated them to send their sons to die in another European war.
It was going to take a whole cluster of Lusitanias, and since this would not come from the cautious Germans, it could only come from Germany’s Axis partner, Japan. As Interior Secretary Harold Ickes put it in 1941: “For a long time I have believed that our best entrance into the war would be by way of Japan.”6 This required three steps: (1) build anti-Japanese sentiment in America; (2) provoke Japan to the flashpoint of war; (3) set up an irresistible target to serve as a false flag.
Americans were subjected to a stream of propaganda depicting Japan as bent on “world conquest” even though it is smaller than Montana. In the wartime government-produced film, Our Enemy: The Japanese, narrator Joseph Grew (CFR) told the public the Japanese believed it was the “the right and destiny of Japan’s emperors to rule the whole world . . . to destroy all nations and peoples which stand in the way of its fulfillment. . . . [Their] national dream is to see Tokyo established as the capital of the world . . . . world conquest is their national obsession.”
Grew neglected to mention that Japan had been a closed isolationist country until Commodore Perry compelled them to sign a trade agreement under threat of U.S. naval bombardment. Perry was the father-in-law of August Belmont, the Rothschilds’ leading financial agent in America during the 19th century.7
As proof of “Japan’s plot to conquer the world,” the American press played up Japanese troops entering Manchuria in the 1930s. But the fact that the Soviets had first seized Outer Mongolia and China’s northwestern province of Sinkiang drew no notice. As Dr. Anthony Kubek, chairman of the history department at the University of Dallas, wrote in How the Far East Was Lost:
It was apparent to Japanese statesmen that unless bastions of defense were built in Manchuria and Inner Mongolia, Communism would spread through all of North China and seriously threaten the security of Japan. . . . But the Department of State seemed not to regard Japan as a bulwark against Soviet expansion in North China. As a matter of fact, not one word of protest was sent by the Department of State to the Soviet Union, despite her absorption of Sinkiang and Outer Mongolia, while at the same time Japan was censured for stationing troops in China.8
Dr. Kubek’s remarks highlight a policy consistent throughout the Second World War: condemn “fascist aggression” while tolerating – without limit – communistaggression. For example, when the Germans invaded Poland in September 1939, Britain and France declared war on Germany. Yet when the Soviet Union invaded Poland that same month, the West . . . yawned.
Above: Japanese tank crew rests during 1939 fighting against the Soviets near Mongolia.
To those who might contend Japan had no right to enter China to oppose communism, let’s remember that the United States sent its troops around the globe to Vietnam on the principle that stopping communism was in its national interests. By what logic, then, could Japan not oppose communism on its doorstep? A glance at a map shows how close communism was drawing to Japan, having methodically enslaved all the nations embodying the Soviet Union, and it was now boring southward into China. In sending troops to Manchuria and China, Japan was invoking her own version of the Monroe Doctrine.
The Soviets, for their part, wanted war between the United States and Japan, knowing that with Japan neutralized, Communism would engulf Asia. In 1935, U.S. Ambassador to Moscow William C. Bullitt sent a dispatch to Secretary of State Cordell Hull:
It is . . . the heartiest hope of the Soviet Government that the United States will become involved in war with Japan. . . . The Soviet Union would certainly attempt to avoid becoming an ally until Japan had been thoroughly defeated and would then merely use the opportunity to acquire Manchuria and Sovietize China.9
Benjamin Gitlow, founding member of the U.S. Communist Party, wrote in I Confess (1940):
When I was in Moscow, the attitude toward the United States in the event of war was discussed. Privately, it was the opinion of all the Russian leaders to whom I spoke that the rivalry between the United States and Japan must actually break out into war between these two.10
Roosevelt Provokes Japan
On June 23, 1941, Interior Secretary Ickes wrote in a memo to Roosevelt:
There will never be so good a time to stop the shipment of oil to Japan as we now have. . . . There might develop from embargoing of oil such a situation as would make it, not only possible but easy, to get into this war in an effective way. And if we should thus indirectly be brought in, we would avoid the criticism that we had gone in as an ally of communistic Russia. 11
The memo’s date is significant: the day after Germany and her allies (Italy, Hungary, Romania, Finland and Croatia) launched Operation Barbarossa: the invasion of the Soviet Union.
Why did Ickes say an oil embargo would make it “easy to get into this war”? The answer lies in an eight-point plan of provocation toward Japan which had been previously drawn up by Lt. Commander Arthur McCollum of Naval Intelligence. The eighth of the eight-step plan was: “Completely embargo all U.S. trade with Japan, in collaboration with a similar embargo imposed by the British Empire.” McCollum’s next sentence was: “If by these means Japan could be led to commit an overt act of war, so much the better.”12
What McCollum, Ickes and Roosevelt envisioned was antagonizing Japan to the point that it would attack the United States. And thus – in the tradition of the Maine and Lusitania – America, as the “innocent victim of unprovoked aggression” – would go to war. Here is how War Secretary Henry Stimson (CFR, Skull and Bones) phrased it in his diary, after meetings with the President that autumn: “We face the delicate question of the diplomatic fencing to be done so as to be sure that Japan is put into the wrong and makes the first bad move – overt move.”13 “The question was how we should maneuver them [the Japanese] into the position of firing the first shot….”14
Between July 26 and August 1, 1941, FDR seized Japanese assets in America, closed the Panama Canal to Japanese shipping, and enacted the sweeping trade embargo that McCollum and Ickes had urged. Britain and the Netherlands followed suit with similar embargoes. For the Japanese, this constituted a death threat. Japan heavily depended on imports for raw materials, for 88 percent of its oil and 75 percent of its food.
The timing of these measures was again significant. In July 1941, all reports indicated the Germans and their allies were crushing the Red Army. Hundreds of thousands of Soviet soldiers were surrendering; as they did, many shouted “Stalin kaput!” Stalin himself was nearly paralyzed with fear. He had only fought wars of aggression and was unprepared for defense. If Japan, Germany’s ally, joined Operation Barbarossa from the East, Stalin would be trapped in a vise, and communism – which was an Illuminati creation – destroyed.
Roosevelt’s trade embargo guaranteed that Japan would not join Operation Barbarossa, but would instead turn its attention south. No nation can prosecute war without oil. Tanks, trucks, ships and aircraft require it. If Japan attacked Russia through Siberia, there would be no oil to be confiscated. But there was abundant oil to the south, in the Dutch East Indies. And Southeast Asia held many other resources the embargo denied Japan, such as rubber, tin and iron ore.
Why Did Japan Go to War with America?
British historian Russell Grenfell, a captain in the Royal Navy, wrote In 1952:
No reasonably informed person can now believe that Japan made a villainous, unexpected attack on the United States. An attack was not only fully expected but was actually desired. It is beyond doubt that President Roosevelt wanted to get his country into war, but for political reasons was most anxious to ensure that the first act of hostility came from the other side; for which reason he caused increasing pressure to be put on the Japanese, to a point that no self-respecting nation could endure without resort to arms. Japan was meant by the American President to attack the United States.15
On June 20, 1944, Oliver Lyttelton, Britain’s minister of production, said before the American Chamber of Commerce in London: “America provoked Japan to such an extent that the Japanese were forced to attack Pearl Harbor. It is a travesty on history ever to say that America was forced into war.”16 Why did Lyttelton make this startling accusation (for which he was later compelled to apologize)?
Following the U.S. embargo, Japan’s representatives in Washington earnestly negotiated for the embargo’s repeal, to no avail. On November 26, 1941, the State Department delivered an ultimatum to Japan: sanctions would only be lifted if all overseas Japanese troops were withdrawn to Japan. Although the ultimatum or “Hull note” was officially credited to Secretary of State Cordell Hull, it is now known that it was drafted by Assistant Secretary of the Treasury Harry Dexter White, a Soviet operative.
Harry Dexter White
The White/Hull ultimatum was a deliberate catch-22. If the Japanese refused it, the embargo would continue, and they would collapse from economic strangulation. If they complied, and withdrew all troops from the mainland, communism would sweep Eastern Asia (exactly as happened after the war, resulting in Communist China, and the Korean and Vietnam wars). The Japanese were thus given a two-headed coin: die by starvation, or die by communism. They decided to reject both options, and fight instead.
To have any hope of success in a war against the mighty USA, Japan would need an edge. Franklin D. Roosevelt made sure they got one in the form of attractive bait.
The Decision to Base the Fleet at Pearl Harbor
In 1940, President Roosevelt decided that the Pacific Fleet should be based indefinitely at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, instead of its usual berths on the U.S. West Coast. This was a bad idea for many reasons:
- In the middle of the Pacific, Hawaii is surrounded by uninhabited waters, making it susceptible to surprise attack from 360 degrees. By contrast, no surprise attack could have been launched if the fleet was kept on the West Coast; assailants would have encountered innumerable commercial vessels before reaching it.
- At Pearl Harbor, the fleet was boxed together like sardines, making them ideal targets for bombers.
- In Hawaii, oil and others supplies had to be brought across 2,000 miles of the Pacific.
- Pearl Harbor lacked adequate fuel and ammunition storage facilities, dry docks, and support craft (such as tugs and repair vessels). The fleet could have been maintained on a superior war footing if kept on the West Coast.
- 37 percent of Hawaii’s population was ethnically Japanese, rendering the fleet vulnerable to espionage and sabotage.
- Basing the fleet in Hawaii would separate sailors from their families, creating morale problems.
U.S. Fleet Commander Admiral J. O. Richardson was outraged by Roosevelt’s decision and met with him on October 8, 1940 to protest it. Richardson presented the President with a list of logical reasons why the fleet should not be based in Pearl Harbor. Roosevelt could not rebut these objections and simply said that having the fleet there would exert a “restraining influence on the actions of Japan.”17
Richardson said: “I came away with the impression that, despite his spoken word, the President was fully determined to put the United States into the war if Great Britain could hold out until he was reelected.”18
On February 1, 1941, Richardson was relieved of his command without any explanation. Richardson met with Navy Secretary Frank Knox to inquire about it, and related: “When I saw the Secretary, I said, ‘In all my experience in the Navy, I have never known of a flag officer being detached in the same manner as I, and I feel I owe it to myself to know why.’ The Secretary said the President would send for me and talk the matter over.” However, Roosevelt never sent for Richardson; the only explanation the admiral ever received were these words from Secretary Knox: “The last time you were here you hurt the President’s feelings.”19
Roosevelt’s sole pretext for basing the fleet in Pearl Harbor – that it would deter Japanese aggression – was resoundingly discredited on December 7, 1941. Nevertheless, as we shall see, Roosevelt was never held accountable for his action. All blame was instead leveled at the Navy, especially Richardson’s successor as Pacific Fleet Commander, Admiral Husband Kimmel, who accepted the position believing Washington would notify him of any intelligence pointing to a threat.
This trust proved misplaced. As Washington watched Japan prepare for the attack, it kept Kimmel and his army counterpart in Hawaii, General Walter C. Short, well out of its intelligence loop.
Kimmel and Short
The False Flag Foreknown (1): “Magic”
The Japanese used a code called “Purple” to communicate to their embassies and major consulates throughout the world. Its complexity required that it be enciphered and deciphered by machine. The Japanese considered the code unbreakable, but in 1940 talented U.S. Army cryptanalysts cracked it and devised a facsimile of the Japanese machine. As the result, U.S. intelligence was reading Japanese diplomatic messages, often on a same-day basis.
A U.S. Purple decoding machine
Copies of the deciphered texts, nicknamed “Magic,” were promptly delivered in locked pouches to select individuals, including President Roosevelt, Secretary of State Cordell Hull, Secretary of War Henry Stimson, Army Chief of Staff General George Marshall, and the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Harold Stark. Copies also went to Harry Hopkins, FDR’s shadowy advisor who held no cabinet position.20
(It is worth digressing for a paragraph about Hopkins, who lived in the White House; he has been aptly compared to Woodrow Wilson’s Wall Street controller, Edward Mandell House, who also lived in the White House. Like House, Hopkins acted as a special emissary, paying visits to Churchill and Stalin. After the war, it was revealed that as head of Lend-Lease, he secretly shipped both the materials and blueprints for the atomic bomb to the Soviet Union. This was documented by Lend-Lease expediter George Racey Jordan in From Major Jordan’s Diaries. Some may find interesting John T. Flynn’s remarks in The Roosevelt Myth on the favors bestowed upon Hopkins by British press tycoon Lord Beaverbrook and bankster Bernard Baruch on the occasion of Hopkins’s third wedding.)
Although Hopkins had access to “Magic” intercepts, our commanders in Hawaii did not. And what did these intercepts reveal?
- that Tokyo had ordered its Consul General in Hawaii to divide Pearl Harbor into five areas and, on a frequent basis, report the exact locations of American warships there. Nothing is unusual about spies watching ship movements – but reporting precise whereabouts of ships in dock has only one implication.
- that on November 29th (three days after the U.S. ultimatum), Japan’s envoys in Washington 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.”
- that on November 30th Tokyo had ordered their Berlin embassy to inform the Germans (their allies) that “the breaking out of war may come quicker than anyone dreams.”
- that on December 1st, the Japanese had ordered all of their North American diplomatic offices to destroy their secret documents.21 (Once war breaks out, the offices of a hostile power lose their diplomatic immunity and are seized.)
In the 1970 movie Tora, Tora, Tora, a Hollywood depiction of the events surrounding Pearl Harbor, Japan’s ambassadors are shown presenting their message breaking relations (meaning war) to Secretary of State Cordell Hull, after the attack on Hawaii, and Hull reacts with surprise and outrage.
In reality, however, Hull was not shocked at all. On the previous day (December 6), he had already read the translated intercept of Japan’s declaration – 13 parts of the 14-part message – as had President Roosevelt.
The False Flag Foreknown (2): East Wind, Rain
An additional warning came via the so-called “Winds” message. A November 18th intercept indicated that, if a break in U.S. relations was forthcoming, Tokyo would issue a special radio warning. This would not be in the Purple code, as it was intended to reach consulates and lesser agencies of Japan not equipped with the code or one of its machines. The message, to be repeated three times during a weather report, was “Higashi no kaze ame,” meaning “East wind, rain.” “East wind” signified the United States; “rain” signified diplomatic split (war).
This prospective message was deemed so significant that U.S. radio monitors were constantly watching for it, and the Navy Department typed it up on special reminder cards. On December 4th, “Higashi no kaze ame” was broadcast and picked up by Washington intelligence.
The False Flag Foreknown (3): Personal Warnings
During 1941, the Roosevelt administration also received several personal warnings regarding Pearl Harbor:
- On January 27th, our ambassador to Japan, Joseph Grew, reported to Washington: “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. . . .”22
- Brigadier General Elliott Thorpe was the U.S. military observer in Java, then under Dutch control. In early December 1941, the Dutch army decoded a dispatch from Tokyo to its Bangkok embassy, forecasting an attack on Hawaii. The Dutch passed the information to Thorpe, who considered it so vital that he sent Washington a total of four warnings. Finally, the War Department told him to send no further warnings.23
- The Dutch Military attaché in Washington, Colonel F. G. L. Weijerman, personally warned U.S. Army Chief of Staff George Marshall about Pearl Harbor just days before the attack.24
- Dusko Popov was a Yugoslavian double agent whose true allegiance was to the Allies. Through information furnished by the Germans, Popov deduced the Japanese were planning to bomb Pearl Harbor. He notified the FBI; subsequently FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover warned Roosevelt.25
- Senator Guy Gillette of Iowa received information from Kilsoo Haan of the Sino-Korean People’s League that the Japanese intended to assault Hawaii “before Christmas.” Gillette briefed the President, who said the matter would be looked into.26
- U.S. Congressman Martin Dies of Texas came into possession of a map revealing the Japanese plan to attack Pearl Harbor. He later wrote:
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.27
Thorpe (on the left); Popov; Dies
The False Flag Foreknown: (4) Naval Intercepts
In his book Day of Deceit: The Truth about FDR and Pearl Harbor (2000), Robert Stinnett proved, from documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, that Washington was not only deciphering Japanese diplomatic messages, but naval dispatches also.
It had long been presumed that as the Japanese fleet approached Pearl Harbor, it maintained complete radio silence. This was not the case. The fleet observed discretion, but not complete silence. U.S. Naval Intelligence intercepted and translated numerous dispatches, which President Roosevelt had access to through his routing officer, Lieutenant Commander McCollum, who had also authored the original eight-point plan of provocation. The most significant message was sent by Admiral Yamamoto to the Japanese First Air Fleet on November 25, 1941:
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.28
Here is more on the interception of this message:
Maximizing the Risks
MSM historians have traditionally censured the Hawaiian commanders, Admiral Kimmel and General Short, for failing to detect the approaching Japanese carriers. What goes unsaid: Washington denied them the means to do so.
During the week before December 7th, naval aircraft searched more than two million square miles of the Pacific29 – but never saw the Japanese force. This is because Kimmel and Short had only enough planes to survey less than one-third of the 360-degree arc around them, and intelligence had advised (incorrectly) that they should concentrate on the southwest.
There were not enough trained surveillance pilots. Many of the reconnaissance craft suffered from lack of spare parts. Repeated requests to Washington for additional patrol planes were turned down. As George Morgenstern noted in Pearl Harbor: The Story of the Secret War: “While the Hawaiian air commanders were clamoring for planes to safeguard the base, 1,900 patrol planes were being lend-leased to foreign countries between February 1 and December 1, 1941. Of these, 1,750, or almost ten times the number which would have rendered Oahu safe, went to Great Britain.”30
Rear Admiral Edward T. Layton, who served at Pearl Harbor, stated: “There was never any hint in any intelligence received by the local command of any Japanese threat to Hawaii. Our air defenses were stripped on orders from the army chief himself. Of the twelve B-17s on the island, only six could be kept in the air by cannibalizing the others for spare parts.”31
Radar, too, was insufficient. And when General Short attempted to build a radar station on Mount Haleakala, Harold Ickes’ Interior Department withheld permission, stating that it would harm the beauty of the landscape.32
Advance Damage Control: the “War Warning”
It was clear, of course, that once disaster struck Pearl Harbor, there would be demands for accountability. Washington seemed to artfully take this into account by sending an ambiguous “war warning” to Kimmel, and a similar one to Short, on November 27th. This has been used for years by Washington apologists to allege that the commanders should have been ready for the Japanese.
Indeed, the message began conspicuously: “This dispatch is to be considered a war warning.” However, it went on to state: “The number and equipment of Japanese troops and the organizations of naval task forces indicates an amphibious expedition against the Philippines, Thai or Kra Peninsula, or possibly Borneo.” None of these areas were closer than 5,000 miles to Hawaii (that is further than the distance from New York to Moscow). No threat to Pearl Harbor was hinted at. It ended with the words: “Continental districts, Guam, Samoa take measures against sabotage.” The message further stated that “measures should be carried out so as not repeat not to alarm civil population.” Both commanders reported the actions taken to Washington. Short followed through with sabotage precautions, bunching his planes together (which hinders saboteurs but makes ideal targets for bombers), and Kimmel stepped up air surveillance and sub searches. If their response to the “war warning” was insufficient, Washington said nothing. The next day, a follow-up message from Marshall’s adjutant general to Short warned only: “Initiate forthwith all additional measures necessary to provide for protection of your establishments, property, and equipment against sabotage, protection of your personnel against subversive propaganda and protection of all activities against espionage.”33
Short testifies before Congress after the war:
On December 1, Naval intelligence sent Kimmel its fortnightly intelligence summary entitled “The Japanese Naval Situation.” It stated: “Major capital ship strength remains in home waters, as well as the greatest portion of the carriers.”34 Contrast that to the diary of Captain Johann Ranneft, the Dutch naval attaché in Washington, who was awarded the Legion of Merit for his services to America. Ranneft recorded that 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.”35
Admiral Kimmel testifiying after the war:
Strange Activity on December 7
On the morning of the Sunday the 7th, the final portion of Japan’s lengthy message to the U.S. government (rupturing relations, effectively declaring war) was intercepted and decoded. Tokyo added two special directives to its envoys. The first, which the message called “very important,” was to deliver the statement at 1 PM. The second directive ordered that the last copy of code, and the machine that went with it, be destroyed. The gravity of this was not lost in the Navy Department: Japan had a long history of synchronizing attacks with breaks in relations (e.g., in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-5, it had attacked Port Arthur on the same day it notified Russia that it was declaring war). 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 PM in Washington was shortly after dawn in Hawaii.
Admiral Stark, Chief of Naval Operations, arrived at his office at 9:25 AM. He was shown the message and important delivery time. One junior officer pointed out the possibility of an attack on Hawaii; another urged that Kimmel be notified. But Stark refused; he did nothing all morning. Years later, he told the press that his conscience was clear concerning Pearl Harbor because all his actions had been dictated by a “higher authority.”36 As Chief of Naval Operations, Stark had only one higher authority: Roosevelt.
In the War Department, where the statement had also been decoded, Colonel Rufus Bratton, head of Army Intelligence’s Far Eastern section, understood the message’s terrible significance. But the head of intelligence told him nothing could be done until Chief of Staff General Marshall arrived. Bratton tried reaching Marshall at home, but was repeatedly told the general was out horseback riding. The horseback ride turned out to be a very long one. When Bratton finally reached Marshall by phone and explained the emergency, Marshall said he would come to the War Department. Marshall took 75 minutes to make the 10-minute drive. He didn’t come to his office until 11:25 AM – an extremely late hour with the nation on the brink of war. He perused the Japanese message and was shown the delivery time. Every officer in Marshall’s office agreed these indicated an attack in the Pacific at about 1 PM EST. The general finally agreed that Hawaii should be alerted, but time was running out.
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, which was not even marked “priority” or “urgent.” 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.
Despite all the evidence accrued through Magic and other sources during the previous months, Marshall had never warned Hawaii. To historians – ignorant of that classified evidence – it would appear the general had tried to save Pearl Harbor, “but alas, too late.” Similarly, FDR sent a last-minute plea for peace to Emperor Hirohito. Although written a week earlier, he did not send it until the evening of December 6th.37 It was to be delivered by Ambassador Grew, who would be unable to receive an audience with the emperor before December 8th. Thus the message could not conceivably have forestalled the attack – but posterity would think that FDR, too, had made “a valiant, last effort.”
As for Marshall’s notorious “horseback ride” which allegedly prevented him from warning Pearl Harbor in time, that cover story was unintentionally blown by Arthur Upham Pope, in his 1943 biography of Maxim Litvinoff, the Soviet ambassador to the United States. Litvinoff arrived in Washington on the morning of December 7th, 1941 – a highly opportune day to seek additional aid for the Soviets – and, according to Pope, was met at the airport that morning by General Marshall.
Pearl Harbor’s secrets had been successfully preserved before the fact – but what about after? Many people around the nation, including some vocal congressmen, demanded to know why America had been caught off guard.
President 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.
The Roberts Commission. L-R: McNarney, Standley, Roberts, Reeves, McCoy
The commission conducted only two to three days of hearings in Washington. Admiral Standley, arriving late, was startled by the inquiry’s chummy atmosphere. Admiral Harold Stark and General Marshall were asked no difficult or embarrassing questions. Furthermore, all testimony was taken unsworn and unrecorded – an irregularity that, at Standley’s urging, was corrected.
The commission then flew to Hawaii, where it remained 19 days. When Admiral Kimmel was summoned, he brought a fellow officer to act as counsel. Justice Roberts disallowed this on grounds that the investigation was not a trial, and the admiral not a defendant. Because Kimmel and General Walter Short were not formally “on trial,” they were also denied all traditional rights of defendants: to ask questions and cross-examine witnesses. Kimmel was also shocked that the proceeding’s stenographers – one a teenager, the other with almost no court experience – omitted much of his testimony and left other parts badly garbled. Permission to correct the errors – other than adding footnotes to the end of the commission’s report – was refused.38
The Roberts Commission laid all 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. Remarkably, 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 later called Roberts’s handling of the investigation “as crooked as a snake.”39 Admiral 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.”40
Roberts brought a final copy of the report to FDR. The President read it and delightedly tossed it to a secretary, saying, “Give that in full to the papers for their Sunday editions.”41 The words “dereliction of duty” were emblazoned in headlines across the country. America’s outrage fell on Kimmel and Short. They were traitors, it was said; they should be shot! The two were inundated with hate mail and death threats. The press, with its ageless capacity to manufacture villains, stretched the commission’s slurs. Even the wives of the commanders were subjected to vicious canards.
There was great outcry for courts-martial – which was exactly what the two officers sought: to resolve the issue of Pearl Harbor in a bona fide courtroom, using established rules of evidence, instead of Owen Roberts’s personal methods. The Roosevelt administration, of course, did not desire that – in an orthodox courtroom, a sharp defense attorney might start digging into Washington’s secrets. So the issue was sidestepped by again invoking security concerns due to the war effort. It was announced that courts-martial would be held – but postponed “until such time as the public interest and safety would permit.”
Sufficient delay would also cause the three-year statute of limitations that applied in such cases to elapse. But that was the last thing Kimmel and Short wanted; court-martial was their only means of clearing themselves. Thus they voluntarily waived the statute of limitations.
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