J. Alfred Powell • June 16, 2019 • 2,100 Words
Robert B. Stinnett, Day of Deceit: The Truth about FDR and Pearl Harbor (New York, Free Press, 2000)
A Second World War Navy radioman turned journalist, Robert Stinnett was in the National Archives in Belmont, California, researching a campaign-year picture book on George Bush’s South Pacific wartime navy career in aerial reconnaissance — George Bush: His World War II Years (Washington, D.C., Brassey’s, 1992) — and encountered unindexed duplicate copies of Pearl Harbor radio intercept records of Japanese Navy code transmissions — documentary evidence of what actually happened at Pearl Harbor and how it came about. After eight years of further research and a prolonged case at law under the Freedom of Information Act to obtain partial release of these materials, Stinson published Day of Deceit (2000). A Japanese translation appeared within a year, understandably.
Stinnett demonstrates, on the basis of extensive incontrovertible factual evidence and self-evidently accurate analysis that President Roosevelt oversaw the contrivance and deployment of a closely-guarded secret plan to goad the Japanese into attacking Pearl Harbor and monitor them while they did it. Stinnett hypothesizes that Roosevelt did this in order to precipitate an unwilling American public into supporting intervention in the Second World War, but whatever the motives or purposes, the facts are now abundantly clear. Stinnett establishes and proves his case with voluminous documentary evidence, including forty-seven pages of Appendices [p. 261-308] presenting photographic reproductions of key official records, as well as numerous others reproduced in the body of the text, and 65 pages [309-374] of closely detailed reference notes. This evidence proves Stinnett’s factual assertions, arguments and conclusions. His research files and notes are deposited at the Hoover Institute library at Stanford. Day of Deceit is exemplary documentary historiography. It presents the material testimony on which its analysis and conclusions are based. Its validity will be clear to any fair-minded reader. Stinnett’s book settles and resolves rational, candid, honest, fact-based discussion and debate about the background of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
As Stinnett shows, the plan that eventuated in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was set in motion in early October 1940 based on an “eight-action memo, dated October 7, 1940 … by Lieutenant Commander Arthur H. McCollum, head of the Far East desk of the Office of Navy Intelligence.” Of course, it is unlikely that McCollum drafted it on his own initiative, but this is where Stinnett’s paper trail starts. “Its eight actions call for virtually inciting a Japanese attack on American ground, air, and naval forces in Hawaii, as well as on British and Dutch colonial outposts in the Pacific region….” [p. 6-8; the memorandum is reproduced on 261-267]:
A. Make an arrangement with Britain for use of British bases in the Pacific, particularly Singapore.
B. Make an arrangement with Holland for the use of base facilities and acquisition of supplies in the Dutch East Indies [now Indonesia].
C. Give all possible aid to the Chinese government of Chiang Kai-shek.
D. Send a division of long-range heavy cruisers to the Orient, Philippines, or Singapore.
E. Send two divisions of submarines to the Orient.
F. Keep the main strength of the US Fleet, now in the Pacific, in the vicinity of the Hawaiian islands.
G. Insist that the Dutch refuse to grant Japanese demands for undue economic concessions, particularly oil.
H. Complete embargo all trade with Japan, in collaboration with a similar embargo imposed by the British Empire.
As the plan unfolded its development was closely monitored through decoded intercepts of Japanese diplomatic and naval radio communications. “McCollum oversaw the routing of communications intelligence to FDR from early 1940 to December 7, 1941 and provided the President with intelligence reports on Japanese military and diplomatic strategy. Every intercepted and decoded Japanese military and diplomatic report destined for the White House went through the Far East Asia section of ONI, which he oversaw. The section served as a clearinghouse for all categories of intelligence reports…. Each report prepared by McCollum for the President was based on radio intercepts gathered and decoded by a worldwide network of American military cryptographers and radio intercept operators…. Few people in America’s government or military knew as much about Japan’s activities and intentions as McCollum.” Knowledge of the plan was closely held, limited to 13 Roosevelt administration members and chief military officers and 21 members of Naval Intelligence and related operations [listed in Appendix E 307-308]. Item C was already US policy when McCollum wrote his memo. Item F was set in motion on October 8, Items A, B and G on October 16, 1940, Item D and E by November 12, 1940. [Chap. 1 n. 8 p. 311-312; 120 ff. etc.].
Meanwhile, also in the fall of 1940, campaigning for a third term in Boston on October 30, President Roosevelt said: “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.” On November 1 in Brooklyn he said “I am fighting to keep our people out of foreign wars. And I will keep on fighting.” At Rochester on the 2nd he said “Your national government … is equally a government of peace — a government that intends to retain peace for the American people.” The same day in Buffalo he asserted “Your President says this country is not going to war,” and in Cleveland on the next he declared “The first purpose of our foreign policy is to keep our country out of war.” [William Henry Chamberlin, “How Franklin Roosevelt Lied America Into War,” in Harry Elmer Barnes, Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace (Caldwell, Idaho, Caxton, 1953), Chapter Eight, p. 485-491].
Admiral Richardson, commander of the Pacific Fleet, opposed Roosevelt’s orders [Item F] to station the fleet at Pearl Harbor as putting the fleet at risk, so he was replaced with Admiral Kimmel, with Admiral Anderson of ONI as Kimmel’s third in command at Pearl Harbor, to supervise the radio intercept operation there, unbeknownst to Kimmel. [10-14; 33-34] “Anderson was sent to Hawaii as an intelligence gatekeeper”. When he arrived he established his personal housing well away from Pearl Harbor, out of range of the coming attack. Though he was commander of the seven battleships which bore the brunt of the attack with the loss of over two thousand lives, Admiral Anderson was safe at home on the other side of the mountain when the attack came. [36-37; 244, 247] Meanwhile, the commanders in Hawaii, “Admiral Husband Kimmel and Lieutenant General Walter Short, were deprived of intelligence that might have made them more alert to the risks entailed in Roosevelt’s policy, but they obeyed his direct order of November 27 and 28, 1941: ‘The United States desires that Japan commit the first overt act.’” [6-8] Afterward, they were scape-goated.
In early January 1941 the Japanese decided that in the event of hostilities with the US they would commence with a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. American intelligence learned of this plan on January 27 [30-32]. On July 21, 1941 Lieutenant Commander McCollum’s Item H lit the fuse. Up through late November the White House continued to block concerted attempts by Japanese diplomats to discuss an accommodation. [On this diplomatic history see Charles Beard , American Foreign Policy in the Making (1946) and President Roosevelt and the Coming of the War (1948); Frederic Rockwell Sanborn, Design For War (1951); and Charles Tansill, Back Door To War (1952).]
Beginning November 16, 1941, radio intercepts revealed the formation of the Japanese fleet near the Kurile Islands north of Japan and from November 26 through the first week of December tracked it across the Pacific to Hawaii [41-59 etc.]. Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Stark (one of the 34 informed participants) ordered Kimmel to dispatch his aircraft carriers with a large escort fleet to deliver planes to Wake and Midway Islands. “On orders from Washington, Kimmel left his oldest vessels inside Pearl Harbor and sent twenty-one modern warships, including his two aircraft carriers, west toward Wake and Midway… With their departure the warships remaining in Pearl Harbor were mostly 27-year-old relics of World War I.” That is, the battleships sunk at Pearl Harbor with their crews were employed as decoys [152-154]. On 22 November 1941, a week after the Japanese fleet began to assemble and four days before it sailed for Oahu, Admiral Ingersoll issued a “Vacant Sea” order that cleared its path of all shipping and on 25 November he ordered Kimmel to withdraw his ships patrolling the area from which the aerial attack would be staged [144-145]. FDR kept close tabs on the plot’s final unfolding while radio intercepts continued to track its voyage toward Hawaii [161-176].
Stinnett comments: “Pearl Harbor’s Battleship Row and its old dilapidated warships presented a mouth-watering target. But it was a major strategic mistake for the Empire. Japan’s 360 warplanes should have concentrated on Pearl Harbor’s massive oil stores … and destroyed the industrial capacity of the Navy’s dry docks, machine shops, and repair facilities”. Six months later, at the battles of Coral Sea (May 4-8, 1942) and Midway (June 4-7), the warships of the Pacific Fleet which were at sea when the attack on Pearl Harbor occurred permanently destroyed the offensive capacity of the Japanese Navy to operate in the eastern Pacific and permanently crippled its defensive capacity in the western Pacific. Thereafter, as informed observers understood, a Japanese attack or invasion of the West Coast of America was a total logistical impossibility. Nevertheless, two months later, the internment of West Coast Japanese American citizens began in August 1942.
The Pearl Harbor coverup began immediately afterward with the court marshals of Admiral Kimmel and General Short, continued through eight Congressional investigations during and after the war, with the purging and withholding of documents and false testimony by participants and others [253-260 & passim; 309-310] and persisted through the Congressional hearings chaired by Strom Thurmond in 1995 [257-258]. At the date of publication (2000) numerous documents were still withheld from Stinnett or released in extensively censored form. But his case is conclusively proven on the basis of the evidence he presents, as any fair-minded reader can see. The only way to refute or debunk it would be to establish that his documentary evidence is forged, and prove it. In face of the character of this evidence, the idea is nonsensical.
A key break for Stinnett’s research was his discovery of duplicate copies of reports of Japanese naval code transmissions from the Pearl Harbor radio-intercept station routed after the war to the Belmont (California) National Archives, and still there long after the copies in the Washington, D.C. archive files had been disappeared. Recent writers pretending to debunk Stinnett’s evidence have resurrected claims that the Japanese naval codes had not been deciphered and that the Japanese fleet maintained radio silence — claims that have been refuted repeatedly for decades. Famously, the radio operator of the American liner Mariposa intercepted repeated signals from the Japanese fleet steaming toward Hawaii and relayed its progressive bearings to the Navy. This was well-known during the war to American seamen of the Pacific merchant marine and is mentioned in published accounts.
The pretense that the Japanese naval and diplomatic codes had not been deciphered was first refuted in a federal court in Chicago in 1943. As her biographer Ralph G. Martin recounts, Cissy Patterson, managing editor of the Washington Times-Herald on December 7, 1941 (and for decades before and after) was opposed to American intervention in another world war — like over 80% of her fellow Americans, including her brother Joe Patterson, publisher of the New York News, and her cousin Robert McCormick, publisher of the Chicago Tribune. Serving in France as a battlefield officer, Robert was wounded, twice gassed, and decorated for valor. His Chicago Tribune, like his cousins’ newspapers and numerous others, especially off the east coast, was vocally anti-interventionist — until Pearl Harbor.
In Cissy (New York, Simon & Schuster, 1979) Martin writes: “As the news of the disaster [at Pearl Harbor] kept coming in [to the Times-Herald’s newsroom], Cissy bitterly asked [her Sunday Editor] Roberts about Roosevelt, ‘Do you suppose he arranged this?’ Later when she learned that American cryptographers had broken the Japanese codes before Pearl Harbor, she was convinced that Roosevelt had known in advance that the Japanese intended to attack”. “The Chicago Tribune, the Times-Herald, and two dozen other papers later printed an article by a Tribune war correspondent which indicated that the United States had prevailed at Midway In Cissy (New York, Simon & Schuster, 1979) Martin writes: “As the news of the disaster [at Pearl Harbor] kept coming in [to the Times-Herald’s newsroom], Cissy bitterly asked [her Sunday Editor] Roberts about Roosevelt, ‘Do you suppose he arranged this?’ Later when she learned that American cryptographers had broken the Japanese codes before Pearl Harbor, she was convinced that Roosevelt had known in advance that the Japanese intended to attack”. “The Chicago Tribune, the Times-Herald, and two dozen other papers later printed an article by a Tribune war correspondent which indicated that the United States had prevailed at Midway because the Japanese codes had been broken…. The Department of Justice decided to file charges that the Tribune and the Times-Herald had betrayed U.S. military secrets…. Attorney General Francis Biddle felt the disclosure of this breakthrough had been tantamount to treason because it gave the Japanese the chance to change their codes. Waldrop [Times-Herald editor] was called to Chicago to testify before a grand jury… In the middle of the testimony, the Navy disclosed that a Navy censor had passed the Tribune article. Forced to drop the case, Biddle said he ‘felt like a fool.’” [431-432] He wasn’t the only one.