- As we remember the roughly 2,400 persons killed in the
Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor -- the worst one-day loss of American lives
prior to Sept. 11th of this year -- recently declassified U.S. military
documents authored more than 60 years ago compel us to revisit some troubling
- At issue is American knowledge of Japanese military plans
to attack Hawaii prior to Dec. 7, 1941. The first question is whether President
Franklin D. Roosevelt and his top military chieftains provoked Japan into
an "overt act of war." The second question is whether Japanís
military plans were obtained in advance by the U.S. but concealed from
the Hawaiian military commanders, Admiral Husband E. Kimmel and Lieutenant
General Walter Short. Both Kimmel and Short were relieved of their commands,
blamed for failing to ward off the attack, and demoted in rank after the
- The latter question was answered in the affirmative last
year on October 30, 2000, when President Bill Clinton signed a defense
appropriations bill containing congressional findings that both Kimmel
and Short were denied crucial military intelligence.
- However, despite the numerous pardons he issued shortly
before leaving office, President Clinton deferred to the Pentagonís
long-standing policy against posthumously restoring the commanders to their
1941 ranks. Nonetheless, the congressional findings should be widely seen
as an exoneration of years of blame assigned to Kimmel and Short.
- But the other important question remains, looming ever
larger in the inevitable comparisons made between Dec. 7, 1941 and Sept.
11th: Does the blame for the Pearl Harbor disaster revert to President
- Before Walt Disney Studios released the movie "Pearl
Harbor" earlier this year, the filmís producer, Jerry Bruckheimer,
commented on claims of FDRís foreknowledge by saying "Thatís
- Yet Roosevelt believed that provoking Japan into an attack
was the only option he had to overcome the powerful America First non-interventionist
movement. Though Germany had conquered most of Europe, and her U-Boats
were sinking American ships in the Atlantic Ocean, Americans wanted nothing
to do with "Europeís War."
- However, 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, saw an opportunity to counter the U.S. anti-war movement
by provoking Japan into a state of war with the U.S., and triggering the
mutual assistance provisions of the Tripartite Pact.
- Memorialized in a secret memo dated October 7, 1940,
McCollumís proposal called for eight provocations aimed at Japan.
- President Roosevelt acted swiftly, and throughout 1941,
implemented the remaining seven provocations.
- The island nationís militarists used the provocations
to seize control of Japan and organize their military forces for war against
the U.S., Great Britain, and the Netherlands. During the next 11 months,
the White House followed the Japanese war plans through the intercepted
and decoded diplomatic and military communications intelligence.
- At least 1,000 Japanese 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 from
Station CAST on Corregidor Island were current -- contrary to the assertions
of some who claim that the messages were not decoded and translated until
years later -- and they were clear: Pearl Harbor would be attacked on December
7, 1941, by Japanese forces advancing through the Central and North Pacific
- As I explained to a policy forum audience at The Independent
Institute in Oakland, California -- which was telecast nationwide by C-SPAN
on July 4th last year -- my research shows that not only were Kimmel and
Short cut off from the Japanese communications intelligence pipeline, so
were the American people. The coverup lasted for nearly 59 years. ___
- *Robert B. Stinnett is Media Fellow at The Independent
Institute in Oakland, Calif. and the author of Day of Deceit: the truth
about FDR and Pearl Harbor (Free Press).