Did FDR Engineer Pearl Harbor?

December 06, 2010

Multiple Pages
Did FDR Engineer Pearl Harbor?

As a history buff, I have tried to come to terms with the “surprise” Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor. That lugubrious anniversary—December 7th—is fast approaching. For its impact upon American history, Pearl Harbor ranks alongside Fort Sumter’s bombardment on April 12, 1861. My view is that the Civil War’s outbreak marked the U.S. Constitution’s termination, ending the American Republic of 1789. Pearl Harbor ushered in the second irreversible downturn: the collapse of the reconstituted American Republic established in the Civil War’s aftermath.

Pearl Harbor made possible America’s transmogrification, under Franklin Roosevelt’s dishonest leadership, from a republic into a global empire. Nothing remotely like that had been contemplated by Jefferson, Washington, Madison, or John Adams. Journalist Garet Garrett said FDR had created “Ex America.” We are living in a postscript era. In a sense, thanks to Fort Sumter and Pearl Harbor, America is at least twice removed from the Founding Fathers’ ideals and constraints. We are now at sea, making it up as we go along.

My favorite book on Pearl Harbor remains the first one I read: Final Secret of Pearl Harbor by Rear Admiral Robert Theobald (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. In a foreword to the book, Kimmel 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 circumstantial pieces of evidence together, and they fit.

Kimmel’s foreword is followed by a second one, written by famous Fleet Admiral William F. Halsey:

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.

The “Magic” (diplomatic) Japanese intercepts do not explain why, but they are a window. They provide us with strong circumstantial evidence that Roosevelt and his close associates were fully aware of their actions’ consequences.

But in Pearl Harbor’s aftermath, FDR scapegoated Kimmel, 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 1955 book Admiral Kimmel’s Story made his case in public, free of war hysteria and 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 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….

There have been a number of books published since 1955 that utilize new information and insights to buttress the Theobald/Kimmel thesis. All signs point in one direction—to FDR and his inner circle.

“Pearl Harbor made possible America’s transmogrification, under Franklin Roosevelt’s dishonest leadership, from a republic into a global empire.”

In 2007’s The Pearl Harbor Myth: Rethinking the Unthinkable, psychotherapist George Victor cites the actions of Presidents James Polk, Abe Lincoln, William McKinley, and Woodrow Wilson, all of whom used subterfuge and propaganda to launch America into war. Still, no president before Roosevelt did it in so spectacular a fashion.

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 so he could 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. But none of these escapades quite reaches the treachery of Roosevelt and his associates in luring the Japanese into attacking Pearl Harbor. There’s also the colossal irony of Roosevelt proclaiming the orchestrated deed “a day of infamy” to a joint session of Congress the very next day.

What was his motivation? To understand, one must become acquainted with Franklin Roosevelt’s unbalanced mind—not an easy assignment. Pearl Harbor was the culmination of Roosevelt’s meddling, internationalist foreign policy going back several years. Roosevelt persevered in a determined policy that would inevitably lead to all-out war in both Asia and Europe. 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.

New York Congressman Hamilton Fish III called that statement “the most shocking, contemptible and untruthful public utterance of any president in our history.”

I have recently discovered Fish’s provocative and illuminating FDR, The Other Side of the Coin: How We Were Tricked Into World War II (1976). Written when Fish was 86, it amounts to one grand excoriation of Roosevelt, with Pearl Harbor the centerpiece. Fish writes:

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.


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 and knew Roosevelt firsthand. Fish’s visit to Europe in August 1939, including his meeting with German foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop in Salzburg, is set forth in spellbinding detail. A few weeks later, Fish was in London on the floor of Parliament when Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain declared war on Germany. Ambassador Joe Kennedy had provided Fish a reserved seat. 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.”

My own view 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 caused the outbreak of war in Europe.

When war came, Roosevelt was stymied and incapable of making good on his promises. Why? 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 Constitution. But contradicting all his public pronouncements, Roosevelt tried very hard to get into a shooting match with Hitler in the North Atlantic. Hitler declined the invitation. He had his hands full with the Soviet Union in the East.

I summarized Roosevelt’s endgame in my book:

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.…

Starting a war with Japan was a final desperation move. Only by deliberately cornering Japan and getting it to attack first could Roosevelt galvanize his home front, silence “the isolationists,” and rescue the British Empire and Soviet Union. England under Churchill was a non-factor on its own. As for Stalin, the Nazis were by then in Moscow’s suburbs. Time was of the essence.

It was at this moment that Japan bombed Pearl Harbor.

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