|The following is reprinted from Uncle John's Legendary Lost Bathroom Reader.
Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor was one of the most dramatic incidents in U.S. history - and the source of persistent questions. Did President Roosevelt know the attack was coming? If so, why didn't he defend against it? Here's some insight from It's a Conspiracy!
USS Shaw exploded during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. (Image Credit of this and the images below: Dept. of the Navy - Naval Historical Center)
USS Arizona burning at Pearl Harbor.
Rescuing survivor near USS West Virginia during the Pearl Harbor attack.
USS Maryland and the capsized USS Oklahoma.
Burning PBY patrol bomber at Naval Air Station Kaneohe.
View of Pearl Harbor from a nearby hill - the dots in the sky were anti-aircraft shells bursting.
Burning planes and hangars at the Wheeler Field.
Shortly after dawn on Sunday, December 7, 1941, Japanese warplanes launched an all-out attack on Pearl Harbor [wiki], the major U.S. military base in Hawaii. Within two hours, they had damaged or destroyed 18 warships and more than 200 aircraft, killing 2,403 American soldiers, sailors, and marines, and wounding 1,178. Americans were stunned and outraged.
The next day, FDR delivered a stirring speech to Congress in which he referred to the day of the attack as "a date which will lie in infamy." In response, Congress declared war, and the country closed ranks behind the president.
Despite America's commitment to the war, however, questions arose about Pearl Harbor that were not easily dismissed: How were we caught so completely by surprise? Why were losses so high? Who was to blame? Did the president know an attack was coming? Did he purposely do nothing so America would be drawn into the war? Although there were seven full inquiries before the war ended, the questions persist to this day.
UNANSWERED QUESTION #1
Did the United States intercept Japanese messages long before an attack, but failed to warn the Hawaiian base?
• By the summer of 1940, the United States had cracked Japan's top-secret diplomatic code, nicknamed "Purple [wiki]." This enabled U.S. intelligence agencies to monitor messages to and from Tokyo.
• Although several U.S. command posts received machines for decoding "Purple," Pearl Harbor was never given one.
• Messages intercepted in the autumn of 1941 suggested what the Japanese were planning:
› On October 9, 1941, Tokyo told its consul in Honolulu to "divide the water around Pearl Harbor into five sub-areas and report on the types and numbers of American war craft."
› The Japanese foreign minister urged negotiators to resolve issues with the U.S. by November 29, after which "things are automatically going to happen."
› On December 1, after negotiations had failed, the navy intercepted a request that the Japanese ambassador in Berlin informed Hitler of an extreme danger of war ... coming "quicker than anyone dreams."
On the Other Hand
• Although the United States had cracked top-secret Japanese codes several years earlier, "the fact is that code-breaking intelligence did not prevent and could not have prevented Pearl Harbor, because Japan never sent any messages to anybody saying anything like 'We shall attack Pearl Harbor,'" writes military historian David Kahn in the autumn 1991 issue of Military History Quarterly.
• "The [Japanese] Ambassador in Washington was never told of the plan," Kahn says, "Nor were other Japanese diplomats or consular officials. The ship of the strike force were never radioed any message mentioning Pearl Harbor. It was therefore impossible for cryptoanalysts to have discovered the plan. Despite the American code breakers, Japan kept her secret."
• Actually, Washington had issued a warning to commanders at Pearl Harbor a few weeks earlier. On November 27, 1941, General George Marshall sent the following message: "Hostile action possible at any moment. If hostilities cannot, repeat CANNOT, be avoided, the United States desires that Japan commit the first over act. This policy should not, repeat NOT, be construed as restricting you to a course of action that might jeopardize your defense."
• But the commanders at Pearl Harbor were apparently negligent. The base should have at least been on alert, but the antiaircraft guns were unmanned and most people on the base were asleep when the attack came.
UNANSWERED QUESTION #2
Did a sailor pick up signals from the approaching Japanese fleet and pass the information on to the White House - which ignored it?
• This theory is promoted in John Toland's bestselling book, Infamy. He asserts that in early December, an electronics expert in the 12th Naval District in San Francisco (whom Toland refers as "Seaman Z") identified "queer signals" in the Pacific. Using cross-bearings, he identified them as originating from a "missing" Japanese carrier fleet which had not been heard from in months. He determined that the fleet was heading directly for Hawaii.
• Toland says that although Seaman Z and his superior officer allegedly reported their findings to the Office of Naval Intelligence, whose chief was a close friend of the president, Pearl Harbor never got the warning.
On the Other Hand
• Gordon Prange, author of Pearl Harbor: The Verdict of History, refutes many of Toland's assertions. Although he concedes that there may have been unusual Japanese signals that night, Prange says that they were almost certainly signals to the carriers from Tokyo - and thus would have been useless in locating the carriers.
• To prove his point, Prange quotes reports written by Mitsuo Fuchida, who led the air attack on Pearl Harbor: "The Force maintained the strictest silence throughout the cruise ... [Admiral] Genda stressed that radio silence was so important that the pilots agreed not to go on the air even if their lives depended upon it." The chief of staff for Fleet Admiral Nagumo adds, "All transmitters were sealed, and all hands were ordered to be kept away from any key of the machine."
• Prange notes, "It would be interesting to know how the 12th Naval District in San Francisco could pick up information that the 14th Naval District, much nearer the action in Honolulu, missed."
• Finally, Prange reports that years after the war, "Seaman Z" was identified as Robert D. Ogg, a retired California businessman. Ogg flatly denied that he had said the unusual signals were "the missing carrier force," nor was he even sure that the transmission were in Japanese - "I never questioned them at the time."
UNANSWERED QUESTION #3
Even if FDR didn't specifically know about an impending attack on Pearl Harbor, did he try to provoke the Japanese into attacking the U.S. to gain the support of the American public for his war plans?
• FDR told close aides that if the Allies were to be victorious, the U.S. had to enter the war before Japan overran the Pacific and Germany destroyed England.
• FDR told a British emissary that the United States "would declare war on Japan in the latter attacked American possessions ... [but] public opinion would be unlikely to approve of a declaration of war if the Japanese attack were directed only against British or Dutch territories."
• Earlier that year, on July 25, 1941, Roosevelt froze Japanese assets in the United States.
• In 1937, Japan sank a U.S. warship in China's Yangtze River, and relations between America and Japan began deteriorating. Both countries made a public effort to negotiate, but FDR presented a series of impossible ultimatums to the Japanese negotiators and openly loaned money to the Nationalist Chinese, whom the Japanese were fighting at the time.
Curtiss Tomahawk fighter plane of the Flying Tigers, painted with the 12-point sun symbol of the Chinese Air Force (Image Credit: Wikipedia)
Crews of the Flying Tiger (Image Credit: Wikipedia)
• According to columnist Pat Buchanan, Roosevelt also committed an act of war against Japan in August 1941, when he secretly approved sending a crack U.S. Air Force squadron, the "Flying Tigers [wiki]," to fight alongside the Chinese Nationalists. Although these fliers were officially "volunteers," Buchanan claimed that they were "recruited at U.S. bases, offered five times normal pay [and] sent off to fight Japan months before Pearl Harbor, in a covert operation run out of FDR's White House ... Though their planes carried the insignia of the Chinese army, [they] were on active duty for the United States."
On the Other Hand
• No evidence proving a conspiracy to goad the Japanese into attacking has come to light in the 50-plus years since Pearl Harbor. If there had been one, it would have surfaced by now .. wouldn't it have? We'll probably never know.