Freedom of Information Act Reveals Files Suggesting FDR’s Role in Pearl Harbor
September 11th is hardly the first “day of infamy” to undergo public scrutiny and accusations of government conspiracy. President Franklin D. Roosevelt coined the phrase on December 7th after the Japanese “surprise” attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. The attack, according to author and WWII Navy veteran, Robert B. Stinnett, however, had been no surprise at all for Roosevelt.
It was only at the author’s insistent calls on the Freedom of Information Act that the U.S. Navy at last released formerly hidden evidence that led Stinnett to conclude: FDR knew and had the power to avert disaster on December 7th.
Interview with Stinnett
The government’s claims that Japan’s codes had yet to be broken in the months leading up to Pearl Harbor have been met with questions and skepticism since 1945’s September issue of Life magazine. Stinnett himself, in an interview featured on The Independent Institute’s website, says that he believed the article to be an anti-Roosevelt tract at the time. After reading At Dawn We Slept by Professor Prange in 1982, however, and learning about the US Navy monitoring station at Pearl Harbor, he changed his mind. This was the beginning of Day of Deceit.
The likes of Gore Vidal and John Toland, Pulitzer Prize-winner and author of Infamy, have praised Stinnett’s heavily researched book, Day of Deceit. In it, he writes at length about the Roosevelt administration’s plan to provoke Japan in an “overt act of war,” a plan that he adopted in October 7, 1940.
Because the American public still ached from the appalling death toll of the First World War (and because FDR had already promised his people, “Your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars”), FDR focused most of his energy on coming up with a reason for the nation to change its mind. In November 1941, all US military commanders received the order: “The United States desires that Japan commit the first overt act.” That would explain why, according to Lynne Olson’s research published in Citizens of London, Churchill and Governor John G. Winant practically danced at the news in December that America would be joining the European campaign, forgetting that over 2,000 Americans were already dead.
Cracking the Code
According to Stinnett’s research, the US Navy had in fact cracked Japanese naval codes and even intercepted eighty-three messages from Admiral Yamamoto to his warships. A message from November 25 read:
…the task force, keeping its movements 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 in Hawaii and deal it a mortal blow.
Even Thomas Dewey, Roosevelt’s competitor in the 1944 presidential elections, had heard whispers of FDR’s role in arranging the massacre. Although Dewey planned speeches to charge FDR with foreknowledge of the attack, General George Marshall (Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) convinced Dewey that he would risk American security in doing so, since Japan’s navy had yet to realize their codes had been cracked. Dewey kept his silence, and nearly everyone else has since, too—until Stinnett.
Day of Deceit has received much criticism (predictably) from conventional historians and readers as well as notable acclaim from revisionists. Still others disapprove of Stinnett’s ubiquitous tone that suggests throughout the book that FDR had no choice but to arrange for the deaths of over 2,000 Americans at Pearl Harbor. Stinnet most notably fails to mention FDR’s refusal to meet Prime Minister Konoye for peace talks in late 1941.
Stinnett seems to have broken ground, but it is still only the surface.