Those who expect to reap the benefits of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it. – Thomas Paine

Monday, October 29, 2012

Pearl Harbor: An Attack Unprovoked?

By Josh Krab

Many school teachers teach history as if it is just a collection of events that we must remember in order to be intelligent. History is a series of events that we can and must learn from in order to be successful in the future. Dates and significant events are important in history but many people forget that the events leading up to that moment are even more important. The attack on Pearl Harbor is an event that is familiar to everyone. Many people know what happened on December 7th 1941, but what many people don’t know is what happened before that tragic event. Why did the Japanese decide to attack the most powerful nation on earth? The fact is that the attack on Pearl Harbor was no accident. It was not a failure of American intelligence. It was not permissible because of some brilliant Japanese intelligence. It was a deliberately provoked event by the highest levels of the U.S. government.
           In 1941, polls conducted in the United States showed that over 80% of the citizens opposed getting involved in World War II. However, Franklin Roosevelt was using warships to escort cargo ships across the Atlantic to supply England with war goods. This use of war ships triggered a series of events that led to the attack on Pearl Harbor and our involvement in the war. On October 16, 1941, a German torpedo hit the U.S. destroyer Kearny. Fifteen days later, the destroyer Rueben James was torpedoed and 100 American sailors died, being the first U.S. warship that was sunk in the war.[1] These events took place in the Atlantic but yet our entrance into the war came from an attack in the Pacific.
            In 1937, a group of U.S. Navy ships led by the gunboat Panay was escorting merchant ships through a war zone on the Yangtze River in China. On December 12, 1937, Japanese planes attacked the group, sinking the Panay and three oil supply vessels, and killing three people. Earlier that year, Japanese planes had attacked the British ambassador’s car.[2] The message in these attacks was clear to the West: get out and stay out of our business. This event was America’s entry into the World War II. It happened two years after the Neutrality Act in which Congress had forbidden the President to use the U.S. armed forces to protect people who had taken the risk of entering a war zone. FDR’s violation of this act set a precedent for future actions in the Orient.
            On the morning of December 7, 1941, at 7:55 a.m., the Japanese navy attacked the U.S. forces in the Pacific. The base was attacked by 353 Japanese fighters, bombers and torpedo planes in two waves, launched from six aircraft carriers. The main attack occurred in Pearl Harbor but there were also secondary attacks which occurred in the Philippines, Wake Island, Midway Island, and elsewhere. Five battleships, three cruisers, and three destroyers were sunk and other ships damaged; 188 aircraft were destroyed on the ground; 2,403 American soldiers, sailors and civilians were killed, and 1,178 wounded.[3] The next day, President Roosevelt addressed Congress asking for a declaration of war and stated that the attack was “unprovoked”.  But was the attack really unprovoked?
One of the U.S. government’s top experts on Japan was Lieutenant Commander Arthur H. McCollum. In early 1940, McCollum was placed in control of all intelligence information about Japan that was routed to President Roosevelt. McCollum believed that the U.S. should get involved in the war to help Britain defeat Germany.[4] But he faced a problem: a recent Gallop poll showed that 88% of the American people opposed U.S. involvement in the war.[5] McCollum began to devise a way to change the minds of the American people and believed the best way would be to lure the Japanese into attacking the U.S.
Although we don’t have a lot of information on how much McCollum talked with Roosevelt, we do know that in October of 1940 McCollum circulated a memo containing an eight-point plan[6]:
1. Make an arrangement with Britain for the use of British bases in the Pacific, particularly Singapore.
2. Make an arrangement with Holland for the use of base facilities and acquisition of supplies in the Dutch East Indies.
3. Give all possible aid to the Chinese government of Chiang Kai-shek.
4. Send a division of long-range heavy cruisers to the Orient, Philippines, or Singapore
5. Send two divisions of submarines to the Orient
6. Keep the main strength of the US fleet, now in the Pacific, in the vicinity of the Hawaiian Islands.
7. Insisted that the Dutch refuse to grant Japanese demands for undue economic concessions, particularly oil.
8. Completely embargo all trade with Japan, in collaboration with a  similar embargo imposed by the British Empire.
            McCollum’s 1940 memo ends with his hope that by these eight steps “Japan could be led to commit an overt act of war.”[7]
            Although we cannot find very solid evidence that President Roosevelt was intentionally following McCollum’s eight-point plan we do know the steps that Roosevelt took to provoke the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor did fall in line with many of McCollum’s ideas. We also know that Secretary of War Stimson wrote in his diary that he favored the plan.[8]
By spring of 1940 events began unfolding and actions were being taken by President Roosevelt to begin provocations for a Japanese attack. In April of 1940, Roosevelt began moving the Pacific fleet from San Diego to Pearl Harbor. The fleet’s commander, Admiral Richardson, protested the move because he believed that moving the fleet to Pearl Harbor left them too exposed to an attack. He immediately began a nine-month campaign to persuade the President to move them back to the safety of San Diego.[9] In October of 1940 Richardson flew back to Washington D.C. and told FDR that he strongly disagrees with sacrificing navy ships to get into a war with Japan. By February of 1941, FDR will no longer tolerate Richardson’s protests. He fires Richardson and replaces him with Admiral Kimmel. [10]
Roosevelt began reducing the supply of oil and metals to Japan in July of 1940 and by September of that year he had cut off the supply of iron to Japan. [11]
On October 4th 1940, Winston Churchill, the prime minister of Britain, gave permission to put U.S. warships in Singapore, which is near the oil fields of the Dutch East Indies. Under pressure from FDR, the Dutch reduce their supply of oil to Japan and give permission to base U.S. warships in the Dutch East Indies.[12] A succession of trade restrictions put in place on December 31st 1940 begins halting U.S. shipments of aviation fuel, metals, machinery, and machine tools to Japan.[13]
On January 1, 1941, twenty-four U.S. submarines were sent to the Orient. This was step five in McCollum’s eight-point plan. Roosevelt begins sending cruisers and destroyers into Japanese home waters on March 15 1941. His orders are kept in secret from the public but the Japanese are fully aware that U.S. warships are in their territory.[14]
Congress passed FDR’s “Lend-Lease Act” on March 11 1941. This act gives funding to the governments of Britain and China to help fight the Germans and Japanese. Within three months, U.S. aid is sent to Stalin to help in the fight.
By May of 1941, the Japanese economy is becoming shaken by FDR’s embargoes and Admiral Kimmel starts to become nervous. He warns FDR that U.S. Pacific forces are under-gunned, vulnerable to Japanese attack, and spread too thin to protect troops at widely scattered bases.[15] On July 26, 1941 FDR freezes all Japanese assets and reduces Japanese oil supply by 90%, which further shakes the Japanese economy.[16]
On September 11, 1941, FDR told the nation that the destroyer Greer had been attacked by a German submarine, and henceforth U.S. warships now had the standing order to “shoot on sight” at any German vessel west of Iceland. He did not reveal to the public that the Greer had stalked the submarine for three hours in cooperation with a British patrol plane before the German turned and fired. In response, Germany accused President Roosevelt of “endeavoring with all means at his disposal to provoke incidents for the purpose of baiting the American people into war.”[17]
In October 9, 1941 the U.S. government intercepted a Japanese “bomb plot” message indicating Pearl Harbor as a target for attack by carrier-based planes.[18] FDR met with his war council on November 25 1941 and Secretary of War Stimson noted in his diary that he believes that U.S. forces will “likely be attacked perhaps as soon as Monday.” Roosevelt becomes concerned over the problem of “how we should maneuver them into the position of firing the first shot.[19] On December 6 1941 General Hap Arnold landed in Sacramento, California, to warn the air base that war with Japan is imminent. Roosevelt reads an intercepted message and tells his assistant Harry Hopkins, “This means war.”[20]
The next day, the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor. The U.S. has terrible losses. The main Japanese goal was to steal oil and other natural resources in the Dutch East Indies. To do this they had to chase the U.S. armed forces from the Pacific.
The events discussed above are events that are hardly talked about in history class, if mentioned at all. Each one of these events played a significant role in provoking a Japanese attack on U.S. armed forces and from what evidence we have, President Roosevelt and his advisors knew full well that this would happen and were indeed desiring an attack in order to change the public’s mind about getting involved in World War II.
Captain Russel Grenfell, of the British navy, wrote in his 1952 book Main Fleet To Singapore that,
No reasonably informed person can now believe that Japan made a villainous, unexpected attack on the United States. An attack was not only fully expected but was actually desired. It is beyond doubt that President Roosevelt wanted to get his country into the war, but for political reasons was most anxious to insure that the first act of hostility came from the other side; for which reason he caused increasing pressure to be put on the Japanese, to a point that no self-respecting nation could endure without resort to arms. Japan was meant by the American President to attack the United States. As Mr. Oliver Lyttelton, then British Minister of Production, said in 1944, “Japan was provoked into attacking America at Pearl Harbor. It is a travesty of history to say that America was forced into war.”[21]

This point could not be truer. It is a shame that President Roosevelt said in his speech that the attack was “unprovoked”. President knew full well that he had provoked the attack. Instead, he lied, and used this opportunity to get involved in the war. It was a great crime that should have been punished but FDR got away with it.
            Thanks to the Freedom of Information Act of 1966 this information has come out in the open and historians can see the true story of why the Japanese attack us.

[1] Richard Maybury, World War II: the Rest of the Story and How It Affects You Today (Placerville: Bluestocking Press, 2003), 117.
[2] Ibid., 117.
[3] Ibid., 108.
[4] Robert Stinnett, Day of Deceit (New York: The Free Press, 2000), 261-267.
[5] Ibid., 17.
[6] Ibid., 8.
[7] Robert Stinnett., 8.
[8] Robert Stinnett., 9.
[9] Edwin Layton, And I Was There (New York: William Morrow, 1985), 52-55.
[10] Robert Stinnett., 10-11.
[11] Richard Maybury., 133.
[12] Robert Stinnett., 10.
[13] Robert A. Theobald, The Final Secret of Pearl Harbor (New York: Devin-Adair, 1954), 12.
[14] Richard Maybury.,134-136.
[15] Edwin Layton., 112.
[16] Richard Maybury., 138.
[17] Thomas Fleming, The New Dealers’ War (New York: Basic Books, 2001), 89.
[18] Edwin Layton., 158-163.
[19] Edwin Layton., 195.
[20] Robert Theobald., 28.
[21] Richard Maybury., 142.

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