The Final Secret of Pearl Harbor: The Washington Contribution to the Japanese Attack (1954)

This is one of the books that argues that what happened at Pearl Harbor was not actually the fault of the men in command there, but was a purposeful move on the part of the US government to get American into a war.

The book is written by a retired rear admiral, not someone who has no idea what really happened.

The book notes that “most of the responsibiity for Pearl Harbor has been placed upon the two Hawaiian Commanders”, Admiral Kimmel and general Short.

President Roosevelt, according to the book, actually wanted the US to enter the war, but only in a way in which the Japanese would attack first. He accomplished this, according to the book, by applying diplomatic and economic pressures on Japan, including the stopping of trade with Japan. He also apparently had promised England in August of 1941 that the US would go to war against Japan if the US, England, or another (I presume colonial-power type) country was attacked by Japan in the Pacific. FDR “terminated the Washington conference with the note of November 26, 1941, which gave Japan no choice but surrender or war. FDR kept the Pacific fleet weak on purpose, so it would basically be tempting bait for a Japanese attack. The President also made sure that information of a sensitive and critically important nature was withheld from the commanders at Pearl Harbor.

The last charge is the one that receives the strongest support in the book, and in a related book entitled Admiral Kimmel's Story.

The book holds that the two commanders were denied important information for almost four months before the attack itself. For example, intercepted messages showed that Japan was very interested in the exact location of ships in Hawaii in the months leading up to the attack, but this information was not passed on to the commanders. (The book quotes specific intercepts.)

In November, in particular, the messages were intensified but translated messages were still not forwarded to the commanders.

On November 25, 1951, FDR met with various Secretaries and advisors. Secretary Stimson's testimony at a hearing said that FDR brought up American relations with Japan. “Mr. Hull said that the Japanese were poised for the attack-that they might attack at any time. The President said that the Japanese were notorious for making an attack without warning...”

So that FDR knew that the Japanese were noted for surprise attacks.

The question naturally arises, though: why would FDR ensure that a military base would be attacked with consequent deaths of American military men? It seems a rather strange if not almost insane concept. The book tackles the issue, though, and says that FDR did this “ order to have the full support of the American people...” for a war. The US had been an isolationist country for a long time and many people wanted it to remain that way, so it would take something startling to unite the American people and get them to actively support a war, and a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor would do just that, according to the logic used in the book.

The book notes that a Russian spy had reported in October of 1941 that the Japanese planned to attack Pearl Harbor within sixty days, and that the information ended up being passed on to the US government in exchange for US information on an impending German attack on Russia.

The information was not passed on to the Pearl Harbor commanders.

People who had studied Japanese military history had come to the conclusion that any Japanese surprise attack would be on a Saturday or a Sunday since, on those days, many of the men would be on shore leave and the state of readiness of the ships would be lower.

The book believes that the commanders at Pearl Harbor, if they had been properly informed of all the communication activity on the part of the Japanese and what those messages said, would have taken precautions which could have led to a lower loss of life in the attack and possibly even an attack on the Japanese fleet itself.

The book is primarily supposition, although there is some evidence that could support the author's line of thought, although not conclusive evidence.

Main Index
Japan main page
Japanese-American Internment Camps index page
Japan and World War II index page