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FDR and Pearl Harbor


Carol Reid
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I know it has always been rumored that FDR knew about the attack on Pearl Harbor before the fact. It is rumored that, not only did he have prior knowledge, he deliberately allowed it to happen, so that we would be pushed into the war with Japan.

In researching this rumor via the internet, I have come up with several websites, such asTHIS

and others, but they appear to be sort of speculative in nature.

Does anyone here have any knowledge of these events that you would like to share?

Thanks.

Carol

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I know it has always been rumored that FDR knew about the attack on Pearl Harbor before the fact.  It is rumored that, not only did he have prior knowledge, he deliberately allowed it to happen, so that we would be pushed into the war with Japan. 

In researching this rumor via the internet, I have come up with several websites, such asTHIS

and others, but they appear to be sort of speculative in nature.

Does anyone here have any knowledge of these events that you would like to share?

In April, 1940, the US Fleet was sent to Pearl Harbor to deter aggressive moves by Japan in the Pacific. Tensions increased when in September, 1940, Japan and Germany signed the German-Japanese Pact.

Allied secret services soon discovered that Joachim von Ribbentrop, the German foreign minister, had sent a telegram to Vyacheslav Molotov, the Soviet foreign minister, where he pointed out that the alliance was to be directed towards the United States and not the Soviet Union. "Its exclusive purpose is to bring the elements pressing for America's entry into the war to their senses by conclusively demonstrating to them if they enter the present struggle they will automatically have to deal with the three great powers as adversaries."

In January 1941, the Commander in Chief of the Japanese Combined Fleet, Admiral Isoruku Yamamoto began planning for a surprise attack on the US Navy at Pearl Harbor. Yamamoto feared that he did not have the resources to win a long war against the United States. He therefore advocated a surprise attack that would destroy the US Fleet in one crushing blow.

Richard Sorge, a German journalist working as a Soviet agent in Tokyo, discovered details of the plan for the attack on Pearl Harbor. However, this information does not seem to have been passed onto the United States. US Army intelligence.

Harold Stark, Chief of Naval Operations, feared a Japanese attack on the US Fleet at Pearl Harbor but by the end of 1941 became convinced that the initial attack on the US Navy would come in the Far East.

Military intelligence did intercept two cipher messages from Tokyo to Kichisaburo Normura, the Japanese Ambassador to the United States, that suggested an imminent attack, but Richmond Turner, in charge of evaluating and dissemination, did not pass on warnings of the proposed attack to Admiral Husband Kimmel.

Once again the cover story is incompetence. However, rumours have circulated ever since that the British secret services received information from Richard Sorge but decided not to pass this information on to Roosevelt. The reason being was that it was not in the interests of the UK for Roosevelt to block this attack. If that happened, it is possible that the US would have stayed out of the war.

This is what Winston Churchill had to say about the news of the attack on Pearl Habor.

In two or three minutes Mr. Roosevelt came through. "Mr. President, what's this about Japan? "It's quite true," he replied. "They have attacked us at Pearl Harbor. We are all in the same boat now."

No American will think it wrong of me if I proclaim that to have the United States at our side was to me the greatest joy. I could not foretell the course of events. I do not pretend to have measured accurately the martial might of Japan, but now at this very moment I knew the United States was in the war, up to the neck and in to the death. So we had won after all!

You can read about Richard Sorge here:

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/GERsorge.htm

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An excellent source on this is Gordon Prange's At Dawn We Slept, which thoroughly debunks the "Roosevelt knew" crowd. Prange spent many years researching the attack (the book was published in 1981, after his death) and interviewed the surviving principles on both sides in addition to examining classified documents to which others did not have access. His work was a multivolume treatise, which was distilled down to a single volume by two of his students.

I consider his work among the finest examples of historical research. He also did a great job with Miracle at Midway.

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An excellent source on this is Gordon Prange's At Dawn We Slept, which thoroughly debunks the "Roosevelt knew" crowd.  Prange spent many years researching the attack (the book was published in 1981, after his death) and interviewed the surviving principles on both sides in addition to examining classified documents to which others did not have access.  His work was a multivolume treatise, which was distilled down to a single volume by two of his students.

I consider his work among the finest examples of historical research.  He also did a great job with Miracle at Midway.

Thank you for that information. Like you I do not believe Roosevelt wanted a war with Japan and Germany. I therefore do not believe that Roosevelt had this information.

Richard Sorge is an interesting character. He was a genuine anti-fascist. He disapproved of Stalin’s collaboration with Hitler. I suspect he would have made an attempt to get the information about Pearl Harbor to the UK as well as the Soviet Union. I suspect we must have had spies in Japan at that time. If so, Sorge would have known about it. If Churchill had discovered the plan to attack Pearl Harbor I am not sure he would have told Roosevelt. At this time Churchill believed that the only way to defeat Hitler was to persuade the United States to enter the war. Churchill would have done anything that would have stopped this happening. If he did know and did not tell Roosevelt I think he made the right decision.

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Thank you, John and Mike for your insights. I, too, am of the opinion that FDR did not have prior knowledge.

Researchers have theorized that FDR knew of the attack and allowed it to take place so that the US could be drawn into the conflict "honorably." I say that this premise is illogical at best, if not downright foolhardy. After all, retaliation could have been justified if the Japanese had only fired the first shot. The base would have been prepared to defend itself, and we would not have seen such a level of devestation.

I will read Prange's book. Thank you for the info.

Carol

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In William Casey's autobiography, he describes how he was posted to the US embassy in Tokyo before the war. He would write back letters and reports saying how the only thing people were talking about was the coming war with the US.

Most books aknowledge that the US knew an attack was coming somewhere, as we could read most of the Japanese codes, though we didn't necessarily know where.

Japan intended to declare war and then attack. The declaration was timed to be only hours before the attack. Roosevelt had the Japanese diplomats kept waiting until after the attack occurred, now it suddenly is a dishonorable sneak attack. What a perfect tool to motivate the American people.

So, did Roosevelt know an attack was coming? I think so. Just look at the warnings sent to Pearl Harbor before the attack using language like war is very possible in the near future. Did Roosevelt know the attack was going to be at Pearl Harbor? That is the mystery. Apparently, most US intelligence thought the target was the Phillipines.

The real quandry is, why were the aircraft carriers sent away? Was this coincidence or planned?

Because:

Pearl Harbor was a DEFEAT for the Japanese! Their plan was to INVADE the islands not just attack them. Because the aircraft carriers were missing, the Japanese fleet was vulnerable to counter attack. Therefore the invasion was cancelled. Think about how difficult the war in the Pacific would have been if the Japanese held Hawai at the beginning of the war.

Edited by Norman T. Field
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Roosevelt had the Japanese diplomats kept waiting until after the attack occurred, now it suddenly is a dishonorable sneak attack. What a perfect tool to motivate the American people.

Not borne out by the facts. The Japanese diplomats in Washington missed their deadline because of their own difficulties in translating and transcribing the diplomatic message from Tokyo.

Pearl Harbor was a DEFEAT for the Japanese! Their plan was to INVADE the islands not just attack them. Because the aircraft carriers were missing, the Japanese fleet was vulnerable to counter attack. Therefore the invasion was cancelled. Think about how difficult the war in the Pacific would have been if the Japanese held Hawai at the beginning of the war.

Again, not borne out by the facts. It is true that some of Yamamoto's staff wanted to invade, but Yamamoto did not, and the Japanese task force did not have an invasion force along. When none of the carriers were found, the task force commander (who was not a proponent of the attack in the first place) decided to forego a search for them and a second attack, despite contrary advice from most of his staff (Yamamoto was not along, and could not have "forced" the commander to be more aggressive). The aircraft carriers had perfectly legitimate reasons for being out of the harbor, which had nothing to do with Roosevelt.

Again, the historical record does not support the idea that Roosevelt (or any other American) knew where the attack would take place

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I have studied the attack on Pearl Harbour for a few years now and I do not believe that FDR had prior knowledge of the attack.

As we have seen with September 11, the Americans had a lot of clues about the attacks, however, a lot of the clues were only put together once the end result had been realised. I believe this is also the case with Pearl Harbour.

Follows are some books that you may find extremely useful if studying FDR and Pearl Harbour:

1.Infamy:Pearl Harbour and its Aftermath(berkely 1991)John Toland.

2. Day of Deceit: The Truth about FDR and Pearl Harbour (2000) Robert Stinnett.

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Guest Stephen Turner

I to feel that FDR had little, or no knowledge of the attack. 9-11 however is another matter entirely Adam.. See threads in this section. Steve.

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Sorry, what I was saying there, was that the U.S government had many clues leading up to Sept 11, but there was no way that they could have predicted what happened, or the severity of the attack, in a way, I believe Pearl Harbour is similar in that way, in that the U.S govt and FDR had many clues of an attack, but a lot of the clues were only put together once the end result had been realised.

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Guest Stephen Turner

Adam, 9-11 was I believe quantifiably different to Pearl Harbour. See the thread " Gerald Postner & 9-11" for an in depth discussion of this. Also,If you havent already, read the document,"Operation Northwoods,it is available online, and PNAC,( Project for the new American century)For why 9-11 happened..Steve.

Edited by Stephen Turner
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