Debate over whether or not Franklin D Roosevelt knew of the impending attack on Pearl Harbor is not new. In fact, it was soon after the carnage began that speculation started about what President Roosevelt knew–and when he knew it.
Several years ago the debate reached a feverish pitch with the publication of Day of Deceit: The Truth About FDR and Pearl Harbor by Robert Stinnett. The book took up seventeen years of research and Freedom of Information Act disclosures. Though there have been methodical attempts to “debunk” the book, it never has in fact been debunked. Ater having read it twice I cast my lot in with military reviewer/writer Gregory McNamee’s assessment, “…American governmental documents that offer apparently incontrovertible proof that Roosevelt knowingly sacrificed American lives in order to enter the war….”
Ironically, Robert Stinnett sympathizes with Roosevelt’s decision, but that doesn’t affect his hard reporting. Back in 1999 Publishers Weekly wrote:
Stinnett [the author] convincingly demonstrates that the U.S. top brass in Hawaii–Pacific Fleet commander Adm. Husband Kimmel and Lt. Gen. Walter Short–were kept out of the intelligence loop on orders from Washington and were then scapegoated for allegedly failing to anticipate the Japanese attack (in May 1999, the U.S. Senate cleared their names). Kimmel moved his fleet into the North Pacific, actively searching for the suspected Japanese staging area, but naval headquarters ordered him to turn back. Stinnett’s meticulously researched book raises deeply troubling ethical issues. While he believes the deceit built into FDR’s strategy was heinous, he nevertheless writes: “I sympathize with the agonizing dilemma faced by President Roosevelt. He was forced to find circuitous means to persuade an isolationist America to join in a fight for freedom.” This, however, is an expression of understanding, not of absolution. If Stinnett is right, FDR has a lot to answer for–namely, the lives of those Americans who perished at Pearl Harbor. Stinnett establishes almost beyond question that the U.S. Navy could have at least anticipated the attack. The evidence that FDR himself deliberately provoked the attack is circumstantial, but convincing enough to make Stinnett’s bombshell of a book the subject of impassioned debate in the months to come. You can read the rest of this review on Amazon (at the book link).
The book has also gotten excellent reviews when it appeared from The Wall street Journal and the NY Times.
Here’s a telling and creepy excerpt from the first chapter:
“Edward R Murrow couldn’t sleep…He…had just returned from a midnight meeting with President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the White House…During their twenty-five minute discussion…the President provided Murrow with something…that any reporter would kill for. That night he [Murrow] told his wife, ‘It’s the biggest story of my life, but I don’t know whether it’s my duty to tell it or forget it.’ Long after the war ended, Murrow was asked about this meeting by author-journalist John Gunther. After a long pause, Murrow replied: ‘That story would send Casey Murrow [his son] through college, and if you think I’m going to give it to you, you’re out of your mind.” As this chapter continues the meeting is given much more context. It’s the kind of thing that raises goose-bumps on the back of your neck. We’ll probably never find out what was said to Murrow. He took the secret to his grave.
You might want to read this article too (it was published last year in the Gazette): 65 years later, his questions linger. Several days before Pearl Harbor was attacked…”Fenton scrambled to the deck and saw two dozen ships of unknown origin [they were Japanese] about 3 miles away on the horizon, heading east. They were silhouetted by moonlight that would have blinded the fleet to the Boise’s presence. Greatly outnumbered and under orders to maintain radio silence, the Boise did not fire and did not alert anyone for days to what it had seen. When the Boise reached Manila, officers alerted members of Gen. Douglas Mac-Arthur’s staff of their find, Fenton said. Their reaction, as he recalled, was: “They’ve got as much right to be in the water as we do.” It was only when word came down Dec. 7 about the Pearl Harbor attack that Fenton and his shipmates realized they had seen the fleet that brought America into World War II. While the Boise hid by a remote Pacific island after the attack and awaited orders, talk buzzed about what its crew could have done…”
Note: Also check this previous post.