It was not long after the first Japanese bombs fell on the American naval ships at Pearl Harbor that conspiracy theories began to circulate, charging that Franklin Roosevelt and his chief military advisors knew of the impending attack well in advance. Robert Stinnett
, who served in the U.S. Navy with distinction during World War II, examines recently declassified American documents and concludes that, far more than merely knowing of the Japanese plan to bomb Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt deliberately steered Japan into war with America.
Stinnett's argument draws on both circumstantial evidence--the fact, for example, that in September 1940 Roosevelt signed into law a measure providing for a two-ocean navy that would number 100 aircraft carriers--and, more importantly, on American governmental documents that offer apparently incontrovertible proof that Roosevelt knowingly sacrificed American lives in order to enter the war on the side of England. Although obviously troubled by his discovery of a systematic plan of deception on the part of the American government, Stinnett does not take deep issue with its outcome. Roosevelt, he writes, faced powerful opposition from isolationist forces, and, against them, the Pearl Harbor attack was "something that had to be endured in order to stop a greater evil--the Nazi invaders in Europe who had begun the Holocaust and were poised to invade England." Sure to excite discussion, Stinnett's book offers what may be the final word on the terrible matter of Pearl Harbor. --Gregory McNamee
From Publishers Weekly
Historians have long debated whether President Roosevelt had advance knowledge of Japan's December 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor. Using documents pried loose through the Freedom of Information Act during 17 years of research, Stinnett provides overwhelming evidence that FDR and his top advisers knew that Japanese warships were heading toward Hawaii. The heart of his argument is even more inflammatory: Stinnett argues that FDR, who desired to sway public opinion in support of U.S. entry into WWII, instigated a policy intended to provoke a Japanese attack. The plan was outlined in a U.S. Naval Intelligence secret strategy memo of October 1940; Roosevelt immediately began implementing its eight steps (which included deploying U.S. warships in Japanese territorial waters and imposing a total embargo intended to strangle Japan's economy), all of which, according to Stinnett, climaxed in the Japanese attack. Stinnett, a decorated naval veteran of WWII who served under then Lt. George Bush, substantiates his charges with a wealth of persuasive documents, including many government and military memos and transcripts. Demolishing the myth that the Japanese fleet maintained strict radio silence, he shows that several Japanese naval broadcasts, intercepted by American cryptographers in the 10 days before December 7, confirmed that Japan intended to start the war at Pearl Harbor. Stinnett 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. (Dec.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.