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on January 3, 2004
Day of Deceit - The Truth about FDR and Pearl Harbor.
By Robert B. Stinnett. (New York: The Free Press, 1999. Pp. xiv, 386.
In 1999, Robert B. Stinnett, since 1986 a retired long-time employee of the Oakland Tribune, authored his book, Day of Deceit, based upon years of extensive personal research.
Attempting to personally blame Roosevelt for the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor is not new. Others have made similar assertions over the years. But Stinnett claims that through personally reviewing hundreds of thousands of documents, many obtained through use of the Freedom of Information Act, he found indisputable "proof" that Roosevelt actually knew of, and deliberately provoked, the Japanese attack.
A number of reviewers of Stinnett's book, perhaps impressed by 65 pages of some 595 footnotes (many quite lengthy) and accepting them carte blanche as valid, praised the book. But, as one would say, the devil is in the details.
Stinnett's conclusions rest on four major allegations. First, that Navy Lieutenant Commander McCollum drafted a memorandum dated October 7, 1940 for his boss, Navy Captain Anderson, entitled "Estimate of the Situation in the Pacific and Recommendations for Action by the United States." In it McCollum set forth eight steps which could be interpreted as provocative to Japan. Stinnett asserts that the President read or knew of this memorandum, and immediately adopted and carried out those eight steps "...to provoke Japan through a series of actions into an overt act: the Pearl Harbor attack."
Stinnett's own research proves otherwise. There were no forwarding endorsements on McCollum's October 7, 1940 memorandum. Stinnett found only a response to McCollum from a Captain Dudley Knox, commenting on its contents. Even though Stinnett admits that "no specific record has been found by the author indicating whether he (Captain Anderson, the addressee) or Roosevelt actually ever saw it," Stinnett goes on to claim that "a series of secret presidential routing logs plus collateral intelligence information in Navy files offer conclusive evidence that they (Roosevelt and Captain Anderson) did see it."
However, if one tries to find the "secret presidential routing logs" cited by Stinnett in his lengthy footnote 8, no secret presidential routing logs are even mentioned, let alone cited. When asked about this, Stinnett replied that the logs he had referenced in footnote 8 (apparently by mistake) "are fully described" in footnote 37 on page 314. But this footnote deals with radio intercepts, not McCollum's memorandum.
It is clear after delving into Stinnett's footnotes that there is no "conclusive evidence," in fact no evidence whatsoever, that Roosevelt saw or even knew of McCollum's memorandum. Stinnett has proved just the opposite of his own oft repeated allegation that Roosevelt adopted McCollum's eight point program. Through Stinnett's own exhaustive research, we now know that there is not one scintilla of documentary evidence that President Roosevelt saw, knew of, or adopted McCollum's proposals.
Stinnett's second major allegation is that Roosevelt prevented Admiral Kimmel from conducting a training exercise that would have uncovered the oncoming Japanese Fleet. Stinnett provides no relevant documents to support his allegation. Stinnett does quote Admiral Turner (at the time of Pearl Harbor, Director of Navy Plans in Washington, D.C.), testifying before Congress after the war, as proof that the Navy had been ordered out of the area where Nagumo's task force was headed:
"We were prepared to divert traffic when we believed that war was imminent. We sent
the traffic down via Torres Strait, so that the track of the Japanese task force would be
clear of any traffic."
What is bothersome is that Turner never made this statement. What Stinnett has done is cobble together phrases of Admiral Turner's testimony from different sentences to arrive at the above quoted statement. The reading of Turner's actual testimony leaves a different meaning
But the mort serious flaw facing Stinnett is that Admiral Kimmel himself, for years fighting to restore his dignity and reversing the belief of many that he was negligent in permitting his Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor to be so surprised, never once stated, suggested or hinted in the hundreds of pages of his testimony before various investigative bodies, in his own book, or in any of his speeches, that he was prevented from finding the Japanese task force. In fact, he did not believe that the Japanese were about to attack Pearl.
Kimmel's own testimony totally disproves Stinnett's second allegation:
"In short, all indications of the movements of Japanese military and naval forces which came to
my attention confirmed the information in the dispatch of 27 November - that the Japanese were
on the move against Thailand or the Kra Peninsula in southeast Asia."
"In brief, in the week immediately prior to Pearl Harbor, I had no evidence that the
Japanese carriers were enroute to Oahu."
Conducting and then concluding a standard annual war game north of Hawaii by some ships of the Pacific Fleet some two weeks before December 7th, is hardly evidence, as Stinnett claims, of Kimmel being prevented from discovering the Japanese attack force.
The remaining two major allegations, one being that the Japanese task force actually sent radio messages while on the way to Pearl, the other that many Japanese secret messages about the planned attack on Pearl Harbor were not only intercepted but were deciphered and translated before the attack, have already been discredited by experts in cryptology and radio communications, as well as by noted historians of Pearl Harbor, such as Gordon W. Prange and John Prados.
An analysis of much of the research done by Stinnett and his quotes raise serious questions about the accuracy and relevance of many of his claims. Any serious student of Pearl Harbor needs to look carefully at Stinnett's research before concluding that he has really uncovered any thing new.
Richard E. Young, RADM, USNR (Ret)
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