As my history teacher, Mr Rees-Davies, MP, in Rhodesia cautioned us: “Beware the victor’s version of history!” The story of what led up to the Japanese attack on the US Navy at Pearl Harbour is both fascinating and surprising.
Battle of Taranto
On the night of 11 to 12 November 1940, British Naval forces under Admiral Andrew Cunningham, including Aircraft Carrier HMS Illustrious, launched Fairey Swordfish biplane torpedo bombers in the Mediterranean Sea to attack the Regia Marina Battle Fleet at anchor in the harbour of Taranto. Despite the shallow depth of the water, the aerial torpedoes proved devastatingly effective, crippling the Italian Navy, which lost half of its capital ships in one night.
Naval Air Power
The Royal Navy raid on Taranto Bay marked the ascendency of air power over sea power. The Fleet Air Arm proved to be the Navy’s most devastating weapon.
Trained by the Royal Navy
As the Imperial Japanese Navy had initially been trained by the Royal Navy and studied the Royal Navy’s tactics and strategies most carefully, it should have been obvious that the Imperial Japanese Navy, the third most powerful Navy in the world in 1941, with 10 Fleet carriers, would begin practicing with torpedo bombers and carefully evaluate the possibility of them being used against the American Pacific Fleet based in Pearl Harbour. Japan had the largest and most modern carrier Fleet in the world in 1941. By comparison the USA had 7 aircraft carriers (only 3 of which operated in the Pacific) and Britain had 8 aircraft carriers (of which only one operated in the Indian and Pacific Oceans).
The Danger of Torpedo Attack
The claim that no one could have anticipated torpedo attacks in the shallow waters of a harbor before 7 December 1941, is false. The British had proved that torpedoes could be effective in their attack on the Italian Navy at Taranto, 11 November 1940. The Royal Navy used Swordfish Bi-planes to deliver the torpedoes. The US Navy had discussed this new threat in a June 1941 Memorandum. Torpedo nets were considered to be installed in Pearl Harbour as a precautionary measure.
Overruled by Politicians in Washington D.C.
Admiral Kimmel and his staff testified that the decision not to install torpedo nets and booms had been made by the Navy Department in Washington DC, not in Hawaii.
Classified Documents Denied to the Public
There are many documents relating to Pearl Harbor which are still classified by the United States government and have not yet been made public. Many of the documents were destroyed during the war. Some of the public records of the United Kingdom containing Churchill’s “Most Secret” war time intelligence briefs, were marked as “closed for 75 years”, including the sections dealing with events from November 1941 through March 1942.
Was the Japanese Raid on Pearl Harbour Unprecedented?
Seventeen months before Pearl Harbor, the British Royal Navy attacked the French Fleet at anchor on the coast of French Algeria. The Battle of Mers-el-Kébir on 3 July 1940, resulted in the deaths of 1,297 French servicemen, the sinking of a French battleship and the damaging of 5 other ships. The combined air and sea attack was carried out against Britain’s official ally – France.
Attacking an Ally
The attack remains controversial and created much hostility between France and Britain. Britain argued that “the times were desperate; invasion seemed imminent; and the British government simply could not afford to risk Germany seizing control of the French Fleet… the prominent British motive was thus dire necessity and self-preservation.” However, the French insisted that, as their terms of surrender with Germany did not require them handing over their Fleet, which was still in French controlled territory, the British action was treacherous.
Swift and Surprising Action
French ships that were in Alexandria and believed that they were allies of Britain were shocked to be blockaded, boarded and seized by the Royal Navy at the same time. Also, on 3 July, French ships in Plymouth and Portsmouth, England, were boarded and captured. This included the French submarine, Surcouf (the largest submarine in the world at that time), four other submarines, the battleships Paris and Courbet, destroyers Triomphant and Leopard. Some officers and sailors were killed in the struggles. These attacks were justified by the British strategy of Copenhagening the Fleet.
Copenhagening the Fleet
Admiral Horatio Nelson’s famous battle of Copenhagen on 2 April 1801 was a clear inspiration for the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, 1941. Although Denmark was officially neutral during the Napoleonic Wars, Britain feared that her Navy may be seized by the French, if Denmark fell to the French.
The Battle of Copenhagen was a result of multiple failures of diplomacy. With Britain enforcing a strict blockade of France and any country trading with France, even neutral nations, such as Denmark, Sweden and Prussia, were regarded as legitimate targets.
The Battle of Copenhagen
Admiral Sir Hyde Parker and Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson led the attack on the Danish capital, Copenhagen. The British attack, during which Admiral Nelson famously placed his telescope to his blind eye ignoring a command to withdraw, was, from the British perspective, spectacularly successful. 1,600 Danish soldiers and sailors were killed, or wounded and most of the Danish Navy either sunk, severely damaged, or captured.
The Second Battle of Copenhagen
Although ostensibly neutral, Denmark was again attacked by the Royal Navy 16 August – 5 September 1807, when the Royal Navy bombarded Copenhagen, seized the Danish Fleet “as a precaution” in case Denmark did choose to join the French. 3,000 soldiers and civilians, including 195 children, in Copenhagen died as a result of the bombardment. As the majority of the Danish Army was at the Southern border to protect against a possible attack from the French, this second assault on a neutral country was a scandal at the time.
Ignoring Historic Precedents
Knowing that the Imperial Japanese Navy was modelled on the Royal Navy, these famous battles, strategies and tactics of Copenhagening the Fleets of even neutral countries where a potential threat was perceived, including against Britain’s French allies and most tellingly at the Battle of Taranto where aircraft launched from aircraft carriers using torpedoes had crippled a battle Fleet, should have been taken into consideration.
Deception by Entertainment
As modern American films such as Tora! Tora! Tora! and Pearl Harbour tend to ignore these historic precedents and pretend that the attack on Pearl Harbour was both “unprecedented” and “unexpected” and “the first surprise attack by aircraft on ships,” generations have been deceived into thinking that Pearl Harbour was a treacherous, unexpected and unprecedented attack “A day that will live in infamy!”
“Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted… Now all these things happened to them as examples and they were written for our admonition…” 1 Corinthians 10:6-11
Desperately Seeking War
William Henry Chamberlin in America’s Second Crusade (1950) wrote: “It is scarcely possible, in the light of this and many other known facts, to avoid the conclusion that the Roosevelt Administration sought the war which began at Pearl Harbour. The steps which made armed conflict inevitable would take months before the conflict broke out.” (Freedom Betrayed: Herbert Hoovers Secret History of the Second World War and Its Aftermath).
Failing to Give US Servicemen a Fighting Chance
General Albert C. Wedemeyer is quoted by Herbert Hoover in Freedom Betrayed as stating: “When on, December 6, our intercepts told us that the Japanese were going to attack somewhere the very next day, whether in the Central Pacific, or to the South in the Philippines and Dutch East Indies, the president of the United States, as Commander in Chief of our Military Forces… could have gone on the radio and broadcast to the wide world that he had irrefutable evidence of an immediate Japanese intention to strike. This would have alerted everybody from Singapore to Pearl Harbor. Even though inadequate in some cases to defend effectively, nevertheless, our forces would have been able to take a toll, which would have blunted the Japanese attack. In Hawaii, the capital ships might have been moved out of the congested harbor to sea, where Admiral Kimmel at least had the foresight to keep the far more vital aircraft carriers. Furthermore, our Carrier taskforce in the mid-Pacific might have attacked the Japanese task force when its planes were aloft. There are many possibilities which could have given our men a fighting chance.”
Blind Service to Stalin and the Soviet Union
“Roosevelt ignored the whole communist infiltration into his administration. Much of it was to be exposed before his death. But of more importance, he ignored the whole international purpose of communism and its morals in international relations. Its purposes and methods had been blatantly stated to the world ever since 1917 and its statements in books were widely distributed in the United States. Roosevelt was not a communist. His leanings towards Stalin and blindness to communistic activities arose partly from his own Leftist-leaning and partly from the usefulness of the communists in support of his administration politically throughout his 13 years in office.”
Co-operating with Communism
“His leanings towards Stalin and the communist began with the recognition of the Soviet Union immediately upon taking his office in 1933… During 15 years prior to the recognition, Democratic and Republican administrations alike had barred any relations with a country which had returned huge numbers of mankind to slavery and was constantly conspiring against the welfare of other peoples. By recognition, Roosevelt gave the Soviet Union certain respectability in the family of nations, but also of importance. By that act, he had opened the door to communist penetration and conspiracies in the United States.” “He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the just, both of them alike are an abomination to the Lord.” Proverbs 17:15
A Madman’s Desire to Get US into War
In Herbert Hoover’s Freedom Betrayed, General Douglas McArthur’s views are reported that: “the whole Japanese war was a madman’s desire to get us into war.” McArthur was convinced that the “Financial sanctions in July 1941 were not only provocative but that Japan was bound to fight even if it were suicide, unless they could be removed, as the sanctions carried every penalty of war except killing and destruction and no nation of dignity would take them for long.”
An Unnecessary War
McArthur said that: “Roosevelt could have made peace with Konoye in September 1941 and could have obtained all of the American objectives in the Pacific and the freedom of China and probably Manchuria. Konoye was authorized by the Emperor to agree to complete withdrawal.”
Callous Indifference to the American Army Beleaguered in the Philippines
McArthur was bitter about: “Roosevelt’s starvation of supplies to him at a time when the whole fate of the South Pacific and their allies in Asia was at stake.” “Roosevelt had shown his vindictiveness in many ways.”
The Truth about Pearl Harbour
In September 1944, John Flynn, a member of the America First Committee, published The Truth about Pearl Harbour:
Provoking Japan to Get America into the War
Rear Admiral Frank Beatty, who at the time of the Pearl Harbour attack was an aide to the Secretary of the Navy, Frank Knox, testified: “Prior to 7 December, it was evident even to me… that we were pushing Japan into a corner. I believe that it was the desire of President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill that we get into the war, as they felt their allies could not win without us and all our efforts to cause the Germans to declare war on us had failed. The conditions we imposed upon Japan were so severe that we knew the nation could not accept them. We were forcing her so severely that we could have known that she would react towards the United States. All her preparations in a military way – and we knew their overall import – pointed that way.”
“Worth the Price”
Jonathan Daniels, Roosevelt’s administrative assistant at that time of Pearl Harbour, presented an eye-witness viewpoint: “The blow was heavier than he had hoped it would necessarily be… But the risks paid off; even the loss was worth the price…” (“1941: Pearl Harbour Sunday: The End of an Era”).
To Save the Soviet Union from Collapse in Europe
In Day of Deceit, by Robert Stinnett, a memorandum prepared by Commander McCollun stated that a memorandum issued in the immediate pre-war period declared that only a direct attack on US interests would sway the American public, or Congress, to favor direct involvement in the European war. Anderson and Secretary Knox, offered eight specific plans to aggrieve the Japanese Empire “If by these means Japan could be led to commit an overt active war, so much the better.” The McCollun memo of 7 October 1940, remained classified until 1994.
Reckless and Irresponsible
Admiral James Richardson was fired by President Roosevelt for complaining about the president’s order to station the Pacific Fleet in Pearl Harbour. Admiral Richardson blamed the president for the “initial defeats in the Pacific” as “direct, real and personal.” Richardson believed that stationing the Pacific Fleet in Pearl Harbour made the ships “extremely vulnerable to attack” and provided “a poor and nonstrategic defense.”
A Travesty of History
“No reasonably informed person can now believe that Japan made a villainous unexpected attack on the United States. An attack was not only fully expected but was actually desired. It is beyond doubt that President Roosevelt wanted to get his country into the war, but for political reasons, was most anxious to ensure that the first act of hostility came from the other side; for which reason he caused increasing pressure to be put on the Japanese, to a point that no self-respecting nation could endure without resort to arms. Japan was meant, by the American President, to attack the United States. As Mr Oliver Lyttelton, then British Minister of Production, said in 1944: ‘Japan was provoked into attacking America’s Pearl Harbour. It is a travesty of history to say that America was forced into the war’.” – British Historian Captain Russell Grenfell Main Fleet to Singapore as quoted by President Herbert Hoover in Freedom Betrayed.
Dereliction of Duty
Captain L.F. Safford, US Navy, in charge of the Communications Security Section of Naval Communications in Washington, testified before the Admiral Hart Board that: “On 4 December 1941, we received definite information from two independent sources that Japan would attack the United States and Britain… at 9pm Washington time, 6 December 1941, we received positive information that Japan would declare war against the United States at a time to be specified thereafter. This information was positive and unmistakable and was made available to Military Intelligence virtually at the moment of its decoding. Finally, at 10:15am Washington time, 7 December 1941, we received positive information from Signal Intelligence Service, War Department, that the Japanese Declaration of War would be presented to the Secretary of State at 1 pm, Washington time that date; when it was 1pm in Washington, it would be daybreak in Hawaii and approximately midnight in the Philippines, which indicated a surprise air raid in Pearl Harbour in about three hours. President Roosevelt had ample time to broadcast a warning.”
An Army Enquiry conducted July to October 1944, condemned negligence by General Marshall and other senior officers for having prior knowledge of the attacks from the intercepts and for not having alerted the Military Commander at Pearl Harbour. Congress was not satisfied with the Military investigations and reports and from November 1945 to May 1946, the Congressional Pearl Harbour Investigation, a Minority Report by Senate Members of the Committee condemned the endeavor to “throw as soft a light as possible on Washington.”
“The Roberts Commission Report was so hasty, inconclusive and incomplete. Some witnesses were examined under oath, others were not. Much testimony was not even recorded… several records were missing, and most inadequate explanations were supplied… Army and Navy information indicated growing imminence of war was delivered to the highest authorities… including the President. The fatal error of Washington was to undertake a world campaign and world responsibilities without first making provision for the security of the United States, which was their prime constitutional obligation. High Washington authorities did not communicate to Admiral Kimmel and General Short adequate information of diplomatic negotiations and of intercepted diplomatic intelligence, which, if communicated with them, would have informed them of the imminent menace of a Japanese attack in time for them to fully alert and prepare the defense of Pearl Harbour… the failure to perform the responsibilities indispensably essential to the defense of Pearl Harbour rest upon Franklin D. Roosevelt, Henry L. Stimson, Frank Knox and George C. Marshall…” (Freedom Betrayed)
Dragging a Reluctant America into War
George Morgenstern in his book, Pearl Harbour: The Story of the Secret War, published in 1947, wrote: “With absolute knowledge of war, they refused to communicate that knowledge clearly, unequivocally and in time, to the people in the field, upon whom the blow would fall… Pearl Harbour provided the American War party with the means of escaping dependence on a hesitant Congress in taking a reluctant people into war… Pearl Harbour was the first action of the Acknowledged War and the last battle of a Secret War, upon which the administration had long since embarked.
The Secret War of Deception and Propaganda
“The Secret War was waged against nations which the leadership of this country had chosen as enemies’ months before they became formal enemies, by declaration of war. It was waged also by psychological means by propaganda and deception against the American people… the people were told that acts which were equivalent to war were intended to keep the nation out of war. Constitutional processes existed only to be circumvented. Until finally the war making power of Congress was reduced to the act of ratifying an accomplished fact.”
Rejecting Every Overture for Peace
Herbert Hoover declares in his book Freedom Betrayed: “It can never be forgotten that three times during 1941, Japan made overtures for peace negotiation. America never made one unless a futile proposal to the Emperor the day before Pearl Harbour could be called peace. A peace could have been made in the Pacific that would have saved China from ravishment and would have protected the American Pacific flank. If Roosevelt was still determined to carry on his undeclared war with Germany, until it provoked reprisals, that Pacific protection was the only sane course. It would have limited our engagement in any case to the European theatre. As a result of this policy – an undeclared war upon Japan – we suffered the greatest military defeat in our history – with immeasurable consequences.
Fanning the Flames of Hate by a Mass of Lies
“Public opinion was overwhelmingly against our being involved in the war up to the day of Pearl Harbour… America came into World War One 33 months after its outbreak. She came into World War Two 27 months after it started. The processes and the months of lag were the same: the appeal to crusade for freedom, for independence of nations, for lasting peace; the same pictures of atrocities; the fanning of hate and above all, the mass of lies and stimulation of fear of invasion – they were identical. But in World War Two the people believed much less of it and they believed much more that they were being deliberately pushed into the war. They dimly recognized that they were being ground in the mills of power politics and the personal ambitions of men.”
Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt’s War
“The First World War had been conducted in the Allied side in the name of ‘the peoples’. This war was in the name of Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt. At times the whole political and military scene seemed their personal property – as it was.” (Herbert Hoover, Freedom Betrayed). “While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption …” 2 Peter 2:19
Many Recognized They Were Being Forced and Deceived into War
“In the first World War, our sons marched to war with flowers in their rifles. Bands and cheering people were on every platform. There were no bands, no flowers and no cheers on the railway platforms to World War Two. There was little singing of war ballades by soldiers or civilians, except at the urging of paid conductors of propaganda. The station platforms were stages for grieving and tears. The promises, the speeches, the propaganda filled the air as in World War One, but this time the people received it grimly and with little believing.” – Herbert Hoover.
President Herbert Hoover in Freedom Betrayed documents: “Roosevelt’s contemptuous refusal of Prime Minister Konoe’s proposals for peace in the Pacific of September 1941 was a lost opportunity. The acceptance of these proposals was prayerfully urged by both the American and British Ambassadors in Japan. The terms Konoye proposed would have accomplished every American purpose except possibly the return of Manchuria – and even this was thrown open to discussion. The cynic will recall that Roosevelt was willing to provoke a great war on his flank over this remote question and then gave Manchuria to Communist Russia.”
The Threat of Communism
Herbert Hoover documents in Freedom Betrayed that American Military officials strongly urged FDR to accept the Three Months’ Stand-Still Agreement offered by the Emperor of Japan in November 1941. Japan was alarmed at the threat of the Soviet Union and a 90-days delay could have kept war out of the Pacific. Secretary of War, Stimson, in his Diary, disclosed that Roosevelt and his officials were seeking for a method to stimulate an overt act of aggression from the Japanese.
Betraying Asia to Communism
“Then, Secretary of State, Hull, issued his foolish ultimatum and we were defeated at Pearl Harbour. By Roosevelt insisting that Chinese Premiere Chiang Kai-shek include Mao Tse-Tung’s communists in a Coalition government and Roosevelt’s Secret Agreement at Yalta to betray Mongolia and Manchuria to Russia, future generations were betrayed. All of China was sacrificed to the communists in the years of President Truman – at the insistence of his Left-wing advisors and General Marshall. The Second World War ended with 450 Million Asiatic peoples betrayed under communist dictatorship.” (Freedom Betrayed). “It is an abomination for kings to commit wickedness, for a throne is established by righteousness.” Proverbs 16:12
The Only Beneficiary was Communism
Herbert Hoover in Freedom Betrayed declared: “I had warned the American people time and again against becoming involved. I stated repeatedly its only end would be to promote Communism over the earth; that we would impoverish the United States and the whole world. The situation of the world today is my vindication.” “… Should help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord? Therefore the wrath of the Lord is upon you.”
2 Chronicles 19:2
“Despite these physical losses and these moral political disasters and these international follies… Despite the drift to collectivism, despite degeneration in government, despite the demagogic intellectuals, despite the corruption in our government and the moral corruptions of our people, we still hold to Christianity, we still have the old ingenuity in our scientific and industrial progress.”
The Public-School Front
“We have 35 million children marching through our schools and 2.5 million in our institutions of higher learning…
Hope in the Homes
“The promise of a greater America abides in the millions of cottages throughout the land, where men and women are still resolute in freedom. In their hearts the spirit of America still lives. The boys and girls from those homes will someday throw off these disasters and frustrations and will re-create their America again.” “Hate evil, love good; establish justice in the gates.” Amos 5:15
Forewarned is Forearmed
In order to anticipate problems and threats in the future we need to study the past.
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” George Santayana.
“If we do not know our own history, we will simply have to endure all the same mistakes, sacrifices and absurdities all over again.” Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Truth does not fear investigation
“You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:32
Dr. Peter Hammond
P.O. Box 74 Newlands 7725
Cape Town South Africa