On the morning of December 7th, 1941, the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor was attacked by Japanese fighter planes. The losses were severe. Over 2,500 people were killed and hundreds more were wounded. Eighteen American ships and nearly three hundred airplanes were destroyed or severely damaged.[1] This devastating attack on America’s Pacific fleet is typically cited as the catalyst driving the United States into World War II. The U.S declared war on Japan the next day and would declare war on Germany and Italy a mere three days later.
The narrative frequently taught is that the Japanese attack was an unprovoked, preventive strike designed to decimate the U.S. Navy’s ability to interfere with Japan’s empire building in the Far East and the Pacific region. As Lawrence W. Reed notes, the popular perception is that Franklin D. Roosevelt was “…surprised and stunned by the Japanese attack.”  During one of his most famous speeches, President Roosevelt “…summons the righteous indignation of a wounded nation. From his wheelchair, he stands tall and strong, inspiring even reluctant military men to do their duty.”[2] We are to believe that up until the very moment the Japanese warplanes awakened the sleeping giant, the U.S. was still trying hard to remain outside the fray.

While it is true that the attack came as a shock to the American people and quickly reversed the previously strong national support for non-interventionism, the strike on Pearl Harbor was not a surprise to President Roosevelt, nor was it the reason for drawing the U.S. into war with Japan. According to Percy L. Greaves, chief of the minority research staff of the Joint Congressional Committee to Investigate the Pearl Harbor Attack (1945-1946), the attack on December 7, 1941 was neither unexpected nor unprovoked. The tragedy at Pearl Harbor was “…permitted as a public relations measure to rally the public.”[3]

Historians today acknowledge that there is little doubt that President Roosevelt had prior knowledge of how, when, and where Japan was planning to strike. Even defenders of President Roosevelt’s actions now admit as much. However, apologists submit that the lies were necessary for a much greater cause. A wonderfully detailed account of events leading up to the fateful day can be found in WWII veteran Robert Stinnett’s Day of Deceit: The Truth About FDR and Pearl Harbor.

During the late 1930s and throughout the first eleven months of 1941, isolationist sentiments were still very strong in America. President Roosevelt pursued a foreign policy designed to incite Japan to action in hopes of forcing America in the WWII “through the back door”.[4] Roosevelt believed that U.S. involvement in the war was necessary to defeat the Axis Powers. Additionally, he believed war spending would help bring the still struggling U.S. economy out of the now decade-long depression.

In Stinnett’s book he explains that not only did President Roosevelt have knowledge of the impending attack on Pearl Harbor, but FDR deliberately pushed Japan in the direction of military aggression for several years prior. [5] Moreover, President Roosevelt took steps to ensure the naval fleet would be concentrated in Pearl Harbor at the time of the attack, and the men on the ground in Hawaii would have no advanced warning.

President Roosevelt even reassigned Vice-Admiral James O. Richardson, commander-in-chief of the United States Fleet, when he openly objected to harboring the bulk of the Pacific navy in one place. Richardson’s replacement was Admiral Husband Kimmel who leapt 32 others in the chain of command to, in the end, fill the role of fall guy. The White House refused to alert Admiral Kimmel of the impending attack even though they intercepted seven damning Japanese naval broadcasts between November 28th and December 6th.

Of his own accord and without any knowledge of the intercepted broadcasts foretelling the attack, Admiral Kimmel sent several ships north of Hawaii where he feared Japanese aircraft carriers were gathering. Just days before the strike, the White House strangely ordered Kimmel to return his ships to Pearl Harbor. It turns out that Admiral Kimmel’s suspicions were correct. Yet, after the attack it was Kimmel who took the blame from the White House. Roosevelt promptly demoted him to rear admiral.

The merits of the decision to enter WWII may be debatable. However, regardless of one’s position on the need of the U.S. to enter the war, it should be clear to all that the “date which will live in infamy” was the culmination of intentional and deliberate actions by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.[6] Based on the information obtained during his time on the Joint Congressional Committee to Investigate the Pearl Harbor Attack (1945-1946), Percy L. Greaves concludes:

"It must be said also that the evidence revealed in the course of the several investigations leads to the conclusion that the ultimate responsibility for the catastrophe inflicted on the U.S. Fleet at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, must rest on the shoulders of President Roosevelt.... It was thanks to Roosevelt’s decisions and actions that an unwarned, ill-equipped, and poorly prepared Fleet remained stationed far from the shores of the continental United States, at a base recognized by his military advisers as indefensible and vulnerable to attack.... Thus the attack on Pearl Harbor became FDR’s excuse, not his reason, for calling for the United States’s entry into World War II."[7]

In Liberty,

Jason Riddle


[1] 5 Facts About Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona, Barbara Maranzani, 2011. http://www.history.com/news/5-facts-about-pearl-harbor-and-the-uss-arizona

[2] The Real Crime of Pearl Harbor, Lawrence W. Reed, 2001  http://mises.org/daily/688

[3] Pearl Harbor: The Seeds and Fruits of Infamy, Percy L. Greaves, Jr., 2010 http://mises.org/document/5364

[4] Back Door to War: The Roosevelt Foreign Policy, 1933-1941 Charles Callan Tansill, 1952

[5] Day of Deceit, Robert Stinnett, 1999 http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0684853396/ludwigvonmisesinst/

[6] Do Freedom of Information Act Files Prove FDR Had Foreknowledge of Pearl Harbor? http://www.independent.org/newsroom/article.asp?id=408

Pearl Harbor: The Seeds and Fruits of Infamy, Percy L. Greaves, Jr., 2010 http://mises.org/document/5364


Tom E. Snyder
12/07/2012 6:03pm

I never bought into the story that the US government bombed the World Trade Center towers on 9/11 but I can easily believe that it was “…permitted as a public relations measure to rally the public.”

The warmongers still rule from the throne in DC.

(Disclaimer: Adm. Kimmel was a distant relative who was framed.)

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