The official story
On Sunday, December 7, 1941, Japan launched a “suprize” attack on the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, shattering the peace of a beautiful Hawaiian morning and leaving much of the fleet sunk and burning.
The Japanese military brought destruction and death upon Pearl Harbor that day — 18 naval vessels (including eight battleships) were sunk or heavily damaged, 188 planes destroyed, and over 2,000 men killed.
On October 7, 1940, exactly fourteen months before the attack on Pearl Harbor, Lieutenant Commander Arthur H. McCollum penned a memorandum, recommending that the United States government provoke the Japanese into attacking America, and thus, allowing America to enter WWII with the American people fully behind the decision. The memorandum is called the “McCollum memo”.
Does this sound familiar ?
Later, FDR ordered the fleet transferred from the West Coast to its exposed position in Hawaii and ordered the fleet remain stationed at Pearl Harbor over complaints by its commander Admiral Richardson that there was inadequate protection from air attack and no protection from torpedo attack.
Richardson felt so strongly that he twice disobeyed orders to berth his fleet there and he raised the issue personally with FDR in October and he was soon after replaced.
His successor, Admiral Kimmel, also brought up the same issues with FDR in June 1941.
On February 1st, 1941, FDR proposed sacrificing 6 cruisers and 2 carriers at Manila to get into war. Navy Chief Stark disagreed. For further reference : Charles Beard’s PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT AND THE COMING OF WAR 1941, page 424.
Breaking the Japanese codes
One of the most important elements in America’s foreknowledge of Japan’s intentions was the success in cracking Japan’s secret diplomatic code known as “Purple.”
Tokyo used it to communicate to its embassies and consulates, including those in Washington and Hawaii. The code was so complex that it was enciphered and deciphered by machine.
A talented group of American cryptoanalysts broke the code in 1940 and devised a facsimile of the Japanese machine. These, utilized by the intelligence sections of both the War and Navy departments, swiftly revealed Japan’s diplomatic messages. The deciphered texts were nicknamed “Magic.”
On October 9, 1941, the War Department decoded a Tokyo-to-Honolulu dispatch instructing the Consul General to divide Pearl Harbor into five specified areas and to report the exact locations of American ships therein.
There is nothing unusual about spies watching ship movements — but reporting precise whereabouts of ships in dock has only one implication. Charles Willoughby, Douglas MacArthur’s chief of intelligence, later wrote that the “reports were on a grid system of the inner harbor with coordinate locations of American men of war … coordinate grid is the classical method for pinpoint target designation; our battleships had suddenly become targets.” This information was never sent to Pearl Harbour.
Additional intercepts were decoded by Washington in november 1941 :
• November 5th: Tokyo notified its Washington ambassadors that November 25th was the deadline for an agreement with the U.S.
• November 11th: They were warned, “The situation is nearing a climax, and the time is getting short.”
• November 16th: The deadline was pushed up to November 29th. “The deadline absolutely cannot be changed,” the dispatch said. “After that, things are automatically going to happen.”
• November 29th (the U.S. ultimatum had now been received): The ambassadors were told a rupture in negotiations was “inevitable,” but that Japan’s leaders “do not wish you to give the impression that negotiations are broken off.”
• November 30th: Tokyo ordered its Berlin embassy to inform the Germans that “the breaking out of war may come quicker than anyone dreams.”
• December 1st: The deadline was again moved ahead. “[T]o prevent the United States from becoming unduly suspicious, we have been advising the press and others that … the negotiations are continuing.”
• December 1st-2nd: The Japanese embassies in non-Axis nations around the world were directed to dispose of their secret documents and all but one copy of their codes. (This was for a reason easy to fathom — when war breaks out, the diplomatic offices of a hostile state lose their immunity and are normally overtaken. One copy of code was retained so that final instructions could be received, after which the last code copy would be destroyed.)
Re-routing commercial vessels
To ensure a successful Japanese attack — one that would enrage America into joining the war — it was vital to keep Kimmel and Short out of the intelligence loop. However, Washington did far more than this to facilitate the Japanese assault.
On November 25th, approximately one hour after the Japanese attack force left port for Hawaii, the U.S. Navy issued an order forbidding U.S. and Allied shipping to travel via the North Pacific. All transpacific shipping was rerouted through the South Pacific. This order was even applied to Russian ships docked on the American west coast. The purpose is easy to fathom.
If any commercial ship accidentally stumbled on the Japanese task force, it might alert Pearl Harbor. As Rear Admiral Richmond K. Turner, the Navy’s War Plans officer in 1941, frankly stated: “We were prepared to divert traffic when we believed war was imminent. We sent the traffic down via the Torres Strait, so that the track of the Japanese task force would be clear of any traffic.”
The American Fleet stationed in Pearl Harbour
For an exact inventory of the fleet present in Pearl Harbour on December 7, 1941, click here.
This is the USS Arizona, which explosion killed most Americans that day.
Another picture of USS Arizona, after the 1931 modernization.
The sneak attack
Over half of the lives lost (1177) during the attack happened when a bomb dropped by one of the attacking planes penetrated the armoured deck in the forward section of the USS Arizona. The bomb struck an ammunition magazine and a catastrophic explosion ensued 7 seconds later blowing out through the sides of the ship and destroying much of the forward interior structure.
Todays remains of USS Arizona
American losses where the following : 2403 death, 1178 wounded, eighteen ships were sunk or seriously damaged including 5 battleships.
188 planes were destroyed and 162 were damaged.
Japanese losses were mininmal, out of an attack force of 31 ships and 353 raiding :64 deaths, 29 planes,5 midget submarines.
The direct result of the attack was that the battleship was no longer viewed as the decisive weapon in naval warfare. Its place had been taken by the aircraft carrier and the complement of fighters, dive-bombers and torpedo bombers that it carried.
The United States was no longer neutral, but an active participant in WWII. Chances are it would have entered the Second World War eventually anyway (whether in time to help the UK is another matter), probably coming into conflict with Japan sooner or later.
An additional 407,000 Americans would die in World War II.
Still, the US participation in WWII would also mean world domination for more than 50 years, until February 28th, 1998, the day when American Hegemony reached its climax and subsequently started its delcine.
So, what about Frankling Delano Roosvelt, was he a traitor or a visionary genius ?
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