Day of Deceit
: The Truth about FDR and Pearl Harbor
Author: Robert B.
Hardcover - 386 pages (December 1999)
Dimensions (in inches): 1.17 x 9.59 x 6.49
From Library Journal
Most scholars long ago concluded that the Franklin Roosevelt presidency
ranks as the best of the 20th century. They also have recognized
that a dark thread was woven throughout FDR's publicly perceived
ebullient personality. This volume is a new chapter in a decades-old
controversy surrounding FDR: Did he somehow have advance knowledge
of the attack on his own navy at Pearl Harbor? The author, a journalist
and a World War II veteran who served with Lt. George H.W. Bush
and later wrote George Bush: His World War II Years, asserts that
FDR actually provoked Pearl Harbor. He bases his sensational conclusion
on his archival research and interviews with surviving U.S. Navy
cryptographers. Having uncovered some strange advice from naval
officers, the author then infers that FDR followed that advice.
(Yet presidents get all kinds of advice.) Contemporary and classic
Roosevelt haters (see Albert Fried's FDR and His Enemies, LJ 8/99)
will cherish this book as they celebrate the recent close vote in
the Republican-dominated U.S. Senate that posthumously cleared the
two most senior naval officers whom FDR had held responsible for
the Pearl Harbor debacle. However, other readers, especially academic
historians and FDR supporters, will be far less convinced by this
new rehearsal of the old, highly speculative charges, which takes
research out of context and reflects contemporary anti-government
sentiment. However well intentioned, journalists who play amateur
historian often write misleading history.--William D. Pederson,
Louisiana State Univ., Shreveport Copyright 1999 Cahners Business
From Publisher's Weekly
- 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 Cahners Business Information.
Robert Stinnett makes two broad claims in "Day of Deceit".
The first claim is that President Roosevelt undertook a policy initiative
in 1940 to goad Japan into making war on the United States. The
second claim is that FDR and his closet civilian and military colleagues
knew in advance that the Japanese would attack Pearl Harbor, and
when, and did nothing to to assure the defense of Hawaiian military
The first claim is neither new nor controversial. The second claim
is not new either, but it is highly controversial and, on the evidence
of Stinnett's book, unproven.
That FDR strongly felt that U.S. entry into World War II was an
urgent necessity is settled history. He believed (and history confirmed
his wisdom) that the longer it took the U.S. to enter the war, the
longer and more costly victory would be. He also clearly felt (Stinnett
agrees) that the Nazis were far the more dangerous foe. From the
Lend-Lease program to convoy escorts, U.S. efforts to tempt Hitler
into overt aggression against American forces were transparent.
Likewise, the cutoff of oil and scrap iron to Japan, the freezing
of her financial assets and other steps were aimed at drawing an
aggressive response. In the case of Japan, they succeeded.
The assertion that the Pearl Harbor attack was known in advance
by FDR rests on Stinneett's exhaustive research into the records
of the U.S. military's monitoring of Japanese military broadcasts.
Stinnett says that, contrary to accepted historical judgment, the
U.S. had broken almost every important Japanese code. He amasses
an impressive amount of circumstantial evidence to support his claim--including
a troublesome refusal by the NSA, the Navy and others to release
the full record even now. The problem with the proof, though, is
that Stinnett works backward from the event. Knowing what happened
on December 7th, it's easy to see a pattern in the thousands of
bits of data collected over many months before the attack. If senior
government officials meant to deceive Admiral Kimmel and General
Short, why was a "war warning" issued to all Pacific commands
10 days before the attack? Stinnett makes much of the fact that
this warning explicitly said that American policy was that Japan
should make the first move. So what? It also clearly said that that
policy should not be construed by commanders in such a way as to
jeopardize the defense of American bases. General Short later claimed
that next to nothing was done to avoid giving alarm to the civilian
population---an excuse that is as weak now when Stinnett offers
it to exculpate Short and Kimmel as it was when Short made it after
It seems far more credible that the failure of U.S. intelligence
to anticipate Pearl Harbor was just that--a failure, borne of poor
coordination, inter-service rivalry and military/civilian mistrust.
If, as Stinnett says, FDR wanted to go to war against Germany, why
would he provoke an attack in the Pacific by Japan? At the time
it seemed likely that the whole weight of U.S. power would be thrown
against Japan. It was only Hitler's stupid decision to declare war
against the U.S. 3 days after Pearl Harbor--something FDR could
not possibly have expected--that permitted the U.S. to focus on
Europe first. Nowhere does Stinnett claim FDR was clairvoyant.