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Day of Deceit
: The Truth about FDR and Pearl Harbor

Author: Robert B. Stinnett
Hardcover - 386 pages (December 1999)
Free Press
ISBN: 0684853396
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 Information.

 

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 bases.

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 the attack.

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.

 

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