Pearl Harbor Bombing and the Truth
The August issue of "Naval History" published by the prestigious United States Naval Institute is at hand. The lead article -- "Pearl Harbor: Bombed Again" -- is essentially a review of the current movie "Pearl Harbor." The author, Lawrence Suid, is described as a critic of military-and naval-related films. Not surprisingly, he writes, "'Pearl Harbor fails to provide even a reasonable facsimile of history."
Last year, The Free Press, a division of Simon and Schuster, published "Day of Deceit. The Truth About FDR and Pearl Harbor" by Robert B. Stinnett. This book should be on everyone's "must read" list. Better yet, it should be made into a movie. That will never happen because no love story could be written into the intrigue apparently created by Roosevelt, the United States Navy and the government of Holland acting on behalf of its colony, the Dutch East Indies.
Stinnett writes with a tremendous advantage over earlier investigators of the Pearl Harbor fiasco. That is the Freedom of Information Act, without which, he states, "the information revealed in this book would never have surfaced." I have long felt the complete true story of the attack on Pearl Harbor has never been revealed. We may never know it because, as Stinnett claims, many records have been destroyed, mutilated, lost or continue to be classified. Allow me, however, to relate a few of the surprises "Day of Deceit" dealt me.
1. An eight-part memo dated Oct. 7, 1940 by a Lt. Cmdr. Arthur H. McCollom, an intelligence adviser to Franklin Delano Roosevelt. This advocated a variety of political and military moves aimed at causing Japanese reactions which would lead to war.
Parts "B" and "G" of McCollom's memo called for
a) Arrangements to be made with the Dutch for basing American naval units in the Indies.
b) Rebuffing Japanese attempts to purchase oil from the Indies' refineries. Cutting off the oil particularly infuriated the Japanese and may well have been the underlying reason for the harsh treatment accorded the Dutch when the Japanese occupied its vast colony in February 1942.
2. In early December 1941, numerous coded and plain language Japanese radio transmissions emanating from the North Pacific were intercepted by United States Navy stations and an American-flagged passenger ship on its way from the West Coast to Hawaii. All were "logged"and reported to Washington.
When the passenger ship returned to San Francisco, its radio log was seized by the Navy, never to be seen again. We have always been told the Japanese task force maintained radio silence.
3. Simultaneous Radio Direction Finding (RDF) bearings by the above-mentioned listening stations in the Philippines, Alaska, California, Washington state and Hawaii, plotted on a chart of the North Pacific, pinpointed the position of the transmissions. We have always been told the Navy "lost track" of the Japanese carriers.
4. More than a month before the Japanese attack, intelligence passed daily to Adm. Husband E. Kimmel, Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Fleet, failed to include the above RDF reports. Stinnett has found Communication Summaries in the National Archives; those to Kimmel indeed lacked RDF information. "On December 16, 1941, Admiral Kimmel was relieved of his command and demoted to rear admiral."
Admiral Husband E. Kimmel (at right)
5. The character-based Japanese language could not, of course, be transmitted by Morse code dots and dashes. In lieu, a phonetic version called Katakana was devised. This "alphabet" was then coded in groups of five numbers. Nothing in all post-war Pearl Harbor investigations reveals the Japanese naval codes were broken before September 1942. Stinnett's research discloses they were being read in the fall of 1940!
Did President Roosevelt see Cmdr. McCollom's eight recommendations of 1940? Mr. Stinnett cannot prove that he did, but the United States government's subsequent actions strongly reflect McCollom's thinking. All manner of Americans, radiomen to cryptologists, were privy to Japan's resulting intents and actions.
FDR may have known them, could have known them and probably did know them. Somehow he managed to isolate and wrap a curtain of silence around the unfortunate Kimmel who was, in February 1941, his personal choice as commander-in-chief, Pacific Fleet. Therein, from this writer's observation post, lies the deceit.
Photo Admiral Husband E. Kimmel: U.S. Naval Historical Center website
Photo Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Culver Pictures, Microsoft Bookshelf 98
A similar version of this story appeared in The Daily News of Newburyport, Massachusetts
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Created 09/24/98. Updated 07/12/01