The Attack on Pearl Harbor

~~ Paul V. Hartman ~~

      It is highly likely that Franklin Roosevelt, desperate to get into the war to aid Britain, but constrained by heavy American isolationist pressures, allowed Pearl Harbor to occur, fully aware of all the warnings and intercepted code messages that flooded Washington prior to 12/7/41. We know this in part because of a diary entry made by then Secretary of War Harry Stimson, dated 11/25/41, following a White House meeting on the subject, which included this sentence: "The question was how we should maneuver them (the Japanese) into firing the first shot without allowing too much danger to ourselves."

Roosevelt was evidently convinced by the Navy that Pearl Harbor was impregnable. It was contemporary Navy opinion that any attacking enemy force would have to be exceedingly large to overcome the massive firepower (ships and planes) of the island. The Navy was sure that routine reconnaissance would detect any such large force before it could reach to within 800 miles of the island. (The Japanese launched their planes from 300 miles out.) It was Navy dogma that the harbor was too shallow for aircraft-launched torpedoes.

It was also "general knowledge" in 1941 that the Japanese constituted an inferior fighting force, especially as regards aircraft and pilots, and political cartoons of the day portrayed Japanese pilots with buck teeth and thick glasses incapable of hitting a corn field from the air.

These things must have been on Roosevelt's mind when he made the decision to allow the Japanese to "take a beating" at Pearl Harbor and ease America into the world war.

The US used another strategy to get Japanese to attack Americans. Private sailboats, crewed by Navy men, were sent to Japanese waters, ostensibly to act as "pickets". However, these sailboats were visibly armed with deck cannon and machine guns and most of the crew knew that they were not pickets but "bait". The Japanese ignored them.

Of some interest is a book written in Japan in 1925 by a Japanese naval technician who had spent some years in American schools. His book recommended how to launch a sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, including the preference for a dawn attack on a Sunday! Had the American Navy read this book? It should have, since a review of this book appeared on the front page of the New York Times in 1925.

Of greater interest were war games held by the Pacific fleet in 1932, which duplicated the strategy that the Japanese would adopt. The commander of the "attack" force, by custom expected to place his headquarters on the largest battleship in the fleet, instead elected a "trick" - allowing all the big ships and troop carriers to stream southwest while he took two carriers (the Lexington and the Saratoga) north, launching 152 planes in the dark, which arrived over Pearl Harbor at dawn on a Sunday! This caught all the "defensive" aircraft on the ground and a lot of Navy brass at leisure. Now here is the interesting part - the umpire ruled in favor of the defense, claiming that, in "reality", the Japanese strategy would have resulted in the loss of the attacking carriers and all the aircraft.

And so it rested.

There were many foolish things which occurred during this action. For instance, a dozen B-17s, headed to the Philippines to act as a defense against possible Japanese aggression, flew right over the island at the minute that the Japanese were attacking, and, since their machine guns had been removed in California to save weight and fuel(!) they were sitting ducks, though, incredibly, all landed unharmed. Another was the desperate effort to launch American aircraft to seek out the location of the Japanese carriers, a piece of knowledge known to the Army by virtue of a positive radar contact at the start of the raid, but kept secret from the Navy.

There are two interesting books about Pearl Harbor worth reading. One is John Toland's "Infamy". The other is Gordon Prange's "At Dawn We Slept". They are worth reading not only for the riveting history, but also to put into true perspective an American president which only death could remove from his perpetual election. Franklin Roosevelt was elected to 16 years to the White House - the closest we have come to having a dictator - during which time the American democratic experiment was systematically dismantled in favor of a creeping socialist system. It is this man that Time magazine and other liberal "news" outlets declare to be the most important person of the 20th. Century!

And that speaks volumes about what, in the 21st. Century, is the value of "public" education in America.

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