FDR and Pearl Harbor

FDR and Pearl Harbor:
According to Stinnett, the answers to the mysteries of Pearl Harbor can be found in the extraordinary number of documents he was able to attain through Freedom of Information Act requests. Cable after cable of decryptions, scores of military messages that America was intercepting, clearly showed that Japanese ships were preparing for war and heading straight for Hawaii. [...] This meticulous research led Stinnet to a firmly held conclusion: FDR knew. [...]

Disinformation: Yet, you, yourself, don't disparage and don't have a negative view of FDR.

Robert Stinnett: No, I don't have a negative view. I think it was his only option to do this. And I quote the chief cryptographer for the Pacific fleet, who said, "It was a pretty cheap price to pay for unifying the country."

... [Provoking an attack] was used by President Polk in the Mexican War in 1846. And also by President Lincoln at Fort Sumter And then also, as I say, another example is Viet Nam, this Gulf of Tonkin business.

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28 Responses:

  1. alister says:

    It was said (apparently wrongly) that Prime Minister Churchill allowed the English city of Coventry to burn rather than give the German air-force the knowledge that their best codes had been broken.

    • zotz says:

      Other people (RV Jones, for example, head of British scientific intelligence at the time and prive to Ultra decrypts) say it wasn't so. A difficult point to prove either way. Jones certainly was able to give examples of having taken action against planned raids based on decrypts.

      • c9 says:

        Cryptonomicon includes discussion of the balancing of using intercepts to take advantage thereof and not using intercepts to avoid detection of the interception. I had never considered the idea previously.

      • quercus says:

        Jones was privy to the existence of Ultra, but he was _not_ privy to decrypts. Even the cryptanalysts were prevented from knowing Ultra content on a daily basis. Those doing the decryption obviously knew what they worked on, but even the leading analysts didn't get to see the bulk of the traffic as a matter of course. Where there was some crypto reason they were given access to it, but it's not as if Jones, Turing and Welchman sat around the billiard table in Bletchley Park discussing what to do about Coventry.

        Jones' infamous "Most Secret War" (maybe "Wizard War" in the USA ?) is also full of wilful misinformation, generally to put him in the best light. Cavity magnetrons were developed independently by every major combatant except Italy and the USA (who were given the design by the Tizard Mission) - Japan's were probably the best. Not quite the story Jones puts forward.

        • zotz says:

          even the leading analysts didn't get to see the bulk of the traffic as a matter of course.

          Well, he claimed that basically he did, because that was part of his job.

        • master_meio says:

          What is this "Cavity magnetron," and how can I get one delivered, discreetly packaged in brown paper?

  2. 33mhz says:

    A well-timed post for Pearl Harbor day.

  3. c9 says:

    I wonder sometimes if the ease-of-truth-discovery curve has peaked? 100 years ago, we were forced to accept what little we were told. 50 years ago, we had few avenues for research, but official archives sometimes yield the truth for history at least. Now, we can learn a lot but information has a lower resiliency.

    In 50 years from now, will we have come full circle, unable to discover that which AOLPepsiMicrosoftWhitehouse does not reveal?

    • batmite2000 says:

      I think that history is (re)written by those who win.

      • c9 says:

        I agree, but I wonder what the bounds are of that. For example, how distorted is our understanding of World War II versus World War I? Or of ancient Egypt? Is this situation a self-defeating one, or permanent?

        I have no answers, merely questions today.

        • dbt says:

          as I was just watching a show on Discovery last night in which a woman tries to analyze the likelyhood that Cleopatra actually killed herself with a snake, and if she was murdered, by whom.

          And you thought Kremlinology was fucked...

          • waider says:

            Funny, one of the Sunday papers in this neck of the woods was running a similar Cleopatra story recently. I also like that the once highly-thought-of heiroglyphics turned out (I don't know how frequently) to be either graffiti or a case of history being written before the events described therein.

        • batmite2000 says:

          I think it depends on the immediate needs of those in power. I'm not so sure that anyone before 1940 foresaw the information age and the comparative ease of data collation, all accessible to the common layman. So with our modern data gathering techniques we are able to see correlations that would have been too time-costly or even impossible before.

          The true global village, eh? Marshall McLuhan is really interesting.

          • acroyear70 says:

            So with our modern data gathering techniques we are able to see correlations that would have been too time-costly or even impossible before.

            with the added problem that too many can see this and make correlations, but too few are trained in logic and reason (and the use of statistics in science) to properly analyze the correlation. the result, too many people making causal relationships of data where it isn't supported. and it becomes too easy to post such incorrect analysees and too easier still for them to be repeated as if it was fact.

            we've made everybody an analyst.

            but we've not changed the proportion of skeptics to the general population at all.

        • quercus says:

          Look at how Akhenaten was written out of history immediately afterwards

  4. transgress says:

    yea but the important part is who is going to attack the mexican keeping you from galavanting around the house necked, that is the important part.

  5. I understand the utility of letting Japan get the first attack in.

    But even with the hindsight knowledge that battleships were less important than aircraft carriers in WWII, I just can't understand risking all your battleships to make a good show of it.

    • susano_otter says:

      You know those battleships are going to be irrelevant. The U.S. war machine, properly motivated, would completely outmatch Japanese industry over the long term. You'd make those battleships back, and carriers too, and then some!, before the war was over.

      And what better way to prime the pump of the military-industrial complex than to summarily dispose of the obsolete fleet? Out with the old, make way for the new.

      Roosevelt was thinking long-term, and those battleships served him better at Pearl Harbor than they would've in any of the battles that followed.

  6. wilecoyote says:

    If his only evidence are the intercepts and intelligence reports from before the attack showing that "clearly, they must have been preparing to attack us, nobody could possible have missed it", then I'm not impressed. For further details, see this excellent article from the New Yorker:

    In the fall of 1973, the Syrian Army began to gather a large number of tanks, artillery batteries, and infantry along its border with Israel. Simultaneously, to the south, the Egyptian Army cancelled all leaves, called up thousands of reservists, and launched a massive military exercise, building roads and preparing anti-aircraft and artillery positions along the Suez Canal. On October 4th, an Israeli aerial reconnaissance mission showed that the Egyptians had moved artillery into offensive positions. [...] Top Israeli officials immediately called a meeting. Was war imminent? The head of AMAN, Major General Eli Zeira, looked over the evidence and said he didn't think so. He was wrong.

    Basically, and in one phrase: hindsight is 20/20.

  7. zazen47 says:

    Something to this effect was just on the "Conspiracy" marathon on... Discovery? Maybe it was the history channel.

    • alektraunic says:

      I saw that too
      funny thing, in those days being an isolationist country meant you don't attack first, those were the good old days.....

      let's not forget, the United States was founded by people so uptight even Europe had to kick them out
      just keep repeating "religious extremist are ok; as long as they believe in Jesus"

  8. It has been known for decades that we knew the hour and the day of the attack in advance, and that the head of things at Pearl was cut out off from the decripts from august on. Pearl is a death trap, only one narow channel in or out, sink one ship in the right spot, and nothing gets in or out, the Pacific fleet commander resigned rather than go along with the move.

  9. zapevaj says:

    I can't remember which book it was- "Puzzle Palace", I think- also followed the document-trail and concluded that, although west coast intelligence centers figured it out as much as 24 hours in advance, it was basically beauracracy and time-zone differences that caused the information to be delayed, and no action taken. There was this Rube Goldberg-ian sequence of events that took the information from the west coast to the radio station in Washington, to a top general's office, only to find a general...out horseback riding for the day, I think, and a courier was dispatched to find him in the field. Of course by the time the information got to the appropriate people who could say "Holy shit! Do something about this immediately!", it was almost half an hour after the attack started.

    So. "FDR knew" is fairly disputable. Never blame on malice what can be easily attributed to incompetence, or however that saying goes.