December 7th, 1941. A Day That Will Live In Infamy. A day when we were sneak-attacked by Japanese bombers at our naval base in Hawaii, resulting in 2400 losses of life, and almost 1200 wounded. 18 naval ships were lost (including 8 battleships), and almost 190 planes destroyed. In the face of such a vicious, unprovoked attack, Americans put aside their isolationism and jumped wholeheartedly into the war.
Most, if not all, of us know what happened at Pearl Harbor that fateful day seventy-five years ago. But most of us don’t know the truth of the matter.
A brief history lesson is called for, taking us back to 1932 to fully understand the timing, the political atmosphere, and his place in all this. As any true student of history will tell you: nothing happens in a void. There’s always a lead-up.
In 1932, Franklin Delano Roosevelt campaigned on the economy. Hoover (R) had been president on Black Tuesday when the stock markets crashed, and the events that followed. Understandably, the people were angry. Roosevelt didn’t explain what he was going to do exactly, just simply said that he had a ‘New Deal’ to make with Americans (gee, sounds sort of familiar, doesn’t it?). He decried Hoover’s ‘greed’, and made him the scapegoat.
So FDR won the election. And he started instituting his ‘New Deal’, and the one that followed in 1936. But interestingly enough, for all of his bills, and policies, the economy still didn’t pick up.
This was catastrophic for Democrats. They were getting a chance to fully implement their insane economic policies, and it wasn’t helping. The economy tanked again in 1937, erasing the minuscule improvements that had been made -mostly in spite of FDR’s policies.
This was problematic. He’d campaigned on how only the Democrats could fix what was wrong with the economy. That it was greedy Republicans who had tanked it in the first place, and they mustn’t be allowed to interrupt his efforts. (There’s that familiarity feeling again. If only cars had been widespread, we probably would have heard about Republicans driving the car into the ditch!). But despite his efforts, promises, and slandering Republicans, the economy wasn’t getting any better.
But FDR knew there was one thing that could boost the economy. That could pull us out of the Depression. The war in Europe was heating up, and war is always good for any economy. But unfortunately for him, after WWI, Isolationism had hit its stride here on the home front. Americans wanted to stay out of another war, one that had cost us untold amounts of money, and about 116,000 American lives. We wanted to avoid being stuck with another League Of Nations deal. We wanted to live on our continent, separate from all that.
How it must have stuck in FDR’s craw. It was right there. The way out. His ‘New Deal’ had flopped, the economy wasn’t improving, and he was starting to look like an idiot. And the cure-all was right there for the taking. But the American people refused to let him, with 88% of all Americans opposing getting involved.
But he was doing all he could to bypass that. He’d sent his ambassador to England, who told Churchill that FDR was doing everything he could; he wanted in the war, and he was going to get us in, no matter the cost. Numerous secret cables were sent between the two leaders. When a lonely British code clerk tried getting those documents to the American public, he was arrested, and tried in a secret British court -with FDR’s insistence and approval.
FDR tried provoking Germany into declaring war; he froze their assets here in the States, and gave the British ships to use in the war. But Germany knew that getting America involved would spell disaster, so they simply moved on.
So he turned his attention to Japan. He enacted eight actions that he thought would get Japan to declare war, including freezing their assets, closing the Panama Canal to them, enacting a trade embargo, and sending threatening messages.
Japan decided to retaliate. But even in this, FDR’s complicity in the Pearl Harbor attack gets worse.
After ordering the Pacific Fleet to make a permanent base at Pearl Harbor (over strenuous objections from Naval commanders), he ignored decoded documents from Tokyo to their Honolulu embassy, demanding detailed reports on Pearl Harbor, including exact details of where specific American ships were berthed in a grid layout. FDR had this information -and never told Pearl Harbor commanders.
Washington received a specific code -one they had been trained to look for -warning that an attack from Japan was imminent. Again, the base at Pearl Harbor wasn’t told. While traveling to Pearl Harbor, numerous broadcasts were picked up from the Japanese ships, and multiple sightings were all reported, and ignored. A Korean spy told the Iowa senator that an attack was coming, before Christmas, and targeting Pearl Harbor. When the senator hurried to tell FDR, the president only smiled, and thanked him for the information.
When FDR received word that the Japanese fleet had left their port, bound for Pearl Harbor, he forbid any US or Allied ships from traveling in the North Pacific. When Naval commanders ordered the ships out -knowing that diplomatic relations were quickly falling apart -FDR countermanded his orders, and had the ships put back to port.
FDR knew exactly what was happening. Hell, he’d planned it all out that way. 2400 American lives had to be lost because FDR’s economic plans tanked, leaving him holding the bag.