No, FDR Did Not Know The Japanese Were Going To Bomb Pearl Harbor


[Editor’s note: The notion that FDR had foreknowledge of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbouris perhaps the earliest modern ‘conspiracy theory’ and almost certainly the most long-lived, with an ever-growing number of Americans being drawn into it’s orbit.

However, as appealing as the idea that America’s greatest (and since, most unfairly maligned) President knew that his nation was about to be attacked by the Empire of Japan may be to the tinfoil hat community, there is simply no basis in fact to support this.

In fact, the opposite is true, the body of evidence disproving this conspiracy theory is both large and today, thanks to digital archiving, readily available; if only the conspiracy nutters bothered to read such things.

Attached to this article is a collection of 8 key documents, declassified and placed online by the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum

Few in the US today even realise that FDR saved their nation from collapse, that his New Deal was, with the possible exception of LBJ’s Civil Rights legislation, the most important development in the history of their nation.

Today, both of these altruistic pieces of legislation are smeared as ‘commie’ or ‘socialist’, most often by the disenfranchised, low-information poor white trash that benefitted most from these ‘socialist’ president’s efforts to pass unpopular laws.

What greater indictment can their be of a broken, corrupted and useless educational system that it has produced not one, but two generations of Americans who are utterly divorced from the reality of their own recent history?

This is the power of the Zionist infection, the culmination of a deliberate policy to subvert and bury a people’s heritage, to replace it with a Hollywood-approved distortion where the great Presidents such as Lincoln and FDR are rendered as gross inversions of their true selves and revisionist-lead smear campaigns attempt to destroy their legacy.

Hollywood has subplanted high school history with dramatic fiction, usually barely rooted in any form of historical fact:

In the case of FDR, the smear is utterly outrageous, Bill Murray portraying the terminally ill polio sufferer as a playboy womaniser who kept a strong of mistresses in chalets around his country residence:

A people who are ignorant of their own history are doomed to subversion and we all know who the would-be subverters are. Ian.]

No, FDR Did Not Know The Japanese Were Going To Bomb Pearl Harbor

Seventy-five years after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, some Americans have never stopped believing that President Franklin Roosevelt let it happen in order to draw the U.S. into World War II.

“It’s ridiculous,” says Rob Citino, a senior researcher at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans. “But it’s evergreen. It never stops. My students, over 30 years — there’d always be someone in class [who’d say], ‘Roosevelt knew all about it.'”

Conspiracy theories, half-truths and full-on lies are getting new attention as they appear alongside real news and information on social networks — but that’s nothing new. The official investigations into the Japanese attack started in the 1940s, and even now, each time new documents become declassified, a headline pops up asking whether Roosevelt allowed it.

No, says Roosevelt biographer Jean Edward Smith.

“He was totally caught off guard by it,” Smith says. “The record is clear. There was no evidence of the Japanese moving toward Pearl Harbor that was picked up in Washington.”

That’s not to say that the White House might not have expected some kind of attack from Japan — possibly against U.S. bases in the Philippines. Roosevelt had been tightening the screws on Tokyo to hinder the Japanese conquest of China, “instituting a full embargo on exports to Japan, freezing Japanese assets in U.S. banks and sending supplies into China along the Burma Road,” according to the State Department.

Citino says Roosevelt believed those economic restrictions could get Japan to reduce its ambitions in Asia.

“Sanctions are better than war — if you have time to let them apply, and if there’s somebody sensible on the other side.” But Roosevelt “was wrong in that assessment,” Citino says, and the Japanese were mistaken in thinking they could remove the threat from the U.S. Navy to their operations in the Western Pacific.

President Franklin Roosevelt was “totally caught off guard” by the bombing of Pearl Harbor, says Roosevelt biographer Jean Edward Smith.

“Pearl Harbor [brought about] unintended consequences for both sides,” he says.

The U.S. didn’t think the Japanese would retaliate militarily. And the use of then-new naval weapons such as aircraft carriers was still being explored. No one had sailed a fleet of carriers 4,000 miles across an ocean to raid an enemy’s fleet while it sat at anchor.

For their part, the Japanese did not think the U.S. would have the stomach to rebuild its Navy and then launch a bloody fight, island by island, across the Pacific.

These kinds of bad assumptions and poor intelligence start wars, Citino says — an understanding that seems so obvious today even as the conspiracy theories outlive the eyewitnesses to the battle.

FDR AND PEARL HARBOR Almost as soon as the attacks occurred, conspiracy theorists began claiming that President Roosevelt had prior knowledge of the assault on Pearl Harbor. Others have claimed he tricked the Japanese into starting a war with the United States as a “back door” way to go to war with Japan’s ally, Nazi Germany. However, after nearly 65 years, no document or credible witness has been discovered that prove either claim. Most scholars view Pearl Harbor as the consequence of missed clues, intelligence errors, and overconfidence.

The causes behind the Japanese attack are complex and date back to the 1930s, when Japan undertook a military/colonial expansion in China—culminating in a full-scale invasion in 1937. America opposed this expansion and used a variety of methods to try to deter Japan. During the late 1930s, FDR began providing limited support to the Chinese government. In 1940, Roosevelt moved the Pacific fleet to the naval base at Pearl Harbor as a show of American power. He also attempted to address growing tensions with Japan through diplomacy.

When Japan seized southern French Indo-China in July 1941, Roosevelt responded by freezing Japanese assets in the United States and ending sales of oil to Japan. Japan’s military depended upon American oil. Japan then had to decide between settling the crisis through diplomacy or by striking deep into Southeast Asia to acquire alternative sources of oil, an action that was certain to meet American opposition.

Japan chose to continue its diplomatic talks with the United States while at the same time secretly preparing for a coordinated assault throughout the Pacific. Japan’s leaders hoped that a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor would destroy American resolve and cripple the American navy for at least six months, giving Japan time to consolidate its new empire. The documents contained in this selection are from the collections of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum and are intended to reflect the many sides of this issue.

Document #1: Letter, FDR to Ambassador Joseph C. Grew, January 21, 1941: In December 1940, United States Ambassador to Japan Joseph C. Grew wrote to President Roosevelt, “I would give a great deal to know your mind about Japan and all her work.” One day after his inauguration to an unprecedented third term, Franklin Roosevelt replied to Grew in this extraordinary letter explaining his belief that the war raging in Europe and the growing Japanese threat in the Pacific were all part of a “single world conflict.” This letter predates the Pearl Harbor attack by nearly a year. (President’s Secretary’s Files; Diplomatic Correspondence; Japan, Jan.-Sept. 1941; Box 43).

Document #2: Memorandum, Harry Dexter White to Henry Morgenthau, Jr., April 4, 1941: As Japan continued its expansion throughout Southeast Asia in early 1941, various departments of the United States Government studied the impact of Japan’s inability to produce oil domestically. This April 4, 1941 memorandum from Dr. Harry Dexter White to Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau, Jr. reflects the tension between the Navy Department, which would have to defend the United States in a war and was concerned about Japan’s growing petroleum reserves, and the State Department, which hoped that free trade in oil would prevent a war by avoiding a direct confrontation with Japan. (Diaries of Henry Morgenthau, Jr., Volume 386, Page 88).

Document #3, Memorandum for the President, Gen. George C. Marshall to FDR, July 15, 1941: In late 1940, US Army cryptanalysts cracked the Japanese diplomatic code in a breakthrough known as “Magic.” Through Magic, President Roosevelt, Secretary of State Cordell Hull, and U.S. military leaders could read what Japanese diplomats were telling each other almost as fast as they could. In this Memorandum to the President dated July 15, 1941, U.S. Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall summarizes a recent Magic intercept reflecting Japan’s imminent takeover of Indo-China (Vietnam) from the French Vichy regime. Japan’s movement into Indo-China would prompt FDR to impose economic sanctions on Japan and ultimately shut off all exports of oil to that country. It is important to note that Magic could only read Japan’s diplomatic code, not its military code. Discussions of the military preparations for the Pearl Harbor attack were not transmitted via the diplomatic code. (President’s Secretary’s Files; Diplomatic Correspondence; Japan, Jan.-Sept. 1941; Box 43).

Document #4: Memorandum for the President, Secretary of State Cordell Hull to FDR, November 15, 1941: As American-Japanese relations neared collapse, Tokyo dispatched a special envoy to the United States, Saburo Kurusu, to assist its Ambassador in Washington, Kichisaburo Nomura, in presenting one final peace proposal to the United States government. Two days prior to Kurusu’s first meeting with FDR, Secretary of State Cordell Hull prepared this November 15, 1941 Memorandum for the President recommending certain issues to be addressed. The meeting took place as scheduled, with little positive result. Subsequent meetings between Hull and the Japanese diplomats proved equally fruitless. On November 26, 1941, Hull presented to Kurusu and Nomura a restatement of the US position that in the interests of peace Japan should withdraw from China and abandon its Southeast Asian expansion. That same day, Admiral Yamamoto directed the Japanese fleet to weigh anchor and proceed to Pearl Harbor. (President’s Secretary’s Files; Diplomatic Correspondence; Japan, Oct.-Dec. 1941; Box 43).

Document #5: Draft Memorandum, FDR to Secretary of State Cordell Hull and Under Secretary of State Sumner Welles, December 1, 1941: In the days immediately preceding the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt grew acutely concerned about apparent Japanese preparations for some type of military offensive in the Pacific. Through Magic and other sources, the President had learned of massive troop buildups in Indo-China far above what had been agreed to by the Vichy French government. In this memorandum dated December 1, 1941, Roosevelt instructs his top diplomats to immediately learn the intentions behind the Japanese Government’s latest move, and he discusses the obvious parallels between Japan’s actions in the Pacific and Germany’s actions in Europe. The revisions are in President’s Roosevelt’s handwriting. (President’s Secretary’s Files; Diplomatic Correspondence; Japan, Oct.-December 1941; Box 43).

Document #6: Memorandum for the President, December 7, 1941: On the afternoon of December 7, 1941, President Roosevelt was in his Oval Study in the White House having lunch with his close friend and aide Harry L. Hopkins. The lunch was interrupted at 1:40 p.m. by a telephone call from Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox who told him that the Navy Department had received a radio report from Honolulu stating that Pearl Harbor was under attack and that the military command had emphasized that this was “no drill.” This Memorandum (presumably prepared by the Navy Department) was one of the first written damage assessments presented to the President that afternoon. In his own hand, Roosevelt has indicated the date and time he received it. (President’s Official File 4675: World War II, 1941; Box 1).

Document #7: Transcript of Telephone Conversation Between FDR and Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau, Jr., December 7, 1941: As part of his meticulous record-keeping, Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau, Jr., routinely had his telephone conversations transcribed by a stenographer. This practice was well-known to President Roosevelt, who prohibited Morgenthau from doing so with his calls. In the confusion of December 7, though, this prohibition was either forgotten or ignored. As Treasury Secretary, Morgenthau oversaw the United States Secret Service, and this transcription of a telephone conversation between Roosevelt and Morgenthau that took place at 6:40 pm on December 7, 1941, discusses increased protection of the White House in a time of war. Mentioned in the conversation are Secret Service Chief Frank J. Wilson, Treasury official Herbert Gaston, and Secretary to the President Stephen T. Early. (Henry Morgenthau, Jr. Papers; Presidential Diaries, August-December 1941; Box 515).

Document #8: Diary Entry of Agriculture Secretary Claude R. Wickard, December 7, 1941: Because he liked a free and open exchange of ideas, President Roosevelt discouraged his Cabinet members from taking notes during Cabinet meetings. As a result, Cabinet officers often made diary entries of their recollections immediately following significant meetings. This entry from December 7, 1941 by Agriculture Secretary Claude R. Wickard recounts in detail the events and discussions that took place in the Cabinet meeting following the attack on Pearl Harbor. Of particular note are the confrontation between the President and Secretary of State Cordell Hull over the length of Roosevelt’s proposed address to Congress, which would become known as the Day of Infamy Speech, and the explosive meeting with Congressional leaders that followed. (Claude R. Wickard Papers; Department of Agriculture Files; Cabinet Meetings, 1941-1942; Box 13).

Author Details
Ian Greenhalgh is a photographer and historian with a particular interest in military history and the real causes of conflicts.

His studies in history and background in the media industry have given him a keen insight into the use of mass media as a creator of conflict in the modern world.

His favored areas of study include state-sponsored terrorism, media manufactured reality and the role of intelligence services in manipulation of populations and the perception of events.
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  1. In “War is a Racket,” USMC Major General Smedley Butler wrote, “The Japanese, a proud people, of course will be pleased beyond expression to see the United States fleet so close to Nippon’s shores.” Butler was, of course, being sarcastic. US officials knew the Japanese would hate this, yet FDR ordered the aggressive military maneuvers and debilitating sanctions anyway.

    Isn’t it likely the New Deal policies were, like the anti-Japan provocations, largely for the racketeers’ sake? Federal Reserve Act America needed the industry to supply its own war effort and ship billions of dollars worth of military aid to the Soviets, the British, etc.

    Nixon pulled the plug because Americans got too disobedient over the Vietnam War, and the racketeers, parasites that they are, thought them and their corporations could successfully switch hosts to China. They were wrong, so China has been getting hit with the same McCollum Memo style provocations and sanctions that Japan and Germany were hit with.

    • Oh good old Mark Weber, Nazi apologist par excellence, he will stoop to any low to attempt to prove his beloved facist hordes were not to blame for WW2. If you actually bother to read the document Weber claims to have uncovered, you might realise that it says nothing about bombing raids and is merely a suggestion to furnish a few aircraft to Nationalist China as part of the Lend-Lease programme. But let’s not let troublesome things like facts get in the way of a good conspiracy theory….

    • Ian – your response doesn’t alter the fact that the Flying Tigers was a covert operation by the Roosevelt Administration. You also ignored the article mentioning Bernard Currie an FDR advisor who was interviewed by American television about the secret bombing plan who confirmed it. You talk about the document and its official explanation as if it could not possibly have any other meaning. Roosevelt was a master of subterfuge. You quote the FDR Presidential Library and Museum. As if that’s an unbiased or objective source. It is nothing but a propaganda outfit to shore up the image of Roosevelt. Are you for real ? Roosevelt called World War 2 a “war for democracy”. The trouble is he included Stalin and his USSR as one of the “democracies”. He also claimed to be fighting against dictatorship but never used the words Stalin and dictator in the same sentence. Roosevelt played the American people for fools.

  2. I saw the end of the depression and I still remember WWII. I also have the history behind both WWI and WWII. The code of both Germany and Japan were broken early and that is a fact of history. Someone is a sleep at the wheel here. I heard WWII Vets say that war was created as a way of stopping the depression. Do you own homework dreamers.

  3. Why is it that not a single American seems to have even the vaguest understanding of their own history, of what socialism is or why they have a pot to piss in. I’ll give you a clue- it was FDR, the New Deal and some good old fashioned socialism, without it, there would be nothing from sea to shining sea but piss poor people ruled over by a fat cat elite. Oh, sorry, you got that eventually, thanks to Nixon killing off the last vestiges of the New Deal. A whole nation, too dumb to live. How sad.

  4. “Few in the US today even realise that FDR saved their nation from collapse, that his New Deal was, with the possible exception of LBJ’s Civil Rights legislation, the most important development in the history of their nation. ”

    Thanks for opening with this sentence Ian. Saved me lots of time.

  5. Not just radio comms either. Check out the McCollum Memo; FDR ordered the provocations which prompted attacking Pearl Harbor in the first place.

    But yeah, this is not new behavior (see: Ian on Soros’s involvement in the Ukraine coup)…