Pearl Harbor 2.0

  • Share
  • Read Later
Bettmann / CORBIS

Rescue boats move in on the battleships U.S.S. West Virginia and U.S.S. Tennessee which sit low in the water and burn after the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on Dec., 7 1941.

The “infamy” of December 7, 1941, is deeper than most Americans have ever imagined. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was almost certainly the result of a Soviet plot—“Operation Snow”—carried out by Harry Dexter White, a figure of enormous influence in the Roosevelt administration and a known Soviet spy.

Americans remember Pearl Harbor as the work of a Japanese military machine hell-bent on a war of conquest. The truth is more complicated.

The imperial regime had faced severe political shocks throughout the 1930s. Two attempts on the life of Emperor Hirohito—one by a Japanese communist whose father was a member of parliament, another by a Korean patriot—were followed by the assassinations of prominent bankers and cabinet members.

(PHOTOS: After Pearl Harbor, Life in the Pacific and on the Home Front)

After Prime Minister Tsuyoshi Inukai was murdered in 1932 for his failure to cope with the Great Depression and to curb foreign influence, 110,000 Japanese petitioned for clemency for his assassins. Four years later, in a sensational coup attempt, young military officers cornered Prime Minister Kesisuke Okada in his own bathroom, slew his look-alike brother-in-law, and nearly wiped out the cabinet.

The emperor feared assassination by his own officers if he knuckled under to American or Russian threats to Japan’s economic and military interests, especially access to American oil.

The Russians, meanwhile, knew that they could not simultaneously repel an expected German invasion from the west and respond to the Japanese threat from the east. A series of skirmishes with the Japanese at Nomonhan in 1939 had revealed serious weaknesses in the Soviet military.

The NKVD, predecessor of the KGB, knew that a war with the United States would divert Japan from its ambitions in Mongolia and Siberia—threats that tied up 25% of the Red Army—and allow Russia to deploy its full military power against the Germans. Fortunately for Stalin, his intelligence service had an “agent of influence” in Washington perfectly situated to provoke a U.S.-Japanese war—Harry Dexter White, a high-ranking Treasury official.

Born to a working-class immigrant family in Boston, White had served as a non-combat officer in World War I. He earned a doctorate in economics from Harvard but was unable to land an academic post in the Ivy League, in part because of anti-Semitism, and in part because of his own abrasive attitude toward subordinates.

Tony Linck / Time Life Pictures Getty Images

Harry Dexter White testifying before Congress

By the time he went to work in Franklin Roosevelt’s Treasury Department, he had developed communist sympathies, and by 1936, with the assistance of Whittaker Chambers, he was leaking information about Japanese and Chinese politics and economics to the NKVD.

Fearing exposure, White temporarily gave up his subversive activities. But in May 1941, as the non-aggression pact between Hitler and Stalin began to unravel, NKVD agent Vitalii Pavlov managed to reactivate White with an urgent mission—to provoke a war between the United States and Japan so that Russia would not have to fight on two fronts.

From his perch in the Treasury Department, White had become closely acquainted with the key figures in FDR’s administration. He knew, for instance, that Stanley Hornbeck, the State Department’s expert on Asia, hated the Japanese and believed that Asians were naturally timid and easily bluffed. And White wielded enormous influence with his boss, Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthal Jr., whose personal friendship with the president made him the most powerful member of the cabinet.

Skillfully manipulating Morgenthau and Hornbeck, White was able to turn U.S. policy toward Japan in an increasingly belligerent direction. When FDR almost agreed to relax a U.S. oil embargo in return for Japan’s gradual evacuation of China, White drafted a hysterical letter for Morgenthau’s signature:

To sell China to her enemies for the thirty blood-stained coins of gold, will not only weaken our national policy in Europe as well as the Far East, but will dim the bright luster of America’s world leadership in the great democratic fight against Fascism.

Instead of compromising, the United States demanded that Japan withdraw from China immediately, neutralize Manchuria, and sell three-quarters of its military and naval production to the U.S.

Perceiving the demand as an insult and a threat, the skittish Japanese government concluded that war was inevitable. They moved ahead with a contingency plan for an attack on the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor and the Philippines, and Stalin, thanks to Harry Dexter White, were spared a war on his eastern flank.

White continued to shape U.S. policy to Soviet advantage into the postwar era until the revelations of the communist defectors Whittaker Chambers and Elizabeth Bentley precipitated his spectacular fall.

He died in 1948, quite possibly a suicide, three days after a disastrous appearance before the House Un-American Activities Committee. He was identified as a traitor by the FBI in 1950, but the full story of his role in provoking Pearl Harbor was unknown until Vitalii Pavlov, his Soviet handler and ultimately a lieutenant general in the KGB, published his memoirs in 1996. Pavlov credited White with saving the Soviet Union.

John Koster is the author of the recently-published Operation Snow: How a Soviet Mole in FDR’s White House Triggered Pearl Harbor. An Army veteran, he lives in New Jersey.

61 comments
DougDoakes
DougDoakes

Whether Harry Dexter White's memorandum was the "straw" that precipitated the US-Japanese War, he was a Soviet agent and close assistant to Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau, Jr. who placed White in  charge of liaison between the Treasury and the State Department on all matters bearing on foreign relations. Together, Morgenthau and White devised the infamous postwar "Morgenthau Plan" that  was to take all industry out of Germany, eliminate its armed forces, condemn up to two million Germans to slavery-like forced labor in Russia, and convert the country into an agricultural community, all in the process eliminating most of Germany's economy and its ability to defend itself if attacked. Although FDR and Churchill had signed on to a version of the Morgenthau Plan, President Truman nixed it when he refused to take the anxious Morgenthau to the Potsdam Conference and told Morgenthau, in Truman-like manner, it was none of his business.


There is no question that Morgenthau wielded enormous influence with FDR and that Harry Dexter White was Morgenthau's alter ego. Thus, they had a direct line to FDR that was always answered. 

LanceJanda
LanceJanda

Wow. What a load of BS. J The conspiracy folks just won’t leave the Pearl Harbor attack alone with they?

Koster’s argument, like most conspiracy rants, hinges on selectively going from one isolated fact to another and then asserting connections between then and causality for related events. We’re supposed to believe that FDR was swayed by a single letter into adjusting his policy towards China. It wasn’t the Republican China lobby. It wasn’t Morgenthal. It wasn’t any of FDR's other advisors. It wasn’t the American business community, which wanted to protect trade opportunities with China. It wasn’t FDR. And it wasn’t the long chain of events leading up to 1941, including the annexation of Manchuria in 1931, the bombing of the USS Panay in 1937, the invasion of China in 1937, or the seizure of both northern and southern Indochina. Nah, it was just this guy White. And the kicker of all kickers is that he wrote the letter at the behest of the Russians, who allegedly knew in May 1941 that Germany was going to invade Russia. Really? So all those reports that Stalin was in a state of shock for weeks following the German invasion are wrong? And if Stalin really knew the invasion was coming, why wasn’t the Red Army ready? They suffered catastrophic losses in 1941 because they were caught totally by surprise. Sure, Stalin thought war with Germany was coming, but not in 1941. The entire line of reasoning is absurd.

darragh_scully
darragh_scully

The hardest part to accept is knowing that the Japanese knew Hitler was going to invade Russia and kill Stalin. 

Japan was already attacking Russia and then changed tack when its Oil supply was interfered with by the Americans. 

So FDR had managed to strike a deal and this would of put Russia in the line of fire rather than China. If it wasn't for this White guy then Russia would of been taken. So its true, war is inevitable. Just imagine how much worse it would of gotten if the Germans and the Japanese Carved up Russia for themselves. It would of been catastrophic the amount of Power they would of had. Isint that Ironic? 


PeterGeoffreyWilson
PeterGeoffreyWilson

Mr. John Czop would have us believe that "Operation Hawaii" (the actual name of the Pearl Harbor attack plan) was orchestrated by the ministrations of a sole American, Harry Dexter White who conveniently happened to be an agent serving the Soviet Union. In Mr. Czop's view 

"John Koster's OPERATION SNOW clearly shows that the Hull Note, or Final Note of November 26, 1941, drafted by Harry Dexter White triggered Pearl Harbor. The Final Note persuaded the Japanese cabinet to implement contingency plans to attack the United States rather than to face what they perceived as the certainty of domestic political upheaval, which would lead to their assassination/execution by nationalist revolutionaries"

It is this very threat that under-minds  his case. No real historian would fail to recognize that the government of the Japanese Empire had by the time of Pearl Harbor been co-opted by the military. Assassinations were rampant. In October of 1941 Hideki Tojo, an Army General was serving as Prime Minister. 

The Japanese were determined to expand the empire in a southernly direction. The main obstacle was the U.S naval forces based in Pearl Harbor. Any diplomatic negotiating points were purely smoke and mirrors short of a total surrender of the U.S. and British positions. 

While there are certainly military contingency plans the planning for Pearl Harbor was specific and active. The Pearl Harbor attack force was comprised of the first Air Fleet comprised of flagship carrier Akagi along with Kaga, carriers Hiryu and Soryu, and two carriers from the IJN carrier div. 5 comprised of Shokaku and Zuikaku. This formation came into existence for the purpose of attacking Pearl. Massed naval air power was not known on this scale prior to the attack. 26 Nov. 1941 the Pearl Harbor attack force had already departed Japan on its way to Hawaii. "Climb Mount Niitaka" was code telling the strike force of a breakdown in negotiations. By that time however it was too late. 

JohnCzop
JohnCzop

    Mr. Peter Geoffrey Wilson conflates three distinct aspects of  Japanese war plans:  contingency plans, preparations to implement those plans, and decision/order to attack, that is make the contingency plans operational.  In 1941 as today,  many countries have contingency plans to attack countries that may not be enemies  and to defend themselves against attack by potential foes. During the interwar period,  the Japanese  did have contingency plans to attack the United States,  just as the United States had contingency plans to attack Japan. Then as today,  most contingency plans remain just that --plans.  John Koster's OPERATION SNOW clearly shows that the Hull Note, or Final Note of November 26, 1941,  drafted by Harry Dexter White triggered Pearl Harbor.  The Final Note persuaded  the Japanese cabinet to implement contingency plans to attack the United States rather than to face what they perceived as the certainty of domestic political upheaval, which would lead to their assassination/execution by nationalist revolutionaries.


     What do contemporary, 1941,  official Japanese Government sources say about the decision to implement contingency plans against the United States?  I asked this question to a colleague who reads Japanese, and I summarize below the key points, and especially the facts about chronology, which he included in his detailed answer to me.

     The name of the actual order to attack Pearl Harbor was "Climb Mount Niitaka" sent to the Japanese attack group from Tokyo on December 2.   Mount Niitaka is the highest mountain on the then Japanese controlled island of Taiwan, or Formosa.  


     The GENRO,  the name of the Japanese Council of Elders,  met on November 26  soon after they had read the Hull Note.  Admiral Yonai and Koki Hirota urged no action.  They both said that the terms of the Hull Note were absurd, but that the United States might not attack Japan first.  The GENRO majority considered the Hull Note a virtual declaration of war and an invitation to revolt at home and uprising in Korea.


     In 1936, young Japanese officers almost murdered Prime Minister Keisuke Okada and killed his brother and several other cabinet members to protest foreign influence over Japan.  The rebel officers seized downtown Tokyo for three days. The regular army had refused to attack them.  All Japanese historians know about this and some consider the officers to be heroes.


     The second and full Japanese Cabinet meeting took place on December 1.  All cabinet members at this meeting voted to attack Pearl Harbor with the understanding that Japan would have to sue for peace within six months to a year,  but could avoid internal revolution and save the monarchy--and that is just what happened.  The Japanese nationalist revolution was preempted by Pearl Harbor.  Had the nationalist revolution succeeded, Hirohito and his dynasty would have ceased to reign.  Frank Capra (himself a leftist) retailed official United States propaganda that Emperor Hirohito was venerated as a living god by the Japanese, when, in fact, most educated Japanese viewed Hirohito as a ridiculous figure, but saw him as a barrier against what they feared  more, Russian Communism and Anglo-American colonialism in the post-World War II world.

     Harry Dexter White's mission was to bring the United States into war with Japan to save the Soviet Union.  Vitalii Pavlov, White's NKVD handler, credited White with saving the Soviet Union from a two front war and stated in his memoires that white was a true communist heroe.  These facts are all documented in reliable Russian and Japanese language sources which John Koster marshaled to make his case in OPERATION SNOW.  He successfully discredits both myths that until now explained why the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.  Instead, he shows that the Japanese decision to launch a foreign war against the United States was informed by the necessity to avoid nationalist revolution at home which would have occurred had Japan agreed to the terms of the Hull Note drafted by Stalin's man in Washington, Harry Dexter White.


    


    

     


 

JohnCzop
JohnCzop

Wrote a long comment #50, then forgot my password and could not post it .  My comment #50 seems to have disappeared.  Can I recover it so I can post it?  I spent a lot of time writing it. Just received a new password.   

JohnCzop
JohnCzop

Two experts disagree with Mr. Peter Geoffrey Wilson.  The Japanese decided to attack only AFTER they studied the November Memorandum, which Harry Dexter White drafted, and which is also known as the Hull Note of 26 November 1941.  This fact is established by Admiral Ronald J. Hays USN (retired)  former commander-in-chief  Pacific Forces,  and by Thomas K. Kimmel, Jr., who is the grandson of Admiral Husband Kimmel, an Annapolis graduate, and a former FBI counter-intelligence officer.  Both Hays and Kimmel praised Koster (please see their comments on the back of OPERATION SNOW'S dust jacket) for clarifying the key role of Harry Dexter White.

ShayneO'Neill
ShayneO'Neill

Honestly, its best it worked out this way. Had russia fallen to the Nazis, the war could have turned out far far uglier.

PeterGeoffreyWilson
PeterGeoffreyWilson

Hmmm, one wonders what the ghost of Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto must make of these claims. To know now, 71 years after the fact that all of his planning and determination to defeat the U.S Pacific Fleet at the outbreak of hostilities between the U.S. and Japan was simply the work of communist spies?

That his threat of resignation as Commander of Imperial Japanese Navy, which removed the final obstacle to approval by the Japanese Naval General Staff, was totally unnecessary because an obscure Soviet spy in America under the control of a Soviet "super spy" had already decreed that this attack would take place.

Seventy one years after the attack the racism that was part of the Pacific war still holds. The Japanese possessed an extraordinary Navy and the striking part of that force, Kido Butai was unequaled in its' ability to strike anywhere in the Pacific as the days following Pearl Harbor clearly demonstrated. The Japanese were determined to expand their power and dominate the Pacific and the largest obstacle was the U.S. Pacific Fleet present at Pearl Harbor. 

Japan and the United States were going to war and the Pacific Fleet was going to be attacked. As Adm. Layton, the intelligence officer to Adm. Kimmel quoted Kimmel, "It's God's providence that the fleet was in Pearl Harbor" Had it been at sea and met the Japanese the ships salvaged would have been at the bottom of the Pacific and the death toll far higher. 

JohnCzop
JohnCzop

     The most persuasive source John Koster cites to establish his thesis that Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor was triggered by Harry Dexter White, the then director of the Division of Monetary Research of the U.S. Treasury Department and the top expert on Japan's economy and domestic politics in FDR's administration, is OPERATION "SNOW":  Half a Century at KGB Foreign Intelligence (Moscow, Gaia Herum:1996), the memoires of  KGB Lieutenant General Vitalii Pavlov.  Sovietologists agree that the memoires of Pavlov,  like the memoires of Nikita Krushchev,  do not distort what the authors present as facts, however, both communist leaders include only those facts which support their purpose in writing--self-promotion and self-vindication.  

     Both Krushchev and Pavlov wrote their memoires to show that they were committed communists who did their best to make communism succeed.  Both praise their communist comrades who were especially heroic in helping the Soviet Union during the era of the Second Great Imperialist War (World War II) and its aftermath.  Khrushchev's praise for Julius Rosenberg removed any remaining doubts certain Americans had about whether, or not,  he was a loyal communist and spy for the Soviet Union.  Pavlov's praise for Harry Dexter White would have had the same effect had Pavlov's memoires been translated into English.  To date Pavlov's memoires have only been translated into Polish.  Pavlov was KGB Resident in Warsaw and in December 1981 ordered General Wojciech Jaruzelski to impose martial law on Polish society. 

     Thanks to John Koster 's OPERATION SNOW:  How a Soviet Mole in FDR'S White HouseTriggered Pearl Harbor,  readers in the Anglophone world now know that following the KGB's orders Harry Dexter White drafted the November Memorandum, the 26 November 1941 "final" note from the United States to Japan, that persuaded top Japanese officials to implement longstanding plans and preparations for attacking Pearl Harbor and the Phillipines.

RichardKent
RichardKent

This is why Time, like Newsweek, has taken its rightful place next to Havana's Grandma, the old Pravda, and Der Stuermer on the bottom of the parrot cage of history.

EZyskowski
EZyskowski

Please stop trying to re-write history. Instead of this farking piece why not do some background on the guy in the White House. How about where HE came from, his background, his history colleges attended and how an unknown could rise to the rank of President, not once but twice. Tell me TIME writers, how does this happen ? Just try, for once, to be honest in the research of the guy in the White House. Can't do it can you. There's a common in this story and the guy in the White House.... Bolshevism.

ErickBlair
ErickBlair

Preposterous.  The build up to war occured in the 1930's.  That's almost 80 years ago.  Countless (millions?) books have been written and re-written about this subject.  And only now the "truth" comes out?  I think not.

dutchs
dutchs

NJ just below beat me to it in describing how the Soviets beat the Japanese at Khalkin Gol, the most important battle you never heard of. That defeat convinced the Japanese to go to their Southern Plan, which was to seize the oil fields of Indonesia and Burma, as well as Malaya, Singapore and Hong Kong. Recognizing that they would inevitably go to war with the U.S., they broadened the plan to include Pearl Harbor and the Philippines. Pearl Harbor was not the centerpiece of the Pacific War. Soviet Spy Richard Sorge informed the Russians in September 1941 that the Japanese would not attack the Soviet Union. White was at best a very minor player. No doubt his handler wanted to carve out a bigger place for himself in the history books, but they were only marginally influential.

NJ
NJ

This article is a very creative re-writing of history. For example it says "skirmishes with the Japaneseat Nomonhan in 1939 had revealed serious weaknesses in the Soviet military". This is an outright lie, Zhukov defeated the Japanese so comprehensively at the "Battles of Khalkhin Gol" (aka Nomonhan Incident), that it put a damper on any further desire of the Japanese to challenge the Soviet Army. Just read about Khalkhin Gol and see how the Japanese were routed by Zhukov (the later destroyer of the Wehrmacht at the Battle of Moscow and the Battle of Stalingrad).

The article also tries to slant history by first mentioning the assassination attempt on Hirohito by a communist and then mentioning several other assassinations without mentioning the affiliations. The later assassinations of Prime Ministers were carried out by nationalist right-wingers. However with only the communist mentioned, a reader would be left with the impression that all assassinations were by the communist sympathizers (pro-Soviet).

The article continues "Skillfully manipulating Morgenthau and Hornbeck, White was able to turn U.S. policy toward Japan in an increasingly belligerent direction." To claim that a subordinate of the Secretary of State has so much influence that he can guide the policy of the entire US government to a war is eminently stupid. Kind of like saying Scooter Libby led the US into a war with Saddam. Anyone who believes that great minds like Roosevelt were so easily manipulated by obscure officials, are gullible and will have a hard life ahead of them.

historygirl77
historygirl77

I know folks who worked on the research for this and it was sourced from federal documents including Harry Dexter White's own state papers at the Seeley Mudd Library at Princeton University, reports by U.S. military commanders, and translations from Russian and Japanese documents long available in the orginal languages but never before translated.

hanrod1
hanrod1

Pearl Harbor may did get us (U.S.) into WWII, but did not start that War. The worst part of WWII is that, after we and our allies won, at great cost, our delay in entering that conflict was used, by our, by then worldly and sophisticated, Ivy-educated leader-elites, to justify our subsequent and continuing deep involvement in the politics and economics of every country on earth, in what is conceived as our long-term interest. Now we have had generations of continuing wars, hot and cold; the sons of foreign dictators in our best universities, "globalism" and "free trade", at the expense of our ordinary citizens. Theory being, we guess, that the "best defense is a good offense". Then we had Ronald Reagan, who did more LONG TERM damage to our Country than Pearl OR 9-11. As an old man, who has seen a lot of this happen, I wish that the U.S. had developed its weaponry, but had become self-sufficient, a fair, not free, trader, and a great, powerful, Switzerland, that at least tried to care most for the immediate, definable, interests of its own citizens.

Don_Bacon
Don_Bacon

Here's a comment by C. Colt on the book "Day of Deceit" at Amazon."Day of Deceit" provides compelling evidence that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt deliberately provoked Japan to attack the American Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor so that America could enter the war on the allied side. Stinnett, a distinguished World War II navy veteran who researched his subject for over sixteen years, provides the following evidence:

1. A naval intelligence officer named Arthur McCollum developed an eight-point plan to provoke Japanese hostilities. This plan reached Roosevelt who implemented all eight points.

2. Contrary to popular belief, the Japanese navy broke radio silence on multiple occasions prior to December 7, 1941.

3. More than 94% of all secret Japanese naval messages (including some with direct reference to the impending attack on Pearl Harbor) were successfully decoded by American intelligence units prior to December 7, 1941

4. Roosevelt implemented a change of naval command that placed proponents of the eight-point-provocation plan in key positions of power. However, the newly promoted commander of Pearl Harbor, Admiral Husband Kimmel was consistently denied access to vital decoded translations of Japanese naval communications.

5. Naval Intelligence and the FBI successfully monitored the communication of Japanese intelligence agents in Hawaii for months. These communications, which included a bombing grid map of Pearl Harbor, revealed Japan's intent.

6. Much of the information successfully collected and analyzed by American Intelligence organizations prior to December 7, 1941 was reinforced by information from British and Dutch intelligence.

7. A sophisticated radio tracking system spanning from Alaska to Indonesia enabled America to track Japanese commercial and military shipping patterns. These patterns, including the movement of carrier groups and recall of worldwide merchant ships pointed to an obvious prelude to hostilities several months before December 7th.

8. Most of the critical U.S. Pacific Fleet components such as heavy cruisers and aircraft carriers were not in Pearl Harbor during the bombing. In fact the only ships that were sunk were WW I relics.

9. Much of the documented information was censored or withheld from the public for decades and continues to be to this day.

10. In early 1941 Roosevelt divided the U.S. Navy into an Atlantic and Pacific command and ordered fleet construction, which included one hundred aircraft carriers to be completed by 1943. This indicates that the losses at Pearl Harbor would not interfere with America's larger war aims and with war production that supported those aims.

http://www.amazon.com/Day-Deceit-Truth-About-Harbor/dp/B0078Y0B8C/antiwarbookstore

Mark
Mark

This article is utter rubbish. If there are facts in it, I am unable to find them.

YesterdaysWine
YesterdaysWine

Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthal Jr. - Jeesh... correct this! it's Morgenthau, not Morgenthal. How much else is incorrect in this if you can't get the basics down? 

HenryMajor
HenryMajor

Kesisuke Okada is misspelled, it should be Keisuke ... 

dbmoran
dbmoran

The information that this is a promo for a book by its author should be at the beginning of the article, not the very end. Furthermore, the article should be categorized not as "military history" but as "fantasy" or "advertisement". As others here have noted, key "facts" in this article are egregiously wrong. Simple web searches, or Wikipedia lookups, would alert any mildly skeptical reader, or god-forbid an editor, that this article was nonsense.

Additionally, "The emperor feared assassination if he..." treats the emperor as being the real head of government when he was much closer to being only the head of state, with the militarists firmly controlling the government.

"the skittish Japanese government" is not seen in the historic record -- what appears is an overconfident leadership, including being utterly contemptuous of US military capability (Adm Yamamoto was a lonely and prophetic dissent).

The US position on the Japanese in China was driven by years of publicity of Japanese atrocities by US missionaries in China, the related churches here and others. No matter how close Morgenthau was to Roosevelt, it is hilarious that such a letter from him would have any influence relative to such public opinion, and even then the letter was in line with that public opinion.

Shortly after WWI, the US began preparing for war with Japan in response to assessment of Japanese actions. In response to Japanese intelligence activity against the Panama Canal, the US military staged exercises that all but named Japan as the expected aggressor. And in the 1930s, Japan was known to be feeling out what Mexico might do if/when war came (just as the Zimmermann telegram in WWI tried to recruit Mexico).

The overwhelming Soviet victory at Nomonhan/Khalkhin Gol allowed them to transfer out troops to participate in the invasion of Poland and later more transfers to fight the Nazi invasion. In Japan, the defeat caused a shift in strategy from the north (Siberia) to the south (Southeast Asia). This was not a secret, but blindingly obvious from troop and logistical allocation, plus effective Soviet spies. By the time of Pearl Harbor, the Japanese threat to the Soviet Union was insignificant.

The US oil embargo of Japan did not cause the war, but may have influenced the calendar. The Japanese invasion of Southeast Asia was part of the Japanese empire's fundamental strategy that they needed direct control of oil and a host of other resources. This invasion was virtually certain to trigger war with the US and the Pearl Harbor attack was timed to occur while the SE Asia invasion fleet was underway. The exact timing of the Japanese invasion was partly dictated by calculation of when they would feel the pinch of embargoed items, but their strategy dictated that it had to happen, and roughly at the time it did.

And on, and on.

ijbtheterrible
ijbtheterrible

There is probably some truth as in all things and KGB ARE NO MORE LIERS THAN our own CIA. They say what they feel is needed and damn the truth. We have spies in Russia and China today doing the same. In fact we probably have paid spies in every country of the world as information is more valuable than a division of troops. 

DeweySayenoff
DeweySayenoff

Considering the fact that the Japanese PREPARATION (let alone planning) for an attack on Pearl Harbor was in full swing by April of 1941, and this guy was supposedly reactivated a month LATER in May, I find it less than credible that he had anything to do with "provoking" a war with Japan.  By that time, it was pretty much a foregone conclusion.  The Japanese invasions of the Philippines, Hong Kong and other places that ensued in the DAYS following the Pearl Harbor attack were all part of the overall plans and preparation.  That took over a year of planning and preparation, which is a hell of a lot more than the seven months of preparation the timeline in the article suggests.

And this whole "role" was based entirely on the post mortem published memoirs of a professional liar (A KGB agent).  The events of the time had more to do with influencing American attitudes toward the Japanese than this guy did.  Roosevelt wanted to join the war with Germany, but needed an excuse.  That ALONE dictated U.S. foreign policy toward Axis allies.  After the various atrocities of the Japanese in Indochina and their past attacks on U.S. interests, popular support for a war with Japan was greater than any support for a war with Germany.  Foreign policy merely reflected what Roosevelt wanted to do in the first place.

What MAY have happened is this guy took credit for things that were already in motion.  The KGB agent, having little other avenues of information and only seeing results, believed that White was more important or influential than he actually was for getting the U.S. into a shooting war with Japan.  Based on what I've read of White's personality and ideology, along with what the Soviets knew was going on in Washington at the time, that wouldn't be an unreasonable assumption.  Given the Soviets had little influence in Washington, and U.S. support for them was more of an "enemy of my enemy is a friend" philosophy because of their battle with Germany, and how much the U.S. wanted to keep the Soviets OUT of Japanese territory altogether both during and after the war (The Soviets didn't declare war on Japan until 1945!), the role this guy played was, if anything at all, extremely minor.

CarterPeterson
CarterPeterson

A great piece on a terrible chapter in history; it serves to shed some new light on the "day that will live in infamy."

Don_Bacon
Don_Bacon

"Skillfully manipulating Morgenthau and Hornbeck [and FDR], White was able to turn U.S. policy toward Japan in an increasingly belligerent direction."

Perhaps there's more to it. (There usually is.)

A  book entitled The Pearl Harbor Myth: Rethinking the Unthinkable by George Victor and published by Potomac Books Inc. of Washington, D.C. is well researched and gives a very clear picture of how and why the Pearl Harbor myth was created. This "patriotic political myth" states that the attack by the Japanese was unprovoked and was a surprise to the Roosevelt administration, as well as, the key military personnel in Washington; but the commanders of Pearl Harbor were at fault for not being ready. Based on a good summary of the up-to-date research the author, who is an approving admirer of Roosevelt, concludes that Roosevelt deliberately provoked the attack and that he and his key military and administrative advisers clearly knew, well in advance, that the Japanese were going to attack both Pearl Harbor and the Philippines. Roosevelt wanted to get into the European War but he had been unsuccessful in provoking Germany; therefore, he considered the sacrifice of Pearl Harbor and the Philippines as the best way to get into the European War through the back door of Japan. The cover-up of this strategy started immediately after the attack and continues to this day. The author concludes that this information of the coming attack was intentionally withheld from the military commanders because it was known that the Japanese were depending upon the element of surprise and if warnings had been sent to the commanders of Pearl Harbor and the Philippines, their preparation for the attack would have caused the Japanese to cancel their plans.

NJ
NJ

This article is a very creative re-writing of history. For example it says "skirmishes with the Japanese at Nomonhan in 1939 had revealed serious weaknesses in the Soviet military". This is an outright fabrication, Zhukov defeated the Japanese so comprehensively at the "Battles of Khalkhin Gol" (aka Nomonhan Incident), that it put a damper on any further desire of the Japanese to challenge the Soviet Army. Just read about Khalkhim Gol and see how the Japanese were routed by Zhukov (the later destroyer of the Wehrmacht at the Battle of Moscow and the Battle of Stalingrad.

The article also tries to slant history by first mentioning the assassination attempt on Hirohito by a communist and then mentioning several other assassinations without mentioning the affiliations. The later assassinations of Prime Ministers were carried out by nationalist right-wingers. However with only the communist mentioned, a reader would be left with the impression that all assassinations were by the left.

The article continues "Skillfully manipulating Morgenthau and Hornbeck, White was able to turn U.S. policy toward Japan in an increasingly belligerent direction." To claim that the subordinate of the Secretary of State has so much influence that he can guide the policy of the entire US government is eminently stupid. Kind of like saying Scooter Libby led the US into a war with Saddam. If you believe that people like Roosevelt were so easily manipulated by obscure officials, then you are gullible and have a hard life ahead of you.

will.hogann
will.hogann

So what would have happened if we did not go to war with Japan and Japan focused his threats against Stalin?

PeterGeoffreyWilson
PeterGeoffreyWilson

@JohnCzop  I'm very willing to have this debate in private more than in public. Perhaps we can both learn something.

PeterGeoffreyWilson
PeterGeoffreyWilson

I don't consider myself to be an expert unless expert is defined as possessing more knowledge about the subject than you currently possess. The Japanese attack force, which obviously had been training for the attack for months departed Hittokapu Bay on 26 November. The negotiations between the United States and the Japanese Empire were for both sides a sham as both sides knew that war was coming. As early as January 1941 Joseph Grew then U.S. Ambassador to Japan had been given a warning by a member of the Peruvian diplomatic corps that the Japanese planned a surprise attack against Pearl Harbor. This however had to have been a rumor because the Japanese themselves didn't make a concrete decision to attack (this attack was planned by the Combined Fleet, not the Naval General Staff who were normally charged with operational decisions) until April 1941.

Pheckphul
Pheckphul

@Don_Bacon "100 aircraft carriers" what are you smoking? We didn't have the ship building capacity to do anything like that. Where were that many capital ships going to be built? Even if most of them were going to be CVEs we didn't have the facilities.

PeterGeoffreyWilson
PeterGeoffreyWilson

@Don_Bacon FDR was a former Secretary of the Navy and loved the Navy. To think that he would place those precious ships and the lives of those sailors and Marines at risk is ludicrous. Carriers at the time of the attack were at the forefront of one Navy, Japan's. The U.S. was forced to place them in a prime position because the battleships were sitting on the bottom at Pearl. In addition if the Japanese had destroyed the repair facilities and the fuel storage the fleet would have had to return to San Diego leaving Hawaii open to invasion had the Japanese chosen to do so. How did FDR talk Adm. Nagumo into not following up his initial attacks? How did he talk Adm. Yamamoto into not putting follow up attacks into the orders for the striking force? 

dutchs
dutchs

@Don_Bacon If this is really how it played out, it was the best thing FDR ever did. Isolationists would have kept us sidelined until World War II was unwinnable. People like Hanrod1 above still haven't learned. And if much of the key information continues to be withheld or censored to this day, how exactly do you know?

VintMacCabe
VintMacCabe

@Don_Bacon From what I've read -- and learned -- about Pearl, it was combination of info not passed as it should have been (a warning which might have helped, but wasn't passed on), etc., along with incredibly detailed planning and incredibly dumb luck by the Japanese Navy.  No conspiracies, just human foibles.  And to say that most of the fleet wasn't at Pearl -- ALL of the battleships were there, not to mention 3 cruisers and 3 destroyers -- is the result of either too much information or too little research on your part.  In fact, with two battleships lost and two others unable to return to service until '44, the Navy quickly discovered the importance of the Aircraft carrier, which then became the central ship of the modern American Navy (3 other battleships were able to return to service in '42, and the Utah was already decommissioned, turned into a training ship). 

dbmoran
dbmoran

@Don_Bacon If you want to see the 8-point McCollum memo, see  for example http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McCollum_memo

The common interpretation (and mine) of this memo is actions that are to better prepare the US for the coming war and to provide some small measure of deterrence. Recognize that the conspiracy theorists characterize the (brief) visits of small groups of US warships to the US Naval base in the Philippines as (part of 4th point) as intended to provoke war with Japan. My assessment is that the US _failing_ to have such visits  would signal to Japan a lack of US intent to defend the Philippines and invite an attack.

ShayneO'Neill
ShayneO'Neill

@ijbtheterrible Truth be told, there are probably spies for every country, in every other country. Thats why half the world have death penalties for spying but spies usually get put on a plane back home and told not to return, after all , is it really a crime when everyone does it?

dbmoran
dbmoran

@Don_Bacon

The conspiracy theories conflate "knowing an attack was coming" with knowing _exactly_ when and where. US military intelligence had predicted Japanese surprise attacks to begin the war and that these attacks would likely occur on a Sunday, based on historic Japanese patterns. They predicted that Pearl Harbor was a potential target. And US planners had a surprisingly good prediction of the Japanese tactics, including the direction of approach. However, because of several false predictions of the exact attack date, the Pearl Harbor leadership was somewhat desensitized (instead of regarding the alerts as the situation getting more threatening). And although US Naval intelligence had lost track of the Japanese carriers, the Pearl Harbor leadership (and others) believed that they must be accompanying the Japanese fleet sailing to invade Malaysia and the Dutch East Indies. Furthermore, they believed that the Philippines were the more likely first target -- because they could threaten the Japanese supply lines. However, this discounted the Japanese Navy's established history of being innovative and aggressive, and excellent at planning and execution. From Port Arthur onward, they successful staged attacks that many thought imp;ausible: too risky and too difficult.

glennra3
glennra3

@NJ Well argued.

I too found it a stretch that the entire premise is based upon a guy (Harry White), who knows a guy (Stanley Hornbeck), who works for a guy (Henry Morgenthal Jr.), who knows the president.

Oh, yeah, the first guy wrote a letter.

Interesting premise, but I'm not seeing how this mole "triggered Pearl Harbor."

YusufSpeckledBegg
YusufSpeckledBegg

@NJ Well done NJ, good response. My question is does no-one perform a review on these articles before they are published on Time website, a simple control such as this will prevent such blatant "creative writing" to occur. 

Although Time might state these opinions are the thoughts of the author alone, it does not bode well for Time's reputation in the News World.

One should always critically assess what is published on any news agency, but such blatant fabrication of history is beginning to make me wonder what is the agenda of these new agencies when they do things like this? 

Is anyone reporting real news anymore?

glennra3
glennra3

@will.hogann There is an interest, and controversial, book, written a couple of decades ago called, No Clear and Present Danger, that makes the argument that the U.S. would have been better served to stay out of WWII.  

I don't buy the premise, but it is still a fascinating perspective.

PeterGeoffreyWilson
PeterGeoffreyWilson

Kido Butai, the Carrier force that carried out the attack was formed as an operational unit on 10 April 1941. The concept of massed air forces was a novel concept at that time. Naval Air power was looked upon as a tool to protect the Battleships. The Japanese war plan was geared more towards using submarine attack against the United States Fleet as it was underway towards Japan. Once the U.S. had been damaged by these attacks the Japanese would close with and destroy the remains of the U.S. fleet using its massive battleships among them the Musashi and Yamato, the largest battleships ever to take to the seas.

PeterGeoffreyWilson
PeterGeoffreyWilson

In the panic after the attack it was suggested by many that German pilots must have been flying the planes that wrecked the Pacific fleet. That's part of the inherent racism that permeates your argument. The Japanese may indeed have been goaded into an attack but that attack was expected against the Philippines. The Japanese had set out to dominate the Pacific and the impediment was the Naval presence of the United States. No white man had to somehow persuade them in this effort. You don't spend months and millions of Yen training and equipping a force without a specific mission


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,106 other followers