“A date that will live in infamy,” (Snyder 33) was what President
Franklin Delano Roosevelt called December 7, 1941.
It was a calm Sunday morning at Pearl Harbor on the island of
Oahu. Then two U.S. soldiers saw an oscilloscope signal on their
mobile radars. They immediately called this in to their commanding
officer but he told them to ignore it because the base was expecting a
squadron of friendly B-17’s to be coming from the mainland. Thirty
minutes later the first bomb fell and almost killed a courier boy who
was trying to deliver a message to Pearl Harbor Naval Base that the
Japanese Imperial Navy was going to attack them. The Japanese bombers
caught the base by surprise due to the Americans’ tradition of not
working on Sunday’s. As the bombs fell, so did all the chances of the
United States not joining the Allies in the second world war that was
raging in Europe and the western Pacific. Up to that point the U.S.
had just been supporting the Allies but they weren’t technically at
war with the Axis powers.
All throughout the first two years of the war, President
Roosevelt focused on making life difficult for the Japanese. One way
he did this was by creating various policies that would deter the Axis
powers from being able to maintain the needs necessary to wage war on
the Allies. One of these policies was the American financial and
economic embargo, which supported China in its fight against Japan. It
also, somewhat, forced neutral countries to side with the U.S. because
it threatened that if any country would aid one of the Axis countries
then that country would no longer be given aid packages from the
United States. A second policy imposed by Roosevelt was the “moral
embargo” of July 1938. This banned neutral countries from exporting
planes and equipment to countries who engaged in the bombing of
civilians. This made the U.S. look like the good guys because they
were protecting the innocent people who were being killed just because
the lived in a different country. By imposing these policies, the U.S.
was disallowing the economic growth of the Axis countries and forcing
them to support themselves, as long as they were against the Allies.
These policies were a type of weapon that Roosevelt used in order to
attack the enemy without formally declare war. This would be one of
the primary reasons why Roosevelt would allow Pearl Harbor to occur.
Before the betrayal at Pearl Harbor occurred, a poll was taken
of the U.S. citizen’s opinion about Roosevelt taking them into the
war. Ninety-four percent were against the United States getting
involved. If Roosevelt would have just attacked Japan first, he would
have lost a great majority of the support he was receiving from the
general population of the United States. All the facts lead to the
very probable possibility that Roosevelt may have helped plan the
attack at Pearl Harbor or at least gave the “go-ahead” to whoever did
plan. It is no coincidence that half of the U.S. Navy’s gunboats were
reassigned to Pearl Harbor only a couple of months before the attack.
Roosevelt sent all the expendable ships to Pearl Harbor and all the
carriers and battleships to run drills near San Diego. Roosevelt
figured that, if he was going to allow American ships to be destroyed,
they might as well be the ships that are out of date and inexpensive
to replace, in comparison with some of the Navy’s other ships. The
attack on Pearl Harbor enraged the American commoner so much that they
changed their views completely and wanted Japan to pay for the
surprise attack in Hawaii. After all, the American people only knew
that negotiations were under way in Washington DC and that the U.S.
was working for peace not war. They saw the attack on Pearl Harbor as
an act of betrayal.
Another fact, that contributes to the possibility of Roosevelt
being involved in the planning of Pearl Harbor, is that the two
commanding officers at the time of the attack were acquitted, in a
retrial, of all accusations of their dereliction of their duties.
Therefore, there must have been some reason why they didn’t worry
about the incoming planes. This reason is that they had orders, from a
higher ranking official, to ignore the signals. This order may have
come down from Roosevelt himself.
An interesting event, which greatly supports my thesis, that
occurred even before Japan or the U.S. had entered the war, was
President Roosevelt and Secretary of the State Hull instructing
Admiral William D. Leahy, then the Chief of Naval Operations, to
create a war plan based on the contingency of the United States having
to fight a two-ocean war. In the Pacific, against Japan, and in the
Atlantic, against Italy and Germany. Why would Roosevelt have
a war plan drawn up if he said he wasn’t going to enter the war? It
seems a bit odd, unless, of course, if he was planning on entering the
war already and was just trying to find the right reason. Roosevelt
may have seen that, sooner or later, the U.S. would have to go to war
and they might as well be in control when the first shots are fired
against Americans. Roosevelt’s master plan was very complex and
involved a great deal of people. Two of the people who would be
affected the most by this plan were Adm. Husband E. Kimmel and Gen.
William Short. The reason they would be greatly affected was because
they were the scapegoats. Adm. Kimmel, the Pearl Harbor commander, was
kept in the dark by his superiors in Washington. Officials in
Washington left Adm. Kimmel without any knowledge of the attack until
it was too late, and then they blamed Adm. Kimmel for not being ready.
The futures of Adm. Kimmel and Gen. Short were a small price to pay
for the possibilities of what economic fortunes laid ahead of the U.S.
All the planning and effort that went into this scheme, ended
up allowing Roosevelt to enter World War II. The attack on Pearl
Harbor angered the general public of the United States, and if the
majority of the people want something the congress will give it to
them just so that they will have a job after the next election.
Therefore the majority of the congressmen voted in favor of the U.S.
entering the war on the side of the Allies. Roosevelt knew that if he
could get one of the axis powers to attack Americans then he could get
in the war. Roosevelt and his cabinet carefully covered their
tracks very carefully so as not to leave any signs that there was foul
play. Roosevelt knew beforehand that Japan was going to attack, but he
didn’t take any drastic peace-keeping actions to prevent the attack,
because he wanted a justifiable reason to enter the second World War.
Keegan, John. The Second World War. New York: Viking Penguin, 1989.
Snyder, Louis L., et al. Reader’s Digest Illustrated Story of World
War II. New York: Reader’s Digest Association, 1969.
Parenthetic citation form: (Snyder et al. 33)
Divine, Robert A. Roosevelt & World War II. Baltimore: The John
Hopkins Press, 1969.
Richardson & Steirman, Inc. The Secret History of World War II. New
York: Richard & Steirman, Inc., 1986.
Morison, Samuel Eliot. The Two-Ocean War. Boston: Little, Brown and