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Philip Dru interviews Robert Stinnett, a Media Fellow at The Independent Institute, about his book Day of Deceit: The Truth About F.D.R. and Pearl Harbor.
Philip Dru: This is the Weekend Interview Show. I am your host, Philip Dru, Administrator. My guest today is Robert Stinnett. He is a media fellow at The Independent Institute. He is the author of the book Day of Deceit: The Truth About FDR and Pearl Harbor. He served in the United States Navy from 1942 through â€˜46, earned 10 battle stars and a Presidential Unit Citation. He is a former journalist and photographer for the Oakland Tribune. Welcome, Mr. Stinnett.
Robert Stinnett: Iâ€™m glad to be here.
Philip Dru: What made you decide to write this book, Day of Deceit?
Robert Stinnett: Well thatâ€™s a good question, Philip, because many people ask that. I served in the U.S. Navy, as you pointed out, and I served in the Pacific Ocean in the battle against Japan, and we were always told that we learned about Japanese locations of Japanese warships from our submarines, and I accepted that as the gospel truth. But in 1980 I read a book called At Dawn We Slept, which was a bestseller, it still is, and in it it revealed that actually we had, the U.S. Navy had broken the Japanese navyâ€™s radio code and thatâ€™s how we learned about where ships were. And that was a bombshell to me, for if we had broken the Japanese code then you couldnâ€™t say that Pearl Harbor was a sneak attack. And the Navy all told us that and the American public and Congress that it was a sneak attack because we were not intercepting the Japanese fleet, and this book said otherwise, and thatâ€™s what sent me on my pursuit. And I had to file Freedom of Information Act requests with the U.S. Navy to get them to release this information, and thatâ€™s the basis of my book.
Philip Dru: How long did it take you to do all the research?
Robert Stinnett: I started right after I read this book in 1982, itâ€™s called At Dawn We Slept, as I mentioned, and the Navy, first they let me â€“ they let me in to their cryptography unit at Pearl Harbor. This was in 1982. And I did a story for the Oakland Tribune on that. We were the first newspaper, the first American news media to reveal that we were breaking the code, the navy code, prior to Pearl Harbor from this intercept station in Pearl Harbor.
Philip Dru: How many died in that attack in 1941?
Robert Stinnett: The official toll is approximately 2500 American servicemen and women and civilians were killed and the injuries were about 1,000, as I recall. Something in that neighborhood.
Philip Dru: And so these people who died, most of them didnâ€™t even know what had happened at all. They didnâ€™t even know who had killed them. They just knew that they were being blown apart or drowned, lungs full of water, and their life was over.
Robert Stinnett: Yeah, there was no warning given to the Pacific Fleet. This is all gulled in secrecy because the official policy of the U.S. government was to have Japan commit an overt act of war against the United States, and that was the policy, and the whole thinking behind this was to trigger a treaty with Japan and Germany so that Germany would come to Japanâ€™s aid, and thatâ€™s what the United States wanted was really to get in a war with Germany and not really against Japan, because the real danger was from Germany. They had the facilities for war-making power.
Philip Dru: When you say that Americaâ€™s policy was to provoke it, whatâ€™s the proof of that? Where does that come from?
Robert Stinnett: The proof of this comes from a secret memorandum written by the Office of Naval Intelligence on October 7th, 1940. You see this was a year before Pearl Harbor. And in this secret memo, the Navy officer suggested and made a recommendation that if we â€“ we meaning the United States â€“ aimed eight provocations at Japan that Japan would â€œcommit an overt act of warâ€ against the United States. And at the same time that would trigger this treaty with Germany, which was our real goal.
Philip Dru: What were the eight points of that plan?
Robert Stinnett: The eight â€“ the provocations were, one, to cut off all access by Japan to the natural resources of Southeast Asia. You see, Japan is an island nation. They have very little resources, so they have to get their oil and tin and all materials like that from abroad. So when you cut that off, that puts an end to Japanâ€™s war-making possibilities.
Number 2 was to send a flotilla of American submarines into the Far East as a way of antagonizing Japan.
Number 3 was to make a deal with Great Britain to use British bases in the Pacific, and that was done. Britain granted us the use of a base.
They call it eight points, eight actions was the actual wording that the Navy intelligence officer used, but actually these were eight provocations, or goading Japan.
The next one was to send a squadron of United States cruisers into Japanese territorial waters, and this was done, and President Roosevelt himself approved the sending the cruisers into the Japanese waters. He said, â€œI donâ€™t mind losing one or two cruisers, but I donâ€™t want to lose five or six.â€ What the President was saying there is that I donâ€™t mind losing 900 men, because thatâ€™s what was assigned to each cruiser. If you lost two cruisers, that was 1800 men, and thatâ€™s about what the Navy lost at Pearl Harbor, 1800 killed. As I mentioned earlier, the death toll was about 2500, so the Navy took the biggest hit on that.
The next one was to make a deal with the Dutch government, who at that time controlled what you call Indonesia today but it was known as Dutch East Indies, also for a naval base.
And then another one was to keep the United States fleet based at Pearl Harbor as a lure to Japan to attack us there and to knock out the Pacific Fleet, that was the idea, so that we could not come against the Japanese fleet. So that was another one approved by President Roosevelt.
Then the final one was to have a complete and total embargo against Japan, cutting them off from all access to natural resources, oil, and everything imaginable in the way of imports, and that was signed by the president on July 28th, 1941. Well, that put all the eight provocations in place, and Japan went on at that time to a full wartime basis. So â€“
Philip Dru: So you say that FDâ€“ or that, Iâ€™m sorry, this memo was written up in October of 1940 then? Is that what youâ€™re saying?
Robert Stinnett: Yes, thatâ€™s correct.
Philip Dru: Okay, and do we have proof that Franklin Roosevelt himself signed onto this eight-point plan?
Robert Stinnett: We have â€“ we donâ€™t have any proof that this actual plan, he saw it, but he acted on all eight provocations, signing orders himself. As I said, one of the actions was action H, which was also action 8, so that was the complete embargo. He signed an executive order on that on July 28th, 1941. He signed the order sending the cruisers into Japanese territorial waters. He approved the arrangement with bases with England and also the Dutch government. All of this, itâ€™s, you know, not foolproof, but itâ€™s very high quality confirmation that he saw it.
Philip Dru: Before we go any further here, Mr. Stinnett, Iâ€™d like to clarify, correct me if Iâ€™m wrong, but in your introduction you say that youâ€™re still a fan of FDR and that you think that he did what was necessary and what had to be done. Is that correct?
Robert Stinnett: Well, thatâ€™s right. But we should explain that the situation in the fall of 1940, the United States, the people of the United States were against going to war against anyone in Europe. They wanted nothing to do with Europeâ€™s war. And this is what faced President Roosevelt and his administration. Eighty percent of the American people were isolationist. They wanted nothing â€“ to stay away from Europe and its wars. And so this was the problem for the president, because Germany and Adolf Hitler and the Nazis had conquered most of Europe and were bombing England and were getting ready to invade England and then seize the British fleet, merge it with the German navy, and then threaten Canada and English possessions off of the East Coast of the United States. Well that would have been a terrible dilemma for our country, and this is what the president was trying to, uh, wake up America. But America wouldnâ€™t â€“ they wanted to stay away from Europeâ€™s war. So when Germany and Japan signed this treaty, you know, just 10 days before October 7th, 1940, thatâ€™s when the U.S. Navy seized on this plan, this idea of provoking Japan to attack us, and itâ€™s like a backdoor approach to war to get really at Germany, if you follow what Iâ€™m saying here.
Philip Dru: I do. And youâ€™re saying that you think that that was okay.
Robert Stinnett: Well, I donâ€™t see what else that President Roosevelt could do at that time. America really wanted nothing to do with the, the, Europeâ€™s war, and in fact in the fall of 1941 German submarines were sinking U.S. ships including warships. One of the warships sunk was the USS Reuben James, and they lost 100 men, but no one in the United States cared about that. It was sort of a ho-hum. They felt that President Roosevelt was trying to get us into war by putting our destroyers and our ships in harmâ€™s way. But he had the safety of our country at stake, and thatâ€™s what I â€“ I donâ€™t see what other option he really had, given this information.
Philip Dru: Okay, thatâ€™s fair enough, and Iâ€™m glad we got that point clear because â€“
Robert Stinnett: Yeah, thatâ€™s important.
Philip Dru: â€“ I donâ€™t want the audience to think that youâ€™re some right-winger who hates FDR and just wants to tarnish his image or something like that. I think that that makes the evidence that you bring forth much more credible.
Robert Stinnett: Well, thatâ€™s right. And I think your listeners will, when they hear our full story here today, theyâ€™ll realize the dilemma facing President Roosevelt and his military staff and people in the State Department. We didnâ€™t have any powerful navy at the time in 1940. Both Germany and Japan were adversaries that had far better military promise than we do, or did.
Philip Dru: Okay, so you mentioned that what really got you started writing this book in the first place was when you found out that the codes had been broken long before you believed that they were, and so I wonder, which codes are those that were broken, and who were they broken by, and who had access to the information in those broken codes?
Robert Stinnett: Yes, what weâ€™re talking about now, Philip, is the Japanese navyâ€™s operation code, the one that they used to dispatch their warships to Pearl Harbor and to Southeast Asia and all throughout the Pacific and the South China Sea. This was a code that they devised in June 1939. It was immediately discovered by the United States Navy cryptographers, and that was led by Agnes Meyer Driscoll, who was the Navyâ€™s chief civilian cryptographer, and the reason for that was that at the time the Navy would not allow women to be officers and she was a civilian and they could only give her pay using civilian pay scales. So Mrs. Driscoll was really the decoding brains, the crypto brains of the United States Navy. Sheâ€™s the one that broke the Japanese military codes, also helped in the Japanese diplomatic codes, as well as she helped in solving the German navy and army codes. So she was a tremendous asset for the United States, and she provided this information to President Roosevelt and his military. But he did not, they did not provide it to the Hawaiian commanders, because they did not want the Hawaiian commanders to be alert for this Japanese overt attack on the United States so that it would be seen as so outrageous that it would unify the American public and do away with that isolation movement.
Philip Dru: Well but werenâ€™t radio receiver stations in Hawaii the places the people who were intercepting the codes and decrypting them? Werenâ€™t they in Hawaii?
Robert Stinnett: Yes. Youâ€™re absolutely right about that. But the U.S. Navy had 25 monitor stations in the Pacific, and these really ranged from Panama up the West Coast of the United States to Alaska and then using British facilities in China and in Singapore, Dutch facilities in Indonesia, and then also we had a string of stations across the Pacific at Corregidor near Manila. We also had them on Guam, also American Samoa, and we also had them at Pearl Harbor. But â€“ and thatâ€™s a good question, why wasnâ€™t Admiral Kimmel, who was the Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet, told about this information? Well, his own people withheld this from him, and so did the Army cryptographers that were serving General Short, who was the Army commander in Hawaii. Both these two commanders were cut off by their own people and also from Washington and not given this vital information. And as I said, the purpose was to make this attack so outrageous that it would unify the American people. And thatâ€™s what happened. It worked. It was a plan that worked. It unified the country. The next day, December 8th, 1941, millions of Americans flocked to recruiting stations and joined the Army, Navy, and the Marines and the Coast Guard. Civilians went to work in the shipyards.
Philip Dru: In fact in your book you quote a man named Rochefort, or something like that, the chief of Station HYPO at Pearl Harbor, as saying that the attack was, quote, â€œa cheap price to pay for the unification of America.â€
Robert Stinnett: Philip, thatâ€™s right. Commander Rochefort was in charge, he was the Pacific Fleetâ€™s chief cryptographer, and he was a brilliant cryptographer also, like Mrs. Driscoll, and he had served with Mrs. Driscoll and knew her capabilities. He was also a Japanese language officer so he could not only break the codes, he could also read the Japanese and then translate it for Admiral Kimmel. But he didnâ€™t do that. And the reason for all of this â€“ remember I told you that the Navy officer that wrote this eight-point, or eight provocations, that was addressed to the Chief of Naval Intelligence, and he was a captain by the naâ€“ you know, on President Rooseveltâ€™s staff. And once President Roosevelt approved this plan, then the president moved this captain, head of the Naval Intelligence, to Pearl Harbor as in charge of all the battleships. He was the number three officer of the Pacific Fleet, and he served as a gatekeeper so to keep this information from both the FBI and from the Navy and from the Army. And thatâ€™s how it worked. He also, this gatekeeper, approved, appointed Captain Rochefort. So he was under his control. And also the Pacific Fleetâ€™s higher intelligence officer, his name was Layton, he also was under the command of the Navy Intelligence, and this is how they did it. They controlled the information and kept it from not only the FBI but from Admiral Kimmel and General Short and the servicepeople of the Navy and Army in Hawaii.
Philip Dru: So, so really Washington, D.C. knew what was going on, and even the heads of the Navy, except Kimmel and Short, the people in charge at Hawaii, were basically the only ones cut out of the loop. Is that correct?
Robert Stinnett: Thatâ€™s right. The Philippine commanders, that was General MacArthur and Admiral Hart who was head of the Asiatic Fleet, those were our two commanders in Manila. They were clued into all of this, so they knew it, and they stood aside and let Japan commit the first overt act. General MacArthur kept all of his aircraft on the ground in the Philippines, and Admiral Hart kept all of his forces in Manila Bay including about two dozen submarines were all during the daytime were submerged in Manila Bay and did not go after the Japanese invasion forces that eventually took over the Philippines, which was an American protectorate at that time.
Philip Dru: So the people in charge in the Philippines, which â€“ thatâ€™s much closer to Japan. It seems, I know of many defenders of FDR who would say, â€œWell, FDR, if he was expecting an attack, he probably was expecting it to happen at the Philippines.â€ But youâ€™re saying that the commanders in the Philippines knew what was going on all along and they sat back and let the Japanese fleet steam toward Pearl Harbor unobstructed?
Robert Stinnett: And also the Philippines and took over our â€“ you know, took over the Philippine military bases that we had; Japan conquered the Philippines. But they were following the orders from the president. On November 27th, 1941, about a week before Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt sent an order both to the Philippines and to Hawaii and he said the United States desires that you stand aside and let Japan commit the first overt act, and this was after the president got confirmation that the Japanese fleet was at sea, two of them, one proceeding towards the Philippines and the other proceeding towards Hawaii in the North Pacific.
Philip Dru: Well, but, how could he have known that they were on their way? I thought that the Japanese fleet maintained strict radio silence the whole way across the ocean.
Robert Stinnett: Well, that radio silence is a cover story. Nobody has any proof that they were on radio silence. The U.S. Navy cryptographers intercepted the radio broadcast by the admiral in charge of the carriers that attacked Pearl Harbor, and we had radio direction finders at these 25 monitor stations throughout the Pacific that were, that when he broke radio silence aboard his aircraft carrier, the flagship of the Japanese force, we could locate where he was, and we followed him day after day after he left Japan and headed towards Hawaii. And also he was accompanied by about 30 Japanese submarines, and those submarines were also being tracked by radio direction finders. And then the other forces heading towards Wake Island and Guam, which were our U.S. Naval bases, they also were being tracked. So they knew where the Japanese forces were headed. And also we were tracking them towards the Philippines and also British bases there in Malaysia and so forth, Singapore.
Philip Dru: Our guest is Robert Stinnett, media fellow at The Independent Institute and author of Day of Deceit: The Truth about FDR and Pearl Harbor. Sir, a minute ago you mentioned about the FBI being cut out of the loop, and that got me curious â€“ how did J. Edgar Hoover feel about being cut out of the loop of this information?
Robert Stinnett: Well, J. Edgar Hoover didnâ€™t like that at all, but the U.S. Navy didnâ€™t trust Hoover at that time because Hoover would leak certain information to his newspaper media friends like Walter Winchell and Drew Pearson and other pundits at the time, so the Navy would not trust J. Edgar Hoover with this, you know, very secret information, because if Japan learned that we were intercepting their codes, they would change them, so thatâ€™s why they didnâ€™t want Hoover leaking this information. And not only that, the FBI and the Navy had discovered a Japanese naval spy in Honolulu that was sent there by the head of the Japanese Navy, and this spyâ€™s purpose was to get a census of the Pacific Fleet and then also later on in 1941 to prepare bomb plots where the battleships were located. Well, he obtained this information, this Japanese spy, and then sent it by diplomatic messages to Tokyo, but he was forced to use RCA communications. And so whenever he took his coded messages to RCAâ€™s office there in downtown Honolulu, a copy was given to the U.S. Navy, who also gave them â€“ and to the FBI, excuse me, and then the Navy then broke the code, Mrs. Driscoll, as I mentioned earlier, and then that led to President Roosevelt and his military but not to the Hawaiian commanders. So they could follow what this spy was doing, first preparing a census of the fleet that was based there at Pearl Harbor, and then in the fall of 1941 he made plots of Pearl Harbor locating where battleships were, cruisers and destroyers and so forth. And none of this information, though it was broken, decrypted by the cryptographers, was given to the Hawaiian commanders, again to keep them from trying to interfere with the Japanese overt act of war.
Philip Dru: This spy, what was his name, and how long was he in town and being observed by the government?
Robert Stinnett: He was an ensign in the United States Navy, and he arrived in Honolulu in, letâ€™s see, it was in March 1941. He was under, he was using an alias of Takeo Yoshikawa, and, uh â€“ excuse me, that was his real name, Takeo Yoshikawa. That was Ensign Takeo Yoshikawa. But his alias was Tadashi Morimura. And Iâ€™m sorry if Iâ€™m confusing you there, but he was known in Hawaii as Tadashi Morimura and he was given the title as chancellor of the Hawaiian consulate for Japan in Honolulu, but the Navy and the FBI discovered him immediately because when they checked the foreign registry of Japan, the diplomatic registry that the State Department had, there was no such person as Tadashi Morimura. Not only that, he was about 27 years old, and foreignâ€“ Japanese never sent young people to Hawaii. It was more of a reward for long years of service, because Hawaii was considered really a vacation spot. So this aroused the suspicion of the Navy and the FBI when Morimura arrived there in Honolulu, and the FBI put a tail on him. But â€“
Philip Dru: Sir, I just wanted to, I just want to clarify, I wanted to make sure. You said he was an ensign in the American Navy or in the Japanese Navy?
Robert Stinnett: No, in the Japanese Navy.
Philip Dru: Oh.
Robert Stinnett: His name was â€“ his real name was Takeo Yoshikawa. He was Ensign Yoshikawa of the Imperial Japanese Navy. He was a graduate of their naval academy.
Philip Dru: I see. And they were following him around from the time he was here in, you said, March 1941, until Pearl Harbor?
Robert Stinnett: That is right. He was being followed and tailed by the FBI, theyâ€™re in Honolulu, and we were also intercepting his messages that he sent by RCA cable to Tokyo, and then though those messages were in code, Mrs. Driscoll and her cryptographers broke the code and we knew exactly what he was telling Japan.
Philip Dru: And he was, what, sending them maps and plans for attacks?
Robert Stinnett: Thatâ€™s right. First of all, he was telling Japan how many warships were at Pearl Harbor and where they were located, and then in the final week before December 7th, 1941, he sent, â€œItâ€™s all clear to attack these places,â€ meaning the Navy base and the Army bases, […] theyâ€™re not alert to what weâ€™re up to. And so when he said it this was all clear for a bomb attack on Pearl Harbor.
Philip Dru: Sir, when I was a young boy, I always learned that it was a lucky thing, a coincidence, that the aircraft carriers were out at sea that day and that only old World War I ships or primarily old World War I ships were destroyed in the attack. But then again at the same time I think a defender of FDR would say, wow, you know, for setting up an attack, why did they need to lose so many ships? Couldnâ€™t they have sent a lot more of those ships â€“ I mean, the World War I vintage battleships, I could see sacrificing them, but didnâ€™t they have like brand-new battlewagons and ships that were not expendable?
Robert Stinnett: Well â€“
Philip Dru: It seems like they could have, they could have gotten us into a war with an attack of less devastation.
Robert Stinnett: But that was not what the president wanted. The president wanted Japan to attack our warships in a dastardly fashion, an unprovoked, so that it would arouse American people to go away from this isolation movement. And that is why these old battleships and the old ships were used as a lure to Japan, to arouse the American people. So all of our modern ships were out of the harbor, including two aircraft carriers and heavy cruisers and destroyers. And they were not in the base. They were moved out about a week before Pearl Harbor, ostensibly to deliver 12 planes, to have 12 Army planes to Wake Island and another 12 planes to Midway Island. Well, 12 planes were delivered to Wake, but the other task force just sort of sailed around in the central Pacific and never did deliver the planes to Midway. But the whole idea was to get our modern ships out. And so Japan, what Japan did was to hit our old battleships and other older warships that were anchored there at Pearl Harbor.
Philip Dru: So none of the newer up-to-date ships were in the harbor at all. It was all vintage World War I era.
Robert Stinnett: Thatâ€™s right. There were a few, two cruisâ€“ there were two heavy cruisers that were in dry dock, as I recall. But the bulk of the 200-vessel Pacific Fleet, these were all World War I era warships.
Philip Dru: Can you tell us the story of General Marshall, the Army Chief of Staff, his delay of the morning of the 7th? The story of him going horseback riding and just waiting around and taking as long a time as he could to send the warning to Hawaii?
Robert Stinnett: Well, yes. General George Marshall was the Army Chief of Staff. In other words, he was head of the U.S. Army. And he also was clued into this plan. And he believed that also, like Commander Rochefort, that this was the cheap price to pay to unify the country. So General Marshall on the morning of December 7th had received information that Japan was going to attack at about 8 a.m. in Hawaii time. President Roosevelt also had this information the night before. But instead of sending a warning to the Hawaiian commanders, General Marshall just sort of hemmed and hawed, went out horseback riding, as you said, and then when he finally showed up at his office almost too late, he authorized sending a message to the Hawaiian commanders, but he sent it by Western Union, the slowest way he could possibly do it and still sort of look good as an excuse. This is the cover story. So the messages went by Western Union to Oakland, California, and then by Western Union wire to Hawaii, and it didnâ€™t reach Hawaii until late afternoon Hawaiian time about four hours after the attack.
Philip Dru: Okay, sir, Iâ€™ve got to be honest with you, my grandmother was pregnant with my father at the time this happened, so I donâ€™t remember the 1940s very well. I wonder if you can tell the story of what happened to Kimmel and Short, the admiral and the general in charge out there in Hawaii.
Robert Stinnett: Yes, well, immediately there was just outrage here in the United States to the attack. How could Americaâ€™s greatest fortress there at Pearl Harbor be caught unawares? And Congress was starting to get ready for an investigation. At the time they were â€“ letâ€™s see, it was Senator Taft and others were leading, getting ready to call for an investigation. Well, President Roosevelt didnâ€™t want that and so the first thing was to blame Admiral Kimmel and General Short, so they were relieved of their command about two weeks after Pearl Harbor, and then they were told that they should resign from the Army and the Navy, which they did, and then they reverted to their pre Pearl Harbor assignments, as instead of a full admiral Kimmel was reduced to rear admiral, which is just a two star, and General Short was replaced as a Major General. They were demoted. And in effect they were fired and put on â€“ and retired, and never again were in â€“ served their country.
Philip Dru: I believe, sir, it was your book where I read that, was it Admiral Kimmel demanded to be court martialed so that he could defend himself?
Robert Stinnett: Oh, he did. He was much more aggressive than General Short, and Admiral Kimmel continued throughout his lifetime and his family are still trying to get his name cleared. Admiral Kimmel died, as I recall, in 1964, but his family, his sons and his grandchildren conducted really a battle to clear his name. And Congress in, see, in October 2000 made a finding that General Short and Admiral Kimmel were denied this information and they should be absolved of any dereliction of duty and they should be restored to their ranks. Well, President Clinton signed the congressional finding but he did not restore their ranks. Neither has President Bush. It takes a presidential order to restore their ranks, and thatâ€™s still waiting to be done.
Philip Dru: Well, and itâ€™s already too late now because theyâ€™re both dead.
Robert Stinnett: Well, thatâ€™s right, but their families would like to have their names cleared by restoring them, and in effect Congress has cleared them, but the final actions would be a presidential order restoring them to their ranks at the time of Pearl Harbor.
Philip Dru: Mr. Stinnett, why did this book take so long? It was 59 years before this book, Day of Deceit, was published to tell us the truth about Pearl Harbor.
Robert Stinnett: Well, see, immediately after Pearl Harbor all of this cryptographic information was put away in Navy vaults to keep Congress from getting the information. And also they didnâ€™t want it to leak out so that Japan knew that we were â€“ would learn that we were, had broken their Navy and diplomatic codes. So that was the right thing to do.
Philip Dru: Well, I can see that for the duration of the war, but the warâ€™s been over since â€™46.
Robert Stinnett: Exactly. And immediately after Japan surrendered in August 1945, the information started leaking out. In fact, in 1944, while we were still at war, during the presidential campaign, Thomas Dewey, who was the Republican candidate against President Roosevelt, heard about this breaking of the codes but was persuaded not to use that as a campaign issue by General Marshall himself, who personally contacted Governor Dewey, and Dewey decided to keep quiet about it and he did not raise it as an issue during the war because, again, Japan, if they had learned that we had broken their code, that would have been a serious problem because Japan in 1944 still had a formidable navy, including aircraft carriers. But once the surrender in August 1945, then it started leaking out, but the euphoria of war victory just consumed America and you couldnâ€™t get anywhere with this information. Not only that, it was seen as an anti-Roosevelt tirade, especially when Life magazine, which was owned by Henry Luce, who hated President Roosevelt, carried an article about the breaking of the codes and that Pearl Harbor was known in advance. And since there was no proof, it was just seen as another tirade by Henry Luce against Roosevelt. And there were other books. There was a distinguished professor, Charles Beard from Yale University also wrote a book about this, you know, speculating that we knew about it in advance, but he had no information to back it up because it was all locked up in Naval vaults. And I believed all of this too until I first got onto this in 1980 and then started pursuing to get this information.
Philip Dru: And then even after your book was originally published in 1999, the paperback that I have has a whole other 100 pages or so of new information that you got even after the book went to print.
Robert Stinnett: Yes, well, we â€“ more information was released after 1999 by National Archives. This is in College Park, Maryland. This is where all the Navy cryptographic information is kept so that researchers can see it. And then in May 2000 I discovered the actual proof that the cryptographers at Pearl â€“ at, excuse me, in Manila, had broken the codes and were sending the information to Washington and also giving it to General MacArthur and Admiral Hart. And it was also sent to General Short and Admiral Kimmel in Hawaii, but both Hawaiian commanders were cut out of the loop. They were not given this information because this former intelligence officer was censoring the information and would not give it to them.
Philip Dru: What would have happened to you if you had found out this information in, say, oh, I donâ€™t know, 1942, and you had come forward and tried to publish this book then?
Robert Stinnett: Well in 1942 I was in the U.S. Navy and I would not have disclosed this kind of information. I donâ€™t think any American would, because that would be giving a magnificent secret to Japan and they would have changed their codes, and thatâ€™s how we had the great victory at Midway. Thatâ€™s where, see, Japan attacked, came back with their carriers in sort of like a repeat Pearl Harbor and attacked our forces at Midway and were going to occupy Midway, and then once they occupied Midway they were going to seize Hawaii. They were going to invade Hawaii. But you see again we were breaking the code and knew that they were going to do this, so we sent our ships and we ambushed the Japanese fleet off Midway and sank four of the Pearl Harbor carriers. And that really, that stopped Japanâ€™s navy at that time. They were never able to recover from the defeat at Midway. And that was because we had broken the Japanese code. And we did not want them to know that.
Philip Dru: Do you think that we would have had war with Japan if we had not initiated the eight-action memo?
Robert Stinnett: I donâ€™t think so. Japan was never a threat to America, because itâ€™s an island nation. All you got to do is blockade it and you put them out of business. Where Germany was a whole different matter. They had natural resources, shipyards to build ships. Japan could also build shipyards but they needed the natural materials, like steel and tin and all that sort of thing to make bombs and so forth. So Japan was never a threat to us. It was just a lure to end that isolation movement and get us into war against Germany. Thatâ€™s what it was all about.
Philip Dru: In fact, on page 121 you write that, quote, â€œThe White House issued export permits that allowed Japan to obtain just enough fuel to keep her warships going. America had quite deliberately put Japan in the untenable position with just enough fuel to fight, but not enough to win.â€
Robert Stinnett: Yes, that is right. President Roosevelt provided the order so that Japan in 1940 and â€™41 could obtain oil and scrap iron and those kind of materials from the United States, and thatâ€™s what they were doing. But they only allowed them enough to last till about 1943, which at that time, 1943 was the year that the United States would have our carriers completed, battleships ready to go on the offensive. And thatâ€™s what happened. In November 1943, thatâ€™s when we began the island-hopping offensive in the central Pacific where we captured various Japanese islands and then used those as bases to bomb Tokyo and drop the atom bomb and so forth.
Philip Dru: Sir, I heard recently about a lawsuit of World War II veterans who I believe were at the Philippines, and their lawsuit alleged and apparently they claimed to have had declassified papers that prove that FDR ordered the Navy to leave the Philippines mostly in empty ships and to deliberately leave a bunch of American soldiers behind to be slaughtered with their wives and children and to be imprisoned, and that Roosevelt wrote that, you know, basically that this was for purposes of publicity and it was, you know, just to reinforce the dastardly attack at Pearl Harbor kind of thing. Do you know anything about that?
Robert Stinnett: No, Iâ€™m not familiar with that, and that would not come forth in my cryptographic type of information. But as I told you earlier, President Roosevelt personally issued the order to the Philippine commanders to let Japan commit the first overt act of war. And they did. And Japan overtook the Philippines and captured American soldiers and sailors and forced them into marches â€“ itâ€™s called the Bataan Death March. And apparently thatâ€™s what the lawsuit that youâ€™re referring to is about. But Iâ€™m not familiar with that. But that could possibly be what youâ€™re suggesting here.
Philip Dru: Does that sound to you like something outside of the character of FDR? Like, is that kind of allegation comparable to Pearl Harbor, or do you think that thatâ€™s something on a different scale?
Robert Stinnett: Well, I donâ€™t think the president or any president would want to, you know, slaughter American servicemen, though it has been done in the past, you know, a few are sacrified for the safety of the many, and thatâ€™s what Commander Rochefort was referring to when he said it was, the death of 2500 at Pearl Harbor was a cheap price to pay to unify the country. You know, this unifying the country and getting people war-minded, you can trace that back to President Polk in the Mexican War in 1846 where he, where American troops provoked Mexican troops along the Rio Grande River. President Lincoln did it at Fort Sumter. We know about it at Manila Bay â€“ not Manila, at, letâ€™s see, in Havana, Cuba, the USS Maine was blown up. And then most recently at Vietnam when the Gulf of Tonkin resolution was also a provocation against Vietnamese that President Johnson used to get us into the Vietnam War.
Philip Dru: At some point, Mr. Stinnett, somebodyâ€™s got to ask, what makes us better than the Germans? If we provoke every war that weâ€™ve fought since the Mexican-American War?
Robert Stinnett: Well, thatâ€™s what my book is about, and I want your listeners and my readers to, to be aware of all this so that they can form their own opinions and do away with all this censorâ€“ this 60 years of censorship weâ€™ve had on Pearl Harbor. But itâ€™s been difficult to get all this information out, though it is now, and my book has been well reviewed and received by reviewers throughout the United States and itâ€™s being printed throughout the world now. Other nations are also translating the book.
Philip Dru: Yes, right at the top it says, â€œPerhaps the most revelatory document of our times,â€ is a quote from the Chicago Sun-Times.
Robert Stinnett: Yes, well, thatâ€™s the â€“ and also at amazon.com on the internet and in barnesandnoble.com, people have written about the book. Iâ€™ve got a 70-80% approval rating. And there are people who still wonâ€™t accept this information, they think it is anti-Roosevelt, but as I point out in my book, what else was the president to do, given the situation in 1940 and 1941? By â€œthe situationâ€ I mean the isolation movement in this country which was supported by 80% of the public.
Philip Dru: Well, I guess some would say that if this is a free country and a democracy, that the 80% ought to get what they want. If they donâ€™t want to go to war in Europe, why should they have to be fooled into going to war in Europe?
Robert Stinnett: Yeah, absolutely, that would be a reaction. But of course President Roosevelt and all of his advisers were highly concerned that Adolf Hitler was going to come over and invade this country and force us into slave labor, and if Hitler had succeeded in conquering Great Britain and seized the British fleet and blockading the United States and bombing us using his aircraft carriers, it doesnâ€™t take too much imagination to see that we were in deadly peril at the time.
Philip Dru: Well, and one could argue that as soon as Germany attacked us, then we would have been fully justified in going to war against them.
Robert Stinnett: Yes, right, but Germany would not attack us. You see, that was the, that was Hitlerâ€™s plan. He would not really attack us, though he did, his submarines did attack us in the North Atlantic, as I point out, the Reuben James. But he made no overt act of war â€“ though that really needs to be explored thoroughly, you know, what if? What if Hitler had attacked us? Would he have attacked us? That would take some scholarship to really trace that down.
Philip Dru: It seems to me perhaps a bit of a contradiction that he was such a big threat to us that we had to provoke Japan into attacking us to have a war against Hitler, and the reason we had to provoke Japan is because Hitler wouldnâ€™t attack us. I mean, those things â€“
Robert Stinnett: Yeah.
Philip Dru: Either one is true and the other is false, or the other is true and the other is false, but they canâ€™t both be right.
Robert Stinnett: Well, Hitler was doing everything he could to keep the United States from aiding Great Britain. Iâ€™m talking about 1940 and â€™41. And while Iâ€™m no student on Germany, I have read some accounts where his orders were donâ€™t provoke the United States. Though his submarines did sink our ships. But you see the isolation movement, which was led by Charles Lindbergh, our great hero at the time, Henry Ford, the auto magnate, the Hearst newspapers, these were all people who were saying that Hitler is no threat to us and they controlled this 80% of the opinion in America at the time, where President Roosevelt and his military by breaking and knowing what â€“ breaking the codes of Germany, knew what Germany was up to and the peril facing our country.
Philip Dru: All right, well I wonâ€™t belabor that point any more. That really just comes down to a matter of opinion about the, whether â€“
Robert Stinnett: Well, thatâ€™s right. You know, suppose Hitler had invaded Bermuda and Nassau and in the Caribbean? Or Canada, suppose he had done that? What would have happened here in the United States? This is what the Navy Intelligence was worried about when they wrote that memo in October 1940. What if Hitler had seized the Canadian land mass, and Bermuda, and Nassau, and all of the British islands in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean and so forth? You know, we could have a whole broadcast discussing that.
Philip Dru: All right, well, Mr. Stinnett, off the top of your head, can you recommend any other books besides your own on Pearl Harbor that have things that people need to know in them?
Robert Stinnett: Well, as far as I know, Iâ€™m the only one that was given access to these, you know, these documents, the cryptographic documents that you need to know before you can really write the truth about Pearl Harbor. Most of the books written by historians were written based on the 1950 congressional hearings and the distillations of the war memoirs of that time, so mine is really the first to bring this whole new information out. And so I think that new books will be coming out and more information is going to be disclosed.
Philip Dru: Mr. Stinnett, do you have any other closing comments, anything that I should have asked you about that I forgot to?
Robert Stinnett: Well, I, I — I think that all of your listeners should be aware of our nationâ€™s policy historically where we have provoked enemies into attacking us to unify or to justify attacking another country, and Iâ€™m told that this is an old, old plan that goes back to the days of Julius Caesar. But I think your listeners and my readers should all be aware that these are things that nations do in times of peril and they need to be evaluated.
Philip Dru: So you think the lessons of Pearl Harbor can be applied going into the new century here?
Robert Stinnett: Well, absolutely. To watch for provocations. There are even questions being raised now as we speak about the weapons of mass destruction. Was that a provocation or were they real? This is what Iâ€™m reading in the papers. I know nothing one way or the other, but that needs to be answered. Where are the weapons of mass destruction and were they in somewhere? What are the, what do our intercepts show that we knew about them? Iâ€™m of course speculating now. This is not my expertise at this time.
Philip Dru: Ah, but it could be. You could be the one to write Day of Deceit: The Truth About George W. Bush and September 11th.
Robert Stinnett: Well, I wouldnâ€™t do that until I had, you know, the cryptographic or whatever documents that you need to prove that one way or the other.
Philip Dru: So can we expect that youâ€™ll be filing Freedom of Information Act lawsuits to get those cryptographic materials declassified?
Robert Stinnett: Iâ€™m still working on Pearl Harbor, and what we knew about the Nazis and the Holocaust. Why didnâ€™t we, you know, go after the German trains that were carrying Jewish prisoners to the death camps? Why didnâ€™t we bomb the bridges, the railroad bridges, so that the trains couldnâ€™t go across rivers? And why didnâ€™t we bomb more of the U-boat bases? These are kind of information, stories that I want to write about World War II that havenâ€™t been told.
Philip Dru: Are you insinuating that we deliberately left the railroads to Dachau and Auschwitz intact?
Robert Stinnett: Thatâ€™s right. Thereâ€™s no, thereâ€™s no â€“ we knew through our intercepts that these railroad trains were being used to take Jewish prisoners and others to concentration camps, but we did nothing to stop the trains. Of course youâ€™re not going to bomb the trains because that would kill the people, but you could have bombed the railroad yards and the bridges. That would have stopped it. You could have bombed the whole railroads complex. Iâ€™m not talking about the trains themselves, but to stop these trains, their power facilities and so forth.
Philip Dru: So do we have evidence, like we do about Pearl Harbor, that they in the White House deliberately decided to leave these particular railroads intact?
Robert Stinnett: Thatâ€™s what Iâ€™m working on now, and thatâ€™ll be a subject of my next book.
Philip Dru: Do you know what the name of that book will be yet?
Robert Stinnett: We havenâ€™t named it yet. I still have more information to get from the Navy and the Army, National Archives.
Philip Dru: My goodness. Well, we will all pay very close attention to The Independent Institute, where you are a media fellow, and we will hopefully keep track of progress on that new book. Thatâ€™s the most horrible thing I think Iâ€™ve ever heard. I had no idea you were about to say that.
Robert Stinnett: Well, these are things that need to be told and Iâ€™m very concerned that the U.S. Patriot Act now that closes a lot of these â€“ closes access to this type of information under national security reasons, but this is stuff thatâ€™s 60 years old and this is what concerns me as a researcher.
Philip Dru: So the Patriot Act is taking 60-year-old documents out of circulation, things that you would have been able to have access to, now youâ€™re being denied?
Robert Stinnett: Yes, thatâ€™s correct. Everyone, all, all Americans, are denied this information from 60 years ago. President Bush just signed an order about two months ago extending blackouts against this information. So even with the Freedom of Information Act, his order overrides the Freedom of Information Act. Legally.
Philip Dru: All right, my friends. The guest has been Robert Stinnett, media fellow at The Independent Institute in Oakland, the author of Day of Deceit: The Truth About FDR and Pearl Harbor, decorated veteran of the United States Navy, 1942 through â€™46. Thank you so much for coming on the air today with us, Mr. Stinnett.
Robert Stinnett: Thank you. Very fine questions that you asked, right to the point.
Philip Dru: Thank you, sir.
Robert Stinnett: My pleasure.
Philip Dru: All right, my friends, that was Robert Stinnett, author of Day of Deceit: The Truth About FDR and Pearl Harbor.
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