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FDR & Pearl Harbor: It's War Via "The Back Door" Again!
Review by Richard E. Young
Day Of Deceit: The Truth About FDR and Pearl HarborDay of Deceit: The Truth About FDR and Pearl Harbor. By Robert B. Stinnett. (New York: The Free Press, 1999. Pp. xiv, 386. $19.95 paper.)

Robert B. Stinnett attempts--as others before him--to prove that President Franklin D. Roosevelt had actual knowledge beforehand of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and furthermore deliberately provoked Japan into attacking Hawaii. The author's 585 lengthy and often confusing footnotes, however, do not necessarily prove his thesis correct. A close examination of Stinnett's research raises many questions concerning its accuracy and reliability."

Robert B. Stinnett's Day of Deceit is yet another extensively-researched work that blames Franklin D. Roosevelt for the Pearl Harbor attack. The retired Oakland Tribune writer claims that his thorough examination of thousands of documents--many obtained via the Freedom of Information Act--produced indisputable proof that FDR knew of and deliberately provoked the Japanese attack.

The author's conclusions rest on four major allegations. First, that Roosevelt adopted and put into action an October 7, 1940, memorandum entitled "Estimate of the Situation in the Pacific and Recommendations for Action by the United States," which listed eight steps "to provoke Japan through a series of actions into an overt act: the Pearl Harbor attack." Regrettably, Stinnett's research (595 footnotes filling 65 pages) fails to substantiate that FDR saw or even knew of this memorandum, which lacked forwarding endorsements. Furthermore, his claim that "a series of secret presidential routing logs plus collateral intelligence information in Navy files offer conclusive evidence that . . . [Roosevelt] . . . did see it" is not supported by his citations. In fact, Stinnett fails to provide any "conclusive evidence" that FDR was aware of--much less approved--this memorandum.

Stinnett's second major allegation is that Roosevelt prevented Admiral Kimmel from conducting a training exercise that would have detected the oncoming Japanese fleet. Unfortunately, he fails to provide any relevant documentation to support this charge. He does, however, quote Admiral Turner (Director of Navy Plans at the time of the Pearl Harbor attack) who testified before Congress after the war. But Stinnett misquotes the admiral by cobbling together phrases of his testimony in such a way as to support his claim that the navy had been ordered out of the area where the Japanese task force was headed.

The most serious flaw in the author's thesis concerns Admiral Kimmel himself--viewed by many as a scapegoat for Pearl Harbor--who never once in his testimony before Congress or in his many speeches or book stated, suggested, or even hinted that he had been prevented from finding the Japanese task force. In fact, he did not believe that the Japanese were about to attack Pearl Harbor. Conducting and then concluding a standard annual war game north of Hawaii by some ships of the Pacific Fleet two weeks before December 7th, is hardly evidence--as Stinnett claims--of Kimmel being prevented from discovering the Japanese attack force.

The author's other two key allegations, one being the Japanese task force actually sent radio messages en route to Pearl Harbor and that many Japanese secret messages related to the impending attack on Hawaii were intercepted, deciphered, and translated prior to the attack have already been discredited by experts in cryptology and radio communications, as well as by such eminent historians of Pearl Harbor as Gordon Prange.

Much of Stinnett's research and conclusions raise serious questions about the accuracy and relevance of many of his claims. Any serious student of Pearl Harbor should examine carefully the author's research before concluding that he has really uncovered anything new.


Richard E. Young, Rear Admiral, U. S. Naval Reserve (retired), has held a number of command positions, including Assistant Chief of Staff for Readiness and Tactics , U. S. Atlantic Fleet and Commander of the Naval Reserve Readiness Command. He has authored several articles published in the Naval Institute Proceedings.

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