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Is the "Surprise Attack" on Pearl Harbor in December 1941 – which resulted in a significant loss of Americans lives – relevant to understanding the events of September 11? According to American historian and Pulitzer prize winner, John Toland, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt had "prior knowledge" of the attack . . . and failed to act.

"A massive cover-up followed Pearl Harbor a few days later ... when the Chief of Staff ordered a lid put on the affair. ‘Gentlemen,' he told half a dozen officers, ‘this goes to the grave with us.'"


Pearl Harbour: History Whitewashed?


by Ian Woods


Centre for Research on Globalisation (CRG),  globalresearch.ca ,  5  March 2002



CRG's Global Outlook provides detailed documentation on the war and the "Post- September 11 Crisis." To order/subscribe. Consult Table of Contents

On December 7 of last year, America ‘celebrated' the Sixtieth Anniversary of Pearl Harbor. On that date in history — often referred to as "a day of infamy" — a surprise attack was staged by the Japanese on the American naval base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Heavy American casualties were inflicted on those based on the island outpost which lay halfway between the United States and Japan. The devastation aroused the anger of the American people. Soon afterwards, the U.S. government declared war on Japan and Germany and joined the Allies in World War Two.

A Day of Infamy

According to historian, John Toland, "The events of Sunday morning, December 7, 1941, have always been shrouded in mystery. Japanese bombs had scarcely stopped falling on Pearl Harbor before shocked and angry Americans were calling for an investigation of the catastrophe, one of the most sudden and complete defeats in United States history. Within weeks, Franklin D. Roosevelt had appointed a blue-ribbon committee, headed by Supreme Court Justice Owen Roberts, to look into the events leading up to the Japanese attack. Its judgment placed the blame on the Hawaiian commanders, General Short and Admiral Kimmel, in spite of much contradictory evidence. "Their disgrace aroused a storm of controversy. Pleading a wartime need for secrecy, the government kept a tight lid on the facts surrounding the Pearl Harbor disaster. There were rumors of a whitewash, and knowledgeable crypt-analysts talked of a Japanese order given in the highly classified Purple Code (which, under extreme security wraps, the United States had been decoding for years). The so-called "winds execute" signal, they said, had warned Washington of imminent attack — a warning never passed on to Hawaii. "Eight more investigations followed, during and after the war, as partisans on both sides — field officers versus the Washington establishment — traded sensational and sometimes incredible assertions, accusations, and denials. Witnesses changed their testimony under pressure; files were destroyed or ‘mislaid'; and key government figures ‘forgot' where they were, what they said, and what they did in the crucial hours preceding the attack."

INFAMY, by John Toland, raises and answers some important questions about Pearl Harbor. Was there prior knowledge? Why were commanding officers Short and Kimmel not informed of an impending attack? Could Roosevelt have known of the approaching carrier force and decided not to act? Could the Americans have ambushed the Japanese and shortened the war? According to Toland, the Roosevelt administration had foreknowledge of Japan's military plans.

Prior Warning

"Confirmation of Dutch foreknowledge of the Japanese attack also came from General Albert C. Wedemeyer. In 1980 he informed the author that during a meeting in 1943, Vice Admiral Conrad E. L. Helfrich of the Royal Netherlands Navy expressed wonder that the Americans had been surprised at Pearl Harbor. The Dutch, Helfrich said, had broken the code and knew that the Japanese were going to strike Pearl Harbor. "He seemed surprised that I did not know this," recalled Wedemeyer, "and when I explained that I doubted seriously that this information was known in Washington prior to Pearl Harbor attack, Admiral Helfrich was skeptical because it was his clear recollection that his government had notified my government." (p. 317 - 318)

"Vice Admiral Conrad E. L. Helfrich of the Royal Netherlands Navy expressed wonder that the Americans had been surprised at Pearl Harbor. The Dutch, Helfrich said ... knew that the Japanese were going to strike Pearl Harbor ... it was his clear recollection that his government had notified [the U.S.] government." "By December 4, Roosevelt and a small group of advisers, including Stimson, Knox and Marshall, were faced with three options. They could announce to Japan and the world word of the approaching Kido Butai [the Japanese fleet]; this would indubitably have forced the Japanese to turn back. Second, they could inform Kimmel and Short that Japanese carriers were northwest of Hawaii and order them to send every available long-range patrol plane to discover this force. An attack conceived in such secrecy would necessarily depend on complete surprise for success, and once discovered out of range of its target, Kido Butai would have turned back ... "A month before the Hull ultimatum to Japan, Ickes had written in his diary: ‘For a long time I have believed that our best entrance into the war would be by way of Japan.' The first bomb dropped on Oahu would have finally solved the problem of getting an America — half of whose people wanted peace — into the crusade against Hitler. And the third option would accomplish this: keep Kimmel and Short and all but a select few in ignorance so that the Japanese could continue to their launching point unaware of their discovery. This would insure that the Japanese would launch their attack. If Kimmel, Short and others had been privy to the secret, they might possibly have reacted in such a way as to reveal to the Japanese that their attack plan was known." (p. 318)

"One of Knox's close friends, James G. Stahlman, wrote Admiral Kemp Tolley in 1973 that Knox had spent most of the night of December 6 at the White House with the President: All were waiting for what they knew was coming: an attack on Pearl Harbor." (p. 320)

"There, therefore, can be no question that between the dates of December 4 and December 6, the imminence of war on the following Saturday and Sunday, December 6 and 7, was clear-cut and definite ... "Up to the morning of December 7, 1941, everything that the Japanese were planning to do was known to the United States except the final message instructing the Japanese Embassy to present the 14th part together with the preceding 13 parts of the long message at one o‘clock on December 7, or the very hour and minute when bombs were falling on Pearl Harbor." (p. 108) Cover-Up?

"A massive cover-up followed Pearl Harbor a few days later, according to an officer close to Marshall, when the Chief of Staff ordered a lid put on the affair. ‘Gentlemen,' he told half a dozen officers, ‘this goes to the grave with us.'" (p. 321)

Three years later, after the Army Pearl Harbor Board and Navy Inquiry announced its findings, one man from Rhode Island summed up the feelings of the American people:"The Government's cover-up of the responsibility for that catastrophe has done more to undermine morale than any other single event of the past three years. The thinkers of America, and there are millions of them, won't stand for such guff. I am but one of the millions of Americans today who are shocked, humiliated and indignant because of this announcement." (p. 130)

"But there was little doubt in knowledgeable Washington circles that the navy would find it all top secret and the Pearl Harbor cover-up would continue." (p. 109)

And the cover-up continues to this day. Witness the plethora of Hollywood videos, history books and media coverage which say nothing of the real story behind Pearl Harbor. But history has its own way of painting its victims. On his death, President Roosevelt was described by one who knew him well as "a man who never told the truth if a lie would suffice." (p. 134) John O'Donnell in the New York Daily News wrote, "The evidence builds up to the simple brutal fact that F.D.R., the Big Brain, through blind stupidity ... was directly and personally responsible for the blood and disaster." (p. 160)

Pearl Harbor ... Operation Northwoods ... September 11

Is it possible that history is repeating itself now? I only raise the question, because there are so many questions that remain unanswered concerning the events of September 11. In the words of philosopher and poet George Santayana,

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

The evidence presented by John Toland suggests that Pearl Harbor was a crisis created by the U.S. government on December 7, 1941 to manipulate public opinion and sway the American people into going to war.


Ian Woods is the publisher and editor of Global Outlook published in association with the CRG.  Copyright Ian Woods 2002. .

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