The Ultimatum that Gave Us Pearl Harbor

During the nearly quarter of a century since 1944, and despite a series of official investigations, the defenders of Roosevelt among historians, journalists and politicians have been able to keep the vital information about the responsibility for war with Japan and the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor from the American people. - Harry Elmer Barnes

It doesn't matter how many times you prove it. Wait five years and you have to prove it all over again. Take Pearl Harbor. The fact that FDR knew the Japanese were going to attack is something that should by now be as solidly established in American historiography as William Randolph Hearst's famous order to his photographer, "You furnish the pictures, I'll furnish the war," (the conflict under discussion being the Spanish American war). Alexander Cockburn

From all that we have now learned about what happened on that fateful day of December 7, 1941, there might still be some small room for debate as to how precise was our leaders’ knowledge of the impending Japanese attack in the hours just before it took place.  Beyond debate is the fact that Franklin Roosevelt very badly wanted the attack to occur so that he would have an excuse to involve the United States militarily in the war in Europe, that he had taken precisely the steps needed to make sure that an attack was imminent, and that he kept the news that he had taken those steps away from the people who most needed to know it.  Foremost among that latter group were our military leaders in the Pacific, most specifically, General Walter Short and Admiral Husband Kimmel in Hawaii.  What no Americans were told, outside a tiny handful of people, was that we had effectively ended negotiations to temper or end our crippling economic embargo on Japan, and we had ended them with what amounted to a slap in the proud Japanese face.  Furthermore, the key commanders in the Pacific were not informed that the inevitable Japanese military response, which we had learned from intercepted messages, was forthcoming in short order.

Roosevelt might have miscalculated with respect to the degree of damage that the attack on Pearl Harbor would inflict.  His failure to share with the commanders in Pearl Harbor the information they needed to prepare for the attack, though, was not a miscalculation or a matter of inadvertence.  He knew that the Japanese had a very good spying apparatus, and the last thing that Roosevelt wanted was for them to see that we were so ready for the attack that it would be called off.  There is a lot more evidence, but all one really has to do is to read FDR’s speech of December 9, 1941, the day after the “date that will live in infamy” speech, to see just how badly Roosevelt wanted us into the European war.

Among the Americans kept in the dark were all the members of the U.S. Congress.  As the quote above from historian Harry Elmer Barnes suggests, most of the American people remain in the dark to this day.  With his 1976 book, one of the previously deceived congressmen made an effort to rectify that situation for the public.  Unfortunately, but perhaps predictably, illustrious though the author might have been, the book failed to find a “reputable” publisher and it consequently continues to be obscure.  The man was Rep. Hamilton Fish who represented Roosevelt’s home district in New York and the book is FDR, the Other Side of the Coin: How We Were Tricked into World War II.  The following is from his introduction:

This book is an agonizing reappraisal written by the author, the Honorable Hamilton Fish, a member of Congress for twenty-five years, ranking Republican member of the Foreign Affairs Committee 1933-43, and ranking member of the Rules Committee 1940-45. 

The author is one of the very few former members alive who participated actively in the Congressional foreign policy debates between 1937 and 1945.  I made the first speech advocating war with Japan on December 8, 1941 (the first speech ever made in Congress over the radio).  The speech was heard by over 20 million Americans and it upheld President Roosevelt’s theme of the “Day of Infamy.”  I now publicly disavow that speech as a result of subsequent historical evidence.  I believe that not only the American people but everyone interested in the truths of history is entitled to know the naked truth: that Roosevelt incited and provoked Japan into war by the issuance of an all-out secret war ultimatum in defiance of the Congress, the American people, and the Constitution of the United States, ten days before Pearl Harbor. (emphasis in original)

Even now, every Pearl Harbor Day, December 7, American newspapers editorially denounce Japan for provoking and causing the war in the midst of peace negotiations.  This is entirely contrary to the historical facts.  The Honorable Clare Boothe Luce was right when she said that President Roosevelt lied us into war by the back door in order to get into war with Germany.  Sir Oliver Lyttleton, British Minister of Productions in Churchill’s cabinet, speaking before the American Chamber of Commerce in London in 1944, let the cat out of the bag: “Japan was provoked into attacking the Americans at Pearl Harbor….  It is a travesty on history to ever say America was forced into the war.”

Emperor Hirohito has been falsely attacked for being responsible for the war.  In fact, he consistently urged peace by diplomacy and offered unprecedented concessions, including withdrawal of Japanese troops from China and Vietnam. (pp. xi-xii)

We pick up the story in the middle of chapter 15, “How the United States Became Involved in World War II.”

American public opinion in 1940-41 was bitterly opposed to involvement in another world war.  In a democracy, where free speech prevails, the voice of the people creates public opinion.  The percentage was reduced from 97 percent to approximately 85 percent when Hitler invaded Poland* due to massive consistent administration propaganda, remaining at that level until the attack on Pearl Harbor.

The question is often raised, what would have happened if we had not entered the war, that is, if there had been no Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor?  The question deserves a detailed answer.  I am convinced that we could have easily made a peace treaty with Japan in which she would have agreed to a mutually friendly withdrawal from China and Indochina in return for the right to trade with all nations in the Far East including the Philippines and the Dutch East Indies. 

The extensive memoirs of Secretary of State Cordell Hull are a treasure-house of historical information, although naturally highly slanted in covering up his responsibility and that of FDR for the war ultimatum that caused not only the war with Japan, but also with Germany and Italy.  In referring to the war ultimatum it seems appropriate to have it preceded by the word “infamous,” derived from Roosevelt’s designation of the attack on Pearl Harbor as a date to live in infamy.

This epithet was acclaimed by all of us at the time and was repeated all over the world.  The full story of the infamous ultimatum will be related in detail in this chapter.  There never was, in the history of America, such trickery, deception and double-crossing of the American people.

The all-out war ultimatum, approved by FDR and presented to the Japanese ambassador [Kichisaburō] Nomuro [sic] on November 26, 1941, demanded that Japan withdraw all of its armed forces—army, navy, air force and even police—from China (Manchuria) and Indochina immediately.  Like cornered rats, the Japanese had no alternative than to fight.  If they hadn’t, their leaders would have had to commit suicide or be killed by their own people. (emphasis in original)

Hull’s memoirs do not even mention the crucial November 25 meeting at the White House.  According to [Secretary of War Henry] Stimson’s diary, the only question considered at this meeting was how to maneuver, incite and provoke Japan to fire the first shot.  The next day Secretary Hull scrapped the modus vivendi, or truce for ninety days (which had been acceptable to Japan), and handed Ambassador Nomuro the infamous war ultimatum.  It was not released until after Pearl Harbor, when it went unnoticed.  Very few of the American people ever even heard of the war ultimatum.  FDR, Secretary Hull, and Secretary Stimson were the main instigators but Secretary [of the Navy Frank] Knox, [Chief of Staff] General [George C.] Marshall and [Chief of Naval Operations] Admiral [Harold] Stark were lesser collaborators.  They all knew it would force the Japanese to attack immediately without warning.

It is only fair to the leading officers of the American armed forces to emphasize that even as late as November 26 they still counseled and cautioned against war.  On the morning of November 26 there was a meeting of the Army-Navy Joint Board at which Admiral [Royal] Ingersoll presented a series of arguments against precipitating a war.

Evidently the protest of the Army-Navy Joint Board had little effect on President Roosevelt and Secretary Hull.  So on that afternoon, Hull, representing the president, abandoned all thought of a truce with Japan and rejected any idea of compromise or conciliation.  With the full approval of FDR, he presented to Numuro the demand that the government of Japan withdraw all military, naval, air and police forces from China and Indochina.

Admiral Nomuro was accompanied by Saburo Kurusu, who had served as a consul in New York and had recently been the Japanese ambassador to Berlin.  He was married to an American girl, which gave him an added interest in maintaining friendly relations between Japan and the United States.  After he had read Hull’s proposals, Kurusu asked if this were the American answer to the Japanese request for a modus vivendi or truce.  Secretary Hull gave an evasive and virtually negative answer.  Kurusu replied that the secretary’s statement was “tantamount to meaning the end.”  It was obvious to Nomuro and Kurusu that this was a war ultimatum and that the next step would be war.

The undisputed fact is that even those Japanese militarists who had no love for the United States realized the tremendous potential strength of our country and wanted to avoid such a ruinous war if a peace with honor could be found.  They were willing to make unprecedented concessions and to accept virtually all our terms in the proposed modus vivendi, which included a ninety-day truce.  Secretary Hull for eight months had been stringing Ambassador Nomuro along, stalling for time to permit our army and navy to strengthen their defenses in the Philippines and in our other Far Eastern possessions.  Hull in his memoirs made it very clear that he was playing for time at the request of both the army and the navy.  His dilatory tactics finally became apparent to the Japanese cabinet, which set November 29 as the final day for ending negotiations.  Hull knew definitely that the showdown on peace or war had been reached through the intercepted Japanese messages to Nomuro, as we had broken the Japanese code.

Hull had been working on a modus vivendi which would not only have postponed the war, but might have averted an unwanted, unnecessary, costly and bloody war with Japan completely.  President Roosevelt received protests from Churchill and Chiang Kai-shek.  FDR’s administrative secretary, Lauchlin Currie, friendly to the Communists,** received an urgent cable from Owen Lattimore, another apologist for communism.  Lattimore had been appointed by Roosevelt as an adviser to Chiang Kai-shek.  Naturally Soviet Russia was opposed to any peace terms and favored war between the United States and Japan.

Churchill realized, as did Roosevelt, that if we became involved in war with Japan it would automatically bring us into war with Germany.  Consequently, the modus vivendi was scrapped.

Roosevelt used his tremendous presidential powers to deceive the American public and succeeded in keeping the existence of the war ultimatum a secret from everyone, including all members of Congress, until after Pearl Harbor.  It was a conspiracy of silence.  Later the administration refused to institute a nonpartisan, impartial court-martial of Admiral Kimmel and General Short, at their own request, to ascertain the true responsibility for the Pearl Harbor disaster.  It was denied by the Roosevelt administration because it would have exposed FDR’s ultimatum and likewise his responsibility for provoking the war secretly. (emphasis in original)

Although the Congress was totally ignored, and only a handful of Americans in the cabinet knew of the existence of the war ultimatum, Winston Churchill and the British high command were kept informed of every move.

FDR secretly maneuvered us into war.  The responsibility for the deadly blow to the U.S. navy was his, as well as the deaths of 3,000 American sailors at Pearl Harbor—America’s greatest naval defeat and disaster.

The tragic fact is that few Americans know about FDR’s ultimatum to Japan.  It is still America’s greatest and best-kept secret, part and parcel of the perpetuation of the Roosevelt myth, and the greatest cover-up in American history.  (pp. 135-139)

As the old sports cliché goes, records are made to be broken.  If Israel and our neocon-controlled leaders can maneuver us into World War III, then certainly the 9-11 cover-up can claim the new record as greatest in American history.  No one can deny that the United States plunged into the Middle East militarily because of that “second Pearl Harbor” that the people at the Project for a New American Century longed for so badly.

Hamilton Fish’s Publisher

As we saw from his introduction, Hamilton Fish was an important American politician.  He was also a very learned man who wrote well.  From the publisher’s blurb on the back, we learn that Fish was of a distinguished lineage:

Hamilton Fish was born in Garrison, New York, on 7 December 1888, the son of a Congressman, the grandson of a former governor of New York, U.S. senator, and secretary of state; and the great-grandson of a colonel in Washington’s army, who was an intimate friend of Lafayette and Alexander Hamilton.  He attended Saint Mark’s School, and was graduated from Harvard t the age of 20 with a degree cum laude in government and history.  he was also offered an appointment as an instructor of history at Harvard. 

Mr. Fish was elected three times on the Progressive (“Bull Moose”) ticket to the New York Assembly, served as an officer in the 369th Negro infantry from New York in World War I in France, where he was decorated with the Silver Star and the French croix de guerre, and served in Congress from 1920 to 1945 as a Republican.

Ordinarily publishers would be clamoring for such a man’s writings.  But the subject of his book is not a popular one.  He had to settle for an equally unpopular publisher, the Institute for Historical Review (IHR).  Although there would seem to be a considerable mismatch in public repute between author and publisher, very much in favor of the former, it is the latter that sees fit to issue a disclaimer in the publisher’s blurb on the back:

The Institute for Historical Review is a non-profit, educational foundation dedicated to bringing history into accord with the facts.  We present this book as a valuable, first-hand account of corruption in high places, even though the author appears to support the now discredited notion of the “Holocaust” and was even involved in some of the initial U.S. moves to support the Israeli conquest and colonization of Palestine.  We publish this book in the interests of historical objectivity, in the knowledge that Revisionist scholars are able to distinguish first-hand experience from sentimentality.

At this point, reflecting upon our own experience with the IHR and upon the central point of our previous article, “The Pearl Harbor Betrayal and James Forrestal’s Death,” we must offer a quibble with Fish’s conclusion.  Pearl Harbor might still be our greatest secret, but it is not our best-kept one.  The Pearl Harbor subterfuge has been written about extensively, as noted by the Cockburn quote at the top of this article, but even IHR director, Mark Weber, has participated in keeping the truth about James Forrestal’s death away from the public.  When we emailed him the first installment of “Who Killed James Forrestal?” he responded curtly that he believed that Forrestal committed suicide, and that was that.  Undeterred, I later sent him Part 2, which incorporated the findings of the long-secret official investigation of Forrestal’s death.  He responded that he would look into the matter, but I have heard nothing from him, and, to my knowledge, he has written nothing on the subject.

Not only does the experience tell us a lot about best-kept secrets, it also, to my mind, tells us a lot about the IHR and its director.  Could it be that they are intentionally feckless, along the lines of the John Birch Society?

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*The Soviet Union, our future ally in World War II, invaded Poland as well, only 16 days after Germany did.

**Currie was not just friendly to the Communists, but he spied for them, as Roosevelt had been told two years before by Whittaker Chambers through FDR’s aide, Adolf Berle.

David Martin

October 17, 2012

 

 

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