Pearl Harbor: FDR Leads the Nation into War

Pearl Harbor: FDR Leads the Nation into War, by Steven M. GillonBy Steven M. Gillon
Published by Basic Books, Perseus Books Group, New York, 2011 Click to Buy this Book!

Author Steven M. Gillon wastes no words in this gem of a history book. From Chapter 1 through the end of the Epilogue the book is only 188 pages in length and very effectively follows a central theme that focuses on the reactions of Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882–1945), and those around him, from the time they first learned of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, at 1:47 p.m. on December 7, 1941, until the following day, when Roosevelt delivered his war message to a joint session of Congress that began with the words: “December 7th, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy.”  Steven Gillon is a Professor of History at the University of Oklahoma and the Resident Historian for The History Channel. The television medium with its time restrictions has perhaps influenced this concise account of a day’s duration within a history for which “there is no shortage of books.” The author has also intended his examination of this 24-hour time period to address conspiracy theories: “The public’s fascination with conspiracy theories has distorted much of the writing about Pearl Harbor. The conspiracy theories popped up even before the war was over, with the appearance of John Flynn’s self-published The Truth About Pearl Harbor, and they have continued up to the present, with the 1999 release of Robert B. Stinnett’s Day of Deceit. Most of these books focus on a single question: Did FDR use the attack on Pearl Harbor as a ‘back door’ to war? In other words, was FDR the mastermind behind a massive government conspiracy to push a reluctant nation into battle?” But these conspiracy theories lack credibility: “All the evidence shows that FDR and the men around him were genuinely shocked when they learned of the attack. They may have been naïve and gravely misjudged Japanese intentions and capability, but they were not guilty of deliberate deception.” However, in the Notes section near the end of the book, on page 191, the author admits that “… Although it defies the rules of common sense and lacks evidence, the ‘back door’ theory refuses to go away,” and he suggests further reading on the troublesome topic, the 2003 publication, A Date Which Will Live: Pearl Harbor in American Memory, by Emily S. Rosenberg.

Further along in this review some anthroposophical light, from the lectures of Rudolf Steiner, will be cast on present-day conspiracy theory conundrums.

In the first two chapters of Pearl Harbor, the author combines details of Roosevelt’s daily routine on the morning of December 7th with accounts of the complex history that preceded the disaster. The accounts include descriptions of the rise of Roosevelt’s political career; his initial support for Woodrow Wilson’s League of Nations; the Great Depression of the 1930s; Roosevelt’s first term as President beginning in 1933; restrictive isolationist Congressional legislation; Germany’s Blitzkrieg and the beginning of World War II in Europe; Roosevelt’s “Lend-Lease” Program for providing Britain with war matériel; and Japanese expansion of its influence in Asia, its emergence as a major military power, and its signing of a treaty — the “Tripartite Pact” — with Germany and Italy. In 1940, in response to continuing escalation of Japanese intent, Roosevelt relocated the Pacific Fleet from California to Pearl Harbor in Oahu, west of Honolulu, “deliberately to provoke a Japanese attack” according to Stinnett, but most likely because it was a more strategic defense position. (In the midst of these enormous crises of office, Roosevelt suffered a personal loss when his mother, Sara, passed away in September of 1941, hence the black armband he wears in the cover photograph. In addition, FDR had to give attention in November to a United Mine Workers’ strike.) By November of 1941 it was considered likely that Japan would attack British outposts in the Pacific. On November 27th, warnings were sent to the army and navy commanders in Hawaii, Lieutenant General Walter Short and Admiral Husband Kimmel, that Japanese hostile action was possible at any moment: “This dispatch is to be considered a war warning … Negotiations with Japan … have ceased, and an aggressive move by Japan is expected within the next few days.” Roosevelt had repeatedly appealed to the emperor of Japan, Hirohito, for prevention of hostilities, but his last message was not received by the emperor until a few minutes before planes appeared in the skies over Oahu.

Chapter 3 describes the delivery of an intercepted Japanese document to Roosevelt and his trusted friend and adviser, Harry Hopkins, on the evening of December 6th. The document allowed for no chance of a diplomatic settlement with the United States. “This means war,” Roosevelt said to Hopkins, but both agreed that the United States would not make the first overt move, but would allow the enemy to “fire the first shot” on American forces. How else could the full support of the American people be enlisted? They were certainly not anticipating the extent of the Pearl Harbor disaster or the lapses of its military leaders. Admiral Harold “Betty” Stark, Chief of Naval Operations, had received a copy of the message that evening, but thought that the commanders in Hawaii had been sufficiently warned and that Japan was most likely to strike in the Philippines.  The 24-hour account as such, from the morning of December 7th, begins on page 36 of Chapter 3.

One good reason to study this book, among many, is Gillon’s outstanding exposition of how Roosevelt handled his severe disability, the total paralysis of his legs that had been caused by an attack of polio when he was 39-years old, and the iron will (and iron braces) Roosevelt applied to overcome this handicap. “FDR’s dynamic leadership over the next twenty-four hours obscures the fact that every aspect of his life was made more difficult by his polio. He required assistance to perform the simplest of tasks that most people take for granted — getting dressed, climbing in and out of bed, moving around his home …” He developed a method of appearing to walk with a cane, while gripping the arm of his support, his son, James. On the afternoon of December 8th, before he could begin his speech to the nation, James helped him to walk up the aisle of the House floor to the speaker’s rostrum. “While Roosevelt no doubt appreciated the gravity of the moment, James believed that his father was far more focused on the difficult task of appearing to walk down the aisle and then force his way up the wooden ramp that led to the rostrum. ‘His uppermost thought,’ James later wrote, ‘was that he get one braced foot after the other in the right position; that he hold his balance over his hips and pelvis just so; that he shift his great shoulders forward, left, and right just so; that he not fall down. This concentration caused him to break out into a sweat as, indeed, it always did.’”

Robert Stinnett’s book, Day of Deceit, claims that Roosevelt followed to the letter suggestion # F of eight recommendations in a confidential memorandum written by Lieutenant Commander Arthur H. McCollum (of the Office of Naval Intelligence) on how to provoke a war with Japan: “F: Keep the main strength of the U.S. Fleet, now in the Pacific, in the vicinity of the Hawaiian Islands.” There is no evidence that Roosevelt ever saw this memorandum, much less followed it. From Wikipedia: According to military historian Dr. Conrad C. Crane: “A close reading shows that its recommendations were supposed to deter and contain Japan, while better preparing the U.S. for a future conflict in the Pacific … the McCollum proposal itself was designed to prevent war, not provoke it.”  McCollum himself denied an earlier such claim regarding his memorandum in an article titled “The Calamitous 7th” in The Saturday Review of Literature, 29 May 1954: “Admiral Theobold’s thesis is the somewhat overworked and stale one that the consummately clever and adroit Franklin Delano Roosevelt, then President of the United States, deliberately goaded Japan into war as a means of insuring U.S. entry into the European war on the side of the British … Admiral Kimmel and General Short … and their forces were carefully prepared and deliberately tricked into slaughter as a human sacrifice that was necessary to arouse the American people …” After extensive investigations and hearings as to the causes of the Pearl Harbor disaster, the blame was correctly placed on the shoulders of Kimmel and Short, who should have had their forces on full alert for a possible Japanese attack. From the Notes section of Gillon’s book: “Had Hitler not declared war on the United States [on December 11th], FDR would likely have been forced to focus all of America’s resources on defeating Japan, leaving Britain to fend for itself against Germany.”

Present-day conspiracy theorists — evident all over the internet as well as in sensationalistic publications — usually offer unsubstantiated work, work that is nowhere near the level of the research and conclusions of recognized scholars, historians and military historians, and determined theorists would do well, before publishing, to turn first to exhaustive studies of all legitimate sources of knowledge in their areas of interest. By comparison, the numerous and vociferous conspiracy theorists supposedly working out of spiritual science are nowhere near the level of the spiritual perception required of Rudolf Steiner for the facts he revealed in Karmic Relationships and other lectures, referenced below. These revealed truths are living within humanity, yet most often manifest below the level of consciousness, as though they would arise from their shadowy submergence but must wait until scores of flotsam and jetsam have surfaced and floated away.

A passage from Chapter 6 of Gillon’s book is noteworthy: Roosevelt was in possession of a secret map drawn up by Hitler’s generals that reduced the fourteen republics of Latin America to “five vassal states … bringing the whole continent under their domination.” “Although Roosevelt did not know it at the time, the map was bogus, cooked up by British intelligence to help nudge America into the war.” The actual cause of World War I – which led inexorably to World War II – was initiated in part by the assassination in Sarajevo out of the work of conspirators in British secret societies. The conspiracy “…begins in London, it spins over into Western Europe, goes into Southern Europe, goes into the Balkans and finally goes over to St. Petersburg.”  —  From The Present and the Past in the Human Spirit, Lecture III. In Karmic Relationships, Volume 1, Lecture 10, given in 1924, Rudolf Steiner revealed that Thomas Woodrow Wilson (1856–1924), President of the United States from 1913–1921, was the reincarnation of Muajiva, who lived and ruled in the first century after Mohammed. – Review by Martha Keltz

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See also these lectures by Rudolf Steiner: Hereditary Impulses and Impulses from Previous Earth Lives: Western Brotherhoods, The Fall of the Spirits of Darkness and The Karma of Untruthfulness, Volume One and Volume Two.

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