Why FDR Wanted War With Japan
by Thomas Schmidt
It is possible to disagree with others and yet learn from them. A good friend took umbrage at my insistence that Franklin Delano Roosevelt had foreknowledge of the attack on Pearl Harbor. I based my argument on Robert Stinnett’s Day of Deceit, which I think makes a pretty convincing case that critical information on the Pearl Harbor attack was available beforehand, and that it was kept from the Commanders in Hawaii, Admiral Husband Kimmel and General Walter Short. As the Amazon review writes: “(a)lthough obviously troubled by his discovery of a systematic plan of deception on the part of the American government, Stinnett does not take deep issue with its outcome. Roosevelt, he writes, faced powerful opposition from isolationist forces, and, against them, the Pearl Harbor attack was ‘something that had to be endured in order to stop a greater evil – the Nazi invaders in Europe who had begun the Holocaust and were poised to invade England.’”
I bought the book for my friend to read, and he likewise gave me a book dealing with dismissing the controversy (I did point out that “my” book was based on previously unavailable classified documents). I did not think his book made his point well, but he did have a logical point that undermined Stinnett’s and thus my argument. According to article 3 of the Tripartite Pact among Italy, Germany, and Japan, “Japan, Germany, and Italy … undertake to assist one another with all political, economic and military means if one of the Contracting Powers is attacked by a Power at present not involved in the European War or in the Japanese-Chinese conflict.” So it was logically impossible for Roosevelt to assume that inciting the Japanese to strike the first blow would bring him into the war against a Nazi Germany which had been extremely cautious (unlike the Wilhelmine Second Reich) in actions to not provoke the US to war. Of course, Hitler did declare war on the USA in the wake of Pearl Harbor, an action called “Hitler’s greatest blunder” by a number of sources; in the linked article, Nicholas Henderson does cite some support in the record for Nazi Germany’s declaration, but no necessity.