Although some writers argue that Stinnett’s assertion that FDR knew what the Japanese military was about to do in December 1941, cannot be supported by the materials presented in the book, this book is a well research book supported with newly declassified materials, and had attracted attention of many American people and changed the perception of many on the origin of the Second World War in Asia from “the sneak attack by Japan” to a deliberate provocation by FDR to Japan.
While the battles were going on in Europe and China in 1940, most Americans were isolationists, not willing to be involved with those wars outside of America. Britain was fighting alone in Europe against the Nazi Germany. President Roosevelt thought that one way of the U.S. going into the war was to provoke Japan, a member of the Tripartite Treaty. (Chapter 2)
Lt. Commander Arthur McCullum, head of the Far East Section at the Office of Naval Intelligence, born and raised in Japan with extensive knowledge of Japanese society and culture, believed that a war with Japan was inevitable and that rather than wait, America should provoke confrontation, and provided President an 8-points memorandum in October, 1940. His recommendations included (1) working with Great Britain and Holland, (2) assisting Chiang Kai-shek in China, (3) strengthening and mobilizing U.S. fleet in the Pacific, (4) requesting the Dutch government to refuse the Japanese undue demand for oil, and (5) embargoing all trade with Japan, specifically oil, in collaboration with Britain. McCullum recommended these steps be taken in sequence. (Chapter 2)
Soon McCullum’s measures were taken up by Franklin D. Roosevelt. The author documents the actions taken by FDR throughout 1941 for provoking Japan step by step. His investigation was significantly aided by the documents provided to him from the government according to the process mandated by the Freedom of Information Act of 1966. The final step was a well-coordinated oil embargo to Japan with Britain and Holland in August of 1941.
With this action Japan being devoid of oil resources, had to endure a primitive civilization prior to the modernization of the nation before the Meiji Restoration, or fight a war with those nations which refused to provide oil.
According to Stinnett, the U.S. military was able to decode most of the Japanese diplomatic and military communications by November 1941. Thus, FDR was able to prepare for the Japanese attack. But, he manipulated American responses in such a way that the attack looked like a surprise attack. Thus, he ordered on November 27-28 the U.S. military to follow the statement:”The United States desires that Japan commit the first overt act.” In addition, the Commanders in Hawaii, Admiral Kimmel and Army Lt. General Walter Short were not given a timely precaution. Contrary to the prevailing understanding, the attacking Japanese fleet did not maintain radio silence.(Ch. 4) The author asserts that the fleet was communicated with several partners, and the codes were decrypted and sent to President on a daily basis. Two weeks before the attack, Admiral Kimmel was ordered to stop patrolling north of Oahu Island.(p. 145) Although its reason was not given, it was presumably to avoid the U.S. Navy detecting the oncoming Japanese fleet.
As the Japanese attack of December 7, 1941 was made as a surprise through careful manipulations, the U.S. Congress was able to declare war with Japan on the next day and three days later with Germany and Italy. FDR accomplished his ultimate objective of bringing in the United States into the European war, according to the author.