Did FDR Lure Japan Into Attacking Pearl Harbor?
by Eric Margolis: Egypt’s
Morsi Drops a Bombshell
surprise attack on Pearl Harbor 71 years ago this month was a day
that will live in infamy according to US President Franklin
later, it increasingly appears that the presidents surprise
and outrage may have been synthetic. Roosevelt had been maneuvering
for more than a year to bring the United States into World War II.
Americans were against joining Britains war against Germany,
and had little interest in Asia.
was needed to arouse war fever in the United States particularly
so since American-Germans constituted one of the largest ethnic
group in the United States. In 1900, New York City was the third
largest German city after Berlin and Hamburg.
had been demanding since the mid-1930s that Japan cease its
occupation of strategic Manchuria, an autonomous state on Chinas
northeastern border. Americas warnings to Tokyo intensified
after Japan invaded China in 1937. By 1941, Japanese armies were
deep in China, a nation that the US considered its sphere of commercial
and political interest.
an ultimatum to Tokyo to get out of China or else. When Japan
ignored the warning, Roosevelt cut off all US exports to Japan of
crude oil, aviation gas, scrap iron and other strategic commodities
on which Japanese industry depended. At the time, the US produced
over 50% of the worlds oil supply. Japan produced no oil and
imported all of its strategic materials and much of its food.
should have known an attack was coming. The 1904 Russo-Japanese
War began with a surprise attack on Russias important northern
China naval base of Port Arthur. When President George Bush I ordered
US forces to war against Iraq in 1991, he justified the attack by
claiming Americas oil supply was threatened.
war against the ten times more powerful United States was folly.
The architect of the Pearl Harbor attack, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto,
who had lived in the United States, warned beforehand we are
going to war for oil, and I fear we will lose it because of oil.
In 1941, Japan
had a two-year strategic reserve of oil. The US embargo meant that
Japan had to either go to war while it still had oil, see itself
crippled by the embargo, or pull out of China, something the Imperial
Army would not accept.
absolutely correct. Japans main source of oil was the Dutch
East Indies (todays Indonesia), which it quickly conquered.
But mid-1944, US submarines and mining had cut off 96% of Japans
imports of oil, strategic material and food. Japans navy and
air forces became inoperable. Japan began to starve; half its cities
were leveled by US fire bomb raids.
the Imperial Japanese Navy had been at samurai swords drawn
with the Imperial Army. They in effect ran two separate wars: the
Navy wanted the East Indiess oil and to dominate the Pacific
Ocean. The Army demanded resources be poured into its wars in China
and Southeast Asia.
calling for Japans Kwantung Army in Manchuria to attack Russias
Far East were ignored. Had Japan done so, Stalin would not have
been able to transfer 41 tough Siberian divisions just in time to
halt the German advance on Moscow.
and Japan coordinated their offensives, Russia would likely have
been defeated. But they did not. Japans Emperor, Hirohito,
dithered and failed to force the Army and Navy into a coordinated
war effort. Recent research in Japan has uncovered the tragicomic
bungling and squabbling of the Imperial generals and admirals, and
a weak emperor paralyzed by indecision.
worse, Hitler for some reason declared war on the United States
soon after Pearl Harbor, giving Roosevelt the pretext he had long
sought to enter the war against Germany.
will long battle over whether Roosevelt lured Japan into attacking
Pearl Harbor. The absence of the only two US aircraft carriers in
the Pacific from Pearl Harbor during the attack, and Washingtons
ability to read Japans naval codes add suspicions that the
White House saw the attack coming. At minimum, the embargo of strategic
material to Japan was a huge provocation. Japan foolishly took the
bait and paid a terrible price.
him mail] is the author of War
at the Top of the World and the new book, American
Raj: Liberation or Domination?: Resolving the Conflict Between the
West and the Muslim World. See his
© 2012 Eric Margolis
Best of Eric Margolis