"A date that will live in infamy," (Snyder 33) was what President Franklin Delano Roosevelt called December 7, 1941.
It was a calm Sunday morning at Pearl Harbor on the island of Oahu. Then two U.S. soldiers saw an oscilloscope signal on their mobile radars. They immediately called this in to their commanding officer but he told them to ignore it because the base was expecting a squadron of friendly B-17's to be coming from the mainland. Thirty minutes later the first bomb fell and almost killed a courier boy who was trying to deliver a message to Pearl Harbor Naval Base that the Japanese Imperial Navy was going to attack them. The Japanese bombers caught the base by surprise due to the Americans' tradition of not working on Sunday's. As the bombs fell, so did all the chances of the United States not joining the Allies in the second world war that was raging in Europe and the western Pacific. Up to that point the U.S. had just been supporting the Allies but they weren't technically at war with the Axis powers.
All throughout the first two years of the war, President Roosevelt focused on making life difficult for the Japanese. One way he did this was by creating various policies that would deter the Axis powers from being able to maintain the needs necessary to wage war on the Allies. One of these policies was the American financial and economic embargo, which supported China in its fight against Japan. It also, somewhat, forced neutral countries to side with the U.S. because it threatened that if any country would aid one of the Axis countries then that country would no longer be given aid packages from the United States. A second policy imposed by Roosevelt was the "moral embargo" of July 1938. This banned neutral countries from exporting planes and equipment to countries who engaged in the bombing of civilians. This made the U.S. look like the good guys because they were protecting the innocent people who were being killed just because the lived in a different country. By imposing these policies, the U.S. was disallowing the economic growth of the Axis countries and forcing them to support themselves, as long as they were against the Allies. These policies were a type of weapon that Roosevelt used in order to attack the enemy without formally declare war. This would be one of the primary reasons why Roosevelt would allow Pearl Harbor to occur.
Before the betrayal at Pearl Harbor occurred, a poll was taken of the U.S. citizen's opinion about Roosevelt taking them into the war. Ninety-four percent were against the United States getting involved. If Roosevelt would have just attacked Japan first, he would have lost a great majority of the support he was receiving from the general population of the United States. All the facts lead to the very probable possibility that Roosevelt may have helped plan the attack at Pearl Harbor or at least gave the "go-ahead" to whoever did plan. It is no coincidence that half of the U.S. Navy's gunboats were reassigned to Pearl Harbor only a couple of months before the attack. Roosevelt sent all the expendable ships to Pearl Harbor and all the carriers and battleships to run drills near San Diego. Roosevelt figured that, if he was going to allow American ships to be destroyed, they might as well be the ships that are out of date and inexpensive to replace, in comparison with some of the Navy's other ships. The attack on Pearl Harbor enraged the American commoner so much that they changed their views completely and wanted Japan to pay for the surprise attack in Hawaii. After all, the American people only knew that negotiations were under way in Washington DC and that the U.S. was working for peace not war. They saw the attack on Pearl Harbor as an act of betrayal.
Another fact, that contributes to the possibility of Roosevelt being involved in the planning of Pearl Harbor, is that the two commanding officers at the time of the attack were acquitted, in a retrial, of all accusations of their dereliction of their duties. Therefore, there must have been some reason why they didn't worry about the incoming planes. This reason is that they had orders, from a higher ranking official, to ignore the signals. This order may have come down from Roosevelt himself.
An interesting event, which greatly supports my thesis, that occurred even before Japan or the U.S. had entered the war, was President Roosevelt and Secretary of the State Hull instructing Admiral William D. Leahy, then the Chief of Naval Operations, to create a war plan based on the contingency of the United States having to fight a two-ocean war. In the Pacific, against Japan, and in the
Atlantic, against Italy and Germany. Why would Roosevelt have a war plan drawn up if he said he wasn't going to enter the war? It seems a bit odd, unless, of course, if he was planning on entering the war already and was just trying to find the right reason. Roosevelt may have seen that, sooner or later, the U.S. would have to go to war and they might as well be in control when the first shots are fired against Americans. Roosevelt's master plan was very complex and involved a great deal of people. Two of the people who would be affected the most by this plan were Adm. Husband E. Kimmel and Gen. William Short. The reason they would be greatly affected was because they were the scapegoats. Adm. Kimmel, the Pearl Harbor commander, was kept in the dark by his superiors in Washington. Officials in Washington left Adm. Kimmel without any knowledge of the attack until it was too late, and then they blamed Adm. Kimmel for not being ready. The futures of Adm. Kimmel and Gen. Short were a small price to pay for the possibilities of what economic fortunes laid ahead of the U.S.
All the planning and effort that went into this scheme, ended up allowing Roosevelt to enter World War II. The attack on Pearl Harbor angered the general public of the United States, and if the majority of the people want something the congress will give it to them just so that they will have a job after the next election. Therefore the majority of the congressmen voted in favor of the U.S. entering the war on the side of the Allies. Roosevelt knew that if he could get one of the axis powers to attack Americans then he could get the U.S.
in the war. Roosevelt and his cabinet carefully covered their tracks very carefully so as not to leave any signs that there was foul play. Roosevelt knew beforehand that Japan was going to attack, but he didn't take any drastic peace-keeping actions to prevent the attack, because he wanted a justifiable reason to enter the second World War.
Keegan, John. The Second World War. New York: Viking Penguin, 1989.
Snyder, Louis L., et al. Reader's Digest Illustrated Story of World War II. New York: Reader's Digest Association, 1969.
Parenthetic citation form: (Snyder et al. 33) Divine, Robert A. Roosevelt & World War II. Baltimore: The John Hopkins Press, 1969.
Richardson & Steirman, Inc. The Secret History of World War II. New York: Richard & Steirman, Inc., 1986.
Morison, Samuel Eliot. The Two-Ocean War. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1963