Behind the Scenes: FDR Succeeded in Luring Japan into War with America

“I do believe we are going to have a major war, with Japan and Germany, and that the war is going to start by a very serious surprise attack and defeat of U.S. armed forces, and that there is going to be a major revulsion on the part of the political power in Washington against all those in command at sea, and they are going to be thrown out, though it won’t be their fault necessarily.  And I wish to be in a position of sufficient prominence so that I will then be considered as one to be sent to sea, because that appears to be the route.”  —Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz

An Unexpected Attack—Or Was It?

It was 7:02 AM, on the morning of December 7, 1941, and Privates George E. Elliott, Jr., and Joseph L. Lockard noticed “something out of the ordinary” on their radar screen.  It was a fortuitous event, since the two—who worked as plotter and operator, respectively, of the SCR-270B Radio Direction Finder inside a radar truck—were supposed to go off duty at 7:00 AM sharp.  The two men, who found themselves atop Kahuku Point, on the northernmost tip of Oahu, had gone on-duty at 4:00 AM for a three-hour stint and had only stayed over to give Elliot a feel for operating the set; formally off the clock, there was no harm in allowing the plotter to take a turn as operator.  Only two minutes into his new role, Elliott saw a large image which, upon closer inspection, would turn out to be two separate radar echoes.  Reverting back to their original roles, Lockard checked the set for malfunctions, while Elliott plotted the onscreen image on his plotting board at three degrees east of north and 137 miles north of Kahuku Point.


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“Don’t Worry About It”

It was decided that the Information Center at Fort Shafter should be contacted.  The time was 7:09 AM, and Elliott’s first call bore no fruit, since a phone operator informed Elliott there was nobody available to address his concerns.  After a momentary wait, Elliott called back, this time getting in touch with one Lieutenant Kermit A. Tyler, who was working the 4:00-8:00 AM shift as the brand-new Officer in Charge of the Pearl Harbor Intercept Center.  Only two days on the job, Tyler’s speculation was that the radar imagery likely depicted Navy planes on patrol or a flight of B-17s that were expected from the mainland.  “Don’t worry about it,” was his now-infamous response to the warning he was given.  So, Lieutenant Tyler did not issue the alarm of “Attack Imminent.”


But the blip on radar eventually proved to be the first wave of 183 Japanese fighters, torpedo bombers, dive bombers, and horizontal bombers.  The surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, which would commence around 8:00 AM, would propel the United States into World War Two.  Tyler is quoted, by the Newark Star-Ledger , as having said, “I wake up at nights sometimes and think about it.  But I don’t feel guilty.  I did all I could that morning.”  Guilty or not, Tyler would be dogged by his words and his inaction for the rest of his life.  The reality of it is this: It is likely that Tyler was, in reality, set up to fail on purpose by none other than the President of the United States—Franklin Delano Roosevelt himself.


The Perfect Storm, or the Perfect Set-Up?

Kermit Tyler, a man ill-prepared to do the job he had just been thrust into, had likely been set up to fail by an FDR who knew that a Japanese attack was imminent and wanted the attack to succeed.  The situation was more than just an unlucky circumstance, conducive to bringing about the perfect storm.  Tyler’s training for his new post actually involved no more than a short walk-through on the Wednesday prior to the Sunday of the fateful attack.  And Tyler had never even been assigned one full day at his new workplace.  His intentional placement at the post was facilitative of the Japanese attack and was likely a set-up: The large Japanese aircraft-carrier fleet, contrary to popular belief, did not maintain radio silence while underway to attack Pearl Harbor; and American military intelligence—having broken the Japanese radio codes—were eavesdropping on Japanese communications right up to the attack.


Roosevelt’s Plan to Plunge America into War

According to Robert Stinnett, President Roosevelt received the decoded Japanese naval messages on a regular basis, courtesy of Lieutenant Commander Arthur H. McCollum.  To quote Stinnett: “Seven Japanese naval broadcasts intercepted between November 28 and December 6 confirmed that Japan intended to start the war and that it would begin in Pearl Harbor.”  In Stinnett’s book, Day of Deceit, Stinnett claims that Admiral Yamamoto sent a radio message to the Japanese fleet which read, “The task force, keeping its movements strictly secret and maintaining close guard against submarines and aircraft, shall advance into Hawaiian waters, and upon the very opening of hostilities shall attack the main force of the United States fleet in Hawaii and deal it a mortal blow. . . .”


A Spay Sends a Message & an Ambassador Receives One

Roosevelt was also monitoring the communications of a known spy that Japan had planted in Honolulu, Hawaii, during March of 1941.  The spy’s communications stated a window period for the bombing of Pearl Harbor just prior to the attack.


It is also known, according to Stinnett, that, late on December 6, and early on December 7, 1941, American intelligence intercepted messages to the Japanese ambassador in Washington, basically constituting a war declaration.  Indeed, Japan had decided on a precise time for breaking off relations with the United States.  Upon reading the intercepted message, FDR, fully intuiting Japan’s intentions, said, “This means war.”  The decided-upon time for ending diplomatic relations was 1:00 PM Washington time, which translated to 8:00 AM Pearl Harbor time, the exact hour at which Pearl Harbor came under attack.  Protocol dictated that FDR send an emergency warning to Admiral Kimmel at Pearl Harbor immediately, upon ascertaining an attack was imminent.  But the president decided, instead, to drag his heels and not have any warning message delivered, until 15 hours later—too late to avoid the disaster that Roosevelt needed to unite the American people behind his intention to enter the war.


Serious Calculations

Although many would die in the attack, FDR believed that allowing the “sneak attack” to go forward was necessary, in order to get America into the war in a timely manner, thereby avoiding eventually having to take on a much stronger German/Japanese Axis at a later point in time.  Delay, in the minds of FDR and his advisors, would most certainly mean an even greater ultimate loss of life than would be exacted, if the conflict were entered upon sooner.  In other words, according to the Roosevelt Administration’s calculations, by entering the war without further delay, on December 7, 1941, more American lives would be saved overall than would be lost in the Pearl Harbor attack.


Sadly, Husband E. Kimmel, Commander in Chief of the US Fleet and the US Pacific Fleet, was demoted and blamed for Japan’s success in the attack.  And it was not until October 2000 that he was exonerated by the US Congress, although President Bill Clinton refused to sign the Congressional finding.


Eight Provocations

But FDR did more than just allow a Japanese attack; he actually provoked it.  Desiring an inarguable justification to enter the war against the Axis Powers, Roosevelt enlisted the help of Arthur H. McCollum, who was born to Baptist missionaries in Nagasaki and who spent several years in Japan after his graduation from the Naval Academy.  McCollum drew upon his intimate knowledge of the Japanese mindset to draw up eight provocations designed to start a war between America and Japan.


The McCollum Memo listed eight actions whose true purpose was to provoke Japan into a surprise attack against the US. Here are McCollum’s eight provocations suggested for adoption by FDR to suit the president’s covert political purpose:

  1. Arrange for the use of British bases in the Pacific, particularly Singapore
  2. Arrange with the Netherlands to use bases and acquire supplies in the Dutch East Indies
  3. Send aid to the Chinese government of Chiang-Kai-Shek
  4. Send a division of long-range cruisers to Asia, the Philippines, or Singapore
  5. Send two divisions of submarines to Asia
  6. Move the US Pacific fleet to Hawaii
  7. Ask the Netherlands to refuse to sell oil to Japan
  8. Embargo all US trade with Japan, in collaboration with the British Empire

Upon implementation of all eight points of McCollum’s plan, Japan decided to attack the United States.  And FDR had his pretext for war.

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