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Pearl Harbor: Did the American Government Know in Advance

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It is believed that America was forced into World War to avenge the Pearl Harbor Attack. Historical sources however tell about the possibility of it all having been staged.
Is America’s claim of the Pearl Harbor attack being a ‘surprise attack’ true? Why do there exist sources that claim America had prior knowledge of the attack? What led them to believe so? We explore the possibilities and evaluate evidences of the same.
The Japanese were on an aggressive expansion expedition. After they took over French Indo-China, America decided to lay an embargo on and freeze all of Japan’s assets. It was their display of opposition to Japan’s aggression. Apart from freezing their assets, America also asked them to move out of China – a move that pushed Japan into a corner. The relationship between America and Japan was as strained as it could ever be. Japan wanted to expand into the Far-East, but they feared America would be a huge hindrance. The Japanese followed a non-compromise policy; mid-October 1941 when it became evident to them that a peaceful resolution was not on their list of options, they began to plan their strategy to destroy the Pacific Fleet of the United States. America’s Pacific Fleet and strongest naval base was permanently based at the Pearl Harbor. (John Fischer n.d)
The Japanese attack came in two phases (waves). While the first attack targeted airfields and battleships, the second targeted other ships and ship yard facilities. The first wave consisted of 49 bombers, 49 torpedo planes, 51 dive bombers and 43 fighter aircrafts; it was launched and 6:00 AM and arrived at O’hao at 7:55 AM. The attack continued until 9:55 AM with the second wave coming in one hour after the first. Isoroku Yamamoto the then Commander in Chief of the Combined Japanese Fleet had also planned a third wave of attack to destroy the repair facilities and storage tanks holding up to 4.5 million gallons of fuel oil; but Vice Admiral Chuichi Nagumo did not execute it from fear of a counter-attack. The attack left 2,403 dead and many thousands injured. The Pacific Fleet was reduced to 188 destroyed planes and 8 damaged/destroyed battleships, which included the USS Arizona – one of the most important. (Eyewitness 1997)
It is not without reason that historians hold that the ‘Pearl Harbor Attack’ being the reason for America’s entry into the war is just the tip of the ice-berg. There seems to be a lot more to it. Some of the reasons for doubt are discussed below.
It is said that the Americans had broken the Japanese’s secret code, and were aware of an impending attack on Pearl Harbor. President Roosevelt is believed to have always known (even prior to the war) about what the Japanese expected and what they would settle for. From the messages on December 6th it was evident that they were going to strike the following day. The compromise of Japanese codes has been confirmed by the British as well. Though it was not clearly stated in the message that Pearl Harbor would be attacked there were instruction to deliver an important message to the United States at 1 PM, December 7th and destroy their cipher machine and all secret documents – that was enough indication of something big going to happen, and the people at Pearl Harbor could have been warned to be alert and defensive.
Nearly one year before the attack, Admiral Husband Kemmel wrote to Washington about the possibility of a surprise attack. He wrote –
“I feel that a surprise attack (submarine, air, or combined) on Pearl Harbor is a possibility, and we are taking immediate practical steps to minimize the damage inflicted and to ensure that the attacking force will pay.”
(Skeptoid 2010)
However on the day of the attack they were just enjoying a Sunday morning and were not in any way prepared for an attack. The ships in the water and aircrafts on the fields were all lined up together – making them easy targets. It is also believed that since the ships sunk in harbor they could be raised and repaired as opposed to if they had sunk in ocean.
Fifty Three minutes before Pearl Harbor was struck radar operators at Opana Point detected the Japanese crafts and alerted Lt. Kermit Tyler. However he asked them not to worry about it and went about his normal Sunday routine.
Three of America’s most important aircraft carriers were out of harm’s way and not in port with the rest of the Pacific Fleet. The oil reserves were safely drained into underground reservoirs – both acts clear indications of protection of their most valuable assets.
(Skeptoid 2010)
Without doubt the United States of America had explanations for all of the above. The three aircraft carriers were away on different missions. The detection on the radar was thought to be that of the B17s that were supposed to arrive at Pearl Harbor that day. Admiral Husband Kemmel was only warned of a sabotage and not of an attack of this scale and hence the lineup of battleships for better monitoring. Though there are explanations like in every other crime, can the way that events turned out be considered a coincidence, one on this scale?
Even to think of America tightening the rope around Japan, driving them into a corner, provoking them into an attack and entering the war is not difficult. Would that be a coincidence as well? Considering the person on the President’s chair and America’s sheer force in terms of manpower as well as weapons it is unlikely that they were not aware of the attack and that there were so many lapses in security and intelligence.
America wanted to enter the war, but she did not want to look aggressive. She wanted it to look like she was driven into war and the Japanese took the bait.

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