Pearl Harbor and the Imperial Presidents

By:  Jack Kenny
12/10/2012
       
Pearl Harbor and the Imperial Presidents

So great is the deference Americans pay to the office of president of the United States that it must be a rare event when a United States senator, summoned to the White House for a conference, pounds his fist on the president's desk and demands answers

So great is the deference Americans pay to the office of president of the United States that it must be a rare event when a United States senator, summoned to the White House for a conference, pounds his fist on the president's desk and demands answers. Yet such a scene was vividly described by George Victor in his 2007 book, The Pearl Harbor Myth: Rethinking the Unthinkable. The encounter took place on the afternoon of December 7, 1941, the "date which will live in infamy." Franklin D. Roosevelt had met with his cabinet and was preparing the speech he would deliver the next day to a joint session of Congress, asking for a declaration of war against the empire of Japan. A bipartisan group of congressional leaders arrived and were listening respectfully to the president's account of what had happened when Sen. Tom Connally of Texas, a Democrat and a strong supporter of the president, sprang to his feet, pounded the desk with his fist and, shouting at Roosevelt, demanded to know:

How did it happen that our warships were caught like tame ducks in Pearl Harbor? How did they catch us with our pants down? Where were our patrols?

The commander in chief of the army and navy expressed a strange bewilderment.

"I don't know, Tom. I just don't know."

The questioning stopped soon after. By the time Roosevelt delivered his "date of infamy" speech the next day, the nation was united behind the president and against the "treacherous" Japanese, who had launched the "sneak attack" on Pearl Harbor. The "cowardly attack" and the "duplicity of the Japanese," were bitterly denounced in editorials across the nation, all conveying the sentiment summed up in the Augusta (Georgia) Chronicle: "Oh the dishonesty and trickery of it all!"

Few were inclined to ask at such a time, "Whose trickery?"

Roosevelt's deceptions were almost too subtle for detection and his countrymen, understandably furious at being attacked, were not in a mood to listen carefully or read between the lines. On December 7, Secretary of State Cordell Hull began his statement to the press with what appeared to be a simple summation of the obvious: "Japan has made a treacherous and utterly unprovoked attack on the United States." The following day Roosevelt, in his "date of infamy" speech to Congress, said "the Japanese Government has sought to deceive the United States by false statements and more expressions of hope for continued peace."

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Photo of USS Arizona sinking at Pearl Harbor

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