Debate:Was it wrong for him to allow the attack in order to wake up the American public and motivate Americans to fight and win the war?

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If President Roosevelt had known about the Pearl Harbor attack in advance, would it have been wrong for him to allow the attack in order to wake up the American public and motivate Americans to fight and win the war?

Absolutely not. The attack was necessary to gird the hearts and loins of patriotic but unmotivated Americans to win the war against un-American forces. The 3000 innocents killed were a tragic loss, to be sure, but without them a terrible dictator would still be gassing his own people, and developing weapons to use against us. These are the terrible but necessary choices a Commander-in-chief must make.


Did he really?! I haven't heard of this but will research it. If he did know thEn he was wrong.


Are you sure that would be wrong if Roosevelt did know? I think effective war strategy makes those kind of decisions. In chess it's called a "gambit".

--Aschlafly 10:46, 1 January 2007 (EST)

I'm guessing that "him" was Franklin D. Roosevelt and "the attack" was Pearl Harbor. The conditions leading up to Pearl Harbor are extremely controversial and I don't think the idea that Roosevelt knew is accepted as fact.
However, there is an incident, about which there's no doubt, that raises a similar moral question.
Oops. I take it back. There is doubt. Oh, well. I read about this in Anthony Cave-Brown's book, Bodyguard of Lies, but apparently its truth has been questioned. Well, here's the story anyway: Dpbsmith 12:24, 1 January 2007 (EST)
During the Second World War, the Allies broke the German coding system known as "Enigma," a fascinating story involving the early development of computers and Alan Turing. The Germans did not know the code had been broken. The Allies were therefore continually faced with the moral dilemma of whether or not to act on the information they decrypted. If they were to act on it too often, the Germans would suspect the code had been broken and change the coding system, stopping the flow of information.
In November of 1940, the Allies learned, through a decrypted message, that the Germans intended to conduct an air raid on Coventry. They decided that it was more important to keep the secret of Ultra, their decrypting system, and therefore did not warn Coventry or take any protective measures. Germany attacked with three hundred bombers, killing over five hundred people, destroying tens of thousands of homes and a medieval cathedral. Dpbsmith 12:24, 1 January 2007 (EST)

Dpbsmith describes the dilemma extremely well. I've been meaning to add an entry on the Enigma, and hope to do so this afternoon.
I don't have a definite view about how to solve this dilemma. It's a good topic for debate and discussion. What's your view, Dpbsmith?
I do think it's clear that Roosevelt had advance warning of the Pearl Harbor attack, by the way. I think we may have moved one key aircraft carrier or battleship out of the way (moving more ships would have tipped the Japanese). Also, simply radar would have given us an hour's notice, and 2,400 sailors need not have died unless as a gambit for a greater objective.--Aschlafly 13:28, 1 January 2007 (EST)
I thought the incoming Japanese aircraft were seen on radar, but the radar operator couldn't believe they were really being attacked and misidentified them as an expected flight of incoming B17's? Dpbsmith 17:42, 1 January 2007 (EST)
Boy, that sounds very odd! But you may be right, and I have not researched this further.--Aschlafly 17:44, 1 January 2007 (EST)
Don't you think it would be good if you research these things BEFORE you present them as fact?
Here's is an excellent and well qualified source on the subject, COMMUNISM at PEARL HARBOR HOW THE COMMUNISTS HELPED TO BRING ON PEARL HARBOR AND OPEN UP ASIA TO COMMUNIZATION, By Anthony Kubek, University of Dallas. Prof. Kubek was the editor of the Morganthau Diaries. The Morganthau Diaries is the report of the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee (SISS) which investigated the activities of Harry Dexter White#Morganthau Diary and others in the US Treasury Dept Division of Monetrary Research who subverted President Roosevelt's China policy and brought the CCP to power in China (which remains in power in China). The SISS investigation took twelve years, 1954-66, and its Report, the Morganthau Diaries, took an additional two years to write. During those twelve years, the Senate changed hands form Democratic to Republican and back to Democrtaic, so the Report's findings can truelly be regarded as bipartisan. All these findings by Prof. Kubek & the SISS were written in the 1960s, before release of Venona documents, which only confirmed these findings. There is no evidence Prof. Kubek or the bipartisan SISS had access to Venona materials, so the report cited here cannot be consigned to "conspiracy literature" anymore, as it had been by many authors for nearly half a century. RobS 00:46, 17 April 2007 (EDT)
Here is a section from A Patriot’s History of the United States, by Larry Schweikart and Michael Allen that addresses the matter:

Did Roosevelt Have Advance Knowledge About the Pearl Harbor Attack?

“Even as the last smoke billowed from the sinking ships in Hawaii, many people were asking how the United States could have been so unprepared. Historian Charles Tansill suggested that the debacle could only have occurred with Franklin Roosevelt’s foreknowledge. Clearly, if a president in possession of advance warning had allowed hundreds of sailors and soldiers to die in a surprise attack, it would have constituted high treason. Why would any chief executive permit such a strike? In his famous book, Back Door to War (1952), Tansill accused Roosevelt of allowing a Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor to provide the United States with the motivation and justification to enter the war against Hitler in Europe, but little new evidence was provided over the years until the 1980s, when John Tolland published Infamy, wherein he claimed to have located a navy witness who, while on duty in San Francisco, received transmissions locating Japanese carriers and forwarded the information to Washington. Adding to Toland’s revelations, a “Notes and Documents” piece in the American Historical Review disclosed that the FBI had acquired information from an Axis double agent named Duskow Popov (“Tricycle”), who had information on a microdot about the attack. Although Tolland and others maintained that Popov’s documents included a detailed plan of the Japanese air attack, it did no such thing. Tricycle’s data dealt almost exclusively with buildings and installations, but had nothing on ships, aircraft scouting patterns, or any of the rather important items that one would expect from a “detailed plan.” In 1981, Asian historian Gordon Prange published At Dawn While We Slept; following his death, his students Donald Goldstein and Katherine Dillon completed his work with new Pearl Harbor claims in Pearl Harbor: The Verdict of History. The authors found Toland’s mystery sailor, Robert Ogg, who empathetically rejected Toland’s assertion that he had said that he had intercepted massive Japanese radio traffic. Meanwhile, Documents acquired from Japanese archives raised a more serious problem for the conspiracy theorists because they proved that the Japanese fleet had been under strict radio silence during the voyage to Pearl Harbor. The controversy refused to go away. In 1999, Robert B. Stinnet’s Day of Deceit revived the argument that Roosevelt had prior knowledge of the attack with important new code-breaking information. But the crucial pieces of “evidence” that Stinnet employed often proved the opposite of what he claimed. He used precise intelligence terms—code breaking, interception, translation, analysis—interchangeably, which produced massive errors: An intercepted document is not necessarily broken, and if intercepted and broken, it may not be translated, and if intercepted and broken, and translated, it may not be analyzed for days, weeks, or even years. Some intercepts from November 1941 were indeed broken, but were not translated or analyzed until…1945! The entire argument of the revisionists hinges on the notion that FDR couldn’t get into the war with Germany without pretext. But Roosevelt had already had ample cause if he’d wanted to, to ask for a declaration of war against Germany. Nazi U-boats had sunk American ships, killed American sailors, and in all ways shown themselves hostile. Against a nation that declared war on Mexico over a handful of Cavalry troopers or that had declared war on Spain for the questionable destruction of a single ship, Germany had long since crossed the line needed for a declaration of war. …Pearl Harbor was a Tragedy, but not a conspiracy. [1]

--Chris 11:18, 31 January 2007 (EST)

Mr. Schlafly, DPBSmith is right about the Japanese bombers appearing on the American radar screen. (Air Raid- Pearl Harbor!) American leaders, even those in the military, did not believe that an initial Japanese attack would come on Pearl Harbor. They believed such an attack would come on the Philippines, Wake Island, or Midway Island. As a matter of fact, the US carriers Lexington and Enterprise were ferrying F4F Wildcat fighter planes to further fortify Midway and Wake. Even the Secretary of War did not believe the news when it reached him. He exclaimed, "This can't be true! This must mean the Philippines!" --DuncanB 14:39, 9 January 2007 (EST)

If Roosevelt knew that the Japanese were going to attack Pearl Harbor, then he is a traitor. Pure and Simple.--Elamdri 19:44, 13 March 2007 (EDT)

Roosevelt did not know that the Japanese would attack Pearl Harbor. He and what then passed for the national security council believed they would attack U. S. forces in or near the Philippines and that the war in the Pacific could therefore be contained, freeing more U. S. forces to fight in Europe. Indeed, he sent three U. S.-flagged ships into a disputed zone near the Philippines where he anticipated they would be attacked.

The Japanese decision to attack Pearl Harbor instead demonstrated the Japanese were too smart for this. They knew that overwhelming force would eventually fall upon them if they fought the United States, so the only plan that made sense was to disable the largest percentage of that force possible at the outset. (Japan's GDP was one-tenth that of the U. S. and its population barely half of ours in 1941.) Of course, they were not so smart as to avoid going to war on the same side as Germany, a mistake they had (by contrast) avoided in the First World War.

Even if an attack on American interests was absolutely necessary to get the U. S. into World War II, knowledge that the attack would come on the fleet moored at Pearl would have enabled the U. S. carriers then on maneuvers to seek and destroy the Japanese carriers. The political question here is what works best for the narrative. Remember in "Patton," where the title character said "Americans love a winner and will not tolerate a loser"? By destroying the Japanese task force on December 6 or 5, Roosevelt would have prevented the nation as a whole, and particularly the Navy (of which he was secretary during World War I -- it was HIS service), from being seen as losers on December 7. Roosevelt was many things, but he was not stupid, and allowing the fleet to be sunk deliberately would have been straight-up stupid. User:Amyz 13:12, May 7, 2007 (EDT)

Well said. The conspiracy theories around this are similar to the conspiracies that pop up whenever a tragic event of this magnitude occurs (such as JFKs assasination or the 9/11 attack). The horror is so inconceivable that some people try to make sense of it by creating outside forces that made it inevitable. When in reality, the truth is that sometimes bad things just happen. And its usually because someone made a bad assumption (Japan would attack the Phillipines instead of Hawaii), a bad decision (Kennedy having a Secret Service agent get off of the car) or a bad choice (not giving more weight to certain pre-9/11 intelligence). It's not a matter of malice or ill intent. It's human error.--Dave3172 13:21, 7 May 2007 (EDT)
  • The Japanese decision to attack Pearl Harbor instead demonstrated the Japanese were too smart for this. They knew that overwhelming force would eventually fall upon them if they fought the United States, so the only plan that made sense was to disable the largest percentage of that force possible at the outset.
Actually there was no guarantee Japan was going to attack the US at all. There were two other very much more likely scenarios, (1) finish off British presence in the Pacific region, and then (2) help the Germans finish off the Soviet Union by invading through Manchuria. The US public even in 1941 was intent upon staying out of the war. Combined, Germany and Japan could have defeated both Britain and the USSR, with the US remaining neutral. But the Axis alliance suffered from a lack of coordination, committment, and real planning together. RobS 17:47, 7 May 2007 (EDT)

If George W Bush knew about 9/11 in advance and allowed it to happen, in order to mobilize Americans to take action against the very real threat of Islamic extremism, would it have been wrong? Well it would be if you had lost a loved in the attack. It has basically been all but proven that FDR knew about Pearl Harbor in advance. He may have allowed it to happen for altrustic reasons, but it still was a disgusting act. I am sure those of you excusing this action, would have a much different opinion if one of your loved ones had been killed for "the greater good".


  1. A Patriot’s History of the United States Pages 594-595

Franklin Delano Roosevelt had knowledge of Japanese and German mobilization and had called upon the Republican controlled Congress on 3 occasions to tighten defenses on the Pacific islands and on the California coast line and had also tried on 2 occasions to mobilize the U.S. navy to help France and England in the fight against Germany. Each time, he was denied. Even if he had known of the specific attack of Pearl Harbor, the republicans in congress would have stopped him from doing anything about it. It was only after the attack that we were forced into war but it would take another year of bombarding the stuborn republicans of congress before FDR was allowed to engage Germany. -FDRismyhero

I'm not how historical your claims are regarding the Republican attitude towards the war effort. After we were attacked by the Japanese and then Germany declared war on us, the country went into full mobilization. The Republicans were the minority Party at the time and couldn't have stopped WWII at that point even if they wanted to do so. Yes, FDR knew about the impending attack on Pearl Harbor because we had cracked the Japanese code and after the attack, FDR and his cronies tried to pin the disaster at Pearl Harbor on the commanding officers. Also, FDR did throw Japanese, German, and Italian-Americans into our own type of concentration camps so with the war, out went the U.S. Constitution. Scorpio 15:56, 3 July 2007 (EDT)

FDR like the rest of America thouhgt that pear harbor would be invincible, and like most leaders felt a strike from Japan would at the Philippines not Pearl Harbor. A little knowns fact is that war warning went out to the whole pacifc region meaning that all areas were to be battle ready and literally in the trenches so a sneak attack would be impossible or do very little damage. All commanders but Halsey ignored them. These claims are just like the crazys who like Bush knew about or ordered 9/11. -Jowns