McCollum memo

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The McCollum memo was an October 1940 memorandum by a mid-level US Navy official which outlined the general situation and possible courses of action available to the United States in response to the actions of the Japanese Empire in Asia and its relations to the Axis Powers in Europe. Conspiracy theorists have distorted it to make it seem the US—not Japan—was guilty of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

More than a year before the Pearl Harbor attack, Lieutenant Commander Arthur McCollum of the Office of Naval Intelligence submitted the memo to Navy Captains Walter Anderson and Dudley Knox. The October 7, 1940 memo contained an 8-part plan to counter rising Japanese hegemony over East Asia, and a pre-Pearl Harbor estimation of the Pacific situation. The memo remained classified until 1994.

The memo is the effort of a patriotic American officer to understand the military threat to the U.S. posed by the Japanese and consider possible defensive responses. It did not recommend attacking Japan. It was a low-level memorandum that probably never reached senior officials, It did not in any way influence American policies.

In 1941 the U.S. stopped the sale of oil to Japan. Japan's wars depended on oil from the US (and Britain and the Dutch), and so the alternative for Japan was ending its attacks on China and ending its threat to American, British and Dutch possessions, or attack. It decided to attack.


It is often referred to as the McCollum Memo because it was written by then Lieutenant Commander (LCDR) Arthur H. McCollum, or the Eight Action Memo because in it McCollum proposes eight defensive actions to be taken to defend against Japanese aggression.

The memo was read and commented on by Captain Knox. Specifically, Knox wrote on page 6 that the US should NOT provoke Japan because the main national goal is to help Britain against Germany:

It is unquestionably to our interest that Britain be not licked - just now she has a stalemate and probably can't do better. We ought to make certain that she at least gets a stalemate. For this she will probably need from us substantial further destroyers and air-reinforcements to England. We should not precipitate anything in the Orient that would hamper our ability to do this - so long as probability continues. If England remains stable, Japan will be cautious in the Orient. Hence our assistance to England in the Atlantic is also protection to her and us in the Orient. However, I concur in your courses of action. We must be ready on both sides and probably strong enough to care for both.

There is no evidence that the memo or derivative works reached President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, senior administration officials, or the Admiralty.


Historians reject the false notion that the memo was the blueprint for war. The memo is legitimate and it recommended AGAINST war with Japan.

The McCollum memo was first widely disseminated with the publication of Robert Stinnett's book Day of Deceit, The Truth About FDR and Pearl Harbor. Stinnett is a conspiracy theorist who blames America for the attack on Pearl Harbor. He presents the memo as part of his argument that the Roosevelt Administration conspired to provoke the Japanese to attack the United States, pursuant to a complex scheme to bring the United States into the European war, without generating ado over broken political promises. Roosevelt had recently issued a campaign promise that the United States would not become entangled in Europe's war under his watch.[1]


  1. Stinnett 2001


  • Stinnett, Robert (2001), Day Of Deceit: The Truth About FDR and Pearl Harbor, Free Press, ISBN 978-0743201292
  • Hewitt, Admiral H. Kent (1945-08-13), Report of Further Pearl Harbor Investigation by Admiral H. K. Hewitt, U. S. Navy, Transcription Retrieved on 2007-05-08

See also