Sacrifice at Pearl Harbor
- One in the series "Our Century," produced by British Broadcasting Corp., and cablecast December, 1989, on the Arts &
Entertainment Network. Written and produced by Roy Davies.
Reviewed by William Grimstad
Pearl Harbor will be Franklin Roosevelt's Watergate. That portentous idea was expressed fourteen years ago in an article
by Percy Greaves, a leading historian of the world-wrenching 1941 catastrophe (and member of this journal's Editorial Advisory
Committee until his death in 1984). Ironically, the suspicion-shrouded American naval disaster itself now may prove the opening
wedge that begins to force historical revisionism into public awareness.
It must have been difficult in 1976 for Greaves to visualize how any significant depreciation of such a major ikon as Roosevelt,
who enjoyed immense prestige among numberless millions of Americans in his lifetime, could occur. This past December, however,
with the airing of the new television documentary, Sacrifice at Pearl Harbor, it now seems at least conceivable that
some such process may have begun, bringing with it what appears to be the very first willing and fair- minded televised exposure
of World War Two revisionist ideas.
In recent months, we have seen images of immense Josef Stalin bronzes toppled onto muddy streets by angry mobs in Prague
and other East European capitals he is supposed to have "liberated." Britain's Winston Churchill, too, has come in for severe
castigation in fairly widely read biographical work by David Irving. It remains to be seen not only what is in store for the
third and most important of the "Big Three" World War Two leaders, but what any such devaluation might portend for war history,
as well as for many bedrock assumptions of the contemporary era.
I believe that the video may profitably be analyzed from several perspectives: as "straight" Pearl Harbor Revisionist history,
as a propaganda piece suggestive of shifts beneath the surface of contemporary opinion molding, as a development with possible
implications for the "Jewish Holocaust" legend, and finally for philosophical hints we may draw as to how the world we live
in really operates.
Actually, a certain Reconstruction of the lofty Rooseveltian reputation already has begun with revelations of his (and
his wife's) less-than-sterling moral character and quite active extramarital love life, among other peccadilloes. The closing
minutes of Sacrifice, however, with their shockingly explicit chastisement of the man in terms of "culpability" for
the undefended status of the base, do raise the stakes by an incalculable factor. This inevitably poses the ugly question
of treason or even misprision of mass murder of the 2,403 service personnel whom Roosevelt may have allowed to be sacrificed,
although it must be stressed that there is no juridical proof of any such intent, only a chain of suspicious circumstances.
* * * * *
With minor exceptions, Pearl Harbor specialists will find little new ground broken here. The program is based upon John
Toland's 1982 Infamy and so falls heir to that book's deficiencies as well as its strengths. One gathers that the producers
feared going too far, since even Toland has been reviled by some as an extremist.
Whatever their reasons, the scripters studiously ignore the pioneering and truly important Pearl Harbor Revisionists, the
men who did all of this spadework decades ago, the men whom the academic-propaganda apparat still suppresses and clearly fears.
George Morgenstern, Harry Elmer Barnes, Charles Callan Tansill, Percy L. Graves, Jr., William L. Neumann, James J. Martin
-- none of these names cross their lips. This restricts them to Toland, plus interviews with a number of the surviving military
and naval participants.
When they do borrow from one of the pioneers, as for example in their discussion of the U.S. Army's secret radio intercept
station on Oahu, which relayed to Washington undeciphered radio traffic of Japanese origin, it is without credit, even though
this material was first developed two generations ago in Morgenstern's Pearl Harbor: The Story of the Secret War.
There are sins of commission as well. Following the Toland model, a great deal of emphasis is laid on a wide variety of
people claiming to have become aware of Japanese communications, or at least intentions, before December 7, 1941, and suggesting
with full benefit of hindsight that an attack flotilla was definitely known to be en route. These include apparently levelheaded
individuals such as ex-Naval Intelligence operative Robert Ogg, who describes U.S. wiretapping of West Coast Japanese officials
and the Navy's extensive radio surveillance of the Pacific area. Ogg's view now is that he had "a positive fix on the Japanese
fleet" by the first days of December.
Leslie E. Grogan, a radio operator on Matson steamships also is depicted receiving Japanese fleet signals when approaching
Hawaii in early December, which he then turned over to Naval Intelligence in Honolulu. However, research in naval archives
by Ladislas Farago (published in his The Broken Seal), which first disclosed the Grogan intercepts, also concludes
that nothing in the records shows radio intercepts of any significance relative to Pearl Harbor before the attack. These men
certainly deserve a hearing, but the situation begins to strain credibility when the cameras swing to other figures, particularly
Captain Eric Nave of the Australian Navy. The aged Nave makes expansive claims to having "broken" by late 1939 the formidable
Japanese naval code, JN-25, which defied all U.S. attempts on it until well after Pearl Harbor. Concurring, the narrator intones
that "it was crucial to British Naval Intelligence that every message was intercepted."
Curiously enough, though, if the British were indeed busily decoding all Japanese naval radio traffic two years before
Pearl Harbor, the information did them precious little good, as was pointed out by James J. Martin when we viewed the program.
In December 1941, the Japanese began blowing the Royal Navy out of the water when they deftly sank its two biggest battleships,
the Repulse and the Prince of Wales, off Malaya, and sank the aircraft carrier Hermes and the cruisers
Cornwall and Dorsetshire off Ceylon in April 1942. Where were the Eric Naves then, as Dr. Marffn asked?
This brings up a persistent tendency that increasingly colors much of the Establishment's endless and seemingly compulsive
rehashing of this war, not excepting "Sacrifice at Pearl Harbor." In the publishing industry, one of the largest selling genres
has always been cookbooks; however, I wonder if what we might call spookbooks may not be emerging as a serious rival, since
these do seem to have become a huge sector of the Anglo-Saxon war-press output.
It has been a long time since the truly great British histories of the war, by B.H. Liddell Hart and J.F.C. Fuller, and
what we are left with today are too often grandiose narratives of tide- turning, and conveniently unverifiable, exploits by
one superhuman British spymaster after another. Some of that fantasizing seems to have entered in here, possibly as part of
an increasingly noticeable "our finest hour" nostalgia.
* * * * *
One should not belabor such failings, of course, since this is not scholarly history, after all. We should be happy that
this long-suppressed material is at last coming out before the mass audience that television commands. Actually, the program
does convey at least one important historical point when it notes that General Walter Short, who was in charge of U.S. Army
forces at Pearl Harbor, was technically responsible for safety of the naval fleet in port. This fact always has been blurred
over by Establishment hack historians trying to prop up the stubborn Roosevelt administration line that the local Navy command
was to blame for losses in the raid, rather then politicians and top brass centered around Japanophobic War Secretary Henry
L. Stimson and his right-hand man, Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall, back in Washington.
Anyone of even cursory familiarity with Pearl Harbor Revisionism will find much of interest, as many of the leading expert
witnesses whom one has read of for years are discussed and, when possible, interviewed on camera: among others, Edwin T. Layton,
Joseph Rochefort and Ralph Briggs, naval officers who has much to tell about the signals intercept enigma; Joe Leib, the journalist
who filed a famous wire story predicting the December 7 attack a week before it happened based, he says, on a briefing from
Secretary of State Cordell Hull, and Edward Hanify, longtime defense counsel to the late Admiral H.E. Kimmel, base commander,
who had been incriminated by the initial, Roosevelt-staged investigation, although cleared in subsequent inquiries.
* * * * *
One wonders what might come along next in this series. There would be no shortage of further Pearl Harbor material, omitted
or soft-pedaled in this foray:
- The entire matter of Roosevelt-ordered sanctions against Japan, including not only the shipping blockade mentioned here,
but also freezing of financial assets, resulting in immediate depression conditions and mass unemployment in Japan, an intolerable
provocation that no nation could be expected to endure;
- Material developed by Gordon Prange in his Tora! Tora! Tora! indicating that the Japanese attack force had orders
to turn back if they found Pearl Harbor defended;
- The November 25, 1941, diary entry by "hawk" Henry Stimson admitting -- incredibly -- that "the question was how we should
maneuver them [the Japanese] into the position of firing the first shot without allowing too much danger to ourselves." Plus
many other topics.
For now, however, we have more than enough to ponder when a television production aimed at a broad audience can sketch
out a new epitaph for the man who, at least among Democratic Party loyalists, has been one of the most fanatically revered
political leaders in American history:
For nearly fifty years, one question has been repeatedly asked: did Roosevelt allow Pearl Harbor to happen so that the
surprise attack would give him the excuse to take America into the Second World War? The new evidence that has come to light
strongly suggests that he did ...
If this program really is a Revisionist "opening wedge" of some sort and not a mere fluke, it might be an occasion for
a rather profound meditation as to why so much large-scale falsified history has got written in the first place. One would
have to look at certain aspects of modern urban society, such as the rise of centralized communications media with vast means
for censorship and quasi-Pavlovian conditioning in shaping counterfeit consensuses almost to order.
A few perceptive individuals caught the drift of this process early in the game. Senator Burton K. Wheeler of North Dakota
memorably denounced Roosevelt's war jockeying in early 1941 as "the New Deal's 'Triple A' foreign policy -- to plow under
every fourth American boy." Of great value in any such study would be Charles Lindbergh's Wartime Journals, with its
fascinating day-to-day record of the amazing administration and mass-media teamwork in gradually swinging around public opinion
from staunch noninterventionist to a confused tension in which the Pearl Harbor coup de théâtre could detonate a nationwide
attitude switch almost in a matter of hours.
Naturally, those of us who have taken interest in the "Holocaust" problem will give close attention to what might be the
effect of a discredited Roosevelt on that later and far greater confabulation. The Pearl Harbor trumpery only concludes the
explosive overture to a Grand Guignol of WW2 falsification, whose absurdist finale of Jewish immolation continues to be encored
in our ears almost a half-century after the supposed event.
Strictly speaking, the future of the Hoax does not stand or fall by the reputation of Roosevelt, who of course is now ungratefully
muttered at for "doing nothing about the death camps." Longer term, however, the Holocaust impresarios certainly cannot welcome
a queasy climate of public skepticism that this sort of turbulence inevitably fosters. After all, if American war entry can
be seen as not only duplicitous but possibly even treasonous, how easy will it be to keep up a proper aura of reverence toward
the war's most sanctified episode?
So, the question of why this piece, now, remains and goads curiosity. It is hard to understand jeopardizing the entire
jerry-built design of the postwar era by dethroning its chief American architect. Surely Pearl Harbor Revisionism was still
safely in the "historical blackout" deepfreeze denounced by Harry Elmer Barnes. One would think that there was everything
to lose and nothing to gain by compromising Roosevelt.
In the end, one comes back to observations like Churchill's famous and astoundingly blasé remark about the truth in time
of war needing to be protected by "a bodyguard of lies," but then one wonders why the guard would be withdrawn afterward,
considering what is at stake. Perhaps there is some greater import to the old proverb that "Lies have long legs," so that,
no matter how iron-shackled, they seem eventually to get loose and start destabilizing things.
Philosophers of history might ponder whether we do not need a new research speciality to deal with the peculiarly fraud-ridden
and conspiratorial character of this era. Political chicanery has always existed, to be sure: examples abound in American
history. One need think only of the high-level conniving that deployed terrorist-murderer John Brown in sparking off an earlier
war fever, recently explored by Otto Scott's The Secret Six; or the extremely dubious ratification of the Fourteenth
Amendment after the Civil War, with such dire consequences in our day. Yet, it does seem that the sleight of hand is reaching
ever higher orders of magnitude.
Dare one hope that this program, in its small way, signals some sort of turnaround?
Reprinted from The Journal of Historical Review, vol. 10, no. 1, pp. 85-91.
Institute for Historical Review