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December 7, 1941: The Infamy of FDR


The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii — December 7, 1941 — killed or injured over 4,500 Americans. It destroyed most of America’s Pacific fleet. Almost 200 American aircraft were lost. Although America’s defenders at Pearl Harbor fought bravely and courageously, the attack resulted in a massacre.

There is no better example of the political indoctrination which the American people receive in their government-approved schools than that relating to Franklin D. Roosevelt. From the first grade, American schoolchildren are taught to glorify and idolize the man “who saved America’s free-enterprise system” and “who tried his very best to keep America out of World War II.” The indoctrination is so effective and so complete that by the time Americans graduate from these government-approved schools, any thought of questioning the teachings relating to Roosevelt is virtually nonexistent.

Americans are taught that World War II — for the U.S. — began with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Government-approved schoolteachers pound into the heads of the students that President Roosevelt was shocked, horrified, and disappointed with the death and destruction on that fateful day.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor accomplished the major objective of President Franklin D. Roosevelt: America’s formal entry into the Second World War.

It is important to remember that the United States was founded on principles different from those of every nation in history. Although there were those in 1787 who wanted a ruler with omnipotent powers, the proponents of limited government prevailed. And one of the limitations on the power of the president was with respect to war: he was prohibited from waging it without a formal declaration of war from Congress.

As recent as the early part of this century, the American people clearly understood and agreed with the meaning and effect of this limitation on the power of the executive branch. That was why President Wilson went to Congress and sought a declaration before entering World War I — he knew that the U.S. could not legally wage war without it.

President Roosevelt understood that this higher law of the Constitution controlled his actions as well. Nevertheless, the man who did everything he could in the 1930s to destroy America’s legacy of economic liberty proceeded on a fateful — and illegal — course of action: waging undeclared war on Germany and Japan in an attempt to maneuver them into “Firing the first shot” — thereby justifying America’s formal entry into the war.

Why didn’t Roosevelt simply follow the constitutional avenue of going to Congress and asking for a declaration of war? Because he knew that the vast majority of the American people were against sacrificing their young in a second crusade in Europe and that the predominate mood of Congress was to stay out of the war.

What did the U.S. do to wage undeclared war? First, it violated fundamental principles of neutrality under international law by assisting and arming one of the warring sides. Through Roosevelt’s lend-lease plan, millions of dollars of American military hardware was shipped to Great Britain — as well as to Joseph Stalin, the communist dictator of the Soviet Union — thereby encouraging a counterattack by Germany on America’s ships.

But having learned its lesson in World War I — when Wilson used German submarine attacks on U.S. ships to seek a declaration of way against Germany — the Germans refused to take the bait.

So, Roosevelt proceeded to go further. He began using American military convoys to ship goods to Britain — another act of war under international law. But Germany again refused to attack America’s ships. Finally, desperately trying to goad the Germans into an attack, Roosevelt ordered American ships to begin searching out German submarines and reporting their positions to the British. One American ship which did this — the Greer — finally was attacked by the German submarine whose location the Greer was reporting to the British. Roosevelt’s response: The U.S. has been attacked! But Congress itself refused to take Roosevelt’s bait.

Thus, in 1941, Roosevelt was at his wit’s end. He knew that the Germans were not going to react to his provocations with an attack on the U.S. … that the position of the American people — despite the evil actions of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini — was, “Stay out of this war! “… that Congress was against entering the war … that both the Democratic and Republican Party platforms were against entry into another European war … and Roosevelt knew that he had falsely and deceptively promised the American people in the 1940 presidential campaign that he was doing everything he could to keep America out of the war.

Thus, Roosevelt was stymied — that is, until his focus turned to the Pacific — the area that would ultimately turn out to be his “back door to war” in Europe.

By and large, American schoolchildren are taught never to ask about the circumstances leading up to Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. All that matters is that Japan attacked — the events leading up to the attack are considered “unimportant and irrelevant.” Thus, by the time they grow up, very few Americans ever ask themselves the obvious question: Why in the world would a relatively small nation like Japan attack one of the most powerful nations in history?

Throughout the 1930s, the Japanese imperial government was waging a vicious and cruel war against China. But although Americans recoiled at Japan’s aggression, there was virtually no interest in getting the U.S. involved in that conflict.

But by 1941, that perspective had changed — for Franklin D. Roosevelt. The decision was made to begin “squeezing” the Japanese dictators under the ostensible purpose of helping the Chinese people. The American noose began with U.S. government military assistance to the Chinese — another violation of neutrality principles under international law. But it was tightened through two much more dangerous and fateful decisions — decisions which American schoolchildren are never taught in American history courses in their government-approved schools.

Knowing that the Japanese war machine was dependent on Western oil and other vital resources, Roosevelt acting in conjunction with other Western powers, prohibited American citizens from furnishing any more of these items to Japan — a flagrant violation of property rights of private American citizens. Even more shocking, Roosevelt froze all Japanese assets in the U.S. and refused to release them. And both of these actions were taken before December 7 — against a nation which was not at war with the United States.

The Japanese dictators were placed in an uncomfortable situation as a result of Roosevelt’s actions. For their supply of oil to continue waging war in China was soon going to be depleted. Entering into negotiations with the U.S. officials — negotiations which American students are never told about — the American officials told them: Get out of China and we’ll release the embargo and let you have your assets back. Unfortunately, the Japanese rulers did not permit themselves to be humbled by the American officials — because if they had simply exited China in response to the noose that was now tightening around their necks, Roosevelt would again have been denied America’s formal entry into the European war.

As it became more and more obvious that the negotiations were going nowhere, the Japanese prepared for their attack on Pearl Harbor. Japanese spies in Hawaii were ordered to send regular reports of ships entering and leaving the harbor. Then, the code-message indicating that war was imminent — “East Wind, Rain” — was sent to the Japanese negotiators in Washington. And this was followed by the dramatic, final response to the American demand to exit China — the response which caused Roosevelt to exclaim upon reading it, “This means war!”

And all of these messages — and more — were read by Roosevelt before December 7, 1941! For unknown to the Japanese and to the American people at that time — was that the U.S. government had broken the Japanese secret codes and was reading the Japanese diplomatic messages — before the attack on Pearl Harbor!

Did Roosevelt and his cronies deliver these messages to the Hawaiian commanders, Kimmel and Short, before the Japanese attack? Of course not. That would have meant that the brave and courageous men at Pearl Harbor could have prepared for the attack. Why would that have been a problem? Because if the Japanese had discovered that the Americans were prepared for the attack, the probability is that the Japanese forces would have turned back. Nothing — and certainly not Roosevelt’s final bait — a few thousand American servicemen and a hundred or so American ships — would be permitted to stand in the way of Roosevelt’s primary objective: America’s entry into World War II.

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    Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.