Blogs > Liberty and Power > Another Attack on Pearl Harbor

Jun 20, 2010 9:18 am

Another Attack on Pearl Harbor

I'm back on the subject of Pearl Harbor again and am considering reviewing George Victor's 2007 book The Pearl Harbor Myth (which Robert Higgs reviewed in 2008 in the Freeman).

Can anyone recommend a book that disputes claims that Roosevelt and Marshall deliberately withheld information about the pending attack from the Hawaii commanders? Roberta Wohlstetter's 1962 book is too old and Gordon Prange's book presumably does not include most of the information that Jimmy Carter de-classified in 1979. (Although At Dawn We Slept was published in 1982, Prange died in 1980 and two graduate students finished the book.)

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Jane S. Shaw - 6/23/2010

Thanks for your comment. This is what I'm looking for. I'll see if I can find Spector's book.

Jane S. Shaw - 6/20/2010

Thanks for sending this review. I've been looking at the reviews to see what "sticks."

Jane S. Shaw - 6/20/2010

Thanks for the comment. I'm collecting data!

William J. Stepp - 6/20/2010

This is a review at

By John Matlock "Gunny" (Winnemucca, NV) - See all my reviews

This review is from: The Pearl Harbor Myth: Rethinking the Unthinkable (Military Controversies) (Hardcover)
The author asks a series of questions about Pearl Harbor:

Did U.S. intelligence know of Japan's coming attack on Pearl Harbor? His answer is, Yes. There were a lot of warnings. This question, however, really needs to be expanded. Yes, there were a lot of warnings, or maybe you'd call them hints of warnings. These were received by lots of people, mostly at a lower level. After the war they reported that they had passed these warnings along to upper management. (What else could you expect them to say?) Upper management said they never got them. (What else could you expect them to say?) So my answer is: Some people had warnings. U.S. Intelligence did not at a senior level have a solid consensus.

He asks: Did President Roosevelt know? If he did, he took it to the grave with him. I think he expected an attack by Japan somewhere in the pacific but he didn't expect it to hurt as much as it did. Did he know Pearl Harbor, I think he expected elsewhere.

Was there a coverup? Absolutely. Would you admit knowing in advance and not doing anything? Only if you had some desire to spend some time in Leavenworth.

Did the US have disguised combat operations that began six months before the Pearl Harbor attack? I don't know about them being disguised, but we were escorting merchant ships part way across the Atlantic.

Conclusion. Mr. Victor believes a conspiracy was responsible for Pearl Harbor. I tend to not believe in a conspiracy when simple incompetence can account for what happened. Especially in this case where the Americans believed that the Japanese were so inferior. Mr. Victor does though present some very strong arguments that make his book interesting reading. Help other customers find the most helpful reviews

William J. Stepp - 6/20/2010

At the risk of getting myself read out of the libertarian movement, let me go on record as saying that, while I did at one time believe the hardcore libertarian view that the Roosevelt II regime "knew" that Japan was planning to attack Pearl Harbor, and indeed withheld information about it from the military brass stationed there, I haven't believed it since reading Ronald H. Spector's book a dozen years or so ago, _Eagle Against the Sun: The American War with Japan_. He makes the point that there was so much "noise" surrounding that event that no one could have predicted it without having had more precise intelligence. That intelligence simply was not available, despite what some historians have tried to show.

I just finished reading Leonard Mlodinow's splendid book, _The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives_, in which he debunks what he calls the "should-have-known-it blame game" (pp. 201-2).
Hindsight is always 20/20, but people, including historians, often invent ex-post rationalizations and theories to "explain" that black swan events were predicted or could have been (e.g., Pearl Harbor, 9/11, October 19, 1987), thereby infusing them with a false certitude. He quotes Roberta Wohlstetter: "After the event, of course, a signal is always crystal clear; we can now see what disaster it was signalling....But before the event it is obscure and pregnant with conflicting meanings." He points out that all the reports that were cited as being important in "predicting" the attack gave conflicting signals that reasonably could have been interpreted in ways that didn't indicate an attack.

He continues: "The study of randomness tells us that the crystal ball view of events is possible, unfortunately, only after they happen. And so we believe we know why a film did well, a candidate won an election, a storm hit, a stock went down, a soccer team lost [@#$% ref!], a new product will fail, or a disease will take a turn for the worse."