Blogs > Liberty and Power > World War II Scrutinized Again

Aug 16, 2009 11:13 am

World War II Scrutinized Again

Mark, thank you for alerting us to a more nuanced view of 20th-century British history -- from an unexpected source, Pat Buchanan.

Often, a long time must pass before we see facts clearly. By the time historians can be objective, most of the relevant people who really knew what happened (and were reluctant to tell it) are dead.

That is also the case with the question of whether FDR withheld knowledge of the pending attack on Pearl Harbor. I have been convinced--by John Toland especially--that Roosevelt and George Marshall knew about the attack and let it happen, but that idea is so offensive to many FDR partisans that it has been mostly ignored. Amazon just informed me that a new book, by George Victor, says somewhat the same thing. I can't wait to read it.

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Jane S. Shaw - 5/31/2009

I liked Robert Stinnett's book, too, but had missed Victor's (fortunately, Amazon keeps track of my interests, albeit with a lag). The most persuasive part of Toland's book for me was a footnote. A congressional committee or commission had just grilled George Marshall on where he was when the attack occurred (supposedly, out horseback riding). Someone in the men's room overheard Marshall remark that he had come awfully close to betraying his boss (FDR).

Robert Higgs - 5/31/2009

George Victor (by the way, an admirer of Roosevelt and his war policies) does indeed make a stronger case than Toland does for U.S. leaders' foreknowledge of the Pearl Harbor attack. My review of Victor's book appears in The Freeman (May 2008). Ditto for Robert Stinnett (another admirer of Roosevelt and his war policies) in his Day of Deceit (2000), a work of long, painstaking archival and other primary historical research, especially on the breaking of the Japanese naval code (a separate matter from the well-known breaking of the Japanese diplomatic code).

It is becoming more and more difficult for Roosevelt idolators to maintain their orthodox position with a straight face -- not that many of them are loudly declaring mea culpa, of course.

Jonathan Dresner - 5/28/2009

Except that Berry's review concludes by endorsing the book whole-heartedly. I read the review: I don't see any disagreement on substantial themes or issues. What's the difference?

Mark Brady - 5/27/2009

My post sought to alert readers to Stephen Berry's take on events, as expounded in his review of Pat Buchanan's book, rather than Buchanan's own take on events.

I'd also like to comment on your statement that "often, a long time must pass before we see facts clearly." It's worth remarking that in respect to every war or other significant event in modern history, at least a few people at the time did see, appreciate, and write about what was happening. The problem was their accounts were drowned out by the court historians and the public are for the most part not interested in reading and evaluating dissident perspectives.