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S y n o p s i s
Robert Stinnett delivers the definitive final chapter on America's greatest secret and our worst military disaster. Drawing on twenty years of research and access to scores of previously classified documents, Stinnett proves that Pearl Harbor was not an accident, a mere failure of American intelligence, or a brilliant Japanese military coup. By showing that ample warning of the attack was on FDR's desk and, furthermore, that a plan to push Japan into war was initiated at the highest levels of the U.S. government, he ends up profoundly altering our understanding of one of the most significant events in American history.
It was not long after the first Japanese bombs fell on the American naval ships at Pearl Harbor that conspiracy theories began to circulate, charging that Franklin Roosevelt and his chief military advisors knew of the impending attack well in advance. Robert Stinnett, who served in the U.S. Navy with distinction during World War II, examines recently declassified American documents and concludes that, far more than merely knowing of the Japanese plan to bomb Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt deliberately steered Japan into war with America.
Stinnett's argument draws on both circumstantial evidence--the fact, for example, that in September 1940 Roosevelt signed into law a measure providing for a two-ocean navy that would number 100 aircraft carriers--and, more importantly, on American governmental documents that offer apparently incontrovertible proof that Roosevelt knowingly sacrificed American lives in order to enter the war on the side of England. Although obviously troubled by his discovery of a systematic plan of deception on the part of the American government, Stinnett does not take deep issue with its outcome. Roosevelt, he writes, faced powerful opposition from isolationist forces, and, against them, the Pearl Harbor attack was "something that had to be endured in order to stop a greater evil--the Nazi invaders in Europe who had begun the Holocaust and were poised to invade England." Sure to excite discussion, Stinnett's book offers what may be the final word on the terrible matter of Pearl Harbor.
Historians have long debated whether President Roosevelt had advance knowledge of Japan's December 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor. Using documents pried loose through the Freedom of Information Act during 17 years of research, Stinnett provides overwhelming evidence that FDR and his top advisers knew that Japanese warships were heading toward Hawaii. The heart of his argument is even more inflammatory: Stinnett argues that FDR, who desired to sway public opinion in support of U.S. entry into WWII, instigated a policy intended to provoke a Japanese attack. The plan was outlined in a U.S. Naval Intelligence secret strategy memo of October 1940; Roosevelt immediately began implementing its eight steps (which included deploying U.S. warships in Japanese territorial waters and imposing a total embargo intended to strangle Japan's economy), all of which, according to Stinnett, climaxed in the Japanese attack. Stinnett, a decorated naval veteran of WWII who served under then Lt. George Bush, substantiates his charges with a wealth of persuasive documents, including many government and military memos and transcripts. Demolishing the myth that the Japanese fleet maintained strict radio silence, he shows that several Japanese naval broadcasts, intercepted by American cryptographers in the 10 days before December 7, confirmed that Japan intended to start the war at Pearl Harbor. Stinnett convincingly demonstrates that the U.S. top brass in Hawaii--Pacific Fleet commander Adm. Husband Kimmel and Lt. Gen. Walter Short--were kept out of the intelligence loop on orders from Washington and were then scapegoated for allegedly failing to anticipate the Japanese attack (in May 1999, the U.S. Senate cleared their names). Kimmel moved his fleet into the North Pacific, actively searching for the suspected Japanese staging area, but naval headquarters ordered him to turn back. Stinnett's meticulously researched book raises deeply troubling ethical issues. While he believes the deceit built into FDR's strategy was heinous, he nevertheless writes: "I sympathize with the agonizing dilemma faced by President Roosevelt. He was forced to find circuitous means to persuade an isolationist America to join in a fight for freedom." This, however, is an expression of understanding, not of absolution. If Stinnett is right, FDR has a lot to answer for--namely, the lives of those Americans who perished at Pearl Harbor.
B i o
Robert B. Stinnett's interest in news-making history began when he was growing up in his birth city, Oakland, California. He was the oldest of four children born to Curtis and Margaret Stinnett.
A favorite activity of Robert while still a youngster was listening on the family radio to news reports from Europe by radio newscasters Hans V. Kaltenborn, Edward R. Murrow, and William L. Shirer. His interest in news and how it is processed formed his ambition to become a journalist.
By age 16 Robert was shooting photographs and selling them to The Oakland Tribune. On the day of the Pearl Harbor attack, December 7, 1941, he was a student at Fremont High School. He graduated in 1942, enlisted in the US Navy and was assigned to the same aerial photo school as former President George H. W. Bush. They served together on the USS San Jacinto of the Pacific Fleet from late 1943 to November 1944. For naval service in the Pacific and Atlantic in World War II, Stinnett was awarded 10 Navy Battle Citations.
His experiences with the US Navy's Fast Carrier operations in the Pacific Theater led to an 18-year research project that resulted in his book, Day of Deceit, now in its 6th printing by Simon & Schuster. Other editions of the book are published in the United Kingdom, Japan, and Italy. Publication is pending in Germany, France, and Norway.
After the war, he joined The Oakland Tribune as a photo-journalist, and in 1986 retired to research and write books. He is married to Peggy McBride Stinnett, associate editor and columnist for The Oakland Tribune. They have two children, Colleen Badagliacco of San Jose, and Jim Stinnett of San Francisco, two grandchildren, and a great grandchild. Robert and Peggy live in Oakland.