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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/18569/morgenstern-on-pearl-harbor-1947/

Morgenstern on Pearl Harbor (1947)

September 28, 2011 by

George Morgenstern’s Pearl Harbor: The Story of the Secret War (newly uploaded on this site) has to be one of the bravest books ever written. It’s a wonder it came out at all, but it did, in 1947, just as the war ended and FDR had died. It argued that the bombing was not unexpected but provoked and even wanted by the administration as a “backdoor to the war” that FDR really wanted as a means to rescue his presidency. This was not an unknown fact a few years earlier but the war victory led to a situation where it as considered unpatriotic and downright nasty to look back and say what was widely known only a few years earlier.Such is the way war scrambles people’s brains. Nonetheless, the book appeared and created an incredible frenzy of denunciation and hysteria; it has been the template for war revisionism ever since. Since that time, however, more and more books have come out that only reinforce the point that Morgenstern was making, among which Percy Greaves’s Pearl Harbor.

{ 51 comments }

Martial Artist September 28, 2011 at 4:43 pm

I first heard about the FDR administration being involved in provoking the Pearl Harbor attack and covering it up when I was about 15 years old (~1959 or ’60) via a television commentator, Howard Drummond “Dan” Smoot. I even once had and read a copy of The Dan Smoot Report, distributed for free, that detailed the evidence he had compiled to substantiate his allegations. The evidence was highly suggestive, but not quite conclusive. It is quite interesting to me that there now appears to be a revival of this theory. I have downloaded a copy of Morgenstern’s book and look forward to reading it. Unfortunately, my old Smoot Report copy is long since discarded during one of our many relocations while serving in the Navy. I will have to see what Morgenstern adduces that “rings a bell” with what I remember from that earlier bulletin.

Pax et bonum,
Keith Töpfer

da99 September 28, 2011 at 11:17 pm
Abhilash Nambiar September 28, 2011 at 11:27 pm

There is a rather innocent explanation for that which will be overlooked by the conspiracy theorists. Newspaper journalists are not omniscient. They speculate on how future events will turn out based on their understanding. They make all sorts of speculation based on their understanding, in retrospect it would be surprising if at least some of them where not right in some respects.

For a modern day comparison, check out the the story line on the Libyan conflict and the number of times various news agencies tried to speculate on the end of the conflict. Look back into the archives once it ends. Somebody got it right. That will make more than enough material for the conspiracy industry.

terrymac September 29, 2011 at 10:14 am

I can’t buy the theory that the HILO post was just a case of having a large enough sample of random pundits that one of them was right. This wasn’t a page-twenty speculation; this was a front-page headline. The editors must have had strong reason for their stated belief.

Oldboy September 28, 2011 at 6:21 pm

Plus ça change…In the great tradition of anti-war revisionists, Sniegoski blows the cover of the Iraq invasion plotters.
http://www.independent.org/pdf/tir/tir_14_03_08_kwiatkowski.pdf
http://www.4shared.com/document/900X2C6i/The_Transparent_Cabal.htm

Abhilash Nambiar September 28, 2011 at 10:29 pm

The main problem with this argument of course is that before the war ended with the dropping of the Atomic bomb and the unconditional surrender of Japan, there was no in fact way of knowing how the war would end.

It is easy to argue after victory that FDR started it. You can always pick and choose and arrange incidents in a complex event to support the narrative you want. It is not too difficult. The past can never be faithfully recorded in full detail. It is too expensive.

If FDR in fact provoked the war as this Morgenstern argues, then FDR must have known before hand that victory was certain. The events of the war clearly show that there was no good reason to believe that. FDR himself was a sick and dying man in his last term and in fact dies before the war ends. So he provokes a war whose end he knows he may probably not live to see, judging from his own medical records. So the general uncertainty of the war is compounded by a personal uncertainty from disease.

So after that ordeal is over, the survivors are told that it was the fault of their leader who lead them through the crisis. How despicable!! It is a not a very brave thing to say to a people who value freedom, but it sure is nasty. It is the lowest form in which one can exercise one’s freedom. And one can judge the fact that it is a free country from the fact that Morgenstern got away with this highly immoral act as early as 1947, when the wounds from the war were yet to heal.

Judge the freedom in your country by examining how the morally bankrupt, the socially non-conformist and the politically incorrect are treated. Morgenstern seems to be exhibit A of this specie from 1947. From 2011 we have Fred Phelps. Someday they will meet in hell. I hope no one here gets to meet them there. Maybe some penance would be in good order.

Ampontan September 29, 2011 at 5:32 am

“It is easy to argue after victory that FDR started it. You can always pick and choose and arrange incidents in a complex event to support the narrative you want. It is not too difficult. The past can never be faithfully recorded in full detail.”

The problem with this argument is that it doesn’t address the Morgenstern book.

http://www.versandbuchhandelscriptorium.com/angebot/e9912pear.html

“During and immediately after the war, a total of nine official investigations were conducted of this military catastrophe. The most important investigative committees were the Army Pearl Harbor Board (1944), the Navy Court of Inquiry (1944), and finally, the Joint Committee on the Investigation of the Pearl Harbor Attack (1945/46). The investigations by the Army, Navy and Congress secured most of the material known to this day about Pearl Harbor. In the Congressional investigative committee, the Democratic majority went to great lengths to cover up the true course of events and the matter of responsibility, so that the Republican minority saw itself forced to draw up its own statement, which came much closer to the actual facts. Despite all attempts at clouding the issues, the material released was devastating for the late President Roosevelt and his Administration.

It was on the basis of this material that George Morgenstern published his 1947 book Pearl Harbor. The Story of the Secret War…”

Abhilash Nambiar September 29, 2011 at 7:21 am

I said that he can pick and choose and arrange incidents in a complex event to support the narrative he wants and from the excerpt, you just showed how he did it.

Ampontan September 29, 2011 at 7:54 am

“I said that he can pick and choose and arrange incidents in a complex event to support the narrative he wants and from the excerpt, you just showed how he did it.”

English translation: “I’m right even when I’m wrong.”

Abhilash Nambiar September 29, 2011 at 8:02 am

Conclusion: Ampontan is weak in English.

terrymac September 29, 2011 at 10:19 am

I am not buying that theory that FDR would have had to “know” the outcome of the war.
He needed only to be optimistic about the outcome.

What FDR did know was that the Depression wasn’t going away; millions of Americans were out of work; his advisers told him that the “cure” would be a vast spending program – just as Paul Krugman today says that defending against an imaginary space invasion would surely fix the economy.

It’s easy to “fix” the unemployment problem if sending 10-12 million people overseas as cannon fodder qualifies as “employment.”

Vanmind October 25, 2011 at 5:25 pm

You’re assuming that FDR ever cared about winning a war. He did not — he was interested in advancing the one-world socialist agenda, as were Stalin, Churchill, Tojo, and Hitler.

Abhilash Nambiar October 25, 2011 at 7:36 pm

Not true. FDR tricked you into believing that.

Mitch Kordonowy September 28, 2011 at 10:45 pm

“If FDR in fact provoked the war as this Morgenstern argues, then FDR must have known before hand that victory was certain.”

I’m feeling mislead by this statement, Abhilash. Wouldn’t it be all the same if FDR *thought* before hand that victory was certain? In the book does Morgenstern state that FDR knew victory was certain? Are we to then believe that Hitler knew that he would lose the war before invading Poland?
I’m just confused that is all.
I haven’t yet read the book, so your statements may seem confusing to me for this simple reason.

Abhilash Nambiar September 28, 2011 at 11:06 pm

I considered the *thought* part. It is not all the same. You missed the part I wrote about the declining health. His health was declining from at least 1940. The Pearl Harbor attack was on December 7, 1941. He was taking on this great task the end of which he knew he probably wouldn’t live to see. You think that in a war at least one side feels that victory is certain. It need not be so. Take admiral Yamamoto, who organized the attack on Pearl Harbor, he believed that Japan will be able to score major victory in the start of the fight but will not be able to endure in a prolonged conflict. He was right. Yet he fought for Japan, his sense of duty demanded it. His decision to fight was not based on any perceptions of future outcome, only his sense of duty.

But FDR according to Morgenstern provoked a war that might have ended in military defeat and abolished his presidency to ‘rescue his Presidency’, a Presidency that he was not even sure he could live to occupy for reasons of poor health. This is utterly stupid.

Marissa September 30, 2011 at 12:31 pm

“But FDR according to Morgenstern provoked a war that might have ended in military defeat and abolished his presidency to ‘rescue his Presidency’, a Presidency that he was not even sure he could live to occupy for reasons of poor health. This is utterly stupid.”

Never underestimate a politician’s desire to leave a legacy, especially such a tyrant as Roosevelt. If only the polio had taken that one early in life.

Nuke Gray September 28, 2011 at 10:52 pm

No, you have got it completely wrong. For a start, American code-breakers had cracked Japan’s codes, so the administration did have some warning about Pearl Harbour. Secondly, FDR did not have to know that America would win- he might simply have assumed it. America had survived the Great Depression without a revolution- surely America could do anything! And a war would have fitted in with his belief in expanding government in the economy, which he had tried in that depression. This would have given him a new excuse. When hitler declared war on America because Japan was at war with America, he had the perfect excuse to jettison nonintervention as a policy and help Great Britain out.
And because he was dying, he decided to impose the american system on the rest of the world, via the UN, as his legacy to the world.

Abhilash Nambiar September 28, 2011 at 11:15 pm

When Pearl harbor happened, American code breakers had broken the diplomatic codes, not the military code of the Japanese. The information in it can be retrospectively understood as preparation for Pearl harbor, but introspectively it was not clear enough. Diplomats are not usually briefed on precise military details especially when they are in the enemy nation. It can very easily end up in the wrong hands you know.

I could go on and on, but I think my earlier statement explains well what you are doing. So I will just repeat it “You can always pick and choose and arrange incidents in a complex event to support the narrative you want. It is not too difficult.”

I will now watch how many of the responses can be easily grouped in that category.

Ampontan September 29, 2011 at 5:25 am

“You can always pick and choose and arrange incidents in a complex event to support the narrative you want. It is not too difficult.”

We know. You’re doing it yourself.

Some information you’re leaving out: Many Japanese themselves thought they couldn’t win the war, starting with the Japanese ambassador to the US at the time, and continuing through Admiral Yamamoto. He was initially opposed, planned Pearl Harbor when he saw that Tojo was ignoring him, and based his plan on his prediction that Japan would lose the war if it lasted for more than a year.

“If FDR in fact provoked the war as this Morgenstern argues, then FDR must have known before hand that victory was certain.”

Unsupported speculation on your part.

“The events of the war clearly show that there was no good reason to believe that.”

More unsupported ex post facto supposition. It’s not how wars (or sporting events) start, it’s how they end. To support this you will have to demonstrate that a significant amount of Americans thought they’d lose.

“So he provokes a war whose end he knows he may probably not live to see…”

I hope you’re having fun beating that straw man you’ve created.

“So after that ordeal is over, the survivors are told that it was the fault of their leader who lead them through the crisis. How despicable!! It is a not a very brave thing to say to a people who value freedom, but it sure is nasty.”

Perhaps, but that has nothing to do with whether it is true or not.

Abhilash Nambiar September 29, 2011 at 7:18 am

Try saying I know instead of we know. You are no one’s spokesman here. Since I myself mentioned Yamamoto, the claim that I am leaving out important details rings a bit hollow. Many in the Japanese high command did not want to go through with Pearl Harbor because it was too long a journey and there was risk of being detected and losing the all important element of surprise. Opposition to Yamamoto’s plan in Japan was for strategic reasons.

As for the claim of unsupported speculation, yes you took the statement stripped off the details I mentioned substantiating it – the uncertainty inherent to the nature of war and FDR’s health problems.

And since FDR in fact died due to health complications before the war ended, my statement stands. You can call it straw of course. But only because you do not know what straw looks like. I am having fun seeing you make the rope that you are tying yourself with.

Ex post facto supposition is what this Morgenstern does in 1947. After the war is won, he comes out and blames the victim of the Pearl Harbor attack. You do not know what an ex post facto supposition is. The outcome of war is always uncertain, whether or not people involved in it realize it or not. The events clearly reflect it, even though it is not known from the events. That is all I was trying to say. Just like we know Pythagorus theorem is true for every right angled triangle without measuring every right angled triangle.

I won’t comment on your opinion on the last statement. It has basis only in your biases.

Ampontan September 29, 2011 at 7:58 am

“I won’t comment on your opinion on the last statement. It has basis only in your biases.”

You mean the statement in which I point out your bias, while saying — correctly — that it is irrelevant to the point?

You don’t win many arguments, do you?

Abhilash Nambiar September 29, 2011 at 8:04 am

I do not usually appoint my opponents in my argument as referees, but if you want to play that game, you can declare yourself winner before you even begin and get it done with.

BioTube September 29, 2011 at 7:35 am

The military codes were broken – this combined with how late the fleet actually went into radio silence was how the administration knew when to get the carriers out of Pearl Harbor so the plot would only do enough damage to be a casus belli.

The fact of the matter is that FDR’s machinations are well recorded by declassified documents – the only plausible defense of the man is that somehow his goal of getting into the second world war was a noble one.

Abhilash Nambiar September 29, 2011 at 8:01 am

When you make such serious claims that defy convention, you need to state sources.

Philemon October 1, 2011 at 6:24 pm

Well, the codes used for consular traffic J-19 and PA-K2 were entirely broken and readable in DC, at least.

JN-25, Japanese Navy Fleet Code, was partially broken prior to 12/7/41 EST. Are any of the decrypts of JN-25 in the weeks prior and up to 12/7/41 declassified yet?

Nuke Gray September 29, 2011 at 12:20 am

Your attempts to canonise FDR are unconvincing. He was a statist before and during the war, and if he had survived the war by another year, he would have stayed a statist. America fought two wars at the same time (Germany, and also Japan) and did win against both of them- so he might have had good reasons for going into war confidently. He was, after all, justified in his confidence that America would be on the winning side. Even I, an Australian who likes the British Empire, have to admit that if America had not entered the war, then Russia, and Stalinism, would have been the winners in western Europe.

Abhilash Nambiar September 29, 2011 at 2:09 am

You make me laugh.

America fought two wars at the same time (Germany, and also Japan) and did win against both of them- so he might have had good reasons for going into war confidently.

I ought to frame this. No arguments required here.

Nuke Gray September 29, 2011 at 2:11 am

Good to see you picking and choosing.

Abhilash Nambiar September 29, 2011 at 2:16 am

Oh. I must be hiding something eh? Never-mind that the full passage is written right above and can be inspected for any potential foul play like misquoting out of context. Not even the whole passage taken as such will save you from the stupidity that you have just buried yourself with. Please continue to tickle my funny bone.

Gil September 29, 2011 at 12:30 am

So FDR provoked war with Japan by withholding supplies they needed to exterminate Chinese people? FDR was then a traitor – he sacrificed Americans lives to try to save a bunch of chinks. Had FDR done nothing than Mao would have been a skeleton in a ditch and Chinese Communism would never have happened.

Oldboy September 29, 2011 at 2:22 am

http://www.sdh-fact.com/CL02_1/64_S4.pdf
The Nanking massacre is a fantasy concocted after the event. Not the only time this has occurred either. Not to excuse Japanese colonialism, but imagining America acted to save Chinese is risible.

Abhilash Nambiar September 29, 2011 at 2:38 am

This is a fun game. If Sugihara Seishir tried a little harder, maybe he could convince you that the entire war was itself a fantasy, a false memory that was recently implanted in the minds of people via their television sets.

Oldboy September 29, 2011 at 3:06 am

You yourself have a serious case of neo-con indoctrination. Switch off Fox News for a while, and go for a walk.

Abhilash Nambiar September 29, 2011 at 3:12 am

Ha. I rarely watch television. Took Robert Murphy’s advice on TV very seriously and I love walks.

Gil October 1, 2011 at 12:35 am

Because a Japanese historian told you so? Well fancy that.

Dennis September 29, 2011 at 12:04 pm

“The question was how we should maneuver them into the position of
firing the first shot without allowing too much danger to ourselves.”

This quotation is from the diary of Secretary of War Henry Stimson
concerning the meeting with President Roosevelt and his cabinet on
November 25, 1941, just prior to the “surprise” attack at Pearl Harbor. See
George Morgenstern, Pearl Harbor: The Story of the Secret War (Old Greenwich,
Conn.: Devin-Adair, 1947), p. 292.

The above is contained in John V. Denson’s outstanding essay “Franklin D. Roosevelt and the First Shot.”

Martial Artist September 29, 2011 at 4:10 pm

It would appear that the question was either answered, or they had already succeeded in so maneuvering Japan that a verbal answer was not required.

Keith Töpfer

Marissa September 30, 2011 at 12:34 pm

Sounds familiar…Fort Sumter, anyone?

Ohhh Henry September 29, 2011 at 12:05 pm

One interesting and surprising thing that I heard lately was about the US government’s detailed awareness of the Harper’s Ferry Raid. I commented on this previously here at mises.org but I think it bears repeating. I only heard about this from reading the frothy, but meticulously researched “Flashman” historical novels. The author actually put an epilogue into his novel about Harper’s Ferry in which he muses in astonishment at the apparent depth of foreknowledge of the attack in the US government. If it hasn’t already been done, it would be interesting to see a muckracking nonfiction treatment of the raid which goes into as much detail as the various treatments of Pearl Harbor. I suspect that there is a lot more there than meets the eye.

Another topic which I think needs more investigation is the links between Hitler in his early days and Americans, either private citizens, corporations or federal government agents. The standard histories of the Third Reich by William Shirer and Richard Evans mention that Hitler received rather large and mysterious amounts of funding from his very earliest days of political activity – first from the German army, and later on from “business interests”. It is well known that between the wars a huge amount of US money was poured into the Weimar Republic (see Rothbard, America’s Great Depression). Was this simply “dumb money” printed by the Fed that went to Germany only because they were such eager borrowers, or was there any more focused, semi-official effort by Americans to fund or influence business and politics in Germany? There was apparently an extensive network of German spies in the USA during WW1, was this organization infiltrated and turned back against Germany? If rumors and innuendo are any guide, then I wouldn’t be surprised to see Prescott Bush’s name pop up. If his bank was involved with the Nazis, he was involved in a planned fascist coup against the US government, and his son became the top man at the CIA, then would anyone be surprised to find US money and agents lurking somewhere behind this mysterious, early and very substantial support of Hitler’s NSDAP?

Ohhh Henry September 29, 2011 at 12:18 pm

To sum up, you can believe whatever you like about the origins of US wars. But I personally don’t think that the Civil War, WW1, WW2 (in either Asia or Europe) or practically any other war in US history “just happened”. The pattern seems to be repeated over and over again … “extremist” parties and leaders appear, they whip up the public and seize power, and then inevitably the US must fight a large-scale war to fix the problem (i.e. occupy and financially exploit). The more closely these events are examined, the more it becomes clear that there was not just foreknowledge of impending attacks with the US government, but also allegations of possible involvement and connivance. Look at how the police continually try to set up and organize “terrorists” in order to arrest them, get good publicity and then ask for a huge budget increase. Do you think that the same strategy has never been used by the self-appointed World Police?

Ohhh Henry September 30, 2011 at 10:47 am

Apparently the book on Hitler’s earliest financial support has already been written, thank you Charles Burris.

Kid Salami September 30, 2011 at 12:29 pm

G Edward Griffin’s book World Without Cancer has, surprisingly, a great deal of information about financing and trade in Nazi Germany – it traces the history of large pharmaceuticals, concentrating on I G Farben. The book is just as good as Creature from Jekyll Island.

Sione September 29, 2011 at 12:49 pm

Abhilash

Have you read Morgenstern’s book?

Sione

Abhilash Nambiar September 29, 2011 at 7:48 pm

I did read a bit, but it is unlikely that I will finish it. There is no new facts in the book. It is all about the interpretation given to events; the way facts are presented to reinforce a particular world-view. It is simple enough to do and a journalist who does it well and make a good living out of it.

Sione September 30, 2011 at 5:40 am

Abhilash

Riiight. So you have not read it.

That figures.

Sione

Abhilash Nambiar September 30, 2011 at 6:46 am

Now you are putting words into my mouth.

Ampontan September 30, 2011 at 7:06 am

So, tell us what it tastes like to get a dose of your own medicine.

Abhilash Nambiar September 30, 2011 at 7:08 am

It is not a dose of my medicine. I know what my medicine tastes like. This is a dose of a toxic substance that gives the appearance of my medicine to the untrained.

Oldboy September 30, 2011 at 8:28 pm

When will James J. Martin and Harry Elmer Barnes be rehabilitated? Isn’t there a statute of limitations on revisionist thoughtcrime?

Abhilash Nambiar September 30, 2011 at 8:31 pm

There is no legal repercussions for ‘thoughtcrimes’, so talking about statue of limitations is meaningless. It is no crime to scorn, ridicule or criticize. Maybe you want to change that?

Oldboy September 30, 2011 at 11:40 pm

Irony is wasted on you.

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