Guest: Robert Stinnett's book Day of Deceit:Wed Dec 6, 2006 14:52
Robert Stinnett's book Day of Deceit: The Truth About FDR and Pearl Harbor
Robert Stinnett will be the gust on "The Charles Goyette Show"
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The Kimmel and Short families say openly that Stinnett's ``Days of Deceit'' and its conspiracy implications helped turn sentiment in their favor in Congress.
Short really died of a broken heart, and the fact that he could never clear his name haunted Kimmel, Stinnett said. If he helped, he's very pleased, he said.
Stinnett's book, published by the Free Press, an imprint of the New York publisher Simon & Schuster, is based on thousands of long secret American intercepts of Japanese fleet radio messages that he obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. The documents indicate America did know an attack was coming.
This is historical revisionism. For decades, revisionist historians have argued that Kimmel and Short were kept in the dark, because President Franklin D. Roosevelt needed Japan to attack the United States to inflame Americans and force the country from its isolationist stance.
It worked, the argument goes. America entered the war.
The congressional resolution stops short of calling it a conspiracy. Congress cites the 1995 report which found that ``the evidence of the handling of [the intercepted Japanese] messages in Washington reveals some ineptitude, some unwarranted assumptions and mis-estimations, limited coordination, ambiguous language and lack of clarification and follow-up at higher levels.''
Nuts, Stinnett says. There was a conspiracy to keep Kimmel and Short out of the intelligence circle and it extended as far as Roosevelt. Most historians, though, say Stinnett's trail of uncovered memos doesn't squarely nail Roosevelt.
With or without a Roosevelt smoking gun,``Days of Deceit'' has created a furor. More than 100,000 copies have been printed. It will soon be published in Japanese, and a paperback version with a new epilogue, adding more documentation showing the attack was no surprise in Washington, is scheduled in the United States in a few months.
``We're so grateful to Mr. Stinnett,'' said Emily Short, the general's daughter-in-law, who lives in Las Cruces, NM. ``I credit ``Day of Deceit'' with being the needed impetus to shake the Congress loose from the forces opposing the truth,'' she said.
In Wilmington, Del., Ned Kimmel, 79, a retired lawyer and the admiral's only child, said the Stinnett book added another important chapter to the long struggle to vindicate his father and Short.
``When ``Days of Deceit'' came out last December, there was a seminar about Adm. Kimmel by the Naval Historical Foundation. The book had some helpful information, and it was read by an awful lot of people,'' he said. Kimmel said a committee is working hard to convince Clinton to sign the proclamation.
``My opinion is this,'' Kimmel said, ``finally, after all these years, the people of the United States in the form of the House and Senate have addressed this question, and my father and Gen. Short are exonerated.''
Most mainstream historians say there never was a plot. But revisionists long have argued that the attack was anticipated in Washington.
Dissident revisionists argue that Pearl Harbor, while horrible, did what Roosevelt wanted: It galvanized Americans and drove the country into World War II against the Axis powers.
Congress was right to pass the resolution, Stinnett says. The conspiracy is no theory. It really happened, he believes.
Researching the book
It took Stinnett, a retired Oakland Tribune photographer who served in the Pacific in WW II, 17 years of research through volumes of previously classified U.S. intercepts of secret Japanese radio messages and government memos to produce the book. The radio intercept-code-breaking information went to Washington, but it didn't come back to Pearl, he said. He learned about America's secret code-breaking war 20 years ago during a visit to ``Station Cast,'' a former radio signal listening post in Hawaii, while on a Tribune assignment.
After retirement, Stinnett started his own investigation - interviewing former American military communications personnel and asking our government for long-classified messages, now controlled by the National Security Agency.
When he was rebuffed - he began firing off Freedom of Information requests - called FOIAs and based on a law first passed by Congress in 1966, requiring the government to make records public unless it is in the modern-day security interests of the country to keep them secret. They're regularly submitted by investigative journalists, but little used by academics. Today, his office is stuffed with tens of thousands of declassified memos and messages.
Despite Stinnett's exhaustive effort and support for his conclusions, his detractors are equally strong in their belief that he has not supported his case.
Stanford History Professor Barton Bernstein said Stinnett's evidence linking Roosevelt to a plot to allow the Japanese to bomb Hawaii, is flimsy. ``This is a book full of speculation; the evidence seems to be lacking,'' Bernstein said. He admitted he knows nothing about the Navy's message intercept and code-breaking prowess.
At the University of California, Berkeley, History Professor Anthony Adamthwaite takes a more neutral stand. ``There really isn't enough evidence to say if the Roosevelt Administration knew of an imminent attack on Pearl Harbor,'' Adamthwaite said.
``No doubt there was monitoring of Japanese transmissions going on - but electronic intelligence was quite new at that time. Now we have the leisure to analyze this data,'' he said. ``But at that time - there was a tremendous amount of data coming in and the question was - who read the intercepted signals?''
``I don't think the evidential chain is strong enough to reach the conclusion that the White House let the attack happen,'' he said. ``You have to realize - for Japan to attack an American base so far way - that would seem like a crazy thing to do from the American point of view.''
The code question
U.S. Navy Photo/ Adm. Husband E. Kimmel, the U.S. Naval commander in Hawaii at the time of the Japanese attack, retired in disgrace. He died in 1968 - still unable to clear his name.
David Kahn, author of a definitive book on U.S. code-breaking, leveled a scathing attack on Stinnett's code research in the latest issue of the New York Review of Books.
The operating Pearl Harbor attack story long has been that the Japanese Navy task force, commanded by Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto, kept strict radio silence as the fleet crossed the Northern Pacific en route to Pearl. That's what really happened, Kahn said. No wonder.
``Central to the surprise [attack] was the radio silence of the strike force,'' Kahn says. ``The Japanese commanders and radio operators alike, say unanimously they never transmitted any messages.''
He adds that the Japanese code at that time, labeled JN 25, by the United States, had not been cracked, and U.S. intelligence summaries produced in Hawaii stated there was no information on submarines or carriers.
Now it's Stinnett who is scoffing.
Sitting in his basement office in his house near Lake Merritt, he pulls out a sheaf of photocopied message intercepts from the days and hours before the Pearl Harbor attack. All were obtained under the Freedom of Information Act in May of this year.
The intercepts show that American radio operators in Hawaii, Corregidor in the Phillippines and near Half Moon Bay here in the Bay Area tracked the Japanese fleet before the Pearl Harbor attack. The information went to Washington - but it never reached the two key commanders in Hawaii, Stinnett said.
He also produces a communiqué from the listening station on Corregidor: ``We are redoing enough current traffic to keep two translators very busy,'' the station commander wrote Washington on Nov. 16, 1941.
Stinnett adds that after his book was published, four retired Navy officers who worked at the Navy listening post in San Francisco in 1941 contacted him. One is Charles Black, husband of former U.S. Ambassador and film star Shirley Temple Black. ``These guys knew we had broken the Japanese code,'' Stinnett said.
``They didn't say definitely they knew Pearl Harbor was being attacked. But they said the threat was very well-known in their department in San Francisco,'' he said.
The admission that American cryptographers had broken the Japanese code was kept in secret U.S. Navy vaults until this May, Stinnett said.
Stinnett believes that one reason the National Security Agency remains reluctant to declassify the rest of the Pearl Harbor documents is because the United States still relies on communications intelligence.
``Who knows? Maybe there's some way they can track Saddam Hussein. Maybe they're monitoring his radio communications, and they don't want publicity about what our government does,'' he said.
Meanwhile, the mystery continues.
After ``Day of Deceit'' came out last December, the National Security Agency reviewed documents about U.S. intercepts of coded Japanese messages before Pearl Harbor that Stinnett had requested.
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