A Gallup poll in 1991 showed that 1 in 3 Americans believed that President Franklin Roosevelt knew about the eventual attack on Pearl Harbor beforehand, and allowed it to happen in order to coerce the Congress and public to support entry into the then-European War. It was the 50th anniversary of a Gallup poll in 1941 that showed 84% believed the President did all he could to prevent war. Despite a plethora of declassified documents to the contrary, many Americans today still believe that the attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise. Many of these documents are difficult to locate at sources deemed "credible" by the public unless you already know what you are looking for, in which case it is an easy search. I cannot begin to reveal to you every piece of information contained in those documents or witness statements, but I will show you some of the most pertinent pieces.
First, a series of deciphered messages back and forth from Japanese and American parties in the months leading up to the attack. Most of these messages are from the Japanese to their fleets and back. I found them housed at the Fordham University website, but they can be found in many places on the web. These messages largely consist of Japanese scouting or recon. Fordham is careful to note that some of the text in these messages was not known until after the attack. I'll debunk that in a moment.
From: Tokyo To: Pearl Harbor Attack Force Date: 2 DEC 1941
"Climb Mount Niitaka."
This was the message that would tell the fleet commander to open sealed documents that would give him his orders.
From: Adm. Nagumo To: Pearl Harbor Attack Force Date: 3 Dec. 1941
1. "It has already been ordered to go to war on 8 December, but so critical has become the situation in the Far East that one can hardly predict was would not explode by that time. So far no new information on Hawaii area received and also no indications of our Task Force being detected. But since the enemy intention is naturally far beyond prediction, strict attention will directed to meet any unexpected encounter with an enemy."
2. "It is intended that this force will operate as scheduled even if war breaks out before 8 December.."
In that message, Admiral Nagumo was the Japanese Navy’s carrier strikeforce commander, and the Pearl Harbor Attack Force was the fleet en route to attack on December 8 in Japan (December 7 in the U.S.)
A letter from Lt. John Leitweiler, Commander of Station CAST, and Corregidor to Lt. Lee W. Parke, Chief, and Japanese Cryptography Section, U.S. Navy November 16, 1941 states that his team is current and complete in deciphering all current interceptions from the Japanese. His team was kept steadily busy, but they are able to keep up. It is this letter that allows us to be confident that the code breaking was moving efficiently. Even more importantly, however, is the fact that the letter very clearly indicates that the Chief Parke was vehemently and frequently trying to force poor methods upon his teams of sharing upon his teams, seemingly in an effort to disrupt the efficient operations. Leitweiler goes on to admonish his superior for trying to force these much slower techniques upon him (Page 1, Page 2.)
The Hawaiian office of the American Red Cross received enormous amounts of supplies just days before the attack on Pearl Harbor despite public conversations of peace and isolationism by Congress and the American people as found in the Hawaii War Records department. Why were these supplies sent to Pearl Harbor if the base was considered the most unlikely of attack points? Because, as noted above on December 3, we already knew the attack was going to happen. Further, a letter from Helen Hamman, daughter of Don C. Smith, to President Clinton in 1995 sought to clear up a fight to posthumously change the ranks of the Pearl Harbor commanders. Don Smith served as Director of the War Service for the Red Cross. His daughter related:
“. . . Shortly before the attack in 1941 President Roosevelt called [Smith] to the White House for a meeting concerning a Top Secret matter. At this meeting the President advised my father that his intelligence staff had informed him of a pending attack on Pearl Harbor, by the Japanese. He anticipated many casualties and much loss, he instructed my father to send workers and supplies to a holding area at a [port of entry] on the West Coast where they would await further orders to ship out, no destination was to be revealed. He left no doubt in my father's mind that none of the Naval and Military officials in Hawaii were to be informed and he was not to advise the Red Cross officers who were already stationed in the area. When he protested to the President, President Roosevelt told him that the American people would never agree to enter the war in Europe unless they were attack [sic] within their own borders.”
Finally, let’s look at the “McCollum Memo” that was provided to F.D.R. on October 7, 1940, some 14 months before the attack on Pearl Harbor. It was declassified in 1994. The memo outlines 8 specific steps to soliciting a Japanese attack that would serve as an entry point into the war for the Untied States. Each and every one of these steps was carried out before the attack. Those 8 steps were:
1. Make an arrangement with Britain for the use of British bases in the Pacific, particularly Singapore.
2. Make an arrangement with Holland for the use of base facilities and acquisition of supplies in the Dutch East Indies.
3. Give all possible aid to the Chinese government of Chiang-Kai-Shek.
4. Send a division of long range heavy cruisers to the Orient, Philippines, or Singapore.
5. Send two divisions of submarines to the Orient.
6. Keep the main strength of the U.S. fleet now in the Pacific in the vicinity of the Hawaiian Islands.
7. Insist that the Dutch refuse to grant Japanese demands for undue economic concessions, particularly oil.
8. Completely embargo all U.S. trade with Japan, in collaboration with a similar embargo imposed by the British Empire.
All of this information was declassified after the Gallup poll that shows 31% of Americans believe that Pearl Harbor was a surprise attack, so I should expect that the number today would be higher. Even so, many people will argue loudly that it is a theory and that there is no evidence to support the proposal that FDR. used the attack on Pearl Harbor as a way of getting the U.S. into a war that he repeatedly argued in the Washington that we needed to be in. I find it very difficult to believe that anyone can view these presented facts and argue anything other than an invitation to war was presented from FDR to Hideki Tojo.