Operation Snow: How a Soviet Mole in FDR's White House Triggered Pearl Harborby John Koster
Americans have long debated the cause of the December 7, 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor. Many have argued that the attack was a brilliant Japanese military coup, or a failure of U.S. intelligence agencies, or even a conspiracy of the Roosevelt administration. But despite the attention historians have paid to the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the truth about that fateful
Americans have long debated the cause of the December 7, 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor. Many have argued that the attack was a brilliant Japanese military coup, or a failure of U.S. intelligence agencies, or even a conspiracy of the Roosevelt administration. But despite the attention historians have paid to the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the truth about that fateful day has remained a mysteryuntil now. In Operation Snow: How a Soviet Mole in FDR’s White House Triggered Pearl Harbor, author John Koster uses recently declassified evidence and never-before-translated documents to tell the real story of the day that FDR memorably declared would live in infamy, forever. Operation Snow shows how Joseph Stalin and the KGB used a vast network of double-agents and communist sympathizersmost notably, Harry Dexter Whiteto lead Japan into war against the United States, demonstrating incontestable Soviet involvement behind the bombing of Pearl Harbor. A thrilling tale of espionage, mystery and war, Operation Snow will forever change the way we think about Pearl Harbor and World War II.
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Meet the Author
John Koster writes frequently on American history. He is the author of The Road to Wounded Knee, which won the Sigma Delta Chi award for distinguished public service, and Custer Survivor, and has written for many historical publications, including Military History, American Heritage, and American History. Koster, a U.S. Army veteran, is fluent in half a dozen languages, and lives in New Jersey with his wife Shizuko Obo, an award-winning children’s author.
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For history buffs who love conspiracy theories anchored in actual archival research, "Operation Snow" is a great read (and very timely considering the anniversary of Pearl Harbor will soon be upon us). Koster, who relishes unearthing the untold stories behind some of the most infamous moments in American history (see "Custer Survivor" (2010)), uses Harry Dexter White's state papers from the Seeley G. Mudd Library at Princeton University, as well as previously untranslated primary documents, to prove that White helped provoke a war between the United States and Japan. Why would White do this? Koster asserts White's nefarious mission was to help shift US attention from the Soviets to the Empire of Japan. The fact that White was able to pull off such a betrayal while serving in FDR's Treasury Department is shocking. New evidence unveiling who really was to blame for Pearl Harbor makes this a thought-provoking and shocking read.
Twenty-five years ago, i published my book on Taranto and Pearl Harbor. I thought I knew it all. Wrong! In Operation Snow I found a new and well-documented addition to the complex story. By 1941 Japanese aggression and cruelty were obvious in China and SE Asia. The Russians, who were whipped by the Japanese in 1905, feared fighting the Japanese in the east and the Nazis in the west. The perfect diversion would be to get the Japanese fighting the Americans. A Soviet mole in Washington provided this diversion. In 1941 we cut off oil and iron to Japan. The home islands had none and the embargo was the equivalent of declaring war. Our mishandling of British-provided radar, and our ignoring of several war games that showed Pearl Harbor to be vulnerable, left us wide open. The Japanese in Hawaii were loyal Americans and were unmolested. The California Japanese, also loyal, were sent to prison camps in wretched deserts, a move which is best seen as paranoid racism. We convinced ouselves that the Soviets were our allies and that "Uncle Joe" was the savior of Mother Russia, choosing to overlook his long history of mass murder. True, the Soviets suffered vast caualties fighting hitler, losing far more men than we ever did, but that is not the story of Operation Snow, which got us fighting Japanese in our own costly Pacific war. This book is a valuable and novel contribution to the history of the 1940s.
I strongly disagree with the unfavorable Editorial Review of John Koster's OPERATION SNOW written by D.K.B. and published in the influential Library Journal . Without specifying what evidence might convince him, D.K.B. asserts that Koster does not offer readers "enough documentary evidence" to show that Harry Dexter White, then director of the Division of Monetary Research of the U.S. Treasury Department and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's top adviser on Japan's economy and internal politics, was a communist agent of influence, who on orders from the N.K.V.D. (the Soviet Union's intelligence service) implemented Operation "Snow" by drafting the November Memorandum, or "final" note of 26 November which purposefully provoked Japan to attack the United Sates. The KGB's goal was to prevent Japan from attacking the Soviet Union. The November Memorandum included requests like its Point 7 that called upon Japan to: "Sell to the United States up to three-fourths of her current output of war material--including naval, air, ordnance, and commercial ships on a cost-plus 20 per cent basis as the United states may select." White drafted this memorandum at a time when FDR wanted detente with Japan. To the contrary, Koster cites the best evidence to establish Harry Dexter White's culpability.. Lieutenant General Vitaly Grigorievich Pavlov (1914-2005) was a committed communist. He wrote three published books about aspects of his 50 years of service in Soviet foreign intelligence after the implosion of the Soviet Union, and the partial collapse of communism. The gist of all three is that communism as a moral and political system is humane, but certain communist leaders failed to deploy sufficient power, including especially lethal force, to ensure that communism's principles prevail against those of counter-revolutionists. Pavlov is a true communist and expresses his conviction that the set backs of the 1980' and 1990s will be reversed because history is on the side of communism's victory. Moreover, these set backs ought never to have occurred. The leadership should not have gone flabby. For example, toward the end of his career , when he was chief of KGB Residence in Warsaw during the autumn of 1981, Pavlov lost his patience with Stanislaw Kania, then secretary general of the Communist Party of Poland, who did not want to impose martial law to stop the Solidarity Movement. Pavlov then ousted Kania and replaced him with General Wojciech Jaruzelski who used the army to wage war against Polish society in order to defend communism. For Pavlov, Jaruzeski's Coup was an exemplary model, but it was not applied elsewhere because of too much dithering by party leaders. In his last book, Pavlov candidly describes Polish Affairs from 1973 to 1984 in detail. With the same attention to detail and context, Pavlov vividly describes a key event, that took place at the beginning of his career. In OPERATION "SNOW": HALF A CENTURY AT KGB FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE (Moscow:1996), Pavlov describes his meeting in Washington, DC at the Old Ebbitt Grill in May 1941 with Harry Dexter White. At that meeting, Harry Dexter White agreed that the Soviet Union needed to be saved from fighting on two fronts. White's drafting of the November Memorandum saved the Soviet Union from fighting against Japan. Some remained convinced that Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were not communist spies until they were praised as true heroes of communism by Nikita Khrushchev in his memoires. Similarly, after reading Koster's accurate summary of Pavlov's memoires, which have not been translated into English, few will doubt that Harry Dexter White was a communist agent of influence, that is somebody who was able to shape governmental policy according to the KGB's design rather than a mere thief of official secrets. Pavlov's memoires have been translated into Polish, and my reading of the Polish version confirms the accuracy of Koster's description of Pavlov's meeting with White.