Day Of Deceit: The Truth About FDR and Pearl Harbor

Day Of Deceit: The Truth About FDR and Pearl Harbor

by Robert Stinnett


$16.20 $18.00 Save 10% Current price is $16.2, Original price is $18. You Save 10%.
View All Available Formats & Editions
Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for guaranteed delivery by Wednesday, September 18


In Day of Deceit, 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780743201292
Publisher: Free Press
Publication date: 05/28/2001
Series: Truth about FDR and Pearl Harbor
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 283,760
Product dimensions: 6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

Robert Stinnett served in the United States Navy from 1942 to 1946, where he earned ten battle stars and a Presidential Unit Citation. He is the author of George Bush: His World War II Years. Before devoting himself to writing Day of Deceit, he was a photographer and journalist for the Oakland Tribune. He is a consultant on the Pacific War for the BBC, Asahi Television, and NHK Television in Japan. He lives in Oakland, California.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One: The Biggest Story of My Life


December 8, 1941

About 1:00 A.M.

Edward R. Murrow couldn't sleep. His wife, Janet, watched him pace in their hotel room. He was chain-smoking. Murrow, the CBS radio newsman, had just returned from a midnight meeting with President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the White House. Japan's carrier and submarine raid on Pearl Harbor had taken place twelve hours earlier, and the full impact of the military disaster was slowly sinking in for FDR and the American people.

During their twenty-five-minute discussion in the second-floor Oval Study, the President provided Murrow with something — we will never know exactly what — that any reporter would kill for. That night he told his wife, "It's the biggest story of my life, but I don't know if it's my duty to tell it or forget it." Long after the war ended, Murrow was asked about this meeting by author-journalist John Gunther. After a long pause, Murrow replied: "That story would send Casey Murrow through college, and if you think I'm going to give it to you, you're out of your mind."

Earlier in the week, the Murrows had accepted a personal dinner invitation from the Roosevelts. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt personally prepared, cooked, and served supper for two dozen guests. Her specialty was scrambled eggs and sausage, cooked in an electric chafing dish that sat atop a long buffet table in the family dining room. It was the invariable menu. Since the regular White House staff was given Sunday off, she did the cooking while the President mixed the cocktails.

After he heard the first news flashes about the Pearl Harbor raid, Murrow checked with the White House to see if the supper was still on. Told that it was, he and Janet then walked across Lafayette Park, crossed Pennsylvania Avenue, and entered the mansion through the North Portico. After the Murrows were ushered into the dining room, Mrs. Roosevelt explained that the President was meeting with congressional leaders and military officers and could not join them for supper.

Outside on Pennsylvania Avenue a small crowd had gathered. The White House was ablaze with light. No one inside the mansion thought to pull the window shades or institute blackouts on the first day of war — that would came later. An Associated Press photographer took a picture from Lafayette Park. It shows a window in the family dining room with a silhouette of a tall figure — probably the First Lady — presiding over her scrambled eggs.

During the dinner, White House chief usher Howell Crim asked Murrow to remain for an informal meeting with FDR. After Janet Murrow returned to their hotel, her husband went to the second floor and waited outside Roosevelt's Oval Study — not to be confused with the Oval Office — in the West Wing of the White House. Soon Murrow was joined by William "Wild Bill" Donovan, Roosevelt's Coordinator of Information and later founder of the wartime Office of Strategic Services, the forerunner of the CIA.

Donovan had not been present at dinner but had been summoned by the President from New York, where he had been watching a football game at the Polo Grounds. Football fans heard an unusual announcement over the public address system about 2:30 that afternoon: "Colonel William Donovan, come to the box office at once. There is an important phone message." The message was from James Roosevelt, the President's son and a member of Donovan's staff; he told Donovan about the Japanese attack.

Throughout the evening of December 7, Roosevelt conferred with congressional and military leaders. He decided his first wartime move would come the next morning, December 8, when he would ask Congress to declare that a state of war existed between Japan and the United States. He prepared a rough draft of what later became his "Day of Infamy" speech. Then he invited Murrow and Donovan into the study for a midnight snack of sandwiches and cold beer. Chief Usher Crim noted that the three men spent twenty-five minutes together in the study before Roosevelt retired to his adjoining bedroom. Crim's arrival and departure notations in the Usher Book comprise the only official record; there were no official minutes of the meeting.

Only Donovan has hinted at what went on: the conversation was mostly about public reaction to the attack. He sensed that this was FDR's overriding concern. In 1953, while he served as ambassador to Thailand, Donovan disclosed the details of the meeting to his executive assistant, William J. vanden Heuvel, who summarized the recollections in his diary. The President asked Murrow and Donovan whether they thought the attack was a clear case of a first Japanese move that would unite Americans behind a declaration of war against the Axis powers. Both guests thought it would indeed have that effect.

Donovan believed that Roosevelt welcomed the attack and that it was less of a surprise to him than it was to others in the White House. FDR claimed he sent an advance warning to Pearl Harbor that an attack by Japan was imminent. "They caught our ships like lame ducks! Lame ducks, Bill. We told them, at Pearl Harbor and everywhere else, to have the lookouts manned. But they still took us by surprise."

Still not convinced that America's isolationist sentiments would change after this attack, FDR then read to the two men from a message he had received from a British Foreign Office official, T. North Whitehead: "The dictator powers have presented us with a united America." Roosevelt wondered whether Whitehead's assessment was correct. Again he asked, would America now support a declaration of war? Donovan and Murrow again replied in the affirmative.

Whitehead was an influential member of the Foreign Office and an advisor to Prime Minister Winston Churchill on matters affecting America's aid to the British in 1940 and 1941. He evaluated American public opinion and "read" FDR's mind for the Prime Minister. In written comments to Churchill in the fall of 1940, Whitehead had warned of continued United States isolationism, but predicted it could be overcome: "America is not in the bag. However, the President is engaged in carefully calculated steps to give us full assistance."

Several years later Murrow made a brief, circumspect broadcast that in part addressed the question of what the President had known before the Japanese hit Pearl Harbor. According to Murrow's biographer Ann Sperber, "The broadcast itself was a response to an article by John Chamberlain in LIFE magazine charging Roosevelt with foreknowledge of the attack. Murrow did not believe it and said so on the air, making it clear that he had only his instinct to go on."

In the end, Murrow's big story remained unwritten and unbroadcast. Sperber believed that the meeting concerned damage reports. Whatever it was, it weighed heavily on Murrow's mind. "But he couldn't forget it either, blaming himself at times thereafter for not going with the story, never determining to his satisfaction where his duties lay that night or what had been in the subtle mind of FDR," Sperber wrote. Murrow took the story to his grave. He died April 7, 1965, two days past his fifty-seventh birthday.

Had FDR revealed something that night about his foreknowledge? Damage reports emerged immediately in local Hawaii papers, though the full details of the American losses were not released to the nation's news media until December 16, 1941, by Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox. He confirmed the initial report by the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. Secretary Knox named the seven warships sunk: USS Arizona, USS Utah, USS Oklahoma, USS Cassin, USS Downes, USS Shaw, and USS Oglala. He said the human toll on Oahu was 2897 Americans killed, 879 wounded, and 26 missing. There was severe damage to the Army's aircraft and hangars on Oahu. Knox said the Japanese planes came from aircraft carriers and had the "most tremendously detailed" information of the naval layout at Pearl Harbor. He listed Japan's losses at forty-one planes shot down, and disclosed the American capture of a Japanese two-man midget submarine that had gone aground on an Oahu beach and the sinking of four other Japanese midget subs.

Once the nation's news media reported the attack details on December 16, 1941, there was no "big story" left to report on the main events at Pearl Harbor. None — except speculation about Roosevelt's foreknowledge. Certain words and phrases cited by Donovan hinted at what he and Murrow were told by FDR. William vanden Heuvel's diary, according to author Anthony Cave Brown, is tantalizing: "The President's surprise was not as great as that of other men around him. Nor was the attack unwelcome. It had ended the past months of uncertainty caused by FDR's decision that Japan must be seen to make the first overt move."

Any conclusion about the Murrow meeting must remain speculative, because the participants refused to tell the story. However, there are many more direct pieces of evidence from the days and weeks leading up to December 7 that put the question of FDR's foreknowledge definitively to rest. Previous accounts have claimed that the United States had not cracked Japanese military codes prior to the attack. We now know this is wrong. Previous accounts have insisted that the Japanese fleet maintained strict radio silence. This, too, is wrong. The truth is clear: FDR knew.

The real question is even more intriguing: did he deliberately provoke the attack? Were there earlier covert moves by the United States? According to a secret strategy memo, dated October 7, 1940, and adopted by the President, there were.

Copyright © 2000 by Robert B. Stinnett

Table of Contents


Principal Characters


1 The Biggest Story of My Life

2 FDR's Back Door to War

3 The White House Decides

4 We Are Alert for an Attack on Hawaii

5 The Splendid Arrangement

6 The Outside Man

7 All Clear for a Surprise Attack

8 An Unmistakable Pattern

9 Watch the Wide Sea

10 A Night with a Princess

11 War May Come Quicker Than Anyone Dreams

12 The Japs Are Blasting Away on the Frequencies

13 A Pretty Cheap Price

14 This Means War

15 The Escape Was North

Epilogue: Destroy Anything in Writing


A. McCollum's Action Proposal

B. Research for Day of Deceit

C. A Series of War Warnings Issued by the US Government

D. Selected Intelligence Documents, 1940-41

E. Thirty-six Americans Cleared to Read the Japanese Diplomatic and Military Intercepts in 1941



What People are Saying About This

Gore Vidal

Day of Decietshows that the famous surpise attack was no surprise.

From the Publisher

Richard Bernstein The New York Times It is difficult, after reading this copiously documented book, not to wonder about previously unchallenged assumptions about Pearl Harbor.

Bruce Bartlett The Wall Street Journal Fascinating and readable....Exceptionally well-presented.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

Day of Deceit - the Truth about FDR and Pearl Harbor 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 17 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Day of Deceit Mark Dent In ¿Day of Deceit,¿ Robert Stinnet argues that FDR and other high-ranking officials not only knew that the attack on Pearl Harbor would happen but openly provoked it. Stinnet¿s research is based mainly on Japanese messages that were intercepted but never given to the men in Hawaii. Stinnet¿s main reason for thinking that FDR and others provoked Japan was McCollum¿s Eight-Action Memo. He wrote that they wanted Japan to commit the first overt act of war, and that they thought this would be the best way to provoke them to do it. Admiral Richardson was fired by FDR for disagreeing with him over this memo, and FDR also placed people who he knew would listen to him in high-ranking positions. Stinnet fuels most of his evidence of knowledge of the attack through the interception of codes. He writes that there were at least five codes that the Americans knew of: Purple, 5-NUM, SM, a radio call sign code, and Kaigun Ango. These codes intercepted anything from diplomatic to direct naval messages. The USA not only knew of these codes but so did Britain, the Netherlands, and China. In the Japanese messages that were broken by these codes there was evidence of an attack on Hawaii. Even from November 27 on after Yamamoto wanted to cease all messages, messages were still intercepted. One intercept man, Homer Kisner, realized at noon on December 6 that the Japanese were definitely headed for war and likely to strike at Pearl Harbor. However, this message and no other war warning messages were ever sent to Kimmel or Short at the harbor. The knowledge of the codes at this period of time is controversial. According to FDR, none of these codes had been in working order before December 7. However, Stinnet provides thorough evidence that these codes were being used long before the attack. While Stinnet portrays FDR as a bad guy throughout the book, he knows that the nation had to be unified somehow. In his epilogue and prologue, he acknowledges that FDR faced a tough decision and that we would eventually have to attack Japan or be attacked by Japan. Stinnet did a thorough study of all this information for his book, but it seemed as though he kept repeating the same stuff. He seemed to keep repeating the same messages that were intercepted throughout the entire book. In comparing ¿Day of Deceit¿ to ¿Pearl Harbor Betrayed,¿ I would say that the latter is a better book. It is far more interesting and is just as thorough and researched just as well as the former. However, I agree with Stinnet¿s opinion on the attack more than I do with Gannon¿s opinion. There is way too much evidence pointing out that FDR and co. had prior knowledge of the attack. Even though Gannon makes his thesis seem believable, it is too hard for me to believe that the bigwigs in Washington did not provoke Japan and didn¿t have enough knowledge of the attack until it was too late.
MEhistorian More than 1 year ago
Day of Deceit provides an interesting narrative and valuable analysis of newly available documents, but ultimately, Stinnett stretches his argument farther than his evidence can support. He provides plenty of evidence that the US engaged in practices intended to provoke Japan into attacking us, and credible academic historians--even eminent historians such as Charles Beard--have already made the argument that FDR pursued a pro-war agenda behind the scenes while publicly promoting neutrality. However, Stinnett's argument that the navy knew exactly where the attack was aimed on that day and allowed it to happen and that FDR knew and approved is based on very slim evidence and should be understood as a possibility that would need a great deal more evidence to prove. If indeed top military officials did collude in provoking the attach AND knew where it would occur--would not an unsuccessful attack have also riled up the public enough to get them to support a declaration of war? Wouldn't "Air Force foils Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor" have served just as well as "2,000 dead at Pearl Harbor"? Yes, governments lie. Governments manipulate public sentiment to permit war. But individual military commanders rarely make decisions to sacrifice large numbers of their men...because they were once one of those men.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Mr. Stinnet's premise is fine: Roosevelt wanted American support for a war he felt was inevitable. He does not make the case that Roosevelt knew about Pearl Harbor and placed American personnel and ships in harm's way to that end. Mr. Stinnet is not a historian. His methodology is poor and he fails to substantiate his case with solid evidence. He might be right, but he can't prove it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
littledogDS More than 1 year ago
A good overall summary of what really happened leading to the attack on Pearl Harbor and what Washington really knew in the years leading up to December 7, 1941. There are many books which speak to those early days in the 1930's that are more "by the way" than Day Of Deceit which looks at the American motives and actions surrounding the whole pivotal involvement of the President and his advisors and other cohorts.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is well researched and presents many facts never printed before about the attack on Pearl Harbor. It also presents an excellent picture of the U. S. intelligence capability in the Pacific prior to WWII. For those reasons, the book is well worth the price and anyone interested in the attack on Pearl Harbor should read this book. The book's flaws include overstepping the evidence, presenting evidence without needed qualifications, poor editing, and difficulty in presenting a coherent picture of a very complex subject. Despite the flaws, the facts presented strongly indicate that the U. S. intelligence organization in the Pacific knew of the planned Japanese attack, tracked the Japanese attack fleet as it approached Pearl Harbor, and provided Washington with an appropriate and timely warning. The author's additional claims of conspiracy and coverup may be true but are not proved with the evidence presented.
Corey Sweatt More than 1 year ago
a must read
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have seen some poor reviews of this book. Their counter arguments have no factual basis. They rest on the emotional ravings of people psychologically incapable of accepting that the US lies to start wars. It is a part of US history that is hardly unqiue. From Polk to Bush the US has lied to start wars. This book is well documented and explains what really happened far better than the ad hoc explinations claiming that it was just 'lucky' that the US's best carriers all happened to be out at sea that day.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Stinnett has put forth 4 pieces of 'evidence' that he claims demonstrate that FDR 'provoked' Japan into war, which he claims was FDR's desire. Unfortunately, all of the evidence he has has been descredited by serious researchers. The idea that Japan, the 'Nazis of the East' needed to be provoked into waging war is hilariously idiotic - just ask the Chinese and others during 1933-41 time frame. No serious historian (not even a Japanese historian) would ever make the claim that Japan was on anything other than what her own statements proclaimed : on a path of aggression. There's also the small matter of why not alerting Pearl Harbor makes any sense - the Japanese task force was not going to turn around simply because Pearl Harbor's command was asleep, which Stinnett inexplicably seems to believe. He obviously is quite lacking in his information about the Japanese task force. The other question is why all of those warnings were sent to Pearl Harbor. That doesn't seem to be a good way to lull someone to sleep. If he wonders about whether FDR provoked the Japanese, you might think that the way to do that would be to look and see what was said to the Japanese during the negotiations. You certainly don't rummage around in a bunch of messages that may or may not have even gotten to the White House, much less been read, much less then acted upon. If they were acted upon, then the evidence would be found in what the US and the Japanese said to each other. Stinnett's method of approaching the question makes absolutely no sense, and could never prove anything, even if he could show that it got to the White House, which he cannot. If you want to find out what really happened before and after Pearl Harbor, read At Dawn We Slept and The Verdict of History and get an excellent history about the subject. Stinnett's work doesn't even qualify as a history. It's filled with lies and avoids information that make his arguments look like what they are : total nonsense.
Guest More than 1 year ago
All powers create their own histories that puts it in good light to their subjects. Did you think Japan was the only country that tries to hide the evil things it has done? I see a pattern of repeating history where the US has been just as aggressive, cruel, and murderous as some of our worst enemies. Of course, our institutions ignore those events to highlight others that are either myths or lies. And people buy it hook, line, and sinker because they don't want to feel bad about themselves. Wilson got us into WWI by making the Lusitania an easy target that was carrying tons of ammo sacrificing not only the thousand or so non-americans but also the hundred or so americans. FDR sacrificed thousands of American lives in Pearl Harbor to sucker the American people into a war with Japan and Germany. Johnson suckered the American people into sending troops over to Vietnam and full scale bombing with the Gulf of Tonkin farce. It makes one wonder just how far we have really gone to get us to where we are currently. The US has been really sneaky in getting us suckered into wars. Stinnis's book helped make me wonder if we haven't just scratched the surface on stuff that has been hidden away under the cover of National Security. We wouldn't have known some of the things Stinnis told us had he not managed to get some documents from the Freedom of Information Act. And that was probably a slip-up by the overseers.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book should not be in the history section it should be in fthe fantasy section or maybe B&N should create a propaganda section and place the book there. If you want to read a good book on the Pacific War and Pearl Harbor try Eagle Against the Sun by Ronald Spector and At Dawn We Slept by Pranger.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Although the author has done much research and uncovered many previously unreleased documents, his main conclusion is not well founded. The book needs critical review by historians because the author's charges against Roosevelt are wild and outrageous. Touts by people like Gore Vidal and John Toland, arguably himself a revisionist, hardly suffice.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A Reviewer is so wrong. I took a World War II Class last semester and they told us that FDR was looking for a way to get into the war and that's why he let Pearl HArbor happen. Yes, he had the threat on his desk, but he was looking for a way to get us into the war. A reason that the American people would stand behind 100%. I, for one, agree with what he did and I'm glad he did it. I also did read this book and did a report on it. I loved it and it was one of my favorite books. It tells the truth and I'm sorry if A Reviewer was taught, or wants to think otherwise.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a great book to read. the author finally reveals the true diabolical, and opportunistic character of FDR. it provides sufficient proof that proves (up to a point), that the President and the US intelligence knew beforehand every little detail of the upcoming japannese attack on Pearl Harbor. Not only that, the author takes one step forward to propose that it was FDR's aggressive policy towards Japan, that made them a pone into his hands and led them to declare war to the US and cowerdly attack the US fleet in Pearl Harbor
Guest More than 1 year ago
Day of Deceit has been extensively reviewed by bona fide experts in its core subject matter, communications intelligence 'ComInt' in the prewar era. Abundant testimony from such experts exists in magazine articles, Internet postings and television documentaries. Since those experts and numerous other book reviewers have long since provided point-by-point rebuttal to the author¿s principal contentions, I¿ll take a broader view of Day of Deceit in this brief commentary. In broad terms, then, the book suffers from two fundamental flaws that have escaped the notice of many reviewers. One, Mr. Stinnett wants us to believe that the President knew and understood, before the fact, that Japan was going to conduct an assault on his military forces on Oahu, and conspired to 'a' let it happen and 'b' conceal knowledge of it from his commanders who literally would have to suffer the attack. Folks, that is TREASON! 'See U.S. Constitution, Art. 3, Sect. 3.' Further, the author also expects readers to believe that General Marshall was a willing participant in the same treasonous act while allowing an enemy force to attack and kill soldiers and airmen of his own army. Those assertions are simply irrational, particularly in the utter absence of inarguable supporting evidence. And as has been clearly shown, Mr. Stinnett¿s ¿evidence¿ is far from inarguable. Then there¿s the second problem. The book¿s front cover touts it as the ¿truth¿ about FDR and Pearl Harbor. How can it be the truth if it is scorned by virtually every genuine expert in its subject matter? How can it be the truth when it presents NOTHING that explicitly proves that advance warning of the attack was ACTUALLY RECEIVED by the President and UNDERSTOOD FOR WHAT IT WAS? How can it be the truth when the entire issue, with all of Mr. Stinnett¿s purported evidence, could simply have been the result of misinterpretation and mismanagement in the ComInt organizations in Washington, DC? The fact is, that¿s exactly what it was. Key indicators that pointed to Japanese intentions for Hawaii were mishandled, misunderstood, and even misfiled until it was much too late. Yes, with the benefit of perfect hindsight, we can accuse FDR¿s administration of a major ComInt failure. But Day of Deceit doesn¿t allege a mere intelligence failure¿it claims the President KNOWINGLY aided the enemy, calling that the ¿truth¿ without proving it so. If Mr. Stinnett had simply presented his alleged evidence in the form of a scholarly inquiry rather than an unproven indictment, he might have gained a measure of acceptance for his book among the community of respected historians in which one suspects he would like to include himself. Instead, he continues to this day to defend Day of Deceit as the ¿truth¿ and to label those who allegedly covered up his version of it as nefarious conspirators. That might enable him to sell a few copies of his book, but its thesis won¿t ¿sell¿ to any but the gullible and uninformed.