Day of Deceit

Day of Deceit
Day of Deceit: The Truth About FDR and Pearl Harbor  
Author(s) Robert Stinnett
Subject(s) -World War II
-Attack on Pearl Harbor
-Conspiracy theory
Publisher Free Press, Edition: Touchstone ed
Publication date 2001
Pages 416
ISBN 0743201299
Dewey Decimal 940.5426
LC Classification D767.92.S837

Day of Deceit: The Truth About FDR and Pearl Harbor is a book by Robert Stinnett alleging that the Roosevelt administration deliberately provoked and allowed the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in order to bring the United States into World War II. Stinnett claimed to have found information showing that the attacking fleet was detected through radio and intelligence intercepts, but that the information was deliberately withheld from Admiral Kimmel, the commander of the base.

First released in December 1999, it received a cautiously positive review in the New York Times[1] and is frequently referenced by proponents of advance knowledge theories.[2] Historians of the period, however, in general reject its thesis, pointing to several key errors and reliance on doubtful sources.[2]



Stinnett's starting point is a memorandum written by Lieutenant Commander Arthur H. McCollum (the McCollum memo) in October 1940, which was obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. McCollum, who was head of the Far East desk of the Office of Naval Intelligence at the time,[3] discussed the strategic situation in the Pacific and ended with a list of eight actions directed at the Japanese threat. Stinnett characterizes the actions as "provocations" and states his belief McCollum's point F ("Keep the main strength of the U.S. fleet now in the Pacific in the vicinity of the Hawaiian Islands") was intended to lure the Japanese into attacking it. He ignores the fact a war between the U.S. and Japan is contrary to President Roosevelt's desire to aid Britain, and Prime Minister Churchill's desire to avoid "another war".[4][5] His belief is the overall intent was supposedly to provoke an act of war which would allow Roosevelt to enter into active conflict with Germany in support of the United Kingdom. This would be contrary to Britain's best interests, and Churchill and Roosevelt knew it; Hitler certainly did.[6][page needed] In actuality, Stinnett attributes to McCollum a position McCollum expressly refuted.[7] Furthermore, McCollum's own sworn testimony also refutes it.[8]

Short and Kimmel were ordered to remain in a defensive posture with respect to the Japanese. Stinnett claims, however, that intelligence intercepts were deliberately withheld from them in order to prevent them from mounting an adequate defense. He also claims radio traffic was intercepted from the fleet as it approached Hawaii, allowing it to be tracked, but that again this information was withheld so that the defenders would be unprepared. All of this, he alleges, was directed from the White House itself with Roosevelt's knowledge and at his behest.

Stinnett's claims of "intercepts" are contradicted by Japanese testimony, which unequivocally state there were none, and even transmitter keys were removed.[9] (The claim of a need for "low-power radio" made by Stinnett[page needed] ignores standard fleet practise under radio silence, use of flag or blinker. ) Morover, his "intercepts" do not amount to direction finding bearings, contrary to his claims,[10] while his document allegedly[11] showing the plot of these nonexistent bearings contains nothing of the kind.[12]

"If there was this vast and humongous conspiracy",[13] its members had to number in the hundreds.[14] Among them would have to be Lt. Kermit Tyler who, on the morning of 7 December, was contacted about a radar contact on an inbound flight, and told the operators to forget about it.[13] One would also have to include the Navy duty officer, who was asleep when Ward first tried to report a minsub contact,[15] thereby losing over three hours' warning.[14] It would also include the officer who ordered AAF fighters be parked in close proximity to avoid sabotage.[14] Also included would be the senior antiaircraft officers, who ordered ammunition to be locked up far from the guns.[14]


Historians of the period are dismissive of Stinnett's claims. An article in Salon quotes CIA historian Donald Steury:

[Stinnett] concocted this theory pretty much from whole cloth. Those who have been able to check his alleged sources also are unanimous in their condemnation of his methodology. Basically, the author has made up his sources; when he does not make up the source, he lies about what the source says.[2]

Certain points in Stennitt's argument were disputed by many reviewers. His characterization of the McCollum memorandum was not accepted by Conrad Crane, who wrote:

A close reading shows that its recommendations were supposed to deter and contain Japan, while better preparing the United States for a future conflict in the Pacific. There is an offhand remark that an overt Japanese act of war would make it easier to garner public support for actions against Japan, but the document's intent was not to ensure that event happened.[3]

Philip Zelikow, writing in Foreign Affairs, objected to Stennitt's claim that the Japanese naval code was being read at the time (the JN-25 code was changed shortly before the attack and was not decrypted again until May 1942),[16] an objection also raised by Crane.[3] A review posted on the U.S. Naval Cryptologic Veterans Association website addresses the intelligence issues in greater detail and disputes claims that the fleet was detected through direction finding; the author also criticizes Stinnett's use of testimony from Robert Ogg, originally identified as "Seaman Z" by Toland in his 1986 book.[17] Indeed, Ogg expressly denies saying what Toland quotes him as saying.[18] In their annotations on the 1995 Pentagon study of the attack, Frederic Borch and Daniel Martinez, chief historian at the USS Arizona Memorial, also dispute these claims and call his claims "totally false".[19]

Furthermore, Stinnett makes numerous and contradictory claims of the number of messages originated by the Kido Butai, attributing to it messages from shore stations, Yamamoto's flagship (which was not accompanying the task force), deception measures, and traffic from before the task force even sailed.[20] Moreover, he finds "not a single one" originating from the Kido Butai after it sortied 26 November.[21]


  1. ^ Bernstein, Richard (December 15, 1999). "Books of the Times: On Dec. 7, Did We Know We Knew?". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-12-09. 
  2. ^ a b c Greer, Judith (June 14, 2001). "Dive-bombing FDR". Salon. Retrieved 2010-12-09. 
  3. ^ a b c "Book Reviews: Day of Deceit". Parameters (US Army War College). Spring 2001. 
  4. ^ Haughler, Hervie. Codebreaker's Victory (New American Library, 2003)
  5. ^ Prange et al., At Dawn We Slept, p.861.
  6. ^ Gilbert, Felix. Hitler Directs his War (New York, Oxford University Press, 1950).
  7. ^ Young, Richard E., Admiral. "A Deceitful Book", review of Day of Deceit. (retrieved 02.34 on 9 March 2011); McCollum, Arthur H., Rear Admiral. "The Calamitous 7th", The Saturday Review of Literature, 29 May 1954.
  8. ^ Pearl Harbor Investigations, Part 8, pp.2447-3443.
  9. ^ Prange, Gordon W., Goldstein, Donald, and Dillon, Katherine. Pearl Harbor Papers, pp.17ff; Prange et al., At Dawn We Slept (McGraw-Hill, 1981, pp.166-167, 227, 441, 548, & 573; Gannon, Michael. Pearl Harbor Betrayed (Henry Holt & Co., 2001), pp.182-183, 185, 204, & 208; Kahn, David. The Codebreakers (Macmillan, 1967); Young, p.7.
  10. ^ Young, pp.8-9.
  11. ^ Stinnett, pp.52 & 305.
  12. ^ Young, p.9.
  13. ^ a b Young, p.14.
  14. ^ a b c d Young, p.15.
  15. ^ Prange et all. At Dawn We Slept? December 7th, 1941?
  16. ^ Zelikow, Philip (March/April 2000). "Capsule Reviews: Day of Deceit: The Truth About F.D.R. and Pearl Harbor". Foreign Affairs. 
  17. ^ Jacobsen, Philip H.. "A Cryptologic Veteran's Analysis of "Day of Deceit"". USNCVA. 
  18. ^ Young, p.8.
  19. ^ Borch, Frederic; Daniel Martinez (2005). Kimmel, Short, and Pearl Harbor: the final report revealed. Naval Institute Press. pp. 78–79. 
  20. ^ Young, pp.10-11; Stinnett, passim.
  21. ^ Young, p.11.

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