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Mon, June 24

Conspiracy theory doesn't hold water

For those of us who can actually recall the day, it hardly seems possible that 60 years have passed since the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor.

It also hardly seems possible that some people have such a narrow and twisted view of events that allows them to think U.S. leaders engaged in a sinister plot to invite and allow the attack to happen to draw our country into the war.

But the idea still exists. In World War II we called it the revisionist theory. Some of the same people, who say that America was getting "payback" in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, say the attack on Pearl Harbor could not have been a surprise. They say there is no way a fleet of Japanese ships could have come into American waters undetected by American planes. Rubbish!

The Japanese launched the Dec. 7, 1941, attack from six Japanese aircraft carriers that sent their planes skyward from 220 miles north of Oahu. Only planes (fighters, bombers and torpedo craft) were involved in the attack, although about four one-man submarines, which were totally ineffective, also were involved. The Japanese planned the attack for a Sunday morning, a time that anyone who was in the military knows as a sort of "off duty" time.

This is not to say that our military leaders did not make mistakes. The Japanese had been planning the attack since January 1941 and intelligence reports attested to that, but the missing ingredients were "when" and "were the reports reliable."

It is also safe to say that our leaders were convinced that it was inevitable that we would get into World War II eventually. But is it conceivable that anyone would allow something as devastating as the Pearl Harbor attack to take place to precipitate that? Simple logic says no.

If Roosevelt had wanted to bait the Japanese into firing the first shot, he hardly would have chosen an attack that virtually wiped out our fleet. Many hare-brained stories circulated after Pearl Harbor, like officers telling sailors to go ashore and get drunk on Dec. 6 and then restraining them with guns from coming back aboard. Ridiculous stories made the rounds that U.S. and British fliers manned the attacking planes. Stories made the rounds that crews on the ground drained American aircraft of fuel in advance so they couldn't respond to the attack. These rumors, refuted time and time again by Pearl Harbor survivors, only feed the imagination of fanciful people.

Compare the rumors with the facts. Eight separate and extensive boards of inquiry into Pearl Harbor did not turn up one shred of evidence of any conspiracy. A scholarly and reliable book titled "At Dawn We Slept" by the late Gordon Prange, the result of 37 years of study and research, found no conspiracy in the sneak attack. Yes, the "day of infamy" was a terrible day and our military leaders were guilty of mistakes, but let's not impugn the memory of the Americans who lost their lives at Pearl Harbor.

(John Schwartz is a longtime area resident and a freelance writer.)

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