History Has Been Repeated
Grosse Pointe Senator Proved Pending Attack on USA Was No Secret
The "sneak" attack could have been foreseen, and measures to thwart the enemy could have been taken. There was a presidential cover-up, and the ensuing "independent" investigation did not reveal all of the facts. Twenty-five pages of critical evidence had been withheld from Congressional investigators.
The president had been distracted--not Clinton with impeachment proceedings, but Roosevelt with failing health. His advisors had the facts necessary to implement a preemptive strike or stronger defenses--not Clinton's dovish security advisor Samuel “Sandy” Berger, who counseled against striking bin Laden on four separate occasions, but Roosevelt who was aware of the breakdown of negotiations with Japan and imminent threat of an attack. In both cases, opportunities were missed. The president failed to act.
As Percy Greaves wrote in 1948, “The failure to observe these obvious necessities is almost as tragic to the cause of truth as the attack on Pearl Harbor itself was a tragedy for the Nation.”
And now history has been repeated.
Flashback: 2001 Minus 60 Years
This attack did not happen in September 2001, but in December 1941. The President was not George W. Bush, but Franklin D. Roosevelt. The attack was not in New York City or our nation's capitol, but at Pearl Harbor.
The independent investigation was not conducted in 2004 by "The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States" (the 9/11 Commission), but in 1942 by The Roberts Commission. Classified documents were not removed from the National Archives, but “overlooked” in the process of copying documents for the joint Congressional investigation.
Finally, after three years the shocking truth came out in 1945. It took the skilled questioning of a freshman Republican Senator from Michigan to uncover the facts during the Pearl Harbor Congressional investigation. But, what did our Country's leaders know in 1941?
Senator Homer S. Ferguson (1889-1982)
The U.S. Senator from Michigan was Homer Samuel Ferguson of Grosse Pointe. His experience as a Wayne County circuit judge and as professor at Detroit College of Law equipped him to read massive amounts of material and pursue a focused line of questioning.
As a result, the 1945 Congressional investigators discovered what the former U.S. Supreme Court Justice in charge of the 1942 Commission had attempted to hide: the secret Japanese code had been broken, and responsibility for the lack of preparedness at Pearl Harbor could not be laid to commanders in the Pacific, but rested at a much higher level.
The Commission's “Whitewash”
Former Supreme Court Justice Owen J. Roberts had been hastily appointed by President Roosevelt to make the first investigation of the Pearl Harbor attack. His report had exonerated military and civilian leaders in Washington, and laid blame for the disaster on field commanders.
According to 1942 Roberts Commission Report conclusions,
Had orders issued by the Chief of Staff and the Chief of Naval Operations November 27, 1941, been complied with, the aircraft warning system of the Army should have been operating: the distant reconnaissance of the Navy, and the inshore air patrol of the Army, should have been maintained; the antiaircraft batteries of the Army and similar shore batteries of the Navy, as well as additional antiaircraft artillery located on vessels of the fleet in Pearl Harbor, should have been manned and supplied with ammunition: and a high state of readiness of aircraft should have been in effect.
None of these conditions was in fact inaugurated or maintained for the reason that the responsible commanders failed to consult and cooperate as to necessary action based upon the warnings and to adopt measures enjoined by the orders given them by the chiefs of the Army and Navy commands in Washington.
Facts Uncovered by Michigan Sen. Ferguson
Though a member of the Congressional committee investigating the disaster, Ferguson was a member of the minority Republican Party, and, thus, subject to rules established by the Democrats. Nevertheless, Senator Ferguson was determined to learn the true cause of the defense breakdown leading to the Pearl Harbor tragedy. His goal was to recommend ways to prevent a repeat surprise attack.
The difficulty of his task should not be underestimated. To be effective, it even became necessary to convince the Democrat majority to join with Republicans to overturn an executive order issued by then President Truman. With this accomplished it was permissible for the Congressional investigators in 1945 to hear the public testimony confirming that the Japanese code had been solved, and that Washington officials had been reading Japan's diplomatic messages for a long time before the Pearl Harbor disaster occurred.
Serving as Chief of the Minority Staff and the Michigan Senator's assistant during this period was Percy L. Greaves, Jr., someone very well placed to comment on Ferguson's methods and findings. According to Greaves' memoirs, written in 1948 and first published in the Winter 1983 Journal of Historical Review,
During the entire investigation the Senator's attitude was strictly judicial. There was no hint of the prejudiced prosecutor. He was after the facts--all the facts. Rarely ruffled, questions poured from him with a regularity and relentlessness that would have exhausted the average man. A sip of water and his voice was good for another half hour. It did not matter to him where the chips fell. He must have the facts. Throughout the hearings he refused to pass judgment. Time after time he told newspapermen that he would wait until all the evidence was in.
The Senator himself discovered that the oral evidence originally received by the 1942 Roberts Commission amounted to 1,877 typewritten pages. Yet the photostatic copy of the transcript provided for his 1945 Congressional investigation contained only 1,852 pages--25 pages had been withheld!
According to Senator Ferguson's report on the 1945 Congressional investigation,
It is extremely unfortunate that the Roberts Commission Report was so hasty, inconclusive, and incomplete. Some witnesses were examined under oath; others were not. Much testimony was not even recorded. The Commission knew that Japanese messages had been intercepted and were available, prior to the attack, to the high command in Washington. The Commission did not inquire about what information these intercepts contained, who received them or what was done about them, although the failure of Washington to inform the commanders in Hawaii of this vital intelligence bears directly on the question of whether those commanders performed their full duties. [Emphasis added.]
Mr. Justice Roberts testified before this Committee:
I should not have bothered to read it (the intercepted Japanese traffic) if it had been shown to me.
If it were necessary to do so, detailed examples of the many shortcomings of the Roberts Commission could be set forth. The duty of our Committee to examine the entire subject afresh does not require an extended criticism of the Roberts Report.
It should be noted, however, that Justice Roberts had sufficient legal experience to know the proper method of collecting and preserving evidence which in this case involved the highest interests of the Nation. The facts were then fresh in the minds of key witnesses in Washington. They could not have then been ignorant of their whereabouts at important times or have forgotten the details of events and operations. No files would have been "lost" and no information would have been distorted by the passage of time.
The failure to observe these obvious necessities is almost as tragic to the cause of truth as the attack on Pearl Harbor itself was a tragedy for the Nation.