On December 7, 1941, Japanese planes descended on the sleeping American naval base at Pearl Harbor. Ever since that day, however, conspiracy theorists have claimed things aren’t exactly as they’ve been presented. There are several Pearl Harbor conspiracy theories and myths surrounding the event that spurred the United States into WWII.
For a few brief moments, the Hawaiian base was upended in chaos. Officially, the affront by the Japanese air force was a surprise intended to strike fear into the American populace and prevent them from entering the WWII; however, their “surprise” morning raid had the exact opposite effect. Riding on the back of a wave of angry patriots, Franklin Delano Roosevelt ushered the country into one of the defining conflicts of the 20th century.
But how much do we really know about that date that will live in infamy? What secrets have been kept from the public, what conspiracy theories make the most sense, and which facts have we been sold that are straight-up myths? Read on for some facts and theories about Pearl Harbor and then draw your own conclusions.
Over the years, many have stopped to wonder at the official story of December 7, 1941. In fact, the questions surrounding the historic event have actually spawned nine separate Congressional investigations, going all the way up to 1995, more than 50 years after the incident. To date, no official evidence has been uncovered to indicate that the United States government participated in any wrongdoing in regard to the event, but that hasn’t stopped people from wondering.
The amount of official scrutiny that’s been placed on the government’s account of events is enough to cast plenty of doubt on what we know.
This one is likely the most popular theory. This theory is also so widespread that it’s been reported on by major news outlets. Historically, surprise operations aren’t a part of Japan's usual military tactics. Even in the era of modern conflict, Japan has always adhered — typically — to a strict set of rules when engaging in open militarization.
First and foremost is the Japanese Empire’s willingness to declare war before actually engaging in it. As it turns out, in 2011, a previously suppressed memo surfaced from the Japanese government, in which they declared their intention to engage in open combat against America. The date of that memo: December 4, 1941. The clear implication was that Japan's official declaration on the US three days before they ambushed the Hawaiian island, a fact that would implicate the President in not warning his people they were in danger.
There are two possible explanations for this lapse. Either the US government was too incompetent to receive, understand, and act on this information; or, the US government intentionally allowed it to happen.
When it comes down to it, even if the president had knowledge of Japan’s official decision to ambush, that declaration wasn’t expected to actually result in an immediate affront, and even then no one thought the Japanese would aim their might at the Hawaiian naval base.
First, Japan’s declaration wasn’t the first set of angry words aimed at the harbor. In addition, the American navy considered the area relatively safe compared to the myriad bases between Japan and Hawaii. What’s more, the American military had responded to similar threats in the area by sending out air patrols to hunt for enemy vessels and they’d come up empty-handed.
In other words, the American military claims that they’d been keeping an eye out and they’d seen nothing to indicate any real danger.
If everything had gone according to plan, the Japanese would have likely fired the first volley at the United States military. As it happens, when the Japanese navy sent five small submarines as an advance backup on the U.S. naval base, at least one of them didn’t even make it to its destination.
About one hour before planes began the ambush, a destroyer called the USS Ward was signaled that a large object was moving through the water. The ship’s fledgling commander pinged the water around his boat, caught sight of a Japanese sub, and sent it to the ocean’s depths. It was the first recorded violence from the United States military in WWII.