Wednesday, June 28, 2006


I find my mind drifting back to World War II amidst all the photoshopping of that war's posters to express outrage over the New York Times and Los Angeles Times leaking the how&means of what was a major weapon against future terror attacks.

And this leads back to the Fall of 1941. Europe has been engulfed in war for two years. England stands alone in the Channel while the USSR struggles to survive the betrayal of its erstwhile ally Nazi Germany. In America isolationism runs rampant even while the US economy booms due to all the war orders pouring in, spurred on by Lend-Lease. President Roosevelt is trying all he can to keep England in the war while trying to avoid the wrath of the isolationists. Meanwhile far off in the Pacific another blossoming empire stirs, sensing easy conquest of territory belonging to European countries now under the boot of Nazi Germany, French Indochina and the Dutch East Indies especially beckon due to rich resources.

Roosevelt's government is desperately trying the diplomatic approach with the expansionists Japanese to contain that country's voracious desire to put the Eight Corners of the World Under One Roof. But as the Fall procedes, it seems there will be no resolution as the talks drag on. Meanwhile the US Pacific Fleet is ordered from the Pacific Coast further west to moor at Pearl Harbour to be closer to the expected flashpoint, the Phillipines. This coupled with the American embargo of the selling of metal and oil to Japan puts Japan even further into a corner of its own making that it is unwilling to acknowledge. So the clock ticks down it seems even while the diplomats haggle.

Now imagine one of the cleaning people in the White House or State Department, while emptying a garbage can, stumbles across a strange piece of paper. Possibly on the paper are words like Top Secret and Purple. Now imagine that cleaner takes the paper home instead of reporting the security breach and accidentally talks about it with a friend who is a reporter.

And what if that reporter is one of those who has been yelling about how dangerous President Roosevelt's reckless unilateral actions hazarding American lives for a war in Europe have been. He decides that the American people have a right to know how Roosevelt is secretly spying on a foreign government while conducting negotiations with that government, violating trusts. And his editors agree to run with the story. And on a cold day like November 22, 1941 they run with a story outlining how the US government is reading another country's diplomatic dispatches while saying President Roosevelt and Secreatary Hull had only given half-hearted reasons not to print the story. The reaction from the Tripartite Alliance would have been predictable and disconerting to America as they paint Roosevelt as a duplicitous person unworthy of trust, I can easily imagine Goebbels getting on the AM radio to squawk that line.

Yes this only speculation on my part. But there are facts in that speculation. The US was reading Japan's diplomatic codes which was known as Purple. On occasion Purple messages were found in the wastebaskets of those cleared to read them. Roosevelt did stretch the laws in regards to aiding Britain which eventually got USS Reuben James sunk by a U-Boat. The US did embargo the sale of metal and oil to Japan as a result of that country's actions in China.

What is also fact is that on December 2, 1941 Nagumo's carriers, enroute to Hawaii, received the following signal from Admiral Yammaoto: Niitaka yama nobore ichi-ni-rei-ya or Climb Mount Niitaka, 1208. Operation Hawaii was a go and it would execute on December 7, 1941.

A US newspaper breaking the story of the US reading Japan's diplomatic codes might have been the perfect excuse the Japanese were looking for to justify Operation Hawaii and the grabbing of those natural resources while inflicting grave doubt in the minds of Americans on the justness of the US going to war with Japan.

As it was the fourteen part message that was received by the US Government almost an hour after the attacks started at Pearl Harbour merely stated that Japan was breaking off negotiations for the moment. So instead the US was enraged by the loss of life at Pearl Harbour and the treachery of Japan of launching a sneak attack.

Just something to think about while Keller and others try to explain why they really did no harm by leaking this sensitive information.


Anna said...

What saddens me the most is that so many feel that the NYTs printing of that story is "keeping the Bush administration on the up and up."

I did a comparison, too, though mine is much more superficial...Hollywood then and now.

Anna said...

In World War II we had real heroes who happened to work in Hollywood. Famous movie director John Ford was wounded filming the attack on Midway during that battle. When the camera wobbles during the film, that is Ford getting hit.

Alas the likes of Jimmie Stewart and Audie Murhphy are a rare bird in modern Hollywood. Bruce Willis is about the only one besides California's governor that pops to mind.

As I said all those touched up WWII posters stirred the thought processes. At first thought about the Manhatten Engineering District but that happened after the US entered WWII so was once again drawn to those perilous months before Pearl Harbour. It almost wrote itself.