Thick smoke rolls out of a burning ship during the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese. December 7, 1941.

Did FDR Plan for the Japanese to Attack?

By Mr. History
1/26/2016 • Ask Mr. History

Dear Mr. History,

Did FDR plan for the Japanese to attack? Did he want the USA to be in the war?


Dear Anonymous,

Barely had war been declared on Japan on December 8, 1941, when conspiracy theories began surfacing about the Japanese carrier strike on Pearl Harbor being part of a plot by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to draw the United States into World War II through the “back door.” He had certainly regarded war against Nazi Germany as inevitable, but the “sneak attack” on Pearl was far more effective in overruling the isolationists and advance congressional approval for American entry into the conflict. Nevertheless, there remains no solid evidence or eyewitness testimony to support any claims of a deliberate setup on the president’s part.




Jon Guttman

Research Director

World History

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One Response to Did FDR Plan for the Japanese to Attack?

  1. Larrywjewell says:

    I read the forty volumes at the site above starting when I was fourteen. Four years later I knew that FDR hadn’t planned any attack on Americans.

    As for isolationists, the America First group never had more than 800,000 members, total, and only a relatively small number were ever active. Americans knew we’d have to fight the Axis, 72% said we’d have to fight them “soon”. They didn’t like it, no sane person wants to go to war, but they knew we didn’t have any choice.

    But the killer to this theory is “Why would FDR choose a defeat to start the war in the wrong ocean?” IF he knew they were coming he could have had everything ready to decimate the Japanese naval aviation community and maybe knock off a few of their carriers in the process.

    To say that FDR knew about the attack requires one to tell us HOW he knew. The IJN was so secretive that Tojo Hidecki didn’t find out about the planned attack until October. The Kido Butai (Attack Force) sailed from remote Hitokappu Bay and traveled over unused seas in total radio silence.

    We’d also have to know why the people around FDR allowed him to do this. His Naval Attache would have been a problem, the man had a son at Pearl Harbor. Other people had served on those ships for many years. How many traitors do we need to make a plausible “Let It Happen On Purpose” scenario?

    Regarding a declaration of war, FDR’s cabinet had been unanimous on Nov. 6th, 1941 in telling him that he could get a declaration through Congress if the Japanese attacked British and Dutch colonies in South East Asia, while not attacking the Philippines. Secretary of War Stimson recorded this in his diary entry for Nov. 7th. (He was a prolific diarist but didn’t make an entry every night.)

    So, I agree, there is no solid evidence for him to just let it happen. No weak evidence either. Just conspiracy theories and the standard hate-on for Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

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