Pearl Harbor conspiracy is bunk

ONE OF the great conspiracy theories - that Churchill and Roosevelt knew in advance of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor - has crumbled with the release of a key file to the Public Record Office in Kew.

According to the conspiracy the Japanese were allowed to attack so that America could be dragged into the war.

A central plank of the conspiracy was a telegram from Churchill to Roosevelt said to be in a secret file the government had withheld from the Public Record Office. That file has now been released. There is no telegram and it seems there probably never was.

What is in the file is fascinating - the story of a Scottish Lord suspected of leaking information to the Japanese in 1940. This explains why the file was withheld for so long.

There are two versions of the great Pearl Harbor conspiracy theory. In the first, Churchill informed Roosevelt of Japan's intent but the two leaders agreed to sit on the information.

The second version - that Churchill knew of the Japanese plan but did not tell Roosevelt - was most forcefully advanced by the British authors James Rusbridger and Eric Nave in their 1991 book Betrayal at Pearl Harbor. They claimed that the British had broken the codes of the Japanese Fleet and knew that the Japanese would steam east and attack the American base.

This version was given credence because Captain Nave had broken the Japanese naval cipher JN-25 in 1939. James Rusbridger was a former MI6 courier who had become a self-styled expert on intelligence matters. He was also the cousin of MI5's Peter Wright of Spycatcher fame.

What is certain is that on 7 December 1941 the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, the American military base on Hawaii, sinking 19 warships of the United States Pacific Fleet, destroying 120 aircraft and killing 2,400 servicemen.

According to conspiracy theorists, Churchill was desperate to get Americans into the war to help the beleaguered British. This is undoubtedly true. The next strand is that Roosevelt was sympathetic but could not bring the United States into the war without a pretext. It is certainly true that Roosevelt was sympathetic and Pearl Harbor swung the American people behind him for war.

Whichever conspiracy you take, both versions say that the key moment is 26 November 1941 and involves a telegram. Rusbridger and Nave maintained that Churchill knew by then of the forthcoming Japanese attack. The question is - did Churchill tell Roosevelt? They alleged there is one piece of correspondence that has never been seen. That would provide the answer.

Rusbridger and Nave said on that night Churchill sent two telegrams to Roosevelt. The first sent at 3.20am (London time) has long been publicly available. It refers to American diplomatic negotiations with the Japanese to stave off war. It ends: "There is only one point that disquiets us. What about Chiang Kai-shek? Is he not having a very thin diet?"

Rusbridger and Nave commented that "Churchill's sudden interest in China was surprising and not particularly convincing," implying that Churchill was playing a game with Roosevelt.

But it is the second telegram that the two authors believed was crucial. "Sometime later on 26 November, Churchill's private secretary, Anthony Bevoir, sent by hand to the American Embassy a second message to be transmitted to Roosevelt," they said in their book.

Antony Best, a historian at the London School of Economics and author of book on Pearl Harbor said: "I was very doubtful that the second telegram existed. I think it is just one of those mistakes of history. I have never found any evidence that there was a conspiracy and I have looked high and low."

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
scotland decidesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping First Minister up at night?
Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Life and Style
techApple has just launched its latest mobile operating software – so what should you do first?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmSo what makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Sport
Cesc Fabregas celebrates his first Chelsea goal
footballChelsea vs Schalke match report
Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes the hobby look 'dysfunctional', they say
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Maths Teacher

£90 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Science Teacher (mater...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for an ...

Maths Teacher

£22000 - £37000 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: A West Yorkshire School i...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week