But for a few days at least all political matters relating to Communism at home and abroad were dissolved in the national bellow of indignation over the Pearl Harbor affair, and a brigade of the choicest partisans of the Roosevelt regime began a two-fifths of a century offensive aimed at distracting national attention completely away from any suspicions of possible administration pre-knowledge of the coming attack, and fastening the blame for it all upon the military and naval commanders at Honolulu. This infamous enfilade blackened the character of these men but did not succeed in heading off a formidable amount of investigation and literature which did anything but entrench the desired result of this Roosevelt establishment.
Pearl Harbor made the fatalist argument come true. The varied forces ranging from pro-Communists of the 1934-1939 “popular front” to the fervid Anglophiles of 1939-1941 who had tirelessly argued that the entry of the U.S. into war with either Germany or Japan or both was “inevitable” were finally “vindicated,” in their own mind, but in a way very much different from that expected. Their own propagandistic efforts to bring about this result as a matter of “conviction” and voluntary choice were a total failure. It was not “isolationism” which got America into the war. It was the inch-by-inch creeping intrusionism and “aid short of war” which created all the policy imperatives that slowly moved the country to a point where their threat to an adversary and the sustained pressure on that adversary finally produced the attack so dearly desired and needed by the administration's political warriors. A good case can be made for the view that war with Japan was not entirely unwelcome in the U.S.A. at any time. Decades of political and propaganda.hostility toward Japan on many levels in the U.S.A. preceded Pearl Harbor. Even men antagonistic to involvement in the European war after it broke out in 1939 did not feel the same way about mixing it up in the Pacific. Even the usually anti-war Senator George Curtis (R.-Neb.) was quoted by Newsweek as late as the end of October 1941 as saying “I'm not so sure that war with Japan would be a bad thing… I believe we could lick them… Our bombers could set the whole island (sic) ablaze in one night…"(172)
And contrary to the mountain of mendacious special pleading that flowed across the land afterward alleging unbelievable unpreparedness, the general belief prior to Pearl Harbor was that the country's defenses, and offensive strength, too, for that matter, were at a high pitch of development, ready for anything, even the obliteration of Japan itself, as Senator Norris believed. The public had been encouraged to feel that immense armaments and the best of war materiel were at hand, easily put to use in the destruction of any enemy. The fairy tale of innocent, unready America on the eve of the attack is not substantiated by what many millions of Americans read in nationally circulated periodicals for weeks prior to December 7, 1941.
Time had primed its millions of readers (readership surveys in the 1940s indicated that a publication's total reading audience might exceed its actual paid circulation by from 5 to 15 times that number) with repeated accounts of the bristling armor and fire power prevailing here. On November 10, 1941, it had referred ad- miringly to Roosevelt as the man who “was waging the first great undeclared war in U.S. history,''(173) and later in the month, on the occasion of his press conference following the sinking of the U.S. destroyer Reuben James by a German submarine while on convoy duty for the British in the North Atlantic, the editors concluded from the substance of FDR's talk that “the U.S. was far into the unknown waters of war.”
In its issue of December 8, unfortunately on the stands after the attack had taken place, Time's editors confidently assured Americans, expecting war any minute, that “Everything was ready from Rangoon to Honolulu, every man was at battle stations."(174) They went on in a gloating mood, describing the vast American and British war machine which was ready to spring on the Japanese should they snap under Roosevelt's “war of nerves” and “undeclared war” and react militarily. Nothing was more opposite to the whine and snivel of innocence and outrage which promptly rose to the heavens from these same war anticipators a few days later.
A respectable compendium of such material could have been collected, including accounts which actually picked out Pearl Harbor as the site of the coming attack weeks before it happened. Hallett Abend, a widely read newspaper reporter on matters Japanese in the pre-war decade, in his November 18 article in Look, “How the U.S. Navy Will Fight Japan,” which was exposed to a possible reading audience of about 12 million, launched even more inspiring misconceptions than did Time. Abend, who shared with Hugh Byas of the New York Times a record for being consistently wrong about Japan and filing repeatedly misleading material about affairs there, was ludicrously off the mark in this confident puff as well, seeding his piece with the promise of a Stalinist attack on Japan from Siberia as soon as the shooting began. The meat of his vaticination concerning the coming Pacific war was wrapped up in the following:
When the clash comes, the Japanese fleet will have to stay in home waters, to guard the islands of the Empire against naval raids. Our own fleet will cruise somewhere west of Hawaii, with scout planes far over the seas day and night to prevent surprise raids on the Pearl Harbor naval base or on our own West Coast cities.(175)
This is the kind of gargantuan misinformation to which Americans were exposed as late as three weeks before the attack. But it indicates that at least on the popular level Pearl Harbor was openly expected to be the point at which the war might or would begin. The fundamental line of the Roosevelt defense corps in the next quarter of a century was that the Washington establishment was totally unaware of such a possibility, and vaguely imagined the Japanese strike would be at Borneo or similarly irrelevant distant locations.
The ear-splitting barks of hostility toward the Japanese which rang out from all corners of American opinion, and especially from the long-believed contingent of radio and newspaper “old Japan hands,” were remarkable in their barren thinness. Their desperate suggestions produced no Japanese casualties (the first in the U.S.A. were the cherry trees lining the tidal basin of Washington, D.C., cut down by pseudo-patriotic vandals), but their call for an obliterating victory never contemplated the consequences of the accompanying triumph of Asian Communism, an almost sure guarantee. Most of these “advisors” looked forward to nothing in Japan but an abyss of smoking ruins and corpses, and few of these seers were able to discern that a major revolution was under way in Asia, regardless of who won the war, which would stand any American or “Allied” victory in the area on its head in an extremely short time.(176) But the beams from a dimmer search- light were never played on American public opinion than those emanating from these cloudy beacons.