Remembering the McCollum Memo: How FDR Lured Japan into War


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by Paul Dowling


“On November 24th, 1941, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto sent a radio message to Admiral Chuichi Nagumo, Commander of the Pacific Striking Fleet, which read in part, ‘The task force, keeping its movement strictly secret and maintaining close guard against submarines and aircraft, shall advance into Hawaiian waters, and upon the very opening of hostilities shall attack the main force of the United States fleet in Hawaii and deal it a mortal blow.’  Two sources of the above message are Admiral Homer Wallin’s ‘Pearl Harbor,’ published by the US Government printing office, and the United States Strategic Bombing Survey (Pacific) Naval Analysis Division’s ‘The Campaigns of the Pacific War,’ also published by the US Government printing office.  Contrary to the government propaganda that the attack on Pearl Harbor was a total surprise, documents declassified in May 2000 confirm that Yamamoto’s message was intercepted in Hawaii at a radio intercept station known as ‘Station H’ overlooking Kaneohe Bay on windward Oahu.”  – The History of Pearl Harbor: The Bones of “Station H”


An Unexpected Attack – Or Was It?

It was 7:02 AM, December 7, 1941, and, according to Hawaiian Aviation, Privates George E. Elliott Jr. and Joseph L. Lockard saw “something out of the ordinary” on radar.  Working as plotter and operator respectively, of the SCR-270B Radio Direction Finder inside a radar truck, they were supposed to have gone off duty at 7:00 AM.  Located atop Kahuku Point on the northernmost tip of Oahu, the two men were officially done with their three-hour stint but had decided to train Elliot on operating the set, when Elliott spotted a large image which turned out to be two separate radar echoes.  Lockard checked the set for malfunctions, while Elliott plotted the image at three degrees east of north and 137 miles north of Kahuku.


“Don’t Worry About It”

The men contacted the Information Center at Fort Shafter at 7:09 AM, and a phone operator said nobody was available to address their concerns.  Elliott called back again, and a Lieutenant Kermit A. Tyler – the new Officer in Charge of the Pearl Harbor Intercept Center – picked up.  With a mere two days’ experience, his speculation was that the radar imagery depicted navy planes on patrol or a flight of B-17s expected from the mainland.  “Don’t worry about it,” was his response to the warning.  Therefore, the alarm of “Attack Imminent” was never issued.

The blip on radar would eventually prove to be the first wave of 183 Japanese fighters, torpedo bombers, dive bombers, and horizontal bombers.  A surprise attack would commence around 8:00 AM.  Even though he would be dogged by his inaction for the rest of his life, Kermit Tyler is quoted by the Newark Star-Ledger as having said, “I wake up at nights sometimes and think about it.  But I don’t feel guilty.  I did all I could that morning.”


The Perfect Storm, or the Perfect Set-Up?

Lieutenant Tyler, although ill-prepared for his new role, had been placed into that position by an FDR who knew a Japanese attack was imminent.  Tyler’s training for his new job involved a short walk-through on the Wednesday before the Sunday of his infamous lack of concern.  Prior to December 7th, Tyler had never been assigned to work even one full day at his post.  All of the circumstances worked together to facilitate the Japanese attack: The large Japanese aircraft-carrier fleet, contrary to reports, did not maintain radio silence while underway to attack Pearl Harbor; and American military intelligence – having broken the Japanese radio codes – were eavesdropping on communications right up to the attack.


Roosevelt’s Plan to Plunge America into War

Per Robert Stinnett, President Roosevelt received the Japanese naval messages on a regular basis: “Seven Japanese naval broadcasts intercepted between November 28 and December 6 confirmed that Japan intended to start the war and that it would begin in Pearl Harbor.”  In Day of Deceit, Stinnett claims Admiral Yamamoto sent this radio message to the Japanese fleet: “The task force, keeping its movements strictly secret and maintaining close guard against submarines and aircraft, shall advance into Hawaiian waters, and upon the very opening of hostilities shall attack the main force of the United States fleet in Hawaii and deal it a mortal blow. . ..”

Although Stinnett has been attacked and his research disputed by Stephen Budiansky – a correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly and rival author of a book entitled Battle of Wits: The Complete Story of Codebreaking in World War II – the wording of Yamamoto’s message is confirmed by Admiral Homer Wallin in his book Pearl Harbor, originally published by the U.S. Government Printing Office in 1968, well ahead of the publication of Stinnett’s 1999 publication or Budiansky’s 2000 offering; Admiral Wallin’s assertions have never been notably challenged.  The website of He’eia State Park – which is located at Kane’ohe, Oahu – further confirms Admiral Wallin’s history, adding the following:

“Yamamoto’s message was intercepted in Hawai’i at a radio intercept station known as ‘Station H’ overlooking Kāne’ohe Bay on windward O’ahu.  The location of ‘Station H’ was on a small peninsula screened from Kamehameha Highway by a Chinese laundry; that peninsula is now He’eia State Park and open to the public.

“Monitoring stations such as Station H logged 129 radio messages from the Japanese fleet between November 15th and December 6th.  So powerful were the Japanese fleet transmitters that Leslie Grogan, a radioman on the passenger ship SS Lurline, listening to Japanese transmissions to the fleet, was able to pick up the fleet’s replies and plot the fleet position.  On arrival in Honolulu, Grogan delivered his logbook and map of the Japanese fleet’s progress across the Pacific to Lieutenant Commander George Pease of the Office of Naval Intelligence.  The date was December 4th, 1941.  Naval archive records confirm the existence of the logbook, although the logbook itself has vanished.”

Also interesting – and a meaningful coincidence – is the fact that, “[o]n November 28th, USS Enterprise was ordered out of Pearl Harbor in company with 11 of the United States’ newest warships, ostensibly to deliver aircraft to Wake Island.  On December 5th, USS Lexington was ordered out of Pearl Harbor in company with 8 of the Unites States’ newest warships, ostensibly to deliver aircraft to Midway Island.  When the Japanese attack hit Pearl Harbor, the targets they found were older relics from a bygone age; the 21 modern ships of the Pacific fleet, including the two carriers, were safely out of harm’s way.”


A Spy Sends a Message & an Ambassador Receives One

Roosevelt was also monitoring a known spy Japan had planted in Honolulu during March of 1941.  The spy had communicated a window period for bombing Pearl Harbor.  Also, according to Stinnett, late on December 6th and early on December 7th, American intelligence intercepted messages to Japan’s ambassador in D.C. that amounted to a war declaration, since Japan had decided on a precise time for severing diplomatic relations with Washington.  Upon reading that the time for ending relations would be 1:00 PM Washington time – 8:00 AM Pearl Harbor time – FDR intuited Japan’s intentions, saying, “This means war.”  Protocol dictated that FDR send word posthaste to Admiral Kimmel at Pearl, but he decided not to deliver any warning until 15 hours later, when it would be too late to avoid disaster.


Serious Calculations

FDR knew many would die but held that allowing the “sneak attack” was necessary to get America into the war before the German/Japanese Axis could strengthen into an even more formidable force than they already were.  In the minds of FDR and his advisors, delay would mean a greater loss of life, in the end, than would be exacted if the conflict were entered upon sooner.  Alas, the Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Fleet, Husband E. Kimmel, would be demoted due to Japan’s triumphal attack, and it would not be until October 2000 that Kimmel would be exonerated by a Congressional finding.


Eight Provocations

So, desiring a justification for war, President Roosevelt intentionally provoked Japan.  In fact, FDR enlisted the aid of Arthur H. McCollum, who had been born to Baptist missionaries in Nagasaki and had also spent several years in Japan after graduating from the Naval Academy.  McCollum utilized his intimate knowledge of the Japanese mindset to write what came to be known as the McCollum Memo, a document listing eight provocations designed to ignite war with Japan.  This memo proves that the government of the United States actively planned to lure Japan into mounting an attack.  This memo was declassified in 1994; here is what the text of the memo states:

  1. Arrange for the use of British bases in the Pacific, particularly Singapore
  2. Arrange with the Netherlands to use bases and acquire supplies in the Dutch East Indies
  3. Send aid to the Chinese government of Chiang-Kai-Shek
  4. Send a division of long-range cruisers to Asia, the Philippines, or Singapore
  5. Send two divisions of submarines to Asia
  6. Move the U.S. Pacific fleet to Hawaii
  7. Ask the Netherlands to refuse to sell oil to Japan
  8. Embargo all U.S. trade with Japan, in collaboration with the British Empire

Upon full implementation of McCollum’s plan, the Empire of Japan would decide to attack the United States, wherefore FDR would have his pretext for war.


Paul Dowling

Paul Dowling has authored a book about the US Constitution and written articles for Independent Sentinel, American Thinker, and Free Thought Matters.


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Peter B. Prange
Peter B. Prange
2 months ago

Thanks, Paul!

Tommy Payne
Tommy Payne
2 months ago

I have to call b.s. on this nonsense. The memo written by McCollum was more than a year prior to the initiation of hostilities by Japan. It was intended to warn the “powers that be” of the militaristic intent of Japan and offer means of positioning US forces in the best defensive posture. If, he claims, that leads to Japan initiating a war against the US “so much the better.” The rest is well documented error on the part of service members up and down the chain of command, turned into fanciful speculation of nefarious intent on the part of FDR.

Peter B. Prange
Peter B. Prange
2 months ago
Reply to  Tommy Payne

Ouch! Paul presented facts many of which I learned in HS history in World history in 1958 and in Us History in 1960. Sorry Tommy, Paul’s stuff did not come from the back end of a Bovine creature, but the mouth of FDR and his ilk.