Newly Declassified Memo Reveals Roosevelt Was Warned of Tokyo’s Focus on Hawaii Days Before Pearl Harbor Attack

Pearl Harbor Attack, 7 December 1941
The USS Maryland (BB-46) alongside the capsized USS Oklahoma (BB-37) at Pearl Harbor. The USS West Virginia (BB-48) is burning in the background. (History Navy)

A newly released memo revealed that President Roosevelt was warned that Tokyo was focused on Hawaii days before the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Washington Whispers reported:

Three days before the Dec. 7, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt was warned in a memo from naval intelligence that Tokyo’s military and spy network was focused on Hawaii, a new and eerie reminder of FDR’s failure to act on a basket load of tips that war was near.

In the newly revealed 20-page memo from FDR’s declassified FBI file, the Office of Naval Intelligence on December 4 warned, “In anticipation of open conflict with this country, Japan is vigorously utilizing every available agency to secure military, naval and commercial information, paying particular attention to the West Coast, the Panama Canal and the Territory of Hawaii.”

The memo, published in the new book December 1941: 31 Days that Changed America and Saved the World went on to say that the Japanese were collecting “detailed technical information” that would be specifically used by its navy. To collect and analyze information, they were building a network of spies through their U.S. embassies and consulates.

Historian and acclaimed Reagan biographer Craig Shirley, author of the just released December 1941, doesn’t blame FDR for blowing it, but instead tells Whispers that it “does suggest that there were more pieces to the puzzle” that the administration missed.

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  • Patty

    Dear God!

    incredible, devastating, unimaginable and yet, for these times we live in, believable.

    All the men and women who died, treasonous.

  • Tom Doniphon

    So the PDB that W. received in August 2001 “does suggest that there were more pieces to the puzzle”! Right??

  • Patty


    “We were trying to figure out what they (al Qaeda) would do. We never had specifics about time, place, MO (method of operation).”
    U.S. intelligence official, commenting anonymously.

    Bush issued an alert but not to the public.

  • Patty

    In this article on Japan’s attack it state west coast.

  • Patty

    “In anticipation of open conflict with this country, Japan is vigorously utilizing every available agency to secure military, naval and commercial information, paying particular attention to the West Coast, the Panama Canal and the Territory of Hawaii.”

    Rather close to where the target was, wouldn’t you say. Bush and this is like apples and oranges.

  • George Forman

    When the first world war failed to bring the world to heel under the League of Nations, most notably when the US Senate, then Americanist-minded, rejected (1919) the Treaty of Versailles, the table was set for another world war. The internationalists were going to have world government one way or the other.

    Did you ever stop and think. When Hitler was discharged from the Wehrmacht he was a common street artist in Munich. Within 15 years he’s the Chancellor! On his way to subduing much of Europe, attacking Russia, and upsetting world stability. Such things do not happen by accident.

  • NeoKong

    I didn’t realize that Jamie Gorelik was that old.

  • donh

    We are well past the early spy warning stage . WW3 is already breaking out into the open air in the middle east ….and Obama diddles.

  • Jaimo

    I think the appropriate comment here would be that if FDR missed these clues, can those on the right blame him for the attack on Pearl Harbor just as the progressives blamed Bush for 9/11?

    I mean fair is fair, right?

    Not that those on the right ever had a high opinion of FDR anyway.

  • Druid

    Probably a fair and accurate assessment on an international crises going on for twenty years or so… no need to sound the air raid alarms as the US and Japan had engaged in firefights already.

    While the memo says, “Japan is vigorously utilizing every available agency to secure military, naval and commercial information, paying particular attention to the West Coast, the Panama Canal and the Territory of Hawaii.”

    Lastly, the “Territory of Hawaii”, no mention of the “Territory of the Philippines”, where the Japs killed over 100,000 civilians for shiites and giggles…

    Anyway, for racists wringing hands over internment of Japanese nationals after the invasion of the US territory,

    Kanahele, one of a group of islanders taken captive, was shot by the pilot. Angered, he dashed the pilot’s head against a stone wall, killing him.

  • Russ

    Let’s be realistic here. The memo was so vague as to be useless.

    More to the point, if you had miraculously been able to deliver copies of the Pearl Harbor plans, in the original Japanese and signed by the emperor, to the White House and the War Department, they would not have believed it to be possible – in part because mounting a strike like that was, at the time, beyond the US’s own capability.


    Hindsight is a wonderful thing. And, not always accurate. It did not soley focus on Hawaii, but mentioned West Coast and Panama. Entirely reasonable military targets. BS to FDR knew Hawaii was the target. The military comanders there did take some precausions against sabatours. Thinking that Japan would use 4 carriers so far from home waters was not really something most military intelligence would give credence too.

  • jainphx

    The question that no one has ever asked: Why were the aircraft carriers not there. Navy people will tell you that no ship steams more than carriers, but they were scheduled to be in Pearl starting on Saturday, why weren’t they there. Also The Japanese military code had been cracked the previous June. Something we will never know I guess. Fate or other, flip a coin.

  • Patty

    Is this where the saying JAPANESE SNEAK ATTACK COMES FROM, because if so, it doesn’t sound that sneaky now.

  • Christopher Taylor

    Of course he was. Along with 900 other bits of information. The Japanese code hadn’t been fully cracked at that point, and all they had was pieces of chatter, about all sorts of topics.

    This is like blaming President Bush for 9/11 because among the hundreds of other bits of intel was a suggestion terrorists might use a plane as a weapon. There simply wasn’t enough information to take any specific, significant action.

    And second guessing people half a century after the fact gets harder every year and less reasonable.

    FDR had a lot of problems in terms of economic policy and his far too chummy relationship with communists. He was at best apathetic toward Jews, turning back a boatload of refugees from Europe running from Nazi death camps. But he was a titan of a leader when it came to the war. Nobody is all one thing.

  • gus

    What kind of memo’s do you think CAPTAIN EARFLAPS disregards on a daily basis.

  • jainphx

    America saw the aggression in China, and did nothing, Japan saw the shambles that was our military. Trained with wooden guns etc. Somethings will maybe never known.

  • Marsh626

    And we also see yet more evidence that Americans of Japanese ancestry were indeed a threat to our national security during WWII.

  • gus

    I know what we should do. Cut military spending and apologize to Muzztards worldwide!!!!

    Obama is a fecking genius!!!!!!!

  • jainphx

    The left will never understand that weakness breads terror. Street thugs don’t pick on the strong or the potentially armed.