I have long believed that the world can be divided into two groups; those who believe that the world is screwed up because a secret cabal is running things for their own advantage, and those who believe the world is so screwed up that obviously nobody is in charge. In the former category are those who are still convinced that somehow President Roosevelt was in some way responsible for the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. To quote one neo-conspiracy theorist, “Interestingly, that ‘surprise attack’ was preceded by an astonishing number of unheeded warnings and missed signals…” This neo-knowledgeable speaker was then Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, in a speech at West Point, on June 2, 2001, some three months before 9/11.
But at the exact moment that Japanese bombs were exploding amongst American planes on Ford Island, it was 3:00 a.m. at the US Army Air Force base at Clark Field in the Philippines. The Japanese had planned a dawn attack here as well, but fog kept their planes on Formosa on the ground. The Japanese attack on Clark Field did not begin until 12:30 p.m. local time, nine long hours after the radio alert from Hawaii had warned American commanders (including General Douglas MacArthur) that the war had already begun. And yet the Japanese were able to destroy half of all United States war planes in the Philippines on the first day of the war, on the ground. How was this possible? Was the conspiracy that betrayed America so large it included the anti-New Dealer General MacArthur?
At 9:15 a.m. on February 19, 1942 – 74 days after the Pearl Harbor attack – a Coastwatcher on Melville Island, just off the North coast of Australia, looked up into a clear blue sky and reported a large number of planes heading for the harbor at Darwin, Australia. The report was dismissed, as was a report at 9:37 a.m. from Father John McGrath on tiny Bathhurst Island of “An unusually large air formation bearing down on us from the Northwest”. The commander of the attacking Japanese forces would later write, “…No planes were in the air. A few attempted to take off as we came over but were quickly shot down, and the rest were destroyed where they stood.”
Just an hour later, as the first wave of Japanese planes banked to return to their carriers, they left behind 8 ships sunk in Darwin harbor. They had damaged a dozen other ships (including a hospital ship), destroyed the limited harbor facilities, as well as destroying 10 P-40 fighters, one B-24 bomber, 3 C-45 transports, 3 PBY flying boats and 6 Lockheed Hudson Australian Bombers, as well as knocking out Darwin’s electricity and fresh water systems, and killing at least 243 military personnel and civilians and wounding 200 more. The Darwin raid has been called “Australia’s Pearl Harbor”. How were the Japanese able to achieve another surprise attack after so many warnings?
Just after noon Tokyo time, that same morning, Argentinean attaché Ramon Lavelle thought he heard explosions and ran onto the roof of his embassy. “I…saw four American bombers flying over the rooftops. They couldn’t have been more than 100 feet off the ground….All Tokyo seemed to be in a panic…I could see fires starting near the port…” One of the attackers would later write, “...the Japanese apparently were entirely unprepared for the attack…farmers in the field looked up and went back to work undisturbed; villagers waved from the streets; a baseball game continued its play; and in the distance training planes took off and landed apparently unaware of any danger present."
There are no vast, grand conspiracies that produce wars. There is only common human arrogance, and usually a surplus of that.
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