Synopses & Reviews
The untold story of a secret planthat would have prevented Pearl Harborand maybe even World War II.
Could a plan to bomb Japan and destroy Japanese supply lines, communications, and staging areas in China have averted the horrendous and devastating attack on Pearl Harbor? On July 23, 1941some five months before Pearl HarborPresident Franklin Delano Roosevelt endorsed a plan calling for the United States to provide China with 150 manned bombers and 350 fighter planes to wreak havoc on Japans growing presence in China. “Joint Board Plan 335” had been proposed to Roosevelt and his cabinet by Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek; Dr. T. V. Soong, Chinas special envoy to the United States; and Captain Claire Lee Chennault, a retired Air Corps pilot now in the employ of Chiang. Such a preemptive strike on Japanese interests had been under discussion for several months. Although initially blocked by General George C. Marshall, the plan was resurrected in the spring of 1941. So why, then, was it never employed?
First, there were the practical reasons: Not yet fully recovered from the Great Depression, millions of Americans were more concerned about domestic issues than foreign policy. Roosevelt and his cabinet feared political fallout from Chiangs proposed international intrigue, to say nothing of facing Winston Churchills wrath by diverting airplanes from Britain. Then there were also ethical concerns over the definite civilian casualties the air strike would inflict. Could Roosevelt justify bombing raids when the U.S. and Japan were officially at peace? Chiang and Chennault argued that their plan would serve as a moral quid pro quo to an adversary that had been bombing and slaughtering millions of Chinese civilians for three years. The raids, Chennault insisted, would forestall Japanese expansion into Malaya, Singapore, the Dutch East Indies, and the Philippines.
Painstakingly researched and colorfully written, Preemptive Strike offers a seldom-seen glimpse of the political and moral pressures brought to bear on Roosevelts prewar cabinet. It is sure to prompt debate, as much as the decision to use this wartime strategy does today.
THE most dramatic photograph to emerge from the Pacific War - indeed, from almost any war - shows the US fleet burning at Pearl Harbour on Dec 7, 1941. Sulphurous with anger, then-president Franklin D. Roosevelt rose before Congress the following day to denounce 'a date that will live in infamy': The United States had been 'suddenly and deliberately attacked' by Japanese naval and air forces.
"The distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago," the president raged. "Always will our whole nation remember the character of the onslaught against us..."
A sneak attack? Yes - but in the circumstances, according to a book published in the US this month, perhaps not as unpardonable as the president insisted.
[Preemptive Strike], a revisionist history of the months immediately preceding that "infamous" December 7, implies that Mr Roosevelt's indignation concealed more than a little American wiliness.
Preemptive Strike by Alan Armstrong presents evidence, much of it supported by Pentagon, State Department and White House documents, that Americans and Nationalist Chinese with British help would have struck at Japanese airfields and shipping more than a month before Japan's Pearl Harbour assault launched the war. --Anthony Paul, journalist for The Straits Times in Singapore and The Canberra Times in Australia.
Delving into a vast array of historical documents obtained at the National Archives, as well as major libraries and research institutions across the U.S., Armstrong presents a set of indisputable evidence backed by de-classified military and diplomatic documents that raises the possibility that, had the secret plan been executed as initially planned, America would have been charged with a sneaky attack while diplomatic negotiations were still under way between Tokyo and Washington.
The author vividly demonstrates that, responding to a request from Chiang Kai-shek in the late 1930s, America laboriously worked out a secret plan to launch a preemptive attack on China-based Japanese troops and supply lines, as well as major cities and military facilities in the Japanese archipelago starting around November 1, 1941. . . . Preemptive Strike is a must read for all serious students of the Pacific War history -- not only in Japan and the U.S., but also across Asia and elsewhere in the world -- who will come to grips with the big picture of the circumstances leading to the Pearl Harbor attack. They will also be made aware that the war-time characterization of the Japanese as “sneaky and deceptive” was--to no small extent--due to Roosevelts “Date of Infamy” address delivered one day after the attack. --Ko Shioya, Tokyo-based author/journalist (former North American Bureau Chief, Bungei Shunju Co., Ltd.)
So much for the notion that the 1940s were simpler, more innocent times . . . Alan Armstrong's Preemptive Strike shows Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Claire Channault and other American leaders in all their stunning complexity. His fresh, unflinching look at pre-war U.S. military posture brings into question things we thought we knew about our nation's first 'day of infamy,' and the twentieth century's 'good war.' Parallels to today's 'War on Terror' are striking."--Dave Hirschman, author of Hijacked: The Heroes of Flight 705 and She's Just Another Navy Pilot "An absolutely astounding revelation that is sure to re-write pre-WW II history.
Alan Armstrong's research has uncovered very credible documentation of U.S. clandestine ops that clearly shows we were going to pull the trigger before Japan.
Destined to be a blockbuster, it is a must read for all WW II historians and buffs. A tremendous piece of work."--Roger Post, editor, Flight Journal
"A very thought provoking book that raises real questions about how the course of history might have been changed in the days leading up to World War II."--Bert Kinzey, author of The Fury of Desert Storm: The Air Campaign "A highly readable tale of adventure, intrigue, and politics that reveals for the first time the true facts of the creation of the famous "Flying Tigers," the colorful and effective P-40 squadron that flew from primitive bases in China and gave the Japanese fits in the early months of WWII. Painstakingly researched and extensively footnoted, with many previously unknown documents revealing Cabinet and Presidential collusion with Generalissimo Chiang Kai Shek in preparation for war. A must -read work for anyone interested in international affairs, espionage, the inner workings of government, military history, and, of course, the famous "Flying Tigers."--S. F. Bloyer, Captain, U.S. Navy (Ret.) "Preemptive Strike is a riveting story, well written and convincingly presented. Alan Armstrong tells the tale of the “on again, off again” plan by the United States to bomb Japan before Pearl Harbor. It is a tale of the various influences, personalities, and dynamics that affect the most serious government decisions. In that sense the story is both current and timeless. The facts recounted in Preemptive Strike also compel the reader to move beyond a mere “good guy/bad guy” interpretation of the beginning of the Pacific War. This book invites a re-examination of widely accepted views of important historical events."--Rick Dunn, World War II historian and senior fellow at the University of Maryland "A fascinating big-picture study of secret US contingency planning for supporting China in 1940-41. This tour-de-force detective project examines many scattered sources to reconstruct what was a largely undocumented operation. It places the role of my dad and his AVG colleagues in a larger perspective, and explains the many frustrations they encountered in their heroic efforts to assist the people of China."--Shiela Bishop Irwin, daughter of Lewis Bishop, First AVG Flying Tigers, Vice Squadron Leader Hell's Angels, and co-author of his story, Escape from Hell: An AVG Flying Tigers Journey
The untold story of a plan that would have prevented Pearl Harbor--and perhaps World War II
About the Author
ALAN ARMSTRONG is an aviation attorney, an active pilot, and a contributing editor to the Lawyer Pilots Bar Association Journal
. He has written articles on aviation law for various journals. Armstrong has testified before the House Aviation Subcommittee of the House of Representatives, is chairman of the Aviation Section for the State Bar of Georgia, and is a founding member of the National Transportation Safety Board Bar Association.
Table of Contents
1. America's Historical Memory of the Attack on Pearl Harbor
2. Ladies and Gentlemen: "The Three Men on the Flying Trapeze"
3. The China Lobby
4. FDR: "It Would be a Nice Thing if China Bombed Japan"
5. Cordell Hull: "Find a Way to Have Them (the Chinese) Drop Some Bombs on Tokyo"
6. Morganthau: "This Colonel Chennault, Where is He?"
7. The Secret Formation of the American Volunteer Group
8. "You Need a Hundred of These"
9. A Blueprint for War in the Pacific
10. Joint Board 355
11. Rangoon and Beyond
12. Reports in the American Press of Plans to Bomb Japan
13. The Planning and Execution of a Preemptive Strike by Japan
14. America's Reaction to Japan's Preemptive Strike
15. A Post-Mortem on Chennault's Plan for a Preemptive Strike on Japan
16. The Lone Eagle and the Hawk
17. America's View of the World with an Altered Historical Memory