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Topic: Mccollum's "plan" analyzed, The eight "provocative actions"< Next Oldest | Next Newest >
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sequoiaranger Search for posts by this member.


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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 05 2003,2:59  Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

McCollum's 8-Action proposals of 7 October, 1940

Lieutenant Arthur H. McCollum, head of the Far East desk of the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) wrote a memorandum late in 1940 on the "Estimate of the situation in the Pacific and recommendations for action by the United States".  In Robert Stinnett's recent book "Day of Deceit", this memorandum is given exalted status as THE plan for the United States to goad Japan into war and was, according to Stinnett, fully enacted.

When reading the memorandum in its entirety, I find that the tone of the memo is geared more toward CONTAINMENT of Japan's aggressive desires. The "famous" 8-point action recommendation (actually referred to by letter designations) that Stinnett touts as the blueprint for precipitating war was NOT carried out; only a few of the eight were completely implemented. Stinnett would have you believe that all eight were implemented, with phrasing like, "The eight provocative actions that he advocated had now fallen into place." Not only did the eight actions NOT take place, but there is no evidence presented in this or any other book that this memo was ever official policy (I have written a LOT of memos to my boss that never got implemented or became official policy-how about you?).

First, Let's look at those actions that WERE taken (whether prompted by McCollum's memo or not):

Action "H" said, "Completely embargo all US trade with Japan, in collaboration with a similar embargo imposed by the British Empire". This finally happened. Stinnett would have you believe that it was McCollum's memo that prompted the British to impose an embargo, rather than an inherent mutual understanding among the Western powers that it was foreign goods that were fuelling Japan's Asian conquests. It was in Britain's interest to restrict her own trade with Japan. Also, this memo was written prior to the Japanese "takeover" of French Indochina.  It was this expansionist takeover which alarmed the Allies sufficiently to induce the US to further hamper economic relations with Japan.

Action "E" was to "Send two divisions of submarines to the Orient".  I am uncertain of the exact number (Stinnett says twenty-four), but additional submarines were indeed sent to Admiral Hart in Manila. Submarines were seen as a defensive weapon, and at best an intruder, though certainly Germany's usage of U-boats to interdict supplies was noted in US Navy doctrine. Submarines are literally and figuratively low-profile naval assets, however.

Action "G", which was to "Insist that the Dutch refuse to grant Japanese demands for undue economic concessions, particularly oil", was even admitted by Stinnnett to have been accomplished PRIOR to McCollum's memo, but blithely states that it was HIS (McCollum's) provocations that the Dutch were acting upon (!;).

Action "F" said, "Keep the main strength of the US fleet now in the Pacific in the vicinity of the Hawaiian Islands". This was done, and then partially un-done! In mid-1940, prior to the writing of McCollum's memo, the battlefleet was indeed moved from the West Coast of the United States to Hawaii to underscore US determination to back up its diplomatic policies and to present a credible though still long-distance deterrent to further Japanese expansion. However, in mid-1941, as the crisis vis-a-vis the Japanese was deepening, not only were three battleships (New Mexico, Mississippi, and Idaho) removed from the Pacific Fleet and transferred to the Atlantic Fleet for possible dealings with German warships, but the aircraft carrier Yorktown and her three escorting heavy cruisers were transferred as well! The battleship Colorado was on the US West Coast undergoing refit, as was the carrier Saratoga; both were earlier based in Pearl. So in early 1941 there were TWELVE battleships and FOUR carriers based out of Pearl Harbor. By December of 1941 there were only EIGHT battleships and TWO carriers at Pearl.

It would seem the "provocation" value of having the "main strength of the US Fleet in [Hawaiian waters]" would be mightily emasculated by having more than ONE-THIRD of the Pacific Fleet sent BACK to the States by order of FDR. So this "provocation" has to be degraded from "full implementation" to "partial implementation". One can still argue that the remaining forces left behind at Pearl could be considered the "main strength" of the 1940 Pacific Fleet, but a HUGE chunk of it was deliberately assigned elsewhere, FAR AWAY from any possible threat to Japanese territories, at a critical juncture in US-Japanese relations. If anything, such a move should ease tensions and LESSEN the amount of "provocation" involved.

Action "C" was, "Give all possible aid to the Chinese Government of Chaing-Kai-Shek." Now I'm not certain if the US posture on China fits this description or not. Certainly we weren't giving them anywhere NEAR the quantity or variety of military goods that we were giving Britain, so this one can only rate (for me anyway) as a partial implementation.

Action "D" said, "Send a division of long-range heavy cruisers to the Orient, Philippines, or Singapore."  This was NOT implemented by any stretch of the imagination. For the last ten years or so prior to McCollum's memo, the Treaty of London's provisions defined what a "heavy cruiser" was for all the signatory nations, and all Naval personnel using the phrase knew precisely what it meant. Only ONE "heavy cruiser" was anywhere near the Orient, the USS Houston in Manila. There were a few obsolescent or obsolete light cruisers in Adm. Hart's Asian squadron, but light cruisers are scouts, and have only light guns that could not be expected to win naval battles. "Heavy cruisers" are supposed to be the starting category of combatant ships that can command a sea area (a main reason the London Treaty was enacted was due to the successful definition and restriction of battleships with the previous Washington Treaty). We had merely the token heavy cruiser USS Houston as flagship.

What is meant by "the Orient" is also unclear, though I suspect it meant China, or at least a non-British, non-Dutch, or non-American area. Perhaps, though, "Philippines or Singapore" was simply clarifying the preceding word "Orient" and no other meaning was implied. At any rate, "a division of long-range heavy cruisers to the Orient" was NOT sent.

Action "B" was, "Make an arrangement with Holland for the use of base facilities and acquisition of supplies in the Dutch East Indies." The US Asiatic squadron never based anywhere but the Philippines. ABDA, the loose organization seeking to coalesce Allied forces in the Far East, had made preliminary plans regarding how the coalition's forces might operate in case of war, but US forces were NOT used from foreign bases prior to the war.

Action "A", the first on the list, said, "Make an arrangement with Britain for the use of British bases in the Pacific, particularly Singapore." Once again, US forces did NOT base fleet units in, or use, British bases, especially Singapore, prior to the war. I can see that if half of the Pacific Fleet's battleline moved to base in Singapore, the Japanese might take offense. Churchill wanted to base a large force of British battleships there, but had few or none to spare. In an excellent book on Roosevelt and Churchill, author Thomas Lash confirms the 1941 request of Churchill to FDR to base a portion of the US battlefleet in Singapore, to which Roosevelt refused as being too provocative. One would think that if FDR really wanted to "goad" the Japanese into a war by placing the US fleet in an advance (read "threatening") position, this would be a grand opportunity. INSTEAD, the President TOOK AWAY fleet assets from the Pacific.  

Stinnett also claims that "Australia and the United States secretly set up Pacific base F at Rabaul, New Britain on October 25, 1941." Stinnett does not go into any further detail as to just what constituted this "base".  By saying that "Australia and the US...set up", Stinnett implies official involvement in a mutual plan and implies completion with the use of the past tense instead of using a phrase implying an ongoing effort, like "setting up".  So just WHAT was built, or what was the PLAN, and what was the US involvement in this "base"? Was it an engineering crew? Advisors? A labor crew? A deckhand on a tugboat? How far along did they get? Was ground broken for facilities? Ports? Fuel storage? A communications listening post? Stinnett tries to paint a "vision" in your head of a completed "base" with cranes, docks, barracks, maybe an airfield, etc., but of course never goes into ANY detail or explanation of what was actually there, or any of the process that brought it about.  From my reading on the matter, though I have not yet located a source to quote, I got the impression that when the Japanese took over New Britain from the Aussies, they had to start THEIR base at Rabaul (recognized by both sides as the best place in the locality for a base) pretty much from "scratch". Stinnett just leaves the reader to conclude that it was an operational "base" with no fundamental details.

Stinnett develops a bad habit of making proclamations that support his case of Roosevelt's foreknowledge without substantiating the proclamations themselves. He also seems to discount the deterrent value of positioning naval assets near potential "hot spots" or the reality that such positioning underscores mere talk of disapproval of Japan's actions. The weakness of the claim of "full implementation" of the 8-action proposals is hopefully exposed here.

Craig T. Burke
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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 09 2003,9:30 Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

So we are led to believe that the memo is about defence and in any case none of the action points were implemented?

This is plainly false.

To understand this memo you need to have

1.  An understanding of the massive American industrial resources that were being directed principally towards supporting the British Empire militarily.

2. An understanding of the isolationist and pro German political pressures upon Washington to keep America out of the European war.

The memo is not just about defense.    

"8. A consideration of the foregoing leads to the
conclusion that prompt aggressive naval action against Japan by
the United States would render Japan incapable of affording any
help to Germany and Italy in their attack on England and that
Japan itself would be faced with a situation in which her navy
could be forced to fight on most unfavorable terms or accept
fairly early collapse of the country through the force of blockade.
A prompt and early declaration of war after entering into suitable
arrangements with England and Holland, would be most effective
in bringing about the early collapse of Japan and thus eliminating
our enemy in the pacific before Germany and Italy could strike
at us effectively. Furthermore, elimination of Japan must surely
strengthen Britain's position against Germany and Italy and, in
addition, such action would increase the confidence and support
of all nations who tend to be friendly towards us.

9. It is not believed that in the present state of
political opinion the United States government is capable of
declaring war against Japan without more ado;"

So ideally American should declare war upon Japan but as this is not possible then a policy designed to cause an overt act of war is the next best thing.

"10. If by these means Japan could be led to commit an
overt act of war, so much the better. At all events we must be fully
prepared to accept the threat of war."

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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 12 2003,1:26 Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I Couldn't Help But Notice, "interested"....

That you did not, or could not, refute any of my contentions in reference to Mc Collum's eight points and their implementation, and even accused ME of being false after you misrepresented me by saying that I thought NONE of the eight had been implemented. Maybe you need to read it again and stop being such a "ventriloquist" (putting words in my mouth).

So do we agree that Stinnett is clearly wrong in proclaiming that "The eight provocative actions that he [McCollum] advocated had now fallen into place?"

Craig Burke
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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 15 2003,4:50 Skip to the previous post in this topic.  Ignore posts   QUOTE

The McCollum memo should be called, "The memo that went nowhere." The revisionist conspiracy theorists keep ignoring the plain unadulterated fact that there is no evidence that it went any further than Captain Knox. Instead of using the standard naval administrative procedure of making an endorsement by a numbered paragraph i.e. "1. Forwarded (with his approval or disapproval), he merely made comments that most likely went right back to McCollum. Furthermore, it was not McCollum's job or authority to make political recommendations to the Navy Department or anyone else. This is merely a low-level inter-office memo deep in the Navy Department, which also had no political policy making responsibility.

Accordingly, it really makes no difference whatsoever if the suggested political moves embodied in that memo were implemented or not. Such arguments are akin to trying to prove how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. All these arguments show is how desperate the revisionist conspiracy theorists are to try to pin the debacle of Pearl Harbor on President Roosevelt and what lengths they will go toward that end.

A brief look into Japanese war plans show that beginning in mid-1940 Japan undertook a steadily increasing agressive program of expansion towards Southeast Asia and beyond. The impetus behind this program of "Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere" was so strong that even the likelihood of war with the U.S., Britain and the Netherlands would not stay its implementation.

It might be beneficial to those interested in the complete background of the attack on Pearl Harbor to study the Japanese plans and actions leading up to the decision to make war with the U.S. including the attack on Pearl Harbor. The main emphasis should be on Japanese aggression and not so much on the U.S.'s response to such aggression. Just as there was no stopping Hitler short of war there was no way to stop Japan's expansion into the spheres of influence of the U.S., Britain and the Netherlands in East Asia.

Please no more apologies for Japan's sneak attack on Pearl Harbor! I wan't there at the time, but the terrible sight about a month later is still etched in my memory.

Phil Jacobsen
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3 replies since Mar. 05 2003,2:59 < Next Oldest | Next Newest >

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