This BBC documentary details United States and Britain knew beforehand of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Much more evidence has come to light since the 1989 – when this film was put together.
For nearly 50 years, the world has believed President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s declaration that the Pearl Harbor attack was a completely unexpected assault on a neutral nation. Sacrifice at Pearl Harbor tells another, hidden story – using actual recording of intercepted diplomatic communications, declassified government documents, archival footage and interviews with diplomats and spies from around the world. We now know that intelligence operatives from the US and three Allied nations monitored the Japanese fleet’s progress on its deadly mission to Oahu in late 1941. Yet neither Admiral Kimmel nor General Short received a word of warning that might have allowed them to avert the sacrifice of 4,000 American casualties in less than 90 minutes.
This documentary produced by the BBC offers a revisionist look at the attack on Pearl Harbor, and it raises some tantalizing questions. It makes the incredibly serious and controversial claim that the U.S. government had definitive knowledge of the imminent Japanese attack, yet Franklin D. Roosevelt and other American leaders deliberately sacrificed Americans lives so they would have an excuse to enter World War II. There’s no question that American cryptographers read Japanese communications, but serious historians have long contended that any credible warning of the December 7, 1941, attack on American naval forces can only be discerned when information is pieced together with the help of considerable hindsight. Sacrifice at Pearl Harbor claims otherwise, but the evidence offered, which for the most part consists of interviews with elderly men who claim to remember knowing the attack was coming, isn’t always terribly convincing. The stories of pre-war intelligence operations are intriguing, but one could plausibly claim that failure to act on some of the warning signs would be attributable to either honest mistakes or simple ineptitude, not a grandiose conspiracy to force America into the growing war. This documentary presents its material in a dramatic fashion, but ultimately it raises more questions than it answers.
–Robert J. McNamara