The issue was basically dropped until the war ended in 1945. However, in April of the year, Franklin Roosevelt had passed away, and Harry Truman had taken over as President. On August 29, 1945, President Truman released investigation reports from the Army and Navy which actually found officials in Washington, especially former Secretary of State Cordell Hull and U.S. Army Chief of Staff General George Marshall, primarily responsible for unpreparedness at Pearl Harbor. Finally, with the war over, Congress took the opportunity to act when the Senate Majority Leader, Alben Barkley, called for a joint investigatory committee to fully investigate the tragedy in December, 1941 and to explore the “contradictions and inconsistencies” in previous reports (as well as possibilities for more blame).
During this Congressional investigation, which persisted from November of 1945 until May of 1946, there was a startling revelation coming from a diary entry of Henry Stimson, U.S. Secretary of War during World War II. Remarks made by FDR which seemed to be speculative inquiry regarding the likelihood of an unannounced attack by the Empire of Japan on the U.S., but caused concern. The entry, admitted as official testimony during the hearings, described a White House “War Council” meeting at which Roosevelt, “brought up the event that we were likely to be attacked perhaps (as soon as) next Monday, for the Japanese are notorious for making an attack without warning, and the question was how we should maneuver them into the position of firing the first shot without allowing too much danger to ourselves… a difficult proposition.”
Admittedly, for this to surface during the Congressional hearings on the Pearl Harbor Attack was a major embarrassment for the Roosevelt Administration. This item has puzzled both critics and defenders of FDR’s foreign policy for quite some time. Definitely, this diary entry of Secretary Stimson did prove to be a “difficult proposition,” as he put it. However, Roosevelt was no longer around to explain his intended meaning. Nevertheless, in addition, the joint committee received testimony from 44 people, including high ranking officials such as U.S. Ambassador to Japan, Joseph Grew, former Secretary of State, Cordell Hull, as well as the military commanders involved like Admiral Kimmel and General Short.
Even then, investigating such a horrendous American tragedy, the congressional investigation became quite politically divided. One newspaper headline during the time read: “GOP Senators Say Democrats Block Pearl Harbor Probe.” Although Truman had numerous documents and exhibits released to the committee, it was seemingly overwhelming for the limited time and scope provided for the task. Also, some files related to the attack were never located despite many prior investigations.
Republicans did not trust the chairman, Alben Barkley (Democrat Senate Majority Leader), to reveal all the missing documents. Democrats labeled Republican’s demands for more complete access to material as a move to “dig up something…” to “besmirch the reputation of the Nation’s wartime Commander-in-Chief [FDR].”
The political controversy seemed to center upon President Roosevelt, and one major problem that Republicans had was related to FDR’s prior favoritism of Alben Barkley that had led to his election as Senate majority leader in 1937. To Republicans, his long-standing loyalty to FDR rendered Chairman Barkley incapable of being objective in the Pearl Harbor investigation. Such solid allegiance did catch Democrat attention because Barkley eventually got the nod as Truman’s running mate in 1948. Albeit much time was spent, and despite all efforts, including the political wrangling, eight members of the ten on the committee rejected claims that FDR or his top advisors had “tricked, provoked, incited, cajoled, or coerced Japan” into the Pearl Harbor attack so the U.S. would enter the war.
Incredibly, after over six months, and over 5,000 pages of final report as well as 14,000 pages of printed exhibits, eight members of the committee of ten concluded that, “officers, both in Washington and Hawaii, were fully conscious of the danger from air attack.” The military commands in Hawaii and the Intelligence and War Plans Divisions of the War and Navy Departments made “errors of judgment and not derelictions of duty.” And after all was said and reports finalized, they came to the conclusion that “the ultimate responsibility for the attack and its results rests upon Japan.” And, “the diplomatic policies and actions of the United States provided no justifiable provocation whatever for the attack by Japan on this Nation.”
In reality, on the other side of the world, there existed the government of Japan, which was ripped apart by political strife that made what was happening in the U.S. seem like a mild disagreement between brothers. The nation of Japan had been an ally during World War I, and had become increasingly democratic in the 1920s. However, such changes came with poor timing as the devastating effects of the Great Depression reverberated through the world. While Americans were struggling during the 1930s, the democratic government of Japan also struggled and became increasingly distrusted by the people, and was blamed for the weakened economy. Especially, the Army decided to take clear action to correct the problems associated with democracy.