Where there is a controversial event there is usually several conspiracy theories dreamed up to explain why things happened the way they did. Conspiracy theories are not a modern invention but have probably existed as long as civilizations have been on the Earth. Almost every major world or national event develops its own theories over time and while some have been far out fantasies others are not always so easy to dismiss.
Pearl Harbor was one such theory. For the longest time, some people believed the American government knew the attack was coming, but hid it from the American people. This is one conspiracy that is true though. In the book "The Codebreakers", author David Kahn describes how U.S. Intelligence successfully broke Japanese diplomatic codes and knew hours before the attack it was coming.
There was a great deal of importance riding on the decision of what to do with this intelligence. U.S. operatives knew that if they evacuated the base, the Japanese would know their codes were broken and they would change them and attack at a later time. The message that was translated was split into at least a dozen parts and ironically U.S. Intelligence had decoded the messages before the Japanese ambassador had done so.
When operatives realized the Japanese were officially severing diplomatic ties with the United States and the final part of the message the ambassador was to deliver to the U.S. State Department was a warning of imminent attack, they moved into action to prevent the ambassador from visiting our Secretary.
According to Kahn, by preventing the delivery of this message until after the bombing, the U.S. government could cleanly declare they were surprised by the attack and turn world opinion of the Allied forces on Japan alienating the Axis power even further.
Of course, history shows this is what happened. Japan bombed the base destroying much of the U.S. Fleet and a day later, FDR addressed Congress asking they declare war on Japan stating that it would be a "day that would live in infamy." It wasn't until many years later, the truth was revealed when documents were declassified.
Winston Churchill made the same difficult decision during the Battle of Britain. His choice was to evacuate Coventry and reveal to Hitler's Nazis that Britain had broken the code produced by the Germans' ULTRA machine or allow it to be destroyed and safeguard the knowledge that Britain was able to read the Germans' secret transmissions.
I believe neither man made those decisions lightly. I'm sure both agonized over the weight of their choices. Being a strong leader sometimes means sacrificing the few for the good of the many. The world was fortunate that it had two strong wartime leaders like FDR and Churchill to oppose the Axis Powers and in the end, the Allies were victorious.
The price of any war is steep, but it is a necessary evil. General Robert E. Lee said, "It is well that war is so terrible – lest we grow fond of it."
We don't want to believe our leaders would sacrifice their own people for anything, but history shows that it occurs arguably for the "greater good."
I suppose one of the lessons that we can draw from these two similar events is not everything is as it seems. That doesn't mean we should run off like Don Quixote tipping at windmills and finding controversies under every stone, but we should be healthily skeptical about what we are told, who is telling us and why they might be saying it.
There is always an angle and while it may not be obvious to us initially, time usually has a way of revealing everything. Unfortunately time also has a way of wiping the slate clean meaning some secrets outlast those to whom the secret is important.
What incidents do you believe have more behind them than meet the eye? Many people believe many modern events have more to them than meets the eye. Top conspiracies people believe include the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the 1969 Moon Landing, the Hostage Rescue in 1980, The Loss of Flight 800, Oklahoma City bombing, the bombing of the Koresh compound in Waco and the events surrounding 9/11.
Usually the first thought is these people are crazy and that those events are what they are, but sometimes an open mind might be more beneficial in the long run. Do I believe there were conspiracies behind all of these events? Not necessarily. But I also have a healthy skepticism of our government and what we are told as power corrupts and people in power tend to become corruptible.
If it could happen in the 1940s, it could happen today. I guess the main lesson to learn is that we should be skeptical and question. Ironically follow the philosophy that was a staple of the 1960s. We should always be vigilant.
Til next time...