Sunday, December 10, 2006



As I read Robert Stinnett’s book and its methodical deconstruction of the Pearl Harbor myth, I remember being struck with the strange perfection and fullness of the argument I was reading. I wondered a few times how Stinnett had had such luck in securing these documents through FOIA requests when so many others had tried and failed. How was he allowed to be the one to unmask this darkest of American secrets?

A possible clue presented itself in the front of the book – his only other work to date was called "George Bush: His World War II Years." Curious, I bought a copy. The book was a laudatory account featuring extensive coverage of Bush’s famous survival after being shot-down twice by the Japanese. Stinnett secured access to numerous journal entries and personal photographs from Bush, which he crammed into his picture-filled pages. How did Stinnett get such unprecedented access to Bush’s records? One clue is right on the cover - the book was first released in a limited edition for the 1992 Republican National Convention, where Bush was running for his second term as President against Bill Clinton.

Day of Deceit’s author, Robert Stinnett, reminiscing with President George H.W. Bush in the White House, November 1990 (from a White House photo by Dave Valdez)
Stinnett and Bush go way back, in fact – back to Pearl Harbor. Both men were drawn into military service fresh out of high school by news of the Japanese attack. Both enlisted in the US Navy as aviators, both were assigned to the same aerial photo school, both served together on the USS San Jacinto of the Pacific Fleet from late 1943 to November 1944, in the same air group. [1] Though they apparently hadn't talked in decades, Stinnett approached Bush as the book was finished. He later opened the biopic with Bush's response letter dated October 17, 1990:

“Dear Bob, I was pleased to receive your letter and look forward to seeing your book. Those of us who served in Air Group fifty-one will re-live many memories of those days because of your wonderful efforts. My thanks. Thanks again for writing. Warm regards. Sincerely, George Bush.”

"ROBERT B. STINNETT served in the United States Navy under Lieutenant George Bush from 1942 to 1946, where he earned ten battle stars and a Presidential Unit Citation. He worked as a photographer and a journalist for the Oakland Tribune until 1986, after which he resigned as a full-time employee to devote himself to this book. He is a consultant on the Pacific War for the BBC and Asahi and NHK Television in Japan. He divides his time between Oakland and Hawaii." - bio from a site by Jim Stinnett:
A few weeks later, the two met in the Oval Office and reminisced, bush getting to handle an old camera from his aerial photgraphy days. It was at this meeting on November 17 that Bush, along with Chief of Staff John Sununu and National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft, got to look at the book. [2] The oversized pages dwell extensively on September 2 1944, the day Bush was shot down over the strategically important island of Chichi Jima. The episode earned him a flying cross and minor war hero status. Stinnett also addressed Bush’s most famous remark about Pearl Harbor, from his 1988 presidential campaign. On September 7, 1988, he had said:

“Today, you remember - I wonder how many Americans remember - today is Pearl Harbor Day. Forty-seven years ago to this very day we were hit and hit hard at Pearl Harbor… Did I say September 7th? Sorry about that. December 7th.” [3]

Actually he said “today” and “this very day,” which is even stranger. He was widely ridiculed for the gaffe, but as Stinnett points out, that was close to the date of his “personal Pearl Harbor,” making this a masked references to his own heroism. [4] Bush later joked about his blunder, making the comment at one speech “you ought to vote for me. I knew about Pearl Harbor three months before it happened.” [5]

In fact, he may well have. While he was only seventeen at the time of 12/7, there may have been interesting discussions around the Skull and Bones family dinner table. Recall Secretary of War Stimson’s November 1941 order “the United States desires that Japan commit the first overt act,” revealed in Day of Deceit - clearly he was in on the provocation plan. Stinnett’s Bush book noted that Stimson was in fact a “powerful family friend” of the Bushes. The Yale graduate also shared membership in the secretive but powerful Skull and Bones society with Prescott – George’s turn to join had yet to come.

So we know that by no later than November 1941 Stimson and perhaps his friend Prescott Bush knew Pearl Harbor was set up –It can’t be ruled out that this was mentioned or hinted at to the young George Bush before war came. But whatever he knew, Stinnett explained that George was determination to “avenge the day of infamy.” He faced resistance: “his father, Prescott bush, and powerful family friend Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson wanted him to go on to college, but their persuasive arguments could not deter George from going to war.” [6]

Nor could the family's business dealings with a top Nazi industrialist, an infraction which cost fater Prescott his director's seat at the Union Banking Corp. Anyway, between aerial photography and getting shot down, George met his Navy buddy Bob Stinnett, in the Pacific for the same reason as he, to avenge 12/7. Stinnett then went on to look into this FDR conspiracy theory years later. He dug deeper than anyone else, and hit pay dirt like no one else has. Did these two men discuss Pearl Harbor in depth during or after their service together? Or when they met in the Oval Office? And if so, who broached the subject first? It seems possible, although this is only idle speculation, that Stinnett was in fact a filter for Bush dropping this bomb for his own purposes, which would not be entirely clear. Revenge seems unlikely, since the Bush family’s temporary sacrifices during World War II were well repaid in the decades after. Whatever the motive, I find it curious that only Stinnett could have written this masterpiece – a man who had first met George Bush and later leveraged this connection with his 1990 biopic.

[1]Biography of Robert Stinnett. Pearl Harbor 1941. Accessed December 28, 2004 at:
[2] Stinnett, Robert B. "George Bush, his World war II Years." Special Limited Edition, Republican National Convention. Houston, Texas, August 1992. Washington. Brassey’s (U.S.) Inc.. 1992. Page 208.
[3] “George Herbert Walker Bush.” Accessed December 28, 2004 at:
[4] See [2]. Page ix.
[5] 1988: The Issueless Wonder. Accessed December 28, 2004 at:
[6] See [2]. page 10.

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