Soviet Spy Under FDR Likely Set Off Pearl Harbor

Harry White subtly influenced policy on Japan
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 8, 2012 9:59 AM CST
Soviet Spy Under FDR Likely Set Off Pearl Harbor
Harry White, left, talks to John Maynard Keynes in Savannah, Ga., March 8, 1946.   (Wikimedia Commons)

Not all of us know about the Soviet mole who apparently inspired the attack on Pearl Harbor. Harry White was a top Treasury official in FDR's government when he began leaking information to Russian intelligence in the 1930s, reports Time. His Russian handler, Vitalii Pavlov, had one goal in mind by 1941: sparking a war between the US and Japan, so Russia wouldn't have to battle Germany on one front and Japan on another. White's influence over his boss, Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau Jr.—the most powerful member of FDR's Cabinet—made him perfect for the job.

When FDR came close to easing a US oil embargo on Japan in return for its slowly evacuating China, White wrote Morgenthau a blistering memo saying the move would ultimately "sell China to her enemies" and weaken America's influence. So FDR made harsher demands on Japan's emperor, who took them as a threat and reacted by attacking Pearl Harbor. Communist defectors eventually outed White, who died in 1948, but the story of his effect on Pearl Harbor only came out in Pavlov's memoirs in 1996. According to Pavlov, White saved the Soviet Union. (See a newly published account of the Pearl Harbor attack.)

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