Boy, if the Chinese only had 100 good pursuit planes and 100 fair pilots, they’d exterminate the Jap air force!… Claire Lee Chennault

chang001Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek

Preemptive strike : the secret plan that would have prevented the attack on Pearl Harbor    Guilford, Conn. : Lyons Press, c 2006  Alan Armstrong ; foreword by Walter J. Boyne World War, 1939-1945 –Campaigns –Pacific Area Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing.      xvii, 285 p. : ill. ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. [238]-274) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

chang002Maxim Litvinov, Russian ambassador; Edward R. Stettinius, Jr., lend-lease administrator; T.V. Soong, Chinese foreign minister; Secretary of Commerce Jesse Jones, and Lord Halifax, British ambassador, examine dehydrated food at the Hotel Statler, where a a luncheon of dehydrated food was served on March 11, 1943, to mark the second anniversary of lend-lease

Could a plan to destroy Japanese supply lines, communications, and staging areas in China have averted the horrendous and devastating attack on Pearl Harbor? On July 23, 1941–some five months before Pearl Harbor–President Franklin Delano Roosevelt endorsed a plan calling for the United States to provide China with 150 manned bombers and 350 fighter planes to wreak havoc on Japan’s growing presence in China. “Joint Board Plan 335” had been proposed to Roosevelt and his cabinet by Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek; Dr. T. V. Soong, China’s foreign minister to the United States; and Captain Claire Lee Chennault, a retired Air Corps pilot now in the employ of Kai-Shek. Such a preemptive strike on Japanese interests had been under discussion for several months. Although initially blocked by General George C. Marshall, the plan was resurrected in the spring of 1941. So why then was it never employed?

chang003 Claire Lee Chennault

First, there were the practical reasons: Not yet fully recovered from the Great Depression, millions of Americans were more focused on domestic issues than foreign policy. Roosevelt and his cabinet feared political fallout from Kai-Shek’s proposed international intrigue, to say nothing of facing Winston Churchill’s wrath by diverting airplanes from Britain. Then there were also ethical concerns over the certain civilian casualties the air strike would inflict. Could Roosevelt justify bombing raids when the U.S. and Japan were officially at peace? Kai-Shek and Chennault argued that their plan would serve as a moral quid pro quo to an adversary that had been bombing and slaughtering millions of Chinese civilians for three years. The raids, Chennault argued, would forestall Japanese expansion into Malaya, Singapore, the Dutch East Indies, and the Philippines.

chang004General George C. Marshall

Painstakingly researched and colorfully written, PREEMPTIVE STRIKE offers a seldom-seen glimpse of the political and moral pressures brought to bear on Roosevelt’s prewar cabinet. It is sure to prompt debate, as much as the decision to use this wartime strategy does today.


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