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  • Infamy

  • Pearl Harbor and Its Aftermath
  • By: John Toland
  • Narrated by: Traber Burns
  • Length: 12 hrs and 50 mins
  • 4.7 out of 5 stars (16 ratings)

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Infamy

By: John Toland
Narrated by: Traber Burns
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Summary

A revealing and controversial account of the events surrounding Pearl Harbor.

Pulitzer Prize - winning author John Toland presents evidence that FDR and his top advisors knew about the planned Japanese attack but remained silent.

Infamy reveals the conspiracy to cover up the facts and find scapegoats for the greatest disaster in United States military history. New York Times best-seller.

©2017 John Toland (P)2017 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

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Dry

I did not enjoy this, in fact I found it a struggle. Yes it good to have these facts, but the language and presentation were not as good as I expected. I

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Tough in places - but worth it!

As an historical document for exonerating Kimmel and Short it does them justice. Incredibly well researched and uncovers the real reasons for the successful surprise attack on Pearl Harbor . It is somewhat factual and dry in places but stick with it, as it all comes together towards the end.

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  • Richard Karpusiewicz
  • 28-07-21

Revisionist History

I think it is important for Audible to provide a note or caption on controversial works, especially by otherwise reputable authors or historians. Infamy is Toland’s most controversial book, as it alleges foreknowledge of the Pearl Harbor attack by President Roosevelt and a cabal of senior military officers. It would be possible for a less informed reader to reach the end of this work assuming that this is the historical consensus. In reality, most of Toland’s assertions in the final chapter are completely unsupported and provide nothing in the way of definitive evidence for his conclusion that FDR “knew” when and where the attack would land or that George Marshall had “sacrificed his honor” to achieve Roosevelt’s policy of uniting the country by allowing Japan to strike first.

Toland treats the episode of the Japanese Winds Code as authoritative evidence that intelligence officials (who suspected war with Japan was looming and were monitoring for any signals suggesting war) should have provided adequate warning. But the winds code was a warning to Japanese legations that if it was sent at all, was sent “in the clear” ie not as a secret encryption code, confusing readers who are receiving this information from the point of view of Navy cryptanalysts. The code if sent was a potential signal for war, but not at all the “smoking gun” Toland suggests, and it did not mention an attack or a specific target.

In general when a controversial book is made available to the public, some disclaimer or additional information should be made available to readers indicating that the book is disputed or that it contains a certain perspective. Readers should be cautioned to take Toland’s conclusions with a grain of salt. Where his earlier work is illuminating of the Japanese perspective, this book goes entirely beyond the evidence by insinuating an illogical, unsupported, and unlikely conspiracy theory.

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  • John
  • 10-04-21

It Is Human to Try to Cover Up Mistakes

Until now, I never bought the idea that FDR “let Pearl Harbor happen”, knowingly sacrificing so many men and ships. And as John Toland makes clear, he didn’t—at least not knowingly. Given what was believed at the time—the strength of Oahu’s defenses, the low efficiency of Japanese aviators, the impossibility of aerial torpedoes working in shallow Pearl Harbor—the risk seemed acceptable. For minimal loss, a divided nation would be galvanized for war.

Of course, all leaders make horrible blunders. The issue here is that men with the grit to win a world war lacked the integrity to own up to their errors—or their connivance in the errors of their Commander in Chief. Ably assisted by Democrat politicians and press, that connivance survived a series of ten official investigations that make up the heart of this book, proving, as one key actor in this story, Captain Laurance Safford, testified, “It is human to try to cover up mistakes”. But the harm done to brother officers’ lives and careers is indeed infamous.

In the 40 years since this book first appeared, no doubt new evidence and interpretations have emerged. Unfamiliar with any more recent scholarship, all I can say is that I found Toland’s work illuminating. Granted, it’s a tough book to do as audio; the cast abounds with politicians, army and navy officers, and lawyers who enter, exit and re-enter the story through a perpetual revolving door. But stick with it; if you miss the finer shades, the overall story is still well worth the ride. Traber Burns hands in yet another fine performance, especially when delivering the cut-and-thrust of committee room hearings.

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  • Jason Rager
  • 29-01-21

Definitely Biased

Conclusions are wrong. "War with Japan was a needless war". Peace with Japanese Empire was possible??

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  • Anonymous User
  • 03-02-21

History an argument on ended

What I find remarkable about this story (which came out when I was in college and I didn't have time to read ) is that so much was occurring in the background in prelude to war. Obviously the need to protect the Purple decrypt took precedence and yet most people you would today still believe the attack came as a complete surprise and that's 40 years after this book was published. I also want to complement the reader here for expressing the emotion in the review hearings bye Navy and Army boards for Kimmel and Short and the post-war Congressional hearing.

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  • Chris
  • 08-01-22

A Worthy Read, But Fails to Convince This Reader


I think it’s best to start by saying what this book is not: John Toland’s “Infamy” is not a blow-by-blow telling of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, nor is it an appropriate introduction to Pearl Harbor. (1) On the contrary, the reader will get the most out of this book if he is familiar with the battle, people, and events surrounding it – the more familiar the better (more on that later). So, with that in mind, let’s get on with the review.

Toland drops a literary bomb on the accepted Pearl Harbor narrative. He posits that Washington, specifically the President of the United States, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and other high-ranking officers withheld information that the Japanese were going to strike Pearl Harbor on December 7th from the Commander of the U.S. Army’s Hawaiian Department, Lieutenant General Walter C. Short and Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, Commander-In-Chief Pacific. That they did this deliberately to hasten the United States’ entry into World War II and to stifle the significant percentage of the country who supported the antiwar movement. These are bold accusations, but John Toland was a big boy when he wrote Infamy, he had already won a Pulitzer Prize in 1971 for The Rising Sun, and his Adolf Hitler biography also received widespread acclaim. So, he knew a controversial and divisive book such as this would draw microscopic scrutiny – the result of which could tarnish if not destroy his reputation.

A nano-second after most Americans learned of the disaster that unfolded at Pearl Harbor, they wanted blood from Japan and the heads of those responsible. According to award-winning military historian and the National World War II Museum Senior Researcher (2) Robert Citino, “no less than nine investigations took place between 1941 and 1946, alone…” (3) Soon after Japan’s surrender, Congress formed the Joint Congressional Committee on the Investigation into the Pearl Harbor Attack to uncover the events and circumstances surrounding the Japanese attack – THESE INVESTIGATIONS ARE WHAT JOHN TOLAND’S “INFAMY” IS CENTERED AROUND – i.e. what was the status of the diplomatic talks between Japan and Washington in 1941? Were Adm. Kimmel and Lieut. Gen. Short privy to the status of that diplomacy? What was the intelligence and counterintelligence apparatus in place before Pearl Harbor? What information was collected? Where was it collected? How? By whom? And when? What was done with the information? By whom? What information was given to Adm. Kimmel and Lieut. Gen. Short? How was information sent from Hawaii to Washington and vice versa? Was all known intelligence passed to Hawaii? And ultimately, did anybody in Washington deliberately withhold information? Also, and just as important, based on their orders and the information available to them, did Adm. Kimmel and/or Lieut. Gen. Short properly prepare their forces for the threat? Many, many admirals and generals testified, many, if not most had served longer than three or four decades and were friends with Kimmel or Short. At the conclusion of the investigation, the committee generated a rather hefty report comprising some 39 volumes, each 500 – 2000 +/- pages in length. (4)

After all that, one would think the case would be closed. But it’s not. Every so often, usually at the behest of the Short or Kimmel families, Washington or the Pentagon is petitioned to reinvestigate Pearl Harbor. More recently, in 1995 Strom Thurmond, the Democrat turned Republican Sen. of South Carolina and Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee was petitioned by the public relations firm representing the family of Adm. Kimmel to re-examine Pearl Harbor. Sen. Thurmond acquiesced and tapped the DoD to open “yet another” (5) investigation into the culpability of Adm. Kimmel and Lieut. Gen Short. A quick five weeks later – presto, investigation finished – no changes! Further inquiries into the matter were denied by the HW Bush, Clinton, and the George W. Bush administrations. (6)


BIDEN ADMIN. MIGHT BE SHORT, KIMMEL’S LAST CHANCE

A 2016 article entitled “Let Obama-Biden set the record right for scapegoated Pearl Harbor officers” by Sam Waltz, appearing in the Delaware Business Times makes a “last chance” appeal to then VP Joe Biden to nudge Pres. Obama to reinstate Rear Admiral Kimmel and Brig. Gen. Short to their highest wartime ranks of four and three stars, respectively. Obviously, that never happened prior to Pres. Obama leaving office, but with Joe Biden now in the White House, it looks like the now long deceased officers’ chance to restore their reputation just got a new lease on life – till at least 2024. (7)


E-BOOK OR AUDIOBOOK?

Like most of my reviews, I look at both the e-book and the audiobook. In this case, I read the 12 hr 50 min audiobook first. I enjoyed listening to narrator Traber Burns, whose voice matches the topic perfectly. However, even though I am very familiar with the battle itself, I sometimes found myself a bit behind just trying to keep everybody straight. This is one reason why I recommend no less than general familiarity with the battle and the players involved – specifically FDR, Gen. Marshall, Henry L Stinson, Cordell Hull, Adm. King, Lieut. Gen. Short, Rear Adm. Kimmel, Adm. Stark, Frank Knox, Adm. Spruance, and Adm. Forestall. Becoming familiar with the battle and the men listed above will allow the reader to focus on the dialogue instead of stopping to remember who’s who in the zoo.

This is why I recommend actually reading (vice listening to) Infamy. Because, while the plot is straightforward enough, quickly linking a particular person with his job/title and his opinions, stance, or actions can be difficult if you are not familiar with them – meanwhile the narrator just keeps on going.

When writing his Pulitzer Prize-winning book The Rising Sun, Toland moved to Japan for six years so he could interview everyone “from high-ranking military officers, low ranking enlisted men, government officials, diplomats yet and housewives.” With that in mind, I was interested to look at his sources. (8)


SOURCES

When an author charges the President of the United States and several military officers of standing by and allowing thousands of Americans to die just to get into a war, he had better have his ship together!

Toland’s sources consist of several “Interviews and Correspondence,” some of which he conducted in person, via correspondence (letters, assumedly) or telephone. But with all the principal participants deceased – Pres. Roosevelt died in office, Lieut. Gen. Short down died in 1949, (9) Secretary of War Stimson in 1950, (10) and Adm. Kimmel died in 1968 (11) – Toland was forced to utilize what he refers to as, “tape” (which I take to mean “taped interviews”), which account for a full 50% of his interviews and correspondence. He also turned to university and presidential library archives for “personal and professional papers,” which mainly consisted of letters, “Documents, Diaries, Records and Reports,” including “Congressional Records” and formerly” Classified Files.” (12)

I also wanted to know how much material Toland consulted. Not knowing what constituted “a lot” of sources, I decided to compare Infamy with the last book I finished, Richard Frank’s Tower of Skulls. Toland devoted 7%, 7 pages of notes and bibliography to 93 pages of Infamy. (13) In Contrast, Frank, devoted a whopping 27%! (14)


THE VERDICT

Here is my verdict on the two most compelling questions:

1. Are Adm. Kimmel and Lieut. Gen. Short responsible for the destruction at Pearl Harbor? As much as it pains me to say it, yes they are.

This is to take nothing away from the nearly 4 decades of faithful service each man gave to the United States. But when you are in command, you are responsible for everything that happens or fails to happen to your unit. Every officer has had that pounded into their head from day one. Gen. Short and Adm. Kimmel, being the senior Army and Navy commanding officers in Hawaii, tasked with protecting Hawaii and the fleet, are responsible. But not just because they were in command, that would be merely a rubberstamp.

As conditions of the Japanese and American diplomatic talks reached an all-time low, Secretary of State Cordell Hull messaged Tokyo stating that their “conditions were unacceptable” to the United States. The very next day, the Secretary of War and the Chief of Naval Operations sent a message to Adm. Kimmel and Lieut. Gen. Short stating that the talks with Tokyo “had ceased” – the very first sentence in that dispatch was “THIS DISPATCH IS TO BE CONSIDERED A WAR WARNING” (15)

Nor was the bombing of Pearl Harbor a novel idea. Author Craig Nelson reminds us, “In 1925, London Daily Telegraph naval correspondent Hector C. Bywater published The Great Pacific War, reviewed by the New York Times Book Review on its front page with the headline ‘If War Comes in the Pacific.’ Bywater’s novel described a Japanese surprise attack on the American fleet in Pearl Harbor, with simultaneous assaults on Guam, and on the Philippines at Lingayen Gulf and Lamon Bay.” (16)

It’s mind-boggling that a mere 10 days after Adm. Kimmel received his war warning, it seems no one at Pearl Harbor was remotely on the lookout for nefarious activity. It’s hard to fathom that the officers and men aboard the fleet in Pearl Harbor be so completely unprepared, even given liberty the night before. Even after the destroyer USS Ward attacked and sank a submarine operating in a restricted area outside Pearl Harbor – Adm. Kimmel did not bring the fleet to general quarters. Had he done so, the sailors at Pearl Harbor would have had 20 minutes to prepare for battle!

The same holds true for Lieut. Gen. Short. I just don’t see the logic in having your aircraft parked close to each other for any reason, especially if you are concerned with sabotage. Tactics never support bunching up in combat – be it men or airplanes. Just like a grenade or mortar landing amongst bunched-up men, what could a single satchel charge do to a group of airplanes? Spread everything out, it does not take a lot of men to guard airplanes.

One of the things that turned me off the most was: as Adm. Kimmel stood there watching Japanese pilots pommel Battleship Row, he coolly disappeared into an interior room and, when he emerged, he was wearing Rear Admiral shoulder boards. Apparently, amidst the destruction of America’s Pacific Fleet, as sailors were drowning and burning alive, all he thought about was himself, his career, and the fact that he would surely be relieved of command and revert to a two-star Admiral. (17)

2. Was intelligence deliberately withheld from Adm. Kimmel or Lieut. Gen. Short by Washington? No.

True, Kimmel and Short were not privy to all information – they were not aware of Purple and Magic, the Japanese codes and their decipherment. But rarely does a commander have all the information before they must make a decision. Purple and Magic were so secret that, besides the intelligence community, the number of people who were aware of their existence was probably in the single digits. Case in point: Harry Truman was unaware of the Manhattan project until he was sworn in as president.

But for me, it’s just too much of a stretch to believe that the President of the United States or the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff would deliberately allow the United States to purposefully fall into war.


THE FINAL ANALYSIS

Most people have heard that Roosevelt knew the Japanese were going to strike Pearl Harbor so, I’m glad John Toland wrote this book – INFAMY IS A WORTHY READ – and must be the most comprehensive pro-conspiracy theory book out there. So, if you read this and you are still not convinced that Washington was involved in Pearl Harbor, then it’s pretty safe to say you will never be convinced. If you’re on the fence, Toland provides plenty of notes and a good bibliography to help you with further research. In the final Analysis, John Toland is an excellent and convincing writer and he makes a good case. Infamy is an engrossing and informative book worthy of reading if for no other reason than to be aware of the details surrounding this conspiracy theory behind the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

NOTES

1. For a superb introduction to Pearl Harbor, one need not look further than Craig Nelson, Pearl Harbor: From Infamy to Greatness (New York: Scribner, 2017).
2. “Meet the Team,” The National WWII Museum | New Orleans, accessed April 16, 2021, https://www.nationalww2museum.org/war....
3. Robert Citino, “WWII Book Review: Kimmel, Short, and Pearl Harbor,” HistoryNet, September 9, 2019, https://www.historynet.com/wwii-book-....
4. United States., Pearl Harbor Attack. Hearings before the Joint Committee on the Investigation of the Pearl Harbor Attack, Congress of the United States, Seventy-Ninth Congress, First Session, Pursuant to S. Con. Res. 27, 79th Congress, a Concurrent Resolution Authorizing an Investigation of the Attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and Events and Circumstances Relating Thereto ... (Washington: U.S. Govt. print. off., 1946), https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record....
5. Citino, “WWII Book Review.”
6. History com Editors, “Former U.S. Senator Strom Thurmond Dies,” HISTORY, accessed April 10, 2021, https://www.history.com/this-day-in-h....
7. “Let Biden-Obama Set the Record Right for Scapegoated Pearl Harbor Officers,” Delaware Business Times (blog), December 5, 2016, https://delawarebusinesstimes.com/new....
8. “Historian John Toland Dies,” Washington Post, January 6, 2004, https://www.washingtonpost.com/archiv....
9. “Lieutenant-General Walter C. Short and Pearl Harbor – Pearl Harbor Reservations,” accessed April 23, 2021, https://pearlharbor.org/lieutenant-ge....
10. “Henry L. Stimson Dies at 83 In His Home on Long Island,” accessed April 23, 2021, https://archive.nytimes.com/www.nytim....
11. Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan, “The Admiral Who Took the Fall for Pearl Harbor,” Wall Street Journal, December 2, 2016, sec. Life, https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-admi....
12. John Toland, Infamy: Pearl Harbor and Its Aftermath (New York: Anchor Books, 2014), 215 – 237, http://search.ebscohost.com/login.asp....
13. Toland, 215 – 238.
14. Richard B. Frank, Tower of Skulls: A History of the Asia-Pacific War, First edition (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2020), 358 – 527.
15. Toland, Infamy, 17.
16. Nelson, Pearl Harbor, page 25.
17. Toland, Infamy, 19

2 people found this helpful

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  • KnightT
  • 15-11-20

The Truth About the Advance Warnings of the Pearl Harbor Attack

Mr. Toland’s book is an outstanding work that revealed that President FD Roosevelt had advance knowledge of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and had the Army and Navy commanding officers there sacrificed as scapegoats. The details of the extensive investigations and hearings should have been shortened in this book as it slowed down the story. Sadly there were lots of things that should have been done by the leaders in Washington that were not done. The cover up and the ruining of many military careers followed. Sadly this was another case of “the end justifies the means” that leaders often choose.

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  • Karen Dalley
  • 30-06-22

Not about Pearl Harbor at all

Goes into great detail about the time spent trying to figure out who to blame for the attack on Pearl Harbor, the legal hearings, etc. Very boring, unless you really want to learn that. I got halfway through and had to quit.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Stephen R Pendry
  • 14-03-22

A Sobering Analysis of the Pearl Harbor Disaster

Toland’s presentation of the events before and after the attack provides an abundance of evidence that much was known and withheld from the commanders on Oahu prior to December 7. It would have been more effective to tell the story chronologically, but it is an outstanding contribution to the history of our nation and its military services. Well done.

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  • Ted
  • 05-03-22

Don’t mistake this for an account of Pearl Harbor

This is a perfectly valuable book, and the narration is superb. But the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor comes at the very beginning, and the actual focus — the “Aftermath” of the subtitle -- is on Admiral Husband Kimmel’s lengthy and complicated legal attempt, years afterward, seeking exoneration for the blame he faced as the U.S. fleet’s commander. Those who, on this page, have described the book as “dry" and even rather boring are, I’m sorry to say, correct. Listening to it is like listening to a crisp, precise, detailed account of a court martial, with lots of quoted material. The author sides with Kimmel and is sympathetic to his sincere grievance that the brass back in Washington had kept him in the dark as to Japanese plans… but for me, anyway, whether the admiral got his reputation back is not terribly interesting, compared to the enormity of the Pearl Harbor disaster and the war itself.

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  • Pat Newell
  • 07-12-21

Overwhelmed by detail

I had to skip at least 2/3rd's of book and just listen to end. I am a prolific reader/listener, and am used to keeping up with lots of characters. But this was ridicules. New people constantly in and out. Mayb the author just didn't make it as interesting as I had hoped, but Iwas very disappointed.