December 7, 1941 - as bombs fell on American battleships at
Pearl Harbor - Robert L. Shivers, Special Agent in Charge
of the FBI's Honolulu Office, was on the phone. Headquarters
relayed his anxious call to New York. New York forwarded it
to Griffith Stadium where Director Hoover was watching the
Redskins play the Eagles.
Japanese are bombing Pearl Harbor. It's war," Shivers said.
"You may be able to hear it yourself. Listen!"
Hoover immediately flew back to Washington, mindful of the
plans that his agency had made for this eventuality. Some
2,400 brave U.S. sailors had already died in the early hours
of that fateful Sunday.
was a surprise; that Japan was readying war against America
was not. Contingency plans had been made throughout the U.S.
government, and they were immediately implemented to ensure
American security in the weeks, months, and years after the
what about FBI plans? What had the Bureau set in place in
the event of war?
had made the investigation of sabotage, espionage, and subversion
a top priority - and Agents made surveys of industrial plants
that were vital to American security in order to prevent
sabotage and espionage.
had expanded its intelligence programs, including undercover
work in South and Central America to identify Nazi spies.
had performed - and continued to perform -- exhaustive background
checks on federal workers, to keep enemy agents from infiltrating
had been directed to draw up plans for a voluntary board,
turned over to and headed by a newspaperman, to review media
stories in order to prevent information from being released
that might harm American troops. Mindful of free speech
protections, this independent board operated with the voluntary
cooperation of the media.
had expanded the number of professionally trained police
through its National Academy program to aid the Bureau in
times of crisis. This cadre of professionals effectively
forestalled well-meaning but overzealous civilian plans
to "help" law enforcement with vigilantism. The FBI had
learned a lesson from World War I when groups like the American
Protective League abused the civil rights of Americans in
its efforts to identify German spies, draft resisters, and
it had identified German, Italian, and Japanese aliens who
posed a clear threat to the United States in the event of
war so that when President Roosevelt ordered it - and he
did, on the evening of December 7 -- the Bureau could immediately
arrest these enemies and present them to immigration for
hearings (represented by counsel) and possible deportation.
A few--like Bernard Julius Otto Kuehn, the German national
involved in signaling the Japanese invasion fleet headed
for Pearl Harbor -- were arrested and prosecuted for espionage
and other crimes against the U.S.
on December 7, it immediately implemented a 24/7 schedule
at Headquarters and in its field operations.
was the upshot? By war's end the FBI had captured hundreds
of Axis Agents, investigated more than 16,000 sabotage cases,
and handled all of its other criminal responsibilities besides.
It had played a significant role in keeping Americans safe