In the years leading up to America’s involvement in World War II, President Roosevelt, his cabinet and staff, together with Captain Claire Lee Chennault and representatives of the Chinese Nationalist Government worked secretly on a plan to bomb Japan before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor

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On July 23, 1941, President Roosevelt signed Joint Army/Navy Board 355 (the “Joint Board Plan”) which authorized the bombing of key Japanese industrial centers. The Joint Board Plan has remained an obscure and overlooked chapter in American history. Stone Phillips of ABC News on the 50th anniversary of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1991, did a story on the Joint Board Plan, but confessed that he did not know whether the Japanese knew of the American plan. We know far more today about the Joint Board Plan than Mr. Phillips did in 1991. For example, intercepted Japanese radio communications confirm that as early as May of 1941, even before Roosevelt signed the order, a spy in or near Chiang Kai-shek’s government, identified only as “PA,” disclosed to Japanese agents America’s ambitions to bomb Japan, under the auspices of the newly formed American Volunteer Group which became known as the Flying Tigers.

At the heart of this story of political espionage and intrigue is Claire Chennault, a fighter pilot and instructor in fighter tactics who had been banished from the Army Air Corps because of his heresy in disputing the conventional wisdom of the day that bombers were the supreme weapon in aerial warfare. Forced into early retirement, Chennault found employment as a mercenary flying in air combat for the Chinese Government. It is no small irony that both the Chinese and the American Governments believed that this washed out Air Corps instructor should champion the bombing missions against the Japanese Empire.


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"After some discussion, it was determined that nothing would do the Chinese much good except the big bombers if they were going to go after Japan.."

-Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau, Jr., December 21, 1940


Alan Armstrong

Alan Armstrong, Esq. is a trial lawyer in Atlanta, Georgia, who represents victims and their survivors in relation to personal injuries and wrongful deaths arising out of aviation accidents and other forms of personal injury litigation. Alan represents airmen, aircraft operators and FAA certified repair stations in aviation enforcement proceedings before the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration, and he crafts various aircraft contracts, leases and closing documents for clients in accordance with FAA rules and regulations. He also represents clients when aircraft are damaged or destroyed. Alan provides legal assistance to individuals or entities who wish to lease aircraft and/or operate aircraft under time share or interchange agreements permitted by the Federal Aviation Administration Regulations. He also has experience with proceedings brought under Part 16 of the Federal Aviation Regulations when claims are made that owners or sponsors of airports receiving Federal funds have committed acts of economic discrimination or denied aviation operators fair and reasonable access to airports.

Alan has written over one hundred articles on aviation law, which have been published in professional journals and periodicals. He is presently a contributing editor to the Lawyer-Pilots Bar Association Journal. He has served as editor of the National Transportation Safety Board Bar Association Newsletter and has written articles published in the Journal of Air Law and Commerce, the Transportation Law Journal, Air Law, Aviation Consumer, IFR Magazine, Air Classics, Plane & Pilot, and Southern Aviator.

Mr. Armstrong is among those lawyers listed in the Bar Register of Pre-Eminent Lawyers, which is published by Martindale Hubbell, and he also appears in Who’s Who in American Law (11th Ed.), Outstanding People in the 20th Century, and Strathmore’s Who’s Who.

An avid pilot, Alan owns and pilots a replica Nakajima B5N2 “Kate” bomber in airshows and for film productions. He is a pilot with the Dixie Wing of the Commemorative Air Force.


Around the year 2000, Alan became intrigued with the idea of developing a story concerning the exploits and activities of Claire Chennault and the American Volunteer Group (also known as the Flying Tigers).  Tom Pandolfi, a collector of Flying Tigers materials, provided Alan with a collection of papers found in a desk drawer at the Pensacola Naval Air Station (the “Pensacola Papers”).  As Alan studied the papers, it became clear to him that there was more to the formation of the American Volunteer Group than merely providing fighter planes to China.

His curiosity aroused, Alan began ferreting out information from libraries and institutions throughout the United States dealing with Joint Army/Navy Board 355, Serial 691 (the “Joint Board Plan” or the “Plan”).  The Diary of Henry Morgenthau, Jr., obtained from the Roosevelt Presidential Library, along with the Joint Board Plan, clearly demonstrated that America was formulating a plan to mount preemptive bombing raids on Japan before the attack on Pearl Harbor.  The principal architect of this plan was Captain Claire Lee Chennault.  Chennault had retired from the Army Air Corps in 1937.  Then, Chennault began his exploits as a soldier of fortune in the employ of the Chinese government as China struggled to avoid being crushed by the forces of Japan in the undeclared Second Sino-Japanese War.

After writing several film proposals and screenplay synopses, two of Alan’s friends, Bill Wages and Phil Bellury, suggested that Alan write a book dealing with his findings in terms of the Chinese-American bombing initiative directed toward Japan before the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Beginning in or about the month of January, 2004, Alan devoted as much time as possible to drafting a manuscript that was entitled:  Preemptive Strike – The Secret Plan to Bomb Japan Before the Attack on Pearl Harbor.   The majority of this manuscript was written in approximately nine months.  Eventually, Lyons Press, a division of Globe Pequot Press, agreed to publish Alan’s manuscript.  In time, it was re-titled:  Preemptive Strike – The Secret Plan That Would Have Prevented the Attack on Pearl Harbor.  With the assistance of Holly Rubino at Lyons Press, Richard L. Dunn and Skipper Steeley, Alan’s initial manuscript underwent massive revisions between September of 2005 and March of 2006.  These revisions included not only stylistic and story-flow revisions, but also a considerable amount of data uncovered by Mr. Dunn dealing with the Chinese-American bombing initiative, the extensive construction of bomber bases in China, intelligence reports from the Naval and Air Attachés in China and in Japan, and the buildup of fuel stores in China.  Additionally, Mr. Dunn found the four radio circulars from Tokyo to Japanese Headquarters in Southeast Asia concerning information being leaked to Japan by a spy in or near Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist Government.  Alan also received from Thomas Kimmel (grandson of Admiral Kimmel) Japanese radio messages decoded by American cryptographers before the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Although developed, the Joint Board Plan was not timely executed.  Alan’s work explains the struggles of Chennault, Roosevelt and their confederates as they attempted to deal Japan a preemptive blow before the attack on Pearl Harbor, but failed.

Alan’s research clearly demonstrates that America developed an offensive military initiative in concert with China, Great Britain and the Netherlands East Indies to reduce Japan as a power in Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific before the outbreak of hostilities on December 7, 1941.  This reduction of Japanese influence would be accomplished in two spheres.  First, America imposed a total trade embargo against Japan in late July of 1941.   At or about the same time, specifically on July 23, 1941, President Roosevelt signed the Joint Board Plan.  On the same day the Joint Board Plan was signed by President Roosevelt, his aide, Dr. Lauchlin Currie, cabled the American Embassy in Chungking to deliver a message to Madame Chiang declaring that China would receive sixty-six bombers, with twenty-four bombers to be delivered immediately.

"For that purpose I am most anxious to acquire as many of your latest Flying Fortresses as you can spare, which from our bases could effectively bomb all the vital centers of Japan, and harass their fleet and transports."

– Telegram from Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek to Sec. of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau, Jr., December 16, 1940