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Myths Of Pearl Harbor Exploded

Discussion in 'Pearl Harbor' started by Cate Blanchett, Feb 23, 2008.

  1. Cate Blanchett

    Cate Blanchett recruit

    Nov 29, 2009
    Likes Received:
    Myths Of The Pearl Harbor Attack Exploded

    Good evening, Fellow Site Dwellers!!!........

    Tonight, I present for your enjoyment, information and discussion, an article that was published first some years ago in "The Valley Forge Journal". The author's sources are first rate and personal, and the article itself caused a veritable STORM of responces from the mainly American audience it was written for....
    Some of his conclusions make for astounding and very 'matter of fact' reading, with one or two 'expansions' from me inserted as we go, indicated by asterisks***.....so, sit back with a coffee, as you join me,........................... in the coconut palms of BLUE HAWAII......and on with the 'shew'!

    MYTHS OF THE PEARL HARBOR ATTACK:..........by David W. Richman......with expansions (denoted ***) by B5N2 Kate

    The surprise attack by Japan on Pearl Harbor has resulted in a whole shelf off books about it, giving reasons why it happened and assessing blame. The books are still coming and there will probably be more still. While some have added to our understanding of what happened, most of the authors have had an axe to grind- they set out to defend one or more of those involved, or they set out to fix the blame on some person, usually President Roosevelt.
    Because of the shock of the surprise attack, many people jumped to conclusions as to why we were caught by surprise, and who was to blame.
    Some of the conclusions were MYTHS, and a lot of what has been written about the attack has helped to strengthen and perpetuate those myths.
    I want to highlight and hopefully dispose of several of them..................

    First let me remind you of the principle actors, the Dramatis Personae!........

    President Roosevelt had Colonel Stimson as his Secretary of War and Colonel Knox as his Secretary of the Navy. Cordell Hull was Secretary of State. General Marshall was Chief of Staff of the Army; Admiral Stark was Chief of Naval Operations. These people were all in Washington.
    Major General Short commanded the Hawaii Department of the Army; Admiral Kimmel commanded the Pacific Fleet, based at Pearl Harbor, Admiral Hart commanded the Asiatic Fleet, based at Manila.

    A word as to my (the author's) involvement.................

    In early 1942, Admiral Stark became Commander, United States Naval Forces in Europe, stationed in London; he was succeeded as CNO by Admiral King. During 1942 and 1943, the political pressure built up for an investigation of the Pearl Harbor attack which would fix the blame for the surprise. In response to this pressure, in July 1944, the Navy convened a Court of Enquiry. This is like a grand jury in civilian procedure. It was about this time the Navy's responsibilities in the Normandy invasion were winding down, and Admiral Stark was called to Washington to testify before the Court of Enquiry.............
    I was on his staff in London....when it was suggested that he have someone with a little legal background, I got the nod. When he got to Washington, he made Admiral Hart his counsel;

    I was Admiral Hart's assistant.........

    Admiral Hart did not enjoy cross-examination, so he allowed me to do most of that. You might wonder just how effective a young Lieutenent could be in cross-examining Admirals and Generals..... I wondered about it too!
    Admiral Hart reminded me that he had "4 stars" and that I was asking questions on his behalf. We proceeded on that basis and had no trouble.
    The Court of Inquiry was a 'closed-door' proceeding with elaborate provision for security. The Army had a similar investigation. Reports were issued by the Army Board and the Navy Court when their proceedings were ended. These reports didn't satisfy the public and in September 1945, Congress convened it's own investigation. By this time, Admiral Stark had retired, but I continued as his naval counsel during the Congressional investigation.

    So much for the background.............now to some of the myths that still exist after all these years........

    Even historians help make myths and keep them alive.
    Samuel Eliot Morrison was an eminent Harvard historian. Roosevelt brought him into the Navy and gave him a staff so that a contemporaneous history of naval actions during World War II could be recorded. They produced some 20 volumes of history. In his work on the Pearl Harbor attack, Morrison says:
    "Thus, in half an hour the Japanese bombers accomplished their most important objective, wrecking the battle force of the Pacific Fleet beyond the possibility of offensive action within a year."

    This is not only a myth, but a BIG myth. Certainly one that a naval historian shouldn't have fostered.
    True, the attack sank or put out of commission 8 of the 9 battleships in the Pacific Fleet. But it damaged none of the aircraft carriers, none of the 12 heavy cruisers, 3 of 10 light cruisers, and only 3 of 54 destroyers.
    The war plans called for attacks by the United States Navy on the Marshall Islands within 60 days after the beginning of the war with Japan. The Marshalls were attacked by carrier task forces operating from Pearl Harbor on February 1st, 1942. Thus, the Navy was right on schedule. When Roosevelt decided that an air raid on Tokyo would be a great psychological 'lift' for the American people in April 1942, Colonel Dolittle's planes were put in position by Admiral Halsey's task force, operating from Pearl Harbor.
    The Japanese were understandably delighted that they so completely surprised our forces and that the battleships in the harbor offered such beautiful targets! The young pilots went for the battleships. That was probably a strategic mistake.
    In order for Pearl Harbor to support the fleet, it had to have enormous fuel supplies. The navy had only 2 ocean going tankers, which had been busy since mid-1940 bringing fuel from the West Coast to fill storage facilities at Pearl. There were also drydocks, heavy cranes and other equipment essential to making Pearl Harbor an efficient operating base.
    The Japanese didn't hit fuel storage, nor the drydocks, they didn't hit the cranes or other heavy equipment. Had they done that, they would have forced the fleet to withdraw to San Diego. THAT would have been a setback! Instead, as soon as the damage was cleared away, Pearl was ready again to service the combat elements of the fleet.

    So much for the myth that the attack destroyed the ability of the Pacific Fleet to take offensive action......

    There are those who believe that Admiral Kimmel lined all his battleships in a row in Pearl Harbor to encourage the Japanese to attack and thus draw the U.S. into the war. They believe that Kimmel was directed to do this on instructions from Washington, or perhaps did it on his own initiative. Otherwise, they say, why would all the battleships be so conveniently arranged for damage?
    This is a myth which can't withstand the facts.........
    The battleships were all old and badly in need of modernization. The newest, WEST VIRGINIA, was 18 years old. While they could exercise wth other forces in Hawaiian waters, they were not fast enough to be part of carrier task forces engaged in operations.
    Admiral Kimmel had two aircraft carriers at Pearl Harbor- LEXINGTON and ENTERPRISE. On the morning of December 7, Lexington, with accompanying task force , was en-route to Midway to reinforce the defence of the island with additional Marine Corps aircraft. Enterprise, with task force, was returning from Wake Island, having carried out a similar mission. The battleships were in Pearl because they didn't have enough speed to be part of these fast carrier task forces.

    It was as simple as that. That disposes of another myth...........

    There are those who say that damage would not have been as great had the crews of the ships not been sleeping off the results of 'leave' ashore that Saturday night. Regardless of hangovers, within 5 to 7 minutes after the first Japanese bomb fell, practically all the anti-aircraft fire from batteries on battleships were in action. It was the barrage of AAA fire from the ships that minimized the effect of the second Japanese wave. The Japanese lost 28 aircraft to Navy AAA fire. The Navy's response to the attack was prompt and as effective as could be expected in view of the complete surprise.

    And a surprise it was.
    The IJN's plan and it's execution of the attack was one of the best kept secrets in military history (***....Aye!! But theres the RUB!...We already know that British Intelligence were reading the principle IJN code, JN-25! MAGIC and PURPLE were all diplomatic!...only those that could read JN-25 had the complete picture........
    (***.......and British intelligence at Cheltenham and Bletchley Park had, in fact broken it, and a full six months BEFORE Pearl Harbor!!!! ... ***)

    The Navy, and the Army, took a beating from the attack, but it wasn't because the Navy was drunk or asleep.
    So much for that myth...........

    Everyone recalls the pictures of the damaged ships at Pearl, engulfed with great clouds of smoke. Damage to Army installations was less spectacular. As a result, many people consider the attack a great naval disaster. They then jump to the conclusion that the Navy was to blame.
    Obviously, there is plenty of blame to go around, but the ARMY got off too easily
    The U.S. Navy was not responsible for defending Pearl Harbor. For the fleet to have freedom of action, good doctrine dictates that someone else has to defend it's base.
    The ONLY mission of the Army's Hawaiian Department was the defence of the base!
    The Army had 32 anti-aircraft units, but only three fired on the enemy, and one of these was confined to small arms fire! In fairness to General Short, I must add that one reason for this was that the Dole people would not let him put his units in the fields because it interfered with the pineapple harvest!
    The Army also had six mobile radar units available. Only one was in operation on the morning of the attack, and it had recieved permission to shut down at 7 am. Two operators continued to practice after the plotters left at 7am. They spotted the attacking wave at 7:02, at a distance of 132 miles from the base.
    One of the operators called his information center at 7:20 to report what he had seen. The duty officer at the center, who was there that morning for training and observation, in effect said to "forget it". He assumed that the radar operators had picked up a flight of B-17s which were due to arrive at Hickham Field that morning from the mainland. So, no report of the sighting was made to the Army's interceptor command.
    When you consider that the Army's sole mission was the defence of the base, it can hardly be said that the Navy bears the blame for the surprise and damage!

    So we dispose of another myth........

    There are a number of writers on the subject of Pearl Harbor who suggest and urge the view that President Roosevelt knew of Japanese plans and deliberately kept this information from the commanders at Pearl in order to 'draw' the U.S. into war.
    I think there is little doubt that Roosevelt wanted the United States in the war to support Britain and it's allies against the Germans. Admiral Stark said that unless we could support Britain directly, Britain could not succeed ....(***...The U.S. Ambassador to the Government of Great Britain, Joseph Kennedy, came to the same conclusion; in fact his exact word was that Britain was "Finished" ....Spike Milligan joked that if Kennedy meant "after the war" he was "spot on".***).....I think that this view was shared by the White House, the State Department, and the Secretaries of War and Navy.
    But that does not support the myth that Roosevelt conspired with General Marshall and Admiral Stark to encourage Japan to attack Pearl, and to keep any indications of the attack from commanders in Hawaii.

    The Navy Court of Inquiry and the Army Pearl Harbor Board held their inquiries in mid-1944. This was an election year. The Republicans would have been delighted to pin the responsibility for Pearl Harbor on Roosevelt. So would Kimmel and Short. You can be sure that there were a lot of people doing their best to find evidence to support the conspiracy theory...(***...Mr. Richman did not know, as we do, that the U.S. Navy/ Army intelligence services and the British codebreaking groups had by that time systematically and thouroughly burnt every file....no wonder they many inquiries couldn't find any evidence!....none of them had access to AUSTRALIAN files, mis-filed at the time and sent to Aussie archives, showing clear and full decrypts of Japan's most sensitive Naval codes....The Navy's own archives make the claim that the "Japanese Flag Officers Cipher",( an interim code introduced for a short period prior to the introduction of JN-25 and then discarded)....this "Flag Officers Cipher" is claimed by the US Navy ONI as,
    "...the only Japanese Naval Cryptographic system which the U.S. Navy EVER failed to solve."
    Source: RUSBRIDGER and NAVE, "Betrayal at Pearl Harbor", page 168.***).....
    ....When the Congressional Investigation came along in 1945, Roosevelt was dead, but the Republicans, among others, were still intent on finding him guilty. There were 6 Democrats and 4 Republicans on the Congressional Committee. They held hearings on 70 days, heard 43 witnesses(***....Nave and Rusbridger also state that NO member of British intelligence was ever called before any of the total of 9 hearings that took place, despite warnings that they may be asked to appear and testify, none of them ever were.***...)....took 15,000 pages of testimony, supplemented with 183 exhibits. Senators Brewster and Ferguson were particularly vigorous in the pursuit of any evidence of a conspiracy. But the evidence just won't support the conspiracy theory....(***Not that FDR knew anything about British decrypts of JN-25.....It is suggested that WINSTON CHURCHILL and U.S. Admiral RICHMOND K. TURNER, in full knowledge of their activities, kept this vital secret from Roosevelt in the pre-Pearl Harbor period.***...)

    The facts are these. During 1941, there were numerous messages sent from Washington to Pacific commanders, indicating the continuing deterioration in relations between Japan and the U.S. Washington not only knew this from the conversations and exchanges of diplomatic notes at the State Department, but by this time, Washington was reading intercepted messages between Tokyo and it's Washington Embassy. The Japanese Diplomatic code had been broken and information from these intercepts was available to the White House, and the State , War and Navy departments. The fact that the code HAD been broken was a carefully guarded secret and distribution of the messages was kept to a bare minimum. But, the information was available to advise fleet commanders and the Army commander in Hawaii.
    By mid-November, it appeared that Japan was ready to move. There were indications of a move into South-East Asia but no clear idea of direction of the other possible moves. Certainly there was nothing to indicate that Pearl Harbor was an immediate target.
    On Novenmber 24, Admiral Stark sent a dispatch to Admiral K. Kimmel at Pearl and to Admiral Hart (at Manila). The dispatch read in part,

    "Chances of favorable outcome of negotiations with Japan very doubtful. This situation coupled with statements of the Japanese government and movements of their naval and military forces which indicate, in our opinion, that surprise aggressive movement in any direction including attack on Philippines and Guam is a possibility."

    The movement of naval forces referred to movements south toward the China Sea and the Kra Peninsula. It must be remembered that IJN forces landed on the Kra Peninsula at about the same time Pearl was attacked.
    Then on Novenmber 27th, Admiral Stark sent a second dispatch to Admiral Kimmel and to Admiral Hart which began with these words,

    "This dispatch is to be considered a war warning"
    It went on to say....
    "Negotiations with Japan looking toward stabilization of conditions in the Pacific have ceased and an aggressive move by Japan is expected within the next few days. I execute an appropriate defensive deployment prepatory to carrying out the tasks assigned in War Plan 46."

    A similar message was sent by the Army to General Short.
    On December 3rd, Stark sent a message to Kimmel and Hart and other naval commands stating,

    "Highly reliable information has been recieved that catagoric and urgent instructions were sent yesterday to Japanese diplomatic and consular posts at Hong Kong, Singapore, Tabavia, Manila, Washington and London to destroy most of their codes and ciphers, and to burn all other important confidential and secret documents."

    The November 27 dispatch was the first dispatch in our naval history that had stated "considered a war warning." The burning of codes and secret papers is usually associated with the commencement of hostilities.
    There were three important indications of the knowledge Roosevelt and his senior advisors had, and the deductions drawn from this knowledge. They were all sent to Pacific commanders.
    You will recall that Japan had sent a special envoy, Ambssador Kurusu, to Washington on November 15th to assist Ambassador Nomura in negotiations with the State Department. During the period 17th through 26th of November, the Ambassadors conferred and notes were exchanged.
    The notes indicated that the parties were about as far from an aggreement as they could be.
    Although there was an apparent impasse in negotiations on December 6, the President sent an earnest appeal to the Emperor for the preservation of peace in the Pacific.
    On the morning of December 6th, a message from Tokyo to Kurusu and Nomura was intercepted, telling them that an important memorandum would be sent in 14 parts. It was to be kept secret until a later mesage told them when to deliver it to the State Department. The first 13 parts were recieved and distributed to the President and to military commanders the evening of December 6th.
    The 14th part was recieved and distributed about 8am, December 7th. Nowhere in the memo was there any indication or intimation of an intention to attack the United States, nor that 'formal' diplomatic relations were to be broken. The memo indicated only that Japan considered it impossible to reach an agreement through further negotiations.
    On Sunday morning, the President, the State Department, the Army and the Navy knew that the Japanese Ambassadors had been instructed to deliver the 14-part memorandum to the Secretary of State at 1pm Washington time.
    Much has been made of the fact that the 14 point message was not sent to field commanders. It was not sent because it was considered as adding nothing to the November 27 warning that "negotiations with Japan looking toward stabilization of conditions in the Pacific have ceased and an aggressive move by Japan expected within the next few days"
    The one o'clock message was intriguing. But it is too eay to say that 1pm in Washington is 7:30 am at Hawaii and this should have sounded the alarm. The officer who distributed the message also noted that it is two or three hours before dawn at Khota Bharu in SE Asia. This would be normal time for beginning amphibious operations by the fleet, moving south from Japan. Unfortunately, none of those who saw the message read into it the immediacy of an attack on Pearl Harbor.

    A number of people, including many determined Republicans, spent many hours trying to find support for the theory that Roosevelt knew before December 7th that Japan was about to attack Pearl Harbor.

    The evidence indicates that he was as surprised as anybody else.

    There are many facinating aspects of the Japanese attack to be written about and read about yet.

    But it IS time to put the myths to rest.........

    So ends the article.... hope you enjoyed, and found one or two thought provoking points contained within. If you would like to discuss anything presented here, please fell free to drop in and post a reply...all comments sincerely welcome!

    Meantime, I'm going to relax by the palm trees, and think of the South Seas, ....Thankyou all and Goodnight!
  2. Cate Blanchett

    Cate Blanchett recruit

    Nov 29, 2009
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    The author of this article had credentials that were worth the time invested in reading the article itself.....The idea was to clear away the many misconceptions that had built up with Pearl Harbour over the years....and leave the slate "clean" for researchers to write over again.....This article, when it appeared in the Wargamers magazine, The General, caused a storm of reponces, mostly with people in agreement. All it did was to "set the stage", something that should have been done by the Armed services responsible for the Harbours defences, and the no less than 9 investigations that occurred into Pearl Harbour over the years, of which the original author had been on a legal team for .....so, enjoy this one.....It only sets the record STRAIGHT......

    The rest is up to the historians.............
  3. Hobilar

    Hobilar Senior Member

    Nov 25, 2007
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    The arguments for a surprise attack on the American fleet were strong ones, for basically there was a disparity in numbers of modern battleships between the United States and the Japanese Navies. To Admiral Yamamoto a reduction in American strength was essential to put the two surface fleets on an equal footing. The clinching argument was for the need to keep the war short, thus preventing the United States from mobilizing her industrial might.

    Nor had the successful British attack by torpedo bombers on the Italian fleet in Taranto harbour gone unnoticed to the Japanese planners. In fact it put the finishing touches to the long maturing plans for dealing with the American Pacific Fleet.

    As everyone now knows the attack on the United States Fleet based at Pearl Harbor on the 7th of December 1941 was a devastating success. Ninety Japanese Carrier-Bornne 'Kate' bombers of the first wave caught the Americans completely by surprise, and the US Battleships were rapidly put out of action. The USS Arizona blew up, the Oklahoma capsized, and the California and West Virginia sunk in shallow water. The USS Nevada, Maryland, Tennessee and Pennsylvania were all damaged to a greater or lesser degree.

    A second strike by eighty-one Aichi Dive-bombers fell on the nearby airstrips destroying numerous aircraft on the ground and causing a considerable number of casualties. A third air strike might have inflicted further damage on the ships and instalations but the Japanese commander, Vice Admiral Nagumo, was satisfied with the damage already caused to the American Base and decided to cancel the planned third strike. The Japanese had lost just twenty-nine aircraft.

    Without a Battleship fleet the Americans would, for the time being, be forced to rely on their aircraft carriers for any operations against the Japanese Navy. An arm in which numerically the Japanese held the advantage.

    The idea of utilising the Aircraft Carrier as the basis for offensive action was one that had been considered by the US Navy but had never been implemented as an official doctrine. It is to their credit that, within a few months, the US Navy had learnt the new form of warfare and had suceeded in turning it against their treacherous enemy.

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