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Pearl Harbor, 5 myths and one "What the . . ."

Discussion in 'Pearl Harbor' started by OpanaPointer, Dec 23, 2008.

  1. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    Return to The WWII Primary Source Website
    Visit the Pearl Harbor Attack Hearings Website
    The Myths of Pearl Harbor.


    Few events in the history of the United States have generated as much controversy as the attack on Pearl Harbor.

    Rumors abounded during the war, and the release of the Congressional Investigation Report on July 26, 1946, while containing information that would scotch most of them, did not end the speculations. Part of the problem with the Pearl Harbor Attack Investigation Report (PHA for short) was that it was in 40 parts contained in 23 volumes. Extracting the answers to the bizarre stories that ran rampant was a daunting task for even the most serious researcher.

    Today, however, with the aid of computer searching, we can locate information about events and people that have been buried in stacks and university attics for decades. Of course, no one will be able to convince the die-hard Roosevelt-haters that he didn't arrange, or at least allow, the attack, but for those of us who simply want the answers to questions such as "Why didn't the Opana Point radar-contact report reach Adm. Kimmel?", the testimonies of the people involved will illuminate the situation in a most satifactory manner.

    Each link below will take you to a document which explains why a particular myth is either wholly false or a distortion of the facts. We will be adding more myths as time permits, but do write us with your favorite if you don't see it on the list. We'll check the record and provide what documents are available on that topic in the timeliest manner possible.


    MYTH: The US carriers were hustled out of port just before the attack, to "save" them for a war that FDR already knew would be dominated by the flattop. FACT: The two carriers then operating from Pearl Harbor, Enterprise and Lexington, were on missions to deliver additional fighters to Wake and Midway. See the document. These assignments sent the carriers west, toward Japan and the IJN, widely separated and lightly escorted.
    "OK, but they were still out of port!" Yes, but Enterprise was doing her best to get back into Pearl. Her first ETA was Saturday evening, but a storm delayed her. The next time set was 7 AM, 55 minutes before the attack started, but that proved too optimistic as well. She was, however, close enough to Pearl to send her aircraft ahead to land at Ford Island, and some of them were shot down by "friendly fire." See the document.


    MYTH: Pearl Harbor was not sent an urgent message on the morning of Dec. 7th so as to prevent the fleet from being alerted. Variations include using commercial telegraph instead of military radio to transmit the message so as to delay arrival of the message.

    FACT: Atmospheric conditions prevented radio communications between D.C. and Pearl Harbor. The choice of commercial telegram, while possibly not the best means of communication, was chosen for reasons given to the investigations. See the Congressional evaluation.
    The Army Board was rather more critical of the choices made.

    MYTH: The U.S.N. thought that the harbor at Pearl Harbor was too shallow to allow a torpedo attack.

    FACT: The document shown is a message from the Chief Of Naval Operations which states that no harbor is to be considered safe from torpedo attack. The consideration at Pearl Harbor, however, was that the fleet should be ready to sortie on short notice and removing anti-torpedo netting would slow the units' exit from the harbor. [See the document.]

    MYTH: The "Fourteen-part message", which the Japanese ambassador was supposed to deliver to the U.S. Secretary of State 1/2 hour before the attack on Pearl Harbor began, was a declaration of war, or at least a breaking off of negotiations which would have signaled war.

    FACT: The message is not a declaration of war, and did not even break off negotiations. Beyond a recapitulation of Japanese greivances against the U.S., and the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, there doesn't seem to be any real point to the message at all.[See the document.]

    So when did the Japanese government prepare the declaration of war? Was it just not delivered on time? The record from Japanese sources shows that the meeting called to write it didn't convene until 12:44 pm, Dec. 7th, Pearl Harbor time.[See the document.]

    MYTH: The Captain of USS WARD, on anti-submarine patrol outside the entrance to Pearl Harbor, sent a message that he had sunk a submarine over an hour before the aerial attack began.

    FACT: See the file for WARD's actual report to the ComFOURTEENTH message center. Captain Outerbridge reports attacking a sub, but not sinking it. (As time permits we will follow the message through the system to Adm. Kimmel, who will not be playing golf while this is all going on.) [See the document.]

    Reproduction of the Bishop's Point Radio Log
    which shows WARD's reports to Com 14th. The other signifcant message is at 1810Z, when a coded request for confirmation came to WARD. Decoding the message and encoding a reply took time and by the time it was ready, bombs were already falling.

    MYTH: The Opana Point Radar reported the Japanese attack 1 hour before the planes arrived over the harbor, but Adm. Kimmel refused to do anything about it.

    FACT: Lt. Kermit Tyler, having ending his first tour of training at the newly established Fighter Information Center, received the report and, thinking it was a flight of B-17s due in from the mainland, told the operators to "forget it." The report went no higher than that. Interestingly enough, the new radars tracked the planes coming and going, but the Army did not tell the Navy about this pointer to the Japanese carriers until the 8th, a fact which quite possibly saved our carriers. There are only a few people who were actually involved in either the sighting or the establishment of the Figher Information Center. Privated Lockard and Elliot were at Opana Point, Lt. Tyler was in the FIC. Other "interested parties" were Col. Bergquist, who with Col. Tindal established the FIC, and Cmdr. Taylor, USN, who was in Hawaii to teach the Navy how to use radar (and was on "loan" to the Army for the same purpose on Dec. 7th.) All of their testimonies are now available.[See the documents.]

    This one isn't a myth, just one of the more bizarre things to be found in the PHA.
     
    Lippert and bf109 emil like this.
  2. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    For those of you interested in the Eagle Squadrons, you might follow the links and read Cmdr. Taylor's back story.
     
  3. John Dudek

    John Dudek Member

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    The best way that I've found to utterly dismiss and destroy these conspiracy theories over the years is to take an overall look at the world at war on 7 December, 1941.

    Germany is pounding at the gates of Moscow and appears to be about to knock the Russians completely out of the war. They were odds on favorites to win by most military sources of the day and FDR knew it. A total Russian defeat would immediately free up hundreds of German Infantry and Panzer Divisions to be deployed elsewhere, against the British in the Middle East perhaps?

    A German victory over the USSR would also finally give the fuel starved Germans and Italians all of the Russian POL (petrol, oil, lubricants) that their war machines could ever use, thus putting the Italian Navy completely back into the war with an unrestricted fuel supply and much more able to seek battle with the Royal Navy in the Mediterranean..

    The factories and mines of the eastern USSR would be soon churning out German war materials and raw minerial ores for the German industrial war machine. The "Breadbasket of the USSR", the Ukraine would be able to produce massive amounts of grains and livestock for Germany, thus completely negating the effects of the British Naval blockade on its civilians and overall economy.

    The UK was still being slowly strangled by the U-Boat menace in the Atlantic and was still licking its wounds after having won the Battle of Britain the year before. While not in any danger of immenent invasion by Germany, 1942 could bring about the resumption of Luftwaffe aerial bombardment and another opportunity for a Sealion type invasion being mounted. Germany and its fortunes would clearly be on the ascendancy.

    In the far east, Japan's military was tearing deep into China and was also odd's on favorites of conquering that behemouth of a country as well. The Japanese had also recently overun French Indo China and Thailand and was beginning to cast covetous eyes towards the Dutch East Indies and it's limitless oil supplies. Japan's Navy was also the equal of the US Pacific Fleet.

    FDR saw all of these things for himself and he knew that he needed to buy time to build up America's Military forces to counter any future Axis attacks on US interests. Any sign of American weakness would be viewed by the Axis Powers as an invitation to further depradations. He had absolutely nothing to gain by leaving Pearl Harbor open to a Japanese attack and everything to lose. Had the Japanese chosen to invade Oahu, as their plan originally envisioned, the US would have lost the vast majority of the Pacific Fleet and its only base in the Pacific capable for future operations for years to come.
     
  4. John Dudek

    John Dudek Member

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    The point that I failed to mention in my earlier post was that on 6 December, 1941, FDR could not have known that the AngloAmerican Allies would win through to complete victory in the face of a largely unbroken string of continuing Axis victories and expansions in territory, population, raw materials, foodstuffs and manufacturing capabilities, all of which key to their continued military growth. Sooner or later, Axis industrial war production would rival or surpass that of the Allies, especially in the light of continued aquisitions of territories, population, factories, mines and other raw materials.

    Had Germany knocked the Soviet Union out of the war, the factories, farms and mines in the newly conquered Russian territories would soon be working 24/7 for a new master. Newly released German Divisons flooding into the Middle East through the Caucasses and through Turkey could have made the Mediterranean into a German-Italian lake. Likewise in the Pacific with Japan defeating and occupying China.

    German agent provacateurs were already busy in South America, looking for a way of bringing a number of these nations into the Axis sphere of influence.

    The US has been called the "Arsenal of Democracy", but that power was not in any way infinite. Had Germany won through to complete victory on the European continent and in the Middle East, had Japan done the same in China and throughout Asia, WWII would have lasted far longer than it did and its historical outcome could not be assurred. In short, the Anglo American Allies could easily have lost WWII.

    The "Mother of all Conspiracies" just doesn't stand up to the cold, hard, light of historical facts and strategic imperatives regarding WWII. The reason being, in much simpler terms, "You don't walk into a bar room brawl with your eyes closed and your chin sticking out."
     
  5. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    I have had dealings with the "author" of the Mother of All Conspiracies site. The first time was when he emailed me, asking if I had read SRH-149. When I said "no", he replied that it contained proof that FDR knew about the attack in advance. So, I obtained a copy and put it online. No such proof was forthcoming. He then linked to the file I put online, and urged people to read it so they could see the proof that FDR knew about the attack in advance.

    Amazing. "History by Anecdote."
     
  6. Devilsadvocate

    Devilsadvocate Ace

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    Hey! I resent the remark about "die-hard Roosevelt haters". I pride myself on being a dedicated Roosevelt hater, and I don't believe a single one of the myths you've listed and never have. In order to pull off the "Pearl Harbor" conspiracy attributed to him, Roosevelt would have had to have been extremely intelligent and prescient to an almost super-human degree. I don't believe he was smart enough to do it.

    However, there is an interesting inconsistency that has haunted me for some time and I have never been able to find a reasonable explanation supported by any historical evidence. I refer to the "14 part message" and the later declaration of war in the Emperor's rescript.

    Yamamoto went out of his way, in planning the Pearl Harbor operation, to insist that the 14-part message be delivered just prior to the initiation of the attack.

    Why?

    It wasn't a declaration of war, wasn't even a message breaking off negotiations. In fact, it seems to have had no real purpose. Yet Yamamoto evidently believed it was important to give some notice to the US immediately prior to the attack. The rest of Yamamoto's Pearl Harbor planning seems to have been meticulously detailed, but apparently he wasn't aware of what was being transmitted to Washington on that morning, and wasn't even aware that a declaration of war hadn't even been drafted until after the bombs started falling. I find this a rather strange mistake on his part. I feel certain the answer lies in some bureaucratic miscommunication between the Combined Fleet and the Japanese Foreign Office, but I have never seen a discussion of it, nor even a mention of the issue in any histories of the period.
     
  7. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    Um, no, he didn't. There was no mechanism in place to recall the forces or delay the attack if the message was not delivered on time. The Gaimudaijin had no plans to notify the military about the success or failure of the memorandum.
     
  8. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Good Ol' Boy Staff Member WW2|ORG Editor

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    I'm no fan of Frank Roosevelt, either. His cousin, however...
     
  9. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    Teddy was cool. "The American Lion". :D
     
  10. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    One other myth that needs to be addressed. "I fear we have wakened a sleeping giant and filled him with a terrible resolve." Cool quote. Very, very cool. So cool that nobody writing on the event could fail to include it. HOWEVER, there is no mention of this Yamamoto quote prior to the release of "Tora, Tora, Tora." The producer admits in one documentary that he included the quote to give the ending of the movie a more "up beat" ending and not leave the audience with a total bummer. It's pure Hollywood, and a great example of myth-making.
     
  11. Devilsadvocate

    Devilsadvocate Ace

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    Uhm...yes he did. He made it a point of his operational plan and was reportedly extremely upset when he learned the message had NOT been delivered on time. The timing of the attack and the projected delivery of the note did not allow time to abort the attack if the note wasn't delivered on time, however Yamamoto was very adamant that it had to be delivered prior to the attack, and he assumed the diplomats would act with the same precision that he demanded of his pilots.
     
  12. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    The attack plan is online at the WWII Resources site in my sig. Feel free.
     
  13. Devilsadvocate

    Devilsadvocate Ace

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    I've read it in it's entirety, thank you.
     
  14. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    So then can you point out the part where the attack forces were to be recalled if the 14-part message was not delivered prior to the attack???
     
  15. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    Okay, I had to check my books to confirm something.

    The concept that Yamamoto was upset about the late delivery of the 14-part message originates in "Yamamoto, the Reluctant Admiral." Unfortunately, there is no independent confirmation of this, and the documents don't support it.
     
  16. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    There's also the myth that the "14 part message" was a declaration of war.
     
  17. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    That's the fourth myth on the list in the OP. :D
     
  18. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Sorry read the list several days ago and forgot you mentioned that. It does make all the controversy over when it was delivered of a bit less import and relevance though.
     
  19. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    I like Berquist's testimony that nobody thought anything was going to happen while that message was still in the safe. For some reason they believed the Japanese would actually declare war at the same meeting or shortly there after. :mad:
     
  20. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    Another famous "mystery" of the event surrounding the attack concern Gen. George Catlett Marshall's whereabouts that Sunday morning. It is often reported that "he made himself scarce" so that messages and warnings wouldn't reach him. The myth is based on ONE newspaper report that states he was incommunicado that morning.

    The fact was that Marshall was home that night and the next morning. Why? His wife had just returned from Florida where she was recuperating from a broken hip. Some quality time with the Mrs. The morning of the attack he went out riding, as usual. His aide received "the call" about the attack and advised the White House that he would have the General get back to them. Marshall returned the call within fifteen minutes and was at the White House within the hour.
     

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