A DAY THAT SHALL LIVE IN INFAMY
The Not So Sneak Attack
In December, 1941 America had bases in Hawaii. They were Pearl Harbor, commanded by Admiral Husband E. Kimmel and Hickam Field, under the command of Major General Walter C. Short.
On the 7th day of that month, the Japanese conducted a surprise attack on naval and army facilities located at and near Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. At least that was what we learned in history class. The attack was real. The surprise part, not so much.
The BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) produced a documentary about the attack on Pearl Harbor. Living up to such a program’s purpose, they documented what really happened leading to that moment in history.
The documentary provided information indicating Admiral Kimmel and, therefore, General Short were purposefully excluded from receiving critical information that could possibly have prevented or, at least, reduced American loses.
Their information was corroborated by Rear Admiral Edwin T. Layton, who knew Kimmel best. Layton stated that, “Kimmel had not been provided with complete information and that he deployed the few reconnaissance resources at his disposal in the most logical way, given the available information.”
On February 18, 1941, Kimmel wrote to the Chief of Naval Operations: “I feel that a surprise attack (submarine, air or combined) on Pearl Harbor is a possibility and we are taking immediate practical steps to minimize the damage inflicted and to ensure that the attacking force will pay.”
Ten days after the Pearl Harbor attack, Kimmel was relieved of his command. The Roberts Commission, appointed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to investigate the attack, determined that Kimmel and his counterpart Army General Walter Short were guilty of errors of judgement and dereliction of duty in the events leading up to the attack. Kimmel defended his decisions at several hearings, testifying that important information had not been made available to him.
That commission was designed for fact-finding. There is generally no right to “due process,” right to counsel and cross examination of witnesses. Requests were made for court martial proceedings. They were denied.
Admiral William Harrison Standley, who served as a member of the Roberts Commission, maintained that “those two officers were martyred” and “if they had been brought to trial (court martial) both would have been cleared of the charge.”
The BBC documentary detailed events leading to that attack. The United States, 23 years after the end of World War One, was not interested in becoming involved in another war. In fact, Hitler received support from American businesses including trucks and parts from Henry Ford, Sr. This activity continued until the actual declaration of war.
Winston Churchill was literally pleading with President Roosevelt to help with the war in Europe, especially what he believed to be the impending attack on England. Public pressure was very strong to not get involved. Politically, Roosevelt’s hands were tied.
Several days before the attack on Pearl Harbor, a pilot from an American Aircraft Carrier reported seeing the Japanese armada moving in the direction of Pearl Harbor. That report was ignored by most of Washington and withheld from Admiral Kimmel.
President Roosevelt requested that reports of the Japanese fleet movement come to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and to him. They were aware of what was going on. That was not the case with Admiral Kimmel or General Short.
As a result of Roberts Commission report and congressional hearings, four star Admiral Kimmel was reduced to two star Rear Admiral. He retired early in 1942 and died on May 24, 1968 at Groton, Connecticut. General Short was reduced in rank form Lieutenant General to Major General. He retired from active duty on February 28, 1942 and died in Dallas, Texas in 1949.
A 1995 Pentagon study concluded other high-ranking officers were also responsible for the failure at Pearl Harbor. On May 25, 1999, the United States Senate, by a vote of 52-47, passed a non-binding resolution to exonerate Kimmel and Short and requested the President of the United States posthumously restore both men to full rank.
“They were denied vital intelligence that was available in Washington,” according to Senator William V. Roth (R-DE), noting they had been made scapegoats by the Pentagon. Senator Strom Thrumond (R-SC), one of the sponsors of the resolution, called Kimmel and Short “the two final victims of Pearl Harbor.”
Robert Stinnett, in his 1999 book, “Day of Deceit” and a World War Two U.S. Navy veteran, also confirms the findings of that BBC documentary. He makes the case that President Roosevelt wanted the Pearl Harbor attack to happen so public opinion would be aroused to support America’s entry into the war and that Kimmel and Short were deliberately kept uninformed or not informed in a timely manner. Stinnett claimed to have information showing that the attacking fleet was detected through radio and intelligence intercepts, but the information was deliberately withheld from the base commanders.
Historians have rejected this assertion. However, the above mentioned documentation supports it.
Interestingly, in a 1964 interview, Admiral Chester Nimitz, who took over as commander of the Pacific Fleet three weeks after the attack, concluded that “it was God’s mercy that our fleet was in Pearl Harbor on December 7th. If Kimmel had advance notice that the Japanese were coming, he most probably would have tried to intercept them. With the difference in speed between Kimmel’s battleships and the faster Japanese carriers, the former could not have come within rifle range of the enemy’s flattops. As a result, we would have lost many ships in deep water and also thousands more in lives.”
Admiral Nimitz, besides making a case in military terms, also corroborates the fact that Admiral Kimmel did not have advance notice that the Japanese were coming.
In his famous speech about “the day of infamy” President Roosevelt announced that America had declared war on Japan and her ally Germany. The American public enthusiastically supported that decision.
All of the above information does not reduce the scope of loss experienced by American forces and families on December 7, 1941. It is meant to help people understand that all is rarely as it seems.
As a personal note, I add that Presidents Clinton, Bush, Jr. and Obama have all refused to act upon that resolution. In my opinion, as brothers in the very small PCIC Fraternity (President, Commander-In-Chief), to do so would be embarrassing to all Presidents and our nation. It would acknowledge the possibility exists that a President or Presidents would actually deceive our nation in a way that costs American lives in order ro involve us in a war.
All of this is an example of the words of America’s greatest philosopher and social conscience, George Carlin. We need to question everything we see, read and hear, even in school. Of course, you should question everything that I write. Always do your own research. The very concept of valid research means it should be done with no preconceived notions or expectations. It is amazing what can be learned that way.