Before Pearl Harbor, what percentage of Americans believed the US would stay out of the war?

Before Pearl Harbor, what percentage of Americans believed the US would stay out of the war?

Let us say on July 1st, 1941 (after the USSR entered the war), what percentage of Americans were confident that the US would stay out of the war? (I am thinking there might be polling data or something similar on this matter.)

Edit: Here is a closely related question: Why did American public opinion move away from isolationism in 1940-41?.

There aren't a lot of polls on this topic, but there are some. Here's some questions from the pre-war Gallup polls of 1941. I suggest looking at the raw data to understand the polls in context. I can see a slow thaw in public opinions (less resistance, although not always support) towards providing greater support in the European war effort even to the point of sending troops.

APRIL 27 EUROPEAN WAR Interviewing Date 4/10-15/41 Survey #234-K Question #1a Do you think the United States will go into the war in Europe sometime before it's over, or do you think we will stay out of the war? Will go in… 82% Will stay out… 18% May 31 Interviewing Date 4/27-5/1/41 Survey #235-K Question #2 Do you think the United States will go into the war in Europe sometime before it is over, or do you think we will stay out of the war? We are already in… 13% We will go in… 64% We will stay out… 14% No opinion… 9%

Also, since the USSR in the OP:

Has the new war between Germany and Russia changed your attitude toward helping Britain? Yes… 12% No… 83% Undecided… 5%

This isn't exactly what we want to know. But people at this time were well aware that lend-lease and other US aid to Britain could get the US involved in the war. Their entry made about 9% of respondents want to provide more aid to Britain, but over-all it doesn't seem to have had a large effect on popular opinion.

JAPAN, December 10, 1941? (I suspect this date is wrong, since the US declared war on Japan on December 8th).

Interviewing Date 11/27-12/1/41 Survey #254-K Question #4 Do you think the United States will go to war against Japan sometime in the near future? Yes… 52% No… 27% No opinion… 21%

The most interesting thing about the prewar polling is the US is how different the answers rapidly became to "do you think the US will get into the war" and "would you vote to enter the war." As suggest above, the former pretty quickly began to show a strong sense of resignation among citizens to eventual, full involvement in the war. In answer to the latter, however, I've never found any numbers even as high as 25% who would have voted to enter the war before the bombing Pearl Harbor.

American Public Opinion and the Holocaust

Americans rarely agree as overwhelmingly as they did in November 1938. Just two weeks after Nazi Germany coordinated a brutal nationwide attack against Jews within its own borders -- an event known as "Kristallnacht" -- Gallup asked Americans: "Do you approve or disapprove of the Nazi treatment of Jews in Germany?" Nearly everyone who responded -- 94% -- indicated that they disapproved.

Yet, even though nearly all Americans condemned the Nazi regime's terror against Jews in November 1938, that very same week, 72% of Americans said "No" when Gallup asked: "Should we allow a larger number of Jewish exiles from Germany to come to the United States to live?" Just 21% said "Yes."

Why this yawning gap between disapproval of the Nazi regime's persecutions and a willingness to aid refugees? Gallup polling on these topics during the Nazi era helps answer this question, providing important context for understanding Americans' responses to the threat of Nazism.

Americans' widespread disapproval of the Nazi regime's treatment of Jews could not necessarily be assumed in 1938, given evidence that the U.S. was not immune from its own xenophobia and discrimination.

Prejudice against Jews in the U.S. was evident in a number of ways in the 1930s. According to historian Leonard Dinnerstein, more than 100 new anti-Semitic organizations were founded in the U.S. between 1933 and 1941. One of the most influential, Father Charles Coughlin's National Union for Social Justice, spread Nazi propaganda and accused all Jews of being communists. Coughlin broadcast anti-Jewish ideas to millions of radio listeners, asking them to "pledge" with him to "restore America to the Americans."

Further to the fringes, William Dudley Pelley's Silver Legion of America ("Silver Shirts") fashioned themselves after Nazi Stormtroopers ("brownshirts"). The German American Bund celebrated Nazism openly, established Hitler Youth-style summer camps in communities across the United States and hoped to see the dawn of fascism in America.

Even if the Silver Shirts and the Bund did not represent the mainstream, Gallup polls showed that many Americans held seemingly prejudicial ideas about Jews. A remarkable survey conducted in April 1938 found that more than half of Americans blamed Europe's Jews for their own treatment at the hands of the Nazis. This poll showed that 54% of Americans agreed that "the persecution of Jews in Europe has been partly their own fault," with 11% believing it was "entirely" their own fault. Hostility to refugees was so ingrained that just two months after Kristallnacht, 67% of Americans opposed a bill in the U.S. Congress intended to admit child refugees from Germany. The bill never made it to the floor of Congress for a vote.

Reluctance to admit refugees most likely resulted in part from the profound economic insecurity that typified the times. During the 1930s, nothing captured Americans' attention more than the devastating Great Depression, and hunger and employment took precedence over concerns about the rise of fascism abroad and its victims.

The Great Depression was in its eighth year when the U.S. economy bottomed out again in 1937, the year before Kristallnacht. Unemployment spiked to 20% in 1938, and nearly half of Americans believed the United States had not yet hit the low point of the Depression. The notion that "those refugees" would take "our" jobs prevailed across much of America, even though courageous individuals like Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins tried to convince colleagues in the federal government that immigration would spark economic recovery rather than slow it down. Even as late as the spring of 1939, with war pressures building in Europe, Americans were more likely to say economic issues were the most important problem facing the U.S. than they were to mention war.

This economic insecurity no doubt helped to intensify anti-immigrant sentiment that dated back to the 1920s. By the time Americans became aware of the refugee crisis facing Europe's Jews, America's "golden doors" for immigrants had been all but closed for nearly 15 years, ever since the U.S. Congress passed the 1924 National Origins Quota Act.

The immigration process was designed to be exclusionary and difficult. In that regard, it "worked." Most of Europe's Jews who were unable to find haven from Nazism -- whether in the U.S. or elsewhere -- did not survive the Holocaust. During the 12 years of Nazi rule, historians estimate that the U.S. admitted somewhere between 180,000 and 220,000 Jewish refugees -- more than any other nation in the world, but far fewer than it could have under existing immigration laws.

Prevailing sentiment against admitting refugees reflected the United States' consistent desire to remain isolated from world affairs. President Franklin Roosevelt, harkening back to George Washington's 1796 farewell address, promised Americans that the nation would remain "unentangled." That's what Americans wanted to hear. The U.S. stayed out of conflicts such as the Spanish Civil War, just as Americans hoped it would.

Hindsight tells us that preparing for and fighting in World War II lifted the country out of the Depression, but polling reveals much more pessimism about the prospects for the war before the U.S. entered it. Even in July 1941, as the majority of Americans believed U.S. entrance into the war was inevitable, 77% thought the war would be followed by another economic depression.

Americans remained reluctant to go to war against Nazism partly because of the lessons they took away from intervening in World War I, when some 116,000 Americans were killed. Even in 1941, with all of Europe at war and the U.S. on the brink of entry, about four in 10 Americans still believed that intervention in World War I had been a mistake.

War in Europe began during the first week of September 1939, when Nazi Germany invaded Poland in response, both Great Britain and France declared war on Germany. Nearly half (48%) of Americans responding to a Gallup poll that week said the U.S. should not get involved, even if it looked like England and France were losing. Roosevelt took to the airwaves that week either to reinforce or to follow public opinion, declaring that the U.S. would "remain a neutral nation."

Nine months later, as France and other Western European nations fell to Nazi Germany, 79% of Americans in a Gallup poll said if they had the chance, they would vote to stay out of the war, and by the summer of 1941, almost eight out of 10 Americans continued to say they did not want the U.S. to enter the war.

All of this concern about the economy and the desire to avoid getting entangled in world affairs -- particularly another European war -- almost certainly played a part in Americans' reluctance to favor bringing Jewish refugees into the country.

A final piece of important context: In 1938, it was not yet clear to anyone that Nazi Germany's persecution of Jews within its own borders would lead to the mass murder of Jews throughout all of Europe. The Nazi regime itself still had not devised that plan at Kristallnacht murder would become Germany's "Final Solution to the Jewish question" in 1941.

Even during World War II, as the American public started to realize that the rumors of mass murder in death camps were true, they struggled to grasp the vast scale and scope of the crime. In November 1944, well over 5 million Jews had been murdered by the Nazi regime and its collaborators. Yet just under one-quarter of Americans who answered the poll could believe that more than 1 million people had been murdered by Germans in concentration camps 36% believed that 100,000 or fewer had been killed.

Only with the benefit of hindsight can we connect dots that many Americans could not have at the time. And yet, the stark contrast of these two November 1938 polls, revealing the troubling gap between disapproval of Nazism and willingness to admit refugees, continues to resonate. These findings not only shine a disturbing light on Americans' responses to atrocities during the Holocaust but also are consistent with polls conducted since. A Gallup poll just after the war still showed solid opposition to allowing European refugees fleeing their war-torn continent to come to the United States, and Gallup polls in the decades since have shown Americans' continuing reluctance to accept refugees from other nations.

'Angry Days' Shows An America Torn Over Entering World War II

Before Pearl Harbor, aviator Charles Lindbergh was so vocal about his opposition to U.S. involvement in World War II that he became an unofficial leader of America's isolationist movement. AP hide caption

During the debate over whether to invade Iraq, or whether to stay in Afghanistan, many people looked back to World War II, describing it as a good and just war — a war the U.S. knew it had to fight. In reality, it wasn't that simple. When Britain and France went to war with Germany in 1939, Americans were divided about offering military aid, and the debate over the U.S. joining the war was even more heated. It wasn't until two years later, when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and Germany declared war against the U.S., that Americans officially entered the conflict.

Roosevelt, Lindbergh, and America's Fight over World War II, 1939-1941

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But from 1939 through 1941, Americans were deeply divided between interventionism and isolationism.

"It's so easy, again, to look back and say, 'Well, all the things that the isolationists said were wrong,' " author Lynne Olson tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. " . But back then, you know, in '39, '40 and most of '41, people didn't know that. People had no idea what was going to happen."

Olson's new book, Those Angry Days, shines the spotlight on the national debate over whether to go to war in Europe. President Franklin Roosevelt led the interventionist charge, while aviator Charles Lindbergh became an unofficial leader of the isolationist movement.

Because of Lindbergh's fervent isolationism, history has sometimes remembered him as a Nazi sympathizer, but Olson says that accusation is not quite accurate.

"He certainly was a racist in the sense that he thought people of northern European descent — i.e., whites — were inherently superior in every possible way to people who were not white, and the Germans obviously shared that view," Olson says.

Still, when the U.S. entered the war, Lindbergh wanted to fly for his country. Roosevelt wouldn't allow it, but Lindbergh's friends arranged for him to serve as a civilian consultant testing planes in the South Pacific.

"Charles Lindbergh was never happier than in a cockpit," Olson says. " . He didn't really like politics at all, but [the cockpit] was his place."

Interview Highlights

On the question of Lindbergh's Nazi sympathies

"He admired the Germans' technological expertise. Bottom line: Charles Lindbergh was a technocrat. That's what he was really interested in, and the Germans were experts in technology. And he also admired what the Germans had done in terms of reviving country, and he certainly was sympathetic with Germany. Often he would say, 'You know, I don't approve of what they're doing to the Jews. I don't approve of their denial of freedoms,' but you never really got the sense that he felt very strongly about that."

Lynne Olson, a former journalist for The Baltimore Sun, is also the author of Citizens of London. Stanley Cloud/Random House hide caption

Lynne Olson, a former journalist for The Baltimore Sun, is also the author of Citizens of London.

Stanley Cloud/Random House

On Americans not feeling connected to World War II Europe

"They looked on it kind of like a movie. . It was something that just didn't affect them. We didn't have the technology. We didn't have the instant communication. We didn't have the ability to travel — the ability to travel quickly — to Europe that we have now. And so most Americans — not all, but most Americans, especially those who lived in the heartland — really didn't feel that they had anything in common with Europe. They hadn't been there. They thought this was a distant place that they really had nothing to do with, and they felt that way until 1940."

On the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940, the first peacetime conscription in U.S. history

"The conscription bill was one of the most unpopular pieces of legislation, at least in the beginning, because we only had had a draft twice in our history before: the Civil War and World War I. The idea of a standing army was anathema to most Americans, as it had been to the Founding Fathers. We just didn't do that. I mean, that was not in the American scheme of things, and a group of private citizens said that we needed — in order to be a well-prepared country, in case we had to get into this war or even to defend ourselves — . a standing army. We needed a draft. We needed to draft a million young men to be prepared in case this war ever touched our shores."


Diplomatic background

War between Japan and the United States had been a possibility that each nation had been aware of, and planned for, since the 1920s. Japan had been wary of American territorial and military expansion in the Pacific and Asia since the late 1890s, followed by the annexation of islands, such as Hawaii and the Philippines, which they felt were close to or within their sphere of influence. [23] [24] [25] [26]

Although Japan had begun to take a hostile policy against the United States after the rejection of the Racial Equality Proposal, [27] the relationship between the two countries was cordial enough that they remained trading partners. [28] [29] [30] Tensions did not seriously grow until Japan's invasion of Manchuria in 1931. Over the next decade, Japan expanded into China, leading to the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937. Japan spent considerable effort trying to isolate China and endeavored to secure enough independent resources to attain victory on the mainland. The "Southern Operation" was designed to assist these efforts. [24] [31]

Starting in December 1937, events such as the Japanese attack on USS Panay, the Allison incident, and the Nanking Massacre swung Western public opinion sharply against Japan. The U.S. unsuccessfully proposed a joint action with the British to blockade Japan. [32] In 1938, following an appeal by President Roosevelt, U.S. companies stopped providing Japan with implements of war. [33]

In 1940, Japan invaded French Indochina, attempting to stymie the flow of supplies reaching China. The United States halted shipments of airplanes, parts, machine tools, and aviation gasoline to Japan, which the latter perceived as an unfriendly act. [nb 6] The United States did not stop oil exports, however, partly because of the prevailing sentiment in Washington that given Japanese dependence on American oil, such an action was likely to be considered an extreme provocation. [23] [30] [34]

In mid-1940, President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved the Pacific Fleet from San Diego to Hawaii. [35] He also ordered a military buildup in the Philippines, taking both actions in the hope of discouraging Japanese aggression in the Far East. Because the Japanese high command was (mistakenly) certain any attack on the United Kingdom's Southeast Asian colonies, including Singapore, [36] would bring the U.S. into the war, a devastating preventive strike appeared to be the only way to prevent American naval interference. [37] An invasion of the Philippines was also considered necessary by Japanese war planners. The U.S. War Plan Orange had envisioned defending the Philippines with an elite force of 40,000 men this option was never implemented due to opposition from Douglas MacArthur, who felt he would need a force ten times that size. [ citation needed ] By 1941, U.S. planners expected to abandon the Philippines at the outbreak of war. Late that year, Admiral Thomas C. Hart, commander of the Asiatic Fleet, was given orders to that effect. [38]

The U.S. finally ceased oil exports to Japan in July 1941, following the seizure of French Indochina after the Fall of France, in part because of new American restrictions on domestic oil consumption. [39] Because of this decision, Japan proceeded with plans to take the oil-rich Dutch East Indies. [nb 7] On August 17, Roosevelt warned Japan that America was prepared to take opposing steps if "neighboring countries" were attacked. [41] The Japanese were faced with a dilemma—either withdraw from China and lose face or seize new sources of raw materials in the resource-rich European colonies of Southeast Asia. [ citation needed ]

Japan and the U.S. engaged in negotiations during 1941, attempting to improve relations. In the course of these negotiations, Japan offered to withdraw from most of China and Indochina after making peace with the Nationalist government. It also proposed to adopt an independent interpretation of the Tripartite Pact and to refrain from trade discrimination, provided all other nations reciprocated. Washington rejected these proposals. Japanese Prime Minister Konoye then offered to meet with Roosevelt, but Roosevelt insisted on reaching an agreement before any meeting. [42] The U.S. ambassador to Japan repeatedly urged Roosevelt to accept the meeting, warning that it was the only way to preserve the conciliatory Konoye government and peace in the Pacific. [43] However, his recommendation was not acted upon. The Konoye government collapsed the following month when the Japanese military rejected a withdrawal of all troops from China. [44]

Japan's final proposal, delivered on November 20, offered to withdraw from southern Indochina and to refrain from attacks in Southeast Asia, so long as the United States, United Kingdom, and Netherlands supplied one million gallons of aviation fuel, lifted their sanctions against Japan, and ceased aid to China., [45] [44] The American counter-proposal of November 26 (November 27 in Japan), the Hull note, required Japan completely evacuate China without conditions and conclude non-aggression pacts with Pacific powers. On November 26 in Japan, the day before the note's delivery, the Japanese task force left port for Pearl Harbor. [ citation needed ]

The Japanese intended the attack as a preventive action to keep the United States Pacific Fleet from interfering with its planned military actions in Southeast Asia against overseas territories of the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and the United States. Over the course of seven hours there were coordinated Japanese attacks on the U.S.-held Philippines, Guam, and Wake Island and on the British Empire in Malaya, Singapore, and Hong Kong. [15] Additionally, from the Japanese viewpoint, it was seen as a preemptive strike "before the oil gauge ran empty." [23]

Military planning

Preliminary planning for an attack on Pearl Harbor to protect the move into the "Southern Resource Area" (the Japanese term for the Dutch East Indies and Southeast Asia generally) had begun very early in 1941 under the auspices of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, then commanding Japan's Combined Fleet. [46] He won assent to formal planning and training for an attack from the Imperial Japanese Navy General Staff only after much contention with Naval Headquarters, including a threat to resign his command. [47] Full-scale planning was underway by early spring 1941, primarily by Rear Admiral Ryūnosuke Kusaka, with assistance from Captain Minoru Genda and Yamamoto's Deputy Chief of Staff, Captain Kameto Kuroshima. [48] The planners studied the 1940 British air attack on the Italian fleet at Taranto intensively. [nb 8] [nb 9]

Over the next several months, pilots were trained, equipment was adapted, and intelligence was collected. Despite these preparations, Emperor Hirohito did not approve the attack plan until November 5, after the third of four Imperial Conferences called to consider the matter. [51] Final authorization was not given by the emperor until December 1, after a majority of Japanese leaders advised him the "Hull Note" would "destroy the fruits of the China incident, endanger Manchukuo and undermine Japanese control of Korea". [52]

By late 1941, many observers believed that hostilities between the U.S. and Japan were imminent. A Gallup poll just before the attack on Pearl Harbor found that 52% of Americans expected war with Japan, 27% did not, and 21% had no opinion. [53] While U.S. Pacific bases and facilities had been placed on alert on many occasions, U.S. officials doubted Pearl Harbor would be the first target instead, they expected the Philippines would be attacked first. This presumption was due to the threat that the air bases throughout the country and the naval base at Manila posed to sea lanes, as well as to the shipment of supplies to Japan from territory to the south. [54] They also incorrectly believed that Japan was not capable of mounting more than one major naval operation at a time. [55]


The Japanese attack had several major aims. First, it intended to destroy important American fleet units, thereby preventing the Pacific Fleet from interfering with the Japanese conquest of the Dutch East Indies and Malaya and enabling Japan to conquer Southeast Asia without interference. Second, it was hoped to buy time for Japan to consolidate its position and increase its naval strength before shipbuilding authorized by the 1940 Vinson-Walsh Act erased any chance of victory. [56] [57] Third, to deliver a blow to America's ability to mobilize its forces in the Pacific, battleships were chosen as the main targets, since they were the prestige ships of any navy at the time. [56] Finally, it was hoped that the attack would undermine American morale such that the U.S. government would drop its demands contrary to Japanese interests and would seek a compromise peace with Japan. [58] [59]

Striking the Pacific Fleet at anchor in Pearl Harbor carried two distinct disadvantages: the targeted ships would be in very shallow water, so it would be relatively easy to salvage and possibly repair them, and most of the crews would survive the attack since many would be on shore leave or would be rescued from the harbor. A further important disadvantage was the absence from Pearl Harbor of all three of the U.S. Pacific Fleet's aircraft carriers (Enterprise, Lexington, and Saratoga). IJN top command was attached to Admiral Mahan's "decisive battle" doctrine, especially that of destroying the maximum number of battleships. Despite these concerns, Yamamoto decided to press ahead. [60] [ page needed ]

Japanese confidence in their ability to achieve a short, victorious war also meant other targets in the harbor, especially the navy yard, oil tank farms, and submarine base, were ignored, since—by their thinking—the war would be over before the influence of these facilities would be felt. [61]

The American Economy

The war in Europe didn’t seem to pose any threat to the American economy and joining it only served to threaten its stability. Though not actively participating, the US was actually benefiting from the conflict, manufacturing military equipment and vehicles for the Allied forces. Without pumping that money right back into the military, it served to bolster the country’s economy.

Was America Secretly Planning To Attack Japan Before Pearl Harbor?

If Japan had chosen to attack far-off British Malaya on December 7, 1941, instead of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, President Franklin Roosevelt was prepared to go before Congress and ask—for the first time in American history—for a declaration of war against a nation that had not fired the first shot against us. With the country solidly divided on the issue of getting involved in the war that was already raging in Europe, and with the president’s repeated promises not to send American boys to fight in a foreign war still ringing in congressional ears, the outcome of Roosevelt’s appeal was not preordained. Indeed, there is some reason to think that his appeal would have been rejected by an isolationist Congress, in which case the history of World War II would have been very different.

The circumstances surrounding FDR’s undelivered declaration began in August 1941, in obscure Argentia Harbor inside Placentia Bay, Newfoundland. There, four months before Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill met secretly to thrash out the terms of what came to be called the Atlantic Charter. One of the primary objectives of the English-speaking leaders’ first summit was to come to some agreement regarding the increasingly aggressive and threatening moves the Japanese were making in the Far East. Churchill stressed the urgent need to make a joint declaration to the Japanese to either back off or face the consequences. Having barely escaped invasion by the Nazis a year earlier, the British had been forced out of Greece by the Germans in April, and now found themselves locked in a bitter struggle with General Erwin Rommel’s much-vaunted Afrika Korps in northern Africa. Spread desperately thin, the British were seeking a way to force the Japanese to reconsider attacking Malaya or the Dutch East Indies. That way, as Churchill understood, it was to have the United States agree to declare war on Japan if Malaya was attacked.

The U.S. was looking for the enemy near Pearl Harbor — but it was looking in the wrong direction

It was Dec. 5, 1941, and Lt. Ted S. Faulkner’s mission would be delicate and dangerous: fly his B-24 Liberator thousands of miles from Pearl Harbor, sneak over Japanese-held islands in the South Pacific, and take photographs — without starting a war or getting shot down.

Tensions between Japan and the United States were at the boiling point. The United States suspected that the Japanese were up to something, but it didn’t know what or where. It looked as if an attack could come in the area of the Philippines. Faulkner’s task was to photograph the Japanese buildup around islands east of there.

“It was a rather delicate mission,” Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall said later. If detected, the flight might be seen as a hostile act. But his caution was misplaced. Even as Faulkner’s plane landed in Hawaii to prepare for the mission, the massive Japanese fleet was already closing in.

The would-be mission is detailed in a new blog post by National Archives senior archivist Greg Bradsher. And on the 77th anniversary of the Dec. 7 attack, it is another illustration of how the United States was unprepared and tragically wrong about where the main enemy blow would fall.

Even if Faulkner’s plane had taken off, it probably would not have detected the enemy fleet, Bradsher said. Faulkner would have been looking in the wrong direction. He was assigned to fly well to the southwest of Hawaii, where Pearl Harbor is located.

The Japanese, with six aircraft carriers and hundreds of airplanes, were approaching silently from the northwest, thousands of miles away.

“It’s just one more piece of the puzzle,” Bradsher said, “basically a footnote to the larger story.”

But it carries the inevitable Pearl Harbor what-ifs.

By the end of November 1941, the United States and Japan were locked in a tense standoff over Japan’s military aggression, its alliance with Nazi Germany, and the resulting American economic embargoes, historian Gordon W. Prange wrote in his 1981 book, “At Dawn We Slept.”

Negotiations in Washington were still underway, but essentially stalemated. And with war raging in Europe, Japan was preparing steps that would drag in the United States.

U.S. intelligence intercepts were picking up more and more evidence of extensive Japanese military activity in its so-called “Mandates,” South Pacific island groups such as the Marshalls and Carolines that came under Japanese control after World War I.

The Americans knew little of what was going on there and were desperate to find out, Bradsher wrote. They had been wary of flying there before, for fear of provoking the Japanese. But now it was time to chance it.

The order for the reconnaissance, specifically of Truk Island, in the Carolines, and Jaluit, in the Marshalls, seems to have been issued on Nov. 26.

That same day, at 6 a.m. in northern Japan, the 28-ship enemy armada steamed in radio silence from Hitokappu Bay, now called Katsatka Bay, into the North Pacific, bound for Pearl Harbor.

“The crew shouted, ‘Banzai!’ as they took what might be their last look at Japan,” remembered lead Japanese pilot Mitsuo Fuchida, according to historian Craig Nelson.

Meanwhile, the U.S. plan was for its recon planes to fly from California to Hawaii. From there, they would fly northwest to Midway Island. But then they would head southwest to Wake Island, toward New Guinea, flying fast and high over the Japanese mandates, taking pictures en route, Bradsher wrote. The final destination was the Philippines.

“Pilots should be warned islands strongly fortified,” the War Department advised. “Photography and reconnaissance must be accomplished at high altitude and there must be no circling or remaining in the vicinity . . . instruct crews if attacked . . . use all means in their power for self preservation . . . Insure that both . . . airplanes are fully equipped with gun ammunition upon departure.”

Two new B-24 bombers were selected for the mission and two crews from a squadron based at Fort Douglas, Utah.

One plane would be flown by Faulkner, 28, with an eight-man crew. The other plane would be piloted by 1st Lt. Harvey J. Watkins.

The B-24s, which had been ferrying passengers and cargo, would be outfitted with guns and cameras for their mission. The pilots were to pick up their planes at the Sacramento Air Depot, where the aircraft would be equipped, and fly about 70 miles west to Hamilton Field, north of San Francisco.

Pearl Harbor and Japanese-Americans

Following the attack of December 7th 1941, many Japanese-Americans were guilty until proven innocent in the eyes of the US military.

Immediately after the attack, US animosity toward Japanese-Americans reached a fever pitch. All of the photographs displayed in this article were taken just after the attack. The locations were southern California and ‘Little Tokyo’, an area in downtown Los Angeles where around 20,000 Japanese-Americans lived. The picture above is fascinating on a number of levels. The American paperboy stands out, surrounded by Japanese-Americans. Perhaps he is attempting to remain calm and not make eye contact with the Japanese paperboy standing next to him. ‘Japan Attacks Hawaii, Manila’, the Los Angeles Examiner’s top line reads.

Undertones of mistrust had started long before the attack. On June 6th, 1941, Raymond Lawrence, an Oakland Tribune columnist, used subheadings such as ‘Japan Nears Showdown’, comparing Japan to Italy. Lawrence wrote: ‘With Japan playing Hitler’s game in the Pacific, we are forced to keep the whole fleet at Pearl Harbor. With Japan in the war, we could deal with her expeditiously and then turn our attention to the Atlantic where the final issue will be decided.’ Although Lawrence was simply stating his opinion, his words show how a large swathe of American population had long feared a Pacific attack.

By October 1941, FBI agents were targeting dozens of Japanese-American citizens, perhaps following leads based on hints they had received from local law enforcement. By the afternoon of December 7th, however, the FBI was given carte blanche when it came to questioning anyone suspicious. Perhaps this feeling of resignation, or ‘shocked silence’, is what we see on the faces of the Japanese-Americans in the picture at the top of this article, snapped in the late afternoon of December 7th. Next to his American counterpart, the Japanese paperboy is handing out the Rafu Shimpo, a Japanese newspaper still in circulation today. Though it is difficult to see, we can pick up a few kanji, reading ‘Gogai’ which translates as ‘Extra Edition’.

Rather quickly, respectable Japanese-American citizens saw that they were trapped within a cultural quagmire. They loved America and the opportunities it gave them. In particular, the Nisei (second generation, American born) had carved out lives in Little Tokyo and had only the faintest connections to Japan. Yet simply based on their appearance, they realised that glares from other American citizens would now be a regular part of their daily lives. Japan in their blood, America in their hearts, they walked quietly down the sidewalks of Los Angeles, torn between two countries.

On February 19th, 1942, a mere 72 days after the attack, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, essentially creating internment camps for ‘suspicious’ Japanese-Americans. ‘The successful prosecution of the war requires every possible protection against espionage and against sabotage to national-defense material’, Roosevelt stated.

America has a dark tradition of ethnic paranoia and racial profiling. In the 1950s, the Cold War caused countless Russian-Americans to be imprisoned and questioned due to communist fears. After 9/11, Arab-Americans were subjected to multiple levels of racial profiling, and to this day still feel ostracized. American law enforcement has been unjustly profiling African-Americans for centuries. Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy was a perpetual parade of xenophobic vernacular, and comparions have been made betwen Trump’s attitudes toward Muslims and Roosevelt’s decision to register Japanese-Americans as exiles in their own country.

As early as the afternoon of December 7th, the FBI had started to round-up close to ‘300 alien Japanese suspected of subversive activities’ and had made plans to place another 3000 in ‘protective custody.’ Terminal Island, an artificial island that rests near Long Beach, California, was home to nearly 6000 first and second generation Japanese-Americans, many of whom were fishermen. Moments after the attack, according to the Associated Press, ‘Federal agents and army troops … established a blockade around Terminal Island … FBI agents ordered no aliens would be permitted to enter or leave.’

For the Terminal Island residents who had been in transit on a ferry, all were stopped and taken by military personnel to a location such as the one in the picture above, taken late on December 7th. The photo shows the anger and humiliation many Japanese-Americans felt, such as the woman holding her left hand up to her face to avoid identification: ‘They were herded into a wire enclosure and were guarded by soldiers from Fort McArthur … Terminal Island…has become (a) huge concentration camp with aliens refused right to leave confines and citizens ordered to stay home.’

Later in the day on December 7th, ‘watching bulletins’ started to appear in Little Tokyo, words of caution influenced no doubt by the US military’s manic ambition to questions any and all residents of Japanese descent.

A translation, by Yuka Goto, of the bulletin shown above reads:

Extra Edition - from America Industry Journal
Today at 1.30pm, Columbia Broadcasting Station announced that 50-100 Japanese bombers attacked Hawaii’s Pearl Harbor and Manila. Since the source is unknown and it is an impossible event, still we are seeking verification and expect fellow citizens and everybody to stay cautious.

Thousands of men and women grew nervous that their Los Angeles lifestyles would soon be taken from them. With stealth-like quickness, the military had decided to pursue a blanket-judgment policy, when in fact they had had their eyes on turning Terminal Island into a base for almost a year before the attack.

The attack on Pearl Harbor should always be seen as an impulsive and short-sighted reaction to failed negotiations between two countries hungry for global authority. The Japanese government had wanted the US to ‘restore all commercial relations with Japan, unfreeze Japanese assets in (America) and supply Japan with oil.’ If the US complied, Japan ‘agreed to undertake not to send armed forces into any other country in the South Pacific except French Indo-China,’ but were willing to compromise on this, if it meant an ‘establishment of an equitable peace in the Pacific area’, (key word being ‘equitable’).

America’s demands were more absolute: ‘Japanese withdrawal of all military forces from China and Indo-China.’ The US also wanted Japan to join them in ‘recognizing only the national government of China.’ If Japan complied, ‘trade barriers’ would, generally speaking, be reduced between the countries, and assets unfrozen.

Neither side wished to budge, too invested in their own on-going struggles to soften their stance. Japan accused America of being too ‘obsessed with its own views and opinions (and) may be said to be scheming for the extension of the war.’ Such an extension is exactly what the Pearl Harbor attack achieved. Millions more would be killed in what ended up being one of the deadliest wars in human history. Meanwhile, around 120,000 Japanese-Americans lost their livelihood and civil liberties, all because of an ethnic paranoia that is all too swiftly implemented during difficult times. In December 1944, Fred Korematsu lost his case against the US Government for impinging upon his basic rights as an American citizen in a 6-3 decision that ruled that Executive Order 9066 was constitutional. The decision implied a general understanding that might be summed up in the statement: In times of war, exceptions can be made to the assumption of innocence until proof of guilt.

Patrick Parr is lecturer at University of Southern California’s International Academy.


The U.S. government made nine official inquiries into the attack between 1941 and 1946, and a tenth in 1995. They included an inquiry by Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox (1941) the Roberts Commission (1941–42) the Hart Inquiry (1944) the Army Pearl Harbor Board (1944) the Naval Court of Inquiry (1944) the Hewitt investigation the Clarke investigation the Congressional Inquiry [note 1] (Pearl Harbor Committee 1945–46) a top-secret inquiry by Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, authorized by Congress and carried out by Henry Clausen (the Clausen Inquiry 1946) and the Thurmond-Spence hearing, in April 1995, which produced the Dorn Report. [14] The inquiries reported incompetence, underestimation, and misapprehension of Japanese capabilities and intentions problems resulting from excessive secrecy about cryptography division of responsibility between Army and Navy (and lack of consultation between them) and lack of adequate manpower for intelligence (analysis, collection, processing). [15] [ page needed ]

Investigators prior to Clausen did not have the security clearance necessary to receive the most sensitive information, as Brigadier General Henry D. Russell had been appointed guardian of the pre-war decrypts, and he alone held the combination to the storage safe. [16] Clausen claimed, in spite of Secretary Stimson having given him a letter informing witnesses he had the necessary clearances to require their cooperation, he was repeatedly lied to until he produced copies of top secret decrypts, thus proving he indeed had the proper clearance.

Stimson's report to Congress, based on Clausen's work, was limited due to secrecy concerns, largely about cryptography. A more complete account was not made publicly available until the mid-1980s, and not published until 1992 as Pearl Harbor: Final Judgement. Reaction to the 1992 publication has varied. Some regard it as a valuable addition to understanding the events, [17] while one historian noted Clausen did not speak to General Walter Short, Army commander at Pearl Harbor during the attack, and called Clausen's investigation "notoriously unreliable" in several aspects. [18]

Some authors argue that President Roosevelt was actively provoking Japan in the weeks prior to the Pearl Harbor attack. These authors assert that Roosevelt was imminently expecting and seeking war, but wanted Japan to take the first overtly aggressive action. [19] [20] [21] [22] [23] [24] [25]

Statements by high-ranking officials Edit

One perspective is given by Rear Admiral Frank Edmund Beatty Jr., who at the time of the Pearl Harbor attack was an aide to the Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox and was very close to President Franklin D. Roosevelt's inner circle, remarked that:

Prior to December 7, it was evident even to me. that we were pushing Japan into a corner. I believed that it was the desire of President Roosevelt, and Prime Minister Churchill that we get into the war, as they felt the Allies could not win without us and all our efforts to cause the Germans to declare war on us failed the conditions we imposed upon Japan—to get out of China, for example—were so severe that we knew that nation could not accept them. We were forcing her so severely that we could have known that she would react toward the United States. All her preparations in a military way — and we knew their over-all import — pointed that way. [26]

Another "eye witness viewpoint" akin to Beatty's is provided by Roosevelt's administrative assistant at the time of Pearl Harbor, Jonathan Daniels it is a telling comment about FDR's reaction to the attack – "The blow was heavier than he had hoped it would necessarily be. . But the risks paid off even the loss was worth the price. . " [27]

"Ten days before the attack on Pearl Harbor", Henry L. Stimson, United States Secretary of War at the time "entered in his diary the famous and much-argued statement – that he had met with President Roosevelt to discuss the evidence of impending hostilities with Japan, and the question was 'how we should maneuver them [the Japanese] into the position of firing the first shot without allowing too much danger to ourselves.'" [28] However Stimson, in reviewing his diary after the war, recalled that the commanders at Pearl Harbor had been warned of the possibility of attack, and that the poor state of readiness that the attack had revealed was a surprise to him:

[Yet] General Short had been told the two essential facts: 1) a war with Japan is threatening, 2) hostile action by Japan is possible at any moment. Given these two facts, both of which were stated without equivocation in the message of Nov. 27, the outpost commander should be on the alert to make his fight . To cluster his airplanes in such groups and positions that in an emergency they could not take the air for several hours, and to keep his antiaircraft ammunition so stored that it could not be promptly and immediately available, and to use his best reconnaissance system, radar, only for a very small fraction of the day and night, in my opinion betrayed a misconception of his real duty which was almost beyond belief. . [29]

Robert Stinnett's Day of Deceit suggests a memorandum prepared by Commander McCollum was central to U.S. policy in the immediate pre-war period. Stinnett claims the memo suggests only a direct attack on U.S. interests would sway the American public (or Congress) to favor direct involvement in the European war, specifically in support of the British. An attack by Japan would not, could not, aid Britain. Although the memo was passed to Captains Walter Anderson and Dudley Knox, two of Roosevelt's military advisors, on October 7, 1940, there is no evidence to suggest Roosevelt ever saw it, while Stinnett's claims of evidence he did is nonexistent. [30] Moreover, although Anderson and Knox offered eight specific plans to aggrieve the Japanese Empire and added, "If by these means Japan could be led to commit an overt act of war, so much the better," of the eight "plans" (actions to be taken) offered in the memo, many if not all were implemented, but there is considerable doubt the McCollum memo was the inspiration. [ citation needed ] Nonetheless, in Day of Deceit Stinnett claims all action items were implemented. [31] Yet there were numerous instances of members of the Roosevelt Administration insisting on not provoking Japan. Mark Parillo, in his essay The United States in the Pacific, wrote, "[t]hese theories tend to founder on the logic of the situation. Had Roosevelt and other members of his administration known of the attack in advance, they would have been foolish to sacrifice one of the major instruments needed to win the war just to get the United States into it." [32] Furthermore, on 5 November 1941, in a joint memo, Stark, CNO, and Marshall, Army Chief of Staff, warned, "if Japan be defeated and Germany remain undefeated, decision will still not have been reached. War between the United States and Japan should be avoided. " [33] Additionally, in a 21 November 1941 memo, Brigadier Leonard T. Gerow, head of Army War Plans, stated, "one of our present major objectives [is] the avoidance of war with Japan. [and to] insure continuance of material assistance to the British." [34] He concluded, "[I]t is of grave importance to our war effort in Europe. " [34] Furthermore, Churchill himself, in a 15 May 1940 telegram, said he hoped a U.S. commitment to aid Britain would "quiet" Japan, following with a 4 October message requesting a USN courtesy visit to Singapore aimed at "preventing the spreading of the war" [35] And Stark's own Plan Dog expressly stated, "Any strength that we might send to the Far East would. reduce the force of our blows against Germany. " [36] Roosevelt could scarcely have been ignorant of Stark's views, and war with Japan was clearly contrary to Roosevelt's express wish to aid Britain.

Oliver Lyttelton, the British Minister of War Production, said, ". Japan was provoked into attacking the Americans at Pearl Harbor. It is a travesty of history ever to say that America was forced into the war. Everyone knows where American sympathies were. It is incorrect to say that America was truly neutral even before America came into the war on an all-out basis." [37] How this demonstrates anything with regard to Japan is unclear. Rather, it refers to other aid to Britain. Lend-Lease, enacted in March 1941, informally declared the end of American neutrality in favor of the Allies by agreeing to supply Allied nations with war materials. In addition, Roosevelt authorized a so-called Neutrality Patrol, which would protect the merchantmen of one nation, namely Britain, from attack by another, Germany. This made shipping legitimate target of attack by submarine. [38] Furthermore, Roosevelt ordered U.S. destroyers to report U-boats, then later authorized them to "shoot on sight". This made the U.S. a de facto belligerent. None was the act of a disinterested neutral, while all are unquestionably of assistance to Britain.

When considering information like this as a point for or against, the reader must keep in mind questions such as: was this official privy to information about the U.S. government? Did he have communications with high-level administration figures such as President Roosevelt or Ambassador Joseph Grew? Is this just a strongly held personal opinion? Or were there measures justifying this view? If Britain, did, indeed know and chose to conceal, "withholding this vital intelligence only ran the risk of losing American trust", [39] and with it any further American aid, which would be reduced after the attack in any event.

There is also a claim, first asserted in Toland's Infamy, that ONI knew about Japanese carrier movements. Toland cited entries from the diary of Rear Admiral J. E. Meijer Ranneft of the Dutch Navy for 2 December and 6 December. Ranneft attended briefings at ONI on these dates. According to Toland, Ranneft wrote that he was told by ONI that two Japanese carriers were northwest of Honolulu. However, the diary uses the Dutch abbreviation beW, meaning "westerly", contradicting Toland's claim. Nor did any other persons present at the briefings report hearing Toland's version. In their reviews of Infamy, David Kahn [40] and John C. Zimmerman [41] suggested Ranneft's reference was to carriers near the Marshall Islands. Toland has made other conflicting and incorrect claims about the diary during lectures at the Holocaust denial organization the Institute for Historical Review. [ citation needed ]

The diary states at 02:00 (6-12-41) Turner fears a sudden Japanese attack on Manila. At 14:00 the diary states "Everyone present on O.N.I. I speak to Director Admiral Wilkinson, Captain MacCollum, Lt. Cdr. Kramer . They show me – on my request – the place of the 2 carriers (see 2–12–41) West of Honolulu. I ask what the idea is of these carriers on that place. The answer was: 'perhaps in connection with Japanese rapports [sic] on eventual American actions'. There is not one of ours who speaks about a possible air attack on Honolulu. I myself did not think of it because I believed everyone on Honolulu to be 100% on the alert, as everyone here on O.N.I. There prevails a tense state of mind at O.N.I." These diary entries are provided (in Dutch) in the photo section in George Victor's The Pearl Harbor Myth: Rethinking the Unthinkable. [42]

CBS correspondent Edward R. Murrow had a dinner appointment at the White House on 7 December. Because of the attack he and his wife only ate with Mrs. Roosevelt, but the president asked Murrow to stay afterwards. As he waited outside the Oval Office, Murrow observed government and military officials entering and leaving. He wrote after the war: [43]

There was ample opportunity to observe at close range the bearing and expression of Mr. Stimson, Colonel Knox, and Secretary Hull. If they were not surprised by the news from Pearl Harbor, then that group of elderly men were putting on a performance which would have excited the admiration of any experienced actor. … It may be that the degree of the disaster had appalled them and that they had known for some time…. But I could not believe it then and I cannot do so now. There was amazement and anger written large on most of the faces. [43]

One historian has written, however, that when Murrow met Roosevelt with William J. Donovan of the OSS that night, while the magnitude of the destruction at Pearl Harbor horrified the president, Roosevelt seemed slightly less surprised by the attack than the other men. According to Murrow, the president told him, "Maybe you think [the attack] didn't surprise us!" He said later, "I believed him", and thought that he might have been asked to stay as a witness. When allegations of Roosevelt's foreknowledge appeared after the war, John Gunther asked Murrow about the meeting. Murrow reportedly responded the full story would pay for his son's college education and "if you think I'm going to give it to you, you're out of your mind". Murrow did not write the story, however, before his death. [43]

McCollum memo Edit

On October 7, 1940, Lieutenant Commander Arthur H. McCollum of the Office of Naval Intelligence submitted a memo to Navy Captains Walter S. Anderson and Dudley Knox, which details eight actions which might have the effect of provoking Japan into attacking the United States. The memo remained classified until 1994 and contains the notable line, "If by these means Japan could be led to commit an overt act of war, so much the better."

Sections 9 and 10 of the memo are said by Gore Vidal [ citation needed ] to be the "smoking gun" revealed in Stinnett's book, suggesting it was central to the high level plan to lure the Japanese into an attack. Evidence the memo or derivative works actually reached President Roosevelt, senior administration officials, or the highest levels of U.S. Navy command, is circumstantial, at best.

Roosevelt's desire for war with Germany Edit

Theorists challenging the traditional view that Pearl Harbor was a surprise repeatedly note that Roosevelt wanted the U.S. to intervene in the war against Germany, though he did not say so officially. A basic understanding of the political situation of 1941 precludes any possibility the public wanted war. Thomas Fleming argued President Roosevelt wished for Germany or Japan to strike the first blow, but did not expect the United States to be hit as severely as it was in the attack on Pearl Harbor. [44]

An attack by Japan on the U.S. could not guarantee the U.S. would declare war on Germany. [45] [ page needed ] After such an attack, American public anger would be directed at Japan, not Germany, just as happened. The Tripartite Pact (Germany, Italy, Japan) called for each to aid another in defense Japan could not reasonably claim America had attacked Japan if she struck first. [46] For instance, Germany had been at war with the UK since 1939, and with the USSR since June 1941, without Japanese assistance. There had been a serious, if low-level, naval war going on in the Atlantic between Germany and the U.S. since summer of 1941, as well. On October 17 a U-boat torpedoed a U.S. destroyer, USS Kearny, inflicting severe damage and killing eleven crewmen. Two weeks after the attack on the Kearny, a submarine sank an American destroyer, US Reuben James, killing 115 sailors. [47] [48] Nevertheless, it was only Hitler's declaration of war on 11 December, unforced by treaty, that brought the U.S. into the European war.

Clausen and Lee's Pearl Harbor: Final Judgement reproduces a Purple message, dated 29 November 1941, from the Japanese Ambassador in Berlin to Tokyo. A closing paragraph reads, ". He (Ribbentrop) also said that if Japan were to go to war with America, Germany would, of course, join in immediately, and Hitler's intention was that there should be absolutely no question of Germany making a separate peace with England. . " [49]

While theorists who challenge the conventional view that the attack was a surprise treat this as a guarantee to join after Japan's attack, it can as easily be taken as a guarantee to come to Japan's aid, as Germany had done for Italy in Libya.

U.S. signals intelligence in 1941 was both impressively advanced and uneven. In 1929, the U.S. MI-8 cryptographic operation in New York City was shut down by Henry Stimson (Hoover's newly appointed Secretary of State), citing "ethical considerations", [50] which inspired its now broke former director, Herbert Yardley, to write a 1931 book, The American Black Chamber, about its successes in breaking other nations' crypto traffic. Most countries responded promptly by changing (and generally improving) their ciphers and codes, forcing other nations to start over in reading their signals. The Japanese were no exception.

Nevertheless, U.S. cryptanalytic work continued after Stimson's action in two separate efforts: the Army's Signal Intelligence Service (SIS) and the Navy's Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) crypto group, OP-20-G. Cryptanalytic work was kept secret to such an extent, however, commands such as the 14th Naval District at Pearl Harbor were prohibited from working on codebreaking by Admiral Kelly Turner as a consequence of the bureaucratic infighting in Washington.

By late 1941, those organizations had broken several Japanese ciphers, such as J19 and PA-K2, called Tsu and Oite respectively by the Japanese. [51] The highest security diplomatic code, dubbed Purple by the U.S., had been broken, but American cryptanalysts had made little progress against the IJN's current Kaigun Ango Sho D [52] (Naval Code D, called AN-1 by the U.S. [53] JN-25 after March 1942).

In addition, there was a perennial shortage of manpower, thanks to penury on one hand and the perception of intelligence as a low-value career path on the other. Translators were over-worked, cryptanalysts were in short supply, and staffs were generally stressed. In 1942, "Not every cryptogram was decoded. Japanese traffic was too heavy for the undermanned Combat Intelligence Unit." [54] Furthermore, there were difficulties retaining good intelligence officers and trained linguists most did not remain on the job for the extended periods necessary to become truly professional. For career reasons, nearly all wanted to return to more standard assignments. However, concerning the manning levels, ". just prior to World War II, [the US] had some 700 people engaged in the effort and [was], in fact, obviously having some successes." [55] Of these, 85% were tasked to decryption and 50% to translation efforts against IJN codes. [56] The nature and degree of these successes has led to great confusion among non-specialists. Furthermore, OP-20-GY "analysts relied as much on summary reports as on the actual intercepted messages." [57]

The U.S. was also given decrypted messages by Dutch (NEI) intelligence, who like the others in the British–Dutch–U.S. agreement to share the cryptographic load, shared information with allies. However, the U.S. refused to do likewise. [58] This was, at least in part, due to fears of compromise sharing even between the US Navy and Army was restricted (e.g see Central Bureau). [ citation needed ] The eventual flow of intercepted and decrypted information was tightly and capriciously controlled. At times, even President Roosevelt did not receive all information from code-breaking activities. [ citation needed ] There were fears of compromise as a result of poor security after a memo dealing with Magic was found in the desk of Brigadier General Edwin M. (Pa) Watson, the President's military aide. [59]

Purple Edit

The Japanese code dubbed "Purple", which was used by the Foreign Office and only for diplomatic (but not for military) messages, was broken by Army cryptographers in 1940. A 14-part message using this code, sent from Japan to its embassy in Washington, was decoded in Washington on 6 and 7 December.The message, which made plain the Japanese intention to break off diplomatic relations with the United States, was to be delivered by the Japanese ambassador at 1 p.m. Washington time (dawn in the Pacific). The SIS decoded the first 13 parts of the message, but did not decode the 14th part of the message until it was too late (Intelligence). [60] Colonel Rufus S. Bratton, then serving as an aide to Marshall, took this to mean that the Japanese intended to attack at dawn somewhere in the Pacific. Marshall ordered a warning message sent to American bases in the area, including Hawaii. Due to atmospheric transmission conditions the message was sent out via Western Union over its undersea cable rather than over the military radio channels the message was not received until the attack was already underway. [61]

The claim no pre-attack IJN message expressly mentioned Pearl Harbor is perhaps true. The claims that no Purple traffic pointed to Pearl Harbor may also be true, as the Foreign Office was not well thought of by the military and during this period was routinely excluded from sensitive or secret material, including war planning. It is also possible any such intercepts were not translated until after the attack, or indeed, after the war ended some messages were not. [62] In both instances, all traffic from these pre-attack intercepts has not yet been declassified and released to the public domain. Hence, any such claims are now indeterminate, pending a fuller accounting.

Additionally, no decrypts have come to light of JN-25B traffic with any intelligence value prior to Pearl Harbor, and certainly no such has been identified. Such breaks as recorded by authors W. J. Holmes and Clay Blair Jr., were into the additive tables, which was a required second step of three (see above). The first 100 JN-25 decrypts from all sources in date/time order of translation have been released, and are available in the National Archives. The first JN-25B decrypt was in fact by HYPO (Hawaii) on 8 January 1942 (numbered #1 up JN-25B RG38 CNSG Library, Box 22, 3222/82 NA CP). The first 25 decrypts were very short messages or partial decrypts of marginal intelligence value. As Whitlock stated, "The reason that not one single JN-25 decrypt made prior to Pearl Harbor has ever been found or declassified is not due to any insidious cover-up. it is due quite simply to the fact that no such decrypt ever existed. It simply was not within the realm of our combined cryptologic capability to produce a usable decrypt at that particular juncture." [63]

JN-25 Edit

The JN-25 superencrypted code, and its cryptanalysis by the US, is one of the most debated portions of Pearl Harbor lore. JN-25 is the U.S. Navy's last of several names for the cryptosystem of the Imperial Japanese Navy, sometimes referred to as Naval Code D. [64] Other names used for it include five-numeral, 5Num, five-digit, five-figure, AN (JN-25 Able), and AN-1 (JN-25 Baker), and so on. [65]

Superenciphered codes of this sort were widely used and were the state of the art in practical cryptography at the time. JN-25 was very similar in principle to the British "Naval Cypher No. 3", known to have been broken by Germany during World War II. [66]

Once it was realized what sort of cryptosystem JN-25 was, how to attempt breaking into it was known. Stinnett notes the existence of a USN handbook for attacks on such a system, produced by OP-20-G. [ citation needed ] Even so, breaking any such code was not easy in actual practice. It took much effort and time, not least in accumulating sufficient 'cryptanalytic depth' in intercepted messages prior to the outbreak of hostilities when IJN radio traffic increased abruptly and substantially prior to 7 December 1941, IJN radio traffic was limited, since the IJN played only a minor role in the war against China and therefore was only rarely required to send radio messages whatever the highest level crypto system might have been. (As well, interception of IJN traffic off China would have been at best spotty.) Rather oddly however, the official history of GYP-1 shows nearly 45,000 IJN messages intercepted during the period from 1 June 1941 until 4 December 1941. [ citation needed ] Thus, most Japanese encrypted broadcast military radio traffic was Army traffic associated with the land operations in China, none of which used IJN cryptography. [67]

Breaking a superencrypted cipher like JN-25 was a three-step process: (a) determining the "indicator" method to establish the starting point within the additive cipher, (b) stripping away the superencryption to expose the bare code, and then (c) breaking the code itself. When JN-25 was first detected and recognized, such intercepted messages as were interceptable were collected (at assorted intercept stations around the Pacific by the Navy) in an attempt to accumulate sufficient depth to attempt to strip away the superencryption. Success at doing so was termed by the cryptographers a 'break' into the system. Such a break did not always produce a cleartext version of the intercepted message only a break in the third phase could do so. Only after breaking the underlying code (another difficult process) would the message be available, and even then its meaning—in an intelligence sense—might be less than fully clear.

When a new edition was released, the cryptographers were forced to start again. The original JN-25A system replaced the 'Blue' code (as Americans called it), and used five-digit numbers, each divisible by three (and so usable as a quick, and somewhat reliable, error check, as well as something of a 'crib' to cryptanalysts), giving a total of 33,334 legal code values. To make it harder to crack a code value, meaningless additives (from a large table or book of five-digit numbers) were added arithmetically to each five-digit cipher element. JN-25B superseded the first release of JN-25 at the start of December 1940. JN-25B had 55,000 valid words, and while it initially used the same additive list, this was soon changed and the cryptanalysts found themselves entirely locked out again.

Over the years, various claims have been made as to the progress made decrypting this system, and arguments made over when it was readable (in whole or part). Lt. "Honest John" Leitwiler, [68] Commander of Station CAST, the Philippines, stated in November 1941 that his staff could "walk right across" the number columns of the coded messages. [ citation needed ] He is frequently quoted in support of claims JN-25 was then mostly readable. This comment, however, refers not to the message itself but to the superenciphering additives and referred to the ease of attacking the code using a new method for discovery of additive values.

The 16 November 1941 letter [69] to L.W. Parks (OP-20-GY) sent by Leitwiler states, "We have stopped work on the period 1 February to 31 July as we have all we can do to keep up with the current period. We are reading enough current traffic to keep two translators very busy." Another document, Exhibit No. 151 (Memoranda from Captain L. F. Safford) from the Hewitt Inquiry [70] has a copy of the U.S. Navy message OPNAV-242239 'Evaluation of Messages of 26 November 1941' which has in part: '1. Reference (a) advised that Com 16 intercepts were considered most reliable and requested Com 16 to evaluate reports on Japanese naval movements and send dispatch to OPNAV, info CINCPAC. Com 16's estimates were more reliable than Com 14's, not only because of better radio interception, but because Com 16 was currently reading messages in the Japanese Fleet Cryptographic System ("5-number code" or "JN25") and was exchanging technical information and Japanese-to-English translations [71] with the British unit (the Far East Combined Bureau) then at Singapore. Lt. Cdr. Arthur H. McCollum was aware of this, and it may have been part of his thinking when he drafted the McCollum memo. Duane L. Whitlock, traffic analyst at CAST, [72] was not aware before the attack IJN movement traffic code was being read. "Reading" in this context means being able to see the underlying code groups, not breaking out the messages into usable plaintext. [73] The Hewitt Inquiry document also states, "The "5 numeral system" (JN-25B) yielded no information which would arouse even a suspicion of the Pearl Harbor raid, either before or afterward."

Detailed month by month progress reports have shown no reason to believe any JN-25B messages were fully decrypted before the start of the war. Tallied results for September, October, and November reveal roughly 3,800 code groups (out of 55,000, about 7%) had been recovered by the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor. In all, the U.S. intercepted 26,581 messages in naval or related systems, not counting PURPLE, between September and December 1941 alone. [74]

So convinced were U.S. Navy planners Japan could only stage a single operation at a time, [75] after intercepts indicated a Japanese buildup for operations in the Dutch East Indies, for more than two weeks (between 1 November and 17 November), no JN-25 message not relating to that expected operation was even examined for intelligence value. [76]

Japanese espionage against Pearl Harbor involved at least two Abwehr agents. One of them, Otto Kuhn, was a sleeper agent living in Hawaii with his family. Kuhn was incompetent and there is no evidence he provided information of value. The other, Yugoslavian businessman Duško Popov, was a double agent, working for the XX Committee of MI5. In August 1941, he was sent by the Abwehr to the U.S., with an assignment list that included specific questions about military facilities in Oahu, including Pearl Harbor. [77] Although British Security Coordination introduced Popov to the FBI, the Americans seem to have paid little attention. It is possible that previous propaganda and forged or unreliable intelligence contributed to J. Edgar Hoover's dismissing Popov's interest in Pearl Harbor as unimportant. [78] There is nothing to show his assignment list was passed on to military intelligence, nor was he allowed to visit Hawaii. Popov later asserted his list was a clear warning of the attack, ignored by the bungling FBI. The questions in his list were rambling and general, and in no way pointed to air attack on Pearl Harbor. Prange considered Popov's claim overblown, and argued the notorious questionnaire was a product of Abwehr thoroughness.

Furthermore, the Japanese did not need Abwehr assistance, having a consulate in Hawaii which had on its staff an undercover IJN intelligence officer, Takeo Yoshikawa. [79] The consulate had reported to IJN Intelligence for years, and Yoshikawa increased the rate of reports after his arrival. (Sometimes called a "master spy", he was in fact quite young, and his reports not infrequently contained errors.) Pearl Harbor base security was so lax Yoshikawa had no difficulty obtaining access, even taking the Navy's own harbor tourboat. (Even had he not, hills overlooking the Harbor were perfect for observation or photography, and were freely accessible.) Some of his information, and presumably other material from the Consulate, was hand-delivered to IJN intelligence officers aboard Japanese commercial vessels calling at Hawaii prior to the War at least one is known to have been deliberately routed to Hawaii for this purpose during the summer. Most, however, seem to have been transmitted to Tokyo, almost certainly via cable (the usual communication method with Tokyo). Many of those messages were intercepted and decrypted by the U.S. most were evaluated as routine intelligence gathering all nations do about potential opponents, rather than evidence of an active attack plan. None of those currently known, including those decrypted after the attack when there was finally time to return to those remaining undecrypted, explicitly stated anything about an attack on Pearl Harbor.

In November 1941, advertisements for a new board game called "The Deadly Double" appeared in American magazines. These ads later drew suspicion for possibly containing coded messages, for unknown agents, giving advance notice of the Pearl Harbor attack. The ads were headlined "Achtung, Warning, Alerte!" and showed an air raid shelter and a pair of white and black dice which, despite being six-sided, carried the figures 12, 24, and XX, and 5, 7, and 0, respectively. It was suggested that these could possibly be interpreted as giving warning of an air raid on day "7" of month "12" at approximate latitude coordinate "20" (Roman numeral "XX"). [80] [81]

Alleged detection by SS Lurline Edit

There are claims that, as the Kido Butai (the Striking Force) steamed toward Hawaii, radio signals were detected that alerted U.S. intelligence to the imminent attack. For instance, the Matson liner SS Lurline, heading from San Francisco to Hawaii on its regular route, is said to have heard and plotted, via "relative bearings", unusual radio traffic in a telegraphic code very different from International Morse [82] which persisted for several days, and came from signal source(s) moving in an easterly direction, not from shore stations—possibly the approaching Japanese fleet. There are numerous Morse Code standards including those for Japanese, Korean, Arabic, Hebrew, Russian, and Greek. To the experienced radio operator, each has a unique and identifiable pattern. For example, kana, International Morse, and "Continental" Morse all have a specific rhythmic sound to the "dit" and "dah" combinations. This is how Lurline ' s radiomen, Leslie Grogan, a U.S. Navy reserve officer in naval communications, and with decades of maritime service in the Pacific [83] identified the mooted signal source as Japanese and not, say, Russian.

There are several problems with this analysis. Surviving officers from the Japanese ships state there was no radio traffic to have been overheard by anyone: their radio operators had been left in Japan to send fake traffic, and all radio transmitters aboard the ships (even those in the airplanes) [ citation needed ] were physically disabled to prevent any inadvertent or unauthorized broadcast. [84]

The Kido Butai was constantly receiving intelligence and diplomatic updates. [85] Regardless of whether the Kido Butai broke radio silence and transmitted, there was a great deal of radio traffic picked up by its antennas. In that time period, it was known for a radio signal to reflect from the ionosphere (an atmospheric layer) ionospheric skip could result in its reception hundreds or even thousands of miles away. Receiving antennas were sometimes detected passively 'rebroadcasting' signals that reached them (at much lower amplitudes, sufficiently low that the phenomenon was not of practical importance, nor even of much significance. Some have argued that, since the Kido Butai contained a large number of possible receiving antennas, it is conceivable the task force did not break radio silence but was detected anyway. [ citation needed ]

Such detection would not have helped the Americans track the Japanese fleet. A radio direction finder (DF or RDF) from that time period reported compass direction without reference to distance. (Moreover, it was common for the receiving stations to report erroneous reciprocal bearings.) [86] [ page needed ] To locate the source, a plotter needed two such detections taken from two separate stations to triangulate and find the target. If the target was moving, the detections must be close to one another in time. To plot the task force's course with certainty, at least four such detections must have been made in proper time-pairs, and the information analyzed in light of further information received by other means. This complex set of requirements did not occur if the Kido Butai was detected, it was not tracked. [ citation needed ]

The original records of Lurline surrendered to Lt. Cmdr. George W. Pease, 14th Naval District in Honolulu, have disappeared. Neither Lurline ' s log, nor the reports to the Navy or Coast Guard by Grogan in Hawaii have been found. Thus no contemporaneously written evidence of what was recorded aboard Lurline is now available. Grogan commented on a signal source "moving" eastward in the North Pacific over several days as shown via "relative bearings" which then "bunched up" and stopped moving. [87] [88] However, the directions given by Grogan in a recreation of the logbook for the Matson Line were 18 and 44° off from known strike force positions and instead pointed towards Japan. According to author Jacobsen, Japanese commercial shipping vessels are the likely source. A re-discovered personal report written by Grogan after the radio log had been passed to the 13th Naval District, dated 10 December 1941 and titled "Record for Posterity", also does not support claims of Kido Butai broadcasting. [89]

Other alleged detections Edit

The contention that "low-powered" radio (such as VHF or what the U.S. Navy called TBS, or talk between ships), might have been used, and detected, is contradicted as impossible due to the tremendous distances involved [90] and when contact was lost, it was routinely presumed it was because low-powered radio and land line were being used. [91] Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for specific RDF reports remain wanting. [92] "A more critical analysis of the source documentation shows that not one single radio direction finder bearing, much less any locating "fix," was obtained on any Kido Butai unit or command during its transit from Saeki Bay, Kyushu to Hitokappu Bay and thence on to Hawaii. By removing this fallacious lynchpin propping up such claims of Kido Butai radio transmissions, the attendant suspected conspiracy tumbles down like a house of cards." [93]

One suggested example of a Kido Butai transmission is the November 30, 1941, COMSUM14 report in which Rochefort mentioned a "tactical" circuit heard calling "marus". [94] (a term often used for commercial vessels or non-combat units). Further, the perspective of U.S. naval intelligence at the time was, ". The significance of the term, 'tactical circuit' is that the vessel itself, that is Akagi, was using its own radio to call up the other vessels directly rather than work them through shore stations via the broadcast method which was the common practice in Japanese communications. The working of the Akagi with the Marus, indicated that she was making arrangements for fuel or some administrative function, since a carrier would rarely address a maru." [95]

Japanese radio silence Edit

According to a 1942 Japanese after action report, [96] "In order to keep strict radio silence, steps such as taking off fuses in the circuit, and holding and sealing the keys were taken. During the operation, the strict radio silence was perfectly carried out. The Kido Butai used the radio instruments for the first time on the day of the attack since they had been fixed at the base approximately twenty days before and proved they worked well. Paper flaps had been inserted between key points of some transmitters on board Akagi to keep the strictest radio silence. " Commander Genda, who helped plan the attack, stated, "We kept absolute radio silence." For two weeks before the attack, the ships of Kido Butai used flag and light signals (semaphore and blinker), which were sufficient since task force members remained in line of sight for the entire transit time. Kazuiyoshi Koichi, the communications officer for Hiei, dismantled vital transmitter parts and kept them in a box that he used as a pillow to prevent Hiei from making any radio transmissions until the attack commenced. [97] Lieutenant Commander Chuichi Yoshoka, communications officer of the flagship, Akagi, said he did not recall any ship sending a radio message before the attack. [98] Furthermore, Captain Kijiro, in charge of the Kido Butai ' s three screening submarines, stated nothing of interest happened on the way to Hawaii, presumably including signals received from the supposedly radio silent Kido Butai. [99] Vice Admiral Ryūnosuke Kusaka stated, "It is needless to say that the strictest radio silence was ordered to be maintained in every ship of the Task Force. To keep radio silence was easy to say, but not so easy to maintain." There is nothing in the Japanese logs or after action report indicating that radio silence was broken until after the attack. Kusaka worried about this when it was briefly broken on the way home. [100]

The appendix to the war-initiating operational order is also often debated. The message of 25 November 1941 from CinC Combined Fleet (Yamamoto) to All Flagships stated, "Ships of the Combined Fleet will observe radio communications procedure as follows: 1. Except in extreme emergency the Main Force and its attached force will cease communicating. 2. Other forces are at the discretion of their respective commanders. 3. Supply ships, repair ships, hospital ships, etc., will report directly to parties concerned." Furthermore, "In accordance with this Imperial Operational Order, the CinC of the Combined Fleet issued his operational order . The Task Force then drew up its own operational order, which was given for the first time to the whole force at Hitokappu Bay. In paragraph four of the appendix to that document, the especially secret Strike Force was specifically directed to 'maintain strict radio silence from the time of their departure from the Inland Sea. Their communications will be handled entirely on the general broadcast communications net.'" [101] [102] In addition, Genda recalled, in a 1947 interview, Kido Butai ' s communications officer issuing this order, with the task force to rely (as might be expected) on flag and blinker. [103]

The Japanese practiced radio deception. Susumu Ishiguru, intelligence and communications officer for Carrier Division Two, stated, "Every day false communications emanated from Kyushu at the same time and same wavelength as during the training period." Because of this, Commander Joseph Rochefort of Hawaii Signals Intelligence concluded that the First Air Fleet remained in home waters for routine training. The ships left their own regular wireless operators behind to carry on "routine" radio traffic. Captain Sadatoshi Tomioka stated, "The main force in the Inland Sea and the land-based air units carried out deceptive communications to indicate the carriers were training in the Kyushu area." The main Japanese naval bases (Yokosuka, Kure, and Sasebo) all engaged in considerable radio deception. Analysis of the bearings from Navy DF stations account for claimed breaks of radio silence, and when plotted, the bearings point to Japanese naval bases, not where the Kido Butai actually was. [104] On 26 November, CAST reported all Japan's aircraft carriers were at their home bases. [105] Rochefort, [106] with Huckins and Williams, [107] states there were no dummy messages used at any time throughout 1941 and no effort by the Japanese to use serious deception.

When asked after the attack just how he knew where Akagi was, Rochefort [108] (who commanded HYPO at the time) said he recognized her "same ham-fisted" radio operators. (The Japanese contend that radio operators were left behind as part of the deception operation.) The critical DF-tracked radio transmissions show bearings that could have not come from the strike force. Emissions monitored from CAST, [109] or CAST's report Akagi was off Okinawa on 8 December 1941, are examples, though some transmissions continue to be debated. [110]

Additionally, Japanese submarines were sighted and attacked (by the destroyer Ward) outside the harbor entrance a few hours before the attack commenced, and at least one was sunk—all before the planes began launching. This might have provided enough notice to disperse aircraft and fly off reconnaissance, except, yet again, reactions of the duty officers were tardy. It has been argued that failure to follow up on DF bearings saved Enterprise. If she had been correctly directed, she might have run into the six-carrier Japanese strike force.

After the attack, the search for the attack force was concentrated south of Pearl Harbor, continuing the confusion and ineffectiveness of the American response.

Locally, Naval Intelligence in Hawaii had been tapping telephones at the Japanese Consulate before the 7th. Among much routine traffic was overheard a most peculiar discussion of flowers in a call to Tokyo (the significance of which is still publicly opaque and which was discounted in Hawaii at the time), but the Navy's tap was discovered and removed in the first week of December. The local FBI field office was informed of neither the tap nor its removal the local FBI Agent in charge later claimed he would have had installed one of his own had he known the Navy's had been disconnected.

Throughout 1941, the U.S., Britain, and the Netherlands collected considerable evidence suggesting Japan was planning some new military adventure. The Japanese attack on the U.S. in December was essentially a side operation to the main Japanese thrust to the South against Malaya and the Philippines—many more resources, especially Imperial Army resources, were devoted to these attacks as compared to Pearl Harbor. Many in the Japanese military (both Army and Navy) had disagreed with Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto's idea of attacking the U.S. Fleet at Pearl Harbor when it was first proposed in early 1941, and remained reluctant after the Navy approved planning and training for an attack beginning in spring 1941, and through the highest level Imperial Conferences in September and November which first approved it as policy (allocation of resources, preparation for execution), and then authorized the attack. The Japanese focus on Southeast Asia was quite accurately reflected in U.S. intelligence assessments there were warnings of attacks against Thailand (the Kra Peninsula), Malaya, French Indochina, the Dutch East Indies (Davao-Weigo Line), the Philippines, even Russia. Pearl Harbor was not mentioned. In fact, when the final part of the "14-Part Message" (also called the "one o'clock message") crossed Kramer's desk, he cross-referenced the time (per usual practice, not the brainwave often portrayed) and tried to connect the timing to a Japanese convoy (the Thai invasion force) recently detected by Admiral Hart in the Philippines. [111]

The U.S. Navy was aware of the traditional planning of the Imperial Japanese Navy for war with the U.S., as maintained throughout the 1930s and into the 1940s. The Japanese made no secret of it, and in the 1930s American radio intelligence gave U.S. war planners considerable insight in Japanese naval exercises. [112] These plans presumed there would be a large decisive battle between Japanese and U.S. battleships, but this would be fought near Japan, after the numerical superiority of the U.S. Pacific Fleet (assured by the Washington Naval Treaty, and still taken as given) was whittled down by primarily night attacks by light forces, such as destroyers and submarines. [113] This strategy expected the Japanese fleet to take a defensive posture, awaiting U.S. attack, and it was confirmed by the Japanese Navy staff only three weeks before Pearl Harbor. [114] In the 1920s, the decisive battle was supposed to happen near the Ryukyu islands in 1940 it was expected to occur in the central Pacific, near the Marshall islands. War Plan Orange reflected this in its own planning for an advance across the Pacific. [115] Yamamoto's decision to shift the focus of the confrontation with the U.S. as far east as Pearl Harbor, and to use his aircraft carriers to cripple the American battleships, was a radical enough departure from previous doctrine to leave analysts in the dark.

There had been a specific claim of a plan for an attack on Pearl Harbor from the Peruvian Ambassador to Japan in early 1941. (The source of this intelligence was traced to the Ambassador's Japanese cook. [116] It was treated with skepticism, and properly so, given the nascent state of planning for the attack at the time and the unreliability of the source.) Since Yamamoto had not yet decided to even argue for an attack on Pearl Harbor, discounting Ambassador Grew's report to Washington in early 1941 was quite sensible. Later reports from a Korean labor organization also seem to have been regarded as unlikely, though they may have had better grounding in actual IJN actions. In August 1941, British Intelligence, MI6, dispatched its agent Duško Popov, code name Tricycle, to Washington to alert the FBI about German requests for detailed intelligence about defenses at Pearl Harbor, indicating that the request had come from Japan. Popov [117] further revealed that the Japanese had requested detailed information about the British attack on the Italian fleet at Taranto. For whatever reason, the FBI took no action.

British advance knowledge and withholding claims Edit

Several authors have controversially claimed that Winston Churchill had significant advance knowledge of the attack on Pearl Harbor but intentionally chose not to share this information with the Americans in order to secure their participation in the war. These authors allege that Churchill knew that the Japanese were planning an imminent attack against the United States by mid-November 1941. They furthermore claim that Churchill knew that the Japanese fleet was leaving port on November 26, 1941 to an unknown destination. Finally, they claim that on December 2, British intelligence intercepted Admiral Yamamoto's signal indicating December 7 as the day of an attack. [118] [119] [120]

One story from author Constantine Fitzgibbon claimed that a letter received from Victor Cavendish-Bentinck stated that Britain's JIC met and discussed at length the impending Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. From a Joint Intelligence Sub-Committee session of 5 December 1941 [121] it was stated "We knew that they changed course. I remember presiding over a J.I.C. meeting and being told that a Japanese fleet was sailing in the direction of Hawaii, asking 'Have we informed our transatlantic brethren?' and receiving an affirmative reply." However the author was incorrect. There was no session on 5 December nor was Pearl Harbor discussed when they did meet on 3 December. [122] [123] [124]

In late November 1941, both the U.S. Navy and Army sent explicit warnings of war with Japan to all Pacific commands. On November 27 Washington sent a final alert to Pacific American military commanders, such as the message sent to Admiral Kimmel at Pearl Harbor, which read in part: "This dispatch is to be considered a war warning. an aggression move by Japan is expected within the next days." [125] Although these plainly stated the high probability of imminent war with Japan, and instructed recipients to be accordingly on alert for war, they did not mention the likelihood of an attack on Pearl Harbor itself, instead focusing on the Far East. Washington forwarded none of the raw intelligence it had, and little of its intelligence estimates (after analysis), to Hawaiian commanders, Admiral Husband E. Kimmel and General Walter C. Short. Washington did not solicit their views about likelihood of war or Hawaiian special concerns. Washington's war warning messages have also been criticised by some (e.g., the U.S. Army Pearl Harbor Board – "Do/Don't Messages") as containing "conflicting and imprecise" language.

Since the Army was officially responsible for the security of the Pearl Harbor facilities and Hawaiian defense generally, and so of the Navy's ships while in port, Army actions are of particular interest. Short reported to Washington he had increased his alert level (but his earlier change in meaning for those levels was not understood in Washington and led to misunderstanding there about what he was really doing). In addition, Short's main concern was sabotage from fifth columnists (expected to precede the outbreak of war for decades preceding the attack), [126] which accounts for his orders that Army Air Corps planes be parked close together near the center of the airfields. There seems to have been no increased Army urgency about getting its existing radar equipment properly integrated with the local command and control in the year it had been available and operational in Hawaii before the attack. Leisurely radar training continued and the recently organized early warning center was left minimally staffed. Anti-aircraft guns remained in a state of low readiness, with ammunition in secured lockers. Neither Army long-range bombers nor Navy PBYs were used effectively, remaining on a peacetime maintenance and use schedule. Short evidently failed to understand he had the responsibility to defend the fleet. [127] In Short's defense, it should be noted he had training responsibilities to meet, and the best patrol aircraft, B-17s and B-24s, were in demand in the Philippines and Britain, both of which had higher priority (he wanted at least 180 heavy bombers, but already had 35 B-17s, and was getting 12 more). [128]

Little was done to prepare for air attack. Inter-service rivalries between Kimmel and Short did not improve the situation. Particularly, most intelligence information was sent to Kimmel, assuming he would relay it to Short, and vice versa this assumption was honored mostly in the breach. Hawaii did not have a Purple cipher machine (although, by agreement at the highest levels between U.S. and UK cryptographic establishments, four had been delivered to the British by October 1941), so Hawaii remained dependent on Washington for intelligence from that (militarily limited) source. However, since Short had no liaison with Kimmel's intelligence staff, he was usually left out of the loop. Henry Clausen reported the war warnings could not be more precise because Washington could not risk Japan guessing the U.S. was reading important parts of their traffic (most importantly Purple), as well as because neither was cleared to receive Purple.

Clausen does not answer why Washington could not have said "an exceptionally reliable source" was involved, with very strong instructions to pay attention. Additionally, Clausen claims military men of Kimmel and Short's seniority and background should have understood the significance of the warnings, and should have been more vigilant than they were, as for instance in scouting plane flights from Hawaii, which were partial at best in the period just before the attack. All other Pacific commands took appropriate measures [ citation needed ] for their situations.

Like most commentators, Clausen ignores what the "war warnings" (and their context) explicitly warn, though indistinctly, against. Washington, with more complete intelligence than any field command, expected an attack anywhere on a list of possible locations (Pearl Harbor not among them), and since the Japanese were already committed to Thailand, it seems to have been expected another major operation by them was impossible. Clausen, like most, also ignores what actions Kimmel, Short, and Admiral Claude C. Bloch (Commander, Fourteenth Naval District, responsible for naval facilities in Hawaii) actually took. They took precautions against sabotage, widely expected as a precursor to war, and reported their preparations. The Hawaii commanders did not anticipate an air attack no one did so explicitly. Indeed, the prevailing view at the time was Japan could not execute two major naval operations at once, so with the Thailand invasion convoy known to be at sea, the Hawaii commanders had good reason to feel safe.

One major point often omitted from the debate (though Costello covers it thoroughly) [129] is the Philippines, where MacArthur, unlike Kimmel or Short, had complete access to all decrypted Purple and JN-25 traffic CAST could provide (indeed, Stinnet quotes Whitlock to that effect), [130] and was nonetheless caught unprepared and with all planes on the ground nevertheless, nine hours after the Pearl Harbor attack. Caidin and Blair also raise the issue.

Although it has been argued that there was sufficient intelligence at the time to give commanders at Pearl Harbor a greater level of alert, some factors may take on unambiguous meaning not clear at the time, lost in what Roberta Wohlstetter in her masterful examination of the situation called "noise", [131] "scattered amid the dross of many thousands of other intelligence bits, some of which just as convincingly pointed to a Japanese attack on the Panama Canal." [39]

None of the three U.S. Pacific Fleet aircraft carriers were in Pearl Harbor when the attack came. This has been alleged by some to be evidence of advance knowledge of the attack by those in charge of their disposition the carriers were supposedly away so as to save them (the most valuable ships) from attack.

In fact, the two carriers then operating with the Pacific Fleet, Enterprise and Lexington, were on missions to deliver fighters to Wake and Midway Islands, which were intended in part to protect the route used by planes (including B-17s) bound for the Philippines (the third, Saratoga, was in routine refit in Puget Sound, at the Bremerton shipyard). At the time of the attack, Enterprise was about 200 mi (170 nmi 320 km) west of Pearl Harbor, heading back. In fact, Enterprise had been scheduled to be back on December 6, but was delayed by weather. A new arrival estimate put her arrival at Pearl around 07:00, almost an hour before the attack, but she was also unable to make that schedule.

Furthermore, at the time, aircraft carriers were classified as fleet scouting elements, and hence relatively expendable. [132] They were not capital ships. The most important vessels in naval planning even as late as Pearl Harbor were battleships (per the Mahan doctrine followed by both the U.S. and Japanese navies at the time). [133] Carriers became the Navy's most important ships only following the attack.

At the time, naval establishments all over the world regarded battleships, not carriers, as the most powerful and significant elements of naval power. Had the U.S. wanted to preserve its key assets from attack, it would almost certainly have focused on protecting battleships. It was the attack on Pearl Harbor itself that first helped vault the carrier ahead of the battleship in importance. The attack demonstrated the carrier's unprecedented ability to attack the enemy at a great distance, with great force and surprise. The U.S. would turn this ability against Japan. Elimination of battleships from the Pacific Fleet forced the Americans to rely on carriers for offensive operations.

Another issue in the debate is the fact neither Admiral Kimmel nor General Short ever faced court martial. It is alleged this was to avoid disclosing information showing the U.S. had advanced knowledge of the attack. When asked, "Will historians know more later?", Kimmel replied, "' . I'll tell you what I believe. I think that most of the incriminating records have been destroyed. . I doubt if the truth will ever emerge.' . " [134] From Vice Admiral Libby, "I will go to my grave convinced that FDR ordered Pearl Harbor to let happen. He must have known." [135] It is equally likely this was done to avoid disclosing the fact that Japanese codes were being read, given that there was a war on.

Part of the controversy of the debate centers on the state of documents pertaining to the attack. There are some related to Pearl Harbor which have not yet [ when? ] been made public. Some may no longer exist, as many documents were destroyed early during the war due to fears of an impending Japanese invasion of Hawaii. Still others are partial and mutilated. [136]

Information that is still [ when? ] currently classified includes key reports in Churchill's records, including the PREM 3 file in the UK's Public Records Office, which contains Churchill's most secret wartime intelligence briefs. In it, the 252 group dealing with the Japanese situation in 1941 is open, save for the omission of Section 5, dealing with events from November 1941 through March 1942, and is marked with official finality as "closed for 75 years." [137] Unlike the Magic intelligence files released by the United States, none of the Ultra intelligence files pertaining to Japan have been released by the British government. [138]

Conflicting stories regarding FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests for the source materials used, e.g., Sheet Number 94644, or materials available at the National Archives are also common among the debate. However, much information has been said to have been automatically destroyed under a destruction of classified information policy during the war itself. Various authors have nevertheless continued to bring classified Pearl Harbor materials to light via FOIA.

For instance, Sheet No. 94644 derives from its reference in the FOIA-released Japanese Navy Movement Reports of Station H in November 1941. Entries for 28 November 1941 have several more items of interest, each being a "movement code" message (indicating ship movements or movement orders), with specific details given by associated Sheet Numbers. Examples are: Sheet No. 94069 has information on "KASUGA MARU" – this being hand-written (Kasuga Maru was later converted to CVE Taiyo) Sheet No. 94630 is associated with IJN oiler Shiriya (detailed to the Midway Neutralization Force, with destroyers Ushio and Sazanami, not the Kido Butai) [139] and finally for Sheet No. 94644 there is another hand-written remark "FAF using Akagi xtmr" (First Air Fleet using Akagi's transmitter). It is known that the movement reports were largely readable at the time. [140]

These three documents (Sheet Numbers 94069, 94630, and 94644) are examples of materials which yet, even after decades and numerous specific FOIA requests, have not been declassified fully and made available to the public. Sheet Number 94644, for example, noted as coming from Akagi's transmitter and as being a "movement code" report, would have likely contained a reported position. [141]

Forgeries Edit

A purported transcript of a conversation between Roosevelt and Churchill in late November 1941 was analyzed and determined to be fake. [142] There are claims about these conversations much of this is based on fictional documents, often cited as "Roll T-175" at the National Archives. There is no Roll T-175 NARA does not use that terminology. [143]

The Campaign to Lie America Into World War II

Before Pearl Harbor, there was an elaborate British influence operation of forged documents, fake news, and manipulation.

Seventy-eight years ago, on December 6, 1941, the United States was at peace with world. The next morning, local time, the Empire of Japan bombed the U.S. Navy base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Four days later, Nazi Germany issued a declaration of war against the United States. The American people were now unalterably involved in a global conflict that would take the lives of over 400,000 of their native sons.

But before Japan opened this door to war, the United States had been the target of an elaborate, covert influence campaign meant to push public opinion, by hook or by crook, into supporting intervention on the side of the British. Conducted by the United Kingdom’s MI6 intelligence service, it involved sometimes witting (and often unwitting) collaboration with the highest echelons of the U.S. government and media establishment.

In the early summer of 1940, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill dispatched intelligence agent William Stephenson to North America to establish the innocuous-sounding British Security Coordination (BSC). The Canadian-born Stephenson was a World War I flying ace and wealthy industrialist who had been a close Churchill confidant for several years. Adopting the codename “Intrepid” during his operations, spymaster Stephenson served as the main inspiration for James Bond (whose creator, Ian Fleming, worked with the BSC).

The BSC’s base of operations was the 35 th floor of Rockefeller Center in New York City, which it occupied rent-free. The influence campaign began in April 1941, employing hundreds of agents, including well-placed individuals in front groups, the government, and polling organizations.

Intrepid had his work cut out for him.

Entering 1941, upwards of 80 percent of Americans opposed U.S. intervention in the war in Europe, a sentiment expressed through the America First Committee. Founded in September 1940 by a group of Yale students (including Gerald Ford, Sargent Shriver, and future Supreme Court justice Potter Stewart), at its peak the organization had 800,000 dues paying members and 450 local chapters spread across the country.

“The America First Committee was taking the position that we should not be involved in foreign wars, as we were in World War I,” John V. Denson, a distinguished scholar at the Ludwig von Mises Institute and former circuit judge in Alabama, told The American Conservative. “There was a great deal of criticism of [Woodrow] Wilson taking us into World War I, so there was strong sentiment that we were tricked into that war and therefore that we needed to stay out of European wars. That was the America First position. We didn’t want England or anyone else dragging us into another war.”

This meant that a primary goal of the BSC was to disparage and harass those Americans opposed to entering World War II. But it couldn’t do this in the open. The Fight for Freedom Committee was (like the BSC) established in April 1941 and also headquartered at Rockefeller Center. There it announced that the United States ought to accept “the fact that we are at war, whether declared or undeclared.”

In September 1941, when North Dakota Senator Gerald Nye, an anti-interventionist and scourge of the armaments industry, gave a speech in Boston, Fight for Freedom demonstrators booed and heckled him while handing out 25,000 pamphlets labeling him an “appeaser and Nazi-lover.” Similarly, when New York Congressman Hamilton Fish III, an irritable thorn in Franklin Roosevelt’s side, held a rally in Milwaukee, a Fight for Freedom member interrupted his speech to hand him a placard: “Der Fuhrer thanks you for your loyalty.” Reporters, alerted ahead of time, made sure photos of the scene were reprinted nationwide.

When Charles Lindbergh, the aviator and the America First Committee’s most popular speaker, addressed a rally at Madison Square Garden in October 1941, Fight for Freedom attempted to sow confusion by printing duplicate tickets. Lindbergh still successfully spoke to over 20,000 supporters, not including an agent provocateur who tried to cause a stir by yelling, “Hang Roosevelt!” (In actuality, it would be Lindbergh’s infamous September 11 remarks in Des Moines that would do more to damage the non-interventionist cause than any of the BSC-orchestrated hijinks.)

A 1945 study by BSC historians described their efforts: “Personalities were discredited, their unsavory pasts were dug up, their utterances were printed and reprinted…. Little by little, a sense of guilt crept through the cities and across the states. The campaign took hold.”

To promote the influence campaign, Stephenson gave large sums of money every month to the heads of media outlets like the Overseas News Agency or the WRUL radio station, and in exchange they would publish or broadcast “fake news” overseas. The stories were often fictional accounts of the British war effort and were promptly republished by American newspapers, which believed them to be credible. By the fall of 1941, the BSC was pushing out 20 to 25 phony stories a week.

Stephenson’s influence campaign was at its most effective when he used his political connections to shape the Roosevelt administration’s policy. It was Stephenson who suggested that prominent lawyer William J. Donovan be made “Coordinator of Information” (whose office was also in Rockefeller Center). Describing this appointment, the late historian Ralph Raico wrote, “Through Stephenson, Churchill was virtually in control of William Donovan’s organization, the embryonic U.S. intelligence service.” Donovan, who the British described as “our man,” later headed the Office of Strategic Services, the precursor to the CIA.

With the pieces in place, Stephenson directed British lyricist Eric Maschwitz to create two forgeries : one, a map showing a German war plan to occupy South America the other, a Nazi plan to abolish the world’s religions. These fake documents were provided by the BSC to Donovan, who gave them to the president.

“I have in my possession a secret map made in Germany by Hitler’s government—by the planners of the new world order,” Franklin Roosevelt announced during an October 27 radio address at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C. “It is a map of South America and a part of Central America, as Hitler proposes to reorganize it. …This map makes clear the Nazi design not only against South America but against the United States itself.”

“Your government has in its possession another document made in Germany by Hitler’s government,” continued Roosevelt. “It is a plan to abolish all existing religions—Protestant, Catholic, Mohammedan, Hindu, Buddhist, and Jewish alike. …In the place of the Bible, the words of Mein Kampf will be imposed and enforced as Holy Writ. And in place of the cross of Christ will be put two symbols—the swastika and the naked sword.”

Donovan, aware that Stephenson had given him falsified information in the past, almost certainly knew the documents were forgeries. But what about President Roosevelt?

Henry Hemming, author of Agents of Influence: A British Campaign, a Canadian Spy, and the Secret Plot to Bring America into World War II , explained in an interview with TAC : “When [Assistant Secretary of State for Latin American Affairs] Adolf Berle comes to see Roosevelt in September 1941, he brings with him a dossier. And in this dossier, he has evidence of three separate occasions in which the British have tried to fabricate proof of a Nazi plot somewhere in South America. …He says, ‘This is a real problem. We have to do something about this.’ And in his notes from that meeting, Berle says the president was curiously reserved and didn’t seem to react in the way he expected him to. And Roosevelt eventually says, ‘You should probably bring this up with Bill Donovan.'”

“[I]t’s the South American map that’s so interesting,” Hemming said, “because Roosevelt knows that the British are concentrating on South America. This is where they’re trying to create evidence of a Nazi plot. And here is a document which does precisely the same thing, just after he’s been warned that the British are trying to do this. So knowing that, it would have been very strange for him not to think, ‘Hm, this looks and smells like a British fake.’” Hemming concludes that it is “extremely likely” Roosevelt suspected the forgery, but proceeded with the speech anyway.

Denson believes Roosevelt’s motivation for this deception was that American entry into World War II would gift the United States the international system he’d always desired: “I think he made up his mind as soon as the Senate didn’t confirm the League of Nations [in 1919]. He decided he could do a better job than Wilson, and he could get a world government like the League of Nations started. I think he was always on that train.” The “Declaration of United Nations,” cowritten by Roosevelt and Churchill, was signed in January 1942.

From manipulating American public perceptions against peace to actively propelling the United States towards war, the influence campaign by Intrepid was a rousing success for the British. And not incidentally, it helped build the modern world.

Hunter DeRensis is a reporter with The National Interest, and a regular contributor to The American Conservative. Follow him on Twitter @HunterDeRensis.

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