The Battle of Pearl Harbor is still being fought but the adversaries this time are all Americans; and though the battle is bloodless, because the weapons are now words, not bullets or bombs, it is quite acrimonious and intense, as internal or civil wars generally are. This time the battle is intended to capture, by a sort of literary "brainwashing," the minds of a large segment of the American people who more or less dimly feel that the truth, the whole truth, has not yet been told. many Americans, I am sure, are still undecided in regard to who or what was
responsible for this most momentous and most humiliating naval disaster in our history.
Fifteen million words, more or less, have been written concerning, explaining, or attempting to assess and fix responsibilities for the Pearl harbor disaster, and to show why the U.S. forces at Honolulu were caught napping in the early hours of what President Roosevelt referred to as that "day of infamy" when he appeared before Congress on 8 December 1941 to declare war on Japan. The Report and Hearings Before the Joint Committee on the Investigation of the Pearl Harbor Attack (79th Congress, 2d Session, Government Printing Office, Washington, 1946), hereinafter referred to as PHR, alone contain 15,000 transcript pages; the over-all final reports of the Committee comprises some ten million words and fills 40 volumes of closely printed text. Thus far, in addition to this vast amount of material there must be at least five million words in the writings of private individuals. Some of them defend the Findings, Conclusions, and Recommendations of the Majority in the PHR; others defend the Findings and Conclusions of the Minority in the PHR; still others disagree and violently attack both what the Majority and the Minority said. Even Representative Keefe, a Republican who signed the Majority Report found it necessary to add to that report some additional views of his own where he could not agree with those of the Majority. It is obvious that in this brochure it will be impossible to deal with all that has been written on the subject. Even to list by title the books, brochures, articles (not to mention the thousands of newspaper accounts, letters to editors, etc.) which have something to add to the
story would be a fairly large task. A bibliography covering the items on Pearl Harbor in my private collection will be found in the "Subject file" now in the NSA Library. But it is a strange, indeed, it is a remarkable fact that not a single new item of information having a direct bearing upon attempts to explain why the Pearl Harbor attack could have come or did come as a complete surprise to the U.S. has been turned up since 1946, when the Joint Congressional Committee completed its task. One may well assume, therefore, that since no new facts have come to light it must be something else that is keeping the Battle of Pearl harbor going. The assumption is true: the facts developed in the various investigations of 1944, 1945, and 1946 are being scrutinized now through different sorts of spectacles and by different observers; this results in new "interpretations" of the old, well-known facts.
It is the purpose of this brochure to make a few observations and comments on the current Battle of Pearl harbor. They are directed at the writings of certain historians who call themselves or are known as "revisionists," and who find much support in two recently published books, both by high-ranking officers of the U.S. Navy. These charges are very serious--indeed they are tantamount to imputing at least very questionable behavior by persons of such stature as the late President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Army's Chief of Staff, General George C. Marshall, and the Navy's Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Harold R. Stark. The charges are really not new; their antecedents, or nuclei of them or carefully veiled hints at them, can be found in some of the early writings of the more rabid Roosevelt-haters, and even in some parts of the
reports made by various official U.S. investigating bodies appointed to look into the matter during the last phases of World War II or soon after that war had been won.
In another section of this reports will be found an attempt to explain the genesis of the suspicions which aroused the Roosevelt haters and which kept them "needling" the president and his Administration for an explanation of how it was possible that the U.S. was taken so completely by surprise when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor; to introduce the explanation at this point I think would be confusing. All that can logically be said right here is that the President, his Administration, and the Chiefs of the two military services simply could not afford to permit the true explanation to be broadcast while the war was still in progress.
A very impartial bibliographical survey of the principle items in the literature of the subject has been prepared by a historian of recognized standing, Dr. Louis Morton, Chief of the Pacific Section of the U.S. Army's Office of Military History. His survey, entitled "Pearl Harbor in Perspective," was published in the April 1955 issue of the United States Naval Institute Proceedings (Vol. 81, No. 4, Whole No. 626, pp. 461-468). A copy of Dr. Morton's survey forms Appendix 1 to this brochure.
A second recapitulation of the Pearl Harbor story and also a source of material which may interest the reader in what the present brochure aims to do is found in an article by Robert H. Ferrell, Assistant Professor of History at Indiana University, published also in 1955, in The Historian, under the title "Pearl Harbor and the Revisionists"
(Vol. XVII, No., 2, Spring 1955, pp. 215-233). Prof. Ferrell's article (given completely in Appendix 2 to this brochure) begins as follows:
It was perhaps inevitable that after the second World War, as after the war of 1914-18, there should appear in the United States a school of historians questioning the purposes of the war and the motives of the wartime statesmen. The cost of both world wars, in human lives and in physical resources, was very high; and it was only natural that some individuals should question such expenditure. Yet the new school of "revisionism" appearing after the second World War has undertaken a line of investigation which, if successful, will force the rewriting of an entire era in American history. The revisionists hope to prove that in 1941 President Franklin D. Roosevelt purposely exposed the Pacific Fleet at Pearl harbor, and goaded the Japanese into attacking it, thus brining the United States into the war on the side of the Allies. As Professor Harry Elmer Barnes has put the case, in rather plain English, "The net result of revisionist scholarship applied to Pearl Harbor boils down essentially to this: In order to promote Roosevelt's political ambitions and his mendacious foreign policy some three thousand American boys were quite needlessly butchered. ..."
Professor Ferrell follow this extract from Professor Barnes with the following words (in a footnote):
"Of course, they were only a drop in the bucket compared to those who were ultimately slain in the war that resulted, which was as needless, in terms of vital American interests, as the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor." H.E. Barnes, ed., Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace (Caldwell, Idaho, 1953), Ch. 10, "Summary and Conclusions," p. 651.
Strong language, isn't it? Very strong, I think coming from a well-known historian such as Barnes. What substance is there to the strident claims of those professional historians, some of them very well-known and able men, who are the spokesmen for the revisionists? What is it that they wish to prove from their study of the facts concerning the Pearl Harbor disaster? First, they wish to prove that there was no need at all, "in terms of vital American interests," for the U.S. to enter into World War
War II as one of the belligerents. Some of them no doubt believe that we fought on the wrong side, with the wrong allies! With this phase of the subject I shall not concern myself in this brochure, since I make no pretense whatsoever of being a historian competent to deal with such an important subject. next, some of the revisionists claim or believe that they have proof that the disaster at Pearl harbor was no "accident," that it was brought about deliberately by President Roosevelt. They believe that what they call our "back-door" entry into the conflict was based upon an erroneous view, held by him and his Administration, as to what the U.S. role should be in world affairs; also, they want us to believe that our entry into World War II was for the personal political advantage of President Roosevelt and his followers in the Administration. They contend, in fact, that he goaded the Japanese into making the attack, that he enticed them into doing so by using the U.S. pacific Fleet as a "lure;" that he knew from the so-called MAGIC, the Japanese secrete communications which Army and Navy cryptanalysts had solved, the exact time the attack would be made and the exact place where they were going to make it; that the President sensed that such an attack was the only thing which would unify American opinion and bring the people of the United States to a pitch of excitement and resentment sufficiently high to lead them to accept with equanimity U.S. entry into World War II on the side of the British and the French, thereby, as Roosevelt felt and as turned out to be the case, assuring the complete defeat of the Axis powers; that President Roosevelt should and could have avoided the disaster at Pearl Harbor but deliberately chose not to do so, for the
reasons cited above; and that he purposely withheld MAGIC intelligence from Admiral Kimmel, Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, and General Short, Commanding General of the Hawaiian Department, the two highest-ranking commanders in Hawaii who should have been, but were not, given this information, and who, therefore, were permitted by him to be deliberately misled as to the real situation, misled to the point, in fact, that when the attack came they were entirely unprepared even to meet it, let alone repulse it. In withholding this information, one of the proponents of this theory, a retired admiral of the regular U.S. Navy, Rear Admiral Robert A. Theobald, implies in his book, The Final Secret of Pearl Harbor (New York: The Devin-Adair Co., 1954), that to make it quite certain that the Japanese attack would be a complete surprise, so far as General Short and Admiral Kimmel were concerned, the President had to have and did have as reluctant partners in his conspiracy, or what was tantamount thereto, General Marshall, the Chief of Staff of the Army, and Admiral Stark, the Chief of Naval Operations, both regular officers of highest integrity and repute. And although Admiral Kimmel in his own book Admiral Kimmel's; Story (Chicago: Henry Regnery Co., 1955) does not go quite so far as does Admiral Theobald as to make charges tantamount to conspiracy, he does go quite a long distance along the same route. There is a degree of confusion in regard to this point, however. The following, for example, appears on the inside flap of the dust cover:
Admiral Kimmel stick to his own end of the story. he tells us about the material he was denied, the warning messages he didn't get. He impugns no motives, he makes no deductions from unproved hypotheses. "Is this a slap at Theobald?" But the book is
sufficient to nail down the inescapable point: the blame for the loss of the Pacific Fleet battleships rests squarely on Washington not on the men at Pearl.
But on the back of the dust jacket, repeated from the last chapter of his book (p. 186), Admiral Kimmel says:
Again and again in my mind I have reviewed the events that preceded the Japanese attack, seeking to determine if I was unjustified in drawing from the orders, directives and information that were forwarded to me the conclusions that I did. The fact that I then thought and now think my conclusions were sound when based upon the information I received, has sustained me during the years that have passed since the first Japanese bomb fell on Pearl Harbor.
When the information available in Washington prior to the attack was finally disclosed to me long after, I was appalled. nothing my experience of nearly forty-two years service in the Navy had prepared me for the actions of the highest officials in our government which denied this vital information to the Pearl harbor commanders.
If those in authority wished to engage in power policies, the least that they should have done was to advise their Naval and military commanders what they were endeavoring to accomplish. To utilize the Pacific Fleet and the Army forces at Pearl Harbor as a lure for a Japanese attack without advising the commander-in-chief of the fleet and the commander of the Army base at Hawaii is something I am wholly unable to comprehend.
While I am still able to do so, I feel that I must tell the story so that those who follow may fully realize the imperative necessity of furnishing the naval and military commanders at the front with full and clear information. Only in this way can the future security of our country be preserved.
Dr. Morton in commenting upon Admiral Kimmel's Story says (p. 461):
Admiral Kimmel's case rests upon the allegation that he was deliberately denied information available in Washington. had he had this information, he says, he would have known the Japanese intended to strike Pearl Harbor and could have adopted measures to meet the attack and minimize the losses. These measures, which he outlines, are of considerable interest, though one wonders to what extent they are guided by hindsight.
Dr. Morton continues as follows: (p. 462)
To support his case, Admiral Kimmel draws on the evidence presented during the investigations of the Pearl Harbor attack. This evidence, he claims was not only obscured at the time but was evaluated to produce a desired result. Inconsistencies in the testimony were ignored, and important questions raised during the hearings left unanswered. he charges bias on the part of investigating officers and a deliberate effort to white-wash the administration and block an impartial search for the truth. "The Congressional investigation," Kimmel declares, "was governed by the majority party, the Democrats. The huge volumes of testimony in that inquiry served to confuse the public mind as to the significance of the facts and to smother testimony damaging to the administration."
Responsibility for Pearl Harbor, Kimmel charges, rests squarely upon the shoulders of his superiors in Washington and ultimately on the Commander-in-Chief, President Roosevelt. "Until this day," he writes, "I have kept silence on the subject of Pearl Harbor . . . Now, however, I deem it my duty to speak out. What took place in Washington must be so clearly placed on the public record that no group of persons in administrative power will ever dare again to invite another Pearl Harbor and place the blame on the officers in the fleet and in the field."
The charges that Admiral Kimmel makes are not new and were being circulated even before the end of the war. The Japanese attack on December 7 had unified the country and ended temporarily the debate between the "Isolationists" and the "interventionists" which had marked the prewar years. All classes and parties closed ranks for the duration of the struggle. But even during the war, there had been a recognition of the political implications involved in the question of responsibility for Pearl Harbor, and the administration had taken steps to preserve the record. Six investigations had been conducted even while the conflict raged, all but one of them by the Army and Navy. As a result, a large volume of testimony and documents that might otherwise have been lost was assembled. But the requirements of wartime security and a unified national effort made public debate impossible.
The war over, partisan differences reappeared, and critics of President Roosevelt began to challenge openly the views so widely held during he war years. The cooling of passions and disillusion with the postwar world raised further questions about American participation in the war. Historians and publicists, as they have done after every war, sought to reassess the causes of the war and to place Roosevelt's policy in the larger perspective of American history. Thus, in the years following the end of the conflict, a new interpretation of the events that had preceded the war and of the conduct of the war itself emerged.
The foregoing final paragraph of the extract from Dr. Morton's article brings us directly to the principle revisionist contention which will be examined in the present brochure. The contention, as noted above, was first stated in 1945 by John T. Flynn, one of the early and most vitriolic revilers of President Roosevelt, in a pamphlet entiitled The Final Secret of Pearl Harbor, in which he revealed the fact that U.S. cryptanalysts had solved the Japanese diplomatic codes and ciphers before the Pearl Harbor attack. His contention was that the intelligence derived or derivable from the solved and translated messages, the so-called MAGIC, told exactly where and when the Japanese were going to strike; that this priceless information Roosevelt deliberately kept from Admiral Kimmel and General Short, with the results that the Japanese were able to make their attack with complete surprise; and that the loss of men and ships that resulted therefrom, however unfortunate it was for the U.S. and a few American families, unified the country. That, claims Flynn, was Roosevelt's aim. At any rate, as Dr. Morton indicates, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor ended the debate between the "isolationists" and the "interventionists."