5. The "Winds Code Messages"

Many thousands of words have been expended in discussing and writing the story of the so-called "Winds Code Messages," and, in particular, whether there were any authentic "Winds Code Execute" messages.

There were two "Winds Code" set-ups, which were intended, for reasons peculiar to the Oriental mentality, to give a certain kind of warning, but just exactly what kind of a warning is unclear because both of these "set-ups" were, to say the least, impractical, indeed quite foolish, because they were so susceptible of being confused with ordinary weather and news broadcasts. And, indeed, this is exactly what did happen with regard to the one of most interest to the U.S. A weather broadcast--now termed the false "Winds Code Execute" message, was intercepted--and for a few hours at any rate was taken to be the real thing. But it wasn't "the real McCoy"--it resembled what the Execute message might have been, but when carefully scrutinized it just didn't meet all the conditions specified in the code instructions. The alarm it set off subsided as soon as the discrepancies with what a real Execute should be were recognized.

I think that one thing was established conclusively after exhaustive investigation by several of the Pearl Harbor boards, including that of the Joint Congressional Committee: the Japanese never did send out an authentic "Winds Code Execute" message which clearly indicated that Japan was going to attack the U.S. If indeed the Foreign Ministry intended to transmit such a message it was forgotten at the last moment; and even if


it had not forgotten, the most the message could have conveyed was that there was going to be a break in relations between Japan and the country signified by the particular "Winds Code Execute" message. The other thing which seems to be certain is that, having forgotten to send out the "Execute" meaning a break between Japan and the U.S., somebody seems to have remembered to send out after the attack on Pearl Harbor a "Winds Code Execute" signifying that Japan was breaking relations with Britain but not with the U.S.S.R. Even this one the Japanese who were interrogated after the surrender of Japan denied having transmitted, but all the evidence I have examined indicates that they were not telling the truth. One might say, if they didn't tell the truth about that one we should not put any credence in their denial that a "Winds Code Execute" was sent out on 3 December, the one indicating a break in relations (or war) with the U.S. Certain of the Japanese interrogated on the point denied ever setting up the "Winds Code" in the first place. This point is examined in great detail in Appendix E to PHR, pp. 467-86):

CONCLUSION: From consideration of all evidence relating to the winds code, it is concluded that no genuine message, in execution of the code and applying to the United States, was received in the War or Navy Department prior to December 7, 1941. It appears, however, that messages were received which were initially thought possibly to be in execution of the code but were determined not to be execute messages. In view of the preponderate weight of evidence to the contrary, it is believed that Captain Safford is honestly mistaken when he insists that an execute message was received prior to December 7, 1941. Considering the period of time that has elapsed, this mistaken impression is understandable.


Granting for purposes of discussion that a genuine execute message applying to the winds code was intercepted before December 7, it is concluded that such fact would have added nothing to what was already known concerning the critical character of our relations with the Empire of Japan.

This conclusion reached in 1946 remains unshaken to this day--nothing has turned up to make a change in it desirable, so far as concerns any "Winds Code Execute" message that might have been transmitted on 3 December, as Captain Safford contended. one could only wish that the conclusion had stated categorically that there was such a message in regard to a break in relations between Japan and the British (and also the Dutch East Indies) because the evidence is clear that such a signal was sent--but then, by that time, 8 December, the attack on Pearl Harbor was finished.

The "revisionists," however, still believe in Captain Safford--the sole person who stuck to his statement that there was a 3 December warning, and that all copies of that message were deliberately destroyed. The interesting thing about this whole tempest-in-a-teapot is that even if there had been an authentic U.S.-Japan execute message, it would have told us nothing whatever that was not already known on 3 December. moreover, and this I think is very important, the attack on Pearl was prepared for with so much secrecy I would doubt verymuch that the Japanese would take any chance whatever in sending out a message which might "tip their hand." It just doesn't fit in the picture at all!

It is interesting to note that Admiral Kimmel, while he mentions the "Winds Code" affair and cites (p. 100) what the Naval Court of Inquiry said about it--later proved to be wrong--does not press the


matter too seriously. I think the Admiral is very dubious that a real Execute was ever sent out on 3 December as claimed by Captain Safford, although he does say (p. 101): "The findings of the Naval Court of Inquiry on this subject are confirmed by the evidence presented to the joint congressional investigating committee.." The Admiral does not state specifically what the "findings" were but the reader is left to conclude that the committee found that there was an Execute transmitted on 3 December and that it was intercepted by us--but the information was not transmitted to him or to other commanders afloat.

Senators Ferguson and Brewster in their Minority Report say (p. 526): "Even if the wind execute message they saw was a false one they believed it true at the time and should have acted accordingly." A good point, and I think one that should be emphasized; it is too bad it wasn't followed up regardless of any other considerations.


Table of Contents
Previous Section*   Next Section

Transcribed and formatted by Patrick Clancey