THE STORY OF PEARL HARBOR
1. INTRODUCTION: SCOPE OF THE CHAPTER AND ITS PURPOSE: This is a
running story of the principal events, documents, and actions taken
leading up to Pearl Harbor. We accompany this story with a discussion
of the pro's and con's of each situation in order that all arguments for
and against every explanation and the circumstances surrounding every
set of facts may be clearly understood and evaluated. Against such a
background, all claims, arguments, facts and explanations can be
considered. We believe this chronological history of the entire
transaction will make our succeeding conclusions clearly stand forth.
After setting forth some general considerations in this chapter, we
direct attention to the two primary periods, from January through
September and from October through December. As will be noted elsewhere
this is a logical chronological division. In the latter part of the
year 1941 there seemed to be change of understanding, appreciation, and
apprehension of forthcoming events on the part of those in Hawaii. In
reading this chronological history this should be observed because it is
an important factor in what was done or not done in Hawaii.
2. GEOGRAPHICAL: The Territory of Hawaii comprises an island group of
which the Island of Oahu is the primary element. Oahu contains Pearl
Harbor, located on its southern rim. Pearl Harbor is the base for the
Pacific Fleet, and was also the headquarters during 1941 of the
Commander-in-Chief of the
Pacific Fleet and Headquarters of the 14th Naval District, which had
naval jurisdiction over the Hawaiian Islands and our other island
possessions in the Pacific including Midway and Wake but not the
Philippines. Oahu was also the location of one of the largest troop
concentrations in the national defense system of the United States while
other national defense elements are located on the adjacent islands.
It is important to emphasize that Hawaii was an *outpost* in the
American Defense system. In view of that fact, certain fundamental
requirements of action resulted which were incumbent upon the commander
of the Hawaiian Department to follow. Hawaii is both an outpost for
defense and offense, and is one of the primary bastions of our national
defense system. In priority of importance it is rated on a par with the
The primary mission of the Army was the defense of Hawaii and
particularly of Pearl Harbor and the fleet there, when in residence; and
the fleet sea and air bases at all times. Aside from the necessity of
preventing these islands from falling into the hands of other nations as
a springboard for an attack upon the United States, the foregoing
primary mission was that incumbent upon General Short at the time of the
Pearl Harbor disaster.
The whole reason for having this outpost was that it should be on alert
to repel attack and to furnish the springboard from which attacks could
be launched upon our enemies. For this reason this outpost was
implemented with the major portion of the fleet and very substantial
Army installations in order that the mainland might rest securely
and be protected. There is no other fundamental reason for the great
concentration of naval and military power on the Island of Oahu and
associate islands. The very location of the Hawaiian Islands,
approximately 2,000 miles from our Pacific Coast, makes it an admirable
location for naval, air and ground forces for it gives, by reason of its
position, a scope and flexibility of attack and defense, sufficiently
remote from the Pacific Coast to insure the maximum latitude of action
against our enemies and the maximum protection of the mainland of the
3. MISSION OF ARMY IN HAWAII: The Army in Hawaii had a mission and a
duty to perform. As stated in the Joint Coastal Frontier Defense Plan
"a. JOINT TASK. To hold OAHU as a main outlying naval base, and to
control and protect shipping in the Coastal Zone.
"b. ARMY TASK. To hold OAHU against attacks by sea, land, and air force,
and against hostile sympathizers, to support the Naval forces.
"c. NAVY TASK. To patrol the Coastal Zone and to control and protect
shipping therein, to support the Army Forces.
The Army's mission was primarily that of protecting Hawaii, because it
was the sea and air base for the fleet; and, when the fleet was in the
harbor, it was there to render such protection as it could to the fleet.
The protection of the Islands, other than for these purposes, was
secondary and only necessary to the extent of making it possible for the
Army to execute its primary mission. It should be observed that the
very fact of the fleet being in the harbor increased the
responsibilities of the Army, because of the dual facts
that the fleet when in the harbor was not in a position to support the
Army forces either by reconnaissance or by the protection incident to
its being at sea in waters adjacent to the islands, and when in the
harbor itself needed protection for its ships that were temporarily
immobilized and particularly vulnerable to air attack.
4. CONDITION OF THE HAWAIIAN DEPARTMENT AT THE TIME OF SHORT'S
ASSUMPTION OF COMMAND AND JUST PRIOR THERETO: With above mission in
mind, the condition of the Hawaiian Department just prior to the
assumption of command by General Short and Admiral Kimmel is a matter of
interest. Admiral Richardson was the senior naval officer in command of
the fleet, and General Herron the senior Army officer in command of the
Hawaiian Department. These officers jointly reviewed the situation as
to the Army. As a result Admiral Richardson addressed a letter on the
25th of January, 1941, as to the status of the Army's deficiencies for
the defense of Hawaii, which was sent to the Secretary of the Navy. (R.
1802) The Secretary of the Navy, in turn, wrote to the Secretary of
War, and called his attention to the serious conditions existing. 
Admiral Kimmel summed up the situation in his testimony:
*He was "astounded at the then existing weakness" of the Pearl Harbor
defenses,*  and collaborated with his
 See p. 99 in this chapter for a discussion of this correspondence.
 Underscoring by the Board.
predecessor in the preparation of a letter dated 25 January 1941 to the
Chief of Naval Operations. This letter pointed out:
"(a) The critical inadequacy of A.A. guns available for the defense of
Pearl Harbor, necessitating constant manning of Ship's A.A. guns while
"(b) The small number and obsolescent condition of land base aircraft,
necessitating constant readiness of striking groups of Fleet planes and
use of Fleet planes for local patrols.
"(c) Lack of suitable local defense vessels for the Fourteenth Naval
"(d) Lack of aircraft detection devices ashore."
(Roberts Rec. 544)
He communicated this information to General Short. (R. 1768)
It is therefore apparent from the considered investigations by
Richardson and Herron, which conditions were concurred in by Short, that
the lack of adequate defense equipment and what was needed to bring it
up to a satisfactory status, were clearly known to both the Army and the
Navy in Hawaii and to the War and Navy Departments. Short, therefore,
came to the command on the 5th day of February, 1941, with a clear and
unmistakable recognition by all concerned of the condition of the
Department of which he had assumed command.
General Herron, who preceded General Short, had been directed on June 7,
*1940*, by Washington, to institute an alert. (R. 213) This alert
lasted six weeks. (R. 214-215) After it was suspended at the end of
six weeks it was reinstated for a period. The alert was an all-out
alert, with complete dispersion of forces into combat positions and with
full equipment and ammunition.
General Herron testified that there was no disturbance of the civilian
population by the use of this all-out alert which was instituted under
conditions similar to those which later prevailed for General Short's
When asked as to the Alerts 1, 2, and 3 of Short, he disposed of these
alerts with the following language:
"General Herron: That was a refinement that the training men put over
on General Short when he came out there. I told him I would not do any
such thing. There was only one kind of alert, and that was a total
alert, and then I would do it in accordance with the situation. But the
training men like refinements, and they recommended three kinds because
the Navy had three kinds. But they did not get to the real point of the
thing. The Navy has three kinds, but the all-out alert is number one,
always. Now they ease up into two and three; but these young men did
not know that, and when Short came out they put over the three and go
them reversed, so that Short went into the Number 1, which was sabotage.
It did not seem to him a very important change, I don't suppose, and it
turned out to be vital. It was too much of a refinement." (R. 226-227)
In this connection, General Herron made a significant observation on
the responsibility of the Commanding General of the Hawaiian Department.
"General Grunert: I have one more question on alerts. The fact that you
received a directive from the War Department to alert the command: Did
that leave the impression in your mind that if anything serious happened
in the future the War Department would direct you to go on the alert, or
leave it up to your judgment?
"General Herron: I always felt that I was entirely responsible out there
and I had better protect the island." (R. 228)
5. ORGANIZATION OF THE NAVY AT PEARL HARBOR: Before proceeding to a
consideration of the Army's problems and the action taken by the Army in
preparing the defenses of Hawaii, it is necessary to understand the
organization of the Navy with whom General Short was to deal extensively
and with which he was to
enter into various agreements and understandings, which have a material
bearing upon which was done or was not done.
To an Army man the organization of the Navy at Hawaii appeared to be
quite complex. Admiral Kimmel was Commander-in-Chief of the Unites
States Fleet and Commander-in-Chief of the Pacific Fleet. Admiral Block
was the Commandant of the 14th Naval District. Admiral Bloch's duties
consisted of the following:
a. Commandant of the 14th Naval District, reporting directly to the Navy
Department; the 14th Naval District was a decentralized Navy Department
for local affairs, dealing with administrative matters such as plans,
buildings, work of the navy Yard, repairing ships and the like, and
providing for the Fleet oil, docks, water protection and such services
as minesweeping, antisubmarine patrol, and the like.
b. An officer of the Fleet, reporting to Admiral Kimmel, and acting as a
subordinate of Admiral Kimmel; his duties related to the preparations
for the offensive and defensive actions in time of war and to purely
c. Administrative control over Admiral Bellinger, Commander of the Base
Defense Air Force.
d. Commander of Task Force No. 4 in control of the naval installations
at the outlying island bases, such as Midway, Wake, Guam, etc.
It will be noted from the foregoing that Admiral Bloch dealt directly
with the Navy Department on certain phases of
his work. He was primarily charged as the Naval Defense Commander of
the naval intelligence on shore. He was also a Task Commander under
Admiral Kimmel. He was the responsible commander over the shore-based
naval air forces, which were charges with the mission of naval long-
Additionally, Bloch, in his capacity as a Defense Commander, had
administrative control over Admiral Bellinger, the Naval Air Officer,
who was responsible for cooperation in the air with the Army, but he had
no power of disciplinary control over Admiral Bellinger, who was under
Admiral Bellinger's duties, in turn, were as follows:
a. Commander, Hawaiian Base Patrol Wings, and Commander, Patrol Wing 2.
Included in the larger command were the patrol squadrons and aircraft
tenders attached to Patrol Wings 1 and 2.
b. Commander, Task Force 9. This comprised Patrol Wings 1 and 2, plus
other units as assigned by the Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Fleet, for
conduct of Pacific operations.
c. Commander, Fleet Air Detachment Pearl Harbor. The responsibilities
of this function included administrative authority in local matters over
all Fleet aircraft actually based ashore.
d. Liaison with Commandant, 14th Naval District, for aviation
development within the District, including Midway, Wake, Palmyra, and
e. Commander, Naval Base Defense Air Force. In connection with the
above five major duties, Admiral Bellinger operated under the following
(1) Commander, Aircraft Scouting Force, who as Fleet Commander for
patrol wings was based at San Diego.
(2) Commander, Scouting Force, the 4th Command of which Patrol Wings 1
and 2 were a part.
(3) Directly under the Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Fleet, in his
capacity as Commander, Task Force 9.
(4) Commandant, Fourteenth Naval District, in his capacity as Commander,
Naval Base Defense Air Force.
(5) Commander of Fleet Task Force 1, 2, and 3 of patrol planes assigned
to those forces for specific operations.
To summarize, Admiral Bellinger indicated that he held six positions in
Honolulu on December 7, 1941, namely,
(1) Commander, Base Patrol Wing
(2) Commander, Patrol Wing 2
(3) Commander, Task Force 9
(4) Commander, Fleet Air Detachment, Pearl Harbor
(5) Liaison Commander with the 14th Naval District
(6) Commander of the Naval Base Defense Air Force.
In these various capacities he was responsible to the
(1) Commander, Aircraft Scouting Forces
(2) Commander, Scouting Force 1 and 2
(3) Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Fleet, for his duties in connection with
Task Force 9
(4) Commander of the 14th Naval District, for his duties in connection
with the Naval Base Defense Air Force.
(5) Commander-in-Chief, the Pacific Fleet, for his duties with respect
to Patrol Wings 1, 2, and 3.
In Admiral Bloch's testimony he testified that he (Bloch) wore three
hats. He was in command of the 14th Naval District, in which capacity
he reported direct to the Navy Department. In another capacity, as an
officer of the Fleet, he was directly under the Commander-in-Chief,
Pacific Fleet, in another capacity, with respect to the Joint Coastal
Frontier Defense Plan, as Naval Defense Commander.
As may be realized, in this organization in which there were two
governing heads, Admiral Kimmel and Bloch, with whom General Short had
to do business, and their respective staffs with whom Short's staff had
to deal, as well as the many-titled Admiral Bellinger with whom General
Martin dealt, the problem of cooperation was made somewhat difficult.
By way of contrast, the Navy only had to deal with General Short as the
sole responsible commander over all activities, both ground and air.
General Martin was in command of the Army Air Forces and presented a
single air commander with whom the Navy had to deal; and Martin was
under the direct command of Short. When the agreements and methods of
operation arrived at between the Army and Navy was examined hereinafter,
these relationships will become important in understanding what was done
and what was not done and some of the reasons for the failure of the
competent defense of Hawaii.
Page maintained by Larry W. Jewell, firstname.lastname@example.org. Created: 12/12/96 Updated: 12/12/96