IV. THE COURT OF PUBLIC OPINION
The families of Admiral Kimmel are concerned with the "stigma and
obloquy" flowing from early charges  and their persistent effect on
public opinion. Because it is not sufficient to review the personnel
actions and investigations which constitute the Government's formal
actions in these cases, this Section of the review addresses
accountability, responsibility, and fairness in the "court of public
Three periods must be distinguished: (1) the early war years, (2) the
period of response to the reports of the Service boards and of Joint
Congressional Committee, and (3) the postwar period.
The Early War Years
The national response to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor took two
forms. The first was the national rage at Japan for the surprise attack,
captured, echoed, and perhaps led by President Roosevelt's
characterization of December 7th as "a date which will live in infamy"
in his speech to Congress.
The second response, following almost immediately, was shock and
disbelief at the extent of the devastation, the one-sidedness of the
battle, and the obvious unreadiness of the American forces. These
sentiments turned rapidly to incessant demands, that continue to this
day, for explanation and for identification of those responsible. "[T]he
American citizenry...were less interested in why the Japanese had
attacked Pearl Harbor than in how they got away with it." 
Interest immediately and inevitably focused on the officials in command
in Pearl Harbor. Admiral Kimmel said, "The flood of abuse and
misrepresentation began immediately after the attack. My court-martial
was demanded on the floor of the House of Representatives on Monday,
December 8, 1941." 
That same day, Secretary Knox left for Pearl Harbor. After he returned
and reported to the President, the full text of his report  was
released to the public on December 15th. The relief of Admiral Kimmel
and General Short was announced on December 17th. Although the press
releases merely announced their relief without comment and Secretary
Stimson explained that the action "avoids a situation where officials
charged with the responsibility
 Mr. Edward R. Kimmel, Thurmond transcript, p. 19
 Prange, p. 584
 Kimmel, op. cit., p. 170. General Short was largely silent during
these years and did not write his memoirs.
 The sections pertinent to Admiral Kimmel and General Short are
quoted in Section III, supra.
for the future security of the vital naval base would otherwise in this
critical hour also be involved in the searching [Roberts] investigation
ordered yesterday by the President" , the plain language of the Knox
report and the juxtaposition of that report with the relief of the
Hawaiian commanders naturally focused attention on those individuals.
Admiral Kimmel saw a more sinister interpretation: "After the Secretary
of the Navy, Mr. Frank Knox, reported to the President the result of his
inspection at Pearl Harbor, additional statements were released which
augmented the campaign of vilification." 
The Roberts Commission report, containing the "dereliction of duty"
language, was presented to the President on January 24, 1942, and
released to the press that same day. The Commission's findings do not
indicate a determined effort by the Commission to single out Admiral
Kimmel and General Short as scapegoats to bear all of the blame for the
disaster at Pearl Harbor. However, the harm to Admiral Kimmel's and
General Short's reputations began almost immediately. The headline on
the front page of the New York Times the next day read: "ROBERTS BOARD
BLAMES KIMMEL AND SHORT; WARNINGS TO DEFEND HAWAII NOT HEEDED." A sub-
headline added: "Stark and Marshall Directed Hawaii Chiefs to Prepare -
Courts-Martial Likely."  Admiral Kimmel found that "[w]hen the
Roberts report was published a veritable hurricane of charges were
hurled indiscriminately at Short and me." 
Although the President stated that that he did not intend to order
courts-martial or take any other action personally  and the Services
took no further action, the accusation of "dereliction of duty" remained
unchallenged in public, and the announcements of the retirements of
Admiral Kimmel and General Short made public the reservation "without
condonation of any offense or prejudice to any future disciplinary
action." This had the effect of leaving the issue unresolved in the
public sphere. Admiral Kimmel complained to Admiral Stark on February
"I stand ready at any time to accept the consequences of my acts. I do
not wish to embarrass the government in the conduct of the war. I do
feel, however, that my crucifixion before the public has about reached
the limit. I am in daily receipt of letters from irresponsible people
over the country taking me to task and even threatening to kill me. I am
not particularly concerned except as it shows the effect on the public
of articles published about me.
"I feel that the publication of paragraph two of the Secretary's letter
of February 16 [accepting Admiral Kimmel's retirement "without
condonation of any offense"] will further inflame the public and do me a
great injustice." 
 Stimson Diary, December 17, 1941
 Kimmel. p. 170
 James B. Reston. "Roberts Board Blames Kimmel and Short", N.Y.
Times. Jan 25, 1942, p. 1, col. 8.
 Kimmel, p. 170
 "Inquiry on Hawaii Urged in Congress", N.Y. Times, Jan 27, 1942, p.
4, col. 1.
 Kimmel, p. 182
The need to keep secret the Magic intercepts (of which Admiral Kimmel
had some knowledge but General Short did not) effectively precluded
informed and objective public discussion during the war years of the
Pearl Harbor issue, or final resolution of Admiral Kimmel's and General
Short's role. The need to keep Magic secret precluded even explaining to
the public the necessity of keeping it secret.
Nevertheless, the public clamor for fuller investigation of fault in
Washington began almost immediately after the publication of the Roberts
Commission report On January 27th, the New York Tunes reported that
members of Congress from both parties were demanding a full
Congressional investigation, asserting that officials in Washington had
been remiss in failing to follow up on actions being taken at Pearl
Harbor, and charging that there had not been proper coordination between
the Army and Navy.  The debate in Congress immediately took on a
partisan political tone, as reported in the press.  After the
initial blaze of interest in additional investigation into
responsibility for the disaster at Pearl Harbor in early 1942, Admiral
Kimmel and General Short appeared from time to time in the press in 1943
and 1944 in connection with the extension by federal law, or waiver, of
the statute of limitations on courts-martial. Debates in Congress over
courts-martial also took on a partisan tone as the 1944 election neared.
The Service Boards and the Joint Congressional Committee
Suggestions that the Army Pearl Harbor Board and the Navy Court of
Inquiry would clear General Short and Admiral Kimmel began to appear in
November and December 1944.  Admiral Kimmel's counsel, Charles B.
Rugg, stated publicly that the findings of the Roberts Commission had
been corrected by the Court of Inquiry:
"Kimmel Cleared, Says Lawyer
"BOSTON, Dec. 1 - Charles B. Rugg, counsel for Rear Admiral Husband E.
Kimmel, declared here tonight that "the statement of Secretary of the
Navy Forestall means that Admiral Kimmel has been cleared" of charges of
 "Inquiry on Hawaii Urged in Congress", N.Y. Times, Jan 27, 1942, p.
4, col. 1. By the next day, a list of specific topics that many in
Congress wanted to further investigate was published in the press,
including the degree of responsibility of the Administration, and the
reason messages from Washington focused on the Far East as the most
likely point of attack. Arthur Krock, "Pearl Harbor Issue: Many in
Congress Want Inquiry", N.Y. Times, Jan 28, 1942, p. 5, col 2.
Republicans Push Inquiry on Hawaii, N.Y. Times, Jan 28, p. 5, col. 1
(Representative Whittington of Mississippi told the House that Pearl
Harbor "could not be permitted to rest by finding the Hawaiian area
commanders derelict in their duly.").
 Kathleen McLaughlin, "House Votes Trial for Short, Kimmel", N.Y.
Times, June 7, 1944, p. 11, col 8.
 E.g., "Hints Vindication of Kimmel, Short", N.Y. Times, Nov. 26,
1944, p. 44, col. 3; Lewis Wood, "Kimmel and Short Will Not be Tried",
N.Y. Times, Dec. 2, 1944, p. 1, col. 7.
liction of duty at Pearl Harbor." 
Final release of the reports made front page news in August 1945, with
reports that Marshall, Secretary of State Cordell Hull, Stark and
Lieutenant General Leonard Gerow  had also been cited for various
After the war, the veil of secrecy was lifted from the intercepts, and,
with the permission of President Truman  the Joint Congressional
Committee explained the Magic intercepts and published the full texts of
the critical messages. Again, issues associated with the Congressional
investigation stimulated lively partisan debate, with accusations that
Democrats on the Committee would control the proceedings.  In July
1946, the Joint Congressional Committee's findings were described in the
press as exonerating Roosevelt and determining that "the overshadowing
responsibility . . . lay with the Navy and Army commanders in Hawaii,"
Admiral Kimmel and General Short. While neither Admiral Kimmel nor
General Short was happy with the Commission's findings, General Short at
least could argue that ". . .I am satisfied that the testimony presented
at the hearings fully absolved me from any blame and I believe such will
be the verdict of history. As I have stated before, my conscience is
clear."  Testimony to the completeness of the Commission's review is
the fact that the many analyses and interpretations published since 1946
have drawn primarily on the primary sources published in the JCC
The Post-War Period
On the other hand, sober analysis in the years since the publication of
the Joint Congressional Committee's report has produced a number of
works of nuanced and balanced scholarship which constitute the
beginnings of the verdict of history. Those works, based on a careful
reading of the entire record of the Joint Congressional Committee and of
other primary sources that have come to light in the intervening years,
are creating a responsible and increasingly accurate and just
understanding of the tapestry of failure at Pearl Harbor. Ultimately, in
a free society this must be the function of the academic community, and
it is one that the academic community is performing well in this case.
 N. Y. Times, Dec. 2, 1944, p. 5, col. 6.
 In December, 1941, a brigadier general and Chief, Army War Plans
 E g., "ARMY, NAVY REPORT ON PEARL HARBOR; MARSHALL, HULL AND STARK
CENSURED", N.Y. Times, Aug. 30, 1945, p. 1., col. 1. The full texts of
the Army and Navy reports were reproduced in section 2 of the same issue
of the Times.
 JCC, Appendix C
 C. P. Trussell, "Angry Senators Debate on 'Records' of Pearl
Harbor", N.Y. Times, Nov. 3, 194r, p. 1, col. 6; "Hannegan Says
Republicans are Trying to Smear the Memory of Roosevelt", N.Y. Times,
Nov. 18, 1945, p. 2, col. 5; W. H. Lawrence, "Pearl Harbor Inquiry
Enmeshed in Politics", N.Y. Times, Nov. 18, IV, p.5, col. 1.
 William S. White, "Roosevelt Found Blameless for Pearl Harbor
Disaster", New York Times, July 21, 1946, p. 1, col. 2. "Short
Reiterates Stand," New York Times, July 21, 1946, p. 12, col. 6.
Without question, Admiral Kimmel and General Short got "bad press" in
the war years, especially in the immediate aftermath of the attack and
of the publication of the Roberts Commission's report. The critical
contribution of Magic and Purple to the war effort meant that questions
could not be answered while the war raged, and in that sense to some
degree Admiral Kimmel and General Short's reputations were sacrificed to
the war effort. While concentration on them deflected attention away
from others, perhaps conveniently, there is no evidence of organized
efforts to make Admiral Kimmel and General Short into "scapegoats" and
little evidence of efforts to vilify them personally. In particular,
there is no evidence of official government actions directed only
against their reputations. There is, however, also no evidence of
government actions to deflect criticism from Admiral Kimmel and General
Pearl Harbor occurred in the midst of a spirited debate between
isolationists and interventionists. The energies of those debates were
not stifled by Pearl Harbor, but redirected. To a certain extent,
Admiral Kimmel and General Short became *causes celebre* in that
partisan rivalry. This was, and occasionally is today, the result of the
politically charged world in which officers holding three-star and four-
star positions become involved by virtue of their high public offices,
often with consequences out of all proportion to one's talents or
standing as a military professional. Indeed, Admiral Kimmel willingly
and even eagerly entered that fray, keeping the issue of his reputation
before the public; his autobiography details his efforts, some of which
have been cited in this report. 
With the publication of the Joint Congressional Committee's report -- a
gold mine of primary sources -- and the growing body of valid
scholarship, a responsible and increasingly accurate and just
understanding of the nature of the failure at Pearl Harbor is emerging.
In this process Admiral Kimmel and General Short are taking their
rightful place -- certainly not solely to blame for the disaster at
Pearl Harbor but also certainly not entirely innocent of error. There is
nothing that government can or should do to alter that process.
 Kimmel, op. cit.
Page maintained by Larry W. Jewell, firstname.lastname@example.org. Created: 12/24/96 Updated: 12/24/96