No significant error was committed in any of the three personnel 
actions. [1] Their cumulative effect placed Admiral Kimmel and General 
Short in their current two-star rank on the retired list. Relief and 
retirement were all but inevitable, and not unfair under the 

Promotion is based on potential, and not on past performance. That is, 
promotion is based on expectation of performance at the level to which 
the individual is being considered for promotion. At the time of the 
Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Admiral Kimmel and General Short had 
been promoted to four-star and three-star rank, respectively, based on 
their potential for performance at that Level of command. Their relief 
on 16 December 1941 reflected the Service Secretaries' assessment that 
their potential for continued service at those grades had changed. 

By the end of 1946, the Services and the Joint Congressional Committee 
had independently concluded that Admiral Kimmel and General Short had 
adequate information to suggest placing their forces in a higher state 
of readiness to defend against an air attack on Pearl Harbor. They had 
sufficient forces to put up an effective as well as spirited defense had 
those forces been alerted and coordinated. Government officials at the 
highest levels reached similar conclusions over the next 50 years. This 
DoD study -- after examining all the facts and circumstances anew -- 
finds no basis to change the conclusion reached by the Services, Joint 
Congressional Committee and others-that Admiral Kimmel and General Short 
made "errors of judgment". 

This report concludes that Admiral Kimmel and General Short were not 
solely responsible for the disaster at Pearl Harbor. Others made 
significant errors of judgment. In particular, senior Army and Navy 
leaders failed to appreciate fully and to convey to the commanders in 
Hawaii the sense of focus and urgency that intercepted Japanese messages 
should have engendered. That they did not do so does not excuse the 
errors of Admiral Kimmel and General Short. The scope of the disaster at 
Pearl Harbor and the lofty ranks of Admiral Kimmel and General Short set 
them apart from others who served in World War II. The decisions not to 
promote or advance them on the retired list, or otherwise restore their 
temporary ranks, were not unfair. There is no basis to require reversal 
of those decisions.

As noted earlier, three- and four-star grades are "positions of 
importance and responsibility" requiring individual Senate confirmation. 
As earlier sections of this review suggest, though perhaps at times they 
were unfairly characterized, Admiral Kimmel and General Short were not 
entirely blameless in connection with Pearl Harbor. They were the 

[1] See Section II, above. 

Page V-2

men in charge at the site of the worst military disaster in US history, 
and their errors of judgment were of sufficient magnitude to lead to the 
conclusion that their overall performance did not compare favorably to 
that expected of other three-star and four-star officers of their era. 


Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution gives the President broad 
power, with the advice and consent of the Senate, to appoint officers in 
the Armed Forces. [2] The President may use that discretionary authority 
to appoint an officer independently of the statutes that otherwise 
govern the promotion process. [3] Thus, the President has the power to 
nominate Admiral Kimmel and General Short for posthumous advancement on 
the retired list. 

Because of their unique positions as the commanders on the scene in 
Hawaii, it was inevitable that much of the weight of public dismay over 
the Pearl Harbor disaster focused immediately on Admiral Kimmel and 
General Short. The need to keep secret the nation's codebreaking 
capabilities prevented knowledgeable officials from correcting the 
record during the war years. The families of Admiral Kimmel and General 
Short are concerned today with the lingering effects of reports 
published over fifty years ago. They argue that the "stigma and obloquy" 
from that era persist, and demand official government action, saying 
"the vehicle we have chosen" [4] to restore those officers' reputations 
is advancement on the retired list. 

Advancement on the retired list is not an appropriate vehicle with which 
to remedy damage to reputation. With the end of the war and the 
publication of the reports of the Services and the Joint Congressional 
Committee came official public determinations that Admiral Kimmel and 
General Short were not solely responsible for the disaster at Pearl 
Harbor, clear public affirmations that their errors of judgment did not 
rise to the level of dereliction, and that others also made errors of 
judgment. There the official public record stands, as it should. 

It is indisputable that Admiral Kimmel and General Short got more than 
their fair share of bad press in the early war years, and that the 
errors of others, whose errors contributed to the disaster at Pearl 
Harbor, generally escaped censure. Posthumous advancement in rank, 
however, necessarily would be based on the judgment that, at a minimum, 
they had served satisfactorily at the three- and four-star level. Their 
superiors at the time decided that they had not, and there is no 
compelling basis to contradict this earlier decision. 

[2] US Const., Article II, Section 2. The President "shall have the 
Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate . . . [to] 
appoint . . . Officers of the United States." Today, Senate confirmation 
is required before an officer appointed to a three-star or four-star 
position may serve in such a grade. 10 U.S.C.  601(a).
[3] During times of national emergency, the President has expanded 
powers to make temporary appointments of officers in the Armed Forces. 
10 USC 603.
[4] Thurmond transcript, p. 19. 

Page V-3

To use posthumous advancement to compensate for harsh treatment in the 
media, as a form of official apology or as a symbolic act, would not be 
appropriate. Additionally, there is no precedent for such an 
advancement. Finally, using advancement or promotion for such purposes 
would be manifestly unfair to those who earned advancement based on 
performance, and would imply a double standard for advancement in the 
armed services. The highest retired grades to which an officer may 
aspire should not be conferred on anyone as an apology. Rather, those 
grades should be reserved for those officers whose performance stands 
out above others. 


An examination of the record does not show that advancement of Admiral 
Kimmel and General Short on the retired list is warranted. 

Page maintained by Larry W. Jewell, lwjewell@omni.cc.purdue.edu. Created: 12/24/96 Updated: 12/24/96