UNDER SECRETARY OF DEFENSE
4000 DEFENSE PENTAGON
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20301-4000
[Stamped: Dec. 15 1995]
MEMORANDUM FOR THE DEPUTY SECRETARY OF DEFENSE
SUBJECT: Advancement of Rear Admiral Kimmel and Major General Short
This review was undertaken in response to a commitment that former
Deputy Secretary Deutch made to Senator Thurmond in April l995. You
assigned me to conduct it. In essence, you asked me to advise you
whether actions taken toward General Short and Admiral Kimmel some 50
years ago were excessively harsh, and if so, whether posthumous
advancement to three- and four-star rank is the appropriate remedy.
These issues are immediate and highly emotional to the descendants of
Admiral Kimmel and General Short.  Family members feel that the Pearl
Harbor commanders were scapegoats for a disaster that they could neither
prevent nor mitigate, and that others who were blameworthy escaped both
official censure and public humiliation. They argue that advancement
(or, as they put it, restoration to highest rank held) is the best way
to remove the stigma and obloquy.
More is at stake here than the reputations of two officers and the
feelings of their families. The principle of equity requires that wrongs
be set right. In addition, we owe it to posterity to ensure that our
history is told correctly.
With support from a small team of DoD civilians and military officers, I
studied the performance of the two commanders, the procedures that led
to their relief and retirement and the reports of the several Pearl
Harbor investigations. I also tried to understand the basis for the
families' claim that General Short and Admiral Kimmel were unfairly
denied restoration to three-star and four-star rank when that action
became legally possible in 1947. The team reviewed thousands of pages of
documents, read a number of secondary sources, visited Pearl Harbor and
interviewed members of the families.
My findings are:
1. Responsibility for the Pearl Harbor disaster should not fall solely
on the shoulders of Admiral Kimmel and General Short; it should be
a. The United States and Japan were pursuing policies that were leading
inexorably to war. Japan had occupied Manchuria, was threatening much of
Asia and had joined in a tripartite alliance with Italy and Germany. The
US reaction was to stop selling Japan
 On December 7, 194l Admiral Husband E. Kimmel was Commander in
Chief, United States Fleet and Commander in Chief, United States Pacific
Fleet—the Navy's second-highest officer after the Chief of Naval
Operations. Lieutenant General Walter C. Short was Commander of the
Army's Hawaiian Department.
[Certain typographical errors were corrected in this electronic copy of
the Report after confirmation that changes were appropriate in
consultation with Capt. S. Smith, USN, senior military adviser to the
Hon. Edwin Dorn, on 25 January, 1996. LWJ]
strategically important materials including oil (Japan bought most of
its oil from the US) and, in the summer of 1941, to freeze Japanese
assets in the US. Negotiations in the summer and fall of 194l failed to
break the impasse. By late November 1941, civilian and military leaders
in the US had concluded that conflict was imminent; the only questions
were when and where it would occur.
b. Admiral Kimmel and General Short were both sent "war warning"
messages on November 27. They were advised that negotiations were
stalemated and that Japan might take hostile action at any moment.
Admiral Kimmel was ordered to execute a "defensive deployment"
consistent with the US war plan in the Pacific; General Short was
ordered to undertake "reconnaissance and other measures...", but his
instructions were muddied somewhat by advice to avoid actions that would
"alarm [Hawaii's] civil population or disclose intent."
c. Admiral Kimmel and General Short discussed the November 27 war
warning, but concluded that an attack would occur in the Western
Pacific, not in Hawaii. Indeed, the November 27 messages had mentioned
the likelihood that the attack would occur in "the Philippines, Thai or
Kra Peninsula or .... Borneo." Washington also did not expect Hawaii to
be attacked. Further, it appears that Admiral Kimmel and General Short
were depending on timely tactical warning from Washington, should Hawaii
become a target. Military leaders in Washington, on the other hand,
appear to have felt that the November 27 war warning would lead Admiral
Kimmel and General Short to heighten their vigilance, and failed to
examine closely what they actually were doing.
d. Officials in Washington did not send Admiral Kimmel and General Short
other information, derived from the *Magic* project that broke the
Japanese code, that might have given them a greater sense of urgency and
caused them to surmise that Hawaii was a likely target. For example,
Washington did not tell them that Japanese agents in Hawaii had been
instructed to report on the precise location of ships at Pearl Harbor.
(The Japanese attacked Hawaii, the Philippines and several other targets
on the same day.)
e. Information-sharing and operational cooperation were hampered by
bureaucratic rivalries. The Army and Navy were separate executive
departments reporting directly to the President, and only the President
could ensure that they were working together. Admiral Kimmel and General
Short had cordial personal relations, but felt it inappropriate to
inquire into one another's professional domains. This apparently was the
standard at the time. General Short's mission was to defend the fleet in
Hawaii; Admiral Kimmel apparently never asked in detail about General
Short's plans. Admiral Kimmel's mission was to prepare for offensive
operations against Japan. Early in 1941 the Navy also had assumed from
the Army responsibility for conducting long-range aerial reconnaissance.
Even after receiving the war warning, General Short apparently did not
ask Admiral Kimmel whether the Navy actually was conducting long-range
air patrols. Nevertheless, General Short assumed that he would receive
the advance warning needed to launch Army Air Corps fighters, which were
on four-hour alert, and to ready his antiaircraft guns, whose ammunition
was stored some distance from the batteries. Just as
Washington did not provide the Hawaii commanders with all the
intelligence that was derived from *Magic*, so it also appears that
Admiral Kimmel had more intelligence than he chose to share with General
Short. For example, Admiral Kimmel learned on December 2 that several
Japanese carriers were "lost" to US intelligence; their radio signals
had not been detected for more than two weeks. He did not tell General
f. The run-up to Pearl Harbor was fraught with miscommunication,
oversights and lack of follow-up. In his November 27 war warning
message, Army Chief of Staff Marshall directed General Short to
"undertake such reconnaissance ant other measures as you deem
necessary..." General Short assumed this order was misworded, because he
believed General Marshall knew that the Navy had taken over the
reconnaissance responsibility from the Army. He also assumed that the
Navy was doing it. General Short's response to General Marshall
described plans to defend against sabotage, but said nothing about
reconnaissance. Apparently, no one in the War Department took note of
the omission. The November 27 war warning from Admiral Stark, the Chief
of Naval Operations (CNO), instructed Admiral Kimmel to undertake a
"defensive deployment preparatory to carrying out the tasks assigned in
WPL 46; [the war plan]." Exactly what Admiral Stark intended is not
clear. Admiral Kimmel interpreted the CNO's guidance to mean that he
(Admiral Kimmel) should continue what he had been doing for several
weeks -- sending submarines and planes to patrol around Wake and Midway,
and patrolling outside Pearl Harbor for Japanese submarines. Carrier
task forces en route to Wake and Midway were doing aerial reconnaissance
as part of their normal training, thus covering a portion of the Pacific
west and southwest of Hawaii. "Deployment" also could have meant to
sortie the fleet from Pearl Harbor. Admiral Kimmel did not do that.
Instead, he kept his ships in port, but pointed their bows toward the
entrance so that they could leave quickly if the need arose. Moving
several dozen warships through Pearl Harbor's narrow channel and into
fighting posture on the high seas would have taken several hours. No one
in the Department of Navy took issue with Admiral Kimmel's
interpretation of the CNO's instructions.
g. Resources were scarce. Washington didn't have enough cryptologists
and linguists to decode all the Japanese message traffic, so the
analysts gave priority to diplomatic traffic over military traffic. The
Navy in Hawaii was short of planes and crews. The Army in Hawaii was
short of munitions.
h. Finally, the Japanese attack was brilliantly conceived and flawlessly
executed. It involved a bold new use of carriers. It required crossing
four thousand miles of ocean undetected, which meant taking the storm-
tossed northern route where there was little commercial shipping. It
required new technology—torpedoes that could be used in the shallow,
narrow confines of Pearl Harbor. And the attack required extraordinarily
well trained air crews with commanders capable of coordinating more than
150 planes in each wave of attack. US Naval exercises during the 1930s
and the British Navy's 1940 raid on the Italian fleet at Taranto had
demonstrated the feasibility of carrier-based attacks. But the scale and
complexity of the Japanese attack greatly exceeded anything envisioned
before. American military experts underestimated Japanese capability.
2. To say that responsibility is broadly shared is not to absolve
Admiral Kimmel and General Short of accountability.
a. Military command is unique. A commander has plenary responsibility
for the welfare of the people under his or her command, and is directly
accountable for everything the unit does or fails to do. When a ship
runs aground, the captain is accountable whether or not he/she was on
the bridge at the time. When a unit is attacked, it is the Commander and
not the intelligence officer or the sentry who is accountable. Command
at the three- and four-star level involves daunting responsibilities.
Military officers at that level operate with a great deal of
independence. They must have extraordinary skill, foresight and
judgment, and a willingness to be accountable for things about which
they could not possibly have personal knowledge. Today, for example, the
senior Commander in Hawaii is responsible for US military operations
spanning half the world's surface -- from the West coast of the United
States to the east coast of Asia. His fleets sail the Pacific, the
Indian Ocean, the China Sea, the Sea of Japan, the Arctic and the
Antarctic. This, in the understated language of military law, is "a
position of importance and responsibility."
b. It was appropriate that Admiral Kimmel and General Short be relieved.
In the immediate aftermath of the attack, their relief was occasioned by
the need to restore confidence in the Navy and Army's leadership,
especially in the Pacific, and to get going with the war. Subsequently,
investigations concluded that both commanders made errors of judgment. I
have seen no information that leads me to contradict that conclusion.
c. The intelligence available to Admiral Kimmel and General Short was
sufficient to justify a higher level of vigilance than they chose to
maintain. They knew that war was imminent, they knew that Japanese
tactics featured surprise attacks, and Admiral Kimmel (though not
General Short) knew that the US had lost track of Japan's carriers.
Further, they had the resources to maintain a higher level of vigilance.
Admiral Kimmel believed that the optimum aerial reconnaissance would
require covering 360 degrees around Hawaii for a sustained period. The
Navy clearly did not have enough planes for that. This does not mean,
however, that Admiral Kimmel had to choose between ideal aerial
reconnaissance and no aerial reconnaissance. The fleet also had cruisers
and destroyers that could have been used as pickets to supplement air
patrols, but were not.
d. Different choices might not have discovered the carrier armada and
might not have prevented the attack, but different choices -- a
different allocation of resources -- could have reduced the magnitude of
the disaster. The Navy and the Army were at a low level of alert against
aerial attack. Shipboard anti-aircraft guns were firing within five
minutes. The Army was not able to bring its batteries into play during
the first wave of the attack and only four Army Air Corps fighters
managed to get airborne. US losses included 2,403 dead (1,177 of whom
are entombed in the Arizona), 1,178 wounded, eight battleships, ten
other vessels and more than 100 aircraft. Japanese losses were 29
aircraft, one large submarine and five midget submarines.
3. The official treatment of Admiral Kimmel and General Short was
substantively temperate and procedurally proper.
a. Admiral Kimmel and General Short were the objects of public
vilification. At least one Member of Congress demanded that they be
summarily dismissed, stripped of rank and denied retirement benefits.
They received hate mail and death threats. The public and Congress were
clamoring for information about Pearl Harbor. The news media went into a
feeding frenzy, gobbling up tidbits of blame and punishment. Under the
circumstances, it is not surprising that information very hurtful to
Admiral Kimmel and General Short -- information implying that they would
be court martialed, for example -— was given to the press. These things
happen, often not for the most honorable of reasons. This does not mean,
however, that Admiral Kimmel and General Short were victims of a smear
campaign orchestrated by government officials.
b. In contrast to their treatment by some of the media, their official
treatment was substantively temperate. They were relieved, they reverted
to two-star rank, and under the laws in force at the time, their
retirements were at the two-star Level. Although there was mention of
court martial, no charges were brought. Indeed, official statements and
investigations seemed purposely to avoid wording that would lead to
court martial. For example, the Roberts Commission used the phrase
"dereliction of duty" -- a stinging rebuke, but at the time not a court
martial offense. The Roberts Commission avoided other phrases, such as
"culpable inefficiency" and neglect of duty", that were court martial
offenses. Later investigations such as the Joint Congressional Committee
report eschewed "dereliction" in favor of "errors of judgment."
c. Admiral Kimmel requested a court martial in order to clear his name,
but the request was not acted on. There is an allegation that the
government feared bringing charges because a court martial would have
put other senior military and civilian leaders in a bad light. This is
possible. But it is equally possible that there simply were not
sufficient grounds to sustain a successful prosecution. A court marital
almost certainly would have revealed the existence of *Magic*, a key US
d. I do not find major fault with the procedures used in the
investigations. Family members have complained that Admiral Kimmel and
General Short were denied "due process"; that is, they were not allowed
to call their own witnesses or to cross-examine witnesses. But the
calling and cross-examination of witnesses is characteristic of trials,
not of investigations. Some of the investigations may have been more
thorough than others, but I do not see a convincing basis for concluding
that Admiral Kimmel and General Short were victims of government
scapegoating or of a government-inspired smear campaign.
4. History has not been hostile to Admiral Kimmel and General Short.
a. None of the official reports ever held that Admiral Kimmel and
General Short were solely responsible for the Pearl Harbor disaster,
although the Roberts Commission came
close. Later reports exchewed [sic] the stinging "dereliction of duty"
rebuke in favor of "errors of judgment."
b. Historians who write about Pearl Harbor seem to be divided into three
camps: those who hold Admiral Kimmel and General Short partly (but not
solely) responsible; those who believe they were scapegoats; and those
who lay much of the blame on bureaucratic factors such as the lack of
coordination between the Army and the Navy. National Park Service guides
at the Arizona Memorial, for example, focus on the factors that led to
war and on the tactics used in the attack, not on individual military
leaders. A 30-minute film produced exclusively for use at the Arizona
Memorial mentions Admiral Kimmel and General Short only once, and not at
all disparagingly. Admiral Kimmel and General Short are not discussed
prominently or disparagingly in history classes at West Point, Annapolis
and the Air Force Academy. Of eight US history texts in use at the
service academies today, one is critical of Admiral Kimmel. Thus, while
their reputations may have been damaged in the years immediately
following Pearl Harbor, the passage of time has produced balance.
5. There is not a compelling basis for advancing either officer to a
a. Their superiors concluded that Admiral Kimmel and General Short did
not demonstrate the judgment required of people who serve at the three-
and four-star level. That conclusion may seem harsh, but it is made all
the time. I have not seen a convincing basis for contradicting it in the
instant case. It also is important to keep in mind that retirement at
the two-star grade is not an insult or a stigma. Very few officers rise
to that level of distinction.
b. Retirement at three- and four-star level was not a right in 1947 and
is not today. Officers are nominated for retirement at that level by the
President at the President's discretion and based on his conclusion that
they served satisfactorily at the temporary grades. His nomination is
subject to the advice and consent of the Senate. A nominee's errors and
indiscretions must be reported to the Senate as adverse information.
In sum, I cannot conclude that Admiral Kimmel and General Short were
victims of unfair official actions and thus I cannot conclude that the
official remedy of advancement on the retired list in order. Admiral
Kimmel and General Short did not have all the resources they felt
necessary. Had they been provided more intelligence and clearer
guidance, they might have understood their situation more clearly and
behaved differently. Thus, responsibility for the magnitude of the Pearl
Harbor disaster must be shared. But this is not a basis for
contradicting the conclusion, drawn consistently over several
investigations, that Admiral Kimmel and General Short committed errors
of judgment. As commanders, they were accountable.
Admiral Kimmel and General Short suffered greatly for Pearl Harbor. They
lost men for whom they were responsible. They felt that too much of the
blame was placed on them. Their children and grandchildren continue to
be haunted by it all. For all this, there can be sadness. But there can
be no official remedy.
I recommend that you provide a copy of this memorandum and attachment to
Senator Thurmond, the families of Admiral Kimmel and General Short, the
secretaries of Army and Navy and other interested parties.
/S/ Edwin Dorn
Attachment: Staff Report
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