Where Was General Marshall?
SOME NEW VIEWS AND CONTRIBUTIONS RELATIVE TO THE ONGOING MYSTERY OF PEARL HARBOR.*
JAMES J. MARTIN
We have been solemnly assured even in our own day that gossip is part of history. We find it from Thucydides to Tacitus; Suetonius' History of the Twelve Caesars is liberally seasoned with gossip. And some of the most graceful and elegant gossip ever committed to posterity is to be found in Plutarch.
Apparently it is an almost inescapable part of any episode which persists in remaining cloudy as to origins or content regardless of efforts to penetrate to the core of the affair by assemblage or analysis of facts. Perhaps there is more excuse for gossip in classical accounts, when the writing of such often took place many years after the events described, by which time some of the sources may have disappeared, and could not be examined. There is undoubtedly less excuse for it now. But we have events all the time which result in such circumstances, with any number of reasons prevailing to help explain either why there is a mystery, or why none should prevail.
The real burden of holding up under gossip bears most heavily upon those who wish to maintain sweet and innocent versions of the past which they dearly love, despite being faced by all manner of harsh and discordant facts which simply do not fit, and cannot be reconciled with the original or desired accounts. This is the predicament of all history which must deal in subsequent times with uncomfortable disclosures and discoveries, resulting either in the noticeable alteration of the original narratives, or subjecting them to deep suspicions and discount if they are able to withstand the uncomfortable heat of contradiction. And if this defense of official versions cannot come to terms with new facts or the uncovering of old ones, or discrepancies caused by lack of supporting documentary evidence, then gossip and its cousin rumor fills the space resulting from the failure of the upholders of prior rectitude to account for their inability to reinforce their credibility with anything but bluster, ad hominem criticism of their challengers, or the employment of devious and diversionary maneuvers intended to draw attention away from the problem. Like legal processes, history, when it cannot stand on documentary evidence, relapses and tries to make do by the substitution of testimony and opinion.
As we approach our own time, however, there are many complications which do not face those who are mainly concerned with the more distant past. One may write with relative ease of a time from which no one survives, and be guided only by respect for the sources, there being no one to issue heated challenges to one’s product as a consequence of feeling injured by the account thus rendered. This state of affairs grows from residues of political significance which may still survive even if the events under question are many decades old. And the partisans of a person or policy surviving the demise of the actual participants become a veritable interest-group-industry in trying to perpetuate a memory and version more felicitous to their state of mind and wellbeing. Hence a clash is inevitable when those interested in the events too, come upon the scene unencumbered by the emotional and political baggage which marks the position of the defenders of an established narrative. The case of the late General George C. Marshall and his connections with the drama of the Pearl Harbor attack of December 7, 1941 can hardly be surpassed as an example of this phenomenon.
Despite an immense volume of print which has been inspired and stimulated by the complicated events transpiring, we still do not know much of anything, and in some cases, nothing at all, concerning some of the actions or whereabouts of Gen. Marshall for most of the 24 hours which elapsed between roughly noon of Dec. 6 and the same hour on Dec. 7. This is of immense significance, since Gen. Marshall was Army Chief of Staff and as such directly in charge operationally over all Army affairs, which included the command at Pearl Harbor. This fact is at the center of the entire incident, and should be clearly emphasized at the outset, lest the usual muddiness prevail as to what the situation was. Percy Greaves, Jr., summarized the command situation in the following way in his expert chapter titled “The Pearl Harbor Investigations,” in the symposium edited by Harry Elmer Barnes, Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace (Caldwell, Idaho: Caxton Printers, 1953), pp. 409-410:
The Pacific Fleet was subject to orders of the Chief of Naval Operations [Adm. Harold R. Stark, in 1941] in Washington, but when it was in Pearl Harbor, the Army was charged with its protection. The Hawaiian Army Commander [Lt. Gen. Walter C. Short] took orders directly only from the Chief of Staff [Gen. Marshall], the Secretary of War, [Henry L. Stimson], or the President of the United States [Franklin D. Roosevelt]. (Emphasis added.)
It will be seen, therefore, that the commander of the Pacific Fleet, which was based at Pearl Harbor beginning in April, 1940, and under Adm. Husband E. Kimmel beginning in January, 1941, had some defensive duties. But he and the Fleet were there largely to make ready offensive actions against the Japanese in the Pacific, in liaison with the Dutch and British navies in particular, as well as the naval forces of Australia, contingent upon various possible Japanese actions in this vast area.
All of this grew out of the very secret ("Rainbow") agreements which emerged from the joint strategy talks in Singapore, January-April, 1941. What Adm. Kimmel’s real job with the Pacific Fleet was, in this context, was put on the record via the testimony of Adm. Richmond Kelley Turner before the board of inquiry conducted by Adm. Thomas C. Hart between mid-February and mid-June, 1944 (see Greaves, Perpetual War, pp. 421-422.) Knowledge of his duties undoubtedly played a big part in the official Navy Court of Inquiry (July-October, 1944) finding Adm. Kimmel innocent of any derelection of duty during the events leading up to and through the attack of Dec. 7, 1941. (For an insight into how far political partisanship can go in covering up the truth, one should consult the observations on the infamous way in which the Roberts Commission went about its blackening of Adm. Kimmel, in the latter’s own book on the entire business, Admiral Kimmel’s Story [Chicago: Regnery, 1954], pp. 146-185. This should be supplemented by consulting the report of the interview with Adm. Kimmel by the Associated Press in December, 1966, published in varying length here and there about the country, e.g., Denver Post, Dec. 7, 1966.)
Part of the difficulty in sorting out the various elements in the Pearl Harbor situation prior to the day of the attack stems from what may be called the “From Here to Eternity” syndrome, a reference to the famed moving picture of 1953, based on the novel of the same name by the late James Jones. This movie, now made much worse in a re-filming which reduces the pre-attack total scene in Hawaii to a monstrous soap opera, did much to induce the hazy ignorance as to what the situation was in the closing weeks of 1941. One gets from this much-shown picture that an aura of lazy unconcern with the world at war was the order of the day and that the Navy was simply there for a casual vacation, while the Army was involved in even more trivial diversions. One absorbs the impression that all were there to indulge in sexual peccadillos and mild dissipation, with nothing on their minds except a succession of empty dinner parties for the officers and opportunities for drunken forays into Honolulu for the enlisted men.
However, since the picture dwelled mainly upon the empty distractions consuming the Army, and hardly involved the other services, lost entirely is the purpose of the Fleet being in Hawaii in the first place. There is not the faintest allusion to its preparation for likely attack on the Japanese, or even a single reference to the general situation in the Pacific. The casual atmosphere of scatter-brained lightheartedness allegedly prevailing there conveyed by this film helps to ingrain among its viewers a possible desired propagandist attitude, reinforcing the conviction that the eventual attack truly was totally unexpected, and unprepared for, thus sanctifying Roosevelt’s pious “day of infamy” rhetoric and rendering those exposed uninclined to consider any other view of the entire affair later on, when sobriety returned to temper hysteria. Moving pictures may be entertainment, but it is a rare one devoid of political messages.
That Adm. Kimmel was not empowered to engage in unilateral actions regardless of the situation, but had to await directions from Gen. Short, based on prior orders from Washington from either Stimson or Marshall, was already demonstrated in the case of the famous “warning” to Hawaii purportedly emanating from Marshall (his name was appended to the message, at least) of November 27, 1941, in which Gen. Short was the addressee, with instructions further to establish liaison with the Navy, in effecting a sabotage alert at the combined Pearl Harbor facilities.
The Base had promptly been placed on such an alert, and there it remained to the moment of the bombing on the morning of December 7. (There has recently been a curious diversion related to this subject growing out of the Burns Oral History Project at the University of Hawaii headed by Stuart Gerry Brown. In the transcripts of portions of Tapes #2, #5 and #6, former Gov. Burns seemed to recall that his informant on the upcoming attack on Pearl Harbor, Robert L. Shivers, the FBI’s agent in charge in Honolulu, was supposed to have gone to the Pearl Harbor commanders with this information, though no evidence ever surfaced that he ever did, or even mentioned his special knowledge before the Roosevelt-handpicked whitewash Roberts Commission, before which he testified. Burns could not understand where Shivers got this information, though one might suspect that the Bureau may have acquired such intelligence in New York from their liaison work with British intelligence headed by Sir William Stephenson, who had full access to Purple “Magic” via their cracking of the analog of Purple, the German “Ultra” code. British possession of a Purple machine in London from January, 1941 on surely did not get in their way, either. (One should consult William Stevenson, A Man Called Intrepid [New York: Harcourt, Brace Jovanovich, 1976] for a revelation of some of the interaction between American-based British intelligence and the FBI prior to U.S. formal involvement in World War II.)
This British connection was originally established by testimony of William F. Friedman, who headed the Army cryptanalytical team which first broke the Japanese Purple code in August, 1940, largely as a consequence of the work of Harry L. Clark, before the top-secret inquiries conducted by Col. (later Gen.) Carter W. Clarke for the War Department in September, 1944 (see Greaves, Perpetual War, p. 475.) However, in view of the chain of command prevailing, it does not seem that a visit by Shivers to either Adm. Kimmel or Gen. Short would have done much of anything other than stimulating a barrage of telephone calls and telegrams back and forth between Honolulu and Washington, with the Pearl Harbor commanders' superiors in the latter city becoming quietly hysterical over how Shivers and the FBI might have acquired such intelligence.)
We may now get on properly to an attempt to find the trail of Gen. Marshall, dividing the time span involved into three segments: 1) the afternoon of Dec. 6; 2) the evening of Dec. 6-7; 3) the morning of Dec. 7. Shortly after noon on the 6th there took place the interception of the so-called “pilot message” sent by the Japanese to their Washington embassy, announcing that a long communication, in 14 parts, was about to be sent to them, which was to be presented to the American Secretary of State the next day under conditions to be relayed later. A few moments after receiving this news, in his office in the old Munitions Building (the Pentagon did not exist in 1941), Gen. Marshall disappeared, and was not seen again until the following morning, at 9 a.m., 10 a.m., or around 11:30 a.m., depending on which testimony one wants to accept.
At the moment of learning of the “pilot message,” asserted Captain Joseph J. Rochefort, chief of Naval Combat Intelligence at Pearl Harbor from June, 1941 on, and the key figure in the cracking of the Japanese naval code which led to the U.S. naval victory of the battle of Midway in the spring of 1942, Gen. Marshall, instead of disappearing, should have been on the scrambler telephone to Gen. Short in Honolulu. In a number of conversations with Capt. Rochefort in which this writer took part, in the mutual company of Dr. Harry Elmer Barnes, in the 1960s at Redondo Beach, Calif., it was asserted by Capt. Rochefort, though professing to be ignorant of the famous “Winds Execute” message of Dec. 4 wherein the Japanese had announced to their diplomatic people around the world a situation which could hardly be interpreted as anything but a coming declaration of war on the U.S., disguised in a false weather report, that he too was convinced that what was coming through the 6th was a sure prelude to a formal announcement of the breaking of diplomatic relations. And with Pearl Harbor still on sabotage alert since Nov. 27, the Base was in grave danger if an attack were to follow, with aircraft and naval vessels still bunched up in various concentration points, in accordance with sabotage alert procedures. (That the aircraft carriers, heavy cruisers and submarines were not there at the time of the attack was a fortunate break.)
But Gen. Marshall executed one of the most famous disappearing acts in history instead. Testifying before the joint Congressional Committee investigating the Pearl Harbor attack during the second week of December, 1945, Gen. Marshall declared under oath that he could not recall where he was the rest of Dec. 6 four years earlier, surely a day of major importance in his life. His memory was later “refreshed” by his wife, Katharine Tupper Marshall, resulting in the conclusion that he had been with her, through the evening. Her engagement book, indicating they had not been anywhere else, presumably was the evidence, though, strangely enough, in her book Together (Atlanta: Tupper and Love, 1946), published the following year, she did not say that. She spoke of returning to their quarters at Fort Myer, Va., the evening of the 6th, but she did not say the General was with her, or was already there when she got home, or that he came in later in the evening. Nothing was said about his presence until she commented on him having breakfast with her the morning of the 7th, about which more later. Though Gen. Marshall’s comments were confused, even with the support of his wife’s engagement book, by default, there still is no positive statement on his part as to whether he was home or not.
Though all of Gen. Marshall’s strongest contemporary supporters flinch from making this positive statement as to his whereabouts, also, this does not faze his very formidable hagiographer, Forrest C. Pogue, who, in Chapter 10 of Volume II of what has been emphasized as the only official Marshall biography (George C. Marshall: Ordeal and Hope, 1939-1942; New York: Viking, 1966), flatly declares the General was home all evening with his wife. He presents no evidence or citation for that declaration; we are supposed to take his word for it (Ordeal and Hope, p. 223).
For those who are not impressed with Pogue, and they exist, the absence of any solid documentary evidence of his whereabouts has led to the other areas which make up history: testimony and opinion. How much of this is plain gossip or speculation, regardless of point of origin, is unmeasurable, but durable.
Pogue, the reverent curator of the George C. Marshall Research Library for years, and now Director of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Institute for Historical Research, from the small mountain of official papers over which he presides, has been unable, apparently, to find anything at all to substantiate where Gen. Marshall spent the time from shortly after noon on Dec. 6 to around 9-11 a.m. the next day. In the meantime, some have volunteered suggestions. There is one account which tries to place him at a dinner reunion of fellow graduates of the Virginia Military Institute. There have been those who have ruminated out loud that Gen. Marshall spent into the early morning hours of the 7th hiding somewhere in the White House under Pres. Roosevelt’s protection. One long-held account maintained he spent Dec. 7 morning at the airport in Washington as part of the welcoming committee greeting the arrival of Maxim Litvinov, Stalin’s new ambassador representing the Soviet Union, though this proved to be based on false information derived from a worshipful biography of Litvinov, later, by a specialist in Iranian art and a dogged admirer of the USSR, Arthur Upham Pope. There is still another, in an oral tradition among retired Army intelligence who are still too frightened to reveal their identity, who insist Gen. Marshall was a “closet dipsomaniac,” and could not be found the evening of Dec. 6, 1941 because he was being treated for over-indulgence at the Walter Reed hospital, presumably masked by a false identity in the hospital admissions log.
Of course, there is not a shred of documentary evidence for any of these, but the persistence of a lack of explanation for the legendary mysterious absence of Gen. Marshall from all of normal channels of association and communication for a man that prominent has lent encouragement to those stories. For those who are devoted to the veneration of Important People, these are horrendous, unmentionable things even to think about, even though they are not yet punishable as offenses against “the officially established and sanctioned opinions of the State,” shall we say, as are certain views in West Germany on various aspects of wartime history, 1939-1945. But they are perfectly valid “questions” to advance about someone else’s heroes, in the time honored manner as a further example of the whose-ox-is-being-gored department. Perhaps this irreverence may have useful consequences in times to come. An audience ready to accept the recent accounts of the sexual adventures of both Pres. and Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt, let alone those of Pres. John F. Kennedy, may in due time come to terms with the revelation of the real whereabouts of Gen. George C. Marshall during the 24 hours preceding the Pearl Harbor attack, though this will obviously be something of a far different order than the matters mentioned above, if it ever takes place.
Shortly after Gen. Marshall vanished early Saturday afternoon, Dec. 6, the Japanese Memorandum #902 from Tokyo began to come in, and while the Japanese Embassy in Washington was busy taking it down, unknown to them, the American intelligence systems were doing the same, and converting it into English somewhat faster. And this had catastrophic consequences. The combined Army and Navy team of code-breakers were not only more successful than the Japanese Embassy people in coming up with an English language version of this memorandum, and well ahead of the latter. The difficulties of the Embassy decoders led to a delay in furnishing their diplomats with a version in time to make the scheduled presentation at the State Department, compounding their problem with accusations of planned deceit to cover the air attack on Hawaii as a consequence.
But this legend does not fit with the facts. Even the Japanese educator-historian Saburo Ienaga, though bitterly hostile to the Japanese regime which took Japan into war with the U.S.A., exonerates them of the almost universally-held notion in the U.S.A. that they had “planned a perfidious attack without any prior warning.” This is “incorrect,” Ienaga flatly declared. It was the Japanese government’s clear intention to notify the State Department “immediately before the attack” at Pearl Harbor that diplomatic relations were considered broken, but this formal notice was delayed because “they had difficulty with the last long message from Tokyo.” (Ienaga, The Pacific War, 1931-1945. New York: Pantheon Books, 1978, p. 136. This book was first published in Japanese language in Tokyo in 1968.)
Ladislas Farago in his The Broken Seal (New York: Random House, 1967), the most recent heavily-documented pro-Administration apologia and diversionary effort, frankly admitted it was the Japanese Embassy’s inefficiency in failing to have the 14-part message in acceptable English in time for delivery to Sec. of State Cordell Hull, as originally promised, and not a part of some devilish “sneak attack” plot, though the latter misconception persists as the almost universal American belief.
What is really repelling about the drama in the offices of the State Department early in the afternoon of Dec. 7, 1941 was the fakery of Sec. Hull in pretending to read what was tendered him by the Japanese diplomats Nomura and Kurusu, and then launching into a diatribe of billingsgate aimed at these two, intended more for the record than anything else. Like everyone else privileged to read “Magic,” Hull had already seen this message, thanks to the more speedy efforts of U.S. intelligence. Therefore, his whole performance was far more theater than it was the execution of his duties as a diplomat, and his simulated sense of outrage simply another contribution to the tight little scheme of propaganda being built around the entire incident by the Administration, to make themselves look like aggrieved innocent victims and the Japanese sinister, scheming deceivers. It worked in precisely that way, and the American public responded in a manner which must rank close to the top as an achievement of a propagandist’s dream, probably unequalled in the history of devious statecraft.
Work on the Memorandum #902 was originally begun by Navy Communications Intelligence under the direction of Capt. Laurance F. Safford shortly after noon on the 6th, but the Army was eventually brought in to help out. This was no brief or routine communique. It went on for pages, amounting to well over 3000 words. Rather than being a catalog of “infamous falsehoods,” as See. Hull raged, for public consumption, it was a sober and restrained summary of the Far East situation, from the Japanese point of view, and stating why they thought further attempts to negotiate the crisis in the Pacific were not worth continuing. Had Sec. Hull and his subordinates had to compose a similar memorandum, there are grave doubts that they could have come up with something less inflammatory in tone or more subdued in emphasis. It is significant that the U.S. public was not allowed to read the text of this fateful diplomatic paper at that time, which would have put to the test of critical appraisal whether or not it was a tissue of lies, as Hull succeeded in getting nearly all to believe, sight unseen. (What purports to be the entire memorandum, including the 14th part, received early Sunday a.m., the 7th, can be found in The “Magic” Background of Pearl Harbor [8 vols., Washington, D.C.: Department of Defense, U.S. Government Printing Office, 1977, Vol. IV Appendix, pp. A-130-A-134.] This ponderous gathering of intelligence derived from the secret cracking of the Japanese “Purple” diplomatic code has finally been made available for students of the year before American entry into the Pacific War, but gives the appearance of having been well-laundered and bleached, or “sanitized,” as the euphemism goes in document-verification circles.)
Memorandum #902 was decoded and in an English-language version ready for distribution around 9 p.m. the evening of Dec. 6. Now began the activities connected with its distribution. And Gen. Marshall enters the front row once more, as a prime receiver of a copy, but whom no one could locate in order to deliver it to him. Thirteen of the fourteen parts were in, and, according to Farago, the Navy delivered six copies, typed up on official Navy message forms, to Col. Rufus S. Bratton, Chief of Army Intelligence, Far East Section. According to the procedure in effect that week, it was the Navy’s job to get “Magic” (translated copies of “Purple” code intercepts) to the President, among others, while the Army was entrusted with seeing that the Secretary of State and the Chief of Staff, among others, received copies.
At this point, the story splinters and nearly disintegrates. Col. Bratton told so many conflicting stories, some of them under oath before various Pearl Harbor investigations, that they cannot be clearly understood yet. Those he told off the record in subsequent times were even more puzzling. But the upshot of them all is that he failed to encounter Gen. Marshall at all, and it is unverified that he managed to deliver a copy to anyone even close to Gen. Marshall, despite claiming that he did so in delivering a copy to the Secretary of the General Staff, Col. (later Gen.) Walter Bedell Smith. Smith later filed an affidavit in 1945 denying that he had even been in the Munitions Building when Col. Bratton allegedly arrived there and purportedly left Gen. Marshall’s copy for delivery to the General when he could be located. (Smith later was to become Chief of Staff himself, in the Eisenhower presidency.)
We do know, however, that Pres. Roosevelt received a copy, and we are told that he shortly thereafter frantically tried to locate Admiral Stark, Chief of Naval Operations. Why he should have done that, if a warning to Pearl Harbor was on his mind, escapes understanding. Contacting Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox, Adm. Stark’s superior, might have made more sense. However, warnings to Pearl Harbor were already stipulated as having to emanate from the office of the Chief of Staff, not the Chief of Naval Operations, keeping in mind that the protection of the Fleet and the Base was the Army’s job, not the Navy's. Therefore, Pres. Roosevelt should have been looking for Gen. Marshall in great agitation, not Adm. Stark, or Gen. Marshall’s superior, Sec. of War Henry L. Stimson, for sure. But we do not learn from any source that Pres. Roosevelt tried to locate Gen. Marshall anytime during the night of Dec. 6, and though it was plain from the context of the 13-part message in hand that a diplomatic rupture, at least, was soon to occur, no one lifted a finger at that moment to call or wire Gen. Short in Honolulu. In view of the above, it may seem to some that it might be more fundamental to ask where Sec. of War Stimson, Gen. Marshall’s superior, was during the crisis of the night of Dec. 6, and why he was not enlisted in the effort to find Gen. Marshall, to tell him of the ominous context of this latest message, and have him direct Gen. Short, and through him, Adm. Kimmel, to reverse the sabotage alert under which the Base was operating, and replace it with an attack alert, which was the reverse, a wide dispersal of all important operational factors, especially planes and ships. Yet no one located Gen. Marshall all the rest of the night, either, even though Pogue tells us that an orderly was at Gen. Marshall’s quarters “to take calls.” In a succinct comment on the lapses of the Congressional investigation of Pearl Harbor, especially in neglecting to call at least forty important witnesses who could have added immensely to what we were to know about the entire event, Greaves (Perpetual War, p. 459) mentioned specifically this aide to Gen. Marshall, who presumably was on duty at least until 10 p.m. the night of Dec. 6, and might at least have been able to report if the General had arrived home by that time. (In later hearsay, Gen. Marshall was supposed to have been overheard telling Sen. Alben W. Barkley of the majority side of the Congressional Committee investigating the Pearl Harbor attack that he could not tell anyone where he had been the night of Dec. 6 because it would have got Pres. Roosevelt in trouble, meaning, presumably, the President’s memory, Mr. Roosevelt having died seven months before the investigation hearings began.)
We now come to the early morning hours of Dec. 7, and the picture becomes a little more cloudy. In Mrs. Marshall’s book Together (subtitled Annals of an Army Wife) she reported that the General had breakfast with her, eating from a tray at her bedside, she being indisposed as a result of breaking four ribs in an accident a few days before (the General is reported to have thought that she spent the entire day of Dec. 6 helping out at “an old-clothes sale,” a rather wearying chore for someone with four broken ribs, it would seem.) She did not say anything about his whereabouts prior to the bedside breakfast. Pogue reports a different story on Marshall’s breakfast, taken alone, and an hour later than usual, though both stories agree the General proceeded to go thereafter on his customary Sunday morning horseback ride, certainly one of the most fateful canters in history. We still have not been told the time this took place, and over the years we have been treated to two accounts of where it took place. The earliest generation of Administration apologists for Gen. Marshall’s non-presence in his office Sunday morning, when everyone was allegedly looking for him, explained that he had been riding in Rock Creek Park, and those who knew nothing about this place were led to assume that it was so inaccessible that while there the General was virtually incommunicado. But that was soon blown away after the publication of the booklet Pearl Harbor (1946) by Charles Sweeny, one of the earliest skeptics over the entire Pearl fable. Sweeny pointed out that Rock Creek Park was really little more than “a narrow gully” running through “the heart of the residential district of Washington,” and that it was only a half mile wide, with all its trails clearly visible from its ridges. A courier from the War Department could probably have contacted Gen. Marshall in a few minutes, using a motorcycle. But this account quietly shifted a later years, the ride then supposedly taking place on the Virginia side of the Potomac, and presumably occupying 50 minutes or more, according to the General’s later recollections, as recorded by Pogue (Ordeal and Hope, p. 227).
It was followed by a return to quarters, a shower and dressing prior to the trip to the Munitions Building office. When did all this take place? It would seem that it would have had to have happened quite early. Though the Administration apologia had Gen. Marshall appearing at his office only at around 11:20 a.m., two other officers in sworn testimony declared they had seen him or were in his company in his office or that of someone else well before that time. Commander (later Adm.) Arthur N. McCollum, head of Naval Intelligence’s Far Eastern desk, twice declared, once under oath, that the General, accompanied by an aide, had come to Adm. Stark’s office around 9 a.m., and Col. (later Gen.) John R. Deane asserted he saw Gen. Marshall in the latter’s office an hour later. However, the official legend rolls on, and in Pogue’s masterpiece of official chronicling we find Gen. Marshall leisurely wandering on to the premises close to 11:30, a story dating back to the very first efforts at fabricating an innocent record for the Chief of Staff. By that time he was presumably the last of ten prominent political and military figures to read the Japanese Memorandum #902 in toto, something which Pogue thinks is almost commendatory (one may leave out here the possibility suggested by revisionists that Gen. Marshall’s casual attitude toward this critically-important document, with its sophisticated implications of a state of war immediately impending, was due to his already having read it, or at least its first 13 parts, sometime in the previous evening.) Nevertheless, the tale told in the closing four pages of Pogue’s chapter 10, “The Fatal Week,” in Ordeal and Hope, is one of such unbelievable ignorance and innocence on the part of Gen. Marshall that one can conclude that perhaps it is a version of the past intended for a child’s history of this grim and dramatic morning.
The picture that Pogue leaves with us, of a composed, almost diffident General Marshall, making his measured way about among several agitated, loud-speaking and near-hysteric subordinates and associates, is indeed charming, but the aspect involving his attitude of mystification as to the significance of the Japanese memorandum’s content and further puzzlement over the import of the delivery-time of 1 p.m. at the State Department strikes especially hollow. If there was one man in the land who knew more of what the situation was all about than Gen. Marshall, it would be a prodigious task to pick him out. The direction of the Administration’s entire drive since late July, 1941 was obvious to many who hardly knew anything about American statecraft, diplomacy and intelligence, let alone one who had total access to the entire substance of Japanese confidential discourse and planning. The circumstances of late morning, Dec. 7, 1941, were such that hardly anyone in Gen. Marshall’s position would have labored and pondered more than a minute over the implications of this lengthy piece of “Magic” in his hands.
The insubstantial portrait of Gen. Marshall at this critical moment clashes in total contradiction with that revealed nearly a quarter of a century later by Robert Sherrod, who attained great prominence as a combat reporter in the Pacific War on a par with Clark Lee and Ernie Pyle. Sherrod, in his memoir in the symposium I Can Tell It Now (New York: Dutton, 1964), disclosed a completely different Marshall, who called together a very secret meeting of seven trusted Washington correspondents early in the morning of Saturday, Nov. 15, 1941, just over three weeks before the attack on Hawaii. Gen. Marshall explained that his purpose in calling together this hush-hush seance was to tell the attendants that the U.S. was “on the brink of war with Japan,” (this was a week and half before Sec. of State Hull’s brusque “ultimatum"), and that America’s position prior to it was “highly favorable,” because “We know what they know about us, and they don’t know that we know it,” a roundabout way of telling the reporters the consequences of “Magic,” but concealing from them that the Japanese diplomatic traffic divulged that they were vigorously seeking an accomodation with the U.S.A., and trying their best to escape involvement in a war with America. And Gen. Marshall further seemingly outlined to them Adm. Kimmel’s real mission at Pearl Harbor by confiding to them that “We are preparing for an offensive war against Japan.”
But when one reads Sherrod’s account in its entirety, it reveals a Marshall so abysmally ignorant of the realities of Pacific geography that one may wonder what was going on in the War Plans Division under his trusted underling, Gen. Leonard T. Gerow. When questioned by one of his handkpicked journalists as to what part the Navy was scheduled to play in this coming offensive war against Japan, Sherrod quoted Gen. Marshall as saying, “ 'the grand strategy doesn’t include the use of much naval force.' “ Gen. Marshall, said Sherrod, stated that “he believed that our [the Army's] bombers could do the trick against Japan’s Navy and Japan’s cities 'without the use of our shipping.' “ Were Sherrod not such a trusted member of the official reportage team and rewarded so many times for his faithful description of the war later on in harmony with official guidelines, one would be inclined to think he was out to make Marshall appear to be a simpleton. Nevertheless, Sherrod’s “Secret Conference With General Marshall” (in I Can Tell It Now, pp. 41-42) described someone which makes one wonder a bit about who Forrest Pogue was limning on pages 228 to 231 of Ordeal and Hope.
But, as has been observed before, someone in his position with his knowledge of the total situation should have issued an attack alert both to Hawaii and the Philippines some 14 hours earlier, by the fastest means available. A rather feeble excuse in Gen. Marshall’s behalf, that he eschewed the scrambler telephone on his desk because he did not want to run the risk of being intercepted by Japanese electronic surveillance, does not wash. There was no indication whatever that the Japanese had broken any American code (Marshall had boasted to the reporters about Japanese ignorance of American secrets three weeks before), and, furthermore, making recourse to commercial telegraph cable was certainly no better guarantee of confidentiality. The odds in favor of suspecting that RCA might already have been tapped were far higher than that the scrambler telephone ran such a risk. In any case, the real issue was the several thousands of American lives being jeopardized; new codes can always be structured. But Japanese discovery of defense precautions being taken in Hawaii would surely have led to the calling off of the attack.
In this matter it may be pertinent to inquire if Gen. Marshall violated Army regulations by failing to send such an important message by multiple means of transmission, in addition to waiting until the last moment. The one chosen, the slowest available, resulted in the ultimate futility. There has long been a suspicion among people intimate with the Pearl Harbor affair that this action alone by Gen. Marshall was the tip-off that something extremely important was at stake, and that the incredible slowness in warning the Base was not just a happenstance.
The story from this point on has been told many times and does not need to be gone over exhaustively. The lethargic response to the Japanese message, with the additional intelligence that it would be presented to the Secretary of State at 1 p.m., and the final realization of the significance of that, and then the sending out of a “warning” to Pearl Harbor, by the slowest method available short of homing pigeon, which arrived to Gen. Short after the attack had already concluded, is embalmed in our folklore.
A carefully-plotted-out excuse for Gen. Marshall has been expertly constructed over the years, though little of it holds up under criticism based on facts. Administration apologists have been able to produce an explanation for almost everything, especially the circumstances surrounding the sending of the last message to the Hawaiian command, circumstances which are far from clear and straightforward. In a re-examination of this it is clear that a large part of the total account demands another look, and a consideration of previously skimped, or ignored or avoided facts and implications.
It is acknowledged by Pogue and others that the famous “warning” of Nov. 27 which ordered Gen. Short, in liaison with Adm. Kimmel, to put Pearl Harbor on a sabotage alert, was not prepared by Marshall at all, the General being in South Carolina observing Army maneuvers that day. Its authors were the Secretary of War, Stimson, and Gen. Gerow, Chief of the Army War Plans Division, who apparently was responsible for attaching Gen. Marshall’s name to the message, for years assumed to be an authentic signature.
In later years, this message, and that of Dec. 7 also addressed to the Hawaiian Army commander, universally attributed to Gen. Marshall, attracted the critical attention of the famed Navy intelligence officer, Capt. Safford, a central figure in the controversies aroused over the 13-part and “East Wind Rain” Japanese intercepts. Capt. Safford became a student of serious insights into the Pearl Harbor story, and was the key figure in stimulating Adm. Kimmel in taking up his own vigorous defense after having been made the “goat” of the Hawaii fiasco by the clever dissimulation of the cover-up diversionary artists working in behalf of whitewashing the Administration’s favorites and pets.
It was Capt. Safford’s firm view, after comparing the message of Nov. 27 with that of Dec. 7, that Gen. Marshall had not composed either of them. Utilizing the tools of internal criticism, he noted four separate particulars in which the two messages were almost identical in composition, not to mention the vague and civilian-like construction of both, which he ascribed to Sec. of War Stimson.
In a long 15-page single-spaced typed memorandum which he wrote with Commander Charles C. Hiles, and distributed to a fairly wide circle of interested revisionist students in the late winter and early spring of 1963, accompanied by a copy of his letter to Dr. Barnes of Feb. 1, 1963, Capt. Safford scrutinized the two messages in detail (Exhibits #36 and #61, respectively, as reproduced in the joint Congressional Committee Proceedings of the Investigation of the Pearl Harbor Attack), the first from Part 14, p. 1393, a better copy of which was Exhibit #15 of the Clarke investigation hearings, Part 34, pages 182-183, and Part 15, page 1640.
The latter, the Dec. 7, 1941 message, was not the version previously introduced, but was the transmission copy of the message, Capt. Safford emphasized, and that as Exhibit #61 it marked the only time he believed it ever appeared in the entire investigatory proceedings. He called attention to the clearly legible pencilled notations on the Clarke #15 photostatted version, which listed the times-and-places order of transmission, definitively listing Hawaii as fourth, and last, and not third (the official line), thus putting the location most likely to be struck by a sunrise attack last in order of notification. (1 p.m. Washington time was also about the same, Canal Zone time, the first notified, a very poor time for a sneak attack, while it was midnight, Manila time, the second notified, utterly out of the question as far as a carrierbased aircraft attack was concerned. Why they took precedence over Honolulu, where it would be 7:30 a.m., an ideal time for such an attack that time of the year, was what aroused Capt. Safford’s questioning of the adequacy of this “warning.")
In support of his contention that not only did Gen. Marshall have no part in the construction of the fateful war “warning” of Dec. 7, 1941 but was not even on the premises housing his office when the message in question was filed for transmission in the War Department Signals Room, Capt. Safford called attention to the stumbling responses to questions by Major Edward C. French, in charge of the message Center, before the Clarke investigation on Sept. 28, 1944 (JCC Proceedings, Part 34, pp. 32-33.) The gist of this was that there was no proof Gen. Marshall was present when the efforts were made to get a legible copy of the “Warning” for telegraphic transmission.
The above material may be peripheral to the topic of this extended commentary on the story which has grown around the whereabouts and activities of Gen. Marshall in the 24 hours prior to the Pearl Harbor attack, but that does not render it insignificant. And all such labors have been systematically minimized and defused over the years by official apologists skilled at creating diversionary obfuscation. Probably the best example of such is Roberta Wohlstetter’s Pearl Harbor (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1962), ostensibly prepared, as Dr. Barnes suggested, with the assistance of the RAND Corporation think-tank and the presumable support of related networks of “mega-death intellectuals” fashionable 20 years ago.
In a somewhat different tactical exercise, this was also the fate of the “East Wind, Rain” Execute, in the course of which incredible efforts were undertaken to discredit repeated testimony even on the part of Admirals who testified under oath that it had been received by the Navy. Here the device was employed of getting their inferiors in rank to declare they had not seen the transmission copies. (The battery of people recruited to diminish the credibility of Captain Safford in this case was indeed a revelation. The shameful roundelay of witnesses changing their sworn testimony under the frantic pressure of armed service legal officers, ultimately leaving Capt. Safford alone in maintaining that a Winds Execute had been received Dec. 4 and translated copies widely circulated, is a very dismal story. The 14th and 15th chapters of George Morgenstern’s Pearl Harbor [New York: Devin-Adair, 1947] is still the best account of this sad affair. The plain implication is that several higher-ups, with knowledge of this impending break in diplomatic relations between the Japanese Empire and the U.S.A., had violated their trust in failing to place American bases all over the world on an attack alert despite possession of this crucial information.)
in a further consideration in this exploratory commentary, is there any significance in the observation that, among retired principals involved in the Pearl Harbor business who later became engaged in revisionist investigations, almost all of them have been from the Navy? Admirals Standley, Kimmel, Theobald and Tolley, Commander Hiles, Captains Safford and Rochefort, and the expert testimony of Captain Alwyn Kramer and Admiral McCollum, stand out.
Nor should one omit from this group of retired Navy revisionists on Pearl Harbor the celebrated Admiral Harry E. Yarnell, who actually carried out a mock attack on Pearl Harbor uncannily similar to what the Japanese brought about, but some nine years earlier than they. In war games testing the Hawaii defenses, Adm. Yarnell, with a task force consisting of two aircraft carriers, four destroyers and 152 aircraft, launched an air assault 30 minutes before dawn on Sunday, Feb. 7, 1932 from sea about 60 miles from Oahu, coming in from the northeast, as did the Japanese Navy planes nine years later. The referees of the war games ruled that Adm. Yarnell’s action caught the Base entirely by surprise, and theoretically sank every ship in the harbor and destroyed every Army warplane on the ground.
Adm. Yarnell was one of the very first and very enthusiastic reviewers of Morgenstern’s Pearl Harbor and similarly commended the joint contributors to the Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace symposium, edited by Barnes. In a letter to Barnes, Dec. 16, 1953, Adm. Yarnell warmly congratulated them on their work, and said, “If the efforts of yourself and others could only succeed in your efforts to break down the Iron Curtain of dictated literature, it will do much to save our nation.”
As against Navy busyness, there is no comparable output of publication, research and testimony from Army figures, despite occasional oblique contributions such as those by Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s intelligence chief in the East Asian sector, Gen. Elliot R. Thorpe, and the strangely-unexploited commentary attributed to Gen. Clarke of May 4, 1961 in a widely circulated manuscript report by Professor Charles Callan Tansill, about which more later.
Could this preponderance of critics in one branch of the armed services have been an unconscious resentful response to the realization that the Navy had been unconscionably smeared with responsibility for the fiasco in Hawaii, via a process which had at the same time taken the Army, the real responsible entity for the safety and security of the Base, off the hook? Especially irritating must have been the extenuating circumstances found for excusing the top figures of the Administration, the War Department, including the Secretary, the Chief of Staff, his subordinates, and nearly everyone else related to them, while allowing Gen. Short to be thrown to the wolves as a diversion and a specious gesture of “objectivity” in spreading and allocating responsibility around a bit. The exception in this matter is of course the findings of the Army Pearl Harbor Board, whose deliberations began in July, 1944 and whose secret report was not made until after the end of the war in Europe in May, 1945. This report heavily involved the Secretary of State, Hull, the Chief of Staff, Gen. Marshall, and his War Plans head, Gen. Gerow, citing them for delinquency in failing to keep the Hawaiian command informed as to what was going on and, as Greaves put it (Perpetual War, p. 424), pointedly mentioning Gen. Marshall as responsible “for the fact that the Army was not prepared to defend the Fleet on the morning of December 7, 1941.”
But the APHB noticeably omitted Gen. Marshall’s superior from the list of responsibles neglectful of their duties: could it have been because Sec. of War Stimson had brought their investigation into existence in the first place, and making them loath and tender when it came to the subject of criticizing the man at the head of all of them? Though the central matter in this essay concerns those aspects of the Pearl Harbor subject related to Gen. Marshall, it becomes clear to almost anyone pursuing the literature surrounding the entire matter that the General’s superior, Sec. Stimson, was an even more sacred cow when it came to pressing him for information. Sec. Stimson reportedly suffered a heart attack the day he was scheduled to testify before the congressional investigation, and did not recover until it was all over. He answered only in part the questions submitted to him in writing, and largely escaped the barrage of light and sound that was directed at all the main characters in the cast which took part in that fateful event.
Sec. Stimson, a sophisticated and veteran Japanophobe who gave away points in this department to no one, not even the implacable Stanley K. Hornbeck, of the Far East desk of the State Department, has been documented by several historians as an enthusiast for war in the Pacific against Japan even when he was Pres. Herbert C. Hoover’s Secretary of State, leaving office early in 1933. His reappearance as Pres. Roosevelt’s Secretary of War seven years later found him still of the same view.
And historian-apologists have been pushed to the limits of their abilities in explaining away that painful entry in his diary for Nov. 25, 1941, just two days before he sent out over Gen. Marshall’s signature the famous sabotage alert to Hawaii with its mixture of “dos” and “don’ts” to Gen. Short (it was Capt. Safford’s view that the “dos” were Stimson’s and the “don’ts” were Gen. Gerow's, “like a duet in grand opera.") Whatever may be the truth, this famous diary entry, which became part of the public record which has stuck in the craw of every official apologist for the last 35 years, discussed a White House strategy meeting, and included the following: “The question was how we should maneuver them [the Japanese] into the position of firing the first shot without allowing too much danger to ourselves.” As much paper and ink has been spent in trying to denature this remark and to mollify the quizzical as to its import, and to tell us what Sec. Stimson “really meant” here, as used to be expended by Marxian zealots trying to tell us what Marx “really meant” by various bits of his much more murky and tangled prose in one or another semi-intelligible book. (It was ironic that U.S. forces fired the first shot anyway, the Navy sinking a Japanese submarine at the entry to the Harbor well before the air attack came on the Base.)
A constant in the whitewash-blackout defense of Rooseveltian official history on the evolution of the attack on Pearl Harbor is the repeated categorical denial that there was any traffic among the armed forces, their civilian political chiefs, and the intelligence services, indicating that Hawaii was the prime, if not the only target in case war broke out between Japan and the U.S.A. Right down to the very hour of the bombing on Dec. 7, 1941 we find repeated statements in the defensive apologia that the attack was suspected as likely to be on half a dozen other places, even as distant as Borneo, but Pearl is pointedly left out as a locus for concern. A favorite distraction of the diversionists is the Philippines, though what American forces were there which might inhibit in any way the invasion of Southeast Asia which the Japanese were simultaneously conducting is indeed a dark secret. That the Philippine-based forces could not even defend themselves for more than a few weeks was shortly demonstrated, let alone cause much trouble for Japan south and west of there.
It was the American Fleet in Hawaii that represented the only assistance the European colonial powers could expect in their effort to retain their grip on Singapore, Malaysia, what is now
known as Indonesia, and the former French colonies now known as Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. But posing the Philippines as where the Administration expected an attack (precious little was done to frustrate one) distracts the inquisitive, and partially satisfies the hope that the latter will come to share the simulated surprise and conclude that this innocence pose in genuine.
In actuality, the strong possibility that the war might start with a Japanese assault on Pearl Harbor was a subject of heavy discourse, officially, in January and February, 1941. Navy Sec. Knox dispatched a four-page letter to Army Sec. Stimson on January 24, which became part of the record of the Roberts Commission investigating the attack, in December, 1941-January, 1942. But few people have ever seen it or bothered to read it. This letter was entirely devoted, not to just a vague speculation on the possibility of attack somewhere, as one would gather from the preliminary remarks in Vol. 1 of the Defense Department’s 1977 compilation, The “Magic” Background of Pearl Harbor (p. 1), but to a single topic, the likelihood of a bombing and torpedo plane attack on the U.S. Pacific Fleet while it was berthed at Pearl Harbor. Sec. Knox began by declaring that the “security of the U.S. Pacific Fleet while in Pearl Harbor” had been under consideration among the Navy for several weeks prior to his letter, long before U.S. Ambassador Joseph Grew’s muchpublicized letter from Tokyo, also in January, 1941, suggesting a likely attack coming upon Hawaii. Navy concern probably went back to the moving of the Fleet to Hawaii in mid-summer of 1940. Said Sec. Knox in the last sentence of his first paragraph,
If war eventuates with Japan, it is believed easily possible that hostilities would be initiated by a surprise attack upon the Fleet or the Naval Base at Pearl Harbor.
Again it should be understood that Sec. Knox’s long letter was devoted in toto to Pearl Harbor, not to Panama, Manila, the Presidio, Guam or Enderbury Island, and was responded to by Sec. Stimson on Feb. 7, 1941 in a 1½ page letter addressed to Sec. Knox, headed “Subject: Air Defense of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.” Like Sec. Knox’s letter of Jan. 24, there was not a word devoted to any other place except Pearl Harbor. Copies of both letters reached Chief of Naval Operations Harold R. Stark, which he acknowledged Feb. 11, while See. Stimson declared at the end of his reply to Sec. Knox that copies of both letters were also going to the Commanding General in Hawaii. The presumption was that the Chief of Staff, Gen. Marshall, the Hawaiian Commander’s superior, would also be a recipient, though this is not specified in the postscript notation concerning other designates of copies. But Sec. Stimson would hardly have deprived his immediate subordinate of documents of this importance.
Four days later (Feb. 15, 1941), a six-page confidential letter from Adm. Kimmel from his flagship, the USS Pennsylvania, under the heading address “Pearl Harbor, T.H.” went out to nearly everyone possibly concerned with naval affairs in Hawaii, and also was exclusively devoted to a discussion of the problems involved in guarding against the possible sabotage of the Fleet, or its protection in case “That a declaration of war might be preceded by a surprise attack on ships in Pearl Harbor.” The timing was too close to the Knox-Stimson exchange and the recognition of it by Adm. Stark to indicate anything but concordance and cooperation on Adm. Kimmel’s part. (The Knox-Stimson correspondence of early 1941 and Adm. Kimmel’s confidential letter to the Pacific Fleet are dealt with by Gordon Prange in his book Tora! Tora! Tora! [New York: McGraw-Hill, 19631, but in an obfuscatory manner. It might be pointed out that Joint Chiefs of Staff position papers throughout the 1920s and 1930s reveal repeated concern about a possible attack by Imperial Japan upon Pearl Harbor.)
It is in the light of the above, and because of the above, that Sec. Knox’s 19-page double-spaced typewritten “Report by the Secretary of the Navy to the President” is such a sorry commentary, in effect suggesting the defensive neglect all around was so grave and encompassing, that one finds it hard to comprehend what he is trying to establish. Handed to Pres. Roosevelt personally by Sec. Knox the eveing of Dec. 14, 1941 on his return from Hawaii (the President endorsed it in his own handwriting, “Given me by F.K. 10 p.m. Dec. 14 when he landed here from Hawaii"), the report on what had happened at Pearl a week earlier crawled with inaccuracies, especially in the parts dealing with non-combat aspects. One obvious concession was Sec. Knox’s willingness to saddle the Navy with a large part of the blame, “due to a lack of a state of readiness against such an air attack by both branches of the service,” a half-non sequitur, since this ignored the Army’s primary responsibility for protecting the Fleet and the entire Base.
But what was immensely intriguing was Sec. Knox’s declaration, also on the first page of his report, that a “message of warning” had been sent to Gen. Short from the War Department in Washington at midnight, Dec. 6, a warning which did not reach him, as he told Sec. Knox, until after even the warning sent under Gen. Marshall’s signature around noon the following day. It would be of great interest to know who sent that warning from Washington at midnight, Dec. 6, and what it consisted of. Since no one could locate Gen. Marshall and since Col. Bratton testified that his superior, Gen. Sherman Miles of Army Intelligence, told him not to try to find him any longer after 11:30 p.m. that night, the sender of this warning must surely be a mysterious entity, if not ectoplasm. There is no account of anyone in authority in the War Department being awake at midnight, Dec. 6, 1941. No one credited Sec. Stimson with this action, and undoubtedly no subordinate of Gen. Marshall would have dared to do so without the General’s permission. One may be induced to ruminate over whether this actually happened, or were both Gen. Short and Sec. Knox involved in a substantial error?
Sec. Knox seemed to be befuddled on the reason for the Hawaii Base being still on a sabotage alert, at the time of the attack, failing to recall that this was precisely what the two commanders had been ordered to do on Nov. 27, and had not been ordered to do anything different after that date. Another question comes up: why had not the men responsible for the defense of the Fleet and the Base, Sec. Stimson and Gen. Marshall, been sent to Honolulu by the President to conduct an investigation? Sec. Knox should have been third in line, along with Adm. Stark, for such an assignment. However, his mission there alone, with the Army men not participating, further spread the impression, false but probably desired, that it was the Navy, which had sustained by far the largest part of the damage, which had been the delinquent in its protection, rather than the Army. This is how it worked out in terms of public relations and propaganda, and the traditional accounts to this day reflect this bias.
Knox, crediting Japanese espionage with informing their attacking forces of the precise location of the American ships, for obvious reasons did not give the slightest hint that American intelligence was well aware of this traffic via “Magic” intercepts for many months, though here he may have been in the dark himself as a result of the failure to communicate this “need-toknow” information to him. An examination of the majority of the actual copies of the “Magic” intercepts received ultimately by the Navy, though liberally covered with rubber stamps “Army,” “Top Secret,” “Ultra,” and others, also reveals a rubber stamp legend, “Records of Naval Communications do not indicate transmittal of this specific information to authorities in Hawaii.” One may conclude that, knowing Sec. Knox’s reputation for integrity, this “specific information” never reached the Navy in Washington, either, and he simply did not know about all this.
To cap it all off, Sec. Knox omitted making the faintest reference to his four-page warning letter to Sec. Stimson early in 1941 of the need to develop a plan to defend Pearl Harbor specifically from a Japanese attack. And, of course, there is no indication of anyone’s knowledge of the growing desperation in Japan as a result of the accelerating economic pinch caused by the global economic warfare against Japan by the Western colonial powers, also plainly discussed by the Japanese diplomatic service in the “Magic” intercepts of the late fall of 1941. (Especially pertinent here are the November, 1941 intercepts reproduced in Vol. IV Appendix of The “Magic” Background of Pearl Harbor.)
This aspect of the Pacific crisis is systematically neglected by the fuglemen of Anglo-American innocence, the increasing economic warfare carried out against the Japanese after the Roosevelt-Churchill meeting off Newfoundland in August, 1941. On October 23, the U.S. Commerce Department reported that Japanese raw material shortages had become so acute as a result of stepped-up curtailment that Japanese trade with a number of its biggest customers had virtually stopped, and that shipping to and trade with the U.S., the British Empire and the Netherlands East Indies had become almost “non-existent.” (New York Times, October 24, 1941, p. 36). On December 1, the National Industrial Conference Board published a work titled “The Effects of the Allied Economic Blockade on Japan,” in which it stated that normal Japanese imports of raw materials covering not only war supplies but necessities for the civilian population had been reduced by about 750/o, and cited a report of the Chinese News Service that Japan was “on the verge of economic collapse.” (New York Times, December 2, 1941, p. 6.) And in the Congressional Record, 77th Congress, Second Session, December 8, 1942, Rep. Jeanette Rankin of Montana, the only member of Congress who had refused to vote for a declaration of war on Japan the previous year on that date, remarked that near the same day as the NICB report on Japanese economic desperation was published the previous year, a “prominent non-Japanese Oriental” had told her that the situation in the Pacific was not only “serious, “ but that “Japan has no choice but to go to war or to submit to economic slavery for the rest of her existence.” General information of this nature, if widely read and understood, might have made possible an appreciation of another reason for Pearl Harbor other than the simpleminded explanation fed into public discourse for the purpose of maximizing patriotic sentiments and nationalistic outrage and hatred.
The veteran reporter, political analyst and commentator for the New York Times, Arthur Krock, made a glancing remark in his memoirs (Sixty Years on the Firing Lines) about the “posse of apologists” who made a veritable industry out of “explaining away” all the disjointed irregularities in the Roosevelt Administration’s conduct of affairs in the months prior to the Pearl Harbor bombing. In actuality, Krock’s “posse” grew over the last 40 years to comprise a multitudinous constabulary. No defensive apologetic effort in American history has been so extensive or sustained as that which has sought to perfume Mr. Roosevelt and his eager-for-war regime, and how they eventually got it, while seeking to banish all criticism and suspicion of their role in this disaster.
However, the more this industriousness in behalf of Administration purity and innocence branches out, the more tenacious grows the conviction that the total situation seen in the light of over 35 years of revelations, exposures and discoveries confirms the reverse, and the belief hardens that a gigantic camouflage diversion has taken place instead, succeeding in part at least in diverting attention from many basic disagreeable and distressing facts, while seeking to encourage favorable consideration of an evasive mollification.
As the people involved die (very few of the participants and principals in that great drama are still alive), and as the documents either vanish, one by one, or are declared never to have existed, there will tend to precipitate out a vague narrative steering its readers into accepting a genteel and respectable Establishment whitewash. But the anti-Establishment’s counterstory will hardly give ground for that reason. The former’s eyewash may appear to have won the day, if one considers the simple tales told the youth, to this time still nearly clean of any reconciliation with the contradictory material placed on the record by their adversaries, the revisionists. But it is unlikely that the latter will disappear or go away, or abandon the field, in the future. It is just as possible that the efforts to modify or demolish the Establishment monolith will be augmented instead. For there are many in close accord with the observations of Joseph D. Harrington, the author of Yankee Samurai (1979), who maintained that challenging the official accounts of everything was not only a “civic responsibility” but also “great fun.”
A Pertinent Postscript on the “Winds” Message Affair
When the Japanese Foreign Office sent out Circular #2353 Nov. 19, 1941, advising their embassy and consular people in Washington and presumably a number of other places in the world of the possible coming announcement of the suspension of diplomatic relations with any of three other countries, it was sent in Purple code, which they believed no one had deciphered. Early in December, the 1st and 2nd, all materials and machines connected with handling Purple were ordered destroyed. Therefore, when the decision was made to break relations and go to war with the U.S.A. on Dec. 4, the decision buried within a radio newscast disguised as a pre-arranged false weather report, the Foreign Office sent it out in Japanese Morse Code, which made its transmission and subsequent understanding quite simple to all. Believing that the confidential message informing intended recipients what HIGASHI NO KAZE AME would mean in this context was still a secret, its execution would therefore excite no suspicion among non-Japanese interceptors, while widespread dissemination, repeatedly, would guarantee that few if any of those for whom it was intended would miss it. The official American line is and has been that though Circular #2353 was intercepted, the “execute” was not.
The editors of the world-known Tokyo newspaper Asahi Shimbun, in their book The Pacific Rivals (New York: Weatherhill, 1972, p. 91), declare that the “Easterly wind, rain” message was “flashed repeatedly” at the direction of Foreign Minister Shigenori Togo. But the defenders of official innocence here have made a convention out of denying that it was received here no matter how often it was sent out, or that it was received in a garbled form which made it unintelligible, or that it was too ambiguous to be construed as a coded message indicating a definite decision of Japan to go to war with the U.S.A. Furthermore, if received, it could not have been of any real assistance to American intelligence because it had nothing to do with Pearl Harbor. This latter line apparently is based on the notion that the Winds Execute should have been accompanied by a map of the naval and military installations in Hawaii, in order to be taken seriously.
The smugness about and surefooted dismissal of this critical issue has especially characterized the approach of the Roosevelt defense squad since the publication of Mrs. Wohlstetter’s book in 1962, and is reflected in the official publication of the “Magic” intercepts beginning in 1977 by the Defense Department, described above. This massive multi-volume work, weighing 20 pounds, escapes mention of the subject entirely, except for a repetition of a 1945 commentary which passed over the matter airily as of no consequence.
However, before we move on from the Winds Execute matter, one more contribution should be made to the subject which should shake the official diversion specialists and the “blackout” and “blurout” (to use Barnes' terms) exponents, and bring into focus again Capt. Safford’s stubborn position on the reception and wide distribution of this message. What time has effected should make all the scoffers at Capt. Safford stand back a bit (even the would-be revisionist book on Pearl Harbor by Bruce R. Bartlett, Cover-Up: The Politics of Pearl Harbor, 1941-1946 [New Rochelle, N.Y.: Arlington House, 19781, contains a malicious sally at Capt. Safford in the manner of Pogue that would have done justice to the work of any “blackout boy,” from the original old masters, Morison, Millis, Feis, Bailey, Perkins or Rauch, to any of the undistinguished non-entities of the current scene.)
On March 11, 1980 there was declassified and placed in the National Archives Document SRH-051, in Record Group 457, a “sanitized” version of a 17-page typewritten interview, January 13, 1977, conducted by Raymond Schmidt, a historian with the Naval Security Group (since reassigned to the National Security Agency), with Ralph T. Briggs. Briggs, chief watch supervisor at the Naval Communications Station at Cheltenham, Maryland in December, 1941, related in detail his interception of the Winds Execute message the evening of Dec. 4. He went on to relate his transmission of it to Naval Communications in Washington by teletype, the message also being delivered later by pouch. He also stated that he entered this interception of the false weather report, HIGASHI NO KAZE AME, in his log sheet of intercepted messages.
Briggs added the sensational information that this log sheet, presumed by all to have been destroyed sometime during the war, had survived, and that he had come across it himself between 1960 and 1962 while he was officer in charge of Naval World War II intelligence and “crypto” archives. He described his verification of the time of receipt on the log sheet, and said, “I then made a written entry on the upper right hand margin of this log sheet concerning the fact that I, as officer in charge, on the date in question, had sighted and verified that this was a recorded original entry of the Winds execute message.”
Briggs then returned the log sheet to the files without making a copy, from which point it presumably went into Naval Security Group archives. It is believed that Brigg’s log has been rediscovered by NSG, and that it is possible copies have been made available to favored personages, though others seeking it have been thus far stonewalled in their efforts also to get access to it.
The puzzling aspect of all this is the silence of Capt. Safford for so many years on Briggs. It might be explained that Brigg’s existence was known to revisionists as well since 1945-46, yet the failure of a single work on Pearl Harbor to mention even his name is fully as mystifying. Briggs relates in his interview with Dr. Schmidt that Capt. Safford had contacted him and that the possibility of his testifying before the Congressional investigation had been discussed by them four or five times. Briggs stated that he was not averse to this, but that he was eventually ordered by his superior at the Cheltenham installation, a Capt. John Harper, that he was not to testify, nor was he to continue meeting with Capt. Safford. (Briggs stated that Capt. Harper was very disturbed when he ordered him, Briggs, to remain silent about this subject; it would be most interesting to discover how far up the chain of command Capt. Harper’s orders could be located.)
It is strange that no revisionist ever asked Capt. Safford where his operation, on Nebraska Avenue in Washington, got their copy of the raw intercept of the Winds Execute. They were not an intercept station, and obviously had to get it from someone. That Cheltenham had made the intercept was a matter of record among all, but how it got from there to Capt. Safford’s team, and Capt, Alwyn Kramer, under whom the translated copies were prepared for distribution, was never explained by anyone. The Briggs interview furnishes us with this missing piece.
In a similar manner, the famed luncheon of May 4, 1961 involving Gen. Carter W. Clarke, Gen. Bonner Fellers and Prof. Tansill, during which other materials relating to Winds Execute were revealed, never became utilized by an writers of revisionist persuasion, then or later, even by Prof. Tansill himself. Though a 4-page single-spaced typed copy of Tansill’s notes has circulated for nearly 20 years, it has not been employed in any context, to this writer’s knowledge. Gen. Clarke, Deputy Chief of the Military Intelligence Service, was reported by Prof. Tansill to have declared that the Winds Execute was picked up also by the Coast and Geodetic Survey Station at Mobile, Alabama and sent on to Washington the following day.
The next move is up to the official defenders and the salvagers of prior legends of ignorance and innocence. But the publication of Ralph T. Briggs' January, 1977 interview and his December, 1941 message reception log should take place at the same time the next obfuscatory campaign is made to wrap up the Winds Execute in impenetrable diversionary irrelevance and historical bafflegab.
November 19, 1941
Regarding the broadcast of a special message in an emergency.
In case of emergency, (danger Of cutting off our diplomatic relations), and the cutting off of international communications, the following warning will be added in the middle of the daily Japanese language short wave news broadcast.
(1) In case of a Japan-U.S. relations in danger-HIGASHI NO KAZEAME (East Wind rain).
(2) Japan-USSR relations-KITANOKAZE KUMORI (North Wind cloudy).
(3) Japan-British relations-NISHI NO KAZE HARE (West Wind clear).
This signal will be given in the middle and at the end as a weather forecast and last sentence will be repeated twice. When this is beard please destroy all code papers, etc. This is as yet to be a completely secret arrangement.
Above from p. A-81 of The “Magic” Background of Pearl Harbor, Vol. IV Appendix (8 vols., Washington, D.C.: Department of Defense, 1977).
* It is not the purpose of this essay to try to condense in this much space the entire story of Pearl Harbor. This is a task which has eluded more than a score of writers who have tried to do it in large books. The principal objective here is to concentrate on the drama of the ten days, and especially the last 24 hours, prior to the outbreak of war between the U.S.A. and Japan following the attack of the latter on Hawaii December 7, 1941. It is intended to be read in conjunction with this writer’s essay, “Pearl Harbor: Antecedents, Background, and Consequences” (in The Saga of Hog Island and Other Essays in Inconvenient History [Colorado Springs: Ralph Myles Publisher, 1977], pp. 114-131). The essay at hand was inspired as a follow-up to a single sentence in the former (9th line from bottom, p. 122), where something of the larger picture of U.S.A.-Japanese relations was one of the principal concerns.
The course and collapse of the diplomatic talks between the American and Japanese governments between September and late November, 1941 is the real backdrop of the account here narrated, with emphasis on what are new or previously unstressed aspects of the happenings from November 26 through December 7. Analysis of the fine points of the diplomatic presentations dealing with the Far Eastern situation is also of secondary consideration at this stage. Partisans of the rival positions may quarrel over the rightness or wrongness of them for a long time. But Americans had the upper hand in these conversations, by dint of cracking the Japanese diplomatic code of highest priority, “Purple,” having made it possible to read their adversary’s ideas and secrets while at the same time keeping theirs from Japanese scrutiny. The foundering of the talks over differences on China policy can be blamed as easily on the Roosevelt Administration as on the Japanese, even if neither side were ready to make any substantial concessions to the other on this specific point, But, in retrospect, what the Roosevelt partisans wanted in East Asia was never implemented, even after winning a war, and probably could never have been implemented, unless it was preferred that there be a solidly-Communist Far East at the conclusion, which does not seem to have been expected by the short-view politicians. But such a possibility was plain to see prior to the war, and a Red East Asia was certainly no political improvement over a Japanese-dominated East Asia as it was in 1941. As the near-total destruction of the European colonial system in East Asia and the Pacific, the succoring of which was jointly a high Roosevelt original priority, also swiftly followed the immense Communist encroachment from 1945 onward, one can hardly look upon the “New Order” thereafter as something to take much pride in, and the later wars over real estate still in dispute from the Pacific War, in Korea and Vietnam, have certainly added emphasis to this observation.
A thousand evasions of this political reality are possible and many of them have been paraded by us over the years, including the revival of such primitive ones as the bogus indignation over, and the necessity to destroy, the allegedly unequalled political sin of unique Japanese “militarism” (for the past 20 years our politicians and journalists have whined and stewed that the Japanese are lamentably too anti-militaristic). So the problem is an endemic one, and may be centuries in existence prior to satisfactory resolution, a matter deeply imbedded in our total situation. As good a statement as one is likely to find in so few words on the remaining difficulty is that of the late William L. Neumann:
“Good patriot, bad historian,” a comment first made in regard to Poggio Bracciolini, author of Eight Books of Florentine History, can all too often be applied to modern historians as well. Enveloped in nationalism, that omnipresent malaise of the modern world, the scholar has made little progress toward his commonly proclaimed goal of objectivity when his subject has involved the interests of his own nation or its enemies.
(Neumann, “World War I Revisionist,” in Arthur Goddard, ed., Harry Elmer Barnes, Learned Crusader: The New History in Action [Colorado Springs: Ralph Myles, Publisher, 1968], p. 261.)
- Lewis Carroll’s fantasy character who suggested salutary consequences might follow in developing the ability to believe six impossible things before breakfast probably had an unconscious impact upon establishment official writers of Roosevelt Administration innocence in developing their version of the Pearl Harbor story. In toto they eventually gathered together somewhat more than six, but the most imaginative of all, perhaps, was the fable the Roosevelt rarely if ever saw the “Magic” intercept transcripts, despite being first on the list of intended recipients via the joint Army-Navy delivery system. This has been advanced with the airy and casual aplomb of someone reporting that it is raining outside. When placed against the many-times-told account of the delivery to the President of the “Magic” intercept of the first thirteen parts of the Japanese Memorandum #902 shortly after 9 p.m. the evening of Dec. 6, and his agitated response upon reading it, surely it must stretch the credulity of even his most devoted self-serving partisans to the cracking point to be told this was one of his rare exposures to these English language transcripts of intercepted Japanese diplomatic intelligence traffic. Several historians of England and the British Empire have declared that the Russians in their campaigns against Napoleon conducted their intelligence service in the language of the enemy, French. This “Magic” windfall surely was the next best thing to that, and one can hardly expect the American Chief of State to be ignorant of it in the manner described by his apologists.
- David Brown and W. Richard Bruner, eds., I Can Tell It Now, by members of the Overseas Press Club. Foreword by Dwight D. Eisenhower, 363 pp. New York: Dutton, 1964.
- The Defense Department, instead of publishing the “Magic” intercepts in chronological order, or all of the traffic between any two points (e.g., Panama-Tokyo or Tokyo-Bangkok) all in one place, has arranged them in various sequences, some of which are a little fanciful or imaginative, but probably making more sense to those with mainly technical interest in the content. But one effect of this procedure, or “methodology,” if one prefers contemporary cliches, is in effect the preparation of. a scheme leading to a sort of history of the 15 months before Pearl by themselves, unintentional or otherwise.
Scattered through this assemblage of what is supposed to be exclusively “Magic” derived from translated intercepts of Japanese intelligence are several pieces of American Naval communications which are not part of “Magic” at all, and seem to be inserted at strategic spots which convey the impression of being self-serving additions to the potential account which might result from using this material. Some of this may also have the intention of reinforcing the official line on innocence of Pearl Harbor being the primary attack point for the Japanese upon rupture of diplomatic relations.
However, there is one especially interesting dispatch included ("Magic” Background, Vol. IV Appendix, pp. A-109/A-110) from the Chief of Naval Operations (Adm. Stark) to the Commander-inChief of the U.S. Far Eastern Fleet (Adm. Thomas C. Hart) #271442, Nov. 26,1941, the same date as that of the State Department’s “ultimatum” to Japan. This instructs Adm. Hart to wage, at the outset of a state of belligerency with Japan, unrestricted submarine and aerial warfare south and west of an area bounded by 70 and 301 North Latitude and 1220 and 1401 East Longitude. The region covered by these stipulated compass points incorporates the Philippines and the Philippine Sea, and some areas of British and Dutch interest as well, and was to be treated as a “strategic area.” The unrestricted warfare was to be conducted south and west of this, presumably in the areas of the South China Sea, plus the environs of Singapore, Malaya in general, the Dutch East Indies and the region stretching into and including the Gulf of Siam (Thailand) and adjacent areas of the seacoast of the French Indo-Chinese colonies, now Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia (Kampuchea).
Adm. Hart was further instructed to work in liaison with the British and Dutch forces in defining the circumstances under which this vast region of the Far Eastern waters was to be policed, but it was especially interesting that Adm. Stark specifically cautioned Adm. Hart that in dealing with the leaders of these two other powers he was to “take care not to disclose for the present these instructions to wage unrestricted submarine and aerial warfare.”
This communication said nothing about Army cooperation or any contingency priority deriving from the Army until two days later, when Adm. Stark’s #271912CRO863 informed Adm. Hart that Gen. Marshall had requested that Gen. MacArthur be informed so that the Army Air Force might “make appropriate plans” to cooperate with this unrestricted warfare plan. (This writer has repeatedly encountered in recent years individuals who reflect a faint smile and murmur, upon hearing such details of 40 years ago, “I didn’t know the Army has its own air force,” and must conclude that he is in the presence of someone who does not go back very far.)
We thus have additional information about American plans for southeast Asia, and further confirmation that a concerted effort to wage offensive war versus Japan was substantially envisioned well before the Hawaiian attack, as opposed to the general misconception of mindless lazing-about in huddled defensiveness a la. From Here to Eternity in utter ignorance of the Pacific realities.
That this contingency involved deception of “allies” as to the decision to wage unrestricted submarine and aerial war in a large area of the East Asian waters is of more than casual importance, and suggests that such a change had been made by the Administration and the joint Chiefs of Staff as a secret decision to “revise” the arrangements previously incorporated in the Rainbow/WPL-46 understanding arrived at during the extended meetings in Singapore between January 29th and March 27th, 1941. That the Japanese had rather quickly found out about these meetings, where Rainbow had been born, has been suggested by a variety of reactions, but whether they found out about Adm. Stark’s Nov. 26 message to Adm. Hart is uncertain. Constant interest in Tokyo concerning the presence and movement of U.S. submarines in Manila, in addition to news about troop movements in the Philippines and the disposition of Army fighting aircraft, accelerated in November, 1941 but in part preceded Adm. Stark’s “unrestricted warfare” pronouncement. Submarines far outnumbered other U.S. Navy craft based in Manila and vicinity, and two “Purple” messages from there to Tokyo Nov. 24 and Nov. 26, intercepted by American intelligence and available for consultation in English translation a short time later, mentioned some two dozen U.S. submarines leaving Manila Bay, “destination unknown.” On the general interest in submarine movement one can consult the following Japanese “Purple” dispatches: #742 (Nov. 8, 1941); #745 (Nov. 10, 1941); #757 (Nov. 14, 1941); #767 (Nov. 15, 1941; #785 (Nov. 22, 1941); #790 (Nov. 25, 1941); #805 (Nov. 29, 1941); #812 (Dec. 1, 1941). The last two were not translated until Dec. 8 according to official records but the others were available as “Magic” intercepts shortly after each of the original sending dates in question. The messages mentioned above have been reproduced in The “Magic” Background To Pearl Harbor, Vol. IV Appendix, pp. A-161/A-170.
In retrospect, this U.S. plan for the conducting of unrestricted submarine warfare was resolutely put into operation after Dec. 7, 1941. In a shrewd and percipient commentary on the U.S. Senate ratification of the four Geneva Conventions of August 12, 1949 by a vote of 77-0 in July, 1955, summarizing their essential futility and predicting their sure coming violation by future belligerents (so amply vindicated by what happened between 1955 and 1980), the Chicago Tribune ("Civilizing War", July 11, 1955) pointed out the grave Allied violation during World War II of the previous protocols of this sort, especially the Hague Convention of 1907, the Washington conference of 1922, the Geneva Convention of 1928 and the London naval treaty of 1930. As to the latter the Tribune pointed out pithily,
… the laws governing submarine warfare were clearly and precisely defined in the London naval treaty of 1930, which specified that attacks were to be confined to unmistakable men o'war, and then only after seeing to the safety of all hands. The American navy, in its official report on the submarine campaign against Japan, admitted an indiscriminate campaign in which nine of every 10 Japanese ships sunk were noncombatant vessels. Of 276,000 Japanese drowned in these attacks, 105,000 were civilians.
Among the rarest of all the narratives of history is an account of the indictment, successful prosecution and punishment of the winners of a war for violations of international law governing the conduct of belligerency. In the round of post-World War II trials in Germany conducted by the U.S. under Allied Control Council Law No. 10, when German defense counsel pointed out Allied breaches of the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907 during the war, spokesmen among the prosecutors such as Telford Taylor airily dismissed the pertinent articles of these Conventions as inapplicable to Allied behavior because they were “antiquarian.” Some wry comments on such selective application of international law can be found in in such books as those by August von Knieriem, The Nuremberg Trials (Chicago: Regnery, 1959) and Werner Maser, Nürnberg: Tribunal der Sieger (Dusseldorf: Econ Verlag, 1977), rendered in fanciful English translation as Nuremberg: A Nation on Trial (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1979).
- Grew’s report to the State Department is undoubtedly the bestknown and most widely divulged pseudo-intelligence tidbit allowed to reach the American public. This may have been an electrifying possibility to Sec. of State Hull, but could hardly have stirred much response from the Navy, which had already rehearsed two Pearl Harbor attacks on their own in simulated war games off Hawaii in the half dozen or so years prior to the outbreak of war in Europe in September, 1939. Probably picked up third hand as a consequence of drunken talk at a diplomatic cocktail party, there is an almost comic dwelling upon its significance in the book The Pearl Harbor Cover-Up by Frank Schuler and Robin Moore (New York: Pinnacle Books, 1976). In parts this book reads like a brief in behalf of the pro-Maoist wing in the State Department’s version of how war came in the Pacific.
What is missing from the record, to the release of the “Magic” intercepts by the Defense Department just recently, is the simultaneous war scare in the Japanese Foreign Office, a matter of even greater curiosity. On February 15, 1941 the Japanese vice-consul in Honolulu, Otohiro Okuda, dispatched his #027, which was addressed to the Foreign Ministry for routing to the General Staff and the chief of Japanese Naval Intelligence, American Section, Capt. Kenji Ogawa. This relayed second hand information that the Roosevelt Administration would declare war on Japan sometime between the sending date and the end of the first week of March.
Since American intelligence had cracked “Purple” almost six months previous to this, it may be that Japanese intelligence in Hawaii had been victimized by the process we now call “disinformation, “ in an effort to determine how long it would take to be released in Japan, being able to read both transmission and return reaction with equal ease. Nothing has been made public via release of appropriate “Magic” intercepts as to how this sensational piece of non-fact was handled or whether any response was made to this manufactured war scare. In view of the mollifying press conference given by Japan’s new ambassador to the U.S.A., Adm. Kichisaburo Nomura, on Feb. 20 (he had just arrived in Washington on Feb. 11), the Japanese Foreign Office seems not to have taken seriously this prediction of a war declaration by the U.S.A. Nevertheless both Japan and the U.S.A. on the highest diplomatic levels went through separate war scares in the first two months of 1941.
Whether both were the result of deliberate incitement by one another’s “dis-information” agents can only be ruminated upon at this point. But there is no doubt of Japanese interest in possible U.S. Navy action in the event of a state of war during this time, as the intercepts #011 and #029 (neither of which are in the Defense Department’s published collection of “Magic") attest. As one can see, these reports on ship-harbor activities in Pearl Harbor began well before the presence in Honolulu of the new Japanese consul general, Nagao Kite, who first arrived on March 14, 1941. (Though Kite’s name is associated with similar reports to Japan dealing with what was going on in Pearl Harbor starting in September, it is obvious that this letter was well after a stream of “Purple” intercepts indicated that in the event of trouble between the two countries, Hawaii was a prime target for an early if not initiating attack by Japanese forces. Even Farago, in his essentially establishmentsupporting book The Broken Seal, concedes as much. Though American intelligence never found in their interceptions of traffic of the Japanese Imperial Navy one word even hinting that Pearl Harbor might be a future target, Farago concedes, “On the other hand, 'Magic' produced this evidence actually in abundance, from February 15, 1941, until the morning of the attack.") (The Broken Seal, p. 167.)
- Some idea of the richness of the obscurantism and diversionary genius now applied to the Pearl Harbor epic as we approach the 40th anniversary of the attack can be derived especially from fairly current histories of wartime intelligence. Especially revealing is how the subject is handled in William R. Carson’s The Armies of Ignorance: The Rise of the American Intelligence Empire (New York: Dial/James Wade, 1977, pp. 151-159). After a brief treatment excoriating those who reject the official establishment line as “isolationists” enamored of “conspiratorial” fixations, Carson manages to sketch out the layers of camouflage which have been laid upon the subject over the years, while getting to mention only two students of the affair, the undeviating establishment apologists and chroniclers, Mrs. WohIstetter and Hans L. Trefousse. No one is to blame, and the author seems to believe that the main trouble was that not enough people were privy to the “Magic” intercepts to enable the dispatch of a proper “warning” to the Hawaii commanders. That every responsible figure in the highest authority echelons was quite conversant with or on the automatic delivery list for “Magic,” including the President, his Secretaries of State, War, and Navy, the Chief of Staff and the Chief of Naval Operations, and the very top commanders in the intelligence departments of the armed services, does not appear to impress or to have been adequate according to Carson. How an underling with less knowledge could have gone over the heads of this group of men to “warn” Pearl Harbor escapes all understanding. But the unknown ignorant and unauthorized all appear to gain in stature and importance in the wake of the event, when anything they might have attempted to say or do would have left them vulnerable to swift censure and possible demotion, in addition to off-hand dismissal of their words or actions.
Further evidence that histories of intelligence in harmony with accepted official positions prefer to come no closer than the views of 20 years ago, and conclude in a consensus that Mrs. WohIstetter had the last word in 1962, can be found in Ronald Lewin’s Ultra Goes to War (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1978). “Ultra” (as the British named it) was the German analog of the Japanese “Purple” code, and the actual “Magic” intercepts circulated by American intelligence all bore the word “Ultra” rubber-stamped on them. Lewin’s view is close to Carson's, but is more subdued, though similarly following closely in support of the too-mixed-” signals,” no-one-could-be-blamed obsurantism of Mrs. Wohlstetter’s Pearl Harbor: Warning and Decision. The position taken by Lewin not only requires ignoring the multitude of errors in this latter book, in part pointed out by Percy Greaves and Charles C. Hiles, but also a most selective approach to the matter of the chain of command, approvingly pinpointed when something of credit is to be assigned, but studiously avoided when something blameworthy demands the designation of some responsibility.
- An unusual development in this dramatic account relating to the significance of the Briggs interview, unprecedented in the literature related to the Pearl Harbor topic, was the publication of the entire interview, from a facsimile copy originally deposited in the National Archives, in the Fall, 1980 (No. 24) Newsletter of the American Committee on the History of the Second World War, a solidly official-establishment organization, with presumably no real interest in this kind of disclosure. The reproduction indicates the elisions and other deletions made in the copy made available to other scholars previously (the Newsletter did not make its appearance until around Christmas time, 1980 despite its date), and which substantial interest from March, 1980 onward on the part of several investigators undoubtedly precipitated. But the persistence of deleted material even forty years after the event helps to convey the impression that we are still too close to the event to allow full disclosure.
There is a mysterious aspect of the Briggs Winds Execute matter which requires some official explanation and extended discourse. though the previous accounts for 35 years have centered on Captain Safford’s repeated insistence on its receipt December 4, the material related to the Briggs interview recently made public clearly indicates the latter originally received the Winds message December 2, which actually makes the official gloss on the matter look even worse.
The above essay was originally published in the author’s Beyond Pearl Harbor: Essays on Some Historical Consequences of the Crisis in the Pacific in 1941, 1983, Plowshare Press, RR1, Little Current, Ontario POP 1KO, Canada, $10.00.