Surprise attack MY ASCII!!!!!!
A reader sent in this photo, taken at the Military Heritage & Aviation Museum
in Punta Gorda, Florida.
In the photo at their website, the front page can be seen just
below the sign reading "PEARL HARBOR"
Clearly, more was known about the impending attack than FDR
indicated in his "Day of Infamy" speech. - M. R.
War Warnings from Washington (1941)
The military officials in Washington had cracked Tokyo's secret code. They knew from intercepted messages, especially after Secretary Hull's final note of November 26, that Japan was about to attack. But they could only guess where. The following war warnings were dispatched to Pacific commanders, including General MacArthur, who was caught with his planes down in the Philippines some eight hours after the Pearl Harbor attack on December 7, 1941. The messages from Washington did not mention Hawaii, evidently because of the belief, fortified by reports of massed ship movements, that the Japanese were about to strike in Southeast Asia. The surprised U.S. commanders later complained that they had not been properly warned. Comment critically in the light of these warnings. What grounds existed for the assumption that the attack would not come at Pearl Harbor?
[Navy Department to Pacific Commanders, November 24, 1941]
Chances of favorable outcome of negotiations with Japan very doubtful. This situation, coupled with statements of Japanese Government and movements their naval and military forces, indicates in our opinion that a surprise aggressive movement in any direction, including attack on Philippines or Guam, is a possibility. Chief of Staff has seen this dispatch; concurs and requests action [by the respective addresses] to inform senior Army officers their areas. Utmost secrecy necessary in order not to complicate an already tense situation or precipitate Japanese action.
[Navy Department to Asiatic and Pacific Fleets, November 27, 1941]
This dispatch is to be considered a war warning. Negotiations with Japan looking toward stabilization of conditions in the Pacific have ceased, and an aggressive move by Japan is expected within the next few days. The number and equipment of Japanese troops, and the organization of naval task forces, indicates an amphibious expedition against either the Philippines, Thai [Siam] or Kra [Malay] peninsula, or possibly Borneo [Dutch East Indies]. . . .
Pearl Harbor Attack; Hearings before the Joint Committee on the Investigation of the Pearl Harbor Attack, 79th Cong. 1st sess. (1946), pt. xiv, pp. 1405, 1406.
Admiral H. E. Kimmel Defends Himself (1946)
In 1942, after carrier-based Japanese bombers had crippled the U.S. fleet at Pearl Harbor on that fateful Sunday morning, the special Roberts commission found Admiral H. E. Kimmel and General W. C. Short guilty of "dereliction of duty." But the army and navy conducted their own investigations and concluded that there were no grounds for a court-martial. After the war a full-dress joint congressional investigation (10 million words) elicited the following testimony from Admiral Kimmel, who must be judged in the light of three points. First, as early as 1932 the navy had staged a successful mock (Japanese) raid on Pearl Harbor on a Sunday morning with carrier-based aircraft. Second, the attacking Japanese carriers had been lost to U.S. naval intelligence for some days. Third, four hours and thirteen minutes before the surprise attack the navy sighted an enemy submarine off the mouth of Pearl Harbor; an hour and ten minutes before the strike the navy fired upon and sank a Japanese submarine off the mouth of Pearl Harbor. What were the strengths and weaknesses of Kimmel's defense?
The so-called "war warning" dispatch of November 27 did not warn the Pacific Fleet of an attack in the Hawaiian area. It did not state expressly or by implication that an attack in the Hawaiian area was imminent or probable. It did not repeal or modify the advice previously given me by the Navy Department that no move against Pearl Harbor was imminent or planned by Japan.
The phrase "war warning" cannot be made a catch-all for all the contingencies hindsight may suggest. It is a characterization of the specific information which the dispatch contained. . . .
In brief, on November 27, the Navy Department suggested that I send from the immediate vicinity of Pearl Harbor the carriers of the fleet, which constituted the fleet's main striking defense against an air attack.*
On November 27, the War and Navy Departments suggested that we send from the island of Oahu [site of Pearl Harbor] 50 percent of the Army's resources in pursuit planes.
These proposals came to us on the very same day of the so-called "war warning."
In these circumstances no reasonable man in my position would consider that the "war warning" was intended to suggest the likelihood of an attack in the Hawaiian area.
From November 27 to the time of the attack, all the information which I had from the Navy Department or from any other source, confirmed, and was consistent with, the Japanese movement in southeast Asia described in the dispatch of November 27. . . .
In short, all indications of the movements of Japanese military and naval forces which came to my attention confirmed the information in the dispatch of 27 November--that the Japanese were on the move against Thailand or the Kra [Malay] Peninsula in southeast Asia.
*Fortunately for the United States, the three great carriers were not at Pearl Harbor when the attack came.
Pearl Harbor Attack, pt. VI, pp. 2518, 2520, 2521.
Secretary Henry Stimson Charges Negligence (1946)
General Short, the army commander in Hawaii, complained that the warnings from Washington were not specific enough regarding a possible Japanese attack. He felt that he should have been advised that Washington, using a top-secret code-breaking device called "Magic," was intercepting Japanese coded messages (despite the need for secrecy in using these Magic intercepts).
Yet on November 30--a week early--the Honolulu Advertiser had headlined a story
"JAPANESE MAY STRIKE OVER WEEKEND." Newly installed army radar actually picked up
the attacking Japanese planes fifty-three minutes in advance,
but this evidence stirred no defense action.
Secretary of War Stimson, who had served in three presidential cabinets, here defends his office before the joint congressional committee. Is his analogy to a sentinel convincing?
Many of the discussions on this subject indicated a failure to grasp the fundamental difference between the duties of an outpost command and those of the commander in chief of an army or nation and his military advisers.
The outpost commander is like a sentinel on duty in the face of the enemy. His fundamental duties are clear and precise. He must assume that the enemy will attack at his particular post; and that the enemy will attack at the time and in the way in which it will be most difficult to defeat him. It is not the duty of the outpost commander to speculate or rely on the possibilities of the enemy attacking at some other outpost instead of his own. It is his duty to meet him at his post at any time, and to make the best possible fight that can be made against him with the weapons with which he has been supplied.
On the other hand, the Commander in Chief of the Nation (and his advisers) . . . has much more difficult and complex duties to fulfill. Unlike the outpost commander, he must constantly watch, study, and estimate where the principal or most dangerous attack is most likely to come, in order that he may most effectively distribute his insufficient forces and munitions to meet it. He knows that his outposts are not all equally supplied or fortified, and that they are not all equally capable of defense. He knows also that from time to time they are of greatly varying importance to the grand strategy of the war. . . .
From the foregoing I believe that it was inevitable and proper that a far greater number of items of information coming through our Intelligence should be collected and considered and appraised by the General Staff at Washington than those which were transmitted to the commander of an outpost.
General Short had been told the two essential facts: (1) A war with Japan is threatening. (2) Hostile action by Japan is possible at any moment. Given those two facts, both of which were stated without equivocation in the message of November 27, the outpost commander should be on the alert to make his fight.
Even without any such message, the outpost commander should have been on the alert. If he did not know that the relations between Japan and the United States were strained and might be broken at any time, he must have been almost the only man in Hawaii who did not know it, for the radio and the newspapers were blazoning out those facts daily, and he had a chief of staff and an intelligence officer to tell him so. And if he did not know that the Japanese were likely to strike without warning, he could not have read his history of Japan or known the lessons taught in Army schools in respect to such matters.*
Under these circumstances, which were of general knowledge and which he must have known, to cluster his airplanes in such groups and positions that in an emergency they could not take to the air for several hours, and to keep his anti-aircraft ammunition so stored that it could not be promptly and immediately available, and to use his best reconnaissance system, the radar, only for a very small fraction of the day and night, in my opinion betrayed a misconception of his real duty which was almost beyond belief.
[The joint congressional committee investigating Pearl Harbor was a partisan body that submitted two reports. The majority (six Democrats, joined by two Republicans) generally absolved the Democratic Roosevelt administration of responsibility for the surprise attack, while finding the Hawaii commanders guilty of "errors of judgment and not derelictions of duty." Two Republican senators filed a minority report highly critical of the Roosevelt administration.]
*Attacking without warning had been a feudal practice in Japan. The Japanese attacked the Chinese without warning in 1894 and 1931 and the Russians in 1904. In the age of Hitler, attacks without warning were commonplace, as indeed they have been throughout history.
Pearl Harbor Attack, pt. XI, pp. 5428-5429.
Franklin Roosevelt Awaits the Blow (1941)
On the evening of December 6--the day before Pearl Harbor--U.S. naval intelligence intercepted and decoded the bulk of Tokyo's warlike reply to Secretary Hull's last "tough" note (November 26). Commander Lester Schultz, a naval aide at the White House, promptly delivered these intercepts to the White House. Five years later he testified before the joint congressional committee concerning the president's reaction. Certain critics of Roosevelt claim that he now knew of the Japanese plan to strike Pearl Harbor the next day and that he deliberately exposed the fleet in order to lure the Japanese into an act of aggression that would unify American opinion. What light does Commander Schultz's testimony shed on this interpretation?
The President read the papers, which took perhaps ten minutes. Then he handed them to [long-time Roosevelt adviser] Mr. [Harry] Hopkins. . . . Mr. Hopkins then read the papers and handed them back to the President. The President then turned toward Mr. Hopkins and said in substance . . . "This means war." Mr. Hopkins agreed, and they discussed then, for perhaps five minutes, the situation of the Japanese forces, that is, their deployment and--
Mr. Richardson [committee counsel].
Can you recall what either of them said?
In substance I can. . . . Mr. Hopkins . . . expressed a view that since war was undoubtedly going to come at the convenience of the Japanese, it was too bad that we could not strike the first blow and prevent any sort of surprise. The President nodded and then said in effect, "No, we can't do that. We are a democracy and a peaceful people." Then he raised his voice, and this much I remember definitely. He said, "But we have a good record."
The impression that I got was that we would have to stand on that record; we could not make the first overt move. We would have to wait until it came.
During this discussion there was no mention of Pearl Harbor. The only geographic name I recall was Indochina. The time at which war might begin was not discussed, but from the manner of the discussion there was no indication that tomorrow was necessarily the day.
Pearl Harbor Attack, pt. X, pp. 4662-4663.
KURUSU BLUNTLY WARNED, NATION READY FOR BATTLE
November 30 1941 . Six days BEFORE Roosevelt's "surprise" attack, headlines in the Honolulu Advertiser read "Japanese may strike over Weekend!"
The story outlines how the US government was aware of the oncoming attack. After the attack, of course the government said that it was a "total surprise," and a massive coverup of the conspiracy began in earnest. The government managed to destroy almost all the evidence, even going into the Hawaii hospitals and ripping off the front page of this paper. However, Private Paul Brown, saw what was going on and managed to rip off his own front page of the Advertiser and hide it from the government.
This is one of very few known copies of that paper. It is hanging in the Punta Gorda Florida Military History Museum.
Hawaiian Press. The state of mind and the state of information in
the Hawaiian Islands leading up to Pearl Harbor, and particularly before
it, is not better illustrated than the articles appearing in the
*Honolulu Advertiser* and the *Honolulu Star-Bulletin*. A mere
recitation of these headlines would seem to have been sufficient to have
warned General Short and his subordinate officers of the critical
The newspaper headlines in question read as follows: "U.S. Waits Japan
Reply" (29 Nov 41 -- *Honolulu Star-Bulletin*); "Japanese May Strike
Over Weekend"; "Kurusu Bluntly Warned Nation Ready For Battle" (30 Nov
41 -- *Honolulu Advertiser*); "Hull, Kurusu In Crucial Meeting Today" (1
Dec 41 -- *Honolulu Advertiser*); "U.S. Army Alerted in Manila,
Singapore Mobilizing as War Tension Grows"; "Japan Envoys Resume Talks
Amid Tension"; "War Fears Grow in Philippines" (1 Dec 41 -- *Honolulu
Star-Bulletin*); "Japan Called Still Hopeful of Making Peace with U.S.";
"Japan Gives Two Weeks More to Negotiations" (2 Dec 41 -- *Honolulu
Advertiser*); "Huge Pincer Attack on U.S. by Japan, France Predicted" (3
Dec 41 -- *Honolulu Star-Bulletin*); "Japan Spurns U.S. Program" (4 Dec
41 -- *Honolulu Advertiser*); "Pacific Zero Hour Near; Japan Answers
U.S. Today" (4 Dec 41 -- *Honolulu Star-Bulletin*); "Singapore on War
Footing"; "New Peace Effort Urged in Tokyo"; "Civilians Urged to Leave
Manila" (6 Dec 41 -- *Honolulu Star-Bulletin*); "Japanese Navy Moving
South"; "Detailed Plans Completed for M-Day Setup" (6 Dec 41 --
*Honolulu Advertiser*); "F.D.R. Will Send Message to Emperor on War Crisis"
(7 Dec 41 -- *Honolulu Advertiser*).  
 Complete excerpts from the newspapers during this period will be
found in Exhibits 19 and 19a.
 The editors of both papers were called and examined as witnesses.
They testified that these headlines resulted from deductions based on
current trends in international relations gleaned from news dispatches.
No other factual data was available to them. (R. 3107-3108, 3169-3170)
REPORT OF ARMY PEARL HARBOR BOARD