Let me go on record to state that I am patriotic and an avid admirer of what the men of our nation did to overcome the tyranny of the Japanese and Germans in WWII. If you click on the military category of my posts, you will see that when I get cut, I bleed red, white and blue. I believe in the greatness and considerable achievements of the United States as well as it being the largest contributor for the betterment of others by any country in history.
However, as an amateur historian and an observer of the (in)competency and motives of bureaucrats in Washington, what our government did leading up to and on that day shows the weaknesses of humans. It should be noted that the Americans and more especially the soldiers who fought the war are held as honorable in my opinion. This post is not written to tear down any of the bravery accomplished during the war. They fought valiantly and protected freedom with the Allies.
This event brought together the country so that good overcame evil and I have the utmost respect for what was accomplished in that war.
Much of this was inspired by “History Honors Pearl Harbor” on the History Channel as well as other documented sources.
America was woefully unable to protect itself by December 6, 1941. It is not unlike today, December 7, 2016, as our current military has been decimated, or the decay of the military before the 9/11 Islamic terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center Towers by the administration in charge during the decade of the 1990’s .
On the day of the attack, Roosevelt was viewed by his son as frozen at times because of the thought of what it would do to his legacy. Just like the 42nd and 44th president, their legacy was more important than the nation. The worst attack on American soil would be under his watch and he would be unprepared to deal with it. Fortunately, by 8 am on 12/9/41, brave young men around the country were lined up at the draft offices, but it would take the monumental effort of the country to overcome the government’s lack of responsibility to have a force that could protect our borders.
Next was the communications between Pearl Harbor and Washington. Roosevelt couldn’t get information about what was happening. Granted, the communications infrastructure was not what it is today, but there weren’t even secure lines or even direct lines to Washington. The Naval commander in Hawaii who tried to communicate information to the Chief Naval officer Admiral Stark at the War Department couldn’t give specifics as he wasn’t sure if the Japanese were listening in.
Further, the American leadership greatly underestimated the mental acuity of the Japanese thinking that they weren’t technologically capable of such an attack. It was speculated that the Germans had given them assistance. Hitler later admitted he had no idea that the Japanese were planning to, or had attacked Pearl Harbor despite what was taught at Faber College.
Douglas MacArthur couldn’t be reached in the Philippines for most of the day. General Marshal of the Army tried for the better part of the day to warn him of the happenings in Hawaii and to prepare for a similar attack. Washington wasn’t sure of where he even was or if the Japanese had already attacked. MacArthur boasted that he had special insight into the oriental mind. When he finally was reached, his response was that he was on full alert and that “We are ready, we have our tails in the air”. History documents that the Japanese attacked and drove him out of the Philipines shortly thereafter as MacArthur did virtually nothing and lost the islands in an embarrassing defeat. He was woefully unprepared, but his ego wouldn’t let him admit it.
Finally, the government couldn’t spend more than $750 on an automobile so they couldn’t get a bullet proof car for the President to be transported from the White House to the Capitol to give the speech. The Treasury Department had confiscated Al Capone’s car earlier so that one was used instead as they couldn’t be bothered to have proper protection for the leader of the free world. That would haunt Washington as recently as November 22, 1963.
Roughly 6 hours after the attack, FDR approved Executive Order 9066 which imprisoned 92,000 Japanese to internment camps for no reason other than their might be a fifth column attack within. It was supposed to be limited in scope to arrest any spies but morphed into what was one of the lowest points of FDR’s term of leadership. Little to no evidence is ever recorded that there was any treason on their part and no one was convicted of espionage or disloyalty.
They were deemed guilty rather than innocent in one of the greatest acts of prejudice by an administration.
MORE INCOMPETENCE AND DID WASHINGTON KNOW ABOUT THE ATTACK BEFOREHAND?
As I’ve stated, I’m not a conspiracy theorist, I am for facts. FDR ordered an investigation headed by Supreme Court Justice Owen Roberts of the attack 18 days after the attack. Some interesting things were revealed. You can read further about it in the book A Matter of Honor, Betrayal, Blame and a Family’s Quest for Justice.
Admiral Kimmel, head of the Navy in the Pacific had asked Chief of Naval Operations Harold Stark six months before the attack to keep him apprised of latest intelligence regarding what the Japanese were up to. Washington knew that Pearl Harbor was vulnerable to attack as early as November 1940.
Stark held back the information that aerial torpedos capable of being deployed in waters shallower than at Pearl were being used, despite Stark reassuring Kimmel that the water in the harbor was too shallow for a torpedo attack. How this wasn’t an act of treason is curious.
The FBI had intercepted information that the Japanese had made inquiries as to the depth at Pearl and whether anti-torpedo nets had been deployed there, but again Kimmel was never informed. Not sharing this with the command was grossly incompetent or an act of political chess.
Code-breaker Lawrence Safford visited Kimmel after he had resigned. He then told Kimmel about project Magic that broke coded Japanese diplomatic messages. Washington failed to inform Kimmel what they knew prior to the attack. It reveals the Japanese had spies informing the Imperial Forces where the exact location of the ships anchored as recently as 3 months before the attack. The code breakers who discovered this in Magic was only shared by as few as 10 men who couldn’t or wouldn’t tell anyone else. It was a power play by political operatives in Washington instead of military strategists who would have warned the fleet in Oahu and had the capability to defend against a surprise attack.
A message to the Japanese embassy was decoded instructing them to move to negotiations that had to be completed by 11/5/41, or things will happen automatically beyond that.
The Japanese fleet set sail on November 25th. There was no turning back at this point.
FDR was aware that the Japanese were going to break off negotiations and 10 days prior to the attack, Admiral Stark issued a warning that there could be an attack, unfortunately not mentioning or notifying the Hawaiian Islands that they were a possible target.
Three hours prior to the attack, Stark received a message that indicated what was about to happen but failed to notify Kimmel. By the time the message was placed into Kimmel’s hands, it was 8 hours after the attack and was not marked priority.
The intelligence was available, but Washington failed to connect the dots.
I hope that the administration which has meandered it’s way around the safety of our country hasn’t set the table for a repeat by those who have lost their respect for our capability to defend ourselves.
Missy LaHand, FDR’s assistant for 21 years contacted him on December 7th. She was closer to the president than Eleanor during that time, some speculate in many ways other than a secretary. With everything that was going on, the last thing he needed was to hear from a woman he’d had a relationship with. Eleanor allegedly pushed for a divorce after discovering hat FDR had an affair with her social secretary, so the last thing he wanted to do was push the envelope unnecessarily by contacting her. With the decisions that would change the world in front of him, all he needed was additional drama from his wife and another woman. He decided not to return her call from Warm Springs where she was recovering and it devastated her so greatly that she attempted suicide shortly thereafter. Presidents have had trouble keeping their pants zipped.
As a side note, but belonging in the sex category, Edward R. Murrow interviewed FDR that night. Not that it has anything to affect the situation, Murrow carried on a wartime affair with Churchill’s daughter-in-law Pamela Digby Churchill when he was a reporter in London. He had a close relationship with the Leaders of the Free World and an even closer relationship with some of their relatives.
Roosevelt had a chronic sinus condition from which he suffered most of his life. Shortly after the attack, he had a headache and was congested, so he was wheeled into the office of his physician, Dr. Ross Macintyre where he was treated with cocaine. It can be argued that it may have affected his decision-making that day. Since it was legal, it wasn’t an issue. Drugs used to be a political show stopper until Obama, who admitted he snorted it got elected.
ROCK AND ROLL
Fortunately, the attack woke up the nation and kick-started the industrial might the US. Some of the greatest human, scientific and technological achievements happened during the war.
Most important though was the lesson on how wars should be fought and won, something that has been lost on the leadership today. You fight to win and settle only for unconditional surrender. At that point, you set the terms of how the relationship will proceed. Germany and Japan have become industrial and world leaders, built up by the USA after the war unlike Vietnam and the middle east where our troops were strangled by congress rather than let soldiers fight the war.