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Investigations into the Attack on Pearl Harbor

Finding Blame with Kimmel and Short

There were numerous investigations after the war, all of which blamed Admiral Kimmel and General Short for dereliction of duty, being caught unawares at Pearl Harbor, and not taking adequate preparation to defend the fleet against the Japanese attack. What's clear now is that Washington knew an attack was very imminent within the week or ten days after they'd sent out the war warning. Yet there were no additional warnings sent to Hawaii. And for that, I think modern day historians tend to fault the Roosevelt administration for not really making it clear to Pearl Harbor, that war was imminent, particularly in light of the fact there had been seven earlier messages in 1941 to the same effect.

Another View

But there's another view voiced in Day of Deceit, by Robert Stinnett, that claims that Roosevelt thought the attack was actually coming to Pearl Harbor and that more messages had been deciphered. But the people that actually worked in the units that did the deciphering have disagreed with that book Day of Deceit, saying that the author had ignored the fact that even though those messages were recorded before the attack in Pearl Harbor, the additional 1946 date at the bottom was the date that those messages were actually decoded. And when they were decoded, the navy could plainly see that if they'd been decoded back in 1941, they would have known that the attack was coming and could have been much more prepared. And so those messages were classified, and were not released for about forty years. So that particular author claims that all of those messages had been deciphered and Roosevelt knew exactly when the attack on Pearl Harbor was coming.

Radar readings

The radar was new, but it was in operation. There were plans on paper to have a complete chain of command to control the fighters and to get them up in the air but the system had not been completed, not all the staff had been assigned and there were no squadrons assigned to be on standby. So they were all presuming that all of this would happen after war was declared. So in that sense, I think General Short was remiss. Admiral Kimmel, on the other hand, was stuck with the war plans that called for the army to defend Oahu and he was suppose to have air patrols for advance warning but he clearly didn't have enough patrol craft in Hawaii to do the job.

Questions about Air Patrols

Many of the investigations into Pearl Harbor heard from high ranking officers that thought Kimmel should have used the planes available for patrolling to the north because that was the obvious route of the attack. But this was obvious to no nobody until after the attack occurred, and most of the naval people who'd been consulted prior to the attack spoke of having patrols to the southwest in the direction of the Marshall Islands, which were held by the Japanese. So even if the patrols had been up they would have been patrolling in the wrong direction.

Keeping the Battleships Safe in the Harbor

Admiral Kimmel was astute enough to know if his battleships had been caught in the at sea without any air cover they may have been sunk in deep water and deliberately brought them into the harbor as a means of trying to protect them until his aircraft carriers came back from delivering fighters to Wake Island and Midway Island. So I don't think Admiral Kimmel was as derelict in duty as all of the investigations made him appear.


Fairness of the Investigations

It's significant to note that neither Short nor Kimmel was allowed to be court-martialed where they would have been able to provide a defense. In all of these investigations they were asked questions and never told that they were being charged with anything. However, these were official investigations and the reports accused them of wrongdoing.

But Kimmel and Short were never allowed to have an attorney present on their behalf. As a result of this investigation, both Kimmel and Short lost their commands. So in all, I think this was a very unfair series of investigations.

General Marshall

General George Marshall

General Marshall's Message

General Marshall has never explained why additional warning messages were not sent to Hawaii. He finally sent one an hour before the attack but declined to use the navy radio.

The army radio could not deliver so they sent a telegraph by Western Union and the telegraph message was delivered to the army in Hawaii about six hours after the attack was over.