Flame & Blame at Pearl Harbor
The Responsibility Question
by Frank Pierce Young
Fright. Fury. Finger-pointing


History can offer entire libraries devoted to that sequence and its consequences -- which commonly involve power positions, political maneuvering and, often as not, scapegoating; for surely, someone must be to blame for what happened.

The totally unexpected attack upon the great U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on 7 December 1941, was no exception to this generality. And in prompt consequence, two very senior American officers, men of previously outstanding professional records, lost not only their positions and careers, but also their ranks and reputations. Meanwhile, others at least equally involved and in whole or part professionally responsible for the debacle escaped any trace of blame. This official aftermath of the Japanese attack has since been severely questioned both officially and privately numerous times by many, including Members of Congress and the U.S. Senate, a variety of serving and retired officers, historians, veterans' organizations, the aging Pearl Harbor Survivors' Association. Not least among these are surviving and descendant family members of those two men, who are yet pursuing their forebears' vindication more than a half-century later -- a possibility yet being variously fought against, stalled, and sidetracked by high officialdom both political and in the Pentagon, for to do otherwise would automatically point fingers very embarrassingly and sharply elsewhere at certain celebrated men, plus at their own official actions long ago.

It has all the elements of a great Shakespearean tragedy: ambitions, egos, assumptions, secrets, clues, deceptions, beliefs, errors, friendships, betrayals, public uproar and private contriving -- and, of course, love, death, and a wish for revenge. As of 6 December 1941 there were certain main players.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt -- President of the United States, and legal Commander-in-Chief of all U.S. armed forces. All officers above the ranks of Major-General or Rear-Admiral are nominated by the President, and appointed to higher rank with "advice and consent" of the U.S. Senate.

Harold R. "Betty" Stark -- Admiral; Chief of Naval Operations (CNO), the functional head of the entire U.S. Navy; Navy Department, Washington, D.C. A very able administrator with seven very successful ship commands, Stark was selected over 50 more senior men to be CNO on 1 August 1939, and was firmly in favor of creating the strongest navy in the world.

Ernest J. "Jesus" King -- Admiral; Commander-in-Chief, Atlantic Fleet; at Norfolk, Virginia. A Great War veteran as a junior officer in the Sixth Battle Fleet at Scapa Flow, he was aloof, austere, cool with subordinates and distant from others; strongly opinionated, of persistent rank ambition, and adept at Navy Department politics, he was less a leader than a "driver", and held a lifelong Anglophobia.

Husband E. Kimmel -- Admiral; Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Fleet; at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. A highly skilled and detail-minded professional with a spotless record, he was noted for his intense style in operations, and "his tenacious compulsion to obtain and act on information without delay was a trait that never diminished."

Richmond Kelly Turner -- Rear-Admiral; Chief of both Naval Communications and Naval Intelligence; Navy Department, Washington, D.C. Since his days as a Naval Academy midshipman he held a reputation for being forceful, so intimidating he often got his seniors to make room for him and his ways simply to avoid confrontation; something of a bullying sort, and with considerable ambition in the realm of Navy Department politics.

George Catlett Marshall -- General; Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army; War Department, Washington, D.C. Unlike all other top Army officers, he was not a graduate of the Military Academy at West Point, but of the famed and equally stringent Virginia Military Academy in that state; a Great War combat veteran, he was quiet, deliberate, meticulous, thoughtful, imaginative and far-sighted, and became known postwar as a near-genius.

Douglas MacArthur -- General; Commander, Army Department of the Philippines; Manila, P.I. The son of a general who had commanded in the Philippines after the Spanish-American War, he'd been a Great War combat brigade commander and postwar Army Chief of Staff; semi-retired, he was sent back to the Philippines by Roosevelt in 1935 to create and organize a native Philippine Commonwealth defense force for its government. He had an immense ego and fondness of flattery, a lofty aristocratic view of rank's rights and privileges, was a consummate Army politician and publicity-seeker, and held firmly to the twin notions that he was not only the nation's best general, but that he alone truly knew and understood the Far East and all Orientals, most particularly the Philippines and their people.

Walter Campbell Short -- Lieutenant-General; Commander, Army Department of Hawaii; Honolulu, Hawaii. A veteran of the Mexican Punitive Expedition in 1916 and a combat leader in France during the Great War, he was solid, detail-critical, utterly reliable, sternly duty-conscious, and steadily rose postwar in both rank and reputation, achieving 3-star rank ahead of several seniors.

Slow March to War -- The Backroom Buildups

The scenario had years a-building. Ever since the end of the Great War in 1918, U.S. Navy people had looked at Japan with increasing concern. By the 1920s, the Navy's quiet backroom War Plans office had begun to develop what became known as Plan Orange -- upgraded now and then, this was the scheme for countering a Japanese naval attack in the Pacific. During this period, a civilian journalist, British-born Hector C. Bywater, European naval correspondent for The New York Times, The New York Herald, and The Baltimore Sun, wrote two books, the latter titled "The Great Pacific War", in which he (prophetically) outlined how the Japanese would attack in the Pacific, notably at the Philippines. But the U.S. had been a major player in the postwar naval disarmament conferences, times seemed good, Americans wanted no further parts of warlike functions since the "war to end wars" had been fought, and funding for the Army and Navy was both small and begrudged. Despite the Navy's ships being largely obsolescent at best, the election of Herbert Hoover as President in 1928 saw no new naval ship funding at all during his Administration.

The subsequent 1932 election of Franklin D. Roosevelt made a Navy enthusiast President, a man who had served previously as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, as once had his older cousin, former President Theodore Roosevelt. Entering his first 4-year term as the Depression was hitting its dismal low, among Roosevelt's first moves was getting naval funding upped sharply, with new warships in mind. Among other changes, the former Plan Orange would become known as Rainbow, its regular upgrades numbered in sequence. The Fleet began to slowly improve. Its higher-ups' attention to intelligence, however, did not increase apace.

The halfway mark of Roosevelt's second term saw marked Navy improvement and enlargement, with numerous new warships of all types being designed and built, though the Army did not do nearly as well equipment-wise.

By this time, however, Naval Intelligence had had a young middle-grade officer in Japan as a naval attaché -- Ellis M. Zacharias, who spoke the language and made it his business to meet people and learn things. He sent back numerous illuminating reports. But his recipients' offices were still small and back roomy; indeed, to be assigned to Naval Intelligence was considered almost a career dead end. However, by the time war broke out in Europe in September of 1939, cryptologists of the Army and Navy, working with the Department of State, had learned how to decrypt the supposedly impenetrable Japanese diplomatic code. To do this required a special machine as well as excellent knowledge of Japanese. Code-named the "Purple Machine", or simply "Purple", its product was called "Magic". This considerable accomplishment was most useful -- if it were analyzed by experts and then one paid attention to it, which did not necessarily occur. That left the Navy a still-undecipherable Japanese code. Named JN-25, it was the one used by the Imperial Japanese Navy.

The gradual enlargement of Japanese activity, first in Manchuria in 1931, then in Formosa, and finally on mainland Chinese soil by the mid-1930s, the USN had been stirred to its keel by the unprovoked Japanese air attack on the little gunboat USS PANAY in the Yangtze River in 1937. From that moment on, more attention began to be paid to intelligence matters. But this was yet relative.

Japanese intelligence was still back-seated when war broke out in Europe in September of 1939. U.S. naval interest turned primarily to Nazi Germany and its vaunted Kriegsmarine, especially its U-boat threat in the Atlantic, a position enhanced by the President's own strong Anglophilism, and remembrances of the Great War among senior flag officers. One of these was Ernest J. King. Now a vice-admiral, his lifelong connections had been in the Atlantic sphere. In May of 1940, Nazi Germany suddenly blitzed across Western Europe in the wake of the "phony war" period, further aggravating Navy attention.

The Navy Gets Friends

Meantime, Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox had become a firm friend of the very senior and influential Representative Carl Vinson, who had chaired the House Naval Affairs Committee since 1917. They had gloried in passage of their long-sought Bill creating a true two-ocean navy in mid-1940. Historically, the U.S. Navy had begun on the Atlantic. By the 1840s, it had made various Pacific voyages, the 1850s saw the opening of semi-medieval Japan by Commodore Matthew Perry, and the rapid growth of a steam-and-steel navy after the 1870s meant further Pacific attention, due to a need for coaling stations and bases. This became imperative after the Spanish-American War produced the Philippines and Guam. Withal, the Navy remained fundamentally Atlantean in outlook, even through the Great War. Though there were Pacific ships and postwar finally an official Pacific Fleet, these were offshoots of the basic navy, which remained Atlantic-oriented. This would now change radically.

Instead of one fleet in two divisions, there would be two complete fleets, each with its own wide oceanic responsibilities. Thus the Atlantic and Pacific Fleets became of equal "rank" and distinct focus. Of the latter, the distant Asiatic Fleet, which was less fleet than large squadron, was a subordinate part. Vinson was credited by the Navy itself with knowing more about the Navy than the Navy did, and was personally responsible for pushing through Roosevelt-era Congresses its increasing between-wars growth and preparedness. In 1940 one of these facets was naval aviation. Whether battleships were built or not, Vinson wanted at least a dozen new carriers, and 15,000 pilots and places to train them, and got the money. But it presented a problem. Over in the U.S. Senate, its Naval Affairs Committee found itself in the peculiar position of wanting to heavily finance rearming in the face of Navy cautions about overspending. Again, one facet was naval aviation. On 31 May, Stark was informed that the crucial need for training planes in the expansion program meant delays in combat aircraft going to the enlarged Fleet, which specifically affected patrol squadrons. Stark took this calculated risk. One result was few big, long-ranging PBY "Catalina" patrol bombers for Pearl Harbor.

Meantime, Admiral James O. Richardson, in command of the Pacific Fleet, was ordered to move its headquarters from San Diego, California, to Pearl Harbor. He liked neither the move nor Knox, a former newspaper magnate. Knox visited Pearl Harbor and told the press that he believed the base "tremendously well defended" -- though he told others he knew its defenses were inadequate, and that there was a lack of "war-mindedness" in the fleet, which Richardson took personally. He told Knox the Pacific Fleet should not base at Pearl Harbor, but back in its old home of San Diego. Knox did not agree, and on return to Washington shared this view with another friend, Secretary of War Henry Stimson, whose opinions and concerns were similar. Stimson told Knox that, as he saw it, any diplomatic easing-up on Japan by the U.S. would be seen as a weakness to be exploited.

In October, after a Washington conference, Richardson returned to Pearl Harbor ordered to assess all Army/Navy defenses there. His report began by noting that "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." He further asserted that the priorities of such an attack would be, first, aerial bombing; second, aerial torpedoes; followed in order by sabotage, submarine attack, mining, and surface gunnery. He further urged that the Army increase its defensive aircraft and ground anti-aircraft capability, and establish an effective air-warning net in the islands. Knox passed this along to Stimson, who replied two weeks later expressing "complete concurrence as to the importance of this matter" and promised to send within six weeks thirty-one obsolete P-36 pursuit planes, fifty new -- but already obsolescent -- P-40 pursuit planes, increase the number of AA guns, and to deliver aircraft warning equipment by June.

In April, Knox, Stark, Stimson, Marshall, and King conferred with Roosevelt. King wanted more ships, and Stimson urged sending the entire fleet into the Atlantic. Marshall concurred, saying that in his view Pearl Harbor was invincible whether any ships were there or not, and noted in his diary that Knox agreed. The security of Pearl Harbor was not examined.

By early August of 1940 eight Purple machines had been built. Two each went to the Army and Navy, and British Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill got one. In January of 1941, a sixth Purple Machine went to Admiral Thomas Hart, commanding the Asiatic Fleet. The same month saw Knox and Stark among ten secrecy-sworn men who began to get personal copies of MAGIC intercepts. That summer, the seventh machine went to MacArthur in the Philippines. None were sent to Pearl Harbor, nor were their respective Army and Navy commanders made privy to direct Magic intercepts.

Command Changes Made

In February of 1941, King was made Commander-in-Chief Atlantic Fleet. Kimmel already had been made Commander-in-Chief of the Pacific Fleet and Short designated to command the Army Department of Hawaii. Up to the ranks of rear-admiral or major-general, the rank is entree to position. But above those levels, position predetermines the rank. Thus, upon assignment, King and Kimmel necessarily became full admirals, and Short a lieutenant-general.

Kimmel and Short got along well, and after their initial walk-rounds and examination of their command and security problems, began to meet frequently. Kimmel soon requested many more planes; he wanted 280 aircraft. He had only 49, most were obsolescent or worn out, and some were inoperable for lack of parts. Instead, that summer many ships of his Pacific Fleet were detailed to Atlantic Fleet duty, costing Kimmel about 25 percent of his warship force. The Navy Department compounded this by transferring many men as well to the Atlantic Fleet to man new ships coming out, and Kimmel never got all the B-17 bombers he was supposed to receive -- all went to MacArthur in the Philippines, or to Britain, or to the Soviet Union. Kimmel repeatedly wrote begging letters to Stark, but was ignored.

Meanwhile, back in Washington, another flag officer had been pushing himself upward. As Chief of War Plans at the Navy Department, Rear-Admiral Richmond Kelly Turner got bits of Magic intercepts as copies-to via Naval Communications, which ran the extensive Navy Radio system. Turner wanted more, persuaded Stark to make him Chief of Communications and Naval Intelligence, and got it. That positional move put him in charge of Purple and its Magic intercepts. It was Turner who personally decided to send the remaining eighth Purple Machine to Churchill, giving him three -- instead of one to Kimmel.

At Pearl Harbor, Kimmel and Short kept on conferring, regularly exercised defensively with what they had in order to execute orders from Washington, and sent back evaluation reports. When never advised or corrected, both had to assume that their actions were seen as correct and sufficient. But both remained worried. Kimmel's intelligence chief at Pearl Harbor, Rear-Admiral Edwin Layton, was privy to Magic, but sworn to secrecy about it. His mode was to provide Kimmel with selected snippets of Magic intercept data out of context and without revealing its source. This maintained his secrecy vow, but put the Navy Department, which had exacted that secrecy pledge, in direct violation of one of the cardinal rules of intelligence: a local commander can only react to information in the context of his immediate known situation.

Increasingly concerned, Kimmel kept asking Washington for full copies of everything. Stark responded in long, rambling, handwritten letters, assuring he would indeed send everything, but in fact included only further bits of unattributed Magic information. Such letters took numerous days, even weeks, for delivery. Then, in June, a report of a Magic "leak" caused a wholesale Washington clampdown on security, and Stark then stopped sending Kimmel even bits of Magic. This clampdown extended even to Roosevelt himself. In this period a total of 43 crucial Magic intercepts were involved, including the "Bomb Plot" message of 9 October, in which Tokyo asked for ship data at Pearl Harbor, and the infamous "Winds Message" of 28 November, advising breaking of diplomatic relations with the U.S. by sending the code phrase "East Wind Rain".

Kimmel nonetheless heard of the "East Wind Rain" message -- not from Washington, but from his friend Admiral Thomas Hart, commanding the small and mostly obsolescent Asiatic Fleet far away to the east. Kimmel thus did not give that intercept any Hawaiian significance. Another "East Wind Rain" message went out of Tokyo on 3 December, but Kimmel never learned of it, much less got a copy -- though fourteen copies were made.

Meantime, only a few days before on 27 November, a "War Warning" was sent out of Washington, but indicated that any attack would fall probably on the Philippines and in the Southwest Pacific region -- 5,000 miles east of Pearl Harbor. This warning did not go to Pearl Harbor, but to MacArthur. It was logical; the Rainbow war plans had always predicated a Japanese attack upon the Philippines. None considered Pearl Harbor, despite a long Japanese history of surprise attacks, proof that Pearl Harbor was vulnerable by air during a fleet exercise, despite the known grown of Imperial Navy carrier forces, despite the successful British naval air attack upon the great Italian naval base of Taranto.

Carriers Carry Airplanes -- Elsewhere

On the same day, Kimmel got an order to send both his carriers, one battleship, and appropriate cruisers and destroyers, on a cargo mission to Wake and Midway Islands, to take them defensive aircraft and to cover the pending arrival there of forty-eight new B-17 bombers headed toward the Philippines for MacArthur.

As of 3 December, Kimmel was still unaware of Magic as such, and had only a hint about Purple. His Fleet Secretary, privy to its existence but also sworn to secrecy, told Kimmel only that Purple was the code name for a Japanese crypto machine -- never that the U.S. Navy had them.

The ever-heightening tension of probable impending war prompted Kimmel and Short to take various further security measures. Among the worries was the presence on Hawaii of a large ethnic Japanese population. Powerfully aggravated by knowledge of the notorious use of pro-Nazi "Fifth Column" activists in the nations swept up by Hitler in Europe, and by old mainland American prejudices about Orientals generally and now the Japanese in particular, the worry was likely spying and sabotage. Base entry and exit security was firmly stiffened. Also, on the main airfields planes were ordered to be parked closely together, that they might more easily and tightly be guarded. Anti-torpedo nets were considered around the ships, but the thought dismissed; the Pearl Harbor mooring areas were wide but relatively shallow, and all experience demonstrated that any aerial torpedo attack was impossible -- the "fish" would dive upon hitting the water, and by the time their mechanisms could control depth, they would be deep in the mud.

The night of 6 December in Hawaii was otherwise pretty much business-as-usual. Excepting duty men, most soldiers and sailors had Saturday night off, and as usual they headed into town to drink, look for girls, and otherwise make merry. This included most officers, whose clubs were lively. For the Navy's people, it carried a special caveat: off-duty officers might take the whole night off, but most sailors had only "Cinderella liberty". Nicknamed after the poor girl of the fairy tale who had to keep one eye on the clock while dancing with the prince, it meant that they too had to return by midnight. For this reason, at least three-fourths of them were already aboard their ships when dawn broke, but very few officers.

The 14-Part Letter

In Washington, radio had already picked off a lengthy Japanese diplomatic message to its embassy there. The Purple Machines were wound up, and Magic-making cryptologists had soon decrypted thirteen pages. A fourteenth page was apparently to be sent later. Knox, Stimson, Stark, and Marshall had all thirteen pages by 6 December. None of that transcript implied immediacy, much less a coming Japanese move.

Page 14 was radioed to the Japanese Embassy very early in the morning of 7 December. Being a weekend, few personnel were available. A clerk unfamiliar with typewriters was ordered in to transcribe it. It was a very slow one- and two-finger typing process, but it had to be done as rapidly as possible; the Ambassador was under absolute orders to be certain that it and the prior pages were put together and delivered to Secretary of State Cordell Hull a half-hour before 1 p.m. -- 8 a.m. in Hawaii. In this fashion, there would be fair warning. The idea of a complete surprise attack had been raised during planning, but was out of the question. Both the architects of Japanese militarism and their foreign representatives were Samurai, and according to their ancient Bushido Code, even a Samurai assassin bent upon killing a victim in bed at home at night, however briefly must first wake him and throw him a sword. Additionally, they well knew the horrid psychological risk of a total surprise attack upon America.

But that fourteenth page had also been picked off the radio air simultaneously by U.S. intelligence and swiftly decrypted. That it followed the prior thirteen pages outlining intolerable and irresolvable national differences was clear: an "execute" message, it turned the whole into a declaration of war.

In Washington, Marshall, a fine Virginia horseman all his life, was as usual out riding in a park that Sunday morning, and could not be reached. At 10:30 a.m., Stark was informed and urged to immediately telephone Kimmel in Hawaii. Stark said no, he would first call Roosevelt -- whose White House telephone operator said the President was not yet available. Stark did nothing more. About the same time, Marshall phoned his office but refused to accept any messages left for him, saying he would come down there personally. On arrival he was handed the entire 14-part message. Instead of hearing out the urgent analysis, or first reading the crucial last page, he carefully read the entirety, and then scribbled a dispatch to be sent all Army commands on the West Coast, Philippines, Panama, and Hawaii. He then read it to Stark, who offered to send it forthwith over the powerful Naval Radio system.

Marshall said no; he would use Army radio, with priority to MacArthur first. But static interfered with transmission. So an Army aide took the handwritten dispatch and gave it to Western Union, which took it down and telegraphed it as an ordinary overseas cable. At Honolulu, the slowly transmitted cable got no more priority than a doting mother's birthday greeting to her soldier son. Treated as any other very routine item; it was pigeonholed for later delivery.

Moments before 8 a.m. Hawaii time, the vast Japanese carrier air armada began its attack upon Pearl Harbor and its installations, planes, and ships. Fiercely urgent radio word went out immediately. About this time the warning cable from Marshall was being delivered, and it messenger held up halfway there by the Pearl Harbor attack

In the Philippines, MacArthur, hearing of the Pearl Harbor attack, simply locked himself in his office for hours, though his air commander banged over and over again on his door, screaming for permission to fly his B-17s northward to scout out possible incoming Japanese, to bomb them if seen, and likely bomb Formosa as well. Meanwhile, just as had been the planes at Hawaii and for the same easily-guarded reason, the Army aircraft were closely grouped on their fields. That is where the Japanese found and bombed them nine hours later. MacArthur was yet in his headquarters, locked in. Around the same time Short finally got the cable transcript -- eight hours after it was decrypted.

In Washington, Hull was in his State Department office. The full transcript of the Japanese diplomatic message with its implied declaration of war had been completely read when the first radio reports of the Pearl Harbor attack were given him a few moments after 1 p.m. D.C. time. He sat and waited. Over in the Japanese Embassy, the solitary amateur typist was still pecking away, one key at a time. Shortly before 2 p.m. the arrival of Japanese emissaries Kurusu and Nomura was announced. Hull let them cool their heels few minutes before admitting them to his presence. They offered him their transcript of the Japanese declaration of war at 2:05 p.m., more than an hour after the attack had begun. A birthright member of the ever-polite Eastern Establishment and product of the very best of schools, a gentleman of impeccable manners and invariable calm, Hull's reaction to the two tailcoat-suited Japanese was one of pure, unadulterated, unlimited, roaring, white-faced anger.


The official fallout followed swiftly. King was relieved of his Atlantic Fleet command, brought into Washington, and given an interim title. Stark was relieved of being CNO, and assigned as the U.S. Navy's top representative to Great Britain and the Royal Navy. The moment he left, King took over. Kimmel and Short were relieved, ordered home, and replaced. The American public was in a state of fervent overnight patriotism mixed with unmitigated fury at whoever was responsible besides the Japanese themselves. Congress had to act, and did.

The first official investigation began in days and was headed by none other than one of the nation's top jurists, Associate Justice Owen J. Roberts of the U.S. Supreme Court. Duly known as the Roberts Commission, it put Kimmel and Short immediately on the defense, for they were the top commanders at Pearl Harbor. The Commission moved with both alacrity and indifference to ordinary rules. It allowed no sworn testimony, no due process, no witnesses to be called by either man in their own defense, and no right for either to cross-examine other witnesses. In January of 1942, the Commission released carefully selected negative portions of its material to the press. Essentially, it blamed Kimmel and Short individually for the entire failure to defend Pearl Harbor and all the consequent damage and casualties there. Formal Army and Navy moves of inquiry were parallel; they pronounced the men guilty of Dereliction of Duty and Errors of Judgment, both charges extremely serious, but neither, as put, entitling either man to a general court-martial -- at which witnesses could be called and cross-examined, and a stern defense made, publicly if wished. Both men were swiftly reduced to their permanent ranks -- Kimmel to rear-admiral, Short to major-general -- and told they were through, and forthwith retired. All of this got considerable publicity. By this time, the furious public, had it been able to lay hands on them, very possibly would have lynched both from lampposts.

Not long after, MacArthur was ordered to Australia, and fled the Philippines in a PT boat. On arrival he sought for supreme Pacific command, but had to settle for command of the Southwest Pacific forces both military and naval, and award of a Medal of Honor -- doubtless the only time a losing commander who departed the scene ever got any valor award at all. Later, he was made a 5-star general. Turner was never mentioned, and wound up in other Navy positions by war's end. Marshall got a fifth star, retired from the Army postwar, and became Secretary of State and architect of the famed Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe. Stark retired postwar, as did King, who also got a fifth star.

In 1944, the Navy held a formal Court of Inquiry into it all, this time promising Kimmel due process. It exonerated him (and by analogy also his Army counterpart, Short), and severely criticized Stark. Fleet Admiral King, who had long been a good friend of Kimmel, rejected its findings, denied them any publication, and reinstated the Roberts Commission charges. Kimmel, saddened and mystified, got no explanation from King. That same year, Kimmel first learned of Purple and Magic.

In 1946, a Joint Congressional Committee held hearings on Pearl Harbor. Though Kimmel testified, every effort was made to divert any possible blame from Roosevelt or his Administration, and Kimmel again could not cross-examine witnesses, call witnesses for him, or post a true defense. Indeed, one Navy petty officer who actually took the "East Wind Rain" decrypt was warned by his commanding officer NOT to testify -- and didn't.

Various reports and investigations and stories official and unofficial have followed off and on ever since. Another began in 1995, and a Pentagon report admitted that Kimmel and Short did not get sent crucial messages, and that others should "share the blame." But it never said that the charges should be lifted from either man, or mention promoting them back to their higher former ranks, nor who in Washington or elsewhere might specifically hold part of the blame.

The intensity of the original search for scapegoats has been equaled by the persistence of those determined to restore the ranks and reputations of Kimmel and Short. In the former's case, he had three sons, lost one to combat in 1944, and the other two and their children carry on attempts to clear his name. Short's only son died, but his grandson carries on.

It is most unusual -- almost unique -- for top politicians of far-opposite views to agree on anything. But most recently, both Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts and one of that body's most liberal-leaning figures, and South Carolina's nonagenarian and deeply conservative Republican Senator Strom Thurmond -- both of whom well remember World War II -- are in total and loud formal agreement that complete posthumous restoration of their ranks and reputations not only should be made, but is publicly owed.

In October, 2000, Congress passed a Resolution clearing Kimmel and Short of any wrongdoing at Pearl Harbor, and allowed the President, in his capacity as Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, to restore the lost ranks of both men. Former President Clinton did not sign it before leaving office. Kimmel's family, led by namesake Husband E. "Ned" Kimmel II of Davidsonville, Maryland, is still waiting for action.

Interestingly, key Pentagon officials yet argue that at bottom, the ultimate responsibility must always rest with the commander-on-site, and consistently refuse to consider restoration.

Of course, to do so would automatically raise embarrassing questions about Those Others.


"Secret Missions", by Rear-Admiral Ellis M. Zacharias, USN; G.P. Putnam's Sons, New York, 1946.

"Fleet Admiral King - A Naval Record", by FADM Ernest J. King, USN (Ret.) & Cmdr. Walter Muir Whitehill, USNR (Ret.), Director & Librarian, Boston Athenaeum; W.W. Norton & Co. Inc., New York, 1952.

"The Oxford Companion to American History", edited by Thomas H. Johnson; Oxford University Press, 1966.

"Double-Edged Secrets -- U.S. Naval Intelligence Operations in the Pacific during World War II", by Capt. W. J. Holmes, USNR (Ret.), former head of the Combat Intelligence Unit; U.S. Naval Institute, 1979.

"The Japanese Navy in World War II -- In the Words of Former Japanese Naval Officers"; edited & translated by David C. Evans; U.S. Naval Institute, 2nd edn., 1986.

"Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox and Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Harold R. Stark"; by Lt. Col. George H. Lobdell, USA (Ret.), PhD; Prof. Emeritus, Ohio State University; from Selected Papers, 8th Naval History Symposium, U.S. Naval Institute, 1989.

"Carl Vinson, Admiral John H. Towers, and the Creation of the Two-Ocean Navy"; by Clark G. Reynolds, Prof. of History, University of Charleston, S.C., formerly of the U.S. Naval Academy and U.S. Merchant Marine Academy faculties; Selected Papers, 10th Naval History Symposium, U.S. Naval Institute, 1989.

"Visions of Infamy", by William H. Honan; St. Martin's Press, New York, 1991.

"Combined Fleet Decoded -- The Secret History of American Intelligence and the Japanese Navy in World War II", by John Prados; Random House, New York, 1995.

"The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography", edited by John S. Bowman; Cambridge University Press, 1995.

Records of the Meeting of the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Kimmel Family; 27 April 1995.

Dorn Report (Pentagon response to the SecDef/Kimmel family meeting); 15 December 1995.

"Admiral Kimmel, The Pearl Harbor Scapegoat", by Capt. Vincent J. Colan, USNR (Ret.); 1997.

"Congressional Record", No. 113, S.9787, of 1 September 1998.


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