"Secret Missions"
The Shooting War Begins
Chapter 22

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On November 9th, 1940, I sailed by Matson liner for Hawaii to take command of the heavy cruiser Salt Lake City. Also en route to Hawaii and a passenger on my ship was the distinguished statesman Senator Owen Brewster of Maine. He was keenly interested in the situation in Hawaii and the potentialities of the months just ahead of us. In lengthy conversations with the Senator I outlined in some detail the situation as I saw it and stated my theories of impending events with a conviction fortified by my most recent experience and analysis. My apprehensions regarding the future were repeated to other people and definite points stressed as the position of the individual warranted, and all of them, except those who should have been most interested, remembered my apprehensions and forecasts as did the Senator himself. Six years later, when I was testifying before the Joint Congressional Committee investigating the Pearl Harbor disaster, he recalled our conversation. It was gratifying indeed to find that his memory was good while other memories seemed to falter under the strain of personal responsibilities and failures.

Remembering Captain William D. Puleston's injunction, and acting upon my own inclinations that I was an intelligence officer first and foremost, upon arrival in Hawaii I went immediately to the Intelligence Office. I found it in a corner of the customhouse, tucked away in a two-room box, housing two officers, one yeoman, and a translator. This was the entire force on the eve of war.

But things were to change soon. I was told that Captain Kilpatrick Chief of Staff of the Scouting Force, had just been designated by Admiral James O. Richardson, the Commander in Chief of the US Fleet, to make a thorough investigation of all intelligence activities in Hawaii and that he wanted me to assist in these investigations.

There was little that could be accomplished with only limited facilities in the Intelligence Office in Honolulu. Appalled by the lack of counter-intelligence preparedness, I called the following morning, Nov. 14th, 1941, on Admiral Claude C. Bloch, Commandant of the 14th Naval District, to impress him with the necessity of improving his intelligence organization. I outlined to him our organizational structure on the west coast and suggested that a similar organization could be created in Hawaii. The fleet had been shifted to Hawaii, so it was his responsibility to provide facilities for its safety by increasing our intelligence preparedness. After listening intently he gave me carte blanche to have any personnel sent out I thought necessary. Acting under his authority, I wrote a number of letters the same day, and within a few weeks a comprehensive intelligence organization was functioning in Hawaii with concrete plans for further enlargement of personnel, training, and actual operations. Simultaneously I began to maintain contact with the woefully understaffed office of the Fleet Intelligence Officer, Lieutenant Commander Edwin T. Layton, whom I had recommended for the assignment. He carried on his job despite the fact that he often "had his ears pinned back." Layton was under the jurisdiction of the Commander in Chief and beyond Admiral Bloch's authority. After obtaining a comprehensive over all view of intelligence activities in Hawaii, I felt that I was well informed insofar as this particular phase of our preparedness was concerned. All these initial activities had to be performed at a feverish pace, since I knew I was to remain only two days. On Nov. 15th, after taking over command of the Salt Lake City, I was to sail for the Mare Island Navy Yard for needed repairs and an increase of antiaircraft armament.

I had learned of the prospective movements of my new command in a very roundabout way and in a manner which indicated that security aboard that ship was not what it should be. The incident through which I learned it was both amusing and serious. In those days of late 1940 we had already surrounded the movements of our ships with great secrecy, and it had been impossible for me to ascertain in San Diego before I left what her future schedule was to be. My family had been left behind in Coronado because I had decided that I did not want them in Hawaii if things were going to happen.

Several days after the Matson liner had departed from San Pedro, I was engaged in conversation with an elderly gentleman in the lounge and asked him what he was going to do in Hawaii. His reply interested me: "I have a son there who is a tailor and he wants to come back to our Long Beach branch because he has many orders for uniforms for two ships which are returning to the coast. So I am going to take charge out there while he is away."

"Is that so? What are the ships that are coming back?" I asked nonchalantly.

"One is the Salt Lake City and the other the Pensacola. They leave two days after we get in." He stopped short as he noticed the amazement I must have registered. Then he continued: "You seem surprised; are you interested in either of the ships?"

"Well," I replied, "I'm only going out to take command of the Salt Lake City. Where did you get this news and how authentic is it?"

"It must be true if my son is bringing me out here."

"Did he tell you not to let this be known?" I asked.

"No, it seems to be general knowledge."

"Thank you, sir," I said. "But I hope you're wrong."

Even before I arrived in Honolulu I had drawn up some comprehensive security measures which were to make the Salt Lake City the most security-minded ship in the fleet. Later when I found that stacks of cables were being filed in the Honolulu cable office with the ships' names as return addresses of the men, and that these cables were passing through innumerable Japanese hands, I was gratified to find that not a single Salt Lake City name was among them. But I reported the find to the Commander in Chief, and remedial measures were taken.

During the last phases of the three month overhaul period at Mare Island the news reached me that my old acquaintance, Admiral Kichisaburo Nomura, whom I first met in Tokyo in 1920 when he was chief of Japan's naval Intelligence, had been appointed ambassador to Washington. He was leaving for his post at once, and I expected him to pass through San Francisco, which he did. It seems that the Admiral knew of my presence in San Francisco, since upon arrival he inquired of Admiral A. J. Hepburn, USN, then commandant of the 12th Naval district, how he could get in touch with me. In the meantime I had talked with Admiral Richardson regarding Nomura's proposed visit and indicated that if there were no objections I should like to have a confidential talk with the new ambassador to ascertain if possible the object of his mission. Admiral Richardson asked me to send him a copy of the report which he knew I would make immediately.

When I arrived in Nomura's suite on the fourth floor of the Fairmont Hotel on Feb. 7, 1941, the Admiral astonished his aides by ordering them out of the room. This was contrary to established Japanese custom, again proving to me that Nomura was ever ready to dispense with the formalism of his country's etiquette and act, as well as think, in our own Western ways. We talked for an hour and a half and covered a multitude of subjects, all bearing on the tense political and military situation. At several points I tested his desire to break off our talk, but he urged that we continue. Admiral Nomura was amazingly frank; and when I complimented him on his frankness, he indicated that I was one of the two persons in the US to whom he could open his heart. The other he said, was Admiral William V. Pratt, USN (Retired), a former Chief of Naval Operations and a brilliant naval officer. It was a gratifying answer to my own compliment---even though I realized that Nomura was by then a diplomat in fact as well as in name. I knew that there was one other, our Shimbashi teashop partner McClaran, but he was retired and was unavailable.

In the course of the conversation Nomura made the following positive statements, which I am recounting here in order to show how one faction within the Japanese high command was thinking.

Nomura stated:
1. His mission was to prevent a resort to force between Japan and the United States in settling present disagreements.

2. Japan had completely changed her views with regard to China, and early peace was now regarded as essential to both countries.

3. The signing of the Axis pact was done only after a sharp division of opinion in Japan and with only a slight balance of influence in its favor. The mistake was soon realized, but nothing could be done in the face of a "fait accompli". It would have to die a natural death.

The Admiral apologized for the extremists in Japan; but when I recited to him the activities of these extremists, including those in French Indo-China and Siam, he made no comment and remained thoughtful for an appreciable interval. He seemed to be deeply fearful of the growing power concentrated in the hands of the extremists and knew of no way their power could be reduced at this late hour of tension.

When I left Nomura, I had arrived at a series of conclusions. Above all, I felt that Japan regretted her partnership in the Axis and was greatly concerned over the prolongation of her China venture, Nomura being commissioned to do everything in his power to extricate Japan from her Chinese predicament by enlisting the good offices of the American government. He was also to try to prevent an embargo on oil and other essentials which the United States supplied to Japan, and was to request reconsideration on those items which were already under embargo.

He was quite frank in his expressions about a war between Japan and the US. In 1921 he had made a statement to me. Now twenty years later he repeated it. "In such a conflict," he said in a statement which I now regard as historical, "Japan will be finished as an empire, and it will mean a great loss to the United States." He was deeply imbued with this thought, as he repeated: "A war against the United States will mean the finish of the Japanese Empire."

In my conversation with Admiral Nomura the war in China loomed largest. From the amount of time he spent in discussing the subject and the intensity with which he debated it, I deduced that the issue must have been foremost in all Japanese conversations on the highest levels, dominating the thoughts of Japanese military and political planners. But there seemed to be no end to Japan's adventure in China. Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek was firmer than ever in resisting the siren songs of Japanese peace envoys, and we were backing him up with moral rather than material support, since, while we sent encouraging words to Chungking by the ton in diplomatic pouches, we were still shipping essential war materials to Japan, despite an extended embargo introduced late in 1940 in the wake of the signing of the Tripartite Pact.

If a confirmation of my gloomy views was still needed, this pact would have provided it. Nomura was astonishingly outspoken in his opposition to the Pact, but so were other Japanese politicians in conversations with our diplomatic representatives in Tokyo. In May 1940, for example, the Premier, Admiral Yonai, assured our counselor of the Embassy in Tokyo that Japan would never join a German-Italian Pact as long as he was premier. But he was over-thrown because of his stand, and this did not prevent Japan under the new Konoye cabinet from being a party to signing the Tripartite Pact just a few months later on Sept. 27, 1940. I was particularly interested in Nomura's statement that the wheels of Axis diplomacy were lavishly oiled with un-vouchered German funds and many bribes were handed out to grease the palms of Japanese hands which were to sign the Axis pact. I refused to believe that the Emperor or Yonai could be bribed; but nevertheless, both had to chime in with others in hailing the pact as a great and noble act. The Emperor even invoked the hoary principle of the "Hakko Ichiu", a blatant piece of Japanese falsification of history, claimed to be an injunction to Jimmu Tenno, the first descendant of the Sun Goddess in the sixth century before Christ, admonishing the Imperial House of Japan to "unite the eight corners of the world under one roof," interpreted to mean expansion for world domination.

It was impossible to learn the secret clauses of the Tripartite Pact, but there was little doubt that it abounded in unpublished preambles and protocols, the usual appendixes of wartime pacts concluded between belligerents and their seemingly neutral allies. When I tried to draw out Nomura on this particular subject, he protested both ignorance and innocence and assured me that there was nothing in the pact beyond what met the eye.

But co-operation between Germany and Japan was becoming close, not only in the political but also in the military sphere. From confidential information direct from our agents in Germany we learned that a huge Japanese military mission was being sent to Germany---but what astonished me was the fact that it was led by a flag officer of the Japanese Nomura, Admiral Naokuni Nomura. This, then, was the game Japan was playing, symbolized even in the coincidental identity of names: One Nomura was sent to the United States to talk of peace, while another Nomura was sent to Germany to discuss war. Naokuni Nomura, our intelligence agents reported, made no secret of his sympathies. In fact, his actions in the Reich revealed that he had considered himself an active ally of the Germans in their war against Britain. He even participated in an operational cruise of a German submarine and was temporarily in command during the sinking of a British merchantman--without warning. In a sense, his trip was a shopping expedition, the Japanese trying to buy up as many German military inventions and secret weapons as possible. The Nazis, hoping to gain Japan as an active but neutral ally, obliged them by opening up all their arsenals and supplying everything the Japanese wanted. The shopping list of Naokuni Nomura was revealing enough in itself. It was no shopping list for peace. It was a harbinger of imminent war.

The German plans did not envisage Japan engaged in war against the United States. Hitler hoped to gain Japanese support for his war against the Soviet Union, a hope that was intensified a few months later when he discovered that Russian troops from the Far Eastern army were participating in the Battle of Rostov in Nov. 1941.

His ambassador to Tokyo had been sending Hitler conflicting and contradictory reports, which were extremely vague about Japanese intentions, causing an entry in the official war diary referring to "the Japanese enigma." He hoped, however, that even a neutral Japan closely allied with Germany would remain a potential threat to the Far Eastern flank of the endless Russian front. In this hope, he had staged an elaborate hoax on Oct. 7, 1941, proclaiming the Russian campaign virtually ended and the Red Army definitely broken. This hoax was intended to be at the expense of the Japanese, to lure them into the war against the Soviet Union by creating the impression that in view of the Russian collapse, a Far Eastern war would be an easy task for Japan.

But the Japanese, however, had different plans; and while they did everything in their power to keep the German-Japanese alliance at work, they did not share their secrets with the Nazis. When, on Dec. 7th, 1941, the Pearl Harbor attack became known at Hitler's headquarters, the following entry was made in the war diary: "The heavy veil which concealed Japanese intentions until today has now fallen. Japan attacked the United States and Great Britain." A special conference was called for the same afternoon at which Hitler gave vent to his disappointment in no uncertain terms. There can be no doubt that he was unaware of Japanese intentions to attack the United States; that he fully disapproved of the attack; and, thirdly, that he regarded the Japanese decision as greatly prejudicial to his own war plans.

A report of my conversation with Ambassador Nomura in Feb. 1941 was prepared for Admiral Harold R. Stark, Chief of Naval Operations. A copy was sent to Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, who had by then replaced Admiral Richardson as commander in chief of the United States fleet. To Admiral Kimmel I wrote:

"It is my opinion that a new situation has developed which might or might not affect previous estimates."

There was no answer to this note, but Admiral Stark acknowledged my report by writing:

"I am more than grateful for your report of the conversations with the new Japanese Ambassador. It is intensely interesting and illuminating. I sent the original to the President and copies to ONI, Secretary Hull, and Secretary Frank Knox, many thanks."

Notwithstanding my conversation with Ambassador Nomura, other political observations had crystallized my opinion that Japan was moving toward war. It seemed that Nomura's visit could be the last constructive effort to forestall it. Ever since 1933, when I participated in Fleet Problem 14, I had somehow visualized the course Japan would take on the eve of such an attack. I had no doubt that it would start, as Admiral Schofield anticipated in his own outline of the fleet problem, with a surprise air attack against our Pacific fleet wherever it was located at that particular time, to be followed by the destruction of shore facilities in Hawaii, also from the air. A fleet action in the conventional sense was out of the question because of the distances involved. On the basis of my studies of Japanese psychology, I expected that an unmistakable sign would be added to the usual indications of an impending aggressive move by Japan. The withdrawal of her merchant shipping from all sea lanes and marked increase in radio traffic are conventional and time-honored signs of the imminence of any war between sea powers. But in the case of Japan I anticipated the appearance of a Japanese submarine in the Hawaiian area.

It was with these thoughts and apprehensions that I sought an interview with Admiral Kimmel, the new commander in chief of the US fleet, to lay before him my analysis and perhaps to place my knowledge of Japanese psychology at his disposal to aid him in forming an estimate of the situation. If I had any doubts in my mind that Japan had decided to join Germany in what then seemed a victorious march of unending conquest, they were now all dispelled. Despite Nomura's reassuring words and the protestations of other peace-minded or, rather, prudent Japanese of vision, I was almost convinced that a war between the United States and Japan had become inevitable.

I had know Admiral Kimmel but slightly in Washington when in 1935 I was in charge of the Far Eastern Section of ONI while he was director of ship movements in Operations. I remembered him as an approachable but serious and energetic type of man whose pinkish complexion and ruddy face suggested amiability. He was popular with many high-ranking naval officers, but contrary to widespread rumors, and as he testified before the Congressional Pearl Harbor Committee, he was not particularly close to President Roosevelt, whom he once served for an extremely short period as temporary aide while Mr. Roosevelt was assistant secretary of the Navy.

In Hawaii, Admiral Kimmel was known as a hard-working, conscientious Cincus, as the title of commander in chief was then abbreviated. In fact, observers said that he was working too hard trying to do everything himself. He was certainly entitled to better advice from certain members of his staff whose short memories and incorrect conclusions made possible a deduction that the chances of an air attack by the Japanese on Pearl Harbor were "none."

Kimmel's position in Hawaii was far from being an enviable one. The commandant of the Naval District was Admiral Claude C. Bloch, USN, himself a former Commander in Chief but now subordinated to a younger officer, a role no one is likely to cherish, wherever he may serve. It was common gossip in Hawaii that there was no love lost between the two top-ranking admirals, a situation which was by no means conducive to the harmony so necessary for accomplishment of security of the base and the preparedness of our fleet.

Our conversation opened with a detailed discussion of my report on the conversations with Admiral Nomura, a copy of which he had received. Then I related to Admiral Kimmel the details of the incident of Oct. 16, 1940, when we were alerted by the report that a suicide squadron of Japanese planes would bomb four of our battleships the following day. Admiral Kimmel seemed to be intensely interested in the incident, which led us to a discussion of my conclusions. I told the Admiral of my conviction that if Japan decided on war with us she would open hostilities with an air attack on our fleet without a declaration of war, on a week end, and probably on a Sunday morning, by launching planes from carriers so that they could fly down wind from a spot as far away as possible in order to facilitate the escape of the ships of the attacking force. This spot, it was emphasized, was usually in the northern sector. He was specific in his questions, which I tried to answer in the same detail--and we even touched upon the lesser possibility of the Japanese lowering some seaplanes from merchantmen smuggled into the lea of one of the innumerable islands of the archipelago. This I said could easily be forestalled by declaring a five-hundred-mile section of ocean around the Hawaiian Islands an operating area requiring all merchant vessels coming into it to pass through specific points where inspection was possible. Ships found in other localities of the area would be liable to seizure.

Such an operating area was set up at a later date.

I told Admiral Kimmel that one of the earliest indications of hostile intent, the withdrawal of merchant shipping from the usual lanes, would be evident through the system established and set up by me in 1935 in Naval Intelligence. The other, markedly increased radio traffic would be evident to his operators. I then concluded with the unmistakable sign and said: "When you have a report of an enemy submarine in the Hawaiian area, you can know that they are ready to strike."

Finally, Admiral Kimmel asked how I thought this air attack could be prevented. I told him, "Admiral, you will have to have patrols out at least five hundred miles daily."

He replied without hesitation, "Well, of course we have neither the personnel nor material to do that."

I pondered for a moment, and then added: "Admiral, you'd better get them, because that is what's coming."

Our conversation lasted about ninety minutes, and I left the Admiral's office in the belief that it was a fruitful one.

About six months later I was approached by a civilian, Mr. Curtis B. Munson, who came to Hawaii late in Oct. 1941 with exceptional credentials signed by Admiral Stark which caused him to be looked upon as a presidential agent. He said he had been told to see me because of my knowledge of the Japanese. He was interested in the probability of armed uprisings by Japanese on the west coast and in Hawaii in case of hostilities with Japan. He was therefore investigating the loyalties of Japanese residents of the islands. I outlined to him the reasons for my firm conviction that if Japan decided to go to war with us, hostilities would open with an air attack on the fleet at Pearl Harbor on a weekend and probably on Sunday morning. Then I told him emphatically that he could eliminate any fear of uprisings or sabotage in either locality because of the utmost secrecy necessary to make a surprise air attack successful, and that that was the way the Japanese would commence hostilities. "Sabotage and uprisings require well coordinated leadership and advance notice which in this case would be impossible. Their main objective at this time is four battleships," I reiterated. I then said to him:

"You now have two Japanese envoys for Washington." (Saburo Kurusu was en route.) "When the third one arrives, you can look for things to break immediately one way or the other." I explained to him that there would have to be three Japanese envoys in Washington for a decision to be reached. My conclusion that at least three were necessary to decide anything or even to carry out a decision reached by others grew out of my analyses of the many inspection trips the Japanese used to make to this country during peacetime. We watched those visits very carefully, and discovered that on almost every visit they were interested in some important industrial activity or device. In each plant there was usually one item which brought a quick succession of three Japanese inspecting parties. After that, all interest was lost in this particular plant and in the item of curiosity. One Japanese cannot make up his mind. Two Japanese can hardly ever agree. They need an umpire in all their decisions, their innate trait of subordination influencing them to agree upon what the third person regards as the best course of action or the most reasonable decision. All this was reinforced by one of the proverbs which seem to guide all Japanese action: "Hear three times, believe."

World events were now moving with gunfire rapidity. Hitler was at war with the Soviet Union, their ten-year pact notwithstanding; and the Japanese Army for the first time was moving south into Indo-China. The Axis-satellite Vichy government, under pressure, approved the Japanese move and thus was providing a springboard for attack against Malaya and even the Philippines. Our answer to this was to freeze Japanese assets in the United States, an outstanding move unprecedented in its wisdom from the point of view of intelligence. No espionage network can exist without adequate funds, even though, contrary to common belief, intelligence is comparatively inexpensive. The funds at the disposal of Japanese espionage in the United States were concealed under a variety of titles and were kept by many commercial firms and other financial enterprises in letters of credit and similar negotiable papers. With one stroke of the Treasury's pen all access to these funds was barred, and Japan's local donors, like the gambling rings of the west coast, proved inadequate to finance sufficiently the work of Japanese espionage. The freezing of Japanese funds at the psychological moment was one of the contributory factors in rendering Japanese espionage ineffective during the war.

On Sept. 16, 1941, I again wrote to Admiral Stark: "it is very gratifying that there is a possibility of resolving the Japanese situation, but we must not relax our vigilance until they have given concrete demonstrations of their sincerity."

The reasons for this were manifest in Japan's domestic obligations and international commitments. In the final analysis they were interconnected, and as one was caused by the other, the solution of the domestic problems also depended on the settlement of international issues.

But Japan moved on in other fields. In October the saber-rattling General Hideki Tojo, spokesman of the Kwantung military clique, took over the reigns from the pliable, fence-straddling Prince Fumimaro Konoye, providing still other evidence that Japan was rapidly moving toward war. On Nov. 17th, the second envoy of whom I spoke to Munson was received by the President.

The selection of Kurusu was one of those typical signs of Japanese arrogance in international relations when they feel that they have two jokers in their hand. Saburo Kurusu was another of my old acquaintances from Tokyo, husband of an American wife, and father of a boy whom I use to bounce on my knee when he was a little lad. But it was this same Kurusu that had been sent to Berlin to sign the Tripartite Pact with the Germans and Italians. A more flagrant violation of international etiquette and a more impertinent insult to the United States could hardly be imagined than to send a man to Washington to discuss peace who only a short while before had been the protagonist of an agreement spelling out war in capital letters.

I hoped that I would be asked by Admiral Kimmel to meet Kurusu on his arrival in Honolulu so that I might attempt to learn something of his mission, and I let it be known at headquarters that Kurusu had been a close personal acquaintance in Tokyo. But I was not called in from the minor activities in which my ship was engaged off Pearl Harbor. Kurusu's intentions therefore remained completely enshrouded.

The arrival of this second envoy increased my inner tension to the highest pitch, and it was under some emotional strain that I prepared myself for a cruise to Wake Island escorting the "Enterprise", Admiral Halsey's carrier flagship, which was taking plane reinforcements to the Marines there.

On the eve of our sailing, November 27th, I dined at the house of Lorrin Thurston, editor of the "Honolulu Advertiser" and head of radio station KGU. After dinner, with only Thurston's wife and himself present, we moved into the living room and there, for three hours, we discussed the situation. I revealed to them in detail what I had told Admiral Kimmel and Munson. Thurston was baffled and excited. Finally, as I concluded the careful analysis of past events and those soon to come, he suddenly exclaimed: "Here I am, a reserve officer in G-two, and I haven't even been advised what to send out over my radio in case of an attack!" I advised him to say: "We are having a sporadic air attack; everyone should keep calm and remain indoors. Do not go on the streets as it will interfere with the military going to their posts. There is nothing to worry about."

I did not share the confidence these words were meant to inspire when, on November 28, I sailed from Pearl Harbor with Admiral Halsey as part of Task Force Eight.

While at sea we monitored as usual all incoming news broadcasts of interest. In one of these on Dec. 2nd, I picked up a most significant news item. According to the announcer, reading a press dispatch from Washington, the Japanese ambassador to Peru had just arrived in Washington. Here, then, I thought, were the three envoys from Tokyo. Nomura was the first to come; he was joined by Kurusu; and now the arrival of Tatsuji Sakamoto from Lima completed the circle. I was fully alerted, watching for the other sign of war: the appearance of a Japanese submarine in Hawaiian waters. It was on the morning of December 5th that a signal indicated the appearance of the expected submarine. We were advised by Pearl Harbor that an unidentified submarine had been reported in our own operating area south of the islands. I had not the slightest doubt that Japan was ready to strike. From six o'clock that evening, when short-wave radio reception from Tokyo became feasible, I sat at my radio until midnight trying to intercept any conversation which might be on the air. I hoped to pick up information which would justify a signal to Admiral Halsey for forwarding to Cincus at Pearl Harbor.

I did intercept a jumbled conversation, a fantastic group of sounds scrambled by a machine to prevent listeners from knowing what was being said. I was able to distinguish that the person on the receiving end was being given and was acknowledging orders. Ordinarily in Japanese conversation the one who is speaking does so in very short sentences at the end of which he says, "Nei"---meaning "Do you get me?" If understood, the listener says, "Ha." Thus a conversation sounds mostly like a series of Nie's and Ha's. If any part is not understood, the listener with a rising inflection says, "Huh?" and the portion not understood is usually repeated.

On this evening, just two nights before Pearl Harbor, I could detect a distinct note of tenseness in the acknowledgments of the listener, and I knew that he was receiving orders. But I could not make out any part of the conversation because of the effective scrambling process. With only this circumstantial evidence available to me I felt stymied. I could almost hear Admiral Halsey's emphatic exclamations had I informed him in a signal: "I think things are about to break because I hear a Jap on the radio saying in very excited voice, 'Ha-Ha-Ha!'"

The sun rose on a very tense Saturday as we were returning to Pearl at the highest speed consistent with our diminished fuel supply. We drew within five hundred miles of Hawaii but could observe nothing of significance. I retired that night with an uneasy feeling, shared by many of my shipmates who knew of my concern and showed it. The tension grew by the hour, and the suspense kept me awake. I arose early that Sunday, December 7, 1941, well before the usual round of dawn activities. I had just returned to my cabin at exactly eight a.m. when my communication officer burst into my quarters with a look of consternation on his face. It was not necessary for me to hear him to know that something had happened. But he blared forth immediately, "Captain, a message just came saying, 'they’re bombing Oahu....this is no drill....' "

I rushed to my radio and switched it on to KGU, Lorrin Thurston's station, to get additional information. Shortly, as I listened intently to the words in the loud-speaker, my own draft message, suggested to Lorrin just about two weeks before, came back to me:

"We are having a sporadic air attack. Everyone should keep calm and remain indoors. Do not go on the streets as it will prevent the military from going to their posts. There is nothing to worry about."

These last words of my own making kept coming back to me, haunting my mind: "There is nothing to worry about....there is nothing to worry about....There is nothing to worry about," like the panting of the engines below my feet.

I wondered. But I knew that at last the shooting war had begun!

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Return to Index

Chapter 23:
Behind the Tragedy of Pearl Harbor

Chapter 24:
The Lessons of Pearl Harbor

Chapter 25:
An Intermezzo At Sea

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