"Secret Missions"
Behind the Tragedy of Pearl Harbor
Chapter 23

FLAGBAR 501x15

The impact of the news of Pearl Harbor was overwhelming. My shipmates regarded the news as a major catastrophe even before they had any information of the extent of the damage. Morale, generally uniformly high on our ships, was visibly sinking as additional information poured in on the radio. Experienced Navy men could read between the lines and realized that the Japanese had scored a major success. They were even inclined to exaggerate the Japanese victory in their minds and to regard it as a strategic triumph; whereas in reality it was a major tactical success.

It was my regular practice to check up personally on the morale of my crew even in peacetime. Whenever I noticed a slump or received an adverse report I stepped in to give morale a lift. I was proud of the fact that on my ships, from the Dorsey to the Salt Lake City, morale was always high, the crews efficient, and the atmosphere congenial.

The checkup on morale became an urgent necessity now that we were at war. Outwardly, as we sailed through the ocean that was no longer pacific, all wartime measures were functioning smoothly: the ship was blacked out, our radio was silent, and our battle stations were manned. The calm water, the serenely wheeling sea gulls, the cloudless skies seemed to belie the grim fact that the entire world was now at war. But the contrast was far from soothing. It was nerve-racking. To think that our base was now probably only a heap of rubble, that many of our best ships rested on the bottom of the bay, serving as steel coffins for some of our best friends, and that we were returning to a cemetery of American preparedness was by no means reassuring. As I watched these ideas permeating the minds of my shipmates I decided to intervene at the first opportunity and attempt by psychology to restore the morale on board.

My determination to speak to the crew was crystallized the morning of our entrance into Pearl after an all-night, fruitless search of the areas to the southward. As we approached the entrance, a signal came that a pilot would board us. Ordinarily we took no pilot going in to our buoy; this indicated that there were possible obstructions unknown to us. As we stopped near the entrance buoy, Mr. Sorenson, the oldest pilot at Pearl, came aboard. His face was the epitome of concealed grief. He was strangely silent where he was usually buoyant and voluble.

"Where's the Fleet?" I asked Mr. Sorenson.

"Fleet?" he replied, looking at me with incredulous eyes. "There isn't any fleet; they're all sunk!" And then he expanded: "They are all gone!" That fire you see is the Arizona. Others are upside down or almost out of sight. Right there across the entrance is the Nevada. The Pennsylvania was bombed in the dry dock, and the Lurline was sunk by a submarine."

"The Lurline?" I asked. "She was supposed to leave on the fifth, and I had hoped to get in to see some friends off on her."

"They got her, one day out." I stood for a moment appalled. All those innocent people gone at the hand of a treacherous Jap submarine. I felt myself stiffen appreciably, and I unconsciously uttered a deprecating allusion to the little brown "brothers."

"All right, Mr. Sorenson. That's all I want to hear. I'll talk later after I have put my ship alongside the oil tanker." It was very consoling when the pilot assured me that the tanker Neosho was undamaged, as were the navy yard storage and repair facilities.

The terrible scenes within Pearl Harbor have already been partially described. Someday the full picture will be painted. Once alongside the tanker, I had the word passed over the loud-speaker: "Let's get going on this oil and provisions. We're going out after those Japs as soon as we're full." This produced a burst of speed throughout the ship. After that I went below to my cabin to relax in an easy chair.

As I sat with eyes staring at the deck beams above I head a light knock at the door. "Come In," I said pleasantly. It was the ship's medical officer, Commander James F. Hayes.

"Isn't it terrible, Captain?" he began.

"What's terrible, Jimmie?" I asked.

"Why, all this terrible destruction. What on earth are we going to do?"

"Sit down, Jimmie," I said, pointing to another chair into which he slipped quietly as if not wanting to disturb the angry elements.

"The Japs have missed the boat, Jimmie," I began, "and they are going to be very disappointed when they find that we have not lost a single unit which we would want to use against them, and that they haven't touched our base, which is really the vital thing in this war for us. As you see, we have the fuel and supplies with which to pursue them. Jimmie, they are licked before they start."

Thus began a forty-five minute dissertation on the mistakes of the Japs and on our own war potential of ten to one. Jimmie, at first a little doubtful, became more talkative and then began to smile. At the end of the forty-five minutes he arose from his chair, a broad grin on his face, and said exultantly:

"Why Captain, I feel like a different person."

If that was the reaction of the ship's doctor, then my whole crew needed the same medicine, I thought. I went immediately to my desk and made copious notes on the conversation just completed and decided that as soon as possible I would give a talk to my crew along the same lines.

During the day I managed to get ashore to a telephone. I called the Intelligence Office. They had just completed the roundup of suspects. I asked one friend to cable my wife that I was safe. Then I called Lorrin Thurston.

My God, Zack, I'm glad you're safe. Where are you? Come on over," he yelled excitedly.

"I'm sorry, Lorrin," I replied. "I won't be seeing you for quite a few days. There's work to be done."

"Well, you certainly hit it on the nose. When Stephanie saw that item about the third envoy arriving in Washington on Dec. 2nd, we were both watching for things to happen. How's your ship?"

"She's all right, Lorrin, and you just watch her when she starts shooting."

"Good luck, " Lorrin said. "Hope we'll see you soon."

When we were ordered back on a patrol to the northward after a very short sixteen hours in port, I went to sea with a crew whose spirit was far from satisfactory. The thoughts of my men were incoherent, as indeed the picture which presented itself to them at Pearl was incoherent, too, in its mass of twisted steel and chaotic rubble. If I could talk things over with the men, they would, I thought, find calm in my own calmness and reassurance in my own confidence. I was one of the very few men on board who was not unduly alarmed over this sudden turn of history.

On Sat. Dec. 13th, I decided the right moment had come. After the crew had been mustered on the quarter-deck, I left the bridge and walked aft with an air of complete confidence and even a slight smile. I felt that every eye was upon me as I stepped to the microphone on the quarter-deck.

"I have called you together for several reasons," I began. "First of all there are things which I feel you want to know, and there are several things which you ought to know. I appreciate exactly how you feel and have felt the past few days. We have had a tremendous shock. I have been through such a great calamity before and I know your feelings and reactions. I am, therefore, very deeply consoled by the fact that recovery is very quick, and I can see that you have recovered from it. I make reference to my experience in the big Japanese earthquake in Yokohama in 1923, where everything collapsed at that time. There was no opportunity to fight back, and there was very little in this case, but you will have your opportunity and satisfaction very soon."

Then I proceeded to read to them two dispatches which had come in from the Commander in Chief and the Chief of Naval Operations soon after Dec. 7.

"Your actions have been splendid," Cincus signaled. "We took a blow yesterday. It will not be a short war. We will give many heavy blows to the Japanese. Carry on." The dispatch from CNO said: "While you have suffered from a treacherous attack, your Commander in Chief has informed me that your courage and stamina remain magnificent. You know you will have your revenge. Recruiting stations are jammed with men eager to join you."

Then I continued: "I am really sorry that the ship had to go into Pearl Harbor the other day and that you had to observe what had taken place there, because I think it has served to give you all an entirely wrong impression. It is a matter of fact that regardless of results of the raid on Pearl Harbor, the effect of what took place there is going to be greatly beneficial to us for many reasons.... We have lost one battleship and sustained some damage to others, but in this connection it is to be noted we have not lost a single unit which is now considered far more important. I refer to aircraft carriers, heavy cruisers, light forces, and submarines. The recent activities, the damaging of a few of our battleships, the sinking of the two British battleships at Singapore, and the sinking of the enemy battleship Haruna [so reported but actually not sunk] and another badly damaged in Philippine waters with the small forces available there, indicate that the large, more slowly moving battleships are going to be employed in the future in a different and limited manner.

"You will note that they did not get a single carrier or heavy cruiser and barely touched any of the light forces. They are going to be very much surprised and disappointed in this revelation. I know this to be a fact from certain information that I have....I am not telling you these things to ease your mind, but I want to impress upon all of you that we have not lost anything. I hope that what I have told you will impress and convince you of this point and stop any concern. We have a particular job to do right now, and our part in this work is very important."

I went on to talk for a long time, explaining the necessity for the discomforts imposed upon the men by keeping all compartments closed below decks. I talked about safety measures, censorship, gas masks, and morale in general. I made it a particular point to warn them against rumors, illustrating every one of my arguments with appropriate little incidents.

I observed the men closely as I spoke, to note any reactions. There were many, and they were distinct. I first noticed the look of helplessness replaced by one of interest and anticipation. As the talk progressed, I saw men glance at each other as if seeking to bolster their own changed attitude. Soon I saw smiles of confidence being thrown back and forth; and finally, as I saw them nudge each other, or slap a neighbor, I realized that they were back to normal. At this stage I knew it was time to stop talking.

"I must compliment every one of you," I said in conclusion, "for the manner in which you have worked, the spirit which you have shown, and the stamina which is inherent in every one of you. I have noticed, and I have watched carefully, the manner in which everyone has 'snapped back' and particularly the manner in which you are eating." There was loud laughter. I had succeeded!

As soon as I had returned to my cabin, in came Dr. Hayes, his face wreathed in smiles. I motioned him to be seated, and we lighted cigarettes.

"Captain," he started, "I've never in all my life seen such a change in a body of men as I witnessed today. Why, it was just unbelievable. I watched them all the time, and things progressed just as if they had been arranged."

"They were arranged, Jimmie," I replied. "You helped me do it in that talk we had in her the morning after Pearl Harbor."

Jimmie blushed a little, probably realizing for the first time that I had used him as a guinea pig, and then he said:

"Well, it certainly was great, and I think every man that was in Pearl Harbor or has seen it since the raid needs just such a talk."

"That gives me another idea, Jimmie. I'll let you know if it works out."

Upon our return to port I went immediately to the public relations office of the Commander in Chief and saw Captain Waldo Drake, the officer in charge, and formerly one of my zone intelligence officers in the 11th Naval District. I told Waldo my experience with the crew and suggested the talk be furnished the other ships, without mention of me or my ship, as a guide in preparing something similar.

"That's wonderful," he said. "We'll make a press release of it, too,"

The next day the Honolulu newspapers editorialized on my point of view and reprinted excerpts from my address.

This, then, was our part of the picture. I wondered at the time how the Japanese had received the news of Pearl Harbor and how satisfied they were with the results. These questions could not be answered then, but now we know all the answers in meticulous detail.

Pearl Harbor was of Yamamoto's making. The idea, which first took root in his fertile brain while he was still in Washington, became ever more crystallized as he climbed higher and higher on the ladder of the Japanese naval hierarchy. As the years passed, the war against the United States became a fixation with him, but only a very few men, his closest and most intimate collaborators, knew that all the Japanese war preparations which he inspired were really preparations for war against the United States.

Throughout 1941 the Japanese combined fleet participated in large-scale maneuvers while the fleet staff of Commander in Chief Yamamoto held so-called war games, both in the offices of the naval General Staff in Tokyo, and on board ships anchored at Sukumo, Saeki, Kagoshima, and Kanoya, usually on board Yamamoto's own flagship, the Nagato. The opposing fleets were given meaningless designations during these exercises and war games so that only a very few initiated members of Yamamoto's staff knew that they were in reality preparations for the war against Britain and the United States.

Then a special meeting of all fleet staff officers was called at Tokyo for Sept. 2, 1941. Attendance was compulsory, and members of the staff were advised that the war games would be of momentous importance on this occasion. So many officers were summoned to the games that the facilities of the Naval War College proved inadequate. So Yamamoto's staff adjourned to the Army War College, guarded by special detachments to prevent unauthorized persons from learning the purpose of the meeting.

When all members of Yamamoto's staff had assembled in the large auditorium, the Commander in Chief proceeded to share his closely guarded secret with all of them. He told them bluntly that this was to be last of the many war games. Once the war game was finished, the officers would have to prepare themselves for the supreme test of war. For the first time the opposing fleets were given definite designations. The attacking teams, commanded by Admiral Yamamoto himself, was called the "N team," the letter standing for Nippon. An "A team," designating America, was commanded by Admiral Nobutake Kondo, while an "E team," then letter standing for England, was under the command of Admiral Chuichi Nagumo

The operation plan was drawn up by a relatively junior officer, Commander Watanabe, chief of Yamamoto's plans and operations section, under the supervision of Admiral Seiichi Ito, chief of staff, and Captain Kameto Kurojima deputy chief of staff.

The great war game that, in Yamamoto's own words, was to decide the fate of the empire for centuries to come started on Sept. 5th, 1941, and continued, with short interruptions for meals and hurried rest, until Sept. 13th. On that last day the actual attack on Pearl Harbor was rehearsed and found feasible, although the game indicated that Japan would lose about one-third of the units participating in the Pearl Harbor raid. Unfortunately this proved a too pessimistic estimate, since the attacking vessels all escaped unscathed, even though numerous assault planes were shot down.

It was also on Sept. 13th, a day of infamy for Japan, that a fundamental disagreement between Admiral Ito and Captain Kurojima developed over the follow-up operations in the wake of an anticipated successful air raid. The question before the staff meeting was truly a Hamletian one: to land or not to land during the second phase of the raid. Captain Kurojima advocated an amphibious assault, and suggested that an emaciated American defense force would not be able to withstand the landing, even though the Japanese attempted it with only inadequate forces. Admiral Ito argued that Japan could not afford such a risky double operation, considering the initial risks involved in the air attack at such an immense distance from the home base. Logistics were a decisive factor.

There was long discussion with several flag officers participating. When the decision was made finally by Yamamoto, he decided against amphibious assault, thus embracing Ito's cautious attitude. This decision, despite its apparent manifestation of caution, revealed Yamamoto as the gambler he truly was. Although he realized that his forces were insufficient for a strategic assault and could, at best, score a major tactical victory, he hoped that he could bluff the United States into submission even with the weak hand he held. He counted upon the collapse of American morale. Japan lost the war on Sept. 13, 1941, even before she embarked upon it, when a decision born of the realization of her own weakness prevented her from delivering what might have become a "coup de grace" to our chief Pacific base.

Later, when the Battle of Midway supplied the final convincing evidence that Japan had overreached herself and miscalculated the relative resourcefulness of the two belligerents, Yamamoto realized his blunder as a sporting poker player usually does. It was then that he made a statement that reached us in a distorted form. He said:

"We would have to land on the west coast of America, fight our way east all across the continent, capture Washington and dictate the peace in the White House if we want to win this war. But all this is patently impossible." He must have been relieved, indeed, when the bullet from an American plane extricated him from the predicament into which his gambling nature had enticed him. But it must be said that he undoubtedly realized, with Nomura, that war with the United States was a great gamble at best.

From the war game Yamamoto returned to his flagship Nagato (incidentally the only Japanese capital ship to survive the war, though in a seriously damaged condition) and sailed for Kure for a meeting with Field Marshal Sugiyama, chief of the Army General Staff. This meeting took place on Sept. 15 and was as momentous in its consequences as was the war game itself. Yamamoto outlined his plan to Sugiyama and assured him that the initial major victory of the fleet would enable him to exploit an American defeat situation with the comparatively limited forces which the Army had available for ambitious conquests to the southward. It was only upon receiving this assurance, documented and supported by the record of the Tokyo war game, that Sugiyama agreed to commit the Army to Yamamoto's venture. Agreement thus reached, Yamamoto sailed for Saeki, where his plans and operations staff put the finishing touches on the actual war plan, while Sugiyama explained the plan to Tojo and obtained the Premier's support and political cooperation.

On Nov. 1st, the fleet received sealed orders to stand by, first for Y-Day and then to prepare for X-Day. Y-Day was the designation of the date on which the assault force built around six carriers was to sail from its assembly point in Hitokappu Bay in the Kuriles, while X-Day was the date on which the attack was to take place. On Nov. 5, Y-Day was fixed as Nov. 23, Japanese time, while five days later top-secret orders designated Dec. 8, Japanese time, as X-Day. At the same time a code was designed, first to inform the fleet at sea of the concentration of American forces at Pearl Harbor, and then to order the attack. It was agreed upon that the signal "The fate of the Empire" incorporated in a seemingly innocuous broadcast would indicate that there were many warships assembled in Pearl Harbor. The code phrase "Cherry blossoms are in all their glory" was to indicate the presence of no warships. The all-important navy code for "All forces attack" was "Climb Mount Niitaka." This should be distinguished from the diplomatic code which became the subject of considerable discussion and investigation. It has usually been referred to as the so-called Japanese" winds code" and the alleged "winds message." In the report by Admiral H. K. Hewitt, USN, formerly top secret, it was described as follows:

In the latter half of Nov., 1941, the Japanese Government by messages to Washington and elsewhere established two codes to be used for communication between Tokyo and elsewhere. The first has been referred to as the "winds code." In that code certain Japanese words were to be added in the middle and at the end of the daily Japanese language short-wave news broadcasts and could also be used in Morse code messages, which words would apparently be weather reports. Thus, the Japanese words "HIGASHI NO KAZE AME" which meant "East wind rain," would actually mean that Japan-United States relations were in danger. Words were also supplied for Japan-Russian relations and for Japan-British relations. The existence of this code was brought to the attention of the Navy Department late in November through the interception and decryption of Japanese messages establishing the code, and also through information to the same effect received from other sources such as the United States Naval Attaché at Batavia. It appeared that the use of the code words would indicate a breaking off of diplomatic relations or possible war between the countries designated.

The Japanese also established, late in Nov. 1941, a code system which has been referred to as the "hidden word code."... This code was intended to be used, when telegraphic communications might be severed, as a means of informing Japanese diplomats of the situation concerning the country in which they were located.

A preparatory "winds message" was sent on Nov. 19, in Japanese diplomatic code, and gave the code words to be used in later fictitious broadcasts. The actual message read:

Regarding the broadcast of a special message in an emergency.

In case of emergency (danger of cutting off our diplomatic relations), and the cutting off of international communications, the following warning will be added in the middle of the daily Japanese language short wave news broadcast:

(1) In case of a Japan-US relations: HIGASHI NO KAZE AME (East wind rain)

(2) Japan-USSR relations: KITA NO KAZE KUMORI (North wind cloudy).

(3) Japan-British relations: NISHI NO KAZE HARE (West wind clear).

This signal will be given in the middle and at the end as a weather forecast and each sentence will be repeated twice. When this is heard please destroy all code papers, etc. This is as yet to be a completely secret arrangement. Forward as urgent intelligence.

This was a step taken by the Japanese Foreign Office to advise their diplomatic representatives throughout the world as to what was imminent. This preparatory message was sent and was intercepted, translated, decoded by many stations of the Allies who were listening to the Japanese traffic.

The "execute" or the actual further transmission of one or more of these specified phrases at the end of subsequent weather broadcasts is the point that has been so much under debate. In the congressional hearings Captain Safford indicated that he had seen the "execute" message on December 3 or 4th, 1941. Others with access to all messages said there was no "execute" message.

I was not in a position to see any of them before Dec. 7. However, I have an opinion. I agree with Admiral Hewitt that a Japanese message using the 'winds code' words relating to the United States, if received on 3 or 4 December, or at any other time prior to 7 Dec., 1941, would have conveyed no information of importance which the Navy and War Departments did not already posses. Such a message would have indicated either a break in diplomatic relations or possible war with the United States. That both the Navy Department and the War Department, and Admiral Kimmel as well, were already aware that a break in diplomatic relations or war with the United States was imminent, is clearly established by the November 27th 'war warning' to Admiral Kimmel, and by the repetition on Nov. 28th by the Navy or the Army's warning dispatch to General Walter Short."

At the same time, it seems incredible to me that the Japanese would have sent out the preliminary message and not have followed with the "execute" message, unless (1) the Japanese knew we were reading their codes and tried to practice deception by actually withholding the "execute" to make us feel that nothing was as yet imminent, or (2) the Foreign Office did not actually know that the Pearl Harbor blow was to be struck. But it was known to all of our forces that Japanese diplomatic representatives in Allied countries were burning their codes several days before Dec. 7, a last positive indication that war is imminent. On Dec. 3 Admiral Kimmel was handed a message by Edwin T. Layton, the Fleet intelligence officer, which read:

Highly reliable information has been received that categorical and urgent instructions were sent yesterday to Japanese diplomatic and consular posts at Hong Kong, Singapore, Batavia, Manila, Washington, and London to destroy most of important confidential and secret documents.

Our own naval attaché in Tokyo burned his codes on Dec. 5, the military attaché later, and the Embassy burned theirs only after they had received official word from Japanese authorities of the attack on Pearl Harbor. It is therefore apparent that both the Japanese Foreign Office and our Office of Naval Intelligence knew that things were about to break. These same facts were known to Admiral Kimmel and his staff at Pearl Harbor. It was not until the night of Dec. 7 that a Japanese broadcast with "west wind clear" was intercepted at Pearl Harbor. By then, however, it was of no consequence, as Layton testified.

The latest word on the investigation of the winds message came from Tokyo in June, 1946. It was to the effect that the Foreign Office, with whom the "execute" message would have originated, did not send it before the Pearl Harbor attack but did send it immediately afterward. I feel that too much importance has been attached to the winds messages in all the investigations. These messages were not handled by the Japanese navy, which was careful to safeguard the secret of its intentions to strike at Pearl Harbor.

It was on Nov. 18, 1941, that the first Japanese unit under orders for this attack sailed from Hitokappu Bay. It was a "Surprise Attack Force" consisting of submarines, the slow speed of which necessitated earlier departure. Then on Nov. 27, Japanese date, approximately four days after the date designated as Y-Day, the main Japanese battle force of six carriers, two battleships, two cruisers, and thirteen destroyers sailed under the smoke screen of absolute secrecy. Extreme care was taken to camouflage the mission of the fleet and the intentions of the Japanese high command.

The passage of the assault force was uneventful. It was never detected by non-Japanese ships, but it encountered a Japanese vessel, the Tatsuta Maru. In order to prevent even inadvertent disclosure of the encounter, the merchant ship was incorporated in the battle fleet and forced to make the trip to Pearl Harbor with Yamamoto's expeditionary force.

The rest is history. I have read many descriptions of the Pearl Harbor attack as Americans saw it and some of them were truly gripping in their presentation of stark realities. It may be of interest to describe here the assault on Pearl Harbor as a Japanese naval officer saw it. The following is based on the diary of an anonymous Japanese commander who was in charge of two waves of airplanes in the attack.

"When we left Japan," he wrote, "nobody on board seemed to know that we were sailing into war. It was a cruise like so many earlier cruises. Still another fleet exercise, we thought. It was frightfully bad weather, but we usually had our exercises under just such atmospheric conditions. So did we sail for a few days, leaving the storm behind? We sailed in an easterly direction, that was all we knew. We have left the Bonin Islands far behind."

"There were many rumors floating on board, but nobody knew for certain what our destination was. Until at noon one day---I shall never forget the moment---a flag appeared on the mast of the flagship. We have seen that flag often in our lives, since it was one of the most cherished relics of the Japanese navy. And now, flying from the mast of the flagship was the flag, the banner which Admiral Heihachiro Togo flew from his Mikasa in the Battle of Tsushima. It was the first sign that we were sailing into war. A peculiar feeling gripped us all, a feeling of elation but also of melancholy. We were Japanese men, and a Japanese sailor is not supposed to return alive from battle."

The Japanese commander then told in great detail the preparations and briefings on his carrier. The men were given a pep talk by Admiral Nagumo: "In a war against the United States," the Commander in Chief said, "Hawaii is the most important naval base of the enemy. It is America's Gibraltar. Whenever the enemy wants to send his ships to the Far East, they must stop and refuel in Hawaii. There exists no American vessel that could make the round trip, San Francisco to Manila, without refueling in Hawaii. And since America deploys her fleet at an advanced base we will find this fleet all assembled in the Harbor named after the Pearls."

"We did not underestimate the enemy," the commander's entry in the diary continues. "The main island of Oahu is one huge fortress. Allegedly 180 planes are assembled there. There are said to be aircraft factories in underground halls. Pearl Harbor has one of the largest dry docks in the world. And then Diamond Head. An old extinct volcano but when one is fortunate enough to observe it from close quarters, one sees nothing but fortresses, bunkers, case-mates, anti-aircraft batteries. There are said to be 140,000 soldiers gathered there, housed in underground quarters, invincible, inaccessible." In typical Japanese poetry, which can mix the blood of battle with the beauty of a cherry tree, he called the place of the great encounter "the garden of War." Then he heard "the singing of the propellers, alert; then the order for the attack came."

"The weather is unexpectedly bad," he continued. "Although the ceiling is about 4,500 feet there are gloomy dark clouds everywhere the eye can see. The carrier is negotiating a minor storm with all the power it has until at 6:25 a.m. that last order to start at once is given. They fly on instruments, nerves tightened in the greatest suspense, high over the clouds, in almost complete darkness."

At 7:55 sharp he dives from the clouds into a fairyland underneath his wings.

"Below me," he related, "lies the whole United States Pacific Fleet in a formation I would not have dared to dream in my most optimistic dreams. I have seen all German ships assembled in Kiel Harbor. I have also seen the French battleships off Brest. And finally, I have frequently seen our own warships assembled for review before the Tenno. But I have never seen ships even in the deepest peace anchor at a distance less than 500 to 1,000 meters from each other. A war fleet must always be on the alert since surprise attacks can never be truly ruled out. But, this picture down there? It is hard to comprehend. Have these Americans never heard of Port Arthur? Are they really unaffected by the events of the days just passed? Or are they so confident that they believe nothing could ever happen to them?"

His diary continues describing in minute detail the whole attack and then a fourth wave in which he again participated. An American who may feel ashamed when reading the foregoing passage now can gain satisfaction from the Japanese description of the effectiveness of our defenses and the courage with which our battle-shocked men handled their anti-aircraft guns. According to this Japanese commander, several more bombing waves were planned, but the withering fire of our ships' anti-aircraft guns cut down the Japanese strength; and the attack was abandoned after the fifth wave dropped its bombs---by then aimlessly through the myriad of shells flying toward them, and doing little damage.

Thus ended the impressions of a Japanese observer on our "Day of Infamy."

In Japan, a thorough camouflage had prevented us from learning the imminence of the attack. The Japanese went so far in deceptive measures as to order all sailors attached to shore bases to take leave in Japanese towns to give the impression that the fleet was in port. Our own Intelligence had just one fragmentary hint of impending events. The fleet intelligence officer, watching radio traffic, noticed the "disappearance" of a few carriers---the same carriers which were soon to turn up off Pearl Harbor. No satisfactory explanation could then be given, by the intelligence officer as the available data were insufficient to deduce from it Japanese intentions. But their radio silence made him apprehensive, so much so that Admiral Kimmel was moved to remark: "What, you do not know where the carriers are? Do you mean to say that they could be rounding Diamond Head [the southeast corner of Oahu on which Pearl Harbor is situated], and you wouldn't know it?" Layton's reply was: "I hoped they would be sighted before now."

While the Japanese had comprehensive information of the movements of our ships, we had less than fragmentary information about the movements of their vessels. In a sense, the Pearl Harbor tragedy was a Waterloo of American evaluation, estimating, and planning. And that should now in retrospect be our greatest warning.

But there are already many signs visible that the lesson of Pearl Harbor is all but forgotten, although the memories of that infamous day are preserved in sentimental recollections. We must not view such things emotionally and sentimentally. We must make an inventory of our concrete mistakes and learn from them if we desire to avoid future Pearl Harbors.

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Return to Index

Chapter 22:
The Shooting War Begins

Chapter 24:
The Lessons of Pearl Harbor

Chapter 25:
An Intermezzo At Sea

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