Monthly Archives: May 2019

The “Bomb Plot” Messages Failed To Alert Washington That Pearl Harbor Would Be Attacked

This installment, once more, provides excerpts from my new book, “The Pearl Harbor Congressional Cover-Up” as part of the series on leadership and success.  It deals with a 1945 congressional investigation into the attack on the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on December 7, 1941.  A 10-member joint congressional committee conducted the investigation over several arduous months.  Its report, reached by an 8-2 vote, was released to the public on July 20, 1946.  Part of the report concerns the intercepted Japanese “bomb plot” message and related messages, which are reviewed in this installment.  The messages themselves, which are too lengthy to be included here, are repeated verbatim in the book.

Beginning September 24, 1941, several intercepted and decoded secret Japanese war plans messages indicated ships in Pearl Harbor were marked for attack; little information was passed on to Hawaiian commanders.  The September 24, 1941 “Bomb Plot Message” and other related messages which followed it, revealed detailed information about Japanese interest in Pearl Harbor.  The message was delivered to President Roosevelt and other high Washington officials on October 9, 1941.  These intercepted September and November, 1941 messages were of singular importance in revealing Japanese intentions to target Pearl Harbor for an attack.  They were however never transmitted to Hawaii by Washington.  Neither Admiral Husband Kimmel, in charge of the Pacific Fleet, nor General Walter Short who headed the Army command there, saw them before the attack.

Representative Frank Keefe (R-WI), a member of the investigating committee, described the relevance of the messages clearly and precisely.  He wrote that “the ‘bomb plot’ message and those messages relating to Pearl Harbor which followed it meant that ships of the Pacific Fleet in Pearl Harbor were marked for a Japanese attack…These reports which Japan thus sought and received had a useful purpose only in planning and executing an attack upon the ships in port…They were the product of instructions emanating from the government of Japan in Tokyo.  Officers of the high command in Washington  have admitted before us that this message, if correctly evaluated, meant an attack on ships of the Pacific Fleet in Pearl Harbor.”

The two committee members who dissented to the report put it quite succinctly:  “The probability that the Pacific Fleet would be attacked at Pearl Harbor was clear from the “bomb plot” available in Washington as early as October 9, 1941…[These] messages meant that ships of the Pacific Fleet in Pearl Harbor were marked for a Japanese attack.  No other American harbor was divided into subareas by Japan.  And no other American harbor had such a large share of the Fleet to protect.”

Although the eight  Joint Committee members who signed the report were unable to conclude that the intercepted messages pointed directly to an attack on Pearl Harbor nor could they conclude that the intercepted plan was a bomb plot, nevertheless they opined that the messages should have received careful consideration and created a serious question as to their significance.  The intelligence should have been appreciated and supplied to the commander in chief of the Pacific Fleet and the commanding general of the Army’s Hawaiian Department.

Despite the foregoing, the 8-member majority made the remarkable finding that “Washington and Hawaii possessed unusually significant and vital intelligence.  Had greater imagination and a keener awareness of the significance of intelligence existed,  concentrating and applying it to particular situations, it is proper to suggest that someone should have concluded that Pearl Harbor was a likely point of attack.”

This latter admission by the majority was as close as they came to admitting that the Pearl Harbor attack was foreseeable, as the 2-member minority claimed.  It should be noted that the majority failed to specify exactly what information was in the hands of the Hawaiian commanders because the record before the Committee showed that Hawaii had no such information.  That leaves unspecified personnel in Washington as being responsible  for the lack of imagination and awareness.

Arnold G. Regardie

 

 

 

 

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Cordell Hull’s Historic Blunder – A Primer on the Failure of Leadership

This installment of my series on leadership and success is excerpted from my new book, “The Pearl Harbor Congressional Cover-Up – A True Account of How a Partisan Congress Misled the American People on the Pearl Harbor Attack,December 7. 1941. Featuring Historic Lessons on the Failure of Leadership to Foresee the Attack and to Avert War with Japan.” It is available on Amazon.

On November 26, 1941, Secretary of State Cordell Hull stood at the gates of history, a step away from becoming a diplomatic legend. What followed instead was catastrophic. Hull’s failure to avoid the unspeakable horrors of war with Japan and its enormous consequences is described in the book. It was a war marked by a devastating human toll and immense financial costs. Hull’s aborted November 1941 diplomatic efforts in abandoning the modus vivendi proposal to Japan for a 3-month truce is a lesson in the failure of accountability for all those who aspire to leadership, for no one can become a successful leader without being fully accountable for her/her actions.  This failure, marked by Hull’s admission that he was turning the whole thing over the the Army and Navy, effectively amounted to his “throwing in the towel.”  It was a total failure in accountability for America’s top diplomat, a failure to follow through and explore all avenues for peace, played out on a world scale.  His unfortunate lack of vision at this most crucial moment in history may stamp him as one of the most shortsighted, even incompetent, secretaries of state to ever hold office.

The scuttling of the modus vivendi and the substitution of Hull’s November 26 memorandum, considered by the Japanese to be an ultimatum, was followed 11 days later by the attack on Pearl Harbor, a result it may be observed, consonant with the Administration’s previously adopted policy of waiting for Japan to strike the first blow.  This course of events may never have come to pass had there been vision by Hull in those dark days of November, 1941.  There was simply too much at stake in terms of averting the prospect of total war not to have fully explored all possible avenues of peace.

The onus for Hull’s failure also falls on President Roosevelt for not following through on his hand written blue print for a modus vivendi which had been personally delivered to Hull some days earlier, likely on November 20 after receiving the Japanese proposal on that date.

A press release was issued by the White House on December 1, 1943, following a conference in North Africa attended by President Roosevelt, Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek.  The press release stated in part that, “The Three Great Allies expressed their resolve to bring unrelenting pressure against their brutal enemies by sea, land and air…The Three Great Allies are fighting this war to restrain and punish the aggression of Japan… It is their purpose that Japan shall be stripped … of all territories she has taken by violence and greed…With these objects in view the Three Allies…will continue to persevere in the serious and prolonged operations necessary to procure the unconditional surrender of Japan.”   This press release constituted mute evidence of the daunting task faced by the Allies in 1943 in fighting the war with Japan.

Arnold G. Regardie

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Breaking the Japanese “Winds Code” Was the Tipoff to Pearl Harbor

This week’s installment of my weekly series is an exception to my standard theme of leadership and courage.  I am devoting this installment to my new book, “The Pearl Harbor Congressional Cover-Up – A True Account of How a Partisan Congress Misled the American People on the Pearl Harbor Attack, December 7, 1941. Featuring Historic Lessons on the Failure of Leadership to Foresee the Attack and to Avert War with Japan.” It is now available in print and ebook on Amazon.

This book is about the attack by Japanese air and naval forces on the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on December 7, 1941.  But it is not just another book about Pearl Harbor.  It is a historically significant book, based on the challenge of two U.S. Senators to the 1946 congressional report on the attack as misleading to the American people.  The report was released to the public following an 8-2 vote of the 10-member joint congressional committee which conducted the investigation.

This installment deals with only one aspect of the book, but one which is intriguing.  It concerns the Japanese “Winds code,” which the Japanese had set up on November 19, 1941 to warn their diplomatic outposts of an imminent break in relations with the United States, Great Britain or Russia.  The code incorporated weather elements as the heart of the warning.  The 8-member majority of the Committee concluded that no genuine “winds” message in activation of the code was received by the War or Navy Departments prior to the attack.  The 2-member minority noted that evidence before the Army Pearl Harbor Board and the Hart Inquiry, each concluding in 1944, was that such a message had been received.  The entire winds code analysis which was attached to the Report as Appendix E has been included in my book.  Certain excerpts are repeated here.

On November 19, 1941 Japanese diplomats in Washington D.C. were advised by Tokyo that “In case of emergency (danger of cutting off our diplomatic relations), and the cutting off of international communications, the following warnings will be added in the middle of the daily Japanese language short-wave news broadcast.

In case of Japan-U.S. relations in danger: HIGASHI NO KAZEAME (East wind rain);

Japan-U.S.S.R. relations: KITA NO KAZE KUMORI (North wind cloudy);

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

Japanese diplomats were further advised that when diplomatic relations were becoming dangerous, the following would be added at the beginning and end of general intelligence broadcasts:

If it is Japan-U.S. relations, “HIGASHI”

Japan-Russia relations, “KITA”

Japan-British relations (including Thai, Malaya and Dutch East Indies), “NISHI”

While the majority of the Report signers conceded that the question of the winds code  was one of the few  disputed factual issues concerning the Pearl Harbor investigation, they also concluded that according to “the preponderate weight” of the evidence, no genuine execute message was intercepted or received in the War and Navy Departments prior to the attack.  The majority added that “[g]ranting for purposes of discussion that a genuine execute message applying to the winds code was intercepted before December 7, we believe that such fact would have added nothing to what was already known concerning the critical character of our relations with the Empire of Japan.”

As my book points out, there is one additional element to be considered.  Appendix E focuses on whether or not a winds execute message was received by U.S. Intelligence before December 7.  But when the “east wind, rain” message is viewed in context with the “bomb plot” messages received in September and November, 1941 (discussed in Chapter 5 of the book), a significant sequence of events becomes apparent, i.e., not only that Pearl Harbor was the target of a planned Japanese attack but that according to the winds code an attack was imminent.

The White House received the first of the bomb plot messages as early as October 9, 1941.  This message arguably provided President Roosevelt and other high ranking Washington officials with information amounting to an alert for the follow-up or “when” message, which would have been the winds execute message.  The State Department and ostensibly the White House had received the winds alert message on December 4, which is to be distinguished from the winds activation or execute message.

While the evidence is disputed as to whether a winds execute message was also received on that date, a strong argument can be made that taking all the information available to the White House and other high ranking Washington officials together that they should have been on the alert for an attack against Pearl Harbor.

The “bomb plot” messages are discussed in detail in my book, as are President Harry Truman’s restrictions on the investigation, arguably in violation of the separation of powers doctrine imbedded in the Constitution, and Secretary of State Cordell Hull’s historic diplomatic blunder in not making the final effort to avert war with Japan.

Arnold G. Regardie

 

 

 

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F. Lee Bailey Defines “Alone”

Many years ago when one of my favorite bookstores, Brentano’s, was still in business, I bought a book entitled “The Defense Never Rests”, by F. Lee Bailey, who was, and still may be, active as a criminal defense lawyer. In this book Bailey described some of the famous cases he had been involved in, including the Sam Shepard murder trial, the Boston Strangler, and others. This book, published in 1971, long predated his involvement in the O.J. Simpson case in the 1990s.

Despite the interest these cases held,  and they were very interesting, it was the Foreword which captured my attention.  In it, Bailey described his deep concern over a flashing red warning light flashing “Fire” which appeared suddenly on the cockpit dashboard while he was flying a Sabrejet over the North  Carolina coast on a Marine Corps training mission out of Cherry Point, North Carolina, putting in the necessary time for flight pay.  His concern was not merely an abstract thought but was based on specific recent trouble with the planes catching fire while taking off and costing pilots their lives. He recalled what what pilots always thought, that it always happened to the other guy, never to me.

He was 23 years old at the time, 1955, and was chief legal officer for his unit based at Cherry Point.  He had two options: bail out or cut the engine and try for a dead- stick landing.  If he bailed out the thought of his chute not opening crossed his mind.  He recalled the terminal velocity of a free-falling human being as 125 mph.  He could point the plane out to sea and hope that it didn’t come back over land but there was always the chance it would.  He described the Sabrejet as a flying gas tank powered by a blowtorch.

Bailey made his decision.  He grabbed the microphone and yelled “MAYDAY” as loud as he could.   He hauled back on the stick, turned toward the base and yanked the throttle back to idle cut-off almost in the same instant. He planned on a flame-out approach.  He would have bailed out, but instead when he cut off the power off the warning light went out.

He had enough altitude and the Cherry Point landing strip was the longest in the world.  He landed without difficulty.

Reminiscing later, he recalled being able to still feel the excitement of the moment of decision a mile above the earth.  If he ran a school for criminal lawyers, he thought, he would teach them all to fly.  He would send them up when the weather was rough, when the planes were in tough shape, when the birds were walking.  The ones who survived, he continued, would understand the meaning of “alone.”  Bailey, as a pilot for 17 years, understood that.

He was also a criminal lawyer, he concluded.

My new book, “The Pearl Harbor Congressional Cover-Up.  A True Account of How a Partisan Congress Misled the American People on the Pearl Harbor Attack, December 7, 1941.  Featuring Historic Lessons on  the Failure of Leadership to Foresee the Attack and to Avert War With Japan,” is now available on Amazon.  It is not just another book about Pearl Harbor.  It is based on a 1946 congressional report and has political implications relevant today.

Arnold G. Regardie

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