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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