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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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The Jay Treaty and the Courage of George Washington

Allan Nevins wrote in the foreword to Senator John F. Kennedy’s fine book, “Profiles In Courage”, that “Senator Kennedy treats of a special kind of courage:  the moral courage of a parliamentary leader who on behalf of principle confronts the passions of colleagues, constituents and a majority of the general public.”  He may well have had George Washington in mind as a prime example.

In last week’s installment, we discussed the courage and success of two members of the Adams Family, John Adams and his son John Quincy Adams.  Both became United States Presidents, each exhibited courage in his own way.  John Quincy, as a member of the U.S. senate, had broken with his own Federalist Party to follow the Thomas Jefferson Administration in its support of the 1807 embargo on British goods as a result of their continuing depredatons against U.S. merchants and their goods in the run-up to the War of 1812.

In this installment, we again address the depredations of the British against U.S. merchants.  These acts ultimately resulted in the Jay Treaty of 1894-1895.

John Jay, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, was appointed by President George Washington in 1794, after the appointment had been declined by two others, including James Monroe, as Special Envoy to negotiate a treaty with Great Britain.  Jay was highly criticized for making too many concessions to the British after the treaty, delayed by the long trans-Atlantic crossing from London, finally became known to the public.  Of all the cries of protest none was perhaps louder than that which arose concerning Jay’s giveaway of  one proviso deemed unalterable, that the British must open their West Indian islands to American shipping.  The British had agreed to admit only small American ships, seventy tons or less. In return for this  small concession, Jay had agreed that no American ships would carry goods to Europe which were also produced in the West Indies, including cotton, dealing a major blow to American commerce.  He had also granted favored-nation status to British imports while failing to secure the equivalent benefit for America imports.  Further, he had thrown away the right to sequester private British funds in the United States used as security for payment of British debts.

Another long-smoldering issue was the Canadian border.  The British had agreed to remove border outposts by June 1, 1776, a distant date.  But Jay had agreed to perpetuate Canadian fur interests by allowing the British to continue trading with the Indians in American territory.

While the treaty facilitated ten years of peaceful trade with Britain in the midst of the French revolutionary wars,  it was deemed a sell out by many protesters including those who saw it as a capitulation to British hegemony which endangered America’s long-standing friendship with France.  It angered France and bitterly divided Americans.  It fueled the growth of two opposing factions in virtually every state,  the pro-Treaty Federalists and the anti-Treaty Democratic Republicans.

Nevertheless, in the face of a storm of widespread public protests and even personal attacks, Washington supported and ultimately signed the treaty as being in the national interest to avoid war with the English, a war the United States was ill prepared to wage.  It also guaranteed neutrality in the ongoing hostility between Britain and France.  Washington’s support and great prestige helped to carry the day in the Senate  which ratified the treaty by the necessary two thirds vote, paving the way for its enactment into law.

But it should be noted that the Jay Treaty proved to be a stopgap measure at best.  It was only of ten years duration and a new replacement treaty attempted in the Jefferson Administration in 1806 failed as tensions escalated toward the War of 1812.

Arnold G. Regardie

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Twin Pillars of Success and Courage Are Seen in the Adams Family

No series on leadership and success should be complete without including John Adams and his son, John Quincy Adams.  Space does not permit full acknowledgement of their accomplishments.  So,  only a brief look is possible here.

It’s not hard to find success in the Adams family, speaking of John Adams and John Quincy Adams, that is. It’s a father-son combination, both of whom were elected President of the United States. And both exhibited remarkable courage during their lives.

John Adams was President number two, following the presidency of George Washington.  But he is basically the forgotten President, for reasons lost in the mists of history.  Not having a memorial in Washington D.C.  undoubtedly plays a large part in John Adams not being remembered as a founding father, alongside George  Washington and Thomas Jefferson.  It is unfortunate that  John Adams is largely a forgotten President, because he played a very large part in the founding of the United States as a sovereign nation.

John Adams was of course a well-known, influential Boston lawyer.  His successful defense of British soldiers brought to trial in 1770 as a result of what is remembered historically as the Boston Massacre was a tribute not only to his skill as a lawyer but to his belief in the rule of law.  But it was his leadership in the Continental Congress where he relentlessly advocated the cause of independence for the American colonies from Great Britain where he really should be remembered.  The play and movie “1776” is illustrative.  While it contained no memorable music (in my opinion), the story line, undoubtedly based in fact, featuring the build-up in congress towards the final vote for independence was convincing and dramatic.  It depicted Adams’ fierce devotion to the cause of independence for the colonies, as well as his leadership, which paved the way for the ultimate vote approving the break from Great Britain.  It also showed his courage in withstanding and overcoming the strong opposition from those members who initially opposed independence and favored remaining a British colony.  His contribution to America’s independence was preeminent and should not be forgotten.

The other member of the Adams family that we focus on, John Quincy Adams, the country’s sixth president, was also no stranger to courage, but in a different way.  My information in this respect is based in large part on the late John F. Kennedy’s book, “Profiles in Courage,” written while he was still a Senator.  In an unusual anomaly to many of today’s politicians, John Quincy placed service to his country over adherence to party ideology, bringing upon himself the enmity of the Federalist Party.

The year 1807 is an exemplification of John Quincy’s courage.  In the build-up to the War of 1812, Great Britain had seized countless American merchant ships and tons of cargo while impressing thousands of sailors to involuntary service in the British navy.  In an attempt to counter British actions, President Thomas Jefferson’s administration had pushed through Congress an embargo upon British goods being imported into the country.  This act was particularly distressing to New England merchants who depended in large part on the imports for their livelihood.  John Quincy, then a member of the Senate, broke with his party and State and supported the embargo as being in the national interest, an act  which infuriated fellow Federalists.  They were particularly outraged for the further reason that, in taking this action, he not only broke party ranks but supported the very man, Thomas Jefferson, who was not only a member of the opposition party but was responsible for the  defeat of his father, John Adams, for the presidency!

It was an act of supreme courage for John Quincy, under the circumstances, to put the national interest ahead of party loyalty.  As was written in the Foreword to Kennedy’s book,  “Senator Kennedy treats of a special kind of courage: the moral courage of a parliamentary leader who in behalf of principle confronts the passions of colleagues, constituents and a majority of the general public.”  John Quincy’s action precisely fits this description.

Arnold G. Regardie

 

 

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U.S. Grant’s Remarkable Rise to Success

This installment of my series on leadership and success is largely based on my Amazon article, “Bloody Shiloh and the Rise of U.S. Grant.”

It would be difficult to find a more nondescript beginning to success than that of U.S. Grant, who rose from several failures in civilian life to become General of the Army on behalf of all Union forces during the Civil War and then went on to become 18th President of the United States.

The Civil War had begun badly for Union forces, marked by their 1861 fiasco at Bull Run in Northern Virginia.  Following the Bull Run debacle, President Lincoln began a long and difficult search for reliable military leaders.

With the dawn of 1862, few on either side would foresee how immensely the war would grow in size and scope.  As prospects for peace receded, few areas were left unaffected.  Even the western states became involved as Confederate troops from Texas invaded New Mexico, drawing in Union fighters from California and Colorado.

While the battle of Bull Run centered on a rail junction, the conflict in the West revolved around control of a different form of transportation, i.e., the rivers of the Mississippi Valley, vital lifelines for the Confederacy.  Throughout 1861, little attention had been paid to the river network emanating southward from Cairo, Illinois, located at the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers.   But in early 1862, these rivers became the scene of heavy fighting and decisive action.  Reflecting its enormous strategic value, Cairo had become a large Union military and naval base, providing access to the Mississippi, Tennessee, and Cumberland River complex.  These rivers had long been major thoroughfares for the transportation of food, livestock, timber, and iron, but now became vital for the transport of different commodities, those which were indispensable to the conduct of any war – men, equipment, armaments, and munitions.  Retention of Cairo as a Union base was therefore of vital importance.

Following the Union Army’s fiasco at Bull Run in northern Virginia, on July 25, 1861 President Abraham Lincoln appointed  Major General John Fremont as commander of the Union Army’s Western Department.  It was in the Western Theater where Grant became first known and began to emerge as a military leader.  Despite Fremont’s speckled background,  Lincoln had high expectations for the intrepid California pathfinder, who was to play a pivotal role in launching Grant’s military career.  He had been in France at the start of the War, but returned to Washington to receive his appointment as Major General, and was made commander of the Western Department, covering all of the territory between the Mississippi River and the Rockies, plus the state of Illinois.

On August 30, 1861, Fremont, in a far-sighted move, appointed then unknown Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant to command the Military District of Southeastern Missouri, whose headquarters was in strategically located Cairo, Illinois, where the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers met.  This appointment marked the beginning of Grant’s military odyssey.

On November 7, 1861, operating from his base at Cairo, Grant made his debut as a military commander as he took five regiments down the Mississippi and attacked the Confederate outpost at Belmont, Missouri.  This attack was launched as a diversion in aid of another Union effort in Missouri.  Grant’s attack initially resulted in a rout of rebel forces there but he was soon surrounded as the Rebels, led by Major General Leonidas Polk, an Episcopal Bishop, counterattacked using forces from the heavily fortified Rebel stronghold across the river at Columbus, Kentucky, the “Gibraltar of the South.”  Overruling some of his officers who advised surrender, Grant replied bluntly to the effect that they had cut their way in and they would cut their way out, a reply that reflected his refusal to panic, a trait that became commonplace in future operations.  The breakout was accomplished, not without Union loss, but heavier losses were inflicted on the Confederates.

The battle of Belmont was of little importance in the overall conduct of the war, and in fact, according to Grant himself, was criticized in the North as being wholly unnecessary.  But it exemplified Grant’s coolness under fire, his indomitable will, and provided needed confidence for the troops under him who were raw recruits from Illinois and Iowa.  Lincoln did not realize it yet but Grant would become the general he needed to take charge of the overall war, one whose able efforts stood out in contradistinction to the mostly inept efforts of Pope, Hooker, McClellan, and other Union generals.

The resounding Union victory at Fort Donelson, February 14-16, 1862, led by Grant, was celebrated all the way East in Washington.  Lincoln rewarded Grant with a promotion from Brigadier general to Major General, placing him as the 10th ranking man in the U.S. army. His reputation in the North soared and he became an overnight sensation.  Grant’s initials caused some to quip that they stood for “Unconditional Surrender.”  An aura of importance now surrounded his name, and his fame led to an appearance on the cover of Harper’s Weekly. Grant’s strategy, which was to become clear as the war progressed, was simple enough – destroy the Confederacy’s armies wherever they were found.  It was a strategy he would pursue to the war’s end.

It was an amazing personal and professional turnaround, considering Grant’s obscure beginning.  His early life gave no hint as to the military and political success which was to later overtake him.  He entered West Point in 1839 at age 17.  Although he was a West Point graduate, he did not distinguish himself academically while at the Academy.  For Grant, military life was no charm.  He did not consider the military as a calling and had no interest in pursuing an army career but intended to seek a college professorship.

Although his seedy, unkempt appearance was unsettling, because of his military experience in the Mexican War he had been appointed by Illinois Governor Yates as a Colonel in the 21st Illinois, which was originally a state organized regiment but subsequently mustered into United States service those men who were willing to volunteer for three years of war.  Later, Illinois Congressman Elihu Washburne, who liked Grant, and with only one name to submit at his disposal, submitted Grant’s name for appointment as Brigadier General, which was approved. Grant had been in the right place at the right time.  It was an inauspicious beginning of a remarkable career for a man who was to ultimately wind up in the White House some eight years later as the eighteenth President of the United States.

Grant had now established himself as a resolute commander who could be counted on, one who accepted responsibility for his assignments without complaining about lack of sufficient troops, a commonplace complaint heard from other officers.  “I can’t spare the man.  He fights,” was the compliment Lincoln reportedly paid him, an extraordinary compliment considering the difficulties Lincoln had had with other Union generals, particularly McClellan, who, according to Lincoln, had the “slows.”  Grant ultimately proved himself the ablest commander in the Union army.   According to Civil War historian Douglas S. Freeman in his book “Lee’s Lieutenants, A Study in Command,” his capabilities were well recognized by the Confederacy, which viewed him as an “able, self-reliant, aggressive adversary.” And as noted by General Horace Porter in his book, “Campaigning With Grant,” perhaps no more telling observation of Grant’s make-up was made than by Confederate General James Longstreet, who warned that Grant “…will fight us every day and every hour till the end of the war.”

Arnold G. Regardie

 

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President Roosevelt’s Failure to Heed Intelligence Alerts About Pearl Harbor Was Significant

This installment of my leadership and success series is excerpted from my forthcoming book, “The Pearl Harbor Congressional Cover-Up.”  It illustrates the need for effective leadership to timely and accurately evaluate information intercepted from hostile sources.  The book is based in large part on the July 20, 1946 congressional report of a 10-member joint congressional committee, comprised of 6 Democrats and 4 Republicans, which investigated the December 7, 1941 attack on the U.S. Pacific Fleet stationed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii by air and naval forces of Imperial Japan.  The report, by an 8-2 vote (the Majority), exonerated President Roosevelt and other high ranking Washington officials of responsibility for the attack.   The two dissenters (the Minority) argued that, inter alia, President Roosevelt’s failure to heed the “bomb plot” intelligence alerts which forecast Pearl Harbor as a target were largely responsible for the unpreparedness of the United States for the attack.

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 Japan’s strategic interest in Pearl Harbor. The message was delivered to President Roosevelt and other high Washington officials on October 9, 1941.  The intercepted September and November 1941 “Bomb Plot” messages were of singular importance in revealing Japan’s intentions to target Pearl Harbor for an attack.

One of the Joint Committee members, Representative Frank Keefe (R-WI), described the relevance of the messages clearly and precisely: “The “bomb plot” or “ships in harbor” message, and those messages relating to Pearl Harbor which followed it, meant that the ships of the Pacific Fleet in Pearl Harbor were marked for a Japanese attack. No other American harbor was divided into sub areas by Japan. In no other area did Japan seek information as to whether two or more vessels were alongside the same wharf. Prior to this message Japanese espionage in Hawaii was directed to ascertain the general hereabouts of the American Fleet, whether at sea or in port. With this message Japan inaugurated a new policy directed to Pearl Harbor and to no other place, in which information was no longer sought merely as to the general whereabouts of the Fleet, but as to the presence of particular ships in particular areas of the harbor. In the period immediately preceding the attack Japan required such reports even when there was no movement of ships in and out of Pearl Harbor. The reports which Japan thus sought and received had a useful purpose only in planning and executing an attack upon the ships in port. These reports were not just the work of enthusiastic local spies gathering meticulous details in an excess of zeal. 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 dissenting Senators 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, and related Japanese messages…The “bomb plot” message, and those messages relating to Pearl Harbor which followed it, meant that the 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…On October 9th, 1941… Lieutenant Commander Kramer of Naval Intelligence in Washington promptly distributed the “bomb plot” message to the President, the Secretary of the Navy, the Chief of Naval Operations, the Director of Naval Communications, the Director of War Plans, and the Director of Naval Intelligence…”

Interestingly, buried in enumeration No. 10 of Supervisory, Administrative, and Organizational Deficiencies in the Military and Naval Establishments Revealed by the Pearl Harbor Investigation, as reported by the Committee members voting with the Majority, was the following remarkable finding, not only clearly revealing the Majority’s inconsistency but underscoring the highly important intelligence referred to above: “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 Japanese attack.”

This was a telling admission by the Majority, that the lack of greater imagination and awareness of the significance of the intelligence in the hands of Washington and Hawaii caused the intercepted messages not to have been interpreted to signify that an attack on Pearl Harbor was being planned.  It was as close as the Majority came to admitting that the attack on Pearl Harbor was foreseeable, as the Minority claimed.  Note that the Majority failed to specify exactly what information was in the hands of Hawaii which led to this conclusion, 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.

The Minority’s summary of those civil and military authorities failing to perform the responsibilities indispensably essential to the defense of Pearl Harbor lists President Roosevelt at the top.  Undoubtedly, the President’s apparent failure to be alert as to the significance of the “bomb plot” messages was in large part at the heart of this summary.

Arnold G. Regardie

 

 

 

 

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FIND MOTIVATION

This week’s installment of our leadership and success series focuses on motivation as playing a vital role in becoming a leader as well as in the attainment of success. We turn to one of baseball’s greatest players – Ty Cobb, nicknamed “The Georgia Peach” for his small town beginnings in Royston, Georgia , to exemplify this rule.

Some pundits will argue that Ty Cobb was the greatest player of all time. Cobb had the stats to back it up and, considering his storied, combative nature, was apparently willing to do so. Not to turn this blog into a statistical haven but certain stats do deserve mention. Cobb won the American League batting crown 12 times, including 9 years running, from 1907 through 1915. He batted over.400 three times, including .420 in 1911. He hit, ran, and stormed his way to the highest lifetime batting average ever achieved of any major league player, .367, accumulated over his 24 years in the Major Leagues, a record that still endures following his retirement in 1928 and will likely continue to endure for many more years. The charter edition of baseball’s hall of fame in 1936 saw Cobb, one of the 5 players to be elected, receive the highest votes cast for induction, four short of unanimity, even outpolling Babe Ruth.

Cobb was extraordinarily talented, but the woods are full of talented derelicts. So, what made him achieve his greatness? Undoubtedly, it was his motivation. Earlier in Cobb’s life, his father, William Herschel Cobb, had been strongly skeptical of his son’s pursuit of baseball as a living, demeaning it as “the folly of baseball.” But he ultimately relented to his son’s entreaties accompanied by the stern admonition, “Don’t come home a failure.” This warning seems innocuous enough. But the development of extenuating circumstances which beset him later on the eve of his departure to the major leagues undoubtedly played a major part in his motivation to succeed.

Cobb had been an outstanding minor league player while playing for the Augusta, Georgia Tourists in the South Atlantic or ”Sally” League, among the lower echelons of the minor leagues. His play was duly noted, however, by scouts of major league teams that frequented his games. Ultimately, his contract was purchased by the American League’s Detroit Tigers for $700 and he was scheduled to report in late August, 1905.

But the pall of a horrific family tragedy engulfed him at home and shadowed him to Detroit. Cobb’s mother had shot his father to death only a short time earlier, on August 8, 1905. His mother, a pretty woman, had been suspected of taking a lover. His father, attempting to enter a bedroom window of their home, was shot gunned by his mother who apparently believed it was a burglar attempting to break in. A revolver was later found on the body. Cobb’s mother, later charged with voluntary manslaughter, was acquitted. On August 30, 1905, a mere three weeks after his father’s death, Cobb debuted in center field for the Detroit Tigers, rapping a double in four trips to the plate off the New York Highlanders’ (officially renamed The New York Yankees in 1913) ace spitballer, Jack Chesbro, who had won an amazing 41 games the year before. It was the first of 3,032 games for Cobb before his 1928 retirement.

Noted writer Charles C. Alexander wrote that after retirement Cobb claimed his father was the greatest man he ever knew. And Cobb’s biographer, Al Stump, wrote that at his request, after death, he was entombed in the family mausoleum in Royston, Georgia, where it all began, in a chamber directly across from his father’s.

Cobb’s relentless pursuit of success in baseball may well have grown out of the close relationship he had enjoyed with his father, but he was undoubtedly also driven by the haunting memories of his father’s tragic and untimely death, all of which provided a special motivation for him. Whatever the source, strong motivation clearly plays a key role for anyone aspiring to success as a leader.

Watch for my new book, “The Pearl Harbor Congressional Cover Up”, coming soon.  It will feature leadership failures at the highest level of government.
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Arnold G. Regardie

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