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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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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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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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General George S. Patton Jr. – A Study in Leadership

No series on leadership and success would be complete without including a piece on General George S. Patton Jr., one of America’s most effective World War II combat commanders. Patton had his faults, without doubt, but his battlefield accomplishments, bordering on the legendary, spoke for themselves.

It is beyond the scope of this blog to describe the traits that marked Patton’s successes in World War II as Third Army commander.   But if one word could sum it all up, perhaps “audacity” might suffice. One is cautioned, however, by the limitations of a one-word description. It is reminiscent of the retort from Cyrano de Bergerac, the fictional French swordsman of 1640, who was known for his large nose. When a wealthy viscount accosted Cyrano in a tavern with the words, “Sir, you have a very big nose,” Cyrano’s classic reply, “Is that all?” proceeded his lengthy and poetic discourse criticizing the unimaginative comment and colorfully describing what could have been said. “Audacity” is of the same genre.

Perhaps the Third Army’s most storied accomplishment, also exemplifying Patton’s generalmanship, lay in coming to the rescue of the beleaguered troops of the 101st Airborne Division, remembered in some circles as “The Battered Bastards of Bastogne.” Badly outnumbered and exhausted, they were under siege in southeastern Belgium during the aptly named Battle of the Bulge, December, 1944, trying to hold off a massive German onslaught involving some 200,000 German soldiers paced by Panzer tanks, under the experienced, overall command of Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt. The huge German offensive, spread over a 60 mile front driving through the snow covered Ardennes forest, had driven a deep bulge in the American line at its most vulnerable point. Hitler’s ambitious objective was to break through the American line, thrust westerly, seize Antwerp, Belgium, a key military hub, and thereby split the Allied forces.

At a high-level conference in Verdun, France, on December 19, 1944, General Dwight Eisenhower, Allied Expeditionary Forces commander, turned to Patton for help in repulsing the German attack. Patton’s response, promising to attack with three divisions by December 22, raised more than a few eyebrows for being an overly optimistic assessment of what could be accomplished.  His daunting mission was to initiate a flanking attack against the Germans from the south to relieve Bastogne.

But Patton made good on his commitment.  At his direction, three army divisions effected a 90 degree turnabout involving a mass movement of an estimated 60,000 soldiers, including tanks, trucks, artillery, and supporting elements.  This diversion of men and equipment from what had been a slashing eastward campaign across southern France, to drive relentlessly north some 50-75 miles in appalling weather in the dead of Winter, traversing icy, snow driven roads, and then to be pressed into attack against the German southern flank, was an enormous undertaking.  It was arguably Patton’s – and the Third Army’s – finest hour, as their efforts together with other Allied forces led to the defeat of the German offensive.  His comment, “God, I’m proud of these men” (from the movie), acknowledging their long trek in freezing temperatures, with no hot food and little rest, was a mark of the leadership and training he had provided.  As noted by General Omar Bradley in his book, “A Soldier’s Story,” Patton’s shift of the bulk of the Third Army from its bridgehead on the Saar to the snow-covered Ardennes forest, where more than 133,000 tanks and trucks joined in the round-the-clock trek, was nothing less than brilliant.

Patton, however, was more than just a combat commander.  He was also a pundit and military historian.  Carlo D’Este’s fine biography, “A Genius For War”, notes that in 1937, as Army G-2, responsible for security in the Hawaiian Islands, he wrote a paper entitled “Surprise” in which he predicted with uncanny foresight the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Patton’s life was tragically cut short at age 60 in December, 1945 as a result of injuries suffered in a vehicle accident in Germany.  He may have had his faults but there can be no doubt of his ability to lead men in combat.  His effectiveness as a general was unequaled.  He was precisely the type of military leader America needed in World War II.

Arnold G. Regardie

 

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Explore All Options To Be Fully Acclountable

In this installment of our leadership and success series, we explore the fateful November 26, 1941 decision of Secretary of State Cordell Hull to abruptly scuttle what was intended as a 3-month truce arrangement with Japan, and the consequent failure to avert the war which necessarily followed.

The period from August 1941, to December 7, 1941, saw the United States and Japan continue the ongoing discussions to resolve their differences in the face of the growing Japanese threat in the Far East. These conversations had disclosed three crucial points of difference: nondiscrimination in international trade, withdrawal of Japanese troops from China, and Japan’s obligations under the Tripartite Pact, concluded in September 1940 with Germany and Italy.

The growing tension in the course of diplomatic negotiations between the United States and Japan during the months preceding December 7, 1941, led to the modus vivendi proposal, essentially a 3-month status quo arrangement between the United States and Japan to tide the parties over while they continued to talk. Under discussion in November, 1941, it was intended to prevent a breakdown in conversations and pave the way for an agreement covering the entire Pacific area. Securing urgently needed additional time for the United States to rearm was also a vital consideration. It was drafted as a reply to a Japanese proposal of November 20, 1941, but was abruptly abandoned by Secretary of State Cordell Hull and never submitted to the Japanese. Hull subsequently testified before a congressional committee investigating the Pearl Harbor attack that they would have rejected it. Instead Hull’s memo of November 26 was substituted calling, inter alia, for withdrawal of Japanese troops from China and Indochina. This memo was considered by the Japanese as an ultimatum and promptly rejected. The Pearl Harbor attack followed 11 days later, on December 7.

America’s allies (except China) remained interested in the proposal, as apparently was Japan based on inquiries made by Japanese officials at the time it was abandoned. This momentous decision was taken by Hull alone, without consultation with anyone, except Roosevelt, who, while apparently approving Hull’s decision, may have been distracted at that time by news of a Japanese naval convoy steaming southward in the South China Sea. No advance notification was provided by Hull to Army Chief of Staff George Marshall, or to Navy Chief of Naval Operations Harold Stark, both of whom had vigorously pushed for the modus vivendi as a means of securing vitally needed additional time to rearm.

However, an important potential bargaining chip in the negotiations, keeping the Burma Road open and free from Japanese assault, was overlooked when the proposal was abandoned. The Burma Road, China’s vital artery for supplies from the West, was of prime importance to China’s Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek. His many entreaties to the United States and Great Britain for air support went unheeded. Keeping the Burma Road open was not only essential to China’s ability to hold off the Japanese but was a vitally important consideration to the United States and its allies as well. Its potential loss was not only a major concern for Chiang Kai-shek but, as admitted by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in an early November message to President Roosevelt, would “hugely augment” the danger to both countries’ interests.

Hull’s November 26, 1941 memorandum to the President recommended that, “In view of the opposition of the Chinese Government and either the half-hearted support or actual opposition of the British, the Netherlands and the Australian Governments, and in view of the wide publicity of the opposition and of the additional opposition that will naturally follow through utter lack of an understanding of the vast importance and value otherwise of the modus vivendi…I will withhold the modus vivendi proposal.”   Hull, as he put it, simply washed his hands of the whole affair and informed Secretary of War Henry Stimson that he was turning everything over to the Army and Navy.   Exhaustion and frustration may have played a significant factor in that decision, as well as his overlooking use of the Burma Road as a potential negotiating option.

Hull’s decision however must be balanced against the Netherlands support for the proposal which was expressed to Hull in a meeting with the Netherlands Minister on November 24.   The British also supported the proposal as Ambassador Lord Halifax had advised Hull.  In fact, Halifax was at a loss to understand why Hull was abandoning it.  Hull’s explanation that he only had the half-hearted support of the British was criticized by Halifax, who reminded Hull of the full British support.  He pointed out that Churchill’s comments, questioned by Hull as not supportive, did not signify lack of support but only concern for the Chinese objections.

Halifax reminded Welles that several days previously, Chiang had expressed concern about keeping the Burma Road open so as not to interrupt the continuous flow of critically needed supplies for China. Halifax specifically pointed out that he had reminded the Chinese Ambassador, Dr. Hu Shih, that only ten days ago Chiang was imploring the United States and British for aid to help keep the Burma Road open and that it seemed to him, Halifax, that the course proposed by Hull “gave positive assurances to the Chinese Government that the Burma Road would in fact be kept open if the modus vivendi agreement with Japan could be consummated.”

This significant conversation demonstrated that Halifax, a key member of a close United States ally, believed keeping the Burma Road open was implicit in the modus vivendi proposal.  He was partially right since it was explicitly provided for. Keeping the Burma Road safe from Japanese aggression had been in fact raised in the modus vivendi provision against Japanese aggression into Southeast Asia.  There is no evidence this was pointed out to Chiang, which might have eased his concerns about making concessions to Japan.  Counterbalancing what Hull termed the “chicken feed” concessions to Japan against providing for the potential defense of the Burma Road might have swayed Chiang to agree to the proposal.

Hull’s aborted November, 1941 diplomatic efforts in abandoning and not presenting the modus vivendi proposal to Japan is a lesson in the failure of accountability for all those who aspire to leadership. By not fully exploring all available options, Hull failed to possibly avert war with Japan, undoubtedly the primary responsibility of his office at the time.

This unfortunate chapter in the failure of American diplomacy is pursued in greater detail in my forthcoming book, “The Pearl Harbor Congressional Cover Up.”

Arnold G. Regardie

 

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