Pearl Harbor and preliminary warnings.....

witchbottles

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okay I'm by no means a whiz with 110% of all recorded research material so far on the Pearl Harbor attack. I do , however, own an extensive collection of photostats and scans from primary source documents and secondary source analyses on the attack, its preliminary events, and its immediate aftermath - as my Thesis was on the influence of Churchill's rhetoric to mold American policy to a "Germany First" strategy, when Japan was clearly the aggressor in the minds of most Americans from Dec 7th 1941 to Feb 26th, 1942 ( the end of the ARCADIA conferences).

As such, I've read and referenced just about every primary source of the period, from the memorandums of Welles during the Atlantic Charter conference, to the many telegram decodings of messages to and from Tokyo to their US ambassadors circa 1938-1941, to the now infamous "East Wind Rain" and "War Warning Order" telegrams - to just about everything else concerning the attack....

That said, this "bombshell" landed into my lap, courtesy of a colleague at Yale:

"...TOKYO, January 27, 1941-6 p.m.
[Received January 27-6: 38 a.m.]
...
125. A member of the Embassy was told by my ------- colleague that from many quarters, including a Japanese one, he had heard that a surprise mass attack on Pearl Harbor was planned by the Japanese military forces, in case of "trouble" between Japan and the United States; that the attack would involve the use of all the Japanese military facilities. My colleague said that he was prompted to pass this on because it had come to him from many sources, although the plan seemed fantastic.


GREW

Source: U.S., Department of State, Publication 1983, Peace and War: United States Foreign Policy, 1931-1941 (Washington, D.C.: U.S., Government Printing Office, 1943), pp. 617-618."

I'd not seen this telegram yet, even as I own the referenced the US GPO publication - it never caught my eye until tonight as being in there - I looked it definitely is.

This prefaces the "East Wind Rain" purple code intercept by a full3 months, and by all accounts, really is the first hard primary source evidence of a legitimate warning of the attack.

Sometimes, epiphanies just fall into your lap when you are not expecting them.....

Undersecretary to the U.S. Consul in Tokyo - forwards a memorandum of a conversation held at a party, at the embassy. The telegram and its following MemCon are in NARA, and can be referenced as original preserved documents there. Amazingly, neither was used during the Navy or the Congressional investigations into the attack. An oversight? Or perhaps a deliberate removal of Dept of State junior personnel from involvement being documented in the preliminaries before the attack?

Hard to tell, worth a closer investigation..... ;)
 

Nineteen Kilo

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Witchbottles I hope you pardon this redirection of your thread but since you're steeped in Pearl Harbor history perhaps you can identify this ship at the 3:42 second mark. Some friends and I were going back and forth about it earlier this week. It clearly has 8 16 inch guns and is badly scorched but seems to be in too good a shape to be the West Virginia. I thought maybe it's the Maryland. Your thoughts?
 

Yuri0352

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I'm quite certain that the battleship is USS California shortly after she had been raised and fitted with 'patches' in dry dock prior to her journey to Bremerton for further repairs. The scorch marks are actually the stains which she acquired while being partially submerged for 4 months after the attack.
 

witchbottles

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She looks more than just battle damage fire-scorched. Those are flooding /bunker oil settling lines on the hull 4 x 2 turret MA, looks like casemates for the secondary batteries. Lots of internal flooding, this is one that bottomed - that makes it either the WV or ole Mary. the battle damage descriptions seem to fit the WV better - she bottomed out at Pearl, the Mary made it back to Puget Sound for repairs, never bottoming.

Time frame of the film seems to fit as well, refloating and pumping out day for the WV at Pearl was 17 May 1942. By then ole Mary was recommissioned and headed back out to sea for duty with a refit and a new crew.

Given the total evidence, I'm inclined to call her the West Virginia- BB 48.

That's as far as my thinking goes. I'm no expert on Pearl, just have quite a few photos to compare this one to in a few dozen ref books., The Maryland was underway on her own power in early Feb 42 headed for Puget Sound. This thing still has a ton of visible damage and recent seawater/bunker oil mixture evidence in a film dated "Spring 1942".
 

witchbottles

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I'm quite certain that the battleship is USS California shortly after she had been raised and fitted with 'patches' in dry dock prior to her journey to Bremerton for further repairs. The scorch marks are actually the stains which she acquired while being partially submerged for 4 months after the attack.
Sorry USS, Cali BB-44 mounted a main battery of 4 x 3 guns 14 inchers, not twin main guns per turret.
 

Yuri0352

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I concur, definitely not USS California, and most likely USS West Virginia.
 

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okay I'm by no means a whiz with 110% of all recorded research material so far on the Pearl Harbor attack. I do , however, own an extensive collection of photostats and scans from primary source documents and secondary source analyses on the attack, its preliminary events, and its immediate aftermath - as my Thesis was on the influence of Churchill's rhetoric to mold American policy to a "Germany First" strategy, when Japan was clearly the aggressor in the minds of most Americans from Dec 7th 1941 to Feb 26th, 1942 ( the end of the ARCADIA conferences).

As such, I've read and referenced just about every primary source of the period, from the memorandums of Welles during the Atlantic Charter conference, to the many telegram decodings of messages to and from Tokyo to their US ambassadors circa 1938-1941, to the now infamous "East Wind Rain" and "War Warning Order" telegrams - to just about everything else concerning the attack....

That said, this "bombshell" landed into my lap, courtesy of a colleague at Yale:

"...TOKYO, January 27, 1941-6 p.m.
[Received January 27-6: 38 a.m.]
...
125. A member of the Embassy was told by my ------- colleague that from many quarters, including a Japanese one, he had heard that a surprise mass attack on Pearl Harbor was planned by the Japanese military forces, in case of "trouble" between Japan and the United States; that the attack would involve the use of all the Japanese military facilities. My colleague said that he was prompted to pass this on because it had come to him from many sources, although the plan seemed fantastic.


GREW

Source: U.S., Department of State, Publication 1983, Peace and War: United States Foreign Policy, 1931-1941 (Washington, D.C.: U.S., Government Printing Office, 1943), pp. 617-618."

I'd not seen this telegram yet, even as I own the referenced the US GPO publication - it never caught my eye until tonight as being in there - I looked it definitely is.

This prefaces the "East Wind Rain" purple code intercept by a full3 months, and by all accounts, really is the first hard primary source evidence of a legitimate warning of the attack.

Sometimes, epiphanies just fall into your lap when you are not expecting them.....

Undersecretary to the U.S. Consul in Tokyo - forwards a memorandum of a conversation held at a party, at the embassy. The telegram and its following MemCon are in NARA, and can be referenced as original preserved documents there. Amazingly, neither was used during the Navy or the Congressional investigations into the attack. An oversight? Or perhaps a deliberate removal of Dept of State junior personnel from involvement being documented in the preliminaries before the attack?

Hard to tell, worth a closer investigation..... ;)
I think the last line of the memo probably sums up the lack of credibility given to it at the time (almost a full year prior to the attack). It is only in hind sight that we can now look at their ability to pull off such a fantastic venture without discounting it as a near impossibility. I would venture a guess that the War Department and especially the Navy figured that their ability to launch such an enterprise in complete secrecy was well beyond their means not to mention as an act of sheer desperation - they were Asians contemplating attacking America for Pete's sake!
 

witchbottles

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I think the last line of the memo probably sums up the lack of credibility given to it at the time (almost a full year prior to the attack). It is only in hind sight that we can now look at their ability to pull off such a fantastic venture without discounting it as a near impossibility. I would venture a guess that the War Department and especially the Navy figured that their ability to launch such an enterprise in complete secrecy was well beyond their means not to mention as an act of sheer desperation - they were Asians contemplating attacking America for Pete's sake!
I fully agree with your assessment of how the veracity of nearly all previous warning events were handled - One overreaching background action was the continued platitudes emanating from Cordell Hull at the behest of FDR to find a peaceful resolution to military tensions in the Pacific area of operations, and the actual telegrams from FDR urging a diplomatic solution, along with FDR generate memos that indicate a clear desire for the US to steer clear of military action in the Pacific area throughout 1942.

That said, and though the Naval inquiry board was set on sacrificing (rightly so) Admiral Kimmel to the wolves, (thereby sweeping many of the advance warning items under the door of "Top Secret"); the Congressional Inquiry went to extensive lengths to obtain and record the use of those "Top Secret" advance warning documents, every one they could locate. It is interesting they never refer to this one, and their earliest documentation notes from the April 1941 Purple Code "East Wind Rain" general warning message to all Japanese Embassies in the Western Hemisphere. One is left to ponder why such lengths to obtain the rest of the documentation, and then ignore this one.

Granted, April-May 1945 was the end of FDR as a person- implicating his hand-picked men in the State Dept might have had some reason to NOT investigate this document further. Not until it was released after an FOIA in 1980 did it become published knowledge.
 

Paul M. Weir

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That such an early warning was not heeded does not surprise me. There might have been some extra caution on the US's part in the following months, but as nothing happened then such rumours would have been discounted as just that, rumours. It's hard to keep defences at a high level for more than a few months of inactivity.

Later ones could have suffered from the "The boy who cried wolf." effect.
 

Eagle4ty

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I fully agree with your assessment of how the veracity of nearly all previous warning events were handled - One overreaching background action was the continued platitudes emanating from Cordell Hull at the behest of FDR to find a peaceful resolution to military tensions in the Pacific area of operations, and the actual telegrams from FDR urging a diplomatic solution, along with FDR generate memos that indicate a clear desire for the US to steer clear of military action in the Pacific area throughout 1942.

That said, and though the Naval inquiry board was set on sacrificing (rightly so) Admiral Kimmel to the wolves, (thereby sweeping many of the advance warning items under the door of "Top Secret"); the Congressional Inquiry went to extensive lengths to obtain and record the use of those "Top Secret" advance warning documents, every one they could locate. It is interesting they never refer to this one, and their earliest documentation notes from the April 1941 Purple Code "East Wind Rain" general warning message to all Japanese Embassies in the Western Hemisphere. One is left to ponder why such lengths to obtain the rest of the documentation, and then ignore this one.

Granted, April-May 1945 was the end of FDR as a person- implicating his hand-picked men in the State Dept might have had some reason to NOT investigate this document further. Not until it was released after an FOIA in 1980 did it become published knowledge.
The date of the memo is also interesting to note as it would have been around the time of FDR's inauguration from a campaign run on "He kept us out of war!" and the Democratic platform of continued isolation and non-involvement in international affairs. To be fair, FDR was doing about as much as he could to support "the democracies" (read that the Commonwealth mostly) against the fascist powers in a mostly covert fashion or at least paying lip service to staying somewhat out of the conflict, but the eyes were basically on Europe, not on the far east. This was also that of most of the Chiefs of Staff, barring Adm King of course but even he was forced into looking primarily at the Atlantic threat from U-boats.

The course of world events also would have directed closer attention away from the Pacific as well, recent Commonwealth defeats in North Africa, The invasion and fall of the Balkans in May and finally the attack on Russia on 22 Jun 41. It is interesting to note however that FDR did authorize and implement a transfer of 30+ of the USAAF's newest lang range bomber (and recon aircraft until need as a bomber), the B-17, to the Philippines in March. He had also recalled Gen MacArthur out of retirement the command the United States Army Forces Far East (USAFFE) encompassing all U.S. non-naval forces west of Hawaii in July of '41. Also it is interesting that during the period Mar-Nov '41, he had permanently dispatched 3 fleet carriers (also the Langley-America's 1st but very outdated carrier) to the Pacific ILO using them for anti-submarine duty in the Atlantic and was in the process of transferring a 4th at the time of the Pearl Harbor Attack.
 

witchbottles

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The date of the memo is also interesting to note as it would have been around the time of FDR's inauguration from a campaign run on "He kept us out of war!" and the Democratic platform of continued isolation and non-involvement in international affairs. To be fair, FDR was doing about as much as he could to support "the democracies" (read that the Commonwealth mostly) against the fascist powers in a mostly covert fashion or at least paying lip service to staying somewhat out of the conflict, but the eyes were basically on Europe, not on the far east. This was also that of most of the Chiefs of Staff, barring Adm King of course but even he was forced into looking primarily at the Atlantic threat from U-boats.

The course of world events also would have directed closer attention away from the Pacific as well, recent Commonwealth defeats in North Africa, The invasion and fall of the Balkans in May and finally the attack on Russia on 22 Jun 41. It is interesting to note however that FDR did authorize and implement a transfer of 30+ of the USAAF's newest lang range bomber (and recon aircraft until need as a bomber), the B-17, to the Philippines in March. He had also recalled Gen MacArthur out of retirement the command the United States Army Forces Far East (USAFFE) encompassing all U.S. non-naval forces west of Hawaii in July of '41. Also it is interesting that during the period Mar-Nov '41, he had permanently dispatched 3 fleet carriers (also the Langley-America's 1st but very outdated carrier) to the Pacific ILO using them for anti-submarine duty in the Atlantic and was in the process of transferring a 4th at the time of the Pearl Harbor Attack.
I think there were already 4 fleet carriers in the Pac Fleet by July of 1941, Enterprise, Saratoga, Yorktown, Lexington, and the Langley was already there and forward deployed. ( I may be mistaken on the date of the Sara's transfer). MacArthur made sense, he was already assigned as a diplomatic functionary in the Philippines by the time of his recall, had an extensive knowledge and working relationship with their government and defense forces, and a working relationship with the many forward-deployed American military commands in the Philippines, at that time. It was really a no-brainer to assign him.

FDR is quite well documented "on record" as being all for keeping America out of a Pacific Ocean War condition throughout all of 1942, at the least, if possible (prior to Pearl Harbor). He really felt the Imperial Japanese could be swayed by "show of force", to bend to America's wishes and remain only regionally contained within mainland China and SEA.
 

Eagle4ty

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Working completely from memory (and a damn poor one at that), but hadn't the Saratoga & Yorktown only been transferred from the eastern seaboard duties in March and Apr/May respectively? Also, I did not intend to say the Langley had been deployed in the east, but merely to mention it was also in the Pacific as a side note per-se. The gist of the post was to point out that the memo had been received right around the time of FDR reelection and some steps were taken to address the potential situation. I agree with your assessment that political thought of the U.S. at the time was that a "show of force" would force these mere asians to back from taking any aggressive actions toward a western power (the sending of the Prince of Wales & Repulse to ward off a Japanese shows the U.S. was not alone in its self important attitude). Finally I feel a revelation of such a memo in courts martials would have been VERY embarrassing to the Democratic party. This is especially so since FDR had assumed an mantel of almost God like proportions to many Americans and that such would have had a detrimental effect on America's attitude and thus potential to bring the war to a successful conclusion as the populace was certainly becoming more war-weary every month it dragged on.
 
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