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||Posted on: Dec. 15 2002,7:39
A Cryptologic Veteran’s Analysis of “Day of Deceit”
The author, Robert B. Stinnett, made a thorough search of National Archives files other repositories and contacted numerous personnel to justify his long held belief that President Franklin D. Roosevelt not only actively fomented war with Japan as a pretext to aid Britain in its fight with Hitler but that he purposely made Pearl Harbor an attractive target for the Japanese Navy. Then (as the theory goes) after learning of the of the Japanese plan to attack Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt (through conspiracies continuing today) not only kept Admiral Kimmel and General Short from obtaining information on Japanese intentions to attack Pearl Harbor but ordered or had ordered actions that prevented those commanders from discovering the Kido Butai and adequately defending Pearl Harbor from the expected attack by the Japanese.
“Day of Deceit” argues that Roosevelt was convinced the loss at Pearl Harbor must be of sufficient magnitude to overcome the isolationist views of the general public so that he could safely declare war on both Japan and Germany. Furthermore, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt through his co-conspirators (who apparently include General Marshall, Admirals Stark, Ingersoll, Anderson, Captain Turner and Commander McCollum and by implication Admiral Noyes, Captain Redman, Commander Rochefort and many others), attempted to cover up his and his co-conspirators’ dastardly deeds. However, through Stinnett’s foresight, expertise and diligence, he was able to see through this monstrous conspiracy and its cover-up to reveal its details to us some 58 years later when all previous efforts by revisionist conspiracy theorists have failed and all the participants are dead and cannot defend themselves. Nevertheless, this book will sell well among rabid Roosevelt haters, many Kimmel and Short supporters, and dedicated conspiracy theorists.
In an effort to support his conspiracy theory, Stinnett came up with many new documents not generally known to be available. However, these documents do not add anything new to the question of who knew what and when. In his zeal, he misinterprets not only some of these “new” documents but comes up with radically new meanings for the plain words and characterizations of well accepted documentation already available in this Pearl Harbor arena. One of the centerpieces of his argument is an October 1940 memorandum by then Lieutenant Commander McCollum of ONI in response to the September 1940 signing of the Tripartite Pact by Germany, Italy and Japan and not as any blueprint for initiating war with Germany and Japan. McCollum recognized the danger to the western powers if Japan was able to connect up with Germany and Italy through Asia and suggested eight actions designed to contain Japan generally and to keep her from making such connection with its other Axis partners. Unfortunately, the book seizes on an off hand comment that is not one of the main points of the memo as the springboard for its conspiracy theory. That comment was if the eight proposed actions designed to contain Japan should by chance cause Japan to commit an overt act of war, so much the better. No proof of any official implementation of this mid-level memo is provided. Furthermore, Stinnett improperly ascribes McCollum’s office as “an element of Station US (by which he means OP-20-G), a secret American cryptographic center located at the main naval headquarters” in an effort to tie McCollum closer to OP-20-G than he actually was before WWII. A non-cryptologic fallacy of the book is the fact that Roosevelt had no assurance that Germany would declare war on the U.S. if the Japanese did attack Pearl Harbor thus negating any reasonable conspiratorial design to get the U.S. into war with Germany by forcing Japan to attack the U.S.
It is well established that the SRN series of Japanese naval messages in the National Archives were decrypted in 1945-46 and translated in 1946-47, but Stinnett incorrectly suggests they may only have been transcribed at those times and that these decrypts (or at least some of them) were available not only in radio intelligence centers in Washington, but Stations Hypo (Rochefort) in Hawaii and Cast on Corregidor. Among other things, the book misinterprets an article by Captain Pelletier in the “Cryptolog.” Even though Pelletier is now dead, he also wrote in the NCVA History Book that all such JN-25B raw messages were two months old by the time he saw them in Washington and that no Kido Butai transmissions while enroute from the Kuriles to Hawaii were ever found before or after 7 December 1941. Further, the book fails to inform its readers that Rochefort and his Hypo personnel were only assigned to and only worked on the unproductive Flag Officer’s Code and not the main Japanese Fleet Code JN-25B as well as the fact that they were only given the go ahead to work on JN-25B a few days or so after the Pearl Harbor attack. As mentioned before, Stinnett also omits the well known information that JN-25B intercepts from Corregidor, Guam and Station H were only forwarded to Washington by mail and took up to two months to arrive mostly by ship and rail. Thus, even Washington’s alleged 10 percent capability on JN-25B decrypts had not even begun to be applied to the November and December 1941 intercepts enroute there while Stinnett maintains they were available to all commanders except of course Kimmel and Short due to FDR’s co-conspirators.
The book implies more improprieties by the fact that Hypo had no assigned Japanese diplomatic intercept or decrypt authority until RCA President Sarnoff made available RCA cables from Honolulu beginning in early December 1941. Part of Stinnett’s overall conspiracy theory includes the allegation that Hypo only decrypted the administrative messages of these low level Japanese diplomatic messages provided by RCA before Pearl Harbor and did not decrypt the “bomb plot” messages until after Pearl Harbor.
Although Stinnett obtained definite information from Captain Whitlock that no significant JN-25B decrypts were made by Station Cast on Corregidor during the period in question, he disputes this fact and misinterprets other documents and sources as proof that Whitlock is wrong. Some navy cryptologic veterans involved in this book have complained Stinnett gained their confidence by agreeing to tell their stories but ignored their version of events in favor of the monstrous conspiracy theory finalized in the book. Admiral Layton terminated his interview with the author, most likely when he learned where the book was going. It should be noted that it took OP-20-G some 14 months to read the much simpler JN-25A system that was used from 1 June 1939 to 1 December 1940. The book misleads its readers by not revealing there were two distinct codes, the earlier JN-25A and its much more complicated successor JN-25B used during the period in question and refers to them collectively as “Code Book D” or “5-Num code.” Thus, the final successes of JN-25A are improperly imputed to JN-25B which was not read to any significant extent until March 1942 when the first published decrypt is found. The ever-increasing requirements to provide Japanese diplomatic decrypts and translations during 1941 took most of the time of navy cryptographers so that few people at both Washington and Station Cast were assigned to work on the new version of the Fleet Code, JN-25B. In addition, JN-25B used about eight additive cipher books up through 4 December 1941 further delaying the effort to read any significant amount of this new and far more complicated code and cipher combination.
Stinnett and his sources are apparently not aware that Japanese naval shore broadcast stations transmitted simultaneously on a number of frequencies covering their communications area and it was up to the ships in their communications zone (or U.S. intercept operators) to choose the best frequency on which to copy such broadcast. Thus, the deduction that because an intercept operator copied one message in the 12 MHz. range part of one day and 16 MHz. on part of a different later day means the ship or force has moved further away from the shore station is patently incorrect. These Tokyo broadcast transmitters were active on several of their assigned frequencies simultaneously and the 16 MHz. frequency had long been used by the Tokyo broadcast as a daytime frequency.
Stinnett often claims carriers or fleet units must have transmitted on high frequencies when they are only seen in the headings of messages on fleet broadcasts. He does not tell his readers that many ships are tied up at docks and have landline or cable communications available to them so they do not have to use radio and the original transmissions of such messages will never be heard by foreign intercept operators. In this regard, he maintains that Admiral Yamamoto’s messages sent (while tied up at a Kure dock) to the Pearl Harbor attack force and other ships on the Tokyo broadcast violated radio silence when, in fact, the radio silence imposed then only meant that ships (or aircraft) are not permitted to transmit by high frequency radio, not that messages to these units cannot be sent by fleet broadcasts or that fleet units or commands that have land-line, cable or other approved facilities available to them cannot use them.
Apparently, Stinnett did come up with records to substantiate Hypo’s summaries about the carrier Agaki being active on the air on 26 and 30 November 1941. However, there is no documentation that any high frequency direction finder (HFDF) fixes were available to Hypo on such transmissions. The single line bearings reportedly obtained by Corregidor’s old DY-2 HFDF went by the island of Honshu as well as the Kurile Islands and the former location with acceptable HFDF variations was within Hypo’s previous general determination of carrier locations. According to the book, a possible cross bearing from Dutch Harbor was found in that station’s November monthly report that did not reach Station H until after 7 December and for some reason was not reproduced in the book. No documentary evidence was shown that such bearing was actually transmitted to Station H or subsequently forwarded to Rochefort at Hypo except a general statement as to routine forwarding by a Dutch Harbor operator.
Although the book claims more carrier and carrier commander transmissions were made after 26 and 30 November, this information is apparently due to a misinterpretation of the TESTM reports from Corregidor to Station H and a misunderstanding of traffic analysis procedures identifying call signs appearing in broadcast and point to point messages sent by shore communication stations. The single TESTM report provided in the book first lists the transmissions heard and their bearings and such bearings are mainly on unidentified call signs. Then, any fleet level call signs identifications made from the traffic analysis of message headings in shore station transmissions by Station Cast are given. In his enthusiasm to support its conspiracy theory, Stinnett apparently assumes that the latter call sign identifications by traffic analysis of shore station transmissions actually represent high frequency radio transmissions by such fleet units and commanders. Layton, Pelletier and Whitlock among others deny such transmissions were ever received. One wonders why Stinnett did not reproduce the other two TESTM reports upon which he relies to make his specific allegations to clarify his identification and deductive processes, especially since the one page reproduced does not support his allegations.
Gross misinterpretations of two decrypts and translations in the SRN series at the National Archives make up the other parts of the book’s centerpiece of its conspiracy theory. In an effort to give some credence to its allegation of a massive conspiracy, the book contradicts the plain meaning on the face of translations of these two decrypted messages, established Japanese naval communications practice, and standard decryption procedures. These messages were reported on long ago by Frederick D. Parker in “Cryptologia” Vol. 15 (4) p. 295. However, Parker fully reported that JN-25B was being decrypted at best on a 10 percent basis in Washington and those November and December 1941 raw messages discussed were enroute to Washington D.C. so that they were not available to be worked on until long after the Pearl Harbor attack. The glaring omission in the book of this vital “unavailability” information is instructive.
The first decrypt refers to naval spy Suzuki who was sent to the First Air Fleet on business to be picked up on 23 or 24 November at Hitokappu Wan (Bay). It is abundantly clear from the document that Hitokappu Wan is spelled out letter by letter in five numeral code groups of JN-25B because there was no two or three letter coded geographic designation available for this remote location (like AF for Midway Island.) Nevertheless, the book baldly claims, without any substantiation, that the words Hitokappu Wan were sent in plain language while the rest of the message was sent in code, an incredible absurdity. No other examples of plain language inserts within a high level Japanese naval coded message were ever claimed or reported. No one else has had the temerity to make such a ridiculous assertion when confronted with the JN-25B code designation on the face of the decrypt and no reference to a plain language insert in the decrypt.
The second gross misinterpretation contained in the book is that Yamamoto’s famous message of 2 December 1941 only referred to as “Climb Mount. Niitaka 1208” may have been sent in plain language. If so, it implies Rochefort knew of these two plain language “busts” by the Japanese and therefore is part of the conspiracy for not reporting them in his summaries. For this strong implication, one Japanese historian is cited saying the message was sent in the clear while Yamamoto’s biographer is identified as saying the message was encoded in a five numeral code (JN-25B). Captain Pelletier in the Naval Cryptologic Veterans Association History Book confirmed this message was sent in JN-25. To show the extreme lengths the book will go to conjure up his implication of conspiracy, it omits the fact in the narrative that this message labeled SRN 115376 by the National Archives had a cryptographer’s reference below the heading clearly showing that it was encoded in JN-25B. Furthermore, Stinnett does not clearly point out to his readers that “Climb Mount Niitaka” was prefaced by the words, “This dispatch is Top Secret. This order is effective at 1730 on 2 December #10.” Can you imagine the Japanese sending a Top Secret message in the clear and depending on a transparent underlying meaning for security? Except for battle tactical reports during the war, the Japanese seldom used plain language and even then preferred tactical codes. These are only a small part of the omissions, errors and misinterpretations contained in the book to try to make its revisionist conspiracy theory seem plausible to the uninitiated.
The book also resurrects the old allegations of Robert D. Ogg, a seaman in the 12th Naval District Intelligence office, and disregards Ogg’s recorded interview by then Commander Newman that he only plotted two very closely parallel bearings from California stations 100 miles apart. Stinnett now says Ogg had prewar information on Japanese warship transmissions in the Kuriles with HFDF bearings by Dutch Harbor in spite of Ogg’s original transcript to the contrary.
The old and thoroughly repudiated hearsay report of dead Dutch codebreakers’ prewar determinations that Japanese carriers were in the North Pacific enroute to Hawaii are regurgitated by the book. Only now it has the Dutch putting them in the Kuriles instead of the North Pacific. Stinnett also repeats Parker’s reporting of the tanker Shiriya moving eastward from the Bonin Islands in a 1 December 1941 message (SRN 115398) to Destroyer Division 7 with the Kido Butai that was intercepted on the Tokyo broadcast. Again, he does not tell his readers that this JN-25B message was only decrypted in 1945-46 and translated in 1946-47 and that the raw intercept was enroute to Washington DC in the U.S. postal system on 7 December 1941.
To further its revisionist conspiracy theory, the book argues that government censors are still withholding the publication of decryptions (and translations) of hundreds of vital Japanese naval messages whose secrecy is a part of this monstrous conspiracy. Stinnett points to missing Station Message Serial (SMS) numbers and missing versions of original transmissions by fleet units and commanders (supposedly on high frequency radio) that appear on shore station fleet broadcasts to naval ships and point to point circuits. However, the book does not mention that after the war navy analysts discovered that about 7,000 Japanese naval messages per month were forwarded to Washington from Corregidor, Guam and Hawaii from July to December 1941. During the expanded intercept coverage of WWII, an OP-20-G official estimated that the U.S. intercepted 60 percent of Japanese naval traffic. Therefore, far more than 10,000 messages were probably sent over the airways by the Japanese Navy per month in the months before Pearl Harbor and less than 60 percent were actually intercepted. Thus, the missing SMS numbers and original transmissions could be accounted for by missed intercepts and transmissions originated by land-line, cable, visual means or even hand carried to shore radio stations. In fact, there was a cable office at Hitokappu Wan available to fleet units to send messages to Tokyo without transmitting on high frequency radio.
Again, in 1945-46 analysts decrypted those intercepts from the Pacific that were available in Washington. A total of 26,581 messages in seven different crypto systems were intercepted between 5 September and 4 December 1941. Between 15 March 1946 to 20 August 1947, OP-20-G analysts and linguists from ONI undertook the study of these 26,581 post war decrypts and only 2,413 were considered important enough for full translations. Of these, only 188 were isolated as pertaining specifically to the events of 7 December 1941. This information contradicts Stinnett’s assertion that government censors are withholding disclosure of hundreds of vital decrypted and translated messages in furtherance of the alleged conspiracy by President Roosevelt and many top an middle level government officials. Those 2,413 messages that were translated in this period are available in the SRN series and no other decrypts or translations are available for this period of time.
To his credit, Stinnett does recognize that the Winds Execute message (a favorite revisionist conspiracy allegation) was never sent. He also recounts Secretary of War Stimson’s blatant attempt to reverse the Army Board of Inquiry’s determination that Marshall was in dereliction of his duty as to his Pearl Harbor actions. Stimson sent attorney Clausen around the world to obtain new affidavits countering the witnesses’ previous testimony of Marshall’s neglect to act on Purple decrypts. However, Stinnett omits the fact that Clausen also tried to place the blame for not fully informing Hawaiian commanders on navy cryptologic officers. The latter effort is also part of the aim of this book, but its shot is far wide of the mark.
To those of us who are familiar with Japanese naval codes and communications procedures at the time, available documentation in the Pearl Harbor arena as well as the pertinent personnel and history of OP-20-G, it is abundantly clear that the book fails to prove any part of its massive revisionist conspiracy theory. In fact, the expansion of prior revisionist conspiracy theories to include so many new allegations of wrong doing by Roosevelt and his mid and high level co-conspirators plus a continuing cover-up makes its enormous conspiracy theory a complete impossibility.
In conclusion, it is still clear that no U.S. official knew beforehand of the Japanese plans to attack Pearl Harbor or discovered that the Kido Butai was on its way to Hawaii for such an attack in spite of this latest in a series of revisionist conspiracy theory books.
AFTERWARD: A few of the more gross errors noted after researching the actual archives documents.
Further research confirms reports by numerous high ranking Japanese officials who participated in the Hawaiian Strike Force that programs of Japanese radio deception activities were carried out from major naval bases of Sasebo, Kure and Yokosuka to deceive the U.S. Navy’s radio intelligence organization that the carriers were still in home waters. The actual Station C Corregidor TESTM HFDF bearing reports from 14 November through 5 December 1941 show the Akagi’s bearings remaining between 026 and 030 degrees even though the Kido Butai first transited from the Inland Sea to Hitokappu Bay in the Kuriles and thence across the North Pacific Ocean to Hawaii. If the Corregidor bearings on the radio deception transmissions using the Akagi’s call sign for 27 November, 1 and 4 December were valid, they would have been 041, 048 and 051 degrees instead of remaining between 026 to 030 degrees. The transmissions using the Akagi’s call sign on 26 and 30 November intercepted by Station H, Heeia, Oahu, Hawaii [but without HFDF bearings] were obviously part of the same Japanese radio deception program emanating from Sasebo (027 degrees from Corregidor) and Kure (030 degrees from Corregidor).
Official OP-20-GYP-1 reports verify that zero decrypts of JN-25B were made prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. All the early JN-25B decrypts are listed in numerical order with Station Hypo, Pearl Harbor making the first decrypt in January 1942. See Stephen Budiansky’s article, “Too Late For Pearl Harbor” in the December 1999 issue of “U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings. In addition, Commander Rudolph Fabian, the Officer-in-Charge of Station C Corregidor testified before a Congressional committee about breaking JN-25B before the war. “We were in the initial stages, sir. We had established liaison with the British unit at Singapore. We were exchanging values both code and cipher, but we had not developed either to the point where we could read enemy intercepts.” Stinnett dismisses Captain Whitlock’s confirmation of this no decrypt testimony. The fact that Station C located the Akagi off Corregidor on 8 December 1941 based on more radio deception activity is further evidence that they had not broken JN-25B and relied only on traffic analysis and direction finder bearings for their reports.
Stinnett blatantly misconstrued Station H’s Comint Summary of 25 November 1941 that reported that ViceAdmiral Inoue, CinC Fourth Fleet in the mandated islands, was observed in “extensive communications” with many entities like Commander Submarines, Commander Carriers, Juluit and other mandate island bases as evidence that Nagumo violated radio silence and that U.S. Navy stations obtained bearings and fixes on such phantom radio transmissions. However, it was Inoue who was “observed” in the extensive communications not Nagumo. In the parlance of the times, the word “observed“ meant these communications noted were only in the form of addressees of messages seen mostly on the Tokyo Fleet broadcast and not original radio transmissions as Stinnett alleges. Had Rochefort intended to describe extensive communications of Nagumo such an entry would have been under the heading of Combined Fleet and he would have specified “heard transmitting” instead of “observed.” Thus, Stinnett completely turns the summary upside down to support his predetermined conspiracy agenda. Stinnett also erroneous states that this Comint Summary of 25 November covers the Japanese naval activity of 26 November 1941 when Nagumo departed Hitokappu Bay due to the time difference of the International Date Line. However, all U.S. Naval radio intelligence logs, messages, supervisor’s reports and Comint Summaries covering Japanese naval activities used the Tokyo time of their target to avoid confusion. Thus, this summary reported Japanese naval activity for 25 November when Nagumo was at Hitokappu Bay not 26 November 1941 as Stinnett claims.
Stinnett also claims some 129 violations of radio silence during a 21 day period which he implies is from mid-November on. The figure of 60 actual radio transmissions by Admiral Nagumo being intercepted is ridiculous. Most of these were only seen on the Tokyo broadcast and were not original radio transmissions. None of these alleged transmissions by Nagumo were during his transit from Hitokappu Bay to Hawaii. The same for the 40 messages allegedly sent by radio by Kido Butai carrier commanders and units. Stinnett even makes the absurd claim that 25 messages sent on the Tokyo fleet broadcast by Yamamoto and other commands and ships were violations of radio silence. The reason for using the shore broadcast method of transmission is to maintain radio silence by not requiring ships and commands to use their transmitters to receipt for messages.
Philip H. Jacobsen
Lieutenant Commander, USN (ret.)
| Post Number: 2
Joined: Dec. 2002
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||Posted on: Dec. 18 2002,5:33
My "analysis" of "Day of Deceit" above concentrated on the cryptologic aspects of this revisionist conspiracy theory book. To get a more comprehensive review of "Day of Deceit", the non-cryptologic issues should also be addressed. For this purpose, I cannot find a better review than Professor Larry Schweikert's incisive analysis with an emphasis Stinnett's poor scholarship and terrible historical methodology. Your comments are solicited.
Philip H. Jacobsen
Robert B. Stinnett, Day of Deceit: The Truth About FDR and Pearl Harbor. New York. Free Press, 2000. 388 pp, xiv. ISBN 0-684-85339-6. $26.00 hardcover.
Reviewed by Larry Schweikart, University of Dayton
This is a difficult review to write for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that I detest what Franklin D. Roosevelt did to the United States by introducing the welfare state mentality. Only in the 1990s---60 years after the New Deal---did the nation start to undo some of the damage inflicted on the economic and social institutions by FDR’s ultra-liberal policies. Nevertheless, while FDR is guilty of many sins, “setting up” the 7th U.S. Fleet at Pearl Harbor in 1941 to as to slip the United States into war through the “back door” is not one of them.
Robert Stinnett could have had an important book, a respected book, and an influential book. To do that, he would have had to stuck to the facts as he had them, and possibly even re-title the book something like, How Intelligence Operations Might Have Averted Disaster at Pearl. Nevertheless, Stinnett, who is not a trained historian, did an admirable job of collecting and analyzing---to a point---new data, and organizing it to tell a story. Unfortunately, it appears he had the story he wanted to tell mapped out in advance, and whittled, pushed, and squeezed every piece of information into its pre-determined hole so as to complete his mosaic.
The story? Obviously, from the title, that Franklin Roosevelt, acting on the memo of a Navy captain, diabolically plotted an intricate plan to maneuver the Empire of Japan into war in 1941. The Japanese dutifully obliged, coincidentally responding to every Roosevelt initiative like puppets on a string. Further, Stinnett argues, Roosevelt, having goaded Japan to fire the first shot, sat on critical intelligence that normally would have gone to the commanders in Hawaii, Gen. Walter Short and Adm. Husband E. Kimmel, thereby deliberately and devilishly hanging U.S. soldiers and sailors out as fodder to pump up the emotional turbines of the American electorate for a war the people really did not want.
If this sounds familiar, it should. It was the basis for the Millis/Tansill “Back Door to War” theories several decades ago, which were revived by “pop” historian John Toland in the 1980s with his book Infamy. After an initial burst of publicity, Infamy was subsequently torpedoed (pardon the pun) by the work of the late Gordon Prange and his students, Donald Goldstein and Katherine Dillon. Toland’s chief witness for the prosecution, it seems, “Seaman Z,” was tracked down by Goldstein and Dillon and repudiated most of what Toland ascribed to him.
But just as the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) has provided a literal gold mine for John Kennedy assassination researchers, so too has it opened the door for further Pearl Harbor revisionism. It is to the author of FOIA, appropriately, that Stinnett dedicates his book.
There is no question that Stinnett has unearthed a boxcar load of documents previously unseen by most Americans. His familiarity with the markings of radio transmissions and his analysis of who could have known what is impressive and may have been valuable in another context. Lacking a historian’s perspective, however, Stinnett fails to perform one of the most basic elements of historical research, namely to follow the footnotes. It leads him to a disastrous trap, which I will develop in detail.
Stinnett’s lack of historical training also produces a tunnel vision that sees one potential path of actions (among many thousands) as the only possible route that could have unfolded. The result is that at every critical point where Stinnett prepares the reader for a “gotcha” of FDR, he aborts his mission, employing a host of “mush” terms that reveal that in fact has does not have the incriminating evidence that his title purports to contain. I have counted at least 23 such term uses, but I am sure there are many more that I missed. Among them:
*(introduction, xiv) “The commanders in Hawaii . . . were deprived of intelligence that might have made them more alert to risks entailed in Roosevelt’s policy . . . .” Would it made them more “alert” or not? How so?
*(5) Journalist Edward Murrow, commenting on what “he and Murrow were told by FDR” “hinted” at a “tantalizing” conclusion: “The President’s surprise [at the attack] was not as great as that of other men around him. Nor was the attack unwelcome.” Then Stinnett admits, “Any conclusion about the Murrow meeting must remain speculative.” Oh? So why report it?
*(9) “The paper trail of the McCollum memo ends with the Knox endorsement. Although the proposal was addressed to Anderson, no specific record has been found by the author indicating whether he or Roosevelt actually saw it.” Yet Stinnett builds much of his early case on the McCollum memo, which we will have more to say about later. Why bother, when there is no proof FDR “actually saw it?”
*(9) “Throughout 1941, it seems, providing Japan into an overt act of war was the principal policy that guided FDR’s actions toward Japan.” Was this the policy, or not? Can you prove it?
*(9) “Roosevelt’s ‘fingerprints’ can be found on each of McCollum’s proposals.” Yet Stinnett has no proof FDR “actually saw it.” So Roosevelt must have handled it without seeing it.
*(10) “Action D [of the McCollum memo] was very risky and could have resulted in a loss of American lives approaching that of Pearl Harbor. In the end, however, no shots were fired . . . .” So there are alternatives to a single-path of history after all!
*(12) “There is no evidence that Admiral Kimmel knew of the action plans advanced by McCollum, because Admiral Richardson never told him of them.” This raises an incredible possibility that Stinnett appears not to have considered: if Kimmel had known of the “action plans” (if, indeed, such things did exist, and which FDR saw---which Stinnett says he cannot prove), would Kimmel have enthusiastically gone along with them? In retrospect, Kimmel supporters portray him as “set up.” In reality, did he feel “left out?”
*(14) “A link to some of McCollum’s provocations surfaced earlier in 1940 but did not produce a written directive.” Or, in plainspeak, either no one saw McCollum’s memo, or the people who did see it did not act on it.
*(17) Referring to FDR’s statement to members of his staff that “If somebody attacks us, then it isn’t a foreign war, is it?” Stinnett writes, “McCollum’s eight-action memo would soon make the President’s words a reality.” This is where the revisionists fail to realize what they are really saying: The “eight-action memo did not make the President’s words a reality,” the Japanese Imperial Fleet did! The most astounding side-effect of the revisionists’ arguments is to completely excuse the Japanese for any role in Pearl Harbor. (Toland ends his book by blaming FDR for the presence of nuclear weapons and for the Cold War that resulted from, as he saw it, the use of the atomic bombs on Japan . . . by Truman.)
*(35) Director Walter S. Anderson, the head of the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) “obviously believed in the McCollum strategy and went to Hawaii knowing of the risks inherent in increasing American pressure on a militant Japan.” First, Stinnett does not know what Anderson “believed,” and second, his comments virtually apologize for “increasing pressure” on “poow wittle Japan,” whom he admits was “militant.” But the kicker comes in the next sentence. Again, on p. 35, Stinnett writes, “Yet in an oral-history interview conducted by Columbia University in March 1962, he [Anderson] claimed to know nothing of the Richardson-Roosevelt discussion concerning keeping the fleet in Hawaiian waters.” It appears as an interpreter of thoughts, Stinnett knows what Anderson “obviously believed,” despite what the man himself “claimed.”
*(37) “Had he been briefed, Kimmel could have requested that Purple decryptions be sent to him from either Washington or Corregidor.” Or, he could not have. The man who did not put up long range reconnaissance, who did not coordinate well with General Short, who did not have the fleet on full alert despite numerous and abundantly clear warnings, who did not have torpedo nets up---that admiral would “have requested” decryptions if only he had been briefed.
*(44) Dutch naval attache Johan Ranneft, monitoring Japanese fleet movements for the Dutch, reported in a diary that he had plotted carrier groups, but had one unnamed port location. “Ranneft’s unnamed port could only be Hitokappu Bay . . . .” Stinnett goes on to say “There was no way Ranneft could mistake the southern Japanese carrier movement for an eastern foray.”
*(48) “Dropping ‘Hitokappu Bay’ from the typewritten summary may have been done deliberately to conceal American success in decoding Japanese naval communications.” Or, it may not have been done deliberately. I will say more on this key message later.
*(96) “It is quite possible that Director [J. Edgar] Hoover learned he was excluded from the Tsu intercepts and, in a state of pique, planted the espionage questions directed at FDR with favored White House reporters.” It is also possible, if one believes Anthony Summers, that Hoover was involved in trying on new dresses. Either is as equally likely . . . or unlikely.
*(96) “The prickly FBI director was offended when he was refused access to secret naval communications documents. FBI censorship still veils the full details, but apparently Navy codebreakers refused to share Japanese intercepts, including the Tsu reports, with Hoover.” We don’t know, do we, because “FBI censorship still veils the full details” . . . or not.
*(97) “Though there is no proof that he saw the Tsu reports, [Hoover] continued to forward evidence of the Japanese espionage at Honolulu to “Berle.” There is “no proof” that Hoover saw the Tsu reports, and there is no proof that FDR saw the McCollum memo. What else can the author share that he has no proof of? I have no proof that UFOs exist, or that unicorns live in Dayton, Ohio. Is that grounds for a book---“The Unicorn Deception?”
*(134) “How much was disclosed to Admiral Kimmel and the White House [by the codebreakers] is obscured by continued US censorship.” This tack gets old. The author is plenty eager to pat himself on the back for using FOIA to obtain some documents, but retreats to the “censorship” canard when the documents he does get don’t make his case.
*(136) “Admiral Kimmel’s war plans staff should have been alarmed by the arrival of a Japanese invasion force south of Wake Island.” Certainly, the staffers would have been less alarmed than the Wake Islanders. But I could just as easily argue that the staff “should have been relieved” that the fleet wasn’t south of Oahu.
*(136) Commander Vincent R. Murphy was “the man who was responsible for evaluating Japanese intentions” as the assistant war plans officer for Kimmel. “Murphy attended major meetings with America’s top naval brass [who? how ‘top’?] while in Washington in late 1940, which suggests that he learned of FDR’s policy of ‘let Japan commit the first act of war.’” While working with the U.S. Air Force, I hung out with some of the “top brass” (generals, colonels, and Senior Executive Service-types) related to aerospace transport programs. How much do you think I learned from them about strategic bomber programs? Or about policies related to “no-fly” zones in Iraq?
*(136) Stinnett follows these two “shoulda/wouldas” with a third on the same page: “It is unreasonable to believe [Adm.] Richardson [Kimmel’s superior] did not convey Roosevelt’s policy to his top aide---Murphy.” Now Stinnett has two degrees of separation from reality: he has no proof that Murphy knew and he has not proof that Richardson told him, and he cites both as evidence to the contrary!
*(145) “Neither Kimmel nor his family ever mentioned the mysterious sortie and the sudden recall from the North Pacific waters.” But Stinnett thinks this sortie important enough to dwell on at length.
*(168) After stating that “the Kimmel-Bloch-Rochefort alert of November 25 is the only intelligence report generated by Station HYPO that can be linked to President Roosevelt,” on the following page he backtracks, saying “Tracing the Navy’s copy of the HYPO message to the White House during this time frame is difficult.” He then spends the remainder of the paragraph explaining that he cannot prove that this alert “can be linked to President Roosevelt.”
*(207) Edwin Layton, responding to a comment by Kimmel, “may not have been completely frank. . . . He then expanded the falsification.” So is it a lack of frankness, or an outright falsification? The answer comes soon enough when we learn that Joseph Rochefort is in on the plot: “Rochefort . . . backed up Layton . . . .”
There are other similar “mush phrases” I could cite, but the reader, no doubt, gets the point. Other, arguably more serious, problems abound. Stinnett has more than a few substantial contradictions in his Stinnett thesis. He admits that “American agencies from whom the oil is bought [by Japan] go ahead and make suitable arrangements with government authorities in Washington,” (19), and calls the oil-licensing system a “sham.” The embargo, he points out, did not work between July 1940 and April 1941, but, of course, “McCollum’s proposals had not yet been adopted.” (19) So that explains it! The proposals by a mid-level navy officer, that Stinnett has no proof were ever seen by FDR, had “not yet been adopted.” Yet a few pages later, Stinnett tells us that “Japan’s initial planning for the attack began in the fall of 1940, about a month after McCollum’s action recommendations were sent to the White House.” (30) So the oil embargo had nothing to do with Japan’s decision to prepare the Pearl Harbor attack, and the McCollum memo had nothing to do with it, since it had only been a month and nothing in the McCollum memo---[which Stinnett cannot prove FDR even saw----possibly could have been approved, let alone acted on, by the President!
This alone is a fatal blow to Stinnett’s argument (but, believe it or not, hardly the worst error). The onus for war was clearly on Japan. Planning already started no matter what FDR did, or whose advice he took. But this is, in essence, working backward. Stinnett’s thesis falls apart right from the start, when he rolls the dice, as it were, on a memo by Lt. Commander Arthur H. McCollum, the head of the Far East desk of ONI.
McCollum’s five-page memo of October 1940 (which Stinnett calls the “eight-action memo”) was a blueprint for starting a war with Japan, and, more important, inciting Japan to “fire the first shot.” Stinnett places incredible stock in the notion that a mid-level commander in an intelligence agency---and only one of several---somehow had the ear of the President of the United States. Intel groups generate these memos by the hundreds and few, if any, ever directly end up in the hands of the President. Indeed, in the 20th century, one would be hard pressed to name any large-scale public initiative---let alone manipulating a foreign power into a war---that was the work of a mid-level military officer. Possibly the closest anyone could come would be the Iran-Contra Affair, which is a pretty far cry from provoking an enemy into bombing American soil. It has already been established that Stinnett cannot prove Roosevelt, or Kimmel, or even Murphy, ever saw the memo, and we know that although Anderson denied hearing anything about the “eight-action” plan in a January 1941 meeting between Richardson and Roosevelt, which, to Stinnett, is proof that he in fact did know about it! (35)
One of the most egregious errors, though, is that Stinnett fails to mention that it was prohibited by the Navy’s regulations for an officer to sent any memo forward without sending it first to his superiors, including copies to his superiors, including Adm. Kimmel. One of the central lynchpins of Stinnett’s argument---that FDR was engaged in manipulation behind Kimmel’s back---thus collapses.
Where Stinnett could have made a valuable contribution---in the unearthing of various intercepts of radio broadcasts on November 25, and, at the latest, on November 26, while the Japanese fleet was still in Japan---he fritters away through a failure to appreciate the big picture within which not only the intelligence groups, but all the Pacific armed forces, were operating. The crux of the issue was this: while many of the intercepts show movement, and although the Japanese carriers were known to be at sea, Stinnett’s own evidence time and again suggests that they were thought to be heading south. When viewed in the understanding of Japanese naval capabilities of the day, it is easy to see why no one took seriously an attack on Pearl Harbor at that time: Japan did the impossible, conducting three major simultaneous amphibious or attack operations in Singapore, the Philippines, and Pearl Harbor. Most military authorities would admit that the United States, today, with all its vast capabilities could not pull off such a feat. When combined with the chronic underestimation of Japanese prowess, there is little doubt that any messages of ships at sea were taken as feints and decoys for the “main attack” at Singapore.
Rochefort’s dispatch of November 26 makes this clear: while the Japanese fleet was on the move, intelligence “INDICAT[s] STRONG FORCE COMPONENT MAY BE PREPARING TO OPERATE IN SOUTH EASTERN ASIA WHILE PARTS MAY OPERATE FROM . . . MARSHALLS” (166). This is anything but confirmation that the fleet was headed to Pearl! Captain Duane Whitlock, as Stinnett confirms, denies that any message spelling out Hitokappu Bay was ever sent. But even if it was, this was only the staging area, and as such did not lock the Japanese into moving in any predetermined direction.
It gets worse for Stinnett’s argument. On pp. 45-47, Stinnett supposedly uncovers four radio dispatches---two by Nagano and two by Yamamoto---that were “intercepted” and decoded, and thus warned FDR (but not Kimmel) that the Japanese fleet was on the move. Virtually all of Stinnett’s thesis hangs on these four intercepts indicating that the Japanese did not keep radio silence. It is the lynchpin of his “new” information, and the core of his book. No originals exist, but rather, Stinnett’s source for this “new” information is “two US naval histories: Pearl Harbor by Vice Admiral Homer N. Wallin and The Campaigns of the Pacific War prepared by the . . . Strategic Bombing Survey.” Wallin’s source was the 1979 Pearl Harbor hearings, which referenced the Navy’s History Section. Both of these came from a November 29, 1945 document produced by the History Section, based on October 1945 interviews with principal Japanese actors!
Let’s reconstruct this: Stinnett cites Wallin, who cites the Hearings, which cite the History Section’s “reconstructions” with Japanese four years after the incident. Even then, the Strategic Bombing survey, cited in the classic book by Gordon Prange, et. al., At Dawn We Slept, quotes the Strategic Bombing survey as saying that none of the four were transmitted by radio and that all four messages were hand-delivered. This is confirmed by virtually all of the Japanese participants, including Genda, in repeated interviews. Stinnett’s key evidence then---which is hardly new, and has been in the open for years---is that there is no “new” evidence, and that the Hitokappu Bay message was hand delivered. Had Stinnett traced the citations back, to use his waffle terms, it’s hard to believe that he would have relied on this as evidence of anything.
What about the decrpytions of 120+ other “radio transmissions” that Stinnett claims to have found from various fuel tankers and other ships? These messages may well have been intercepted, but most were not translated until after the war (and certainly not in December 1941). Keeping in mind that the intelligence sources were looking for a task force heading toward Singapore, any information not fitting into that template was delayed in translation, then analysis. Here, I again will defer to Stinnett’s waffle language, and say, it is not clear if any of the radio decryptions were actually translated, and if they were, if they were then sent to Washington or to Kimmel. Of course, Stinnett cannot prove that they were---only that they were intercepted. Historians of Pearl Harbor are well familiar with the evidence that surfaced in the mid-1980s about the information Duskow Popov gave the FBI on a microdot, which the FBI then for the most part ignored. This is the same scenario.
Moreover, the notion that Kimmel, if only properly warned, would have taken action is, to use Stinnett’s phraseology, difficult to believe. Rochefort told Kimmel on October 22 that Japan was in the midst of a large-scale “screening maneuver,” and while Hitokappu Bay references were deleted from the messages passed to Kimmel to conceal American decoding successes, Stinnett again takes this as denying the Admiral critical information. But Stinnett misses the key phrases---it wasn’t the starting point that was important, it was the “screening” mission that convinced Kimmel and everyone else that this fleet was not a threat to Pearl. Stinnett misses the significance of the December 2 decrypt. While making the case we had in fact cracked the code, he ignores the fleet moves “thus implying a move from Japan proper to the south.” On my Rand-McNally, Hawaii is due east of Japan. Singapore is south.
There is other evidence that even had Kimmel had more information, he wouldn’t have known what to do with it. RCA messages were delivered to Kimmel by David Sarnoff: “Though made personally aware of the RCA messages by Sarnoff’s visit, neither Kimmel nor Short ever took an interest in them” (108). Stinnett notes that Gen. Short waited two days for a photo plane to have machine guns installed before sending it out on patrol. But what about all the PBYs and other long-range aircraft that could have made visual reconnaissance? Characterizing Kimmel and Short as “watch[ing] helplessly” while the [Japanese] ships steamed into position,” neither dispatched any subs, long-range ground-based air, or even a destroyer or two to patrol the region they (according to Stinnett) were so concerned about.
This takes us to the last significant point, namely the recall of the U.S. carriers that Kimmel had sent to the “intended Japanese launch site” (145) Washington “issued directives that caused Kimmel to quickly order the Pacific Fleet out of the North Pacific and back to its anchorages in Pearl Harbor.” (145) Although Stinnett includes a monstrous endnote section, little is said about exactly what was in these “directives.” But let’s use his tactic and imagine we know. Likely it was something along the lines of: “Get those carriers, which have no battleship or submarine support, and which are our only naval air assets in the Pacific, back where they can be protected from submarine attacks.” On page 148, Stinnett explains that the U.S. was outnumbered four to one in carriers alone. If viewed in this light, Stinnett’s amazement that “neither Admiral Kimmel nor his family ever mentioned the mysterious sortie and the sudden recall . . . .” I should hope not! It indicates that Kimmel realized he may have exposed the carrier fleet to an ambush at sea.
On November 28, Adm. Betty Stark told Kimmel in no uncertain terms to take all due precautions: “THIS POLICY SHOULD NOT REPEAT NOT BE CONSTRUED AS RESTRICTING YOU TO A COURSE OF ACTION THAT MIGHT JEOPARDIZE YOUR DEFENSE . . . YOU ARE INSTRUCTED TO UNDERTAKE SUCH RECONNAISSANCE AND OTHER MEASURES YOU DEEM NECESSARY . . . .” (172) Stark’s only caveat was not to “alarm” the civilian population. Based on these instructions, Stinnett concluded Kimmel was “handcuffed.” (173).
Other contradictions and flat-out errors abound. A central point in the Stinnett thesis is that Adm. Anderson was promoted shortly before December 1941 to act as FDR’s “enforcement” mechanism. But Anderson’s own oral history, and national biographical sources confirm, that he was promoted in July 1936, and he attributed his position as a demotion based on a falling out with Frank Knox. If Anderson was friendly with FDR, it doesn’t come through in his oral history.
There are still more inconsistencies and errors. On page 146, Stinnett calls it a “bizarre series of coincidences” that Yamamoto and Kimmel both selected the identical launch area as the most desirable from which to attack Pearl Harbor, then on 147 he tells us that “naval war planning had always contemplated a Japanese carrier raid aimed at Hawaii from the North Pacific.” After 100+ pages explaining how Kimmel was denied information, Stinnett reproduces a message from Admiral Royal Ingersoll indicating an attack was possible “in any direction” INCLUDING ATTACK ON PHILIPPINES OR GUAM. . . .” Again, Rochefort’s November 26 intercept warned of a Japanese fleet “PREPARING TO OPERATE IN SOUTH EASTERN ASIA.” To repeat: in the context of what intelligence sources knew about Japanese capabilities, any attack on the Philippines or South Eastern Asia would exclude a strike anywhere else. He describes the vessels at Pearl as “27-year-old relics of World War I,” yet every one of the ships sunk (except the Arizona) returned to action in World War II.
Stinnett’s single most important contribution is the revelation that the Japanese transmitted in the open late on November 25 or early on November 26. If this is “breaking radio silence,” it is pretty flimsy stuff. The overarching issue remains clear, though. Data must be analyzed in a variety of contexts. Intelligence efforts at codebreaking were superb prior to Pearl Harbor, but the context in which they were placed was obsolete---a Japanese Empire capable of only one large-scale operation. Perhaps if other areas of intelligence about Japan’s capabilities, and intentions, were better, a surprise attack would have been averted.
But the key fact remains: Japan intended to attack Pearl Harbor, surprise or not, and as John Toland showed, fully expected to find the ships under way, all guns blazing. Japanese documents reveal that planners there anticipated losing 30% of the entire Pearl Harbor task force! This makes clear that nothing Kimmel, or FDR, could have done would have forestalled the December 7 strike. Even if Kimmel and Short had been better prepared and fully informed, it only would have changed the finally tally, not the outcome.