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Topic: Submarine contacts prior to attack, Most were false alarms< Next Oldest | Next Newest >
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Ken Hackler Search for posts by this member.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 31 2003,12:49  Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Here are the submarine contacts I can find records of for the year before the attack on Pearl Harbor. There may be others I have not yet found, so I'd appreciate input if anyone knows of others. Notice the dates - IJN submarines were not operating in Hawaiian waters before December 4 or 5, so most of these contact reports (in hindsight) are mistaken.

Based on these contacts, it seems difficult to accept the statements by CINCPAC officers about the large number of false sightings and contacts in the year leading up to the attack.  There really are very few - only two before November 1941.  

The contacts did increase slightly in November, which in reality would not have caused undue alarm in Pearl. One was a simple oil slick that may have been a surface ship pumping bilges. The other was a radar blip that may have been a ghost. Neither was substantiated, and both could easily have been accepted as false.

Things pick up in early December, with a sonar contact by Gamble.  They seem to have taken this one seriously enough to warn the fleet by radio.  The PBY sighting is also one that seems to have caught Layton's attention, and is mentioned by Zacharias (CO of the Salt Lake City at the time, if I remember correctly).

It appears that they had no "great number" of false contact reports that would have been an excuse for the hesitancy in accepting contact reports. In early December 1941, the week before the attack, they received several reports that they apparently did not write off as false.  

Taken in context, these reports should have set off some serious alarms in CINCPAC. Here is what Kimmel was being told that week -

(1) Diplomatic negotiations were failing,
(2) Large Japanese amphibious fleets were moving in Asia,
(3) The IJN changing radio call signs twice in two months,
(4) Intelligence Officers saying that IJN submarines were moving from home waters to the Marshalls (much closer to Hawaii) for the past month or so.
(5) The Japanese Embassies and Consulates were destroying codes and burning papers.

I wish ADM Kimmel were alive today so I could ask him why he did not even assign another destroyer to inshore patrol, or maybe order an extra plane or two to patrol around Oahu. Given what he did know that week, it would seem prudent for him to have been suspicious of submarine activity in the area. He may have taken it as just a single submarine on an intelligence collection mission, but it would still seem to be part of a greater trend in alarming news that week. ADM Bloch deserves to come under scrutiny for this as well, since he was the 14ND Commandant and charged with the defense of Hawaii.

By the way, this is one of the few things I have found that would cause me to criticize Kimmel.

Here are the submarine contacts I've found --

CONTACT 1
February 3-4, 1941
Sound contact by USS Dale at 20.9.3 / 157.50. This is about 8 miles south of Oahu.  USS Aylwin, Hull, Lamson, and Mahan assisted with the prosecution of the contact. USS Detroit patrol plane pilots reported porpoises and blackfish swimming near Dale not long before the "contact". CINCPAC Staff Officers checked into the problems of thermal layers in Hawaiian waters following this episode (See the Hart Inquiry). ADM Kimmel discounted this contact report.
(Listed in the Attack Hearings)

CONTACT 2
March ?, 1941
Similar incident to above, in roughly the same location.
(Listed in the Attack Hearings)

CONTACT 3
November 3, 1941
A PBY reported an oil slick at 20.10 / 157.41. USS Dale and Worden investigated, but found nothing. This to me is misleading, since it could easily have been nothing more than a tramp steamer pumping bilges. I am not sure that I would have suspected a submarine based on an oil slick given the surface ship traffic in the region.
(Listed in Kimmel's book and Attack Hearings)

CONTACT 4
November 28, 1941
USS Helena reported a radar contact near Oahu. Three destroyers investigated but found nothing.
(Listed in Kimmel's book and Attack Hearings)

CONTACT 5
December 2, 1941
USS Gamble reported a sonar contact at 20.30 / 158.23. They reported a positive metallic contact. This report was considered "questionable" by CINCPAC, but they apparently notified ships in the area by radio (see the newspaper account of the Arizona sighting report which says they had received word of a submarine in the area).
(Listed in Kimmel's book and Attack Hearings)

CONTACT 6
Thursday, December 4, 1941
USS Arizona report of a submarine sighting that I cannot verify so far. I believe this one is a simple false contact. See link internal below.
(Newspaper and personal accounts)

Internal Link To Arizona - Vestal Section

CONTACT 7
Thursday, December 4, 1941
PBY pilot LT James O. Cobb (Ordnance Officer of Kaneohe squadron VP-11) reported a submarine sighting that I have no documentation on. Samuel E. Morison says the PBY sighting happened on December 6 (Two Ocean War, page 49 footnote), but the book "Black Cats and Dumbos" says December 4. Since Morison is known to have many errors in his books, I think the December 4 makes more sense given the following:  Layton mentions one on December 4 in his book, and the PHAH JCC Exhibit 141 (CAPT Ellis Zacharias) also mentions one report on December 4. Also, remember that the PBY's only flew Monday thru Thursday for the most part.  Friday - Sunday was a very limited flying schedule.

CONTACT 8
Friday, December 5, 1941
Sound contact by two destroyers mentioned in Layton's book and CAPT Ellis Zacharias (notes provided to the JCC as Exhibit 141.) Neither are specific in detail.  Layton also mentions USS Selfridge and a contact on this date, which may be this one. Gordon Prange (At Dawn We Slept) says USS Selfridge and USS Ralph Talbot were the two destroyers involved. I have interviewed crewmen from both ships, and they remember the incident well.

Edited by Ken Hackler on --

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PostIcon Posted on: Apr. 28 2003,7:53 Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

It is interesting that I posted the above comments on submarine sightings three months ago and not one person has responded.

I would have thought supporters of ADM Kimmel would have taken up this point of criticism, and his detractors would have jumped on this since it was one of the issues he raised in his defense.

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PostIcon Posted on: Apr. 29 2003,1:13 Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Do you know how many of either camp regularly cruise these boards? Just out of curiosity...

Myself, I don't belong in either camp. I read this and filed it away as knowledge to keep in mind, but I'm still too green on the whole "What Kimmel & Short knew" issue to feel like I should have any sort of opinion.

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Let's see what this does...

Tracy White
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Ken Hackler Search for posts by this member.
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PostIcon Posted on: May 02 2003,12:59 Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Tracy,

To be honest I doubt that very many people these days really are in one camp or another, since a huge portion of the population can't even tell you what took place at Pearl Harbor much less who was involved. I think back in the 1940's and into the 1950's it was a hot topic, but now only a handful of people really pay much attention to it.

My feeling is that ADM Kimmel was wrongly accused of many things in the interest of wartime expediency and Washington politics. Later, when the war ended, the standard practice of tap dancing to cover one's own rear caused what I think was the continuation of wrong blame for ADM Kimmel and GEN Short.

For my part, I do believe he must share his part of the responsibility for what took place. I also think his share is much smaller than some would have us believe.  This is one example of something I feel he should properly be blamed for.  

It is one of few things I would blame him for though.

There is ample evidence that the senior officers on his staff, and ADM Kimmel himself, used the "many false submarine contact" excuse to divert blame from themselves, when it is one of the few things they had absolute control over.  Looking at the actual submarine contacts in the year prior to the attack, one does not find any evidence of "many" that they referred to.  

Again, I neither side with Kimmels' detractors nor do I blindly support him as some do.  I think he was in the wrong place at the wrong time and is mostly a victim of circumstances.  He was an intelligent, dedicated and conscientious naval officer who served his country for many decades, and I believe he got a raw deal.

Edited by Ken Hackler on --

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PostIcon Posted on: May 06 2003,11:05 Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Very well said Ken.  I hold pretty much the same viewpoint.I thought, for the most part,  the Gannon book presented a sound view of what happenned. I also believe that your past posts about Kimmel's predictability in fleet movements being a major factor in the attack was right on the mark.

Herb Wasserman
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PostIcon Posted on: May 09 2003,10:26 Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Herb,

The fleet operating and training schedules were published long before the attack, and I would think that they were fairly well known.  Even if they were not well known, one could easily watch the ships enter and leave port to determine their schedules.

At the time (remember, we must keep things in proper context), everyone was focused on the far east for Japanese movement. That was the logical place to watch, and that is where they had indications of aggression.

The rising tensions over the summer and fall of 1941 should have caused an alarm bell to go off at PACFLT though. When things are tense in an area, one needs to review current practices to see what changes might be required. Kimmel did that (through his staff) but only to the point of altering possible fleet and task force assignments for war. They apparently never seriously thought of Hawaii as a potential target other than the submarine threat.

I guess I'd say he suffered from over focus on one area and lost the big picture, a luxury that no area commander can afford.

Again, I want to stress that I do not support nor condemn him for his actions.  Some of his actions were wrong and some were not.  Mostly I think he was a victim of history.

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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 23 2005,9:02 Skip to the previous post in this topic.  Ignore posts   QUOTE

I'm one of Adm. Kimmel's detractors. I think the Navy was correct in relieving him of his command. I don't go as far as blaiming him for the attack, but there is little doubt that he could have done more with the information and resources he had availble.

Nor can I hold that Adm Kimmel's fate was unique. General Lloyd Fredendall was relived of his command after the battle of the Kasserine Pass in North Africa. General Fredendall's replacement, General Patton was relived of his command after slapping two privates. Both of these men recived later commands. Patton went on to lead the third army after D-Day. Fredenall was the commander of the second army which was the stateside training command. Kimmel and Short attempted to blackmail the military into giving them new commands by submitting letters of retirement after they were relived, and that was what ended thier carrers.

I can think of two Naval officers who suffered far worse miscarriages of justice than Kimmel loss of his command.

Capt. Edward Beach was court martialed for the loss of the USS Memphis in 1916. The ship had recently been renamed to free it's original name up for the new battleship USS Tennessee. The Navy was in one of it's economy moods in 1916 and had ordered ships to conserve fuel. The USS Memphis was in Santo Domingo Harbor in August of 1916. Since it was Hurricane season Captain Beach had requested permission to keep 4 Boilers on line in case he had to get underway on quick notice. Adm Pond ordered him to only keep two boilers on line to save coal. On August 29th 1916 the USS Memphis was struck by a Tsunami, driven aground and wreacked on the rocks. Captain Beach was Court Martialed on a charge of not having enough boilers on line to leave port in an emergancy even though he had been ordered NOT to have the 4 boilers he needed on line to save coal.

On July 30, 1945, the USS Indianapolis was torpedoed by a Japanese Submarine. Captain Charles Butler McVay III was Court Martialed on a charge of failing to follow a zigzag course, even though he had no orders to do so. The Navy had recomended this action in clear visibility, but the visibility was poor at the tome. The Japanese sub commander was hauled in to testify that the USS Indianapolis wasn't following a zigzag course, a shocking attempt to have an enemy commander testify against a US Naval officer. This backfired when the Japanese commander also testified that he would have sank the USS Indianapolis even if it had been following a zigzag course. despite this Captain McVay was found guilty.

Of these 4 officers Adm. Kimmel's fate is closest to Gen. Fredendall's, loss of a command after a crushing defeat. I see no more reason to defend him than to defend Fredendall and far more reason to feel that Patton, Beach, and McVay suffered unreasonable actions by the Military.


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John Dobbins

No government which fails to provide for its own preservation against the assaults of every probable foe is entitled to the support of its people. (Carl Vinson)
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