Tag Archives: Pearl Harbor

What Did FDR Know? – Part 5


Minidoka_1
My dad’s oldest brother, Uncle Yutaka, in the back row, center. He is posing with the Block kitchen crew at the Minidoka, Idaho “War Relocation Center”, circa 1944. Notice their living quarters behind them.  They lived in plywood barracks covered only with tar paper.  There was no plumbing nor toilets installed.  Photo courtesy of my stateside cousin, Janice (Kanemoto) Hew.

So you likely see from reading Parts 1 through 4 of “What Did FDR Know” that Japan really never had a chance…  A chance to win WWII.

Their chances were nearly nil largely due to the US breaking two key Japanese codes.  One was JN-25, the code used by the Imperial Japanese Navy.  The other, as we’ve read, was “Purple”, the secret cipher used by the Japanese diplomats.  Simply put, we knew exactly what they were doing as well as what they were going to do in all aspects.

____________________________

 A Family Example of What Happened

My father’s draft card before Pearl Harbor, postmarked December 13, 1940.  As a US citizen, he was eligible for the draft and classified 1(A):

image0-81

image0-82

My dad’s revised draft card mailed to him while imprisoned at the Tule Lake “War Relocation Center”, postmarked January 19, 1943.  This is now official notice he was now classified 4(C) – Enemy Alien.  The address bears his address (block number) at the Tule Lake “War Relocation Center”:

image0-83

image0-84

Interestingly, the cards are creased as he was required to carry it in his wallet at all times.  All American males of draft age were…even if they were imprisoned in a dusty, barren dry lake bed in California stripped of all rights.

tule lake guard
Armed guard at the Tule Lake Concentration Camp. My father, uncle, aunt and cousins were there so he was guarding them. US Army Signal Corps, May 23, 1943.

Ironic, isn’t it?

___________________________

But what did FDR know about “suspect” activities by people of Japanese descent living in the US on the West Coast before Pearl Harbor?  Most importantly, of the extent and magnitude of their “suspect” activities?  We’re talking espionage.  What could have prompted his ordering the “evacuation” of such people from the west coast of America?

But don’t get me wrong; it was not just the Japanese.  People of German descent loyal to Nazi Germany also did spy…as did people of Italian descent.  Some were loyal to their homeland, not the US.  But certainly it was not ALL of them.  Let’s not forget the famous East Coast docks were run by the Italians, too.  Certainly, if one wished to “spy” and report on ship movements, there could not have been a better way.  Being dock workers, they know what supply ship left when…and with what.  After all, they loaded them.  A number were sent to the bottom of the Atlantic by the waiting U-boats.

Let’s explore this a bit further.

____________________________

Since we are addressing “suspect” activities, here’s an interesting sidebar to this story.

Did you know that eight German saboteurs were caught on American soil whose combined cases were brought before a special session of the Supreme Court on July 29, 1942?  Did you know they came ashore from submarines in mid-June with greenbacks worth over $2 million today, explosives and even James Bond-like devices?  The case was referred to as the Ex parte Quirin.  It was named as such because of the lead saboteur, Richard Quirin. Quirin had lived in the US for a dozen years and became the first spy “trainee” of this group once he returned to Germany.

nazi electric chair

In short, six of the eight got to sit in the electric chair just about ten days later…  On top of that, a one saboteur (Herbert Haupt) actually went to live with his father in Chicago.  The father also helped him apply for a job and get a car.  Another saboteur, Werner Thiel, actually handed some of the money over to his once room mate and business partner, Anthony Cramer; they owned a deli but it had failed.  But it is interesting to note that in spite of this event, there was not a mass imprisonment of German nationals or their American-born offspring from this incident which made the US Supreme Court.

__________________________

The MAGIC Intercepts Distribution Process

Because the US had broken the ultra-complex “Purple” code in 1939 used by the Japanese diplomats, FDR was able to at least see exactly what the Japanese diplomatic corps was doing before Pearl Harbor.

McCollum Arthur
Lt. Cmdr. Arthur McCollum. US Navy Photo

ONI (Office of Naval Intelligence) had established a secret delivery system for the intercepted Japanese military and diplomatic intelligence (MAGIC) for FDR in the winter of 1940. Lt. Com. Arthur H. McCollum of ONI, and the author of the “McCollum Memo”, was the distribution officer; his name was on 151 USN routing slips in the National Archives.(¹) These routing slips provided a trail to a large collection of Army and Navy MAGIC ultra secret deciphers from monitoring Japanese communications; these were presented to FDR, the top military chiefs and several key members of the Administration between February 1940 and December 7, 1941. Sometimes, when McCollum deemed he had a “hot” item, he would personally deliver the message to FDR; otherwise the President’s naval aide made the delivery as per below.

According to Stinnett (1):

The Japanese intercepts destined for FDR were placed in special folders.  Captain Callaghan (Naval Aide to FDR) was responsible for the safety of the documents. Roosevelt read the original copy but did not retain any of the intercepts. Each original was eventually returned to the folder and stored in McCollum’s safe at Station US in Washington. There they remained, available for White House review. Shortly after December 7, when Congressional critics began to question the administration’s failure to prevent the Hawaii attack, all records involving the Japanese radio intercept program—including the White House route logs and their secret content—were locked away in vaults controlled by Navy communications officials.

These intercepts would include those related to Japanese espionage efforts.  This twenty-two month monitoring program prior to Pearl Harbor also allowed FDR and key staff to anticipate and analyze Japan’s reaction to the provocations advocated in the McCollum Memo.(²)

________________________

So what did some of the MAGIC intercepts and other investigative reports include before Pearl Harbor and up to the imprisonment of about 117,000 people of Japanese descent against their will?  We already know per “What Did FDR Know – Part 3” that Tokyo instructed its American-based diplomats to covertly begin putting together an espionage network.  In fact, because we had broken the Japanese codes, the US “listened in” on Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto in February 1941; he clued in Captain Kanji Ogawa, Japan’s top intelligence officer, of the intentions of attacking Pearl Harbor.  Yamamoto wanted to give Ogawa enough time to put together his own military-based network in the event of war.

20140510_212549
ONI memo generated for FDR, dated February 12, 1941. This was based upon the Purple deciphers, with Tokyo instructing American-based diplomats to set up their espionage nets. Source: “Magic” by David D. Lowman.

Prior to the message instructing diplomats to energetically strengthen their espionage efforts, there were already Japanese spies living on the west coast.  Under the disguise of language students, Japanese military agents (primarily IJN) had already established their network including a small number of Issei and Nisei, militaristic Japanese organizations, Japanese clubs and business fronts.  This facet was led by Lt. Cmdr. Itaru Tachibana of the IJN.  In June 1941, however, this ring was smashed.  Tachibana, and unbelievably a former chauffeur and business secretary to Charlie Chaplin named Toraichi Kono, had tried to recruit a former US Navy seaman (Al Blake) but Blake turned him in.  While Tachibana and his lieutenants were deported, detailed searches of their living quarters provided detailed records of their espionage network.  This detail included names of residents of Japanese descent as well as a number of organizations.

While not a historian, the following is a summary of what I deem to be key MAGIC intercepts in addition to other information gathered by other entities such as the FBI.  In addition to information contained in the previous four parts, the thirst for intelligence by the Japanese was high:

  1. February 5, 1941 – Tokyo instructed the diplomats to come up with a contingency plan in the event something were to happen (i.e., war).  To always exercise due care and to look at Central/South America for continuing intelligence efforts.
  2. February 15, 1941 – Tokyo directly asked for intelligence on materiel movement (especially planes and ships), non-military cargo vessels, troop movements, production of planes and arms, military training activities, etc.
  3. April 24, 1941 – This intercept disclosed that Tokyo wanted a status update of its previous orders in regards to: (1) keying in on intelligence instead of propaganda, (2) recruiting of agents for the ring, and (3) established standards for reporting such information.
  4. May 9, 1941 – The Los Angeles office reported that they “…have already established contacts with absolutely reliable Japanese in the San Pedro and San Diego area, who will keep a close watch on all shipments of airplanes and other war materials…”  Further, they shall “…maintain close connections with the Japanese Association, the Chamber of Commerce and the newspapers.”
  5. May 19, 1941 – the Japanese Embassy in Washington requested $500,000 more cash to further their recruiting for intelligence gathering purposes, i.e., entertainment, bribery, etc.
  6. June 10, 1941 – To prevent an international scandal, this intercept recommended that it be made to look as if Kono’s friends were supporting him financially for his defense and to keep the IJN out of further suspicion on the arrest of Tachibana.  It was recommended $25,000 be offered as a bribe to Kono; the memo stated  in part “…in view of the danger that he might give evidence unsatisfactory  to TACHIBANA.”
  7. October 4, 1941 – specifically asked for intelligence on any change in sea or air patrols or warship movements and the immediate reporting thereof.
  8. October 28, 1941 – in one of many transmissions reporting naval ship movements, the Seattle diplomats reported in detail the sailing of fifteen Coast Guard vessels.  They also reported their four-inch guns were upgraded to five-inch guns.
  9. November 29, 1941 – Tokyo ordered the San Francisco diplomats to report in detail all arrivals, departure dates and destinations of ALL commercial and war ships in the Pacific, Indian Ocean and South China Sea. (Note: this was not transcribed until December 4, 1941.)
  10. December 6, 1941 – Seattle diplomats reported the departure of the carrier USS Saratoga from Bremerton, WA.

japanese espionage

Please note there were hundreds of these types of transmissions, both from and to Tokyo.  In addition, there were quite a few official FBI reports detailing espionage activities.  These reports also included names and businesses that were involved.  The FBI was not privy to MAGIC intercepts.

______________________________

FDR signed Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942 which had the effect of forcibly relocating all persons of Japanese ancestry – both citizens and aliens – out of the west coast’s Pacific military zone and into War Relocation Centers. The much later publicized objectives of the order were to prevent espionage and to protect persons of Japanese descent from harm at the hands of Americans who had bitter anti-Japanese attitudes.

______________________________

image0-15
Dad in his US Army duds, Tokyo 1947. The Emperor’s Palace is behind him to his left. MacArthur’s GHQ is off to the right (Dai-Ichi Sei Mei Building).

So what is the point of this story, the last installment of “What Did FDR Know?”

Some say people like my dad were imprisoned because of their race.  In other words, they were discriminated against, pure and simple.³

Some say people like my dad were imprisoned because “FDR wanted to protect the Japanese from hate crimes”.  After all, my grandmother was egged while she lived in Seattle.  Some Japanese girls were taunted or worse, molested, assaulted or raped.  Indeed, there was hysteria.

Some say people like my dad were imprisoned because of the espionage activities.  And from the above, we do see some were taking part in espionage activities.  In other words, the US wanted to ensure we won the war in the Pacific with the fewest amount of lost lives as possible and espionage was certainly a risk.  But if that were the case, how would the US go about removing Japanese suspected of espionage?  Just knock on specific homes and businesses and arrest specific men…but leave the others to go about their daily lives?

If they did that, wouldn’t Tokyo suspect their “secret” transmissions were being intercepted?  How else would the US have known who to arrest?  And if Tokyo did suspect that, what if they changed their codes?  We’d be in the dark again intel-wise.  More of our military would therefore possibly lose their lives.  (NOTE: It is true not one person of Japanese descent was tried and convicted of espionage.  However, it is my amateur opinion that they were NOT tried to maintain secrecy about the broken codes.  Case in point: the Supreme Court above.  Certainly, the fact we listened in on their espionage activities would have become public knowledge from testimony.)

So what do you think?  How does this compare to what you were taught?

(ADDENDUM – July 23, 2014

As a good fellow mentioned, the third paragraph immediately above can be read to imply my dad was suspected of espionage activities.  He was not.)

___________________________

In my opinion, our breaking of the Japanese codes was America’s greatest secret weapon.

It was not the atomic bomb.

___________________________

NOTES:

(1) Per “Day of Deceit: The Truth About FDR and Pearl Harbor” by Robert Stinnett.

(2) There was a brief period in 1941 when FDR himself was removed from the MAGIC distribution list.

(3) In 1988, President Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act.  The Act approved paying each surviving Japanese or Japanese-American $20,000 each for being unlawfully stripped of their rights for no reason other than race.  (My dad, four uncles, four aunts and seven cousins each did receive payment as did other more distant relatives.)

What Did FDR Know? – Part 3


 

sis friedman army
William F. Friedman, standing in center. Friedman was charged with the responsibility of cracking the highly complex “Purple” diplomatic code. This SIS team did so in eighteen months. Friedman was hospitalized for four months from the strain. (US Army)

In Part 1 of “What Did FDR Know?”, I submitted tidbits that FDR – in spite of his campaign promises of not sending American boys to war – DID secretly plan with Churchill on how to get America into war without damaging their political images.  Their secret discussions were nearly made public by Tyler Kent but he was tried secretly in a British court and admonished to prison until war’s end.  Secretary of State Cordell Hull, on November 29, 1941, tried to leak to a major newspaper man intelligence gathered about the Imperial Japanese Navy heading towards Pearl Harbor.

In Part 2 of “What Did FDR Know?”, some history at Pearl Harbor before December 7, 1941 was provided as well as a brief history into cryptanalysis, the Japanese JN-25 and Purple codes and how the US Army and Navy broke them before and after Pearl Harbor.

In this Part 3, I will attempt to present evidence on intelligence gathered BEFORE the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.

Part 4 will attempt to present evidence on the extent of our “listening in” on Imperial Japanese Navy battle plans post Pearl Harbor.

Part 5 will attempt to present evidence on the imprisonment of Japanese and Japanese-Americans in the “war relocation centers”, as FDR called them.

The goal is to allow you to come to your own conclusion as to “What Did FDR Know?”

___________________________

We learned that the US Navy struggled to break the JN-25 code that was changed immediately before the attack.  However, OP-20-G was able to decipher coded messages immediately prior to a reasonable extent.  The number of JN-25 messages intercepted between just September 1 and December 4, 1941 numbered 26,581.  Of these, 2,413 were released by the (now famous) NSA in 1979.  Although there were more than 1,000 just between Tokyo and the attack fleet, only 20 are reportedly in the National Archives.  (So much for the IJN operating under “strict radio silence” during the voyage to Pearl Harbor.)

The Purple code also became another critical source of intelligence, especially the week before Pearl Harbor.  Luckily, we had been intercepting and deciphering them since September 1939…  more than two years before Pearl Harbor.

Oval Office 1933
The Oval Office, 1933. Criminy, isn’t that a telephone on FDR’s desk?

Just what was transmitted by the Japanese diplomats about Pearl Harbor and intercepted through MAGIC?  What other events occurred either in relation to the intercepts or the looming signs of the attack on Pearl Harbor?  Please note that in 1941, they did not have emails, fax machines, TV, FedEx or SMARTphones.  However, they did have TELEphones.  Remember those things?

As shown above, there were more than 26,000 in JN-25 messages alone so going into detail about what was known in total would not be appropriate for this blog.  However, if I were to summarize:

mccollum

  1. With respect to the Purple analog machines built from scratch, eight were made by the Naval Gun Factory in DC.  Two each were used by OP-20-G and SIS; two were sent to the British.  One was sent to Cavite in the Philippines.  The last one was intended for Pearl Harbor – it was instead given to the British.  It is likely true that even if Pearl had a Purple machine, it may not have been of too much value as it is reported the Japanese Consulate there did not have a deciphering machine.
  2. Selected MAGIC ciphers were indeed placed into locked briefcases then shown to the top ten men in power over war – including FDR, just like in the movies.
  3. Lt. Com. Arthur H. McCollum of Office of Naval Intelligence signed an eight point memo for FDR on how to coerce Japan into war with the US (aka “McCollum Memo”, the first page of which is shown at right).  It was presented to FDR on October 7, 1940; FDR began implementing them the next day; all eight were eventually put into place.
  4. A Purple message was intercepted on January 30, 1941. Tokyo instructed its diplomats to recruit agents covertly to spy on Allied movements and production.  Issei and Nisei were mentioned for recruiting in the message.  This espionage net could be for no other reason than to supply military information to Tokyo.

    1-30-1941
    Typed copy of the Purple transmission of January 30, 1941.
  5. Per “President Roosevelt and the Coming of War 1941”, FDR actually proposed losing six cruisers and two carriers at Manila in order to get into war but was stopped by Navy Chief Stark.
  6. On July 10, 1941, the US Military Attache in Japan reported the Imperial Japanese Navy was conducting secret training missions at Ariake Bay involving torpedo runs at moored ships.
  7. After the Atlantic Conference and meeting with FDR, Prime Minister Churchill cabled his Cabinet on August 14, 1941 that FDR was intent on getting into the war.
  8. A high level US Navy report was submitted on March 31, 1941 clearly stating that Pearl Harbor would be targeted, even so far as stating the Japanese Navy would utilize six carriers and surprise attack at dawn.  That was because Japan strategically had few options and definitely could not have the Pacific Fleet to contend with.
  9. A Korean agent by the name of Kilsoo Haan met with Eric Severeid of CBS that there was solid evidence that Japan would attack before Christmas.  In October, Haan was able to convince US Senator Guy Gillette of these plans.  Gillette alerted the State Department, Army and Navy Intelligence and FDR personally.
  10. A coded message of September 24, 1941, from Japanese Naval Intelligence headquarters in Tokyo to the Japanese consul general in Honolulu, was intercepted and deciphered.(1) It requested the exact locations of all US Navy ships in Pearl Harbor; it even specifically asked to know if two ships were moored alongside each other.  It was a map.  Such detailed information would only be required if the Japanese were planning an attack on the ships at their moorings. The Japanese had not asked for such detailed information before.  However, two top US officers, Stark and Turner, prohibited informing Pearl Harbor and Kimmel of this critical intelligence.
  11. A JN-25 message was deciphered on November 1, 1941.  It ordered the Japanese fleet practicing the attack to continue drills against anchored warships at at Ariake Bay. Words included “to ambush and completely destroy the US enemy.”  References to using armor-piercing bombs and “near surface torpedoes” was also mentioned.
  12. A Purple message of November 5th: Tokyo notified its Washington ambassadors that November 25th was the deadline for an agreement with the U.S. (to avoid war).
  13. A Purple message of November 11th from Tokyo to its diplomats warned, “The situation is nearing a climax, and the time is getting short.”
  14. Admiral Kimmel, following established Naval doctrines concerning unstable international conditions, ordered 46 (roughly one-half) of the Pacific Fleet out to sea in late November – specifically into the North Pacific.  He did not inform Washington and when FDR found out, he ordered the fleet back to port under the guise such an exercise would provoke the Japanese.  Undaunted, Kimmel had Admiral “Bull” Halsey put together a carrier-focused plan to protect Pearl Harbor which was never carried out.  Instead, on November 26, 1941, Admiral Stark in Washington ordered Halsey to take to sea with his carriers; their mission was to ferry fighter planes to Midway and Wake Islands.  Now you know why the carriers – the main target of the Imperial Japanese Navy – were “by luck” not at Pearl on December 7th.
  15. A JN25 order of November 23 – “The first air attack has been set for 0330 hours on X-day.” (Tokyo time)
  16. Another Purple message November 16th changed the deadline to November 29th.  However, it stated, “The deadline absolutely cannot be changed.  After that, things are automatically going to happen.”
  17. The Japanese fleet left Japan (Hitokappu Bay) on November 25th.  Remembering we were intercepting all Japanese Naval transmissions, about one hour after the Japanese attack force left port for Hawaii, the U.S. Navy issued an order forbidding U.S. and Allied shipping to travel via the north-west Pacific. All transpacific shipping was rerouted through the South Pacific.  It should be easy to figure out why.  If any commercial ship accidentally stumbled on the Japanese task force, it might alert Pearl Harbor. As Rear Admiral Richmond K. Turner, the Navy’s War Plans officer in 1941, stated: “We were prepared to divert traffic when we believed war was imminent. We sent the traffic down via the Torres Strait, so that the track of the Japanese task force would be clear of any traffic.”

    carrier kaga hitokappu
    Imperial Japanese Navy’s carrier Kaga and battleship Kirishima at Hitokappa Bay, November 23, 1941. They would set sail in a couple of days for Pearl Harbor. Kaga would be sunk at the Battle of Midway. Kirishima would be attacked and would capsize on November 15, 1942 in Ironbottom Sound.
  18. British initially decrypted a message sent Nov. 19 setting up the “Winds” alert.  The US decoded it Nov. 28.  The message stated there would be an attack and that the signal would come over Radio Tokyo as a weather report – rain meaning war, east (Higashi no kaze ame) meaning the US.
  19. On November 25, 1941, the great Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto himself, using the cracked JN-25 code, sent this message to his fleet:
    “(a) The task force, keeping its movements strictly secret and maintaining close guard against submarines and aircraft, shall advance into Hawaiian waters and upon the very opening of hostilities, shall attack the main force of the United States Fleet in Hawaii and deal it a mortal blow. The raid is planned for dawn on X-day — exact date to be given by later order. (b) Should the negotiations with the US prove successful, the task force shall hold itself in readiness forthwith to return and reassemble. (c) The task force will move out of Hitokappu Wan on the morning of 26 November and advance to the standing-by position on the afternoon of 4 December and speedily complete refueling.”
    This was decoded by the British on November 25 and the Dutch on November 27.  WHEN it was decoded by the US is still a national secret; however, on November 26, ONI reported the concentration of units of the Japanese fleet at an “unknown port” ready for offensive action.  ONI knew the fleet had been assembled at Hittokappu Bay since November 22, 1941.
  20. pearlwarning
    Actual message sent to the Pacific on November 27, 1941 by Admiral Stark, Chief of Naval Operations. Please read the alert carefully and see if Pearl Harbor is mentioned. Kimmel and Short received this alert.

    In reaction to #17 above, Churchill himself sent FDR a secret message likely warning him about war erupting; this was presumably in response to British intelligence decoding Yamamoto’s message.  (Note: Likely due to implications even today and in spite of the enumerable messages sent between them, this is the only message that has not been released.)  C.I.A. Director William Casey, who was in the OSS in 1941, wrote, “The British had sent word that a Japanese fleet was steaming east toward Hawaii.”(2)  In response to Churchill’s message, FDR secretly cabled him that afternoon, “Negotiations off. Services expect action within two weeks.” Note that the only way FDR could have linked negotiations with military action, let alone have known the timing of the action, was if he had read the message to set sail. In other words, the only service action contingent on negotiations was Pearl Harbor.  Regardless, can it be coincidence that on Nov 26, Washington ordered both US aircraft carriers, the USS Enterprise and the USS Lexington out of Pearl Harbor? On board were 50 fighter planes diminishing Pearl Harbor’s already inadequate fighter protection.(3)

  21. emperor 20140412_171251
    A Purple intercept from Emperor Hirohito himself to the Combined Fleet commander – Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto. Sent on December 6, 1941 (Tokyo time).

    The FBI had put in wire taps on the Japanese Embassy phone lines.  The FBI listened in on an uncoded Japanese telephone conversation on November 29 in which Special Envoy Saburo Kurusu asked, ‘Tell me, what zero hour is. Otherwise, I won’t be able to carry on diplomacy.”  The voice from Tokyo (later identified as K. Yamamoto) said softly, ‘Well then, I will tell you.  Zero hour is December 8 (Tokyo time, ie, December 7 US time) at Pearl Harbor.” (US Navy translation 29 Nov)

  22. On December 1, 1941, the Japanese tanker Shiriya radioed she was “proceeding to a position 30.00 N, 154.20 E. Expect to arrive at that point on 3 December.”  Key those coordinates into Google Maps yourself.  This message in the National Archives destroys the myth that the  attacking fleet maintained radio silence.  Transmission serial numbers prove that the Striking Force sent over 663 radio messages between Nov 16 and Dec 7 or about 1 per hour.  (The NSA has not released any raw intercepts because the headers would prove that the Striking Force did not maintain radio silence. On Nov 29 the Hiyei sent one message to the Commander of the 3rd fleet; on Nov 30 the Akagi sent several messages to its tankers.)(4)  There are over 100 messages from the Striking Force in the National Archives.(5)  Reports from Dec 5 show messages sent from the Striking Force picked up by Station Cast, P.I.
  23. ONI located Japanese fleet on December 1, 1941 by correlating reports from the four wireless news services and several shipping companies that they were getting strange signals west of Hawaii. Remember Johann Ranneft visiting ONI and being shown the location of the Japanese fleet north-west of Hawaii in Part 1?  The Soviet Union also knew the exact location of the Japanese fleet because they asked the Japanese in advance to let one of their ships pass.
  24. On December 2 and 3, the passenger liner SS Lurline was en route from San Francisco to Honolulu.  Its radio operator, following standard operating procedures, intercepted strong signals from the IJN fleet.  The messages were so lengthy and numerous that the radio operator made out “JCS”, the call sign for the IJN HQ.  The signals were plotted and showed the fleet’s location heading eastward and was north-west of Hawaii.  When the USS Lurline docked in Hawaii on December 5, the radio intercept logs were immediately taken to the Office of Naval Intelligence at Kimmel’s Pacific Fleet HQs.  The logs were never recorded as received nor ever seen again.
  25. Ralph Briggs was a qualified Japanese-speaking radio intercept operator and was working at the Navy’s signals intercept station early in the morning of December 4.  Buried inside the official IJN weather broadcast was the code “Higashi no kaze ame (東の風雨)”, or “East winds, rain”.  (See #18 above.) The operators had been briefed to listen for those words.  Per SOP, he logged it then transmitted via a secure channel to Commander Safford, in charge of the Fleet Intelligence Office in Pearl.  To substantiate this, he was given four days’ leave as a reward.(6)  On December 7, he was already back stateside in his Ohio home and was noted to have said something to the effect that the Japanese must have taken a licking (because he had intercepted the coded message and mistakenly believed the Navy was ready).  After the attack, both the log and related communications were “lost” as well many other documents that were in safes.
  26. While there were many other events and intercepted secret communications, the most famous one is the 14 part Purple transmission from Tokyo to Kurusu.  It officially terminated diplomatic relations with the US, i.e., it is war.  Amazingly, the first 13 parts had already been deciphered by MAGIC on December 6th.  When Lieutenant Lester Schulz delivered to FDR his copy of the intercept later that day, Schulz heard FDR say to his advisor Harry Hopkins, “This means war.”
  27. As the story goes, Kurusu failed to type up the Japanese ultimatum in time.  However, Secretary of State Cordell Hull had already read the Purple intercept decoded the day before as did FDR.  In essence, Hull had to look…surprised… when Kurusu handed him the ultimatum on December 7, 1941 albeit late.  But at least, he was indeed angry.

We are now at war.

Officials Arriving at The White House
November 17, 1941. Cordell Hull, center, with Special Envoy Saburo Kurusu at right. Kurusu would be imprisoned at Hot Springs, NY until war’s end.

______________________________

The above is by no means any-wheres near a complete accounting of the events leading up to Pearl Harbor.  And yes, there will be blanks in information flows, other communications that will show things countering the above, etc.  But it does show how a government can disguise the truth or create lies for whatever purpose…even if it involved the deaths of human beings.

You can imagine what is going on today.  Benghazi.  The complete killing of SEAL Team Six.  Fast and Furious.  It goes on.

But some questions may be in order to perhaps counter what you believed in or were taught until now?  Perhaps you can ask yourself:

  1. Did FDR blind the commanders at Pearl Harbor?
  2. Were Kimmel and Short set up to be the fall guys by denying them very critical intelligence or lead them to believe war was not imminent?
  3. Was Pearl Harbor alerted to the location of the attacking Japanese fleet?

Points to ponder, indeed.

And to close this (long) story, a Hollywood movie depicted Kimmel and Short receiving a telegram of all things alerting them of the possible attack on Pearl Harbor – many hours after it was over.  That is true.  However, how it became a late telegram is another story all together.  By all accounts, Chief of Staff George C. Marshall orchestrated a delicate ballet to delay even sending that telegram for the critical few last hours.  In fact, he was difficult to nail down during the critical hours before the attack, arriving late to his office to go over the critical Ultimatum.  Although known for near photographic memory, he claimed he was horseback riding but his aides testified after the war that he wasn’t.  Further, his aides urged him to contact Pearl Harbor but delayed that decision by reading then re-reading the ultimatum and then asking superfluous questions about what method of communicating with Pearl would be faster, for example – several times.  He chose not to use the “telephone” nor use a fast, secure Navy system but sent the warning through commercial wire, of all things.  Even then, the warning language he dispatched was watered down.

____________________________

So what do you think?

What did FDR know?  What do you think he did not know?

More to follow in Part 4 – key naval battles, code breaking and what really happened on the waters of the Pacific.

I hope you’ll stay tuned. Part 4 is here.

____________________________

NOTES:

(1) Coded message of September 24, 1941:

Strictly secret.

Henceforth, we would like to have you make reports concerning vessels along the following lines insofar as possible:

1. The waters (of Pearl Harbor) are to be divided roughly into five subareas (We have no objections to your abbreviating as much as you like.)

Area A. Waters between Ford Island and the Arsenal.

Area B. Waters adjacent to the Island south and west of Ford Island. (This area is on the opposite side of the Island from Area A.)

Area C. East Loch.

Area D. Middle Loch.

Area E. West Loch and the communication water routes.

2. With regard to warships and aircraft carriers, we would like to have you report on those at anchor (these are not so important) tied up at wharves, buoys and in docks. (Designate types and classes briefly. If possible we would like to have you make mention of the fact when there are two or more vessels alongside the same wharf.)”

There is nothing unusual about spies watching ship movements — but reporting precise whereabouts of ships in dock has only one implication. Charles Willoughby, Douglas MacArthur’s chief of intelligence and my dad’s big boss in the US 8th Army, later wrote that the “reports were on a grid system of the inner harbor with coordinate locations of American men of war … coordinate grid is the classical method for pinpoint target designation; our battleships had suddenly become targets.” This information was never sent to Kimmel or Short.

(2) Per his book, “The Secret War Against Hitler”.

(3) There are strategic evaluations asserting that not having US fighter aircraft sortied in great number against the invading Japanese fleet was “best” in the long run.  Some armchair strategists claim that if the US carriers had “gone after” Nagumo’s fleet, indeed, our two vital carriers and her invaluable pilots would have been sunk, never to be recovered.  That, however, is another story.

(4) The Hewitt Report, page 474.

(5) “Day of Deceit”, page 209.

(6) There is some bickering between opposing viewpoints as to the validity of this point.  After the war, Japan stated it never issued such a broadcast.  Other historians doubt Briggs’ testimony as there are no documents.

 

What Did FDR Know? – Part 2


HTH Nov 30 1941
Hilo Tribune Herald, November 30, 1941.

The above: a front page published one week BEFORE Pearl Harbor.

OK… So the newspaper was published on Hilo.

Well, then, how about a second front page?  And from a different island this time – Oahu.

Pearl Harbor is on Oahu.

Honolulu Advertiser
Honolulu Advertiser, November 31, 1941.

______________________________

To continue with “What Did FDR Know?”, let’s go over some once secret stuff, shall we?

And stuff that wasn’t so secret – like the headlines above.  These NEWSPAPERS were in newsstands or tossed onto front lawns a WEEK before the attack on Pearl Harbor.  How can that be when our textbooks and history tell us our Navy and Army were caught with their pants down?

It may be fascinating and perhaps eye opening for some of you.  To some of you old hats in military history, not so eye opening.

This story will be centered on “MAGIC”, the cover name given to the secret diplomatic messages sent between Japanese diplomats and intercepted.(¹)

MAGIC intercepts will be the foundation for this story and subsequent ones.

The Japanese diplomats sent message after message believing their code was secure.

They were wrong.

______________________________

But first, some background on Pearl Harbor itself.  It’s important in your quest to conclude on “What Did FDR Know?”

JamesRichardson
Adm. Richardson

Before December 7, 1941 and as we read in Part I of this series, did you know the Pacific Fleet was based in San Diego?  The powers to be moved the fleet from San Diego to Pearl Harbor.  Even the decision to move the Pacific Fleet to Pearl Harbor was suspect at that time.  And have you thought about who was commanding at Pearl before the hapless Admiral Husband Kimmel?

Admiral J. O. Richardson was Commander in Chief, CINCPAC as of January 1940.  Per the “Final Secret of Pearl Harbor”, Richardson was the foremost expert on Japan and studied ad finitum Pacific naval warfare and mostly, of Japanese naval strategies.  He also knew well of Japan’s pattern of secret attacks.

Richardson disagreed with FDR’s opinion that basing the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor was indispensable towards protecting American interests.  Richardson stoutly disagreed and said, “I came away with the impression that, despite his spoken word, the President was fully determined to put the United States into the war if Great Britain could hold out until he was reelected.”

He asserted that Pearl Harbor would be a “… g_d d_mned mousetrap”.  His belief was the fleet should remain on the West Coast in San Diego; out at Pearl Harbor, the fleet would be a strategic target for any Japanese surprise attack which he correctly foresaw.  His opinion was because not only did Pearl Harbor lack adequate fuel dumps and repair facilities, the Fleet lacked sufficient personnel and the waters around Pearl were unsuitable for training.  The fleet would need to return to San Diego and the like for such purposes.

Those who chose to ignore Richardson’s educated opinion did so by saying Pearl’s shallow harbor would preclude torpedo plane attacks amongst other things.

kimmel
Adm. Kimmel

Richardson asserted too strongly.  Although Richardson was highly qualified militarily, FDR removed him from command on January 19, 1941.  (Similar events are taking place notionally even today; about 200 top military commanders have been removed or forced out by the current Adminstration.)  FDR replaced Richardson with the more amenable Admiral Kimmel.  He was far down the list of able commanders but was still selected by FDR to run the Pacific Fleet.  While he somewhat shared Richardson’s belief, he was obedient as FDR expected.  Kimmel also wrongly assumed he would be “kept in the loop” by FDR insofar as military necessities, including intel.  Was he expendable career-wise?

…and that is how Kimmel ended up in command of the Pacific Fleet on December 7, 1941.

__________________________

Purplemsg
This is a copy of the actual PURPLE message and is the first part of the 14-part message which was delivered by the Japanese to the US Government on December 7, 1941 – late.

 BACKGROUND ON JAPANESE CODES

The Japanese military, just like the US military, had “secret codes” as did diplomats.  For the purposes of this blog, we will concentrate on two groups of code: the Imperial Japanese Navy’s code (JN-25) and of the Japanese Foreign Office (code named “Purple”).

Talking about Communications Intelligence, or “COMINT”, would take a number of blogs; indeed, entire books and papers are written about COMINT during this time.  For purposes of this blog, allow me to say COMINT is the acronym covering the analysis and usage of an enemy’s radio communications.  Codes are when words are replaced by groups of letters or digits and are usually manual.  A cipher, however, is the replacement of individual letters or groups of letters according to a plan; it is much more complex and are based on machines.

During this time, US COMINT was somewhat loosely organized, largely due to the rivalry between the US Navy and Army.

However, the cover name “MAGIC” was given to the intelligence obtained by both services involving the Japanese Foreign Ministry radio messages.  While at the embassy level, great amounts of military information – and espionage – was disclosed in these secret messages and were therefore at the disposal of the US Government and military.

Imperial Japanese Navy JN-25

The US Navy began its covert intelligence gathering in the early ’20s when they actually broke into the Japanese Consulate in NYC and copied the secret Japanese code in use at that time.  By 1926, the US Navy had broken the Japanese navy’s “Flag Officer’s Code”.  The Imperial Japanese Navy at that time conducted fleet maneuvers about every three years; they would send coded messages throughout the maneuvers.  The US Navy, by virtue of having broken the Flag Officer’s Code, easily listened in on them.

Their “listening in” on the Japanese fleet was so extensive that the US Navy knew of the capabilities of the Japanese warships.  The US Navy knew the speeds, armaments, designs, etc., of the Japanese warships, so much so that the US Navy made improvements to their own warships to counter them.

During this period, the US Navy established a small group within the Office of Naval Communications called “OP-20-G”.  It was formed without extensive knowledge of the US Army as infighting was common.  The same was true for the Japanese military.  Think of the Army-Navy rivalry in football – just grow it tremendously.

While the Japanese navy changed their code along the way, the OP-20-G had little difficulty breaking those, too… until late in 1940.  Knowing they were headed to war with the US, the Japanese navy prudently introduced an entirely new code, the JN-25.  It was much, much more complex than its predecessor.  It proved difficult to crack but they had made progress when… the Japanese navy once again made amendments to JN-25 immediately before the attack on Pearl Harbor.

The US Navy, therefore, was pretty much “blind” intel-wise for pretty much a week before Pearl Harbor.  It would not be broken until March 13, 1942.

But there was another group of cryptanalysts… an ace in the hole.

__________________________________

“Purple”

japanese purple fragment
As the Purple machines were destroyed by the Japanese, this is the only surviving section of an actual Purple machine. National Archives

Alongside OP-20-G, the US Army’s cryptanalysis group called “Signal Intelligence Service”, or SIS, focused their energies on the Japanese diplomatic code.  The group was headed up by William F. Friedman; he was very successful in designing our own encrypted codes.

Japanese diplomats (NOT military commanders) communicated with each other using an existing code designed in 1932; the US cryptanalysts called this code “Red”.(²)  In 1937, the diplomats began using a newer, more complex code; the US referred to this code as “Purple”.  In total, there were fourteen codes used by the Japanese diplomats; two of these were of the most value, Purple and “J-19”.  Purple was used at the embassy level; J-19 was used at the consular level.  Both were machine crypts.

purple analog
The Purple machine, built from readily available parts. It supposedly cost $684.65. Eight were made.  National Archives.

In September 1939, the “unbreakable” Purple code, in the defective thinking of the Japanese, was broken; a key contributor to Friedman breaking Purple was that the Japanese had sent the same message using BOTH Red and Purple codes, a huge blunder in the cryptanalysis arena.  In eighteen months, the SIS, headed up by Friedman, cracked the code(³).  They even BUILT an analog machine from a blank chalkboard which quickly deciphered the “secret” messages.  (The code was so complex that the machine contained 25 connections, which could be arranged 6 pairs of connections, yielding over 70,000,000,000,000 possible arrangements which would determine the method of encryption.)  This was an AMAZING feat to have built a deciphering machine since SIS had not even seen the Japanese one.  Remember, this was 1938.  Nevertheless, these intense eighteen months landed Friedman in the hospital for four months from exhaustion and emotional strain.

With Purple broken, the US was able to immediately decipher all highly secret messages between all top level members of the Japanese diplomats located worldwide… and most importantly, without them knowing.  Given the originators of the messages, they had nearly indisputable validity.  The reach of MAGIC extended to the European Theater of war as well as briefly mentioned in Part I.

These diplomatic communications also clearly indicated espionage was taking place on the west coast of the United States.

Part 3 and 4 will show the contents of MAGIC intercepts so that you can answer on your own, “What did FDR know?”

I hope you will stay tuned.

Part 3 is here.

NOTES:

(¹) Unbelievably, Secretary of State Stimson was definitely upset when he learned we were intercepting messages.  He championed the statement, “Gentlemen, do not read each others mail.”  At the same time, consider the Snowden/NSA “scandals” of today.

(²) Ironically, Hitler had loved Baron Oshima so much he allowed Oshima to purchase a commercial version of Nazi Germany’s famous Enigma machine.  The machine used for Red was based on this Enigma construct.

(³) While Friedman was the man burdened with the responsibility of deciphering PURPLE, it is acknowledged that a man named Frank B. Rowlett was the man who actually broke the code.

What Did FDR Know? – Part 1


fdr ph

Good day, everyone.

The more frequent readers of this blog, “Masako and Spam Musubi”, likely see that my main focus is on World War II and my family’s involvement on both sides of the Pacific.  Although I definitely am not a historian by any means, stories here are based on family records supplemented by tidbits of historical “facts”.

And some of these historical facts are public knowledge…while some are kept or suppressed from public knowledge.

Some were destroyed.

The White House also has perhaps the most insurmountable power over what is written – or how events are presented to or withheld from the public.  At times, this leads to the distrust of the very government the people have elected into power.  This distrust continues today and arguably, the worst its been in our country’s history.

This is a knotty topic without a doubt…about FDR’s involvement – or even orchestration – in what happened during these critical years.  But these factual conflicts have perplexed me for years.  Conflicts between what we were taught versus what wasn’t.

I wish to express some facts here and in the next couple of stories about the Pacific war and allow you to come to your own conclusions about FDR.  They will center around Pearl Harbor and the interment of my dad’s family in “war relocation centers”.  Please note that entire books and research papers have been written on this general topic so my blog will do as best possible to reveal the facts involving FDR – before Pearl Harbor, immediately after and up to his death late in the war.

So…  What did FDR know?

Let’s get into it, shall we?

____________________________

fdr paper

BACKGROUND

FDR was our only president to be elected to four terms in office.  He passed away while serving his fourth term on April 12, 1945, just weeks before the surrender of Nazi Germany.  The nation was distracted from the war for that moment.  They mourned his passing.  Indeed, there was great stress being President of the United States in time of World War. Some general background before I get into it:

  • He was a politician.
  • FDR was liked by a significant majority of Americans as proven by his being elected to a fourth term.
  • He made a statement to America during his 1940 re-election campaign, “I have said this before, but I shall say it again and again and again: Your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign war.” (1)
  • A pre-war Gallup poll disclosed 88% of those Americans polled opposed US involvement in the European war.  Britain was fighting for her life.  FDR supported isolationism publicly.
  • Perhaps the best kept secret prior to Pearl Harbor and up to immediately after World War II ended was that an elite cryptology group (members of the US Army Signal Intelligence Service, or SIS) had broken the Japanese diplomatic code in early 1939.  Any intelligence that was gathered was kept secret and under the cover name of “MAGIC”.  (One huge single diplomatic source of detailed enemy information was Baron Hiroshi Oshima, Japan’s ambassador to Nazi Germany.  Nearly all of Oshima’s messages from Berlin to Tokyo were intercepted and deciphered.) (2)
  • Beginning in 1940 and then continuing, FDR and the League of Nations placed an economic embargo on Japan in reaction to their attacks in Asia.  Items were added weekly to the embargo list – except for oil.
Kent
Tyler Kent
  • In 1940, Tyler Kent, a 29 year old code clerk at the U.S. embassy in London, discovered secret dispatches between Roosevelt and Churchill.  These revealed that FDR — despite contrary campaign promises — was determined to engage America in the war. Kent smuggled some of the documents out of the embassy, hoping to alert the American public — but was caught.  With U.S. government approval, he was tried in a secret British court and confined to a British prison until the war’s end.  FDR approved to carefully associate the term “German spy” to his name in a further coverup. (3)
  • FDR authorized British and American military staff members to meet during January through March 1941; the purpose was to plan ahead military strategy in the event the U.S. entered war against Germany. They determined that Germany was to be first defeated, while the U.S. would stand on the defensive toward Japan in the Pacific.
  • The Lend-Lease Bill was passed in March 1941, a major shift in FDR’s foreign policy.
  • At the Nov. 25, 1941 White House conference, just weeks before Pearl Harbor, Secretary Stimson reported that FDR had said “The President said the Japanese were notorious for making an attack without warning and stated that we might be attacked, say next Monday, for example.”  FDR knew historically that on three different occasions since 1894, Japan had made surprise attacks coinciding with breaks in diplomatic relations.  (4)
  • On November 29th, Secretary of State Cordell Hull secretly met with newspaper reporter Joseph Leib.  Hull knew him and felt he was a news man he could trust. The Secretary of State handed him secret MAGIC copies concerning Pearl Harbor.  Hull told him the Japanese were planning to strike Pearl Harbor and that FDR planned to let it happen.  Due to the incredibility, only one newspaper published the story.
wwii portraits
(L to R) Stimson, Oshima greeting Hitler, and Ranneft (in white) shaking hands with Chester Nimitz, 1946.
  • On December 2, 1941, days before Pearl Harbor, Captain Johann Ranneft, a Dutch naval attaché in Washington, visited the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI).  Two junior ONI officers pointed to a wall map and said, “This is the Japanese Task Force proceeding East.”  (He was referring to Admiral Nagumo’s carrier strike force heading towards Pearl Harbor.)  The officer had pointed to a spot midway between Japan and Hawaii.  On December 6th, Ranneft returned and asked where the Japanese carriers were.  He was shown a position on the map about 300-400 miles northwest of Pearl Harbor personally by Admiral Wilkinson, ONI chief. (5)
  • The key battles and events during World War II post-Pearl Harbor from the American perspective were (NOTE: I had to center the bullet points below as WordPress does not allow you to use tab stops):

♦ The Battle of Coral Sea

♦ The Battle of Midway

♦  The Solomon Islands Campaign

♦  Battles for Pelileu, Iwo Jima and Okinawa

♦ The shootdown of Admiral Yamamoto.
(Flights to and from the shootdown point occurred before and
continued afterwards, solely to conceal the fact we broke their code.)

_______________________________

The above tries to give you an at altitude look down on what was happening prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor.  In the ensuing stories, I hope to present “things to think about”…  Things like secret codes, espionage, internment and even D-Day in a roundabout way.  Things that FDR knew then orchestrated actions as a politician should.

I hope you will stay tuned… then come to your own conclusions as to what FDR knew.

To be continued… Part 2 is here.

NOTES:

(1) However, the following comment was not part of his speech: Of course, we’ll fight if we’re attacked. If someone attacks us, then it isn’t a foreign war. – Yale University

(2) There were several codes being used by the Japanese Army and Navy in addition to the diplomatic code mentioned above.  All were broken by US cryptologists.  The Japanese also had their cryptologists but were nowhere’s near as successful in breaking US or British codes.

(3) It is important to note that CHAMBERLAIN was the Prime Minister of England, not Churchill.  Yet, FDR and Churchill were secretly making promises unbeknownst to Chamberlain.

(4) Source: Henry Lewis Stimson diaries.

(5) “Military Intelligence Blunders and Cover-Ups: New Revised Edition”

My “Top Ten” Reasons Why Japan Lost the Pacific War…so Quickly


USS Nevada

OK.  Relatively speaking.  “Quickly”.

But we’ve been “at war” against terrorism – both foreign and now domestic – since 2001.  More than 11 years.

But the war against Japan started officially for us on December 7, 1941.  We were caught flat-footed.

Yet it was over by August 15, 1945.

Incredible.  In 3 years, 8 months, 8 days.  How could that have happened so quickly (relatively speaking)?  Have you ever thought of this timeline?

________________________

Well, I have removed my Kevlar flak vest for all you bloggers who love history – and who are immensely more versed and intelligent than I…or is it me?

Below herein is my “Top Ten” list of the reasons why Japan lost the Pacific War…so quickly.

I’d like to hear your opinions, corrections, or teachings.

Hunting season is open.  Rubber bullets are most suitable.

_______________________________

Damage from overhead – Pearl Harbor aftermath

1. Long Range Failure of Pearl Harbor Attack

a. Attack plans skewed towards sinking of carriers (which were not there). Genda wanted to insure carriers were sent to bottom and therefore be unsalvageable. Because our carriers were not there, pilots overly concentrated on battleships or other less tactically important ships.

b. The ordnance used by the attacking Japanese was inappropriate for sinking battleships.

c. The first wave of Japanese torpedo bombers – although a complete tactical surprise – was a dismal failure with very few hits.

d. Failed to destroy dry docks and fuel dumps (Hawaii is an island country and had to import all fuel…like Japan).

e. Nearly all ships damaged by the attack were refloated.

f. Insufficient training by Japanese Navy in preparation for attack.

g. Lastly – and for some foolish reason – they attacked on a Sunday morning.

2. Breaking of the Japanese Naval Code and the failure of the Japanese to accept it was broken.

3. 24-hour Repair of USS Yorktown after Coral Sea in Preparation for Battle of Midway.

USS Yorktown afire
USS Yorktown afire

4. Innovation of US Navy to Use CO2 for Fire Suppression.

a. US Navy would flood fuel tanks on ships with carbon dioxide thereby displacing oxygen before battle.

b. Japanese ships had useless fire suppression systems with fuel right alongside ordnance.

5. Innovation of Rubber-lined Fuel Tanks and Armor Protection for Pilots on US Aircraft

An example of the advantage of self-sealing fuel tanks and armoring.
An example of  survivability with self-sealing fuel tanks and armoring.  F6F Hellcat.

a. “Self-sealing tanks” in wings.

b. Impressive armor shielding for the pilot (especially in the Grumman F6F Hellcat).

c. Japanese planes had neither, leading to insurmountable casualties and easy shoot-downs, i.e., Japanese aircraft would “flame” or disintegrate under withering fire from .50 caliber guns.

Japanese planes did not have self-sealing fuel tanks
Japanese planes did not have self-sealing fuel tanks

6. Battle of Midway

a. Huge tactical gamble by Nimitz in usage of Spruance as task force commander.

b. Tactical decision to launch torpedo planes early on by Spruance. While all but one pilot perished and no torpedoes hit, Mitsubishi Zeroes assigned to combat air patrol were at low altitudes since they shot down the torpedo planes.

c. Dauntless dive bombers (with US fighter cover) were able to dive relatively uncontested and caught Nagumo between launchings with ordnance scattered about.

d. Confusion by Japanese pilots that two US carriers were sunk. In actuality and while eventually sunk, the USS Yorktown had been hit in the first wave but the fires had been put out before the second wave attacked.

e. With the sinking of four Japanese carriers (see Fire Suppression above) and loss of valuable pilots, the Japanese Navy ceased to be an offensive force.

7. Production Might of the US

a. We had eight carriers at time of Pearl Harbor (in the Pacific and the Atlantic) but were down to two after the Battle of Midway.

b. We lost the Wasp, Hornet, Lexington and Yorktown by then.

c. The USS Enterprise was the last operational carrier. The “other” carrier, the USS Langley, was used only for training purposes and was out in the Atlantic.

d. By the time of the invasion of Okinawa in 1945, however, we had over 40 carriers as part of the assault fleet alone.

8. Semi-automatic M1 Garand rifle and the M-2 Flamethrower

a. Japanese military were burdened with reliable but bolt action Arisaka or failure-prone Nambu armaments.  (Bolt-action implies the shooter must lower his rifle to load the next round and then re-sight.)

b. The M-1 Garand took an eight-round clip.  The round had tremendous stopping power, was rugged and a rifle squad could lay down withering fire with the semi-automatic.  The shooter did not have to lower his rifle to load the next round and re-sight.

c. On Iwo Jima and other island battles, the Japanese were rarely seen. As such, the flamethrower was critical for success although accompanied by high mortality rates.

Marines carry the M1 Garand into battle at Tarawa Nov 1943
Marines carry the M1 Garand into battle at Tarawa Nov 1943
Marines Using Flame Thrower on Iwo Jima
US Marines using M-2 flamethrower against entrenched enemy on Iwo Jima

9. The Japanese-American (or “Nisei”) Soldiers in the Top Secret Military Intelligence Service (MIS)

Two of the Nisei secretly attached to Merrill's Marauders plan with General Stillwell.
Two of the Nisei secretly attached to Merrill’s Marauders plan with General Stillwell.

a. MIS secretly accompanied Marines and soldiers for every Pacific Theater amphibious assault or parachuted in with Airborne troops.

b. Nisei’s were the actual soldiers that listened in on Japanese Navy radio transmissions and NOT US Navy personnel. One transmission disclosed details on Admiral Yamamoto’s flight schedule which led to his shootdown.

c. Quickly translated captured major Japanese battle plans for Leyte Gulf (Z-Plan) and allowed for the lop-sided victory at the “Great Marianas Turkey Shoot”.

d. The invaluable intel provided by the MIS proved to the (generally unsupportive) top echelon that the Japanese military was near operational collapse in many combat areas.

10. The US Marine Corps

Marine catches up to comrades after covering fallen buddy with tarp and marking it with his M-1
Marine catches up to comrades after covering fallen buddy with tarp and marking it with his M-1

____________________________

OK.  So what about the B-29’s or the atomic bombs/fire bombings?  Aren’t they some of the reasons Japan lost the Pacific War?

No.  Not in my humble opinion.

Tinian
B-29 boneyard, Tinian

Historical facts will show that the B-29s were largely ineffective until the time LeMay unleashed the firebombing campaign on March 9, 1945.  The first B-29s were deployed out of India and China in the summer of 1944.  For the first missions, about 20% failed to reach their target due largely to mechanical trouble.  Of the approximately 80% that made it to target, only a couple of bombs actually hit target.  Therefore, ineffective results.

Their engines were also prone to overheating in flight.  Criminy.

As for the firebombings/atomic bombings, it is my opinion Japan had already lost the Pacific War due to the ten summarized reasons above.  Intelligence obtained by the US Army MIS Nisei’s like my dad’s predecessors support that conclusion.  When the Nisei interrogated Japanese prisoners at the front lines, it was clear they were nearly without food, water, medical supplies or ammunition.   Their morale was also devastated.  For instance, Japanese soldiers that surrendered would say, “We were terrified.  For every mortar round we would fire at the Marines, ten rounds would come back.”  The Japanese needed to make every round count; the Americans didn’t.

Japanese soldiers – dead, wounded or captured – would have uncensored letters from home on their person.  After the Nisei translated those letters on the battlefront, they disclosed that their families, too, were without much food or water…and that morale was extremely low.

____________________________

So some Greek dude said centuries ago that, “In war, truth is the first casualty.”

Pretty smart.  But that applies even today – and certainly during World War II.

We were raised with certain textbooks for our history classes.  We believed in them.  We had no reason not to.

But the truth is, there are many versions of history.  Factual versions.  Incorrect versions.  Factual versions “edited” by the victors.  Factual versions written by the losers.  And new versions.  And versions to further patriotism.

But there is one thing for sure…  Said by one of the most brilliant minds this world has known:

“I do not know with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”

ALBERT EINSTEIN