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Fdr: Not Guilty I Don’t Buy It
July/August 2001 | Volume 52, Issue 5
Instead, Admiral Kimmel went on to say that “Japan would naturally take precautions to prevent the compromise of her communication system in the event that her action in Southeast Asia caused Britain and the United States to declare war, and take over her diplomatic residences.”
This testimony provides an invaluable window to Kimmel’s thinking on the eve of the war. Like everyone else, he was convinced that any conflict would start in Southeast Asia. Even more important, he found nothing significant in the Japanese destroying their code machines. Admiral Richardson wants us to believe that Kimmel would have been alarmed by an order to Japanese consulates and embassies around the world to burn their codes and wreck their code machines—when in fact, Kimmel was not alarmed by a report from his own intelligence officer that the Japanese were doing just that.
Nor was Kimmel alone in his complacence. On December 6, 1941, General Short was advised by his assistant intelligence officer, Lt. Col. George Bicknell, that the Japanese consulate in Hawaii was burning its papers, something Bicknell thought was “very significant, in view of the present situation.” Short later admitted that he did not consider this “a matter of importance.”
Finally, Admiral Richardson refers to the famous 14-point Japanese reply to the latest U.S. proposals. The first 13 parts were intercepted by U.S. code-breakers before they could be officially presented to Secretary of State Cordell Hull. They were translated and delivered to the White House sometime after 9:00 P.M. on December 6. There is no credible account of President Roosevelt’s telling his family or anyone else that the United States would definitely be at war the next day, but never mind. FDR clearly indicated to Harry Hopkins that he expected war in the Pacific. Yet he still did not believe it to be absolutely inevitable. That very day he had fired off an eloquent, personal appeal to Emperor Hirohito, in a last-ditch attempt to preserve the peace. There is also no record that Roosevelt indicated in any way that he thought war would come first to Pearl Harbor.
Moreover, the Japanese note was not a declaration of war. Not even the fourteenth part, which was not intercepted and decoded until some time between 8:30 and 9:00 A.M. on December 7, Washington time, or between 3:00 and 3:30 A.M. Hawaiian time. In fact, the Japanese note did not even break diplomatic relations; it merely broke off negotiations.
Around the same time, early on the morning of December 7, another Japanese message was intercepted. It requested their ambassador to submit a reply to the United States government (to the Secretary of State, if possible) at 1:00 P.M. on the seventh, his time.
ULTIMATELY, MOST CONSPIRACY THEORIES FALL APART OVER THEIR OWN INTERNAL LOGIC.
This specified time immediately raised all sorts of suspicions among both Army and Navy intelligence officers, and they scrambled to get copies of it to Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall, and the Navy chief, Harold Stark. This took a little time on a Sunday morning, but the messages were passed on. Thereafter followed a well-documented fiasco, in which atmospheric conditions blocked the sending of the Army’s message directly to Hawaii. The communications officer in charge decided to send the message by Western Union, and it arrived only after the attack was already in progress.
Was this, then, the necessary and critical piece of information withheld from Pearl, albeit only by accident? It’s plausible enough—until one considers that at approximately the very time the Army was trying to send its message—6:30 A.M. , Hawaiian time—U.S. ships were busy engaging and sinking a Japanese submarine just outside Pearl Harbor. Is it likely that Kimmel would have been jolted into action by word that negotiations had broken off when he was not especially alarmed by the actual start of the Japanese attack?
It is in discussing the failure to pass on this final warning that Admiral Richardson again moves into the territory of conspiracy theorizing. He writes: “In some way not recorded, the administration made the decision not to notify Hawaii for fear Kimmel would sortie the fleet.” For evidence, Admiral Richardson claims that Admiral Stark’s “briefer” urged him to call Admiral Kimmel after receiving the fourteenth part of the Japanese message. At the time, Stark was conferring with Cmdr. Arthur H. McCollum and Cmdr. Theodore S. Wilkinson. Both men testified before Congress and the Navy court, and neither said that they urged Stark to call Hawaii. Indeed, Commander Wilkinson stated that it “never occurred” to him “it would be appropriate or advisable” to warn Pearl Harbor, chiefly because he thought “that an approaching force would be detected before it could get into attack range.”
Nor is there any record that Admiral Stark tried, as Admiral Richardson writes, to call President Roosevelt but was not put through. This does not even make sense as part of a conspiracy. Why would Roosevelt refuse to speak to his coconspirator—and the Navy chief of staff—without knowing what he had to say? What if something had gone wrong with their conspiracy?