Truth about Pearl Harbor - John T. Flynn

The Warnings That Went To Hawaii.

We have now seen that the President in Washington was conducting a war against Germany, though no declaration of war had been made and that he had as Mr. Lippmann put it, declared "economic war on Japan" while American Army fliers disguised in Chinese uniforms were bombing Japanese troops and American ships were ferrying armaments to the Chinese armies. These were skirmishes preceding the grand scale attack.

We have seen that the President had decided on all-out war with Japan but that he was manoeuvring Japan into a position to attack first and that he succeeded in this. That attack came on December 7 at Pearl Harbor, the Philippines, Guam, Malay, and other points. We have seen that the President went before the American people and Congress and declared that we had been "surprised" and that Japan had struck while we were engaged in an effort to produce peace in the Pacific. The appalling disaster the government blamed upon Admiral Kimmel and General Short, in command at Pearl Harbor, on the theory that they were not on guard against an attack about which they had received ample warning.

First of all it must be understood that as soon as the astounding nature of the defeat was known in Washington, there was a very general hustling by everyone in authority from the President down to provide themselves with appropriate alibis. One of the first to come up with one was Mr. Hull. The Roberts Report declared that for months Mr. Hull repeatedly discussed the American-Japanese negotiations with the Secretaries of War and Navy and the Council of War at which the Army Chief of Staff and the Naval Chief of Operations were present. He insists that he constantly kept the Secretary of the Navy informed of the progress of the negotiations. Then on November 24 Mr. Hull reported to them that "a surprise aggressive movement in any direction by the Japanese was a possibility."

Now, of course, this is supposed to completely relieve Mr. Hull of all responsibility. The negotiations had been going on for many months. They had a way of leaping into the papers and then dying out. In the last half of November the arrival of Kuritsu gave them a new and sensational turn.

His warning is supposed to reveal in Mr. Hull a profound insight into the course of things to come. What Mr. Hull told the Army and Navy chiefs we can only surmise. It was understood by the Army and Navy that the negotiations had been initiated by Japan, not by us. The Japanese envoys had been trying to persuade Roosevelt to end the embargo against Japan so that she could once again buy supplies here. The discussion turned, in a very leisurely manner and in very vague terms, around the conditions on which this might be done. But Mr. Hull never until the last gave to the Japanese any specific conditions. Around the last half of November it was generally understood in Army and Navy circles that the negotiations would probably "break down." "Breaking down" meant to everyone, including the high command, that Japan would fail to get any concessions from us. What would she do then?

That seemed clear enough. She would seize the Dutch East Indies for essential materials. She had occupied Indo-China for that purpose as a base from which to move on the Dutch East Indies. The general assumption, then, was that when negotiations broke down, Japan would then go first into Thailand and then to the Dutch East Indies. Such an attack would mean war with Britain and perhaps the United States. It would not be a direct attack on them, but only on the Dutch. If Japan hit at Thailand and then attacked the Dutch Indies, Britain and the United States could then choose the time and the manner and the spot at which they would strike. For this purpose Malay and Singapore for the British and the Philippines for the United States were bases of the supremest importance. Japan might take one of two courses. She might go into Thailand and against the Dutch East Indies directly hoping on a faint chance that the United States and Britain would stay out of the war. Or she might assume that they would come in and attempt to knock them out of their two great bases at the outset. This meant that Japan might begin with an attack on Singapore or Northern Malay or on the Philippines. This is what ending the negotiations meant.

What the Army did not know until the last minute, if at all, was that we had not merely refused to yield to Japan's plea for a resumption of relations, hut that the President by November 24 had decided TO ISSUE AN ULTIMATUM to Japan, to lay down imperious conditions to her—conditions which meant peace or war. He did not tell her merely that we would not do business with her; he told her to get out of China, out of Indo-China and to repudiate her Axis treaties. This was lighting talk. It was an ultimatum, is now recognized as such, and was recognized then as such both by the Japanese and by the President. This changed the whole picture.

Now we have been informed that Mr. Hull told the War Council on November 24 that negotiations were about to break down. He knew he was going to issue an ultimatum in two days—November 26. It was perhaps already written. But did he tell the Chief of Staff of the Army and the Chief of Naval Operations—General Marshall and Admiral Stark—that what he was about to hand the Japanese was an ultimatum? Or did he tell them merely that negotiations were about to suffer a break? In either case it would mean war. But in the former case it would mean war instantly with the United States directly as the chief target. What did Hull tell the Army chiefs? And what did they tell him? They knew, they must have known, that the United States was pathetically unprepared then for war in the East. They knew that if Japan attacked us directly that Germany and Italy would immediately declare war on us under the terms of the Rome-Berlin-Tokyo pact. They knew they could not get any reinforcements from the Atlantic into the Pacific in time to be of avail. Did they tell the President through Mr. Hull that we were unprepared? Did they protest? Certainly we are entitled to have the facts on that.

In any case Mr. Hull's warning about a surprise attack was not the result of any special information he had but was based entirely on the general understanding of the Japanese method of making war. The Army and Navy chiefs knew that as well as he. What the Army and Navy would have liked to have known was when the attack would come and where. Of course Mr. Hull did not know any more about that than the man in the moon and his surmise would be valueless. His warning was merely—be careful! Look out for the Japs! They are a treacherous lot. We are about to break off negotiations. They may not reply or wait. They may strike without notice and anywhere. Any newspaper man could have told the Army chiefs as much, had they needed telling. The problem they had to guess at was: When and where will the Japs move? Mr. Hull knew nothing on this score—not as much as they did. And, as we now know, when he or anyone else in the Administration talked about an attack coming "anywhere" they meant anywhere in Asia—Malay, Thailand, Singapore itself, the Dutch East Indies, maybe the Philippines or even Guam—anywhere—anywhere in the Pacific except Hawaii.

It is very doubtful that Mr. Hull admitted to the Army and Navy chiefs that what he was delivering to the Japanese was an ultimatum. This would be in keeping with two of the crowning defects of the State Department under Mr. Roosevelt—its inveterate secrecy and its passion for refusing to look words in the face. Mr. Hull is, perhaps, the only man of position in Washington who still thinks the war started with Pearl Harbor. It is quite probable that he would still indignantly deny that his last document to the Japanese envoys was an ultimatum. The pretense of not issuing an ultimatum was part of Mr. Roosevelt's political strategy. He must not, at any price, be caught in the posture of beginning the shooting. Therefore, he must not be found in the position of delivering an ultimatum. The whole purpose of this event was to leave in the mind of the people the picture of Mr. Roosevelt earnestly striving to promote peace in the Pacific, offering the Japanese an olive branch, and receiving in return a stab in the back—the back which Mr. Roosevelt turned to the enemy at the very moment when that enemy had been literally dared to use its knife. Hence the information about the ultimatum, even if given to the Secretary of War and Navy, was withheld from the people. Mr. Roosevelt, who had authorized it, went off on a vacation to Warm Springs, as if he had not the slightest intention of adding to the turmoil of the world.

Whatever the Secretaries of War and Navy knew, what we must ask, in all fairness, did they communicate to Admiral Kimmel and General Short in Hawaii? What were Admiral Kimmel and General Short told about the nature of the crisis? What were they told about the possibility of attack on Hawaii? What were they told to do and what did they do that was in violation of their orders? Let us see.

The contents of the warnings given to Kimmel and Short are all outlined in the report of the Roberts Commission. According to that Report, on October 16 the War and Navy Departments advised Kimmel and Short that changes had taken place in the Japanese Cabinet—the fall of Konoye—and that there was a possibility of war between Japan and Russia, and, possibly, Britain and the United States. Now. of course.' Kimmel and Short didn't need to be "advised" of the fall of the Konoye Cabinet. It was in all the papers for everybody to read.

November 24, 1941, the Chief of Naval Operations wired Kimmel expressing doubt of a favorable outcome of the negotiations in Washington. The Army Chief of Staff concurred in the dispatch. This followed Hull's announcement of this fact to the cabinet members just before he issued his ultimatum.

November 27, the Army Chief of Staff informed the Commanding General at Hawaii "that the negotiations with Japan seemed to be ended with little likelihood of their resumption." The same day the Intelligence Department sent a similar message to Short's Intelligence Officer. Not a word about the United States having issued an ultimatum bringing the issue down to war between the United States and Japan, rather than just between Japan and Thailand or Japan, Thailand and the Dutch and British. "Ending of negotiations" might mean that the United States had failed to find means of dissuading Japan from further movements in China and Indo-China. This might mean a movement against Malay or Thailand or, perhaps, the Indies. No one in our armed forces in authority believed Japan wanted war with us. They did count on a Japanese attack on the Indies and our military and naval people believed that if Japan made such a move we would sooner or later enter the war. Never once was Kimmel given the information that Mr. Hull had told the Japanese, in effect, to crawl back into their own island or face war. That, in the involved language of diplomacy, is what he told them.