Truth about Pearl Harbor - John T. Flynn

The Truth About Pearl Harbor

On December 7, 1941, Japan struck our base and fleet in Pearl Harbor. Her planes knocked the American Pacific Fleet, for all practical purposes, out of the war. Within 24 hours the Japanese struck at the Philippines, Wake, Midway, Guam and Malay. Having knocked us out of the war in the Pacific for the time being in a single day, the way was open to the Japanese to push their victories across the whole Southwest Pacific until within six months they had conquered the Dutch and British East Indies, Indo-China and Malay—perhaps the richest empire of resources in the world. Without any single exception in our history, Pearl Harbor was the most disastrous defeat ever suffered by American arms. Practically all that has happened in the last two years in the Pacific, the great loss of life, the immense destruction of material, the grievous blow to our prestige in the Orient and the costly exertions which lie before us are traceable to that humiliating defeat in Pearl Harbor.

Who was responsible for it? Someone in high authority, holding the commission of the American people in a critical hour, mishandled that trust upon a scale never before matched in all our 165 years of national life.

The President of the United States has caused a finger to be pointed at two men as the culprits—Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, Commander of the Pacific Fleet, and General Walter C. Short, commanding the Army in Hawaii. They were relieved of their commands and ordered to remain silent pending court martial. Then Washington proceeded to create the impression that it would be harmful to the national safety to even discuss the subject during the war. Behind this artfully created silence, the American people have been deprived of the opportunity to determine the real responsibility for the crime—for crime it was that was committed against the nation in that fateful episode.

For a long time the actual damage done to our naval and military equipment in Pearl Harbor was hidden from the people on the pretense that we could not afford to inform the enemy of the damage done. Under the pressure of public opinion that concealment was broken down and the full story of the losses was made known. Now the war in Europe draws to a close. Public opinion once again presses for the facts about the official chiefly responsible for Pearl Harbor and the Philippine disasters. The people are entitled to know the name of the culprit whose appalling negligence, ineptitude and ignorance has been hidden these last two years. Here I propose to examine this question.

Before Pearl Harbor the country was divided on the issue of entering the war. I do not intend to revive that discussion now, for it is irrelevant. Once this country declared war there was but one objective held essential by all Americans—to win it.

In examining this subject, therefore, I propose to proceed upon the assumption that those who urged all-out aid to our European allies and to China were right. I do not intend to question the propriety of giving destroyers, of lend-lease, convoying arms or repealing the Neutrality Act. I shall, rather, assuming all these steps were proper, look into the conduct of the war in the Pacific to determine only one question: Who was responsible for the humiliating defeat at Pearl Harbor and the long, agonizing destruction of our Army in the Philippines and the immense exertions and losses required to recover the vast empire of Pacific islands which fell to the Japanese as a result?

The President has managed to plant in the public mind the following propositions:

  1. That on December 7, the United States, being at peace, the Japanese made a sneak attack—stabbing us in the back.
  2. That at that very moment the United States was earnestly striving for peace.
  3. That in ample time, when peace hopes faded, the State Department warned the War and Navy Departments and these in turn warned the Commanders in Pearl Harbor that the Japanese might attack that base.
  4. That these commanders ignored the warnings, failed to take the proper measures of alert or defense and thus exposed the Pacific Fleet to destruction.

Based on these propositions a Commission headed by Justice Owen J. Roberts, after a brief investigation at Pearl Harbor, held Admiral Kimmel and General Short responsible for the defeat. But the War and Navy Departments have since refused resolutely to bring these two men to trial. Why? Danger of revealing important defense information to the enemy cannot be claimed now. Is it not rather for the purpose of withholding from the American people information essential to the defense of the men who are the real culprits? Let us examine all the facts to determine where the guilt lies.