Most of this information did not come to light until after the war, during the Joint Congressional Committee investigation held from November 15, 1945, to May 31, 1946. Admiral Theobald (who served as an informal assistant to Admiral Kimmel during this investigation) described it and the previous Congressional investigations in The Final Secret of Pearl Harbor.
Based on the information revealed in these investigations, Admiral Theobald outlined the intelligence that had been deliberately withheld from Admiral Kimmel and General Short. Although a detailed description of this intelligence is beyond the scope of the present article, a few of the most important items will be mentioned.
On January 27, 1941, Ambassador Joseph Grew in Tokyo sent the following message to the State Department:
The Peruvian minister has informed a member of my staff that he has heard from many sources, including a Japanese source, that in the event of trouble breaking out between the United States and Japan, the Japanese intended to make a surprise attack against Pearl Harbor with all their strength and employing all their equipment. The Peruvian minister considers the rumors fantastic. Nevertheless, he considered them of sufficient importance to convey the information to a member of my staff.
A message from Tokyo to the Japanese Consul General in Honolulu on September 24, 1941 (and decoded by the War Department on October 9), divided the harbor into 5 sub-areas and requested the Consul to secretly report on the American warships within each sub-area. Subsequent reports from the Consul detailing American ship movements were also intercepted and decoded. The message from Tokyo continued,
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 dock. 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.
Regarding the secret Japanese reports of American ship movements, Admiral Theobald wrote,
Not the slightest hint of all this was given to Admiral Kimmel or General Short. Why was such irrefutable evidence of the coming attack so withheld? Why did Washington contribute so completely to the surprise feature of that attack? There can be only one answer - because President Roosevelt wanted it that way!
On October 18, the Japanese government arrested Dr. Richard Sorge, who led a Russian spy ring inside Japan. The New York Daily News later reported that prior to his execution, Dr. Sorge confessed that he had told the Kremlin "that the Japs intended to attack Pearl Harbor within 60 days." Japanese records showed that the Russian government provided this information to President Roosevelt, General Marshall, and Admiral Stark in exchange for intelligence regarding Germany's imminent attack on Russia.
Sailors on Ford Island clear away wreckage as the USS Shaw explodes. by U.S. Navy/Wikimedia Commons
On November 3, 1941, Ambassador Grew sent a message to the State Department emphasizing the need for an immediate resolution of the conflict with Japan to prevent war. Between November 5 and November 24, several messages were sent from Tokyo to the Japanese Embassy in Washington (and decoded by the U.S. Navy Department) that emphasized the need to resolve the conflict before the "immovable" date of November 25. The Japanese government subsequently changed this date to November 29. Then on November 26, the Japanese Embassy in Washington sent two messages to Tokyo that reported their failure to conclude negotiations successfully, and described the terms of an expected American counter-proposal. These messages were decoded on November 28.
On November 26, 1941, Secretary Hull presented a list of demands to the Japanese Ambassador in Washington for ending the embargo and releasing Japanese assets. The demands included:
* Withdrawal of Japanese forces from China and Manchuria,
* Recognition of the Chiang Kai-shek government,
* Withdrawal from French Indo-China,
* Guarantees that the Philippines, Siberia, the Dutch East Indies, China, and Thailand would be safe from attack, and
* Abrogation of the Tripartite Treaty.
The administration knew that these demands would not be acceptable to the Japanese government. According to Admiral Theobald,
The only possible conclusion is that President Roosevelt wanted to be absolutely sure that Japan's answer would be a declaration of war.... Everyone concerned recognized that this note put an end to the Kurusu-Nomura negotiations, and that war was inevitable.
In Part 3, we will look at the final result of the Roosevelt administration's economic sanctions on Japan and the list of demands presented to the Japanese Ambassador. We will also draw some conclusions regarding the true lessons of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
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