Two days later, on 25 November, we suddenly read that “One or more of the Carrier Divisions are present in the Mandates.” By this time in 1941, a Japanese carrier division consisted of two aircraft carriers.

“One or more Carrier Divisions” means a minimum of two carriers and possibly more. These carriers are supposedly in the Mandates. But we’re not told where they allegedly are in the Mandated Islands. This covers a considerable area within the Pacific Ocean.

On 27 November, under the Fourth Fleet heading, we’re told there is “No further information on the presence of Carrier Division Five in the Mandates.” Carrier Division Five had not yet been identified in these summaries (and earlier ones from November 1941) as having been in the Mandated or Marshall Islands. On 26 November 1941, Carrier Division Five sortied from Etorofu Jima in the Kurile Islands. Carrier Division Five, together with Carrier Divisions One and Two, departed Tankan Bay (Etorofu Jima) with the Kido Butai. The Kido Butai was on its way to the Hawaiian Islands.

Under the “Air” heading of 27 November, we read “Carriers are still located in home waters.” Home waters or Empire waters were the terms used by the United States Navy of 1941 to indicate the water areas near Japan. The net result of these daily communications intelligence summaries made it appear that the United States Navy lost track of the location of the majority of Japan’s aircraft carriers. This positively did not happen in the period leading up to 7 December 1941.

The First Air Fleet (Kido Butai) that delivered the raid on Oahu of 7 December 1941 did not sortie from the Marshall (or Mandate) Islands. The Kido Butai sortied from Etorofu Jima (Tankan Bay) in the Kurile Islands. The Kurile’s are well north of Oahu. The Marshalls, on the other hand are well south of the Hawaii Islands.

Where and when did the claim originate that the force that raided Oahu came out of the Marshall Islands? This deceit—and this is exactly what it was, deceit—surfaced in the Roberts Commission testimony of Lieutenant Commander Edwin T. Layton and Commander Joseph J. Rochefort, both of whom testified on Friday, 2 January 1942. This was less than one month after Japan delivered the United States into the Second World War. (13)

BGen. Joseph T. McNarney: “Can you name the ones that you think were here?”

Cdr. Joseph J. Rochefort: “Yes, sir; the Kaga, the Akagi, and the Soryu. If there was a fourth one it was the Hiryu. That is CarDiv 1 and CarDiv 2, sir.”

RADM Joseph M. Reeves: “Well, which ones do you think were in the Marshalls?”

Cdr. Rochefort: “The division in the Marshalls, sir, we thought at the time that it was CarDiv 1, the Kaga and the Akagi, but we weren’t sure. There was no names mentioned [sic].” (14)

When Lieutenant Commander Layton testified to the Roberts Commission, he was asked by General McNarney if he had arrived at the names of the ships the Japanese employed.

LCdr. Layton: “….From the captured documents and such, which gave the composition of the striking force, it appears that there were six carriers involved in the operation….This task force, according to the documents, consisted of six carriers: the Akagi, the Kaga, the Hiryu, the Soryu, the Shokaku, and the Zuikaku; the cruisers Tone and Chikuma; the ex-battle cruisers Hiei and Kirishima, plus DesRon One from the First Fleet, which consisted of the old cruiser Abukuma, and three destroyer divisions, a total of 12 destroyers.” (15)

When he appeared before the Army Pearl Harbor Board on Thursday, 24 August 1944, Vice Admiral Patrick N.L. Bellinger was asked if he knew anything about the location of a Japanese task force in the Marshall Islands prior to 7 December 1941. At that time, then Rear Admiral Bellinger had a variety of jobs all related to naval aircraft in the Hawaiian area. His two most important assignments were probably Commander, Patrol Wing Two, and Commander, Naval Base Defense Air Force. The Army Pearl Harbor Board was interested in what, if anything Admiral Bellinger knew as relates to the location of Japanese aircraft carriers prior to 7 December 1941. This is one of the admiral’s answers: “As to this information about a task force in Jaluit, I do not remember anything about it. This is my first information about that….” (16)

The Commanding Officer of Hickam Field in 1941 was Colonel William E. Farthing. In 1944, then Brigadier General Farthing gave an interesting reply to the Army Pearl Harbor Board: “…the G-2 [Intelligence], anyway, had—where the Navy said that they knew where everyone of the [Japanese] ships were, we constantly were on the alert, or off the alert. Every time they said that they had lost a carrier, or lost a battleship, and every time they lost a Japanese ship of any type, we went on alert until that was located.” (17)

In 1941, Major General Henry T. Burgin commanded the Coast Artillery and all of the antiaircraft artillery of the Hawaiian Department. Here is part of his 1944 testimony to the Army Pearl Harbor Board:

General Frank: “Did you ever hear of the presence between November 25th and 30th of a Japanese carrier task force with submarines in the Marshalls?”

General Burgin: “Never.”

General Frank: “What would have been your reaction?”

General Burgin: “I don’t think it would have been any different. We were working under S.O.P. from topside. We would have waited on orders from him.”

General Frank: “You still would have believed in the Navy?”

General Burgin: “Yes, I certainly would.”(18)

General Burgin’s testimony quoted here is from 1944, close to three years after Pearl Harbor; General Burgin trusted the Navy’s communications intelligence. We can only assume what General Burgin meant when he said “we were working under standing operating procedure from topside.” This writer’s considered opinion is that the actions (and in some cases inactions) taken by General Short, General Burgin and their naval opposites were all  based on orders from above.

What, if anything, did General Short do as Commanding General of the Hawaiian Department after receipt of War Department dispatch #472 on 27 November 1941? That dispatch specifically ordered: “Report measures taken.” General Short’s reply reads: “Department alerted to prevent sabotage. Liaison with Navy. RURAD 472, 27th.” (19)

(13) Roberts Commission testimony of Lieutenant Commander E.T. Layton, PHA23, pp. 657-672; Roberts Commission testimony of Commander J.J. Rochefort, PHA23, pp. 673-688. Layton and Rochefort met with the commission at Submarine Base Headquarters, Pearl Harbor, T.H., Friday, 2 January 1942.

(14) Rear Admiral Joseph M. Reeves and Brigadier General Joseph T. McNarney were both members of the Roberts Commission. This testimony is on PHA23, p. 688. There were four military members of the Roberts Commission. Joseph T. McNarney was the commission’s only active duty member. McNarney began 1941 in the War Plans Division of the War Department. Later in 1941 he was sent as an Army Air Forces observer to London. An extremely competent officer, McNarney retired in January 1952 in the rank of General (4-stars).


(15) Roberts Commission testimony of Lieutenant Commander Edwin T. Layton, 2 January 1942, PHA23, p. 665. Earlier in this same answer Layton specifically mentions “Akagi, which is the flag of the First Carrier Fleet….” (Ibid.)

(16) Patrick N.L. Bellinger’s Army Pearl Harbor Board testimony, 24 Aug. 1944, PHA28, p. 856. This matter was raised several times during Bellinger’s APHB examination, see PHA28, pp. 840, and 855-856. In 1941, Bellinger was a rear admiral. In 1944, “Pat” Bellinger was Commander, Fleet Air, Atlantic Fleet.

(17) Brigadier General William E. Farthing, Army Pearl Harbor Board testimony, Tuesday, 15 August 1944, PHA27, p. 437. In answering question #64 from MG, W.H. Frank, Farthing states: “I thought, I really thought, that we knew where most of their carriers were.” In responding to question #70 from General Frank, regarding Japanese carriers in Jaluit, Marshall Islands, Farthing said: “That wasn’t its normal station.” (These two answers are in PHA27, p. 438.)

(18) Major General Henry T. Burgin, Army Pearl Harbor Board testimony, Friday, 8 September 1944, PHA28, p. 1381.

(19) As published in JCC exhibit 32 (see PHA14, 1326-1334, with specific reference to p. 1330) the Hawaiian Department’s reply reads: “Priority. From: Fort Shafter, T.H. To: Chief of Staff. No. 959, November 27th . Report [D]epartment alerted to prevent sabotage period Liaison with Navy reurad four seven two twenty seventh. Short.” Reurad or RURAD means “reference your radio.” Radio! Not a third party telegram as was the alleged means of sending the Marshall alert to Short and MacArthur on 7 Dec. 1941. Yes, we know, “the atmospherics were bad,” so the War Department sent the Marshall alert via Western Union! This typed version of General Short’s reply does a poor job of reflecting the actual message. Short’s reply, unlike War Department dispatch #472 to which General Short replied, is brilliantly written by the book. The War Department’s dispatch is anything but textbook. The book we refer to is Joint Army and Navy Radio Procedure, Prepared by the Joint Board, 1940. This “restricted publication” was approved by Secretaries Stimson and Knox on 20 November 1940. It is JB No. 319 (Serial 667). Authors’ collection. The Hawaiian Department had 3 separate degrees of alert.

By Andy and Debbie McKane