For the past 80 years, General Short has been ostracized for having placed the Hawaiian Department on an anti-sabotage alert rather than an alert against air attack. Any criticism of Walter C. Short, Husband E. Kimmel, or Claude C. Bloch for their alleged lack of being in a proper state of alertness is totally without warrant.
The Army’s chief of staff, General (later General of the Army) George C. Marshall was the addressee of General Short’s reply to War Department dispatch #472. In his 1944 testimony to the Army Pearl Harbor Board and Navy Court of Inquiry, and in his December 1945 testimony to the Joint Congressional Committee, General George Catlett Marshall—one of history’s most esteemed military leaders, and, rightfully so—said he “could not recall” ever seeing Short’s reply. Lieutenant General (later General) Leonard T. Gerow, director of the War Department’s war plans division, also “could not recall” ever having seen General Short’s reply. (20)
For reasons one can only imagine, the Navy Department’s war warning message of 27 November 1941 did not instruct its recipients to report measures they had taken.(21) During the various investigations into Pearl Harbor there has been considerable criticism surrounding the phrase “execute an appropriate defensive deployment preparatory to carrying out the tasks assigned in WPL-46.”
Admiral Kimmel, Admiral Bloch, Admiral Pye and various of their staff members all expressed criticism over the phrase “defensive deployment.” The investigating bodies didn’t seem to wish to go on record suggesting what this term may mean. We believe a “defensive deployment” is exactly what Admiral Kimmel did between receipt of OPNAV 272337 and the Japanese raid of 7 December 1941. The obsolete battleships of the Pacific Fleet were moored defensively at their quays. During the weekend of 6-7
December 1941, anti-aircraft guns on all battleships present at Pearl Harbor were manned, and ready ammunition was available at each anti-aircraft gun. (Bows of the moored battleships faced south in the direction of the channel connecting Pearl Harbor with Mamala Bay; for the most part the battleships were paired, with the inner ship’s starboard side adjacent to Ford Island. These inboard battleships were not exposed to torpedo attack. The battleships moored on the outside, away from Ford Island, were more exposed to torpedo attack. This also determined which anti-aircraft weapons aboard both inboard and outboard battleships were manned and ready to repel aircraft.)
Another factor in Admiral Kimmel’s defensive deployment is the fact that the three aircraft carriers then in the Pacific were not in port at Pearl Harbor on Sunday, 7 December 1941. Saratoga was at North Island NAS taking aboard “replacement Army pursuit planes.” The Enterprise task force under Vice Admiral William F. Halsey’s command departed Pearl Harbor on 28 November. Destination Wake Island. The USS Lexington, with appropriate escort, departed Pearl Harbor for Midway Island on Friday, 5 December. The task force built around Lexington was under Rear Admiral John H. Newton’s command.
The Navy Department’s war warning and OPNAV 290110 of 28 November 1941 were addressed to Admiral Kimmel (CinCPac) and Admiral Bloch (Com14). These dispatches were not addressed to Admiral Halsey. Admiral Halsey was not ordered to let Japan commit the first overt act. What did Admiral Halsey do upon Task Force Eight’s departure from Pearl Harbor? He had Enterprise’s skipper, Captain George D. Murray, issue Battle Order Number One. Item One reads: “(1) The Enterprise is now operating under war conditions. (2) At any time, day or night, we must be ready for instant action.” Halsey’s Task Force Eight—on its way to Wake Island—was prepared to shoot first any air, surface or sub-surface unit of the Imperial Japanese Navy.
A third task force under Vice Admiral Wilson Brown’s command arrived at Johnston Island at 0800, Sunday, 7 December. Admiral Brown flew his flag in USS Indianapolis. In February 1943, Admiral Brown returned to duty as Naval aide to President Roosevelt. This was Brown’s second tour as President Roosevelt’s naval aide.
The Pacific Fleet’s aircraft carriers and heavy cruisers together with appropriate escorting destroyers were not in port at Pearl Harbor on Sunday, 7 December 1941. These are the ships that constituted the fast raiding force of the United States Pacific Fleet.
What we have here is what we believe was a defensive deployment. It was a defensive deployment in preparation for carrying out the tasks assigned in WPPac-46, the Pacific Fleet’s version of WPL-46 (Navy Basic War Plan, Rainbow No. 5).
(20) The War Department’s dissemination copy of General Short’s #959 is stamped on its reverse side, “GCM.”
(21) The author’s wife found an interesting document of 5 December 1941 at Archives II in College Park. This document is a CinCUS staff notification, Subject: “CSP 1230, 1 copy Reg. No. 3. ECM Key List No. 49. A handwritten note by the assistant communications officer (Lt. Walter J. East) of the CinCPac staff, apparently for the Fleet’s operations officer, Captain (later VADM) Walter S. Delany, reads: “11 – This is a highly secure system held only by the Navy Department and CinCPac, thereby insuring absolute administrative privacy. Respectfully, E.” This document was not furnished to any of the 8 investigations into Pearl harbor. Nor was anything said in any of those investigations that a special cryptographic system for communications between CNO and CinCPac was placed into commission on or about 5 December 1941. (Declassification authority: NND-745002, authors’ collection.) OPNAV 290110 (sent at 2010, 28 Nov. Eastern time) repeated the contents of War Department dispatch #472 to CinCPac and three other addressees. Com14 ND was not an addressee of OPNAV 290110.
By Andy and Debbie McKane