There was a Winds Message. It meant War–and we knew it meant War. By the best estimate that can be made from my recollection and the circumstantial evidence now available, the “Winds Message” was part of a Japanese Overseas “News” Broadcast from Station JAP (Tokyo) on 11980 kilocycles beginning at 1330 Greenwich Civil Time on Thursday, December 4, 1941.
This time corresponded to 10:30 p.m. Tokyo time and 8:30 a.m. Washington time, December 4, 1941. The broadcast was probably in Japanese Morse code, and was originally written in the Kata-Kana form of written, plain-language Japanese. It was intercepted by the U.S. Navy at the big radio receiving station at Cheltenham, Maryland, which serves the Navy Department. It was recorded on a special typewriter, developed by the Navy, which types the Roman-letter equivalents of the Japanese characters. The Winds Message broadcast was forwarded to the Navy Department by TWX (teletypewriter exchange) from the teletype-transmitter in the “Intercept” receiving room at Cheltenham to “WA91,” the page-printer located beside the GY Watch Officer’s desk, in the Navy Department Communication Intelligence Unit under my command. I saw the Winds Message typed in page form on yellow teletype paper, with the translation written below. I immediately forwarded this message to my Commanding Officer (Rear Admiral Leigh Noyes, USN), thus fully discharging my responsibility in the matter.
PREPARATIONS FOR INTERCEPTION
There are various sources of the so-called “Winds Code,” two of which have already been introduced as evidence: Tokyo Circular 2353 on page 154 of Exhibit No. 1 and Tokyo Circular 2354 on page 155 of Exhibit No. 1. The most important source was Commander-in-Chief Asiatic Fleet secret dispatch 281430 of November 28, 1941, addressed for information to the Commander-in-Chief Pacific Fleet and Commandant 14th Naval District–thus letting them in on the secret. I had taken no action personally on the first tip-off (Tokyo Circular 2354), because I was still awaiting the instruction of higher authority. CINCAF 281430 together with Tokyo Circular 2353 and other collateral intercept information apparently made an impression upon the Director of Naval Intelligence, for he immediately sent word to me, through the Director of Naval Communications, that he wished the Communication Intelligence Organization to make every attempt to intercept any message sent in accordance with the Winds Codes. It was a request from Admiral Wilkinson and an order from Admiral Noyes. I hastened to comply, with the secondary motive that it would be a feather in our cap if the Navy got it and our sister service didn’t.
Just about the time I received Admiral Wilkinson’s request, I was shown Tokyo to Washington Serial 843, dated November 27, 1941, prescribing a “schedule of (Tokyo News) Broadcasts,” which gave me something tangible to work with as well as giving added meaning to the Winds Code. The “November 29 deadline” indicated that the Winds Code might be used to notify overseas officials as to things which would “automatically begin to happen.” Tokyo Circulars 2353 and 2354 blueprinted what this action would be. Tokyo Serial 843 implied that such notification would be made. After a conference with my subordinates, I drafted a summary of Tokyo Serial 843
(or had Kramer do it for me), had it coded in the COPEK system, and released it myself at 6 p.m. (Washington time) on November 28, 1941. This secret message was transmitted “Priority” to the Commandants of the 14th and 16th Naval Districts for action, and to the Commander-in-Chief Pacific Fleet and Asiatic Fleet for information, and may be identified as OPNAV 282301. This took care of our overseas Communication Intelligence Units: they now had all the available technical information on the subject. I know that they monitored the Tokyo Voice Broadcasts; I also know that Corregidor monitored the Tokyo Morse Broadcasts; in fact, Corregidor and Heeia went beyond their instructions and guarded the Tokyo Broadcasts 24 hours a day. Captain Rochefort and Commander Leitwiler can verify this.
I discussed the situation with Commander Welker, in charge of the intercept and direction-finder stations, and with Chief Radioman Lewis, his technical assistant. Our prospects for interception looked somewhat dubious. We were not encouraged when a day or two later Washington and Rio objected to the new frequency assignments and Rome complained about the poor quality of the Tokyo Voice Broadcasts.
I would like to digress long enough to invite the attention of the Committee to the fact that OPNAV 282301 is not included in the “Basic Exhibit of Dispatches” (Exhibit No. 37), and that Tokyo Serial 843 (JD-1 #6899: SIS #25446) is not included in the “Intercepted Japanese Diplomatic Messages” (Exhibit No. 1). Three other relevant intercepts not appearing in Exhibit No. 1 are also of interest at this point, namely: Washington to Tokyo Serial 1197 of November 27, 1941 (JD-1 #6908: SIS #25476), Rio to Tokyo Serial 482 of November 30, 1941 (JD-1 #6982: SIS #25571), Rome to Tokyo Serial 768 of November 29, 1941 (JD-1 #6981: SIS #25604). These 5 documents should be introduced as evidence for purposes of record.
Welker, Lewis and I agreed that 5160 kilocycles would probably come in nicely at Manila and at Pearl Harbor. Station JHL was of too low power to reach the greater distances to the continental United States. 9430 kilocycles appeared a bit high for a night frequency in winter, as far as the West Coast was concerned. There did not seem to be a remote possibility of the 11980 kilocycles and 12265 kilocycles being heard by any station in the Pacific Ocean or along either shore at the time of day scheduled. Nevertheless, we decided to have Bainbridge Island monitor the Tokyo Morse Code Broadcasts on the chance that the times given in Tokyo Serial 843 might not be given in Tokyo time or the schedules could be heard because of freak conditions. We did not order Bainbridge Island to monitor the Tokyo Voice Broadcasts because its two sound recorders were guarding the two ends of the Tokyo-San Francisco radio telephone circuit. Our estimates for Bainbridge Island were closely realized: excellent receivability at the wrong time of day and almost a complete “black-out” of reception on the higher frequencies during the period scheduled for the Winds Message broadcast.
We agreed that the best chance of intercepting the listed schedules (other than those on 5160 kilocycles) was on the East Coast of the United States. During the winter months the East Coast had good reception of Tokyo during the few hours included in the schedules. Our best bet was Cheltenham, which had been guarding the MAM (Tokyo) Broadcasts to Japanese Merchant Vessels, so we had up-to-the-minute data on the receivability of Tokyo. According to my memory we decided to play safe and have all East Coast intercept stations monitor the Tokyo Broadcasts. We agreed it would be impossible to hear Voice Broadcasts from Tokyo on the East Coast and therefore did not attempt it. We did not order Guam or Imperial Beach (California) to monitor any of the Tokyo broadcast schedules.
Featured image: Captain Laurance Frye Safford speaking with Senator Homer Ferguson during Safford’s testimony to the JCC on Pearl Harbor in February 1946