The Winds controversy virtually disappeared after the conclusion of the Joint Congressional Committee hearings. Some of Captain Safford’s supporters kept alive his version, but the general trend for histories of Pearl Harbor written during the next three decades tended to relegate the matter of the Winds message to the role of a curiosity or a mistake on the part of Safford.

But this was to change in the late 1970s with the appearance of another source that claimed there had been a Winds Execute message prior to Pearl Harbor, and, furthermore, this source actually had copied it. Within a few years the Winds controversy returned as part of a renewed interest in the charge that the Roosevelt administration conspired to cover up the disaster at Pearl Harbor.

The source behind this new charge about the Winds execute was a former OP-20-G intercept operator by the name of Ralph Briggs. Briggs was a veteran radio intercept operator, one of the first trained to copy Japanese Morse communications as part of the legendary OP-20-G “On The Roof Gang” (OTRG). In December 1941 he was a Morse intercept operator stationed at the navy monitoring station in Cheltenham, Maryland, about fifteen miles east of Washington, D.C. One of the targets he copied was Japanese Morse commercial and merchant marine broadcasts.148

In 1977 a navy historian interviewed Briggs. In the interview Briggs said that “On watch on the evening of the mid-shift of 4 December [which means he had begun work late on the evening of 3 December and finished his shift sometime between 4 and 6:00 AM on 4 December.]…I picked up [tuned in on his radio] on schedule the Orange [Japanese] weather BAMS broadcast circuit [merchant ship broadcast]…I soon discovered that I had copied HIGASHI NO KAZEAME, which in Japanese means “East Wind Rain.” And also meant a break between the United States and Japan.”149

Briggs stated that the intercepted message had been forwarded to the operations center (GY) at OP-20-G Headquarters in Washington via leased teletype line (TWX). Briggs added that he had sent the intercept to headquarters after telling his shift supervisor, whom Briggs never identified in his interview but referred to him only as “DW,” had agreed to Briggs’ decision over the phone. In a 1986 article in a navy cryptologic veterans newsletter, Cryptolog, Briggs embellished his original story from the interview nine years earlier with more telling and provocative details. Briggs claimed that just a few days after he had intercepted the Winds message, Safford had sent a “huge bunch of roses” with an attached note that read “Well Done.” Attached to this bouquet was an envelope that contained a classified note from Safford that expressed his appreciation of the station’s work.150

Source: Center for Cryptologic History National Security Agency, 2008

Robert J. Hanyok and David P. Mowry