The Winds Execute: The Final Casting There was a Winds Execute message. But it did not occur, as Captain Safford believed. We have seen that the message and the circumstances surrounding its “intercept” was fabricated. Safford could not recall the text of the illusory message, so he appropriated the three phrases of the Winds instructional message of 19 November and presented them as the authentic text of the Execute message. Of course, this manufactured message left him with a contradiction concerning the coded phrase for the Soviet Union, which he then tried to explain away with a convoluted reading of the original Japanese instructions.
At the same time, his claim that the navy site at Cheltenham, Maryland, intercepted the Execute message was based solely on his conjecture, which, in turn, was based on technical projections of possible propagation paths of these broadcasts and what East Coast station might have heard the transmission from certain Japanese broadcast stations. It has been demonstrated that Cheltenham, and all of the other East Coast sites, never received any tasking to monitor for the Winds Execute message. Nor had they monitored any Execute message, Ralph Briggs’ unsupported and contradictory claims notwithstanding.
As for Safford’s reaction to the arrival of the Winds Execute message, there was a major gap between what the record showed he did and what he later claimed he did, specifically authoring warning messages, or having seen such messages in draft form. In fact, he did nothing beyond assisting in some fashion with the drafting of messages to outlying U.S. Navy Pacific stations to destroy excess cryptographic material. It has been demonstrated that this series of messages was part of an ongoing set of messages that had begun to go out three days before the purported Winds Execute message was sent. There is nothing in the record, either from Safford himself or from any other person with knowledge of events that suggests such a message arrived and had an effect on subsequent actions.
There is evidence that the sum of the previous week’s events had spurred Commander McCollum to draft a warning message to Pacific commands, but this message was not sent. Yet it had nothing to do with Safford’s Winds Execute message. At the same time, the claim that Colonel Otis Sadtler drafted a similar message also fails to pass muster. As has been shown, Sadtler was reacting to the mistaken or “false” Winds message of the evening of 4 December. The impetus for Sadtler’s message appears to have faded when the 4 December FCC intercept was revealed to have been a mistake.
Safford also claimed that either twenty-six or fifteen people, depending on which one of his lists one consulted, saw or had knowledge of his alleged Execute message. These two lists were largely complementary and did not include other individuals that Safford claimed in later testimony who also might have known of the message. The names on these lists, in fact, were the product of guesswork only, and were not based on direct knowledge of who might have had knowledge of the message, or saw it. His lists were projections based upon the standard distribution of “Magic” translations within the government at the time. Interestingly, individuals who saw the “Magic” translations regularly, such as President Roosevelt and Secretary of State Cordell Hull, were absent from his lists.
A Winds Execute message was sent on 7 December 1941. The weight of the evidence discussed earlier indicates that one coded phrase, “West Wind Clear,” was broadcast according to previous instructions some six to seven hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor. At least one Japanese witness claimed the broadcast occurred perhaps a half hour prior to the attack, but this cannot be verified anywhere else. It is possible that a British site may have heard the broadcast within one to two hours after the attack, but this only substantiates the anticlimactic nature of the broadcast.
In the end, the Winds Code never was the intelligence indicator or warning that it first appeared to the Americans, as well as to the British and Dutch. In the political realm, it added nothing to then current view in Washington (and London) that relations with Tokyo had deteriorated to a dangerous point. From a military standpoint, the Winds coded message contained no actionable intelligence either about the Japanese operations in Southeast Asia and absolutely nothing about Pearl Harbor. In reality, the Japanese broadcast the coded phrase(s) long after hostilities began – useless, in fact, to all who might have heard it.
Source: Center for Cryptologic History National Security Agency, 2008
Robert J. Hanyok and David P. Mowry
3 September 2022 at 05:54
As with many things, we’ll never know the complete truth, but such is life. Thank you again Mario, for
a fine history lesson.
5 September 2022 at 05:08
Wonderful series of articles, Mario! Thank you for presenting these over the past month on the Station HYPO blog.
I’ll agree in general that the winds execute was no big deal, at least as far as the Army Navy ComInt specialists at that time, late November and early December 1941, are concerned. There are many indications that war between Japan and the United States and Great Britain was about to commence (without any reference to the winds execute; or Japanese naval intercepts for that matter).
Could Safford have made such “a big deal” out of the winds messages and its execute (without giving away too much information about the actual execute) to draw attention away from other matters? I have my own thoughts as to what the answer to this is, but we’ll hold those thoughts for another time.’
Let us all remember, however, that Safford was officer in charge of communications security for the United States Navy. I believe LFS did a brilliant job with this.
Was a winds execute message ever sent? Com16’s 011422 (Dec. 1941) reads as follows: “Jig Victor Jig press tonight in closing seventeen hundred schedule stated quote: `All listeners be sure and listen in at zero seven zero zero and zero seven thirty tomorrow morning, since there may be important news.’ Suggest frequencies seven three two seven, nine four three zero, and one two two seven five. Times Tokyo let.” (See JCC exhibit 142, PHA18, p. 3304.) Safford’s reference to “Station JAP” I suspect, was used sarcastically. Captain Safford, like Arthur H. McCollum, Edwin T. Layton, and various other, were all masters of counter-information.
0700 Tokyo time, 2 December 1941, equates with 2200, Greenwich time, 1 Dec. 1941.
I contend that the reason for broadcasting the winds execute message was to relay to those who needed to know the decision made in the Imperial Conference in Tokyo at 1400, 1 December 1941 (Japan time).
Thanks again, Mario, for these superb series of articles!
Andy McKane, 1908, Hawaiian time, Sunday, 4 September 2022
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Maunaloa, Hawaii 96770