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Did U.S. leaders know that war was coming?

[Taken from the Top Secret Report of Army Pearl Harbor Board, 20 October 1944, from Pearl Harbor Attack, Part 39, pp. 221-30, transcribed and uploaded by Larry Jewell of the Pearl Harbor Working Group. I've abridged it slightly. I'd also like to point out that nothing here suggests that Roosevelt or anyone else knew that Pearl Harbor would be the target. - Dan Ford]


Memo: To The Secretary of War:

The following is a brief discussion of the evidence and documents in the possession of the Army Pearl Harbor Board, which for reasons of security should not be incorporated in the General Report. The Secretary of War is entirely familiar with this type of evidence and the Board is sure concurs in its decision to treat it separately and as Top Secret.

1. General

Information from informers and other means as to the activities of our potential enemy and their intentions in the negotiations between the United States and Japan was in possession of the State, War and Navy Departments in November and December of 1941. Such agencies had a reasonably complete disclosure of the Japanese plans and intentions, and were in a position to know what were the Japanese potential moves that were scheduled by them against the United States. Therefore, Washington was in possession of essential facts as to the enemy's intentions.

This information showed clearly that war was inevitable and late in November absolutely imminent. It clearly demonstrated the necessity for resorting to every trading act possible to defer the ultimate day of breach of relations to give the Army and Navy time to prepare for the eventualities of war.

The messages actually sent to Hawaii by either the Army or Navy gave only a small fraction of this information. No direction was given the Hawaiian Department based upon this information except the "Do-Don't" message of November 27, 1941. It would have been possible to have sent safely information, ample for the purpose of orienting the commanders in Hawaii, or positive directives could have been formulated to put the Department on Alert Number 3.

This was not done.

Under the circumstances, where information has a vital bearing upon actions to be taken by field commanders, and this information cannot be disclosed by the War Department to its field commanders, it is incumbent upon the War Department then to assume the responsibility for specific directions to the theater commanders. This is an exception to the admirable policy of the War Department of decentralized and complete responsibility upon the competent field commanders.

Short got neither form of assistance from the War Department. The disaster of Pearl Harbor would have been eliminated to the extent that its defenses were available on December 7 if alerted in time. The difference between alerting those defenses in time by a directive from the War Department based upon this information and the failure to alert them is a difference for which the War Department is responsible, wholly aside from Short's responsibility in not himself having selected the right alert.

The War Department had the information. All they had to do was either to give it to Short or give him directions based upon it.

The details of this information follow:

2. Story of the Information as to the Japanese Actions and Intentions from September to December 1941.

The record shows almost daily information as to the Japanese plans and intentions during this period.

1. For instance, on November 24, it was learned that November 29 had been fixed (Tokyo time) as the government date for Japanese offensive military operations.

2. On November 26 there was received specific evidence of the Japanese' intentions to wage offensive war against Great Britain and the United States. War Department G-2 advised the Chief of Staff on November 26 that the Office of Naval Intelligence reported the concentration of units of the Japanese fleet at an unknown port ready for offensive action.

3. On December 1 definite information came from three independent sources that Japan was going to attack Great Britain and the United States, but would maintain peace with Russia.

As Colonel Bratton summed it up:

"The picture that lay before all of our policy making and planning officials, from the Secretary of State, the Secretary of War down to the Chief of the War Plans Division, they all had the same picture; and it was a picture that was being painted over a period of weeks if not months."

The culmination of this complete revelation of the Japanese intentions as to war and the attack came on December 3 with information that Japanese were destroying their codes and code machines. This was construed by G-2 as meaning immediate war. All the information that the War Department G-2 had was presented in one form or another to the policy making and planning agencies of the government. These officials included Secretary of State, Secretary of War, Chief of Staff, and Chief of the War Plans Division. In most instances, copies of our intelligence, in whatever form it was presented, were sent to the Office of Naval Intelligence, to keep them abreast of our trend of thought.

Colonel Bratton on occasions had gone to the Chief of the War Plans Division and to the Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, and stood by while they read the contents of these folders, in case they wished to question him about any of it. Colonel Bratton testifies:

"I had an arrangement with Colonel Smith, Secretary to the General Staff, how he could get me on the telephone at any time in case the Chief of Staff wished to be briefed on any of them."

4. When the information on December 3 came as to the Japanese destroying their codes and code machines, which was construed as certain war, Colonel Bratton took the information to General Miles and General Gerow and talked at length with both of them. General Gerow opposed sending out any further warning to the overseas command. General Miles felt he could not go over General Gerow's decision. Colonel Bratton then went to see Commander McCullom of the Navy, Head of the Far Eastern Section in ONI, and he concurred in Bratton's judgment that further warning should be sent out because this action of the Japanese meant war almost immediately. Colonel Bratton then returned after making arrangements with McCullom and persuaded General Miles to send a message to G-2, Hawaiian Department, instructing him to go to Commander Rochefort, Office of Naval Intelligence, with the Fleet to have him secure from Rochefort the same information which General Gerow would not permit to be sent directly in a war warning message.

All of this important information which was supplied to higher authority in the War Department, Navy Department, and State Department did not go out to the field, with the possible exception of the general statements in occasional messages which are shown in the Board's report. Only the higher-ups in Washington secured this information. G-2 was prevented as a matter of policy from giving out intelligence information of this sort to G-2 in overseas departments. The Navy also objected to any of this type of intelligence being sent by the Army without its authority.

The War Plans Division refused to act upon the recommendations of G-2. Intelligence Bulletins were distributed giving this information. When G- 2 recommended, for instance, the occupation of the outer Aleutians ahead of the Japanese, the War Plans Division took no action upon the estimate and recommendation, with the result that we later had to fight two costly campaigns to regain Attu and Kiska.

Captain Safford of the Communications Security Division in Naval Operations, testified as to the type of information that was coming into the Navy during November and December.

Tokyo informed Nomura on the 22nd of November that the 25th was the last date they could permit him negotiations. On November 26th specific information received from the Navy indicated that Japan intended to wage offensive war against the United States. Nomura on the 26th said he thought he had failed the Emperor and that his humiliation was complete, evidently referring to the ultimatum delivered to him by the Secretary of State.

Colonel Sadtler testified as to the information that was coming in as to Japanese intentions in the fall of 1941, saying:

"The information began to assume rather serious proportions regarding the tense and strained relations between the two countries, and the number of messages about warnings of conditions that obtain in case of hostilities really reached a climax around the middle of November, to such an extent that we were of the opinion that there might be a declaration of war between Japan and the United States on Sunday, November 30. This, as you all know, proved to be a "dud," and on Monday, December 1, if I recall the date correctly, messages that morning began coming in from Tokyo telling the Consuls to destroy their codes and to reply to Tokyo with one code word when they had so complied with their directive.

The Japanese Embassy in Washington was advised to destroy their codes on December 3.

continued in part 2