|From the archives of The Memory Hole|
by Charles C. Hiles
Lieutenant Commander Charles C. Hiles, U.S.N. (Ret.), is eminently qualified to write as an expert on the Pearl Harbor situation. On active duty for thirty-three years, he had extensive naval service in the Far East, going back to the period before the first Japanese invasion of Shanghai in 1932, when he was official observer and naval liaison officer, and including the war period. This gave him full and direct knowledge of the political situation in the Far East and of the relation between naval warfare and the communication systems involved. In the period when he was not at sea, he was trained in cryptanalysis by Laurence F. Safford, regarded by many as the most capable cryptanalyst of that period. Safford was head of the security section of naval intelligence communications at the time of Pearl Harbor. Long after the war, when he learned of Hiles' retirement and interest in Pearl Harbor, he encouraged him to begin research work on the subject and cooperated with him heartily for more than two years.
In retirement, Commander Hiles has devoted the last four years to an exhaustive study of the developments which led to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and to the reasons why it was a surprise to General Short and Admiral Kimmel. According to historian Harry Elmer Barnes, "It is safe to say that no other student of this subject has accumulated as impressive a collection of information relevant to this theme. He is well advanced in the production of what should be the definitive work on this crucial event in American military and diplomatic history."
Dr. Harry Elmer Barnes1 introduces the following review article by Commander Hiles.
Dr. Robera Wohlstetter's Pearl Harbor: Warning and Decision2 constituted a landmark and turning-point in serious publications on Pearl Harbor and anti-revisionist historical writing in general.
Until this time, the method pursued in seeking to obscure the actual responsibility for the fact that the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise to the American commanders there, was to blackout the evidence that revealed this responsibility. This procedure was well illustrated by Walter Millis' This Is Pearl (1947) and Herbert Feis' The Road to Pearl Harbor (1950). By 1962, this method had to be abandoned. Beginning with George Morgenstern's tour de force, Pearl Harbor: The Story of the Secret War (1947) and ending with Admiral Kimmel's Story (1955), a series of revisionist books and articles had so well established the facts about the surprise attack on December 7, 1941, that they could no longer be suppressed or blacked out, even by such adroit practitioners of this art as Samuel Eliot Morison, Millis, and Feis.
The problem then became one of how to admit most of the vital facts, save for Roosevelt's ultimate and overall responsibility, and still state them in such a manner as to obscure them and merely confuse readers other than those who were expertly informed on the crucial details. The technique decided upon was what has come to be known as the "historical blurout," which succeeded the "historical blackout" that had sufficed down to the 1960's.
Dr. Wohlstetter's achievement is the classic example of this new procedure. The importance of her effort to those determined to obscure the vital information that could no longer be dodged is revealed by the fact that it is said to be the most heavily subsidized anti-revisionist book, with the exception of the massive two-volume Langer and Gleason The World Crisis and American Foreign Policy (1953). In its way, it is as masterly a product of court historiography as the Langer and Gleason classic.
One can only admire, even marvel, at the patience and skill with which Dr. Wohlstetter has been able to fog and befog the cogent material about the surprise attack and avoid placing the responsibility where it belongs.3 If, as has been stated, Dr. Wohlstetter devoted seven years to the research and writing required to produce her book as printed, it would not be unfair to estimate that at least half of this time was devoted to so arranging and presenting her material as to distract attention, so far as possible, from the evidence that clearly incriminates the guilty parties.
Most of the important facts, other than those which evade even the most astute obscuration, are in the book but they are so enmeshed in the welter of verbosity, evasive rhetoric, semantic virtuosity, backing and filling, and defiance of logical inference and sequence that the overwhelming impression is given of political and military helplessness on the part of the Washington authorities in the face of insuperable complexity and confusion.
In reality, the responsibility for the Pearl Harbor surprise attack, from the Chicago Bridge speech of Roosevelt on October 5, 1937, to the appearance of the Japanese bombers over Pearl Harbor about 7:55 a.m. on December 7, 1941, is crystal clear and cumulative to all those who know the facts whether or not they are willing and courageous enough to set them forth for public enlightenment. The path to war is also straight, save for the switch which began with the economic strangulation of Japan in July 1941, when it had become very likely that Hitler could not be provoked into an act of war in the Atlantic. Throughout, the architect and maestro of the bellicose design was Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Others were eager and skillful collaborators or helpful puppets. The bulk of the facts which support the truth are in the Wohlstetter book and any informed person eager to use them in its cause could produce an admirable manual on Pearl Harbor without going too far beyond the text.
Yet, it has been this very evasive technique which has made the Wohlstetter volume both the first masterpiece of the "blurout" method and the last serious effort to frustrate historical truth by this form of semantic acrobatics. It has proved far too vulnerable in the face of the facts which revisionist scholars have now assembled and effectively organized. As Professor Connors and I made clear in the spring (1966) revisionist issue of the Rampart Journal, the anti-revisionist contingent have already abandoned the "blurout" and adopted the "historical smotherout," based on irresponsible Germanophobia.
It is this situation which has enabled Commander Hiles to produce a treatment of Dr. Wohlstetter's book which is both a candid appraisal and an obituarial note on this sophisticated technique of frustrating straight-forward exposition of factual material.
Just such an obituary is especially timely on the twenty-fifth anniversary of Pearl Harbor. In a famous decision related to sterilization laws in May, 1927, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes observed that "three generations of imbeciles are enough." It is equally true in the historical field that three decades of frustrating the truth in regard to world history through what is bound to prove imbecilic historical writing is more than enough. We should be able to look forward to something more honest and dependable in the quarter of a century between now and the fiftieth anniversary of Pearl Harbor.
Harry Elmer Barnes
On this twenty-fifth anniversary of the so-called day of infamy, it seems highly appropriate to call to account those who have since contributed to the perpetuation and aggravation of this infamy. It has been said that December 7, 1941, was the day that truth died. This is true in a sense, although it had been badly stricken in American administrative and diplomatic circles for months before that time. So far as the American people are concerned, the truth about Pearl Harbor has never emerged from the murk and debris of the deceit that preceded the calamity and followed the effort of those responsible for it to conceal their guilt.
It had one momentary chance, even before World War II was over, in the autumn of 1944. Making use of information they had received from honest government intelligence sources, John T. Flynn and others had discovered that the United States had broken the Japanese Purple Diplomatic Code in August 1940, and had been reading all Japanese diplomatic messages for a year and a half before Pearl Harbor. Hence, President Roosevelt had good reason for expecting a Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor but had failed to warn the American commanders there, General Walter C. Short and Admiral Husband E. Kimmel. He gravely needed a surprise attack to enable him to get into the war with a united country behind him.
This information was delivered to the Dewey headquarters by Flynn and others, and a sensational speech was suggested for Dewey to deliver at the conclusion of his campaign. Roosevelt's "spies" at the Republican headquarters rushed this information to the White House and General Marshall elected to send one of his aides to Dewey to request, if not order, him not to deliver the speech. Marshall stated that this revelation would greatly endanger our war effort because it would enable the Japanese to learn that we had broken their diplomatic code.4 This was disputable because the Japanese had learned that we had broken their Purple code in late April, 1941.5 Dewey was unaware of this and, unlike Roosevelt, put his obligation to this country ahead of his personal political ambitions. He canceled the planning of the speech that could very possibly have won the election for him.
From this time onward, Roosevelt and his associates and successors have taken no chances. They have succeeded in keeping any significant part of the truth about Pearl Harbor from the American people. Most Americans even today are little better informed with respect to the responsibility for the Pearl Harbor disaster than they were before the first of the eight investigations, commissions, and inquiries about Pearl Harbor began less than a fortnight after the attack. Secretary Knox's first-hand report on Pearl Harbor, made within a few days after the attack, which in effect absolved Short and Kimmel of any dereliction of duty, was immediately suppressed by Roosevelt and never made public until after his death, and then by accident.6 The Roberts Commission was immediately created to pillory Short and Kimmel as the scapegoats, and defensive political and military pressure, making use of every kind of mendacity, perjury, mental intimidation, and memory failures, was thereafter able to prevent anything like the complete truth from emerging from the numerous investigations. It should be pointed out, however, as would be expected, that more truth was revealed in the army and naval inquiries than by the purely political join congressional committee investigation. Yet in all fairness it should be said that no lawyer or politician in the joint congressional investigation exhibited greater talent, zeal, and persistence in browbeating would-be honest witnesses than Lieutenant Commander John F. Sonnett, who officiated mainly in the Hewitt Inquiry and was especially insistent with Captain Safford and, purportedly, with others.7
The public has not benefited much more from the literary work done on Pearl Harbor. Beginning with Walter Millis' This Is Pearl (1947) and continuing with Herbert Feis' The Road to Pearl Harbor and Professor Samuel Eliot Morison's The Two-Ocean War, the blackout establishment has done its best to perpetuate the "day of infamy" legend and to suppress or ridicule the facts about the responsibility for the attack and for its being a surprise. So far as public knowledge is concerned, the apologists have been highly successful.
But a number of honest investigators, beginning with John T. Flynn's first brochure in late 1944, and continued in the books of George Morgenstern, Charles Beard, Frederic R. Sanborn, Charles C. Tansil, William Henry Chamberlin, and the contributions to Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace, edited by Harry Elmer Barnes, uncovered the facts as to why Roosevelt wished to have any attack and the reasons why it had to be a surprise attack by Japan.
The blackout establishment has been highly successful in keeping these extremely important works from the public gaze but they could not keep them from some scholarly notice.
Pertinent to this contention and indicative of Dr. Wohlstetter's complete bias is the fact that, in her preface to Warning and Decision, not one of these books received even passing attention, whereas "such excellent, objective studies" as the works of Butow, Feis, Langer and Gleason, Millis, and Morison all received special mention as authorities for her research material. This per se is sufficient to show that Dr. Wohlstetter was interested in exploring only one side of the controversy.
Even those consecrated to protecting President Roosevelt and his associates who brought on the surprise attack became convinced that they could no longer succeed in this mission by the blackout procedure. It was deemed necessary to admit most facts that were established beyond peradventure of a doubt, other than those which pinpointed the ultimate responsibility on Roosevelt himself.
The change which they decided upon strategically appears to be responsible for the writing of the Wohlstetter volume. The facts about Pearl Harbor that are not too devastating to the Roosevelt record or seem possible to be safely included are recognized and embodied in the narrative. But their relevance and significance as to the total story of Pearl Harbor are obscured by a welter of verbiage, semantic acrobatics, alibis, inconsistencies, and diversionary rhetoric, leaving any general reader as much a victim of the "day of infamy" fantasies as the earlier blackout technique of Millis, Feis, and Morison.
Considering its formal scholarship and the meticulous care with which it was organized and written, and the enthusiastic reception accorded it by purportedly competent reviewers, the Wohlstetter book is probably the most formidable and best publicized work on the subject that has appeared during the last decade. For this reason alone it should have produced the optimum for its declared objectivea reliable, close study of all the important phases of military intelligence, and a judicious assessment of the known facts. Because of its failure to attain the high degree of perfection to be expected of such a pretentious work, it has been selected for this brief critique in the hope that the American people, on this twenty-fifth anniversary of the tragic affair, will be moved to demand an honest re-examination of the problem.
Pearl Harbor cannot be disassociated from World War II and its causes. It was the ultimate, inevitable, and logical conclusion to some three decades of international diplomatic skullduggery, in the course of which Japan had, invariably, emerged with the "short end of the stick." At times she had been allowed to play the role of partner in the several Pacific power-pacts but was, almost invariably, the target for doublecrossing by one or more of the great powers.8 Japan always understood this and had no illusions about her position in the Pacific. Accordingly, she played her cards close to her chest. The attack itself was not really desired by Japan because, despite the prejudicial opinions held by many nations, Japan actually had a wholesome respect for public approbation and the niceties of international negotiations under reasonable and amicable conditions.
Indeed, the exemplary manner in which Nomura and Jurusu performed their difficult, arduous, and completely hopeless task under the bludgeonings of the Roosevelt-Hull-Stimson team,9 aided and abetted by the several great powers, must win the admiration of all students and practitioners of the art of statecraft and diplomacy. These men, always ready and willing to mediate on every controversial point and prepared to compromise, reflected the real sentiments of the Japanese people and their government. True, there was a belligerent and bellicose element among the Japanese leaders who had been stung into fury by the contempt of the Western powers and their continuous and studied programs of denial, humiliation, and embarrassment for the empire; but we also had such a group here in America whose argument for justification of intervention was founded on far less provocation than that of Japan's war party.
Yamamoto, the genius who planned the attack, was really opposed to the war and warned his government that if it could not be won in a year, he could not promise a successful outcome. The attack was one of desperation. Japan had been euchred into a position whereby war or economic strangulation, national dissolution, and diplomatic disgrace were the alternatives, and without the element of surprise she would have been faced with the combined potential of the ABCD powers. Dastardly as it appeared to us, at first, it was, for them, the logical move to make, and they had practiced it in the past on several occasions, of which the entire Western World was well aware.
In Pearl HarborWarning and Decision Dr. Wohlstetter has treated us to a fine exposition of equivocative rhetoric. She has produced a very effective treatise for those who will be content with a seemingly satisfactory rationalization of the failures that, presumably, facilitated the attack on Pearl Harbor with its disastrous results. For the uninformed and those who care little for the truth, the work has been completely acceptable. It is more than welcome, as a definitive effort to smother, for all time, the pertinent facts respecting the disaster and to allow the American conscience to retain, at all cost to honesty and integrity, its questionable claim to righteousness and self-respect.
The book is, by far, the best effort thus far made to disarm the conscientious and objective seeker for the truth, in that it offers a new palliative for easing the American mind in the matter of deceit, evasion, equivocation, out-and-out denial of provable facts, double-talk, and gobble-de-goop, in the concerted efforts of those who would banish forever from American closets the disgraceful skeleton of Pearl Harbor.
But this skeleton refuses to be banished until such time as there is a return to the American concept of justice and fair play, and the people are sufficiently aroused to re-submit the problem of Pearl Harbor to the light of complete and impartial scrutiny. The ghosts of some three thousand who perished there will never rest, nor will the tragic page of perfidy and perjury ever be turned, until justice has been done to those who were crucified in the interests of sheer political expediency.
Dr. Wohlstetter introduces a new note of apology that has been sufficiently sugar-coated to render it palatable to many, but not to those who understand the problem and come under her indictment. We are now invited to believe that Pearl Harbor was brought on by a complete breakdown of the intelligence systems of the Army and Navy at Washington and Pearl Harbor, and the bungling of the evaluations made of such intelligence (Magic) that managed to "trickle" through to those in higher echelons. But she removes the sting by ascribing such failures, in essence, to human frailties and a super-abundance of "noise" that tended to confuse the "signals" she so nicely tabulates in the form of handy statistics to support her conclusions. As Dr. Harry Elmer Barnes has expressed it, Dr. Wohlstetter has moved on from the technique of the "blackout school" to that of the "blurout school" in obscuring embarrassing facts.
In her account Dr. Wohlstetter has made it a point to over-emphasize the most insignificant human failings by certain individuals at Washington and Pearl Harbormany so superficial as to have had little or no real bearing on the success of the attack, but which will appear quite impressive to the uninformed. She completely ignores the far more important factors. No service officer at the time of Pearl Harbor, or now, will deny that there were human failings and some ineptitude and inefficiency. These there have always been and always will be, human nature being what it is, whether in civil or military affairs, but to assert that these to any appreciable extent caused, or even contributed substantially to, the surprise and success of the Pearl Harbor attack is to ignore completely the known and provable facts which must, some day, be inevitably faced and judged.
Dr. Wohlstetter very neatly sidesteps the self-evident fact that at Pearl Harbor all normal procedure and performance had been abridged or contravened by Washington with its cryptic instructions for dubious action, denial of intelligence well known in Washington, failure to provide the material of war with which to accomplish the tasks set by Washington, of offense or defense (it was never clear just what was expected), and the final denials (very adroitly and effectively accomplished) of the prerogatives of field commanders to make decisions on their own account. Either through ignorance or a disregard of the readily apparent causes therefor, she wonders at the "paper" organizational set-ups which bore so little resemblance to actualities. Normal functions were out of line and the gears were not meshing but this was due to far deeper underlying causes than the superficial failings so heavily emphasized by Dr. Wohlstetter, who, having so keen an ear for "noises," should have recognized and correctly interpreted them.
In Washington, the situation was no less confused. It was actually still more complicated for the reason that the ramifications of the executive organizational set-up were more far-reaching and extensive, but the effects of the "monkey wrench" which had been tossed into the machinery were no less effective there than at Pearl Harbor. In the attempt to control the march of events to coincide with the administration's designs, it was essential that all previously devised contours of operations for harmonious and intelligent action, inter-servicewise and intra-servicewise, be so distorted or contravened as to appear to be the result of coincidence, stupidity, fallacious judgment, or a combination of all these.
That so many subordinate officers (but of considerable rank and experience) were baffled and bewildered is fully comprehensible when one considers their anxiety and despair, and their several frantic attempts to deliver intelligent and adequate warnings to Pearl Harbor. Training and experience of a lifetime and devotion to duty and loyalty to the nation demanded such action but an invisible political wall had been erected which they could not get through or over. The unseen "monkey wrench" was having its effect; the gears were grinding, producing plenty of "noise" but of a far different kind than that heard by Dr. Wohlstetter.
There is no need to elaborate here on the mechanics of this figurative operational "monkey wrench." It was a hydra-headed thing of which considerations of space prohibit any detailed exposition in a brief discussion such as this.
It is pertinent, however, to offer the views and motivations entertained by this reviewer, which are:
No attempt is made here to justify, or to criticize, the motives of President Roosevelt and his advisors in following the fateful course they did. That must remain the task of students and researchers far more expert and erudite in this field than myself. It is assumed that the administration, to whatever lengths it went in lying to, and deceiving, the people and the Congress, believed that it was acting for the public good in pursuing its disastrous foreign policy. It is even assumed by some, such as Professor T. A. Bailey, that the administration honestly believed that the people were too stupid to "know what was good for them." Yet all of Roosevelt's propaganda and brainwashing had not succeeded in its deceptive purposes. right down to the morning of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the overwhelming majority of the American people were opposed to our going to war unless we were attacked. Whether the Congress of the United States was included in this presidential assessment of defective American acumen is not clear; but one thing is certainly obvious. Considering the critical stage to which this country has come in 1966 and the general demoralization of the entire world, resulting from the imposition of President Roosevelt's alleged wisdom and paternalism, one can only conclude that the people, stupid as they were presumed to have been, could not possibly have done better than they did by opposing war down to Pearl Harbor.
The criticism here is directed against the Big Lie, which has been resorted to in various forms in the effort to cover up the facts regarding the war with Japan and the attack on Pearl Harbor. The people can be expected to be reasonable and forgiving for human errors of judgment on the part of the administration. No man is infallible and a margin of error can be allowed, but under no circumstances can there be found any validity for, nor can the people condone, the preposterous and outrageous blanket of lies, evasions, ambiguities, and perjury under which the truth about Pearl Harbor has thus far been smothered. That innocent people should suffer, that erstwhile splendid reputations should be ruined, that capable and patriotic officers of national reputation should remain, to this day, humiliated and embarrassed and helpless in their efforts to gain an equitable public hearing and judgment is an appalling matter for any American who believes in truth and justice.
The basic contention is here made that:
In her apparent aim of investing the intelligence and war planning services of the Army and Navy with responsibility for the surprise Pearl Harbor attack, however charitable she may appear to be, Dr. Wohlstetter has treated the attack almost solely as an isolated incident, the blame for which can be fixed on certain individuals with whatever extenuating circumstances, forgetting completely the inevitably and immutability of cause and effect. She appears to regard Pearl Harbor in relation to World War II in much the same sense that popular belief related the sinking of the Lusitania to World War I. She appears to ignore the probability that, within a few days, we would probably have gone to war anyhow to implement our secret commitments made in March and April 1941, to defend decadent empires; that Japan gave us a "face saver" in that she had "fired the first shot" which was so much needed by the administration in its desire to enter the war with "clean hands" (God save the words) and with unified public support.
Ironically enough, in the final analysis, we fired the first shot,10 albeit only one hour in advance of the fatal event, under proper auspices, but too late to ward off disaster. But for the weird policy of allowing the Japanese the "first shot," our own shot, had it been fired earlier, as well it might have been, would have given President Roosevelt the "incident" he so ardently desired and with no penalty. And so, posterity will have to reckon with that detail in judging the quality of our rectitude as balanced off against that of the Japanese. Dr. Wohlstetter has failed to peek behind the scenes even once, or to attune her ears to the real source of the "noises" that the muffled the "signals."
No proper assessment of the Pearl Harbor problem can be made without recourse to a study of the background of U.S. foreign policy. Sound judgment cannot be rendered merely by an appraisal of the performance of selected individuals, acting under restraint and compulsion, and in the totally alien atmosphere that then pervaded the Washington scene whereby tradition, training, and patriotic attributes became the casualties of a weird, inexplicable, and completely incomprehensible war policy. In her final assessment, Dr. Wohlstetter leaves us with the impression that military and naval intelligence are worthless as media for determining enemy (or potential enemy) intent and capabilities. We are compelled to inquire if she is suggesting that we rely on a crystal ball for such guidance in the future. Just what does she recommend? Just where does the ideology of her sponsors, the powerful Rand Corporation, fit into the picture? Does Dr. Wohlstetter seek to pave the way for the militant "diplomacy of violence," set forth by Professor Thomas C. Schelling of Harvard University in his recent book, Arms and Influence, as seems to be implied in his eloquent foreword to her book?
Along with her biased and unrealistic conclusions is another besetting sin, that of omission. While more forthright on this matter than the earlier blackout contingent, she has disregarded much that is pertinent to Pearl Harbor. In other words, along with the Orwellian devices of "newspeak" and "crime-stop" (failing to carry discussions through to their logical conclusion), with which her book abounds, she has not lost sight of the indispensable resources of the "memory hole." I use the term "disregarded" because not even the most charitable appraisal can concede it to be otherwise. Surely, "overlooked" would be inappropriate. No careful and thorough research student could have culled from the published record and her numerous interviews so much that was authentic without turning up the many unpalatable, unwholesome, but nonetheless well-substantiated facts that shed far more light on the problem than did the "noises" she emphasizes. That these facts were deliberately ignored is self-evident, and that they remain clamoring for attention cannot be denied. As to why they were ignored, we are left to speculate, although it is not too perplexing to the initiated.
It has been suggested that Dr. Wohlstetter may have invaded strange and unfamiliar territory in which the technical know-how requires much previous experience in the art of warfare on sea and land and highly specialized traininga field from which the gentler sex has been thus far excludedbut from this I shall desist. However strongly I may disagree with her conclusions, I will concede that she has done a very adroit and persuasive job in presenting her views on an utterly alien subject, and has been very convincing for the uninformed. By and large, she has not been seriously challenged except by those who are professionally acquainted with the facts. I hope there will be enough of such persons successfully to contradict her! I hope, too, that if she chances to read this critique, she will understand that my comment is courteously offered, solely and strictly from the standpoint of objectivity and without any personal bias against her or her sex.
It is regrettable that the intellect that was capable of producing Pearl HarborWarning and Decision and the long years of labor devoted to it, not to mention the prominent foundation that sponsored it, could not have been combined to provide a more diligent and unbiased search for truth and objectivity, and given the people of the United States a literary monument of real worth rather than another court-historical effort to obscure the failures of those into whose hands we entrusted our lives and fortunes in perhaps the most momentous crisis of modern times.
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