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Pearl Harbor Essay, Research Paper

December 7, 1941, a date which will live in infamy. This was the day that the great tragedy of Pearl Harbor happened. This was a day in history that could have and should have been avoided. There were signals that the attack was going to occur and if these signals were given the attention that they deserved the tragedy might have been prevented and many innocent lives spared.

On Oahu, 7 December 1941 began as a typical Sunday; it was the day of the week when military activities were those of relaxation. In this tropical paradise in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, they were preparing for a war that raged thousands of miles over the eastern and western horizons. In this beautiful setting, it would have seemed more appropriate if the personnel were training to become tourists ready to embark on an extended vacation instead of a military campaign. Unfortunately this was to be a Sunday, such as the world had never witnessed. It was 0753 when those blood chilling words TORA, TORA, TORA came over the radio to the other Japanese pilots (Prange 58). The Japanese had successfully pulled a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor and the war began. Eight American battleships and 13 other naval vessels were sunk or badly damaged, almost 200 American aircraft were destroyed, and approximately 3000 naval and military personnel were killed or wounded (Travers 230).

The history of the planning of the attack and a thorough examination of world history of the 1920 s and 1930 s suggests that the attack on Pearl Harbor was avoidable. If not avoidable, the casualties suffered at Pearl Harbor, at Midway Island, at Wake Island, at the Philippines, and at Guam could certainly been lessened. If the American people and government had just open their eyes they would have seen that the Japanese were not just bucked toothed, little men with coke bottle glasses; but instead were the descendants of Samurai and as such believed in the code of the warrior. Between stereotyping and imperfect knowledge of Japanese military history our military commanders ignored the obvious.

The Japanese home islands had never been invaded. Even China, under the great emperor Kublia Khan, failed in its attempt in the invasion of Japan. The Japanese had a history of warfare amongst themselves during the reigns of various Shoguns; surprise attacks were a common feature. During the Russian-Japanese War of 1904, Admiral Togo attacked the Second Russian Pacific Squadron, at Port Author, without any declaration of war. The Japanese war with China in the 1930 s should have shown the Americans that the Japanese were a force to be reckoned with and made us realize that Japan were seeking and would continue to seek expansion. Also Japan s government was beginning to be controlled by the Japanese militarists.

In the mean time America perused a policy of isolationism. The publication of the book Sea Power in the Pacific written by Hector C. Bywater was largely ignored in America. However, the Japanese Navy did not ignore the book. Four years later part of the book was expanded into a novel The Great Pacific War. In it, Bywater describes a Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, simultaneous assaults on Guam and the Philippines. The Japanese Navy General Staff had both books placed in the curriculum at the Naval College (Toland 150). Also part of the American Pacific Fleet war games included a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.

If all these things were not sufficient warning, the Unites States was reading coded Japanese messages. Through the efforts of the OP-20-G, The Security Intelligence Section of the United States Naval Communications was reading many of the Japanese codes. One of these codes was code Purple , which was the most secret code that transmitted information between Tokyo and its foreign embassies. On Sunday morning December 6, 1941, a message was translated that originated from Consul General Kita, in Honolulu, to Tokyo. The message was a scheme of signals regarding the movement and exact position of the ships in Pearl Harbor. The translator, Mrs. Dorothy Edgers, was only on the job one month when she felt that the messages important and hence completed it that day. Just as she finished the message Lt. Commander Kramer came in and the message was given to him. The last paragraph read,

If the above signals and wireless messages cannot be made from Oahu, then on Maui Island, six miles north to the northward of Kula Sanatorium . . .at a point half way between Lower Kula Road and Haleskala Road (LAT. 20 deg. 40 min. north, LONG. 156 deg. 19 min west, visible from seaward to the S.E. and S.W. of Maui Isp) the following bonfires will be made daily until your EXEX signal is received: from 7 to 8, signal 3 or 6; from 8 to 9 signal 4 or 7; from 9 to 10, signal 5 or 8 (Toland 4).

The young lady obvious realized the importance of the message. The Lt. Commander, a notorious fusspot, told her the intercept needed a lot of work and she should go home and they could finish editing next week. The message in the Consular code was intercepted in Hawaii. The interception was done by MS-5; a special Army monitoring station based a Fort Shafter. All well and good, but the Army commander, General Short, in Hawaii had not been cleared for any MAGIC inscriptions and no translation was ever sent back him nor to Admiral Kimmel, Navy Commander. In the year prior to the attack, tenor of decrypted Japanese messages had changed dramatically. The numbers of these are staggering, many of these have not yet seen the light of day. However, the indications were clear; Japan was no longer a peaceful nation; the conservatives were no longer in control, having been replaced by the militarists; Japan was expanding its empire, through military means; and most importantly embargos had not stopped the war in China. All of the above had they been taken in total could have only led to one conclusion. Japan will go to war with America, Britain, and the Netherlands

Perhaps the largest blunder was a failure on the part of the United States Navy High Command. All armed forces relay greatly on inelegancy. Disposition of forces, size of forces, location of forces, and the make up of the forces are of supreme importance. In the 1930 s the strategists of the Pacific Fleet were ever mindful of the Imperil Japanese Navy. In fleet war games the proposed enemy was Japan. The intelligence arm of the Pacific Fleet had, as a constant duty, the monitoring, through radio signal interceptions and reported visual sightings, the locations and dispositions the Imperil Japanese Fleet (The New York Times).

Six months before Pearl Harbor the Japanese Navy moved a significant portion of its air arm to Kyushu, the southern most of Japan s four major islands. For the next few months the inhabitants were subjected to daily practice bombing runs. All this was taking place in a major city. Operation Z (The attack on Pearl Harbor) was being put together in view of everyone and no one seemed to pay any mind. In conjunction with this messages were being sent back and forth between Japan and Pearl Harbor. For example on the evening of September 24, 1941, the Mckay Cable Office delivered a coded radiogram to council General Kita in Honolulu. The message was from Captain Ogawa ordering future reports on Pearl Harbor to be keyed to five sub areas:

. . . Area a: waters between Ford Island and the arsenal. Area B: waters adjacent to but south and west Ford Island. Area C: east loch. Area D: middle loch. Area E: west lock and the channel (Hoyt 193).

This was only one of a great many messages regarding ship locations, port conditions, e.g. torpedo netting, antisubmarine nets, and so forth. A great many of these messages were read by Americans due to the mania for secrecy regarding the existence of MAGIC, these types of information did not reach Pacific Naval intelligence. Naval Intelligence picked up on the disappearance of Admiral Nogumo s fleet. They were aware that the fleet was somewhere at sea. Do to radio silence they could give no location; this information went up through channels. Pacific fleet however, did not increase air patrols or sea patrols in the general area from which an attack would come (Atlantic Monthly). Apparently, they felt two and two does not equal four.

Navy admirals should have been very, very aware of the damage that could be done to an anchored fleet by torpedo planes. In 1940, in the European theater, British carrier based Swordfish torpedo bombers attacked the Italian fleet Taranto. Swordfish were slow clumsy biplanes. In less that one half an hour the Italian fleet was rendered hors de combat (American History).

Also messages passed to the United States by agents of friendly intelligence services were ignored. These messages referred to Japanese intentions aimed at Pearl Harbor and came from the Dutch and British intelligences services

It is easy for us, who have the benefit of history to see the mistakes and the blunders that were committed these same lead to Pearl Harbor. The lesson to be learned is a simple on; if one country chooses to imposes its will upon another, as the United States chose to do to Japan through embargo that country must be prepared for the consequences. Among the consequences could be the weeping of the whir-wind and it attendant trails and tribulations. The Unites States should, since it chooses to engage in international diplomacy, never forget the lessons of Pearl Harbor.

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