Sunday, March 29, 2009


Adam Larson / Caustic Logic
The 12/7-9/11 Treadmill and Beyond
March 29 2009

A key point I’ve been making in my posts here and at the JREF forum has been the logic behind the alleged decision by president Roosevelt to not just allow or provoke a Japanese attack on Hawaii, but to specifically want it to be a defenseless slaughter with heavy losses of personnel and ships. Militarily of course that would be an unmitigated disaster, but politically it would be, and was, a triumph. I have a dedicated post to explain that sinister logic.

Along the way I’ve been stepping around a general ignorance of the actual Naval losses, of just what FDR might have been willing to sacrifice - in the line of vital ships - to get the nation riled up for war. I had a feeling that a precise cataloging of the number and type of ships at Pearl Harbor during 1941 would be a daunting bit of work. But using a few different sources I was able to get approximate numbers that all fit each other perfectly, making it a pretty good catalog for my purposes, and a guideline for measuring the shrinking of the vulnerable Pacific Fleet and its alleged deterrent potential.

I did a little research looking first at some details from Prange et al. At Dawn We Slept [2000 edition] regarding what was taken from Kimmel’s corral earlier in 1941 to support a vital buildup in the Atlantic to shore up England’s desperate line against the Nazis.

On April 20 Carrier USS Yorktown and an escort of five destroyers was sent (one days after the rest, apparently a rear-guard) [p 130] Carrier strenth at Pearl reduced by 1/3.
On April 26 Stark alerted Kimmel “shortly a considerable detachment from your fleet will be brought to the Atlantic “ [p 131]
The movement began May 19 and continued for three days, [132] ultimately including three Battleships (NM, MS, ID), four light cruisers, and a dozen more destroyers. [133] "During the summer additional forays would cost Kimmel three oilers, three transports, and a number of auxiliaries – a total of sixteen ships. All in all, Kimmel lost about one-fourth of his Pacific Fleet […] more ships than the Japanese destroyed at Pearl Harbor. What priceless irony!”

I read the numbers offered therein as adding up to a total of 41 ships sent to the Atlantic in the spring and summer of 1941, 25 war ships (battleships, cruisers, destroyers, carriers) and sixteen others (which I’m calling “auxiliary” to simplify). This total is given as about 1/4 reduction of the fleet at Pearl.

41 = .25x, x = 164 Total prior to this, reading literally.
164-41 = 123 remaining after these losses.
I’ve decided 68 of these were war ships and 55 auxiliary (see below).

After this first round of attrition, Admiral Kimmel complained to his boss, CNO Stark, about the loss of forces in May. By mid-September, the CinCPAC's ship-hunger had triggered a request for at least two battleships returned to deter Japan. In At Dawn We Slept, Prange et al. reason these were unlikely to do the trick, if anything could, and having two more battleships to damage would only have "made such enthusiastic airmen as Genda fairly smack their lips in anticipation.” [242]

Auxiliary losses stopped after the summer, but a further 22 warships, including both carriers, were peeled off between November 26 and December 5 for carrier task forces. These were to protect the movement of 25 aircraft for Wake and Midway Islands, a special request from Washington, approved by Kimmel, and ironically occurring just as six of Japan’s carriers were moving there to replace them. Removed from harm’s way were 6 Heavy Cruisers (3 with each carrier), 14 destroyers (split 9/5), and of course the Enterprise and Lexington. [source - Navy]

After this final depletion, there remained in port: 8 Battleships, 2 Heavy Cruisers, 6 Light Crusiers, 30 Destroyers
Total = 46 war ships
55 Additional auxiliary ships (minesweepers, submarines, tenders, etc)
46 + 55 = 101 total ships when the zeros rounded the horn.
101 + 22 detached in task forces = 123 total before 11/26. That’s what I found the 1/4 reduction of mid-year had left.
[source - Navy].

As a total non-expert in naval matters, I cannot give a worthwhile assessment of the value of the classes of war ships, for either force availability or loss availability. The corroborating numbers above however show a total reduction from 164 to 101 ships, or a 38% overall numerical loss during the seven months before the attack. When we consider the auxiliary vessels are less valuable as either targets or as assets to move, it becomes clear their more stable numbers are muffling the real issue; the location of prized war ships. While only 16 various smaller ships were shuffled out in 1941, a total of 47 destroyers and larger were moved out as of December 7, including almost all heavy cruisers and of course all three once-available carriers. This number is not only more than the Japanese sunk, but slightly more warships than they had to shoot at.

In summary, before the Japanese were able to sneak up on it, the Pacific Fleet's battle force was cut in half, and I would guess the less valuable half is what was left for the torpedos. With what seems a bit of mathematical hyperbole, but a better feel for naval systems, the estimate of Layton et al, gives an idea of the pickings that were left after the repeated withdrawals of Naval power [And I was There, 1985, p 263]:
"At this point [Dec 5], the disposition of of Kimmel's forces was as follows: All the carriers were at sea with specific missions. All the heavy cruisers and more than half of the fleet's destroyers were at sea protecting the carriers. Only the battle force - the old, slow battleships with their escorts of light cruisers and destroyers - was still at Pearl Harbor."

Friday, March 27, 2009


Adam Larson / Caustic Logic
The 12/7-9/11 Treadmill and Beyond
Last update March 27 2009

This post will serve as the hub for my discussion forum threads, so far at the prestigious JREF forum. For those who don't know, that's the James Randi Educational Foundation, notoriously unfriendly to conspiracy theories. I'm putting up a heck of a fight, which is unlike me, schooling and being schooled. If I'm wrong, so be it, but nothing in particular has shown up yet...

[by order of importance and/or length or fame of thread]
Why do you not believe/discuss the Pearl Harbor Cts? - my main discussion thread - started March 2, 237 posts as of 3/27 and still quite active. Covers most major issues, notable emphasis on McCollum Memo, Adm. Richardson, the Carriers, issues of motive (why surprise when you can start the war fighting?)

Pearl Harbor and JN-25B - questions- More in-depth into the main Japanese naval code and questions about its readability prior to the PH attack - Started Feb 16, 61 posts

Winds Execute Controversy - Passing on news that the NSA had again debunked the Winds Execute warning received story - nothing new, 6 posts, started Feb 26. I did a good post on it here.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


Adam Larson / Caustic Logic
The 12/7-9/11 Treadmill and Beyond
March 25 2009
Last update 4/2

As outlined in a previous post, as of mid-1940, a “strong attitude” towards Japan was thought in Washington a useful means to deter further Asian or Pacific adventures. As also discussed there, Adm J.O. Richardson, Commander-in-Chief US Fleet (CinCUS), had been told that the Navy was to act out this attitude, and that the Pacific Fleet’s retention at Hawaii was part of this bit of theater. But being on the stage rather than behind it gives him more credibility, and this clout was staked on his finding this deterrent policy wrong-headed should have caused second thoughts in the Capitol. It apparently did not.

The posture of keeping the Fleet much nearer Japan was perhaps first explained in a May 27 letter from Chief of Naval Operations Harold Stark to Admiral Richardson in Hawaii, who called it "one of the most direct replies to any of my letters to him, although it was far from being as definitive as I would have liked:"
“Why are you in the Hawaiian area? Answer: You are there because of the deterrent effect which it is thought your presence may have on the Japs going into the East Indies. In previous letters I have hooked this up with the Italians going into the war. The connection is that with Italy in, it is thought the Japs might feel just that much freer to take independent action.”

Whatever its possible political impact, the posture was “valueless from the hard realities of war,” in Richardson’s mind, although it was was played out with the tools and personnel of war. In his 1958 memoirs he lamented that this “window dressing” was “assigned great weight” by the brains In Washuington [2], and labored to explain why it was wrong, starting with this banal observation:
“In my discussions in Washington, both within the Navy department and within the White House, it was constantly asserted that the presence of the fleet in Hawaiian waters was exerting a restraining influence on the Japanese. […] the statement might have had a factual basis […but...] it has always seemed odd to me that such an affirmative statement had not been made in the intervening years by some Japanese military officer occupying an important position in the Japanese governmental structure during this period.” [3]

The interpretation offered in an obscure Army history work on coalition warfare seems to offer two clues:
“The US Fleet […] received orders to remain at Pearl Harbor […] with the purpose of dissuading the Japanese Government from moving southward […] The War Department staff believed that a show of strength in the Pacific might be taken by the Japanese Government as an occasion to open hostilities. On this ground the Army planners strongly objected to leaving the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor. […] The retention of the fleet in the Pacific might cause Japanese leaders to review and revise their plans, but it would act as a deterrent “only as long as other manifestations of government policy do not let it appear that the location of the fleet is only a bluff.” [4 – emph mine]

Richardson cited at least one example that’s exactly what was being allowed to appear - a mid-1940 Navy decision to recall all possible aviators from Pearl for further training in Florida. This left the islands and the fleet with even weaker aviation abilities, and it was done in the open. “Since this information […] was bound to become known to Japanese intelligence activities,” he surmised, “it was a sure giveaway to the Japanese that the U.S. governmental positioning of the fleet in Hawaii was one of bluff, and not of early combative action.” [5 – emph mine]

Stationed on a lonely string of rocky blisters on the vast surface of the Pacific, Richardson was more aware of the challenges - and threats – inherent in their position and predisposition. That the President and his cabinet truly just didn’t understand how to bluff correctly seems a stretch, and the CinCUS’ early protests are a vital clue that the deterrent agenda was likely never the motive at all. In summary, as Admiral Richardson told the Congressional investigation in November 1945:
"I stated that in my opinion the presence of the fleet in Hawaii might influence a civilian political government, but that Japan had a military government which knew that the fleet was undermanned, unprepared for war, and had no training or auxiliary ships without which it could not undertake active operations. Therefore, the presence of the Fleet in Hawaii could not exercise a restraining influence on Japanese action." [6 – emph mine]

Admittedly, this is all from one source on the purpose of the Fleet’s retention, since I only have this one cool hard-too-find original memoir book to peruse. But his opinions are invaluable, and his assessments were regarding the Fleet as he headed it, in mid-late 1940. From there on it only got less prepared with the detachments of 1941, starting with Admiral Richardson himself. He was detached from command at the end of January due in some sense or other to friction with the President, and replaced with Adm. Kimmel, to head the newly re-named Pacific Fleet, which was soon being pilfered and scattered. Edwin T. Layton, who served both commanders as intelligence chief, later offered this support to Richardson’s take on things:
“The seed of the disaster […] had been sown as Admiral Richardson had predicted the year before, when our foreign policy was allowed to dictate military strategy. This situation had resulted in a disastrous deterrent posture.”

The disaster was that any deterrence there may have been failed to hold in the face of Washington’s decision to cut off Japan’s oil flow in August 1941, and subsequent moves hastening their impulse to southern conquest to “save face,” not to mention their empire. It was at this point, Layton reckons, that the deterrent effect would be tested – the result: “Our bluff was called.” [7 - emphasis, again, is mine]

Sources: coming - lost some of my page citations

Monday, March 16, 2009


Adam Larson / Caustic Logic
The 12/7-9/11 Treadmill and Beyond
First posted March 15 2009
last updated 3/17

The McCollum Memo is the most common name given to a 6-page pre-Pearl Harbor document, signed by Lt. Com. Arthur H. McCollum of Office of Naval Intelligence, and dated October 7, 1940. It was numbered OP-16-F-2, headed ONI, Memorandum for the Director, meaning Director Naval Intelligence RADM Walter Anderson. Although there are possible questions about the memo’s authenticity, like most everyone else who hears of it, I tend to accept it as a genuine piece of history. This unique clue remained unknown until declassified in 1994, the better part of a century after it was written, and well after all the ‘decisive’ books on the attack (At Dawn We Slept, etc.) had emerged in the 1980s.

The document was then obtained by researcher Robert Stinnett using the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA). He describes receiving bundles of documents not seen since 1941, “covered with dust, tightly bunched together in the boxes and tied with unusual waxed twine.” [1] He quickly recognized this one as a vital clue never seen before, and worked it into his mammoth book Day of Deceit: The Truth About FDR and Pearl Harbor. As Stinnett interpreted the thinking behind the eight actions proposed in the memo, McCollum “felt that war with Japan was inevitable and that the United States should provoke it at a time which suited US interests.” [2]

Whatever the book’s other merits or drawbacks, it does contain – in fact opens with - this new and compelling piece of the puzzle. It certainly caught my attention as I started the book, and I was dazzled enough to call it a "smoking gun" of FDR’s foreknowledge and provocation, in an older article this one will replace. I was not alone in that prognosis, but the reality is more ambiguous than that, and well worth a closer look.

[the actual document as found here - r-click, new window for readable sized view. Red underline on page 4 apparently added to the scan. "Act" being omitted from that line of type but penciled in is in the original.]

In the first few pages, the less famous major portion, McCollum outlines the world situation, with the totalitarian powers in charge of all Europe except Great Britain, aided as much as possible by the US in her resistance. He mentions attempts to subvert, propagandize, and "confuse" the US into a purely defensive posture, Latin American meddling and Pacific moves by Japan against British supply lines in Asia. Perhaps reflecting the dark times, McCollum actually predicts the USSR will more than likely side with the Axis sooner or later.

To bring the danger home, he predicts that if England should fall, this super-Axis would quite likely attack America next, making war a likely matter of when, not if. McCollum calls for meeting the threat head-on with "prompt, warlike action" in either theater (Atlantic or Pacific). He feels the Tripartite Pact leaves "no ground on which to doubt" the three totalitarian powers will go to war with the US if entering as a full ally of the UK or "should she attempt to forcibly interfere with Japan's aims in the orient." To keep Britain's lines open, he proposed that Japan should be "diverted or neutralized." He then outlines the strategic situation of the US vs. Japanese position in the Pacific, called for detailed arrangements with Britain and Netherlands and a "prompt and early declaration of war."

Finally he wraps it up with point 9, which is what the conspiracy theorists drool over, and not without reason:
It is not believed that in the present state of political opinion the United States government is capable of declaring war against Japan without more ado; and it is barely possible that vigorous action on our part might lead the Japanese to modify their attitude. Therefore, the following course of action is suggested:

A. Make an arrangement with Britain for the use of British bases in the pacific, particularly Singapore.
B. Make an arrangement with Holland for use of base facilities and acquisition of supplies in the Dutch East Indies.
C. Give all possible aid to the Chinese government of Chiang Kai-shek.
D. Send a division of long-range heavy cruisers to the Orient, Philippines, or Singapore.
E. Send two divisions of submarines to the Orient.
F. Keep the main strength of the US Fleet, now in the Pacific, in the vicinity of the Hawaiian islands.
G. Insist that the Dutch refuse to grant Japanese demands for undue economic concessions, particularly oil.
H. Completely embargo all trade with Japan, in collaboration with a similar embargo imposed by the British Empire.

If by these means Japan could be led to commit an overt act of war, so much the better. At all events we must be fully prepared to accept the threat of war.
In essence, then, the McCollum memo offers a list of actions proposed because Japan wasn't changing and more "ado" would be needed before FDR was "capable" of declaring war. Hawaii is mentioned. An overt act of war is mentioned. It would be hindsight historicism to just draw a straight line between them, but there they are side-by-side: The fleet at Pearl is in fact in the list of "means" by which Japan might be "led" to "do some fool thing," as FDR once put it, and start a war on the Pacific.

The troubling phrase "so much the better" implies two things to me:
1) It's not the main purpose. To be "better" is to be other than the thing you've been referring to. The main purpose seems to be to prepare for war in the Pacific since it should and perhaps might materialize soon.
2) Better implies it is to the same ends as the main purpose. The whole thing is about war, and how to get into it. Having them fire the first shot would be "better" than us doing it, from a legalistic and moralistic perspective.

Just from the contents, the Eight-Action Memo (as it’s also called) does not look anything like a finalized ‘blueprint’ for the ultimate Pearl Harbor provocation plan. It is however instructive of the type and level of thought going on in Washington at the time, and could with the smallest shift of view become such a template for tragedy, as Stinnett’s and my own and others’ gut reactions to the memo testify.

This telling packet was of course addressed to, and intended to be seen by, DNI Anderson, at the very least. Stinnett claims it was also addressed to Dudley Knox, an ONI strategist of great repute, who left his mark as having seen it. Knox endorsed McCollum's proposal in general but, in forwarding his thoughts to Anderson, added the caveat “we should not precipitate anything in the Orient.” [3 - see also document above, page 6] Beyond this, Stinnett could find no paper trail for the document, aside from a diary entry from Assistant Secretary of State Breckenridge Long - dated Oct 7 1940 - that he felt “little by little we will face a situation which will bring us into conflict with Japan.” This had been triggered, Stinnett sums, when he that day “learned of a series of steps involving the US Navy and that one included concentrating the fleet at Honolulu.” [4]

There are also less direct clues of this thinking bleeding into the following 14-month string of ‘fatally flawed’ real-world decisions regarding Japan. FDR was reportedly fond of the idea, as proposed in action D, of putting some US vessels outside their normal zones and into areas of Japanese interest. CNO Stark recalled the President favoring “pop-up Cruises,” saying something like “I just want them to keep popping up here and there and keep the Japs guessing. I don’t mind losing one or two cruisers, but do not take a chance on losing five or six.” Three such missions, including to a prime IJN training ground near Honshu, were carried out from March-July 1941. All ended without any overt act of war. [5]

In late July action H was more nearly approached – by a leap and not a step – with an embargo on the most vital petroleum exports to Japan. The oil embargo is universally accepted as one of the prime factors toppling their equilibrium irreversibly towards major war in SE Asia, at least sooner than otherwise would happen. I'm not conversant enough with the details of which other actions were followed, but action F, keeping the Pacific part of the US Fleet at Hawaii, was faithfully held to for the duration. At the time, the prime obstacle to this was the man tasked with defending the fleet while there – CinCUS Admiral James O. Richardson. He had earlier butted heads with the President personally over the issue, and As McCollum typed his points, the Admiral was en route to Washington for one last talk with FDR.

Direct evidence that the President ever read McCollum's memorandum is not known, but its prime addressee, DNI Anderson, was a close military adviser to the president, and Stinnett reports that McCollum himself was a regular routing officer for Navy intelligence to be delivered to Roosevelt, often directly and in person. [6] The exact relationship between these proposals and any White House policy would be interesting but at present impossible to know. It could be that these ideas directly shaped an unwritten policy we don't know of, or that they helped in some aspects to form a nebulous plan. It may have offered more a mental framework or attitude than it did concrete steps, and it's quite possible that FDR was already in that groove and just asked McCollum to write up something to help clarify the issues and options. That it never even reached the boss himself is possible, but somehow seems doubtful.

The connection Stinnett drew, and that I feel worthy of consideration, is with FDR's meeting with Adm. Richardson on October 8, the day after he had perhaps read the memo. “Jo” Richardson was back at the President’s request, which itself offers a clue the memo was perhaps requested by FDR. By the Admiral’s recollection they essentially just argued the same points as in July, and FDR was even more adamant that the fleet was exerting a deterrent effect in Hawaii and must stay, no matter what the CinCUS said. More intriguingly, Richardson recalled this meeting for the Congressional investigation in 1945, and mentioned:
Later I asked the President if we were going to enter the war. He replied that if the Japanese attacked Thailand, or the Kra peninsula, or the Dutch East Indies we would not enter the war, that if they even attacked the Philippines he doubted whether we would enter the war, but that they could not always avoid making mistakes and that as the war continued and the area of operations expanded sooner or later they would make a mistake and we would enter the war. [7]
Where might such a potent mistake be goofed into existence? Even the Philippines wouldn’t do it, so he wasn’t thinking Guam, or Johnston Island, but something would eventually suffice for war… this leaves as candidates Panama, California, Alaska, Seattle…. Oh, Hawaii…

[as published in On The Treadmill to Pearl Pearl Harbor: The Memoirs of Admiral James O Richardson]

Admiral Richardson held back from the Committee, but published in his memoirs, a note connected to this statement about a 'mistake': "This caused me to think that he meant sooner or later the Japanese would commit an overt act against the U.S., with the result that the citizens of the United States would be willing to enter the war." He followed this with a damning estimate of the President's "real intentions or beliefs in the matter, which were that we would be at war with Japan in due time, and that he was willing for some ship of the Navy to be the victim of a Japanese “mistake.”" [8]

Thus a seasoned and patriotic Commander-in-Chief’s real thoughts after meeting the President disturbingly complement the gist of the McCollum memo as seen by 21st century paranoids. And the thought was formed the day after the memo was written. That the President himself likely saw the paper just before the Admiral comes as close as anything to showing the mood set with those eight actions ran right through FDR on its way down that treadmill to Pearl Harbor. He's asserting the new mooring was a deterrent, when it had just been explicitly outlined as a "means" that could possibly "lead" Japan to an "overt act of war." That is not called a deterrent, except in euphemism. He's also leaving a roughly Hawaii shaped blank spot in the list of places a Japanese “mistake” might in fact mean war, as he insisted on keeping that hole filled with the fleet. We cannot at this point know if these two strands are directly connected. But if they are, that's about all you'd need to know. It's an awfully big question mark.


FOIA: Considering how well the above fits, and the general unreliability of Stinnett, I'm wondering if the memo is authentic after all. I am planning (but have not yet filed) a Freedom of Information Act request with the National Archives to see if I can verify it or get a negative hit. News will likely be a bit slow and will get its own post, with a link in this space, so bookmark it!

Response to review of Day of Deceit: I just read Phil Jacobson's pan and I'm sure he's primarily correct on radio silence, naval codes, and other points. However his take on the memo was weak. Here I'll respond point-by-point:
One of the centerpieces of his argument is an October 1940 memorandum by then Lieutenant Commander McCollum of ONI in response to the September 1940 signing of the Tripartite Pact by Germany, Italy and Japan and not as any blueprint for initiating war with Germany and Japan.
Au contraire [sp]... The response was to exploit the treaty to enter the war. "Prompt warlike action," the eight actions, all against Japan, with "an overt act of war" as a bonus, but either way we'd be at war, prob. against all three Axis powers.
McCollum recognized the danger to the western powers if Japan was able to connect up with Germany and Italy through Asia and suggested eight actions designed to contain Japan generally and to keep her from making such connection with its other Axis partners.
Kinda - there's no talk of 'linking up,' but rather a joint closing of Britain's supply lines, Euro-Axis at Suez, Asia-Axis at Singapore/etc. area. 'Contain' is actually referred to as 'divert' and 'neutralize.'
Unfortunately, the book seizes on an off hand comment that is not one of the main points of the memo as the springboard for its conspiracy theory. That comment was if the eight proposed actions designed to contain Japan should by chance cause Japan to commit an overt act of war, so much the better.
Yeah, that's not the main goal, it's better than it. Better than what? Unprovoked "prompt warlike action." Us entering as aggressors without being attacked first. These are clearly the two desired outcomes, one being better.
No proof of any official implementation of this mid-level memo is provided.
No proof that it was only "mid-level" is provided, nor that it was not acted on, or considered among other points in the President's mind.
Furthermore, Stinnett improperly ascribes McCollum's office as "an element of Station US (by which he means OP-20-G), a secret American cryptographic center located at the main naval headquarters" in an effort to tie McCollum closer to OP-20-G than he actually was before WWII.

Probably correct, sounds like a Stinnett move.
A non-cryptologic fallacy of the book is the fact that Roosevelt had no assurance that Germany would declare war on the U.S. if the Japanese did attack Pearl Harbor thus negating any reasonable conspiratorial design to get the U.S. into war with Germany by forcing Japan to attack the U.S.

How is that a fallacy? He had no guarantee, per se, but doesn't a good leader ever take a calculated risk? McCollum had in fact worked against this fallacy, in the memo in question, by pointing out the Pact leaves "no ground on which to doubt" the three totalitarian powers will go to war with the US if entering as a full ally of the UK or "should she attempt to forcibly interfere with Japan's aims in the orient." And that's exactly how it went down.
[1] Stinnett, Robert B. “The Pearl Harbor Deception.” Presentation at the Independent Institute. December 2, 2002.
[2] Stinnett, Robert B. Day of Deceit: The Truth about FDR and Pearl Harbor. New York. Touchstone. 2000. Page 8.
[3] Day of Deceit p 9
[4] Day of Deceit p 14
[5] Day of Deceit p 9-10
[6] Day of Deceit pp 8, 15
[7] Pearl Harbor Hearing, Part 1, pp. 265-68. As cited by Richardson, Treadmill (see below) p 428.
[8]. On the Treadmill to Pearl Harbor: The Memoirs of Admiral James O. Richardson, Admiral, US Navy (retired) as told to Vice Admiral George C. Dyer. Naval History Division, Department of the Navy. Washington D.C. 1973. Page 427.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


Adam Larson / Caustic Logic
The 12/7-9/11 Treadmill and Beyond
March 15 2009
last edit/update 3/28

Perhaps due to its poetic nature and readability enhancement it offers, the “winds code” system has figured widely into most accounts of the Pearl Harbor attack. And it cerianly became a part of the story that can’t be ignored, but not for the clues or hints of Haiku contained within. For purpose of American detectives at the time, the code proved good only for making a lot noise without any substance, indeed, like the wind.
"North wind cloudy" ("Kitano kaze kumori") = War with the USSR
"West wind clear" ("Nishi no kaze hare") = War with Great Britain
"East wind rain" ("Higashi no kaze ame") = War with the United States

These were the code phrases conveyed in the “set-up message,” sent encoded and encrypted (in the J-19 system) by Japan’s Foreign Ministry to its diplomatic posts around the world. It was intercepted by US intelligence on November 13, decrypted and read on the 28th, just before Tokyo’s stated deadline for a miracle of diplomacy (or else “things will happen automatically.”) The catchy clue was passed on to all relevant parties, including at Pearl Harbor - where it was among the few clues received, and that almost immediately.

This system was basically a back-up reminder to diplomatic staffs, in case regular communication lines should be cut, to take action consistent with the onset of warfare. These included destruction of codes and code machines and any secret files in the case of hostilities (real or imminent) with any combination of the three allied nations. Any expected delivery of the code words came to be known as a “winds execute” message to be embedded in routine weather reports. A prescribed pattern of repetition would be the tip-off the words truly mean war should be presumed.

Japan’s top spy in Hawaii, Takeo Yoshikawa claims he dismissed the Sunday morning attack as a US bombing exercise until he heard “east wind rain” repeated twice over his radio. At this cue, Time reported, “Yoshikawa immediately began burning his code books and other intelligence materials.” The evidence appears solid that those words were not transmitted before or during the attack, or ever.

Yoshikawa’s memory is in a class of its own with no supporting accounts I know of, and no other evidence pointing to a Winds Execute transmission during the Pearl Harbor attack. Another oddball tack from the US intelligence arena had it that the message was transmitted days before then, when it might qualify as a viable warning. This has been the fuel for a second-tier construct often repeated in the foreknowledge discussion for decades.

The controversy we’ve inherited stems mostly from one source; the prime actor in this, at the time of the investigations in 1945-46, was Lt. Lawrence Safford; no lowly analyst, he in fact essentially founded the Navy’s cryptanalytic agency, OP-20-G, in 1936. To the Joint Congressional Committee, at least, Lt. Safford insisted he held and passed along a transcript of that message, with both east and west indicators in the patterns indicating war with both the US and Great Britain.

Lt. Safford couldn’t recall the exact date, but had it pinned at most likely December 4, and no copies or receipts could be found when he began looking in 1943. By early 1944 he was writing coded letters in search of verification, and citing a list of “about fifteen” existing witnesses. When investigators later received a copy of and followed-up on the list , the alleged witnesses claimed they never did see such a message. Beyond the immediate arena, the notions involved have, over the years, spurred charges of coercion and changed stories, cover-up of vital intelligence, disappeared documents, and general suspiciously senseless squabbling.

The Committee had to deal with at least some of that drama, and after much investigation gently dismissed Safford’s story. While remaining more open minded, the Committee’s dissenting minority report noted “The evidence before this Committee bearing on the interception of the activating message from Tokyo […] covers hundreds of pages. Admittedly the evidence is confusing and conflicting.” I’ll take this as advice then in glossing over the massive depths of this controversy.

The majority report was not so circumspect, and offered a fairly elegant explanation of this code’s irrelevance to the debate in three parts [emph mine]:
“[The winds code] was designed for use in the event ordinary commercial channels of communication were no longer available to Japan, a contemplation which did not materialize prior to Pearl Harbor.”

“Extensive evidence […] indicates that no genuine execute message was intercepted by or received in the War and Navy Departments prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor. Investigation conducted in Japan strongly indicates no execute message was dispatched before the attack and the British and Dutch, who were also monitoring for an execute message, have advised that no such message was intercepted.”

“Granting for purposes of discussion that a genuine execute message applying to the winds code was intercepted before December 7, we believe that such fact would have added nothing to what was already known concerning the critical character of our relations with the Empire of Japan.

It’s a summary brush-off, but expanded on in appendices, and offered in 1946. I see no reason to challenge these findings, although neither can I vouch for them. The third point – that this intelligence added nothing - is most important to my own tendency to move on. The clues offered if so were too vague to have been of any assistance to Pearl Harbor, offering nothing of precise time, location, or method of any attack. There may well be evidence of a cover-up over this, and there may have in fact been one. This would not, however, mean there was anything to actually cover-up other than an empty spot. If there’s any interest to me in this clue, it would be more on the level of disinformation, but that’s a side-track at the moment.

That such a noisy situation did cause so much fuss in the years after the attack certainly does not mean there was any design to that end. The controversy, just by existing, would attract attention – and others have done their part to amplify the supposed relevance of this possible clue.

The New York Times described the winds code controversy, when it emerged, as a “bitter microcosm” of the investigations. “If there was such a message,” the influential paper opined, “the Washington military establishment would have been gravely at fault in not having passed it along.” And even covered it up, elaborately. Conversely, if the execute was truly never sent (or at least never received) supporters of Kimmel and Short “would have lost an important prop to their case.”

One might accuse the Times of setting up a false dichotomy to Kimmel's detriment, but the good Admiral himself claimed the thing in his defense, and to its chagrin. Apparently believing there had been a Dec 4 intercept as claimed by Safford, Kimmel told the Congressional Pearl Harbor Committee that if he had learned of this clue he “would have gone to sea with the fleet...and been in a good position to intercept the Japanese attack.” This appears to be little more than a self-serving boast, but perhaps understandable given the charges against him. A statement like this also couldn’t help but add to the shell of intrigue that allowed the winds execute controversy to continue on alongside more substantial clues.

After a long simmer, the old contentions about Pearl Harbor re-surfaced in the late 1970s and especially early 80s, spurred largely by a round of declassification of evidentiary documents, and a slew of memoirs by aging participants nearing their own passing. At the outset of this period, another self-described witness to the winds execute message presaging US-Japanese hostilities stepped into the scene.

Ralph Briggs, a civilian intercept operator of OP-20-G had submitted to a recorded 1977 Naval history interview in which he claims he saw and copied the winds execute. When this interview was declassified in 1980, it made it into revisionist circles in little time; John Costello cited the twin cases of Safford and Briggs in the appendix to The Pacific War (1981), apparently corroborating the claim, and supporting cover-up. He reportedly backed off the charge once it was publicized and Brigg's version was shown to be inconsistent with Safford’s (or so I hear, again, I’m not going into the details here). But by then it was echoing further out.

East Wind, Rain… 
It was the Japanese code that meant war… 

Thus reads the back cover of John Toland's 1982 Infamy, which also called on Safford and Briggs and expanded the theme more explicitly as a primary part of his foreknowledge construct. The foreword lists the “crucial questions” about the attack, mentioning only one specific clue by name: “Had there truly been a “”winds” execute message in early December 1941? Had the nine investigations, in short, been an elaborate cover-up to place the blame primarily on Admiral Kimmel and General Short while whitewashing those in Washington?” Apparently no, and maybe, but this is not a good clue. I just got the book and already I know I'll have a hard time trusting it.

Pacific Fleet intelligence director as of Pearl Harbor, Rear Admiral Edwin T Layton, writing with the help of Costello in 1984, presents an interesting take. Layton was only certain that “no warning that a winds [execute] alert had been received was ever sent to us at Pearl Harbor.” He sides with Safford quite a bit throughout the book, points out that the issue "has been fiercely debated ever since,” spends six pages detailing the ins and outs of it, and leadingly refers to “the official effort to deny their ever was a winds intercept”

From this 40th anniversary-era watershed, the old issue took on its most recent resurgence in the foreknowledge discussion, although it doesn’t seem to have stuck widely or for long. Robert Stinnett, in his 1999 Day of Deceit, perhaps the most widely-read recent revisionist tome, dismissed the issue out-of-hand. He seemed to hint at “the now discredited “Winds Code” as being disinformation to distract from his (unsupported AFAIK) allegation that ill-defined “naval codes” had been cracked, that may have (depending) revealed precise details of the attack:
“News of the “Winds Code” system created a media sensation during the congressional hearings. Reporters focused on the “Winds Code” and lost interest in the less fantastic naval intercepts. Eventually the controversy was dismissed when congress learned that the implementing weather message was never transmitted by Japan. By then the 5-Num dispatches had been forgotten.”

Somewhat echoing Stinnett, George Victor gets mentioned, since I bought his book The Pearl Harbor Myth (2007), hoax acceptance and all. He noted in a section on “secrecy and cover up” that “for sixty years, the [winds code] controversy distracted attention from warnings that specified Pearl Harbor as Japan’s target.” Yet he spends pages outlining in detail the stormy history of changed testimonies, apparent coercion and cover-up over the alleged receipt of the distraction without clarifying what he thinks we’re looking at.

With essentially the opposite viewpoint from Stinnett and Victor, Henry Clausen agrees in dismissing the weather controversy. A controversial but little-known special investigator for War Secretary Stimson in 1945 (who did get a detailed and semi-coherent criticism from Victor), he wrote in-depth of some of his findings in the 1990s. This was published as Pearl Harbor: Final Judgement [sic], (1992, written with Bruce Lee, app. first published in 2000?). His simple take on the issue at hand was that “the winds Code took on much greater proportions than I thought it should have.” It’s when he muses a bit on the big picture that we get an interesting insight that I will return to in another post:
“If someone wanted to create a role for the goddess of discord, and throw a golden apple over a fence to cause people to fight and waste time, the Winds Code was that golden apple. It was a red herring for men such as Safford, and Noyes, and Bratton and Sadtler to follow and let dominate their thinking.”

Finally, a recent in-depth study published by the National Security Agency’s Center for Cryptologic History seems to have put the last nail in the controversy’s coffin. And administered last rites, poured its concrete sarcophagus, and written the eulogy. In West Wind Clear [2008] Authors Robert J. Hanyok and the late David Mowry assembled what looks to be a surprisingly comprehensive document [the PDF weighs in at over 350 pages], fascinating, very detailed and loaded with original material, including dozens of raw intercepts reproduced as appendices. [PDF download link]

The interesting conclusion, from which the report draws its title, is that a winds execute message was in fact transmitted, recorded, and acted on – and it said West Wind Clear, or war with Great Britain, and it was transmitted a few hours after the attack on Oahu. I don’t have the time to read the whole thing, but I have cited a few facts from it for this piece, and it promises to leaves no doubt that Safford and Briggs are incorrect, and there was no value lost to the defenders of Pearl Harbor:
"Within the tempest of controversy about the nature and amount of available intelligence, especially communications intelligence, and its dissemination prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Winds message imbroglio should have been no more than the smallest eddy."

Having discussed this distraction from the 1940s to the present, the next installment will explain the more relevant role winds confusion played in December 1941.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Adam Larson / Caustic Logic
The 12/7-9/11 Treadmill and Beyond
March 10 2009
updated 3/26

It was not unusual at all when, on April 2 1940, the Pacific Fleet migrated en masse from its moorings in San Pedro, California, and steamed towards Hawaii. This was for a yearly ritual of their training process: a series of complex war games called a “Fleet Problem,” designed to experiment and find deficiencies to work out by next year. This usually took a month all told, followed by an easy return to the coast. The schedule for Fleet Problem XXI was to exercise in and around Pearl Harbor until May 9, and arrive back home by the 17th.

The Fleet’s movements and security in Hawaii, as in California, were overseen by Commander in Chief of the US Fleet (CINCUS) Adm. James O. Richardson (the Pacific Fleet to be headed by his successor, Kimmel, was not yet formed). As the exercises wrapped up and the time to depart neared, Adm Richardson was given a heads up that there would be a slight hitch. Though correspondence with his superior, Chief of Naval Operation Harold Stark, this was found to be, most likely, a delay of two weeks or less before they headed east.

As the original set-off date neared, Stark cabled Richardson on May 7 and asked him to announce, as he did, “I have requested permission to remain in Hawaiian waters to accomplish some things I wanted to do while here.” Of course he requested no such thing, and later wrote that repeating this “made a perfect “nitwit” out of me.”

At first, the stay was to be temporary but “for some time,” as Stark informed “Jo” on May 15. Through these back-and-forth letters, but without clear explanation, the stay gradually crystallized into “until further notice.” Hawaii was home, and the mission remained one of training, and serving some undefined political impulse Richardson – and apparently Stark - grappled with understanding. “The Italian situation is extremely delicate,” the CNO alerted the CINCUS at one point. “the two weeks ahead regarded as critical, then --- ????? nobody can answer the riddle just now.” Stark answered some questions and raised others with another letter on May 27 that Richardson called “one of the most direct replies to any of my letters to him, although it was far from being as definitive as I would have liked:"
“Why are you in the Hawaiian area? Answer: You are there because of the deterrent effect which it is thought your presence may have on the Japs going into the East Indies. In previous letters I have hooked this up with the Italians going into the war. The connection is that with Italy in, it is thought the Japs might feel just that much freer to take independent action.”

Immediately on learning of the planned delay, on May 1, Richardson requested an audience with the President to discuss the issue. He repeated his request until granted and traveled back to Washington in July. He met with Roosevelt on the afternoon of the 8th, and advised they were ill-positioned for war and under-manned, and Roosevelt in turn assured him the Fleet would not be sent to the Far East. In the days afterward, the CINCUS also met with a variety of colleagues and discussed the inadequacies of the forces given the world situation, the wrong-headed and “silly” war plans, etc. On the Fleet’s fate, he decided:
“[T]he top flight of officials in Washington believed that Japanese aggression could be restrained by a strong attitude on the part of the United States; that the retention of the Fleet in Hawaii was a reflection of this strong attitude […] I was told that the fleet would remain in Hawaii indefinitely – as long as required to support our diplomatic activity.”
However he felt about the decision, Hawaii was home and Richardson and his staff were faced with the challenge of securing the fleet and the base for an extended period of time. By placing so much so far forward for so long, the need for extraordinary measure of security had been heightened and would need to be met.