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Old 01-05-2010, 11:15 PM
 
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Two part question and discussion.First,who do you consider most culpable for the lack of defense at Pearl on 7 December. Second,if at any point, U.S. forces had been alerted on that day,when would have been the most optimal time to minimize losses.My opinion is General Short is the prime culprit,although there is much blame to be assigned.His obsession with sabotage left (unmanned) AA batteries without ammunition.Fighters,unarmed,unfueled and packed together like sardines.While he recognized radar as a useful instrument,his failure to have it and the fighter director center manned properly,and no lookout stations manned on December 7th is indefensible.He had a war warning in hand on November 27th from Marshall.No stand down order was ever issued subsequent to that.Washington operated under the assumption that the Army was on alert in Hawaii,communications being what they were in 1941.Admiral Bloch managed to escape much condemnation for the fiasco,but,as commander of the 14th Naval District,he was responsible for defense of the base,not Kimmel.He was Short's navy equivalent.He believed the army was on alert,but never verified it.Complete lack of leadership and imagination.No Japanese code ever said they were going to attack Pearl Harbor,only that hostilities were immenent.Kimmel solidly gets blame,but not as much as history judges.Having Battleships Oklahoma and California essentially opened up for an inspection during such an international crisis point lacked vision.However,to his credit,keeping the Battle Force in Pearl while his only two carriers were away shows he had a solid understanding of naval air capability.Marshall,Stark,Stimson,Hull and Roosevelt are all culpable only in lack of imagination,hard to understand from the context of today,but back then diplomacy was truly conducted by gentleman.My take on the second point is if Outerbridge's report of the attack on a submarine in the defensive zone @0450hrs was prosecuted with some vigilance.Ships could have been manned,material condition Zebra could have been set(all hatches battened down) boilers could have been lit off,though trying to sortie probably,thankfully,would have been avoided,Kimmel clearly recognized the danger of a large ship being sunk in the channel,lighter ships could have gotten underway.Torpedo planes would have had to make those early,devastating runs through a hail of AA.Low and slow,their losses would be massive.Horizontal bombers steady glide negated,it is doubtful success would have been achieved on the scale it was.Army-Navy cooperation being what it was,an hour probably would have elapsed,only permitting dispersal of aircraft,however,there would have been more undamaged planes available to be armed and fueled to disrupt the second wave,so this I would consider to have been the most optimal outcome for the U.S.
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Old 01-06-2010, 07:16 AM
 
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You are correct to identify General Walter Short as perhaps the person--on the American side--most responsible for the Pearl Harbor debacle.

Short was an army general. However, in those days the airforce was part of the army and Short had jurisdiction over all war planes in Hawaii. He made a number of poor decisions as commander of forces in Hawaii.

1. Lining up all the aircraft on the base wingtip to wingtip, as you mention was one of them. Short actually believed the army had more to fear from civilian sabotage than from aerial attack. He was concerned that Hawaiians with Japanese descent or affiliation might sneak onto the base and damage airplanes if they were widely dispersed.

2. You also mention the new Westinghouse radar that had recently been installed. Obviously, this was a critical new technology. The new radar actually did identify incoming Japanese planes on December 7th, but no one new what to do with the information. There was a belief by lower level officers that the planes were really American planes that were coming in from the US Mainland that morning. Neverthless, I would agree in hindsight that it was a major command failure to not utilize some an important technology for effectively than was done. The British were using radar in 1940 very effectively to shoot down German planes during the Battle of Britain.

3. In my opinion though, Short's worst decision as commander was not to send any planes out to patrol the skies around Hawaii. These planes might well have detected the incoming Japanese planes in time to warn the forces at Hickam Field. Short later tried to justify his inaction here by stating that he didn't have enough to planes to cover the entire area. This was undoubtedly true. However, it doesn't justify not attempting to do what he could with the forces at his disposal. Certainly, some patrols could have been conducted.

4. Not paying more attention to the warnings coming from Washington. Pearl Harbor was a sneak attack that occurred before a declaration of war was given by the Japanese to our government. However, Washington had sent telegrams to General Short and other base commanders stating that hostilities could break out at any moment between Japan and the United States. Generals study military history and one thing that was known at the time was that Japan had begun a previous war in the twentieth century--the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905--by launching a surprise or sneak attack on Russian forces located at Port Arthur in the Far East. This certainly should have alerted military people that a sneak attack was a possibility. The reality is that General Walter Short did very little after receiving these warnings from Washington and some actions like lining up aircraft wingtip to wingtip were counterproductive.

5. Allowing an attitude of "complacency" to take place at Pearl Harbor. The commander of any unit of troops sets the tone for how his soldiers will behave. If he sends the message that "all is well" his troops will believe that "all is well". Shore leave and liberties should have been cancelled for all troops. The troops should have been given approximately the same information that Short had which was that hostilities could break out at any moment with Japan. Its a sad fact, but true that many of the men who died on the battleship Arizona when it capsized and sank had been partying Saturday night, December 6th and were in their bunks when the Japanese warplanes attacked.

Its worth noting the difference between what I will call a "peacetime" and a "war time" military. The soldiers and sailors at Pearl Harbor on the morning of the attack were clearly in a "peace time" mode. A military in peace time does not expect to fight and spends most of its drilling, wearing dress uniforms, and preoccupied with shore leave. A war time military is on guard either fighting or expecting to fight the enemy soon. It is a leaner and meaner machine. Radar and other technologies were not as well understood. No one really expected a war to come without some advance notice from the Japanese government. Walter Short was not the sort of man who probably ever would have been asked to run a military in time of war. All these elements combined and made a "perfect storm" that allowed the Japanese to attack Pearl Harbor and sink 17 ships, destroy 200 aircraft, and kill over 2,000 Americans. It was an awful lesson for America to learn.
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Old 01-06-2010, 12:02 PM
 
Location: San Antonio
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Nitro---Rewrite your post with paragraphs and more people will give it a read. Paragraphs exist for a reason; they make it much easier to read something. You might have interesting things to say but when I see when one of these giant blocks of prose I just move on.

Regards
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Old 01-06-2010, 01:22 PM
 
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There were a lot of interesting comments above - particularly about the 14 naval district which I had never heard before. I agree that Short was most to blame, but the warnings he got (often stressed in treatments of pearl harbor) are really besides the point. The US had been moving towards heightened tensions with Japan for nearly a year - no senior commander should have had to be warned by Washington that the danger with Japan was high, reading the newspapers should have made that obvious. The fleet had been moved to Hawaii specifically to deter the Japanese which Short knew.

Many treatments of historial matters ignore that people are greatly influenced by assumptions, and that those assumptions are often different than they are now. Despite the battle of britain, few US commanders appeared to have appreciated its value in 41, as reflected by its misuse in the battle. The real problem, however, was not the radar itself but the CIC which was brand new, poorly trained, and undermanned on Dec 7. Commonly, its not the equipment that fails but the capacity to use it. Given that it was manned by a lowly LT when the information came in, the CIC had little chance to get the fighters in the air even if that LT had reacted immediately. They would have had to go through the chain of command, and many were not at duty stations on early Sunday morning, which is why Yamatto had chosen it to attack on. Even had the Japanese told the US it was declaring war an hour before the attack the fleet and army air force would not have been ready to face it, which is why Yamotto demanded this be done (it was not).

On Dec 1941 the idea that the Japanese could attack Pearl Harbor with aircraft was unthinkable to most American commanders. Many of the mistakes made, such as the grouping of planes followed from that. It was a fatally flawed assumption that explains what seems like incomprehensible decisions now.
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Old 01-06-2010, 07:30 PM
 
Location: San Diego CA
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Certainly Short bears the brunt of the blame. His command was responsible for the protection of the fleet when in port. Beyond that there was a systemic disbelief that the Japanese had the ability to mount such an attack that permeated through the military and civilian leadership of the time.
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Old 01-07-2010, 11:55 AM
 
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Nimitz is on record as saying it was very lucky that Kimmbel was not warned of the attack ahead of time. Had he been warned he would have, based on prewar plans/doctrine, sortied to engage the Japanese fleet - without air support. Had he done so its likely that his ships would still have been sunk, but in deep water where they could not have been salvaged and most of the sailors lost.
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Old 01-07-2010, 02:51 PM
 
630 posts, read 1,615,660 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by markg91359 View Post
You are correct to identify General Walter Short as perhaps the person--on the American side--most responsible for the Pearl Harbor debacle.

Short was an army general. However, in those days the airforce was part of the army and Short had jurisdiction over all war planes in Hawaii. He made a number of poor decisions as commander of forces in Hawaii.

1. Lining up all the aircraft on the base wingtip to wingtip, as you mention was one of them. Short actually believed the army had more to fear from civilian sabotage than from aerial attack. He was concerned that Hawaiians with Japanese descent or affiliation might sneak onto the base and damage airplanes if they were widely dispersed.

2. You also mention the new Westinghouse radar that had recently been installed. Obviously, this was a critical new technology. The new radar actually did identify incoming Japanese planes on December 7th, but no one new what to do with the information. There was a belief by lower level officers that the planes were really American planes that were coming in from the US Mainland that morning. Neverthless, I would agree in hindsight that it was a major command failure to not utilize some an important technology for effectively than was done. The British were using radar in 1940 very effectively to shoot down German planes during the Battle of Britain.

3. In my opinion though, Short's worst decision as commander was not to send any planes out to patrol the skies around Hawaii. These planes might well have detected the incoming Japanese planes in time to warn the forces at Hickam Field. Short later tried to justify his inaction here by stating that he didn't have enough to planes to cover the entire area. This was undoubtedly true. However, it doesn't justify not attempting to do what he could with the forces at his disposal. Certainly, some patrols could have been conducted.

4. Not paying more attention to the warnings coming from Washington. Pearl Harbor was a sneak attack that occurred before a declaration of war was given by the Japanese to our government. However, Washington had sent telegrams to General Short and other base commanders stating that hostilities could break out at any moment between Japan and the United States. Generals study military history and one thing that was known at the time was that Japan had begun a previous war in the twentieth century--the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905--by launching a surprise or sneak attack on Russian forces located at Port Arthur in the Far East. This certainly should have alerted military people that a sneak attack was a possibility. The reality is that General Walter Short did very little after receiving these warnings from Washington and some actions like lining up aircraft wingtip to wingtip were counterproductive.

5. Allowing an attitude of "complacency" to take place at Pearl Harbor. The commander of any unit of troops sets the tone for how his soldiers will behave. If he sends the message that "all is well" his troops will believe that "all is well". Shore leave and liberties should have been cancelled for all troops. The troops should have been given approximately the same information that Short had which was that hostilities could break out at any moment with Japan. Its a sad fact, but true that many of the men who died on the battleship Arizona when it capsized and sank had been partying Saturday night, December 6th and were in their bunks when the Japanese warplanes attacked.

Its worth noting the difference between what I will call a "peacetime" and a "war time" military. The soldiers and sailors at Pearl Harbor on the morning of the attack were clearly in a "peace time" mode. A military in peace time does not expect to fight and spends most of its drilling, wearing dress uniforms, and preoccupied with shore leave. A war time military is on guard either fighting or expecting to fight the enemy soon. It is a leaner and meaner machine. Radar and other technologies were not as well understood. No one really expected a war to come without some advance notice from the Japanese government. Walter Short was not the sort of man who probably ever would have been asked to run a military in time of war. All these elements combined and made a "perfect storm" that allowed the Japanese to attack Pearl Harbor and sink 17 ships, destroy 200 aircraft, and kill over 2,000 Americans. It was an awful lesson for America to learn.
As regards point 3,there simply didn't exist enough patrol planes on hand to do that.With 36 PBY's in Patrol wing 2 (Navy),and a dozen B-17's on the Army side (the bulk of Hawaiian bombers being the obsolete,limited range B-18 Bolo),the vast wastes of the northern Pacific would have kept the Kido Butai cloaked barring a miracle,and luck wasn't favoring the U.S. at that time.Excellent Reply on your part otherwise.
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Old 01-07-2010, 02:54 PM
 
630 posts, read 1,615,660 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Irishtom29 View Post
Nitro---Rewrite your post with paragraphs and more people will give it a read. Paragraphs exist for a reason; they make it much easier to read something. You might have interesting things to say but when I see when one of these giant blocks of prose I just move on.

Regards
I banged that out at 2 a.m.,apologies for forgoing the subtle nuances of language structure.I will try harder in the future.
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Old 01-07-2010, 03:08 PM
 
630 posts, read 1,615,660 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by noetsi View Post
Nimitz is on record as saying it was very lucky that Kimmbel was not warned of the attack ahead of time. Had he been warned he would have, based on prewar plans/doctrine, sortied to engage the Japanese fleet - without air support. Had he done so its likely that his ships would still have been sunk, but in deep water where they could not have been salvaged and most of the sailors lost.
Kimmel was very concerned lest the fleet be bottled up,unless he had ALOT of warning (at least six to eight hours),I doubt he would have sortied the Battle Force.Battleship Nevada got underway during the attack,drew a beehive of Vals,and,though seaworthy,correctly beached herself at Hospital Point rather than risk that very thing.
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Old 01-07-2010, 03:10 PM
 
28,906 posts, read 44,649,009 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by noetsi View Post
Nimitz is on record as saying it was very lucky that Kimmbel was not warned of the attack ahead of time. Had he been warned he would have, based on prewar plans/doctrine, sortied to engage the Japanese fleet - without air support. Had he done so its likely that his ships would still have been sunk, but in deep water where they could not have been salvaged and most of the sailors lost.
True. But had those warnings been heeded, I'm certain that some other measures would have been taken that would have taken their toll on the Japanese, i.e., American submarines, alerted aircraft batteries, etc.

To me, however, the true nitwit in all this was Douglas MacArthur, who had something like 10 hours' grace before similar raids destroyed American airpower in the Philippines, which might have proven very useful in thwarting Japanese landings on Luzon. Incredibly, however, the Japanese caught the Americans napping just like at Pearl Harbor.
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