View Full Version : Pearl Harbor history...
05-17-2006, 02:07 PM
I was just wondering how raw a deal Kimmel and Short got after the bombing of Pearl Harbor?
Seeing as several war games played out prior to the attack showed exactly how a carrier based bomber fleet could decimate the fleet one has to ask whether they were negligent in their duties by not learning from the war games, or whether it was the fault of their predecessors and or the higher ups.
Can't comment on their reactions at the time of the attack as I have no idea what the protocols were.
However, MacArthur suffered much greater losses in terms of projective power when the Phillipines was attacked and the largest bomber fleet outside Europe/continental NorthAmerica was destroyed hours (>12 IIRC)after Pearl was attacked, hours after he was warned of an imminent attack on the airbases there. This, one may postulate, was what really allowed the Japanese to steam roller over SouthEastAsia. Yes, naval power was important, but a bomber fleet may have slowed the Japanese attack enough to allow a more concerted concentrated defense...just a thought.
05-17-2006, 02:57 PM
If I recall correctly, Kemmil was fired for doing what he was told to do by Washington...guess Washington didn't want to fire itself.
05-17-2006, 02:58 PM
Yes, Kimmel got a very raw deal. Was relieved of command and, IIRC, never again held command. He blamed himself a lot I think.
05-17-2006, 03:18 PM
Kimmel and Short were sent a message a week or so before the attacks that said (I'm quoting as closely as I can remember) "This message is to be considered a war warning." Neither Kimmel or Short responded to this "war warning" by making any substantial changes in their routines, except that ammunition and fuel was removed from the Army fighters to protect them from saboteurs.
The fleet was not put on alert, nor was its schedule changed. Almost every ship steamed out for exercises on Mondays, and almost every ship was in port on Sundays. The Japanese knew that because of their spies. The least Kimmel could have done after having received a "war warning" was to scramble the steaming schedules, put on extra patrols by air and sea, and make sure warships were armed in case they engaged the enemy. None of that was done. Many ships had very little ammunition, and some had their machine guns in storage ashore.
Kimmel later testified that he kept the fleet on a Monday through Saturday schedule to facilitate the dredging that was under way.
Macarthur received the same or a similar warning and he also did little to prepare. He somehow escaped blame for his failures, which were similar to Kimmel and Short's.
For commanding officers at their level, the War and Navy departments shouldn't need to spell out the proper response to a "war warning." ("This message is to be considered a war warning. Oh, and by the way, be sure you increase patrols and put ammunition on your ships and planes.")
Short and Kimmel were derelict in their duty. They were confident that Hawaii was too remote for an attack, so they did little to prepare for anything to happen. They were treated rather mildly for the seriousness of their dereliction.
There is somehow a move to pretend that they were innocent victims of a hunt for scapegoats. Not so.
05-17-2006, 03:22 PM
If not so, then I would like to hear more discussion
not disputing your set of facts Gonzalo, but I do have some questions.
- how many other 'war warnings', if any, had been issued in the preceding couple of years? was the one you've cited the only one, and if not (as I suspect) would multiple 'war warnings' which did not materialize not instill a 'boy cried wolf' syndrome in any commander?
- what were the protocols/procedures established prior to receiving the message. i.e. there generally is some sort of list of things to do in case of... What were they supposed to do? and did they have the tools to do it?
-as stated in my previous post there had been at least two, IIRC, war exercises in which a fictional Japanese carrier based attack succeeded in decimating the fleet in Pearl Harbour. If this was the case why were procedures, layout, defensive armaments etc. not changed to defend a strategy known to the Navy to be successful? Who had the authority/responsibility to do so and why was it not done. I really think this is the main point that kinda gets lost in the shuffle.
05-17-2006, 04:50 PM
...how many other 'war warnings', if any, had been issued in the preceding couple of years? Good question. I don't know the answer, but let me speculate. The level of tension between the US and Japan in early Dec 1941 was at a unique height. I won't bet, but I doubt there were similar warnings. Besides which, the "war warning" message wasn't the only thing Kimmel and Short heard from Washington about the developing situation. There was some intelligence, IIRC, that they did not receive in time due to beaurocratic bungling, but that doesn't change the fact they were warned.
...what were the protocols/procedures established prior to receiving the message. Another good one. I imagine there were plans and protocols, and it is hard to believe that elementary precautions like patroling, interrupting predictable scheduling, and arming warships would not be included. IIRC, Short (and maybe Kimmel too) focused almost entirely on preventing sabotage rather than guarding against an outside attack.
As to your third question, I also can't answer. It is likely there were procedures to follow, some of which may have originated in Washington. Still, it doesn't seem too much of a stretch to expect the commanders of major Army and Naval bases to have developed procedures on their own to protect their commands.
On resources, it is true that resources for air reconnaisance were stretched. There were few long-range patrol bombers (a very few PBYs.) I remember reading an analysis of the capabilities for aerial patroling vs. the actions actually taken, and I seem to remember that not much changed before the attacks. However, Kimmel had at his disposal most of the Pacific fleet! It is hard to believe he couldn't deploy pickets away from the islands to protect against attack.
I don't think I had heard about the exercises you mentioned. If that is so, it makes Kimmel's and Short's complacency even more remarkable.
Testing of the mobile radar station continued to move at a leisurely pace. Could that have been deployed operationally on an emergency basis? Speculation, of course. Given sufficient urgency and imagination, more could have been done with resources on hand.
05-17-2006, 06:35 PM
IIRC, the latest and greatest ships were out to sea conveniently at the time ... and it was just the catalyst we needed to go head first with public approval into the war.
And I'm really not into conspiracies ... but if studied, there were a lot of red flags suggesting otherwise.
Alan D. Hyde
05-17-2006, 07:01 PM
Kimmel didn't understand what the English had done at Taranto, which he'd had time to inform himself of. Short failed to appreciate that (1) Pearl was within striking distance of a Japanese carrier force and that (2) such a force could do FAR more damage to closely-parked planes than saboteurs ever would.
But then, hindsight is 20/20, so it's easy for me to say that.
Both had tough jobs, and imperfect back-up from Washington.
Given a chance to redeem themselves, both might have performed admirably.
But we'll never know...
05-17-2006, 07:15 PM
Amazing how MacArthur managed to keep his reputation.
05-17-2006, 07:18 PM
I suspect the only reason McArthur kept his job is because there wasn't anyone else at the time...we were damn desperate
Given sufficient urgency and imagination, more could have been done with resources on hand.
This was an issue in every Allied army when WWII started out. The post WW1 attitude towards armies and the Depression did a lot to kill off a viable military command structure. In many organizations that rely on promotion from within it's not the cream that rises to the top, its specifically those who do NOT make waves, those who are easy to get along with good at politickin and certainly NOT imaginative, urgent individuals.
I wish my books weren't in boxes at the moment so I could do a little research on this....interesting questions!;)
05-18-2006, 05:13 AM
The British had managed to muddle themselves thoroughly, over the same issue and the same time frame. Hong Kong had been designated "indefensible" (as indeed it was) yet reinforcements were sent there and its military commanders ordered to prepare a line of defence (they did, and the fact that Hong Kong held out for almost three weeks is a great credit to the local volunteers and to the Canadian forces sent there, who had a particularly short and brutal war followed by a long and brutal captivity.)
Singapore was considered, like Hawaii, as too remote to be attacked; its defences were all facing seawards and whilst it was heavily reinforced it was all done in a muddled way, resulting in the disgrace of an army surrendering to a force half its size and the Indian, Australian, and British forces sent there having a particularly short and brutal war followed by a long and brutal captivity.
The horse shoe nail was the grounding of HMS Indomitable, the carrier attached to Force Z, which left HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse without air cover. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sinking_of_Prince_of_Wales_and_Repulse
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