10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Andrew S. Rogers
- Published on Amazon.com
It's hard to decide which is more disturbing: the oversights, omissions, and bad decisions that led to America's unpreparedness in the face of Japan's devastating attack on Pearl Harbor ... or the desperation, speed, and skill with which senior military and political officials unjustly made Admiral Husband E. Kimmel and General Walter Short the scapegoats for what happened.
Both elements are exposed to view in Michael Gannon's excellent book -- a fine addition to the Pearl Harbor bookshelf.
Gannon does a very good job sorting out who was in possession of what intelligence information in the weeks and days leading up to the attack. The "betrayal" -- one of them, anyway -- was that, for a variety of reasons, much of that information never ended up in the hands of the on-scene commanders, who needed it most.
As Gannon summarizes, "An Army Chief of Staff orders that no operational intelligence drawn from Magic be sent to his menaced commander in Hawaii, then later states that he was unaware that enemy intelligence was denied him ... An Army intelligence chief, representing the service specifically charged with defending the fleet at Pearl, punts on the grounds that fleet ships, after all, belong to the Navy ... A Navy war plans chief states that any transmission of operational intelligence of this kind should have been sent out by ONI [office of naval intelligence], something he himself never permitted to happen ... A director of naval intelligence discerns in bomb plot messages no more than Japanese curiosity and 'nicety' of detail about the time required for ships to sortie from harbor ... and a CNO [chief of naval operations], as uninformed at the time on this espionage as was the Army Chief of Staff, states four years later that ONI should have sent the information to Kimmel -- in direct violation of restraints that his own OpNav office had placed on ONI ... Surely, if ever there was a "fog of pre-war," it hung over Washington in the fall of '41" (p. 195, ellipses in original).
(Gannon firmly rejects the "Roosevelt knew" hypothesis. He also treats Stinnett's Day Of Deceit: The Truth About FDR and Pearl Harbor to only a paragraph or so of scathing analysis, noting in italics, "It is important to recognize that no naval operational message text in JN-25B [code] was read by the United States prior to 7 December" [p. 206].)
But the intelligence failure was only part, albeit the largest part, of the "betrayal." Early in the book, Gannon lists a damning catalog of the ways higher-ups in D.C rejected Kimmel and Short's pleas for men and materiel. More patrol planes? Denied. More AA guns? Denied. Money for more airstrips, so planes could be dispersed more widely? Sorry. Not in the budget. More radar installations? Maybe in the future. More trained gunners and patrol pilots? Sorry. We need them elsewhere. And on, and on, and on. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, don't give us the tools and we can't do the job.
And yet, Kimmel and Short were scapegoated precisely for their alleged "failure" to do the job. In the end, Gannon explicitly declines to draw conclusions, leaving that, on his last page of text, to the reader. It may not be too much of a reach, though, to suggest that Gannon seems to agree with Admiral Raymond Spruance, whom Gannon quotes at the start of his final chapter: "I have always felt that Kimmel and Short were held responsible for Pearl Harbor in order that the American people might have no reason to lose confidence in their Government in Washington. This was probably justifiable under the circumstance at the time, but it does not justify forever damning these two fine officers" (p. 261).
Personally, I think losing confidence in the "Government in Washington" is precisely the conclusion that *should* be drawn from Gannon's analysis, "circumstance at the time" be damned. As an illustration of bureaucracy's ability to shift blame away from itself and sweep unpleasant facts under the rug, the story of Pearl Harbor is unsurpassed. And Gannon is an excellent and insightful storyteller. I recommend this book to any student of Pearl Harbor.