Who was Responsible?
One topic that is sure to get historians arguing is who was responsible for
Pearl Harbor? Was it Admiral Kimmel and General Short or was it Franklin Delano
Roosevelt duped by Winston Churchill? How about the role of Harold Stark (chief
of the Navy) and George Marshall (chief of staff)?
The problem with Pearl Harbor research is wartime investigations were more concerned with protecting code secrets that finding the truth. Yes, Kimmel and Short were blamed early on, but most now believe they were pawns in a larger scenario concerning our entrance into the war.
FDR knew that the Japanese and Germans were lying to us -- the secret codes told him they were negotiating with us while plotting our demise. Our government was looking for a way into the was that didn't anger the large "America first" crowd. It was believed a "back-door" entrance to the fight against the Nazi's could be achieved if war with the Japanese could be instigated. Don't get me wrong, the Japanese government wasn't an innocent bystander here. But most were focused on Europe at the time.
Did Roosevelt allow Pearl Harbor to get "pasted" in order to get us in a war he knew was inevitable? Maybe. But remember, the navy was a favorite of FDR. He might sacrifice the Army, but never the Navy (he was under secretary of the Navy in World War I). If he knew an attack was coming he may have believed his beloved battleships were immune to bombing. No one knew that in Japan, Mr. Yosioka Adakats had designed a workable shallow-water torpedo. On the other hand, many did know of the British raid on Toranto, so in hindsight, officials should have been more wary. The Japanese knew conventional bombs would bounce off the battleships, so they used armor-piercing 12 and 14 inch Naval shells with crude wooden fins attached. They weren't very effective, compared to the torpedoes, but one lucky hit set off the explosion that doomed the Arizona.
Since the British and Australians knew of the attack before it happened, the big question has always been "What did FDR know and when did he know it?" The short answer is we will never know for sure. Few wrote their thoughts down and 60 years worth of "cleansing" has followed. The Navy is a "club" that doesn't like outsiders wandering around their hallowed halls. They covered up many aspects of the real story to protect their status. A read of the USS Iowa's turret explosion leaves one with the impression that the Navy hasn't changed much when it comes to a "circle the wagons" mentality. With many years of hindsight here is what we know for sure:
-Roosevelt knew the Japanese were about to attack somewhere.
-Naval experts had torpedo nets at Pearl Harbor, but few were concerned with a torpedo attack in the shallow, confined spaces and they were not up that day.
-Research into old testimony is difficult. Clear examples of deception abound, but were people protecting the code secret, themselves or either superiors? Were they hiding a dark conspiracy or covering for their own sloppy work?
-Kimmel and short were "scape-goats," but in the service (especially the Navy) if you are in command, it's your fault. Period. The only answer a commander can give is "No excuse-sir!"
-There were "stories" of an impending attack, but they were hard to sort our from the sea of information they were contained within.
-The story of the "code war" is only recently being revealed and it doesn't look good for George Marshall and Harld Stark.
Who was responsible for Pearl Harbor? Isoruku Yamamoto, Minoru Genda and Mitsuo Fuchida, along with Yosioka Adakats, inventor of the shallow-water torpedo. Many Americans can be faulted for their hubris and complacency, but none I'm aware of rubbed their hands together and said, "I'll allow 2,500 men to die so we can get in the war."
Few events galvanized American resolve like the Pearl Harbor attack. The true question arising from that day is a philosophical one: Should FDR let democracy take its slow course and loose all or should he risk impeachment by sneaking us into a war that gained us a world free of Tojo and Hitler? As with most philosophical arguments, the answer is elusive.
The reason for the Japanese success at Pearl Harbor was the shallow water
torpedo. Unlike Taranto, Pearl Harbor is a narrow confined harbor. Torpedo
planes required a long "fetch" of water to descend over. They slowly
"bled-off" speed, while lining up the target. If they weren't level
when the drop was made, the device would auger down too high, and it would fall
apart upon "smacking" the water.
Pearl Harbor's geography forced the Japanese to train carefully. First, they had to fly down from the mountains into the harbor, then drop again when they reached the small harbor, ruling out the usual glide-path of a torpedo plane. Mr. Yosioka Adakats invented a torpedo that would work in shallow water (see illustration), but it couldn't be dropped from higher than 25 feet. The low and slow approach is what accounted for many describing these planes as "sitting ducks." Eye-witnesses say if they had a rock they could have hit them. Others can still tell you what the pilot looked like as they flew by at 25 feet smiling and waving.
The torpedo planes slowly filed into the harbor. Since "ten-ten"
dock (so called because it's exactly 1010 feet long) offered a good
"marker," they followed it, crossed the harbor and made straight for
"Battleship row." Here they made numerous drops of their
"fish" into the best targets there -- the Oklahoma and West Virginia.
Other ships were torpedoed that day, but the Oklahoma and West Virginia took the
brunt of the attack (nine torpedoes each). Their sides were literally blasted
off. The Oklahoma quickly capsized, while the WV took on a dangerous 28 degrees
list, before counter flooding took hold. What made it worse was, as the ships
rolled, new torpedo hits occurred above the armor beltline. Damage was
catastrophic and wide-spread.
The Tennessee and Maryland were protected by the Oklahoma and West Virginia since their birth was starboard side. They came through relatively unscathed except for a few bomb hits and a scorched hull from the burning oil that was everywhere. The Arizona probably would have rode out the attack since the repair ship vestal was along side, blocking a torpedo shot (many claim one went under it to strike the Arizona). A lucky bomb hot struck the Arizona between turret 1 and turret 2 on the starboard side igniting the forward magazine. One and a half million pounds of gun powder erupted raining hell itself onto the rear quarter decks of the West Virginia and Tennessee. This explosion ranked as the largest man-made bang until a fertilizer ship blew up near Galveston and then the A-Bomb was dropped shortly after.
Copyright ©2000-2020 Roger Hare. All rights reserved.