Six Myths of the Traditional
Michael T. Griffith
@All Rights Reserved
The Japanese attack on
MYTH: There is nothing suspicious about the fact that
General George Marshall’s crucial December 7 warning to
FACT: General Marshall could have simply picked up the
scrambler phone on his desk and warned the Army commander in
And what about the fact that
MYTH: The fact that General Marshall’s warning message was
sent via commercial telegram is no reason to suspect foul play.
FACT: The Army Pearl Harbor Board debunked these excuses in 1944:
It is to be noted in this
connection that no only was the F.B.I. radio working between
The status of communications
between Washington and Hawaii on the morning of December 7th and for 24 hours
previous to that time was as follows: The Hawaiian Department had a scrambler
telephone connection direct with Washington by which you could ordinarily get a
message through from Washington to Hawaii in ten or fifteen minutes. After the attack on December 7, Colonel
Fielder (G-2) himself talked to
General Short noted that if Marshall “had used the scrambler phone and gotten it through in ten or fifteen minutes we would probably have gotten more of the import and a clearer idea of danger from that message and we would have had time to warm up the planes and get them in the air to meet any attack."
Admiral Kimmel noted
General George C. Marshall’s
warning . . . was sent in a non-priority status by commercial circuit when he
had on his desk a telephone [the scrambler phone] with a direct connection to
the commanding general in
This lack of action on the part of the War and Navy Departments must have been in accordance with high political direction. . . .
Furthermore, as the Army Pearl Harbor Board noted,
It is important to observe that
only one means of communication was selected by
General Short also commented on this strange violation of procedure:
It is standard staff procedure and doctrine that all important or emergency messages should be sent by all available means of communication, which in this case would have included the scrambler telephones which had been frequently used between the War Department and Fort Shafter [Short’s office was located on Fort Shafter]. Col. Phillips [Short’s chief of staff] and General Marshall did confer by scrambler phone later in the day on December 7.
A group called the Pearl Harbor History Associates (PHHA)
runs a website that purports to refute evidence of conspiracy in the
It is important to note that the
message did arrive in
First off, even if the message had arrived at 7:03 instead
of 7:33, it would not have been decoded and delivered to Kimmel and Short in
time to do any good—because, as mentioned, it was not sent as a priority message
and was not even marked as urgent.
Furthermore, the time of 7:33 a.m. is the time the message was received
at the RCA station in
And it is worth asking again: Why on earth did
As for the argument that no warning would have been sent if
there had been a conspiracy, how would
Moreover, even when
MYTH: General Marshall had a very good reason for not using the scrambler phone: he feared that the Japanese would overhear his warning if he used the scrambler phone and that they would then know that at least some of their codes had been broken.
FACT: This makes no sense.
Marshall also floated the ludicrous claim that another reason he decided against using the scrambler phone was that he was afraid that if the Japanese intercepted his warning they would regard the warning itself as an act of provocation!
George Morgenstern, an award-winning investigative
journalist who served in the Marines during World War II, did not buy
Morgenstern was referring to the War Department’s November
27 order to conduct aerial reconnaissance in the
Furthermore, if the concern over avoiding action that could
be interpreted as provocative was genuine, why did FDR, on December 2,
personally order that three Navy vessels conduct what was obviously an
unnecessary and provocative “defensive information patrol” in the Gulf of Siam,
directly in the path of the Japanese naval force that was heading down the
coast of Indochina? As Morgenstern
noted, “This was only one of the long series of attempts by Roosevelt to create
an ‘incident’ which would plunge the
MYTH: The 14-part Japanese diplomatic cable was not a declaration
of war, and did not even break off diplomatic relations. Beyond a
recapitulation of Japanese complaints against the
FACT: This is an amazingly erroneous claim to make given the
facts on record. Among other things, the
14-part message declared that negotiations were over and that any hope of peace
in the Pacific had been lost. When
President Roosevelt and other senior officials read the decrypts of the first
13 parts of the 14-part message on December 6, they recognized that for all
intents and purposes it was a declaration of war, even though it was not
labeled as such. In fact, when
The fact that the 14-part message was a war declaration is
even more evident when we consider the two messages that accompanied it: the
code-destruction message and the time-of-delivery message, both of which were
decrypted and forwarded with the 14-part message. The code-destruction message directed that
the Embassy destroy the remaining cipher machine, all cipher codes, and any
other secret documents. Such actions had
long been recognized as obvious indications of imminent war. The time-of-delivery message specified that
the 14-part message was to be delivered to the American government at exactly
1:00 p.m., Eastern time. As mentioned, 1:00 p.m. on the East Coast was
7:30 a.m. in
[Colonel Rufus] Bratton had been
frantically trying to locate
So the head of Army Intelligence, General Miles, concluded
that the 14-part message and its accompanying time-of-delivery instruction
justified sending a warning—not only to
The JCC minority report noted that the “chief intelligence officers of the Army . . . immediately appreciated” the significance of the 1:00 p.m. delivery time, and that the 14-part message and its delivery instruction led the Director of Naval Intelligence, Admiral Theodore Wilkinson, to urge that the Pacific Fleet be sent a warning. The minority reported noted other important facts on this issue:
The relation of 1 p. m.
Mr. Hull [Secretary of State], Mr.
Stimson [Secretary of War], and Mr. Knox [Secretary of the Navy] had the 1 p.
m. message at their conference about 10:30 a. m.,
"Today is the day that the
Japanese are going to bring their answer to
As indicated above, Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox was another official who understood that the time-of-delivery message indicated that an attack was imminent. Knox said the following in his secret December 15 report to FDR:
Neither Short nor Kimmel, at the time of the attack, had any knowledge of the plain intimations of some surprise move, made clear in Washington, through the interception of Japanese instructions to Nomura, in which a surprise move of some kind was clearly indicated by the insistence upon the precise time of Nomura's reply to Hull, at 1 o'clock on Sunday.
So according to Knox, a “surprise move” was “clearly indicated” by the 1:00 o’clock delivery time. Indeed it was.
MYTH: The “bomb plot messages” regarding the location of
ships in Pearl Harbor did not give a clear indication that
FACT: Several intelligence officers recognized that the
first bomb plot message, sent on September 24, represented a grid system for a
bombing attack and they urged that the Hawaiian commanders be told about the
message (their urgings were rejected).
The follow-up bomb plot messages made it even more obvious that the
Japanese had an unusual, unique, and very suspicious interest in
Toland provides an overview of the bomb plot messages and notes that not one of them was forwarded to Kimmel or Short, even though intelligence officers urged that this be done:
The consul's message [that
contained the first 13 parts of the 14-part diplomatic cable] was by no means
the only one that morning [6 December] which indicated the Japanese might be
planning a surprise attack on
Even the Democratic majority of the JCC, as determined as
they were to deny any evidence of foreknowledge or foul play, had to admit that
the September 24 bomb plot message requested information about
In endeavoring to evaluate the
intercepted dispatch of September 24 and related dispatches, it is to be borne
in mind that the Japanese were insistent in their desire to secure information
concerning the location and movements of American vessels everywhere and not
Admiral Kimmel pointed out the unique nature of the
information that the Japanese requested about
No other harbor or base in American
territory or possessions was divided into subareas by
With the dispatch of September 24 and those which followed, there was a significant and ominous change in the character of the information which the Japanese government sought and obtained. The espionage then directed was of an unusual character and outside the realm of reasonable suspicion. It was no longer merely directed to ascertaining the general whereabouts of ships of the fleet. It was directed to the presence of particular ships and particular areas, to such minute detail as what ships were double-docked at the same wharf.
In the period immediately preceding
the attack, the Japanese consul general in
No one had a more direct and
immediate interest in the security of the fleet in
It is worth noting that General Douglas MacArthur’s staff
officers discerned that the bomb plot messages indicated preparation for a
bombing raid. A staff report from
MacArthur’s headquarters noted that they had concluded that those messages
It was known that the Japanese counsel
MYTH: There was no “Winds” execute message broadcast until
after the attack, and the execute message that was transmitted was the “West
Wind Clear” message, not the “East Wind Rain” one. The story of the
interception of a December 4 “East Wind Rain” execute message rests
almost entirely on the unsupported testimony of Captain Laurance Safford. The JCC shredded Safford’s story way back in
1946. The fact that the execute message
was not an “East Wind Rain” message and that it was not sent until after the
attack has been firmly established in a recent study by two historians from the
National Security Agency. Even if there
had been such a message, it would not have meant imminent war anyway, and would
not have provided any actionable intelligence.
What’s more, the November 19 message that describes the “Winds” code
words proves that the “East Wind Rain” code was merely intended to notify
Japanese diplomats around the world that
FACT: For starters, no one denied that a “Winds” execute message had been intercepted a few days before the attack until 1944. Even the Roberts Commission did not dispute the existence of the December 4 execute message. Nor did the Army Pearl Harbor Board. Nor did the Navy Court of Inquiry. A couple officers were confused about whether it was an “East Wind Rain” or “West Wind Clear” execute message, but no one denied there was a pre-attack “Winds” execute message until FDR sought to discredit the incriminating reports submitted by the Army Pearl Harbor Board and the Navy Court of Inquiry.
The 1989 BBC documentary Sacrifice
at Pearl Harbor presents evidence that at least two Western intelligence
services intercepted the “East Wind Rain” execute message on December 4. The documentary includes interviews with Eric
Nave and Ralph Briggs, two cryptographers who were involved with the
interception and processing of the “Winds” code message (Nave) and the
subsequent “East Wind Rain” execute message (Briggs). The “Winds” code message explained the code
words that would be used to signal war with
Nave was a senior Australian cryptographer and was so
renowned that he was sometimes called "the father of British code breaking
News broadcasts from Tokyo that
carried the "execute" weather forecasts were designed to be heard
around the world—in Britain, Western Europe, Australia, and South America—and
were repeated several times during the day of December 4. They had been easily
picked up in
Both parts of the Winds message
[the code and the subsequent execute] were received by Lieutenant Charles
Dixon, RNZVR [Royal New Zealand Volunteer Reserve], a code breaker stationed at
Ralph Briggs was a Navy chief petty officer and a Japanese
linguist stationed at the Naval Communication Station in
Briggs’ account is supported by a document released by the National Security Agency in 1980 (National Archives Document SRH-051). The document reveals that in 1977 the Naval Security Group interviewed Briggs regarding the execute message and that Briggs reported that he intercepted the “East Wind Rain” execute message on December 4, that he was later ordered by his superior officer not to testify to the JCC, and that he had discovered that the copies he had made of the message were missing from the station's files.
Captain Safford was not the only senior military officer who had direct knowledge of the December 4 execute message, and the JCC by no means “shredded” his testimony. During the Navy Court of Inquiry and the Army Pearl Harbor Board investigations, two other senior military officers acknowledged seeing this message before the attack, and two additional senior officers testified that they were informed of the receipt of the message and that they discussed it with other officers.
Moreover, after the war, two former attaches in the Japanese Embassy in Washington confirmed that the “East Wind Rain” execute message was broadcast on December 4. The Japanese attaches were Yuzuru Sanematsu and Yoshimori Terai. Sanematsu was the ranking naval attache and the chief intelligence officer at the Japanese Embassy, and he went on to become a leading Japanese naval historian. In his 1980 book Nichi-bei Joho Senki, he confirmed his personal knowledge that the execute message was received at the Embassy on December 4. In a 1982 interview, Terai confirmed Sanematsu’s account. Terai explained that when he returned to the Embassy on the afternoon of December 4, he found his office in an uproar over the reception of the execute message.
By the way, Captain Safford was arguably the Navy's best
intelligence officer and was indisputably one of the most brilliant and
influential intelligence analysts of World War II. Among other things, Safford single-handedly
discovered that the Germans had broken Naval Cipher 3, and it was thanks to
this discovery that Allied shipping losses in the
Safford knew for an absolute fact that top government
officials were aware that the execute message was intercepted on December 4
because he had personally been involved in delivering a copy of the message to
Admiral Leigh Noyes, the Director of Naval Communications. In his testimony, Safford correctly noted
that the execute message, which he called the “Winds Message,” was intercepted
at the Naval Communication Station in
There was a Winds Message. It meant
war--and we knew it meant war. By the best estimate that can be made from my
recollection and the circumstantial evidence now available, the "Winds
Message" was part of a Japanese Overseas "News" Broadcast from
Station JAP (Tokyo) on 11980 kilocycles beginning at 1330 Greenwich Civil Time
on Thursday, December 4, 1941. This time corresponded to 10:30 p.m.
My final verification of the fact that the Winds Message translation was typed and distributed lies in the fact that about December 15, 1941, I saw a copy of it in the special folder of messages which were being assembled for Admiral Noyes to present to the Roberts Commission. I checked these over with Kramer for completeness as well as for the elimination of irrelevant material. Kramer told me in 1944 that he had shown Assistant Secretary Forrestal a special set of Pre-Pearl Harbor messages about December 10, 1941, when Secretary Knox was making his personal investigation at Pearl Harbor, and that he discussed those messages with Mr. Forrestal for about two hours. This set of messages was apparently the basis and possibly the identical file that was given Admiral Noyes and shown to the Roberts Commission via Admiral Wilkinson. This was the last time I saw the Winds Message. I believe that the translation of the Winds Message was given the JD-1 Serial number of 7001, because this number is missing and unaccounted for, and comes within the range of messages translated on December 3 and 4, 1941.
In all seriousness, those two NSA historians who have supposedly proven there was no pre-attack execute message argue that Safford “imagined” his account of the December 4 execute message.
The Army Pearl Harbor Board did not believe Safford was dreaming. As the JCC minority report noted, the Army Pearl Harbor Board concluded that the “East Wind Rain” execute message had been intercepted on or about December 4 but that all copies of it had been destroyed or were otherwise missing. The minority report also pointed out that Admiral Royal Ingersoll, the Assistant Chief of Naval Operations, had confirmed to the Hart Inquiry that the execute message was received a few days before the attack:
The Army Pearl Harbor Board also
had evidence to the effect that the second or "activating" message
"This original message has now
disappeared from the Navy files and cannot be found. It was in existence just
The evidence before this Committee [the JCC] bearing on the interception of the activating message from Tokyo and on the contention that it indicated hostilities between Japan and the Anglo-American combination covers hundreds of pages. Admittedly the evidence is confusing and conflicting [mostly because some officers began to change their stories in 1944, two years before the JCC convened], but after reviewing it, Admiral Royal E. Ingersoll, deputy to Admiral Harold Stark, testified before the Hart Inquiry to questions 68 and 69:
"68. Q. During November or December 1941 were you cognizant of a special code which the Japanese had arranged under which they were to inform their nationals concerning against what nations they would make aggressive movements by means of a partial weather report?
"A. Yes; I do recall such messages.
"69. Q. Do you recall having seen on or about 4 December the broadcast directive thus given indicating that the Japanese were about to attack both Britain and the United States?
Additional evidence of the December 4 execute message comes from the remarkable fact that on that same day both the Japanese Navy and the American Navy changed their codes, and the American Navy directed remote Pacific installations to destroy excess codes and ciphers so they would not be captured by the Japanese. Just a coincidence?
Is it also just a coincidence that on December 4 Captain Arthur McCollum, the head of the Far Section of the Office of Naval Intelligence, drafted a war warning for the Pacific Fleet commanders? McCollum was one of those officers who later falsely denied knowing about the execute message, but Captain Safford testified that he discussed the execute message with McCollum and that McCollum’s original warning mentioned the execute message.
As for the intended meaning of the “East Wind Rain” code,
there is ample evidence that it was intended—and was widely interpreted—as a
warning that war was about to begin, and obviously the Pearl Harbor attack
proves that it was meant to warn of war.
In referring to the November 19 “Winds” code message, Colonel Elliott
Thorpe, an Army intelligence officer in Java, informed General Miles on
December 5 that “
1. Report of Army
2. Report of Army Pearl Harbor Board, p. 142, http://www.ibiblio.org/pha/pha/army/chap_3c.html.
3. Husband Kimmel, Admiral Kimmel’s Story (Chicago: Henry Regnery Company, 1955), p. 4.
4. Report of Army Pearl Harbor Board, p. 141, http://www.ibiblio.org/pha/pha/army/chap_3c.html.
5. JCC Pearl Harbor Report, full-text version, p. 2940, http://home.us.archive.org/stream/pearlharborattac07unit/pearlharborattac07unit_djvu.txt.
6. “The Myths of Pearl Harbor,” http://www.ibiblio.org/pha/myths/index.html.
8. George Morgenstern,
12. John Toland, Infamy:
13. Minority report, JCC Pearl Harbor Report, pp. 529-530, emphasis added, http://www.ibiblio.org/pha/pha/congress/minority.html#514.
14. JCC Pearl Harbor Report, full-text version, p. 2337, emphases added, http://www.archive.org/stream/pearlharborattac05unit/pearlharborattac05unit_djvu.txt; Morgenstern, Pearl Harbor: The Story of the Secret War, p. 276.
18. Kimmel, Admiral Kimmel’s Story, pp. 88-89. Some traditionalists claim that FDR never saw the bomb plot message. However, Lt. Commander Alwin Kramer delivered it to him on October 9, along with a summary of its contents and a notation that read “interesting message” (“Additional Views of Mr. Keefe,” JCC Pearl Harbor Report, p. 266-E, http://www.ibiblio.org/pha/pha/congress/keefe.html).” Incidentally, the summary read as follows:
On October 9th, 1941 (ex. 2, p. 12), Lieutenant Commander Kramer of Naval Intelligence in Washington promptly distributed the Pearl Harbor "bomb plot" message to the President, the Secretary of the Navy, the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Stark, the Director of Naval Communications, the Director of War Plans, and the Director of Naval Intelligence (Tr., Vol. 59 p. 11209). It bore the notation "interesting message" on a gist or flag (Tr., Vol. 59, p. 11207). It was accompanied by a summary of its contents as follows:
"Tokyo directs special reports on ships in Pearl Harbor which is divided into five areas for the purpose of showing exact locations” (Tr., Vol. 69, p. 11207). (Minority report, JCC Pearl Harbor Report, pp. 518-519, http://www.ibiblio.org/pha/pha/congress/minority.html#520http://www.ibiblio.org/pha/pha/congress/minority.html#520)
23. Yuzuru Sanematsu, Nichi-bei Joho Senki (Tokyo: Tosho Shuppansha, 1980), pp. 146, 235; pp. 191, 232 in the 1982 edition; Greaves, Pearl Harbor: The Seeds and Fruits of Infamy, p. 229; Nave and Rusbridger, Betrayal at Pearl Harbor, pp. 147-148.
25. “Statement Regarding Winds Message by Captain L.F. Safford, U.S. Navy, Before the Joint Committee on the Investigation of the Pearl Harbor Attack,” January 25, 1946, http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/PTO/Magic/Safford-Winds.html; see also Morgenstern, Pearl Harbor: The Story of the Secret War, pp. 206-210.
30. Cable “From Thorpe for Miles War Dept. Code Intercept,” December 5, 1941; Morgenstern, Pearl Harbor: The Story of the Secret War, pp. 208-209, emphasis added. The Army Pearl Harbor Board noted that even if the intended meaning was a break in relations, this would have indicated that hostilities could be imminent:
There is a
conflict as to the meaning of the "Winds" message, namely, as to
whether it meant war or only a breach of diplomatic relations. (Tr., 
Bratton B. 60-71; Safford C. 126-130; Sadtler D. 250; See also Top Secret Ex.
"B", S. I. S. 25392 and 25432, both 19 November 1941) This conflict
is not significant, however, as it was common knowledge that
31. Dispatch from Foote to “Secretary of State, Washington,” December 4, 1941, http://www.ibiblio.org/pha/timeline/411204bpci.html, emphasis added; Morgenstern, Pearl Harbor: The Story of the Secret War, p. 209.
32. Top Secret Report of Army
AUTHOR: Michael T. Griffith holds a Master’s degree in Theology from The
Catholic Distance University, a Graduate Certificate in Ancient and Classical
History from American Military University, a Bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts
from Excelsior College, two Associate in Applied Science degrees from the
Community College of the Air Force, and an Advanced Certificate of Civil War Studies
and a Certificate of Civil War Studies from Carroll College. He is a
two-time graduate of the Defense Language Institute in