Monthly Archives: April, 2022

Jim Golden tells Tribune Earhart fate “covered up”

In a March 2, 2015 post titled Jim Golden’s legacy of honor in the Earhart saga,” I introduced the late Jim Golden, a close friend of Fred Goerner and, in the day, a near-legendary figure in Earhart research circles.  Golden remarkable career included eight years as a Secret Service agent in the Dwight D. Eisenhower administration, two years as Howard Hughes’ chief of security in Las Vegas, and several years as a top U.S. Justice Department official, from where he tried to help Goerner search for the elusive top-secret Earhart files that President John F. Kennedy had allowed Goerner and California newspaperman Ross Game to view briefly in 1963, just before JFK’s assassination in Dallas.  

Among the Earhart-related information Golden shared with Goerner was the revelation that Earhart and Fred Noonan were brought to the islands of Roi-Namur, Kwajalein Atoll by air from Jaluit Atoll by the Japanese in 1937, a fact he learned from Marine Intelligence officers during the American invasion of Kwajalein in January 1944.

The below story appeared in the Albuquerque (New Mexico) Tribune, on Oct. 4, 1977.  

“Prober says Amelia Earhart death covered up”
By Richard Williams, Tribune Sun Writer

A high-level Washington official claims the disappearance 40 years ago of famed aviatrix Amelia Earhart and the mystery shrouding the matter may have been President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s own Watergate.” 

In an exclusive interview with The Tribune, James Golden, director of the Enforcement Division of the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA), said his years of study of the Earhart case led him to believe Roosevelt knew of her whereabouts and did nothing about it on purpose.

Golden, in Albuquerque to watch city police make arrests in connection with an LEAA-funded storefront operation Friday and Saturday, said all evidence points to Miss Earhart’s being held captive for a year and a half by the Japanese on the South Pacific Island of Saipan.

And the Japanese reportedly executed her copilot, Fred Noonan, by chopping off his head,Golden said.  Miss Earhart died the following day of dysentery, the Japanese said, even though she was seen by Saipan natives walking in a compound the day before.” 

Golden, who was a Marine intelligence officer when he landed with the fourth wave of Marines in the Marshall Islands in January 1944, said he personally read native accounts of Miss Earhart’s and Noonan’s presence in the islands.  [Ed. note: Golden was not an officer, but an enlisted Marine combat photographer assigned to independent duty with the intelligence section of the 4th Marine Division in 1944.)

Private First Class James O. Golden, circa 1944.
As a photographer assigned to independent duty in
Marine Intelligence on Kwajalein in January 1944,
Golden read a report by officers of the 24th Marine
Intelligence Unit about a native on Roi-Namur who
told them of two white people, a man and a woman, brought by Japanese airplane to Roi, the man with a white bandage on his head and the woman with short-cut hair wearing men’s pants.

Miss Earhart, a world-famous pilot, disappeared on July 2, 1937, on a flight from Lea, New Guinea, to Howland Island in the South Pacific.  Golden said the subsequent years of his interest in the case and talks with other intelligence officers closely involved with the islands during and after their capture from the Japanese have indicated that Miss Earhart may have been on a spying mission for the U.S. government.

Golden said he used to be an employee of Lockheed Aircraft, which built Miss Earhart’s plane and outfitted it for the flight on which she disappeared. [Ed. note: Golden told me that this was absolutely false.  He had never worked for Lockheed.]

I learned that the aircraft’s regular engines, capable of cruising at 160 miles an hour, were replaced with engines which gave the plane capability of cruising at 220 miles an hour,” Golden said.  [Ed. note: To my knowledge, we have no evidence to support this.]

He said that although Miss Earhart’s flight path was originally to avoid islands such as Saipan and Tinian, held by the Japanese since World War I, the greater flying speed could allow her to have made a photographic sweep over the heavily fortified area and still arrive at Howland in the same time it would have taken her to fly direct at the lower speed.

“What really bothers me about the whole thing is that if Miss Earhart was on such a mission and was a prisoner of the Japanese, as she seems to have been, why won’t the government acknowledge the facts and give her the hero’s treatment she deserves?” Golden said.

The reason, Golden has determined, is that Roosevelt hid the truth about Miss Earhart and Noonan, fearing public reaction to the death of a heroine and voter reaction at the polls.

Golden said he bases his feelings on his own knowledge of the affair and the subsequent revelations dug up by Fred Goerner, a freelance investigative reporter from San Francisco, in years of interviews.

As he related the actions of high-level military and government officers in the time around Miss Earhart’s disappearance, it sounded like a cloak-and-dagger story of the first magnitude.

Jim Golden’s no-nonsense comments about FDR’s role in the cover-up of the truth in the Earhart disappearance were the subject of this story in the Jan. 3, 1978 Midnight Globe.  Headlined “FDR’s Amelia Earhart ‘Watergate,’” the tabloid story was sloppy with the details, but got the basic story right, thanks to the straight-shooting, politically incorrect Jim Golden’s love for the truth.

Two Marines [Privates Everett Henson Jr. and Billy Burks] ordered to dig up the remains of two persons near a hotel in Garapan, a town on Saipan, there remains placed in yellow containers and sent back to the U.S.

A Marine general who personally pulled an airplane from a Japanese hangar on one of the islands and set it afire in the middle of the night after the island was captured from the Japanese.  An extensive file, of which Golden read a part, which contained Japanese accounts of the Earhart capture — a file which has floated through several government agencies and “gets thinner every year” and the whereabouts of which are unknown at the moment, Golden said.

And how about the fact that two of the men who donated $25,000 to Purdue University to fund Miss Earhart’s flight were members of Roosevelt’s National Security Council?” Golden asked.  And how about the fact that the last person to walk Miss Earhart to her plane before the flight was a Navy intelligence officer?

Golden said his information is that Miss Earhart over-flew Howland and was forced to crash-land on an uninhabited dot of land far from her target. “Apparently, the Japanese had homing devices better than ours, and they captured her and Noonan and the airplane before we could find her,” Golden said.

Golden said he personally read translated native accounts from the island of Roi-Namur in the Marshalls which said the natives recalled a woman dressed like a man with her short blond hair cut like a man’s and a man with a bandaged head being held prisoner there for a short time by the Japanese.

 The natives said the two were placed on a Japanese freighter and sent away later, apparently to Saipan, Golden recounted.

The natives said the Japanese referred to the two prisoners as ‘American flier-spies,'” Golden said.  Golden said he cannot understand why the government would continue to hide the facts behind the disappearances.  I just hope that someday justice is done, and the woman receives the honor due her for her service to her country, Golden said.  [End of Albuquerque Tribune story.]

Golden passed away suddenly at his home on March 7, 2011 at age 85, though he had encouraged me to hasten my efforts to publish the first edition of Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last (2012), because he felt his time was coming soon.  As I wrote in closing Jim Golden’s legacy of honor in the Earhart saga, in 2015, We’ll never see the likes of Jim Golden again, and I hope someday we’ll meet in a much better place.

More on Jim Golden’s amazing life and contributions to the Earhart saga can be found in the pages of Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last. 

Conclusion of Fred Goerner on Pearl Harbor

Today we present the conclusion of Fred Goerner’s examination of the Pearl Harbor disaster, which appeared in the Dec. 1, 1991 “This World” Sunday supplement of the San Francisco Chronicle.  Not only was Dec. 7, 1941 a day that lived in infamy, it remains an enigma that defies clear answers to the troubling questions that still surround it.

The photo of William F. Friedman, the Japanese pilot’s view, Frederick Joseph Rutland and the Navy map of the ships at Pearl Harbor just prior to the attack have been added to the original content.  (Boldface emphasis mine throughout.)

Questions on Codes

The same year, 1967, I began a friendship with Colonel William Friedman, the legendary cryptologist who headed the U.S. Army team that penetrated Japan’s diplomatic code in 1940.  A small, trim man given to wearing bow ties, he was both brilliant and delightfully egocentric.  There was scarcely a subject about which he did not have a determined opinion.

Though Friedman was restricted by security regulations from discussing codes, including those that had preceded Pearl Harbor, he stated without equivocation that he did not subscribe to the Roosevelt conspiracy theory and believed that Kimmel unfortunately would always wear a mantle of ignominy.  Friedman told me of a lengthy classified Pearl Harbor report he had prepared for the National Security Agency some years before, and he suggested that if I could someday engineer its release, the answers would be there.

Friedman died in 1969, but his secret report, written in 1957, has only recently been declassified.  His conclusions about Pearl Harbor in many respects parallel those of Admiral Nimitz, though the two had never spoken about the matter.  

Friedman believed it was fortunate Kimmel had not been warned before the attack and had not attempted to meet the Japanese force at sea.  “Not only would that have been a greater loss of American lives,” he wrote, “but none of our battleships could have been raised and repaired.”  Friedman also thought the Japanese had made a massive strategic mistake by failing to attack the American submarine base, fuel depots, dry docks, machine shops and other repair facilities.

With respect to the Japanese diplomatic code, known as Purple, Friedman confirms that the code was first cracked in September 1940, and that American military intelligence continued reading Japanese diplomatic traffic through the end of the war.  He also declares without reservation that at no point in any of the intercepted messages was there mention that the initial Japanese target would be Pearl Harbor, nor was there mention of the date or time hostilities were scheduled to begin.

Friedman reveals that two of the ultra-secret Purple code machines — intricate electrically driven rotor devices that were used for decoding Japanese diplomatic messages — had been given to England in January 1941, but none had been sent to Pearl Harbor.  While Kimmel believed this to be part of a great conspiracy, Friedman stated that the product of the Purple code would not have provided any insight to Kimmel that had escaped those who were studying the intercepts in Washington, D.C.; thus simple wartime priorities, and no cabal, accounted for the fact that Pearl Harbor did not have the Purple code machines.

Friedman, however, was as puzzled as most Americans as to why the commanders at Pearl Harbor had not been better prepared for an air attack, secret sources notwithstanding.

U.S. war plans, he wrote in his secret report, took into account the possibility that the Japanese might begin a war without a preceding declaration, that is by surprise attack, and although this possibility was placed first on the list of contingencies, with Pearl Harbor as the focal point of the attack, and although the war plans even envisioned that such an attack could come from aircraft flown from carriers, it is an almost inexplicable fact that all of this was forgotten by the end of the same year (1941).

Inexplicable indeed.  Yet neither Friedman nor Nimitz would accept any charges that Roosevelt betrayed his country. 

“If Roosevelt was so clever a politician and so Machiavellian in his strategy as to think up a way of maneuvering the Japanese into firing the first shot,” Friedman continued in his report, “should one doubt he lacked the intelligence to have gone one step further?”

If Roosevelt had had such advance knowledge, Friedman reasoned, he could have alerted Pearl Harbor commanders to Japanese intentions and set a powerful trap for the Japanese carrier force.  Every available American plane and warship would have descended upon the Japanese and destroyed the entire force before the Japanese carriers could launch their planes.  The fact that a Japanese carrier strike force had been caught red-handed within a few hundred miles of Pearl Harbor would have convinced the American public of Japan’s intended surprise attack, and it would not have mattered who fired the first shot.  With the heart of the Imperial Japanese Navy destroyed as the war began, the capture of Wake Island and the Philippines might have been averted and ultimate victory achieved in a much shorter time with far smaller loss of lives.

William F. Friedman, The Dean of American Cryptology, with this wife Elizabeth in 1956.  Friedman was a United States Army cryptographer, codebreaker, cipher machine developer and case officer.  In the 1930s he worked for the Army’s Signals Intelligence Service (SIS), and in 1949 he became head of the cryptographic division of the newly established Armed Forces Security Agency (AFSA).  In 1952, when the AFSA was succeeded by the National Security Agency (NSA), he became chief cryptologist of the NSA.

Yet Friedman felt there was enough blame for everyone.

I think Kimmel and Short were not as culpable as I first thought there were back in 1941-1942,he wrote in his secret 1957 report.  The Washington authorities were culpable, too — maybe a lot more culpable that were these two officers.  I think the intelligence services came off rather easily — too easily in the fixing of responsibility and pointing out derelictions.  I think the intelligence staff might have used more imagination but this was not because they were staffed with obtuse officers or persons of low-grade intelligence.  As a matter of cold fact, they were badly understaffed because in both the Army and Navy intelligence didn’t count.  This raised the question: Does it count for more today in the Armed Services?”

Friedman’s 1957 question is still unanswered in 1991, as Congress attempts to chart the future for the Central Intelligence Agency and the dozen other military and civilian intelligence operations charged with providing early warning to American forces.

Secrets Unearthed

Almost every month new additions are made to the Pearl Harbor historical record.  After three trips to Japan, I finally found the Japanese records that confirmed what had long been rumored.  The Japanese violated their own security 16 hours and 10 minutes before the first bombs exploded at Pearl Harbor — by shooting down a British flying boar that had been shadowing the Japanese invasion fleet headed for the Malay Peninsula and Singapore.  Thus the first shots of the Pacific War were fired by one Ensign Eiichi Ogata, who first sighted the British plane about 20 miles from the southern tip of Indochina.

Earlier this fall, James Rusbridger, a retired British MI6 secret agent, and Captain Eric Nave, who was a major figure in Britain’s code-breaking efforts against the Imperial Japanese Navy before the Pacific War, published “Betrayal at Pearl Harbor,” in which they allege, with considerable evidence, that the British cryptographers had full command of a top-secret Japanese naval code known as JN-25 at the time of Pearl Harbor, and that Churchill knew the Japanese carrier fleet had sailed toward Hawaii.  Churchill, they maintain, did not share that intelligence with Roosevelt.  This revelation recalls Nimitz’s admonition, “Particular attention should be paid to what the British knew.”

It may be some time before the world knows what Churchill actually did with his secret intelligence.  His records for November and December 1941 carry a 75-year classification, and the records of Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters Japanese naval code intercepts prior to Pearl Harbor remain secure behind Britain’s Official Secrets Act.

Photo by a Japanese pilot coming in behind a fellow bomber during the Pearl Harbor attack.  Just before 8 a.m. on Dec. 7, 1941, Mitsuo Fuchida, leader of the Japanese strike force in the attack on Pearl Harbor, radioed his force: “To-ra! To-ra! To-ra!”  It was the signal that they had achieved complete surprise.  During the next two hours, during two waves of attacks, he circled above as his fliers killed more than 2,400 Americans, sank four battleships and ignited war between the two nations.

Rusbridger and Nave believe evidence regarding the British and JN-25 may lie in still-classified American record, but it may be some time before these are released.  In 1980, I discovered a huge cache of top-secret records at the U.S. Navy Storage Depot at Crane, Indiana.  Many of them deal with the Japanese attack upon Pearl Harbor.

After seven years of frustrating struggle to gain access to the records, I enlisted the aid of an old friend, Caspar Weinberger, who was then U.S. secretary of defense.  Even he could not free then.  He wrote to me that there are 14,000 reels of microfilm containing U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps cryptology records in the Crane storage depot, and that each reel holds thousands of documents that will have to be examined page by page.  It will be at least 1997 before the Naval Security Group determines whether any of these documents can be declassified. 

[Editor’s note: Nothing of substance relative to the Earhart disappearance or Pearl Harbor has ever been found or released from the alleged files at Crane, to my knowledge.  I think it’s clear that Goerner was led down the garden path by Vice Adm. Joseph Wenger, who in fact had no intention of helping him during his investigation, and only pretended otherwise.  See Truth at Last pages 173, 174, 265-268 for much more on Wenger.]

And then there is the matter of Frederick Rutland, a double agent who spied for Britain’s MI6 against Japan.  Recruited by the Japanese in 1937, Rutland moved to Los Angeles and ostensibly became a stockbroker.  Actually, he gathered intelligence for Japan about developments in America’s aircraft industry and other military-related businesses and organizations.

Ten days before the Pearl Harbor attack, Rutland suddenly left Los Angeles and made his way to Canada, where he was flown to England aboard a British military aircraft.  Upon arrival, he reported to the admiralty.  He was held in protective custody during the remainder of the war, and he never returned to America.  There are many in England who believe Rutland brought word of Japanese intentions in the Pacific, but his information only buttressed what was already known from Japan’s JN-25 secret code.

Frederick Joseph Rutland, a decorated pilot in the First World War, earned the nickname “Rutland of Jutland” for his exploits at the Battle of Jutland in 1916.  He later worked for the Japanese and was interned by the British authorities during the Second World War as a result of his associations with the Japanese.  His case became famous in the UK when some of his old Royal Navy colleagues demanded his release, saying there was no proof of his doing anything illegal.  FBI files released in 2017 contain numerous references to his espionage work for the Japanese Navy.  However, as a British national working for the Japanese navy in the United States before the war, it is arguable that his actions were not against British law. Rutland died by suicide in 1949.  (Illustration by Barbara Gibson; plane by The Print Collector; Rutland photo courtesy of the Fleet and Air Arm Museum.)

Japan Revises

Japan, too, is still greatly concerned with the historical record of its 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.  The Japanese government and military seem bent on convincing the uninitiated that Japan intended to officially declare war upon the United States before dropping the bombs.

Lieutenant General Masatake Okumiya, Japan Defense Force (retired), was a 1930 graduate of the Imperial Japanese Naval Academy and one of the first dive-bomber pilots for the Japanese navy.  He participated in the sinking of the U.S.S. Panay in 1937 and served in the diversionary force for the attack on Midway.  Okumiya has just published an article, “The Japanese Perspective,” in the Pearl Harbor 50th Anniversary Commemorative Issue of the U.S. Naval Institute’s Naval History, in which he alleges that the Imperial General Headquarters decided in a December 4, 1941, meeting that Japan must adhere to the international treaty it had signed at The Hague in 1907, and submit a declaration of war to America before attacking Hawaii.

According to Okumiya, it was originally decided to give America one hour’s notice.  This was then reduced to 30 minutes.  Japan’s ambassadors Kichisaburo Nomura and Saburo Kurusu in Washington, D.C., were ordered to deliver the declaration at a specific time, but because of decoding difficulty at the Japanese Embassy, Nomura and Kurusu were late with the message.  Thus, says Okumiya, Japan should not be blamed for a “sneak attack.”

The problem with Okumiya’s rationalization is that the message delivered by Nomura and Kurusu was not a clear declaration of war — late delivery or no.  The final lines read more like an ultimatum.

 A Navy map of the ships at Pearl Harbor just prior to the attack. (Associated Press. Prints and Photographs Division.)

The Japanese Government regrets to have to notify hereby the American Government that in view of the attitude of the American Government it cannot but consider that it is impossible to reach an agreement through further negotiation.

Even if the Japanese leaders considered that a proper declaration of war, they must have known that a declaration delivered as your planes are within minutes of their target in not within the spirit of the treaty.

Okumiya also states, without citing any evidence, that “President Franklin Roosevelt had set a trap for Japan: If it were to strike the first blow against the United States, he could use this as a pretext to enter World War II.”

The truth is, for more than a decade Japan had plans for an attack upon Pearl Harbor and a subsequent invasion of the Hawaiian Islands.  The Japanese trained for the Pearl Harbor operation for almost a year, and they rejoiced as a nation that America had been caught by surprise.

The Imperial Japanese Navy accomplished what it had set out to do.  It temporarily immobilized the American Pacific Fleet.  But just as surely, it plunged a dagger into its own and its nation’s heart.

As Admiral Nimitz told me, “In those falling bombs at Pearl Harbor, Japan was hearing the sound of its own defeat.  Perhaps nothing could have brought Americans together so completely.”

Goerner on Pearl Harbor in San Francisco Chronicle

Readers of this blog know that since its inception in 2012, concurrent with the publication of the first edition of Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last, I have focused exclusively on the Earhart disappearance, and virtually all of the 285 posts here deal with Earhart and closely related subjects. 

Today we move away from the Earhart case, but only slightly, as we feature a Dec. 1, 1991 San Francisco Chronicle Sunday supplement article about Pearl Harbor by Fred Goerner, the bestselling author of The Search for Amelia Earhart (1966), the foremost Earhart researcher of his or any day, who was also intensely interested in the Pearl Harbor debacle, as he called it, and its possible relationship to the Earhart mess.  (Boldface emphasis mine throughout.)

I’ve tried to reproduce the original look of the “This World” Sunday supplement, but it’s better to type out much of copy because the multi-column layout doesn’t allow for easy presentation.  This is the first of two parts.

tary strategists who had been predicting such an attack for 20 years?  If the U.S. military had broken Japanese secret codes, why didn’t somebody know what Japan was going to do?

Six investigations during World War II, and two inquiries in the year after the war, including a joint congressional probe, failed to produce satisfactory answers.  Argument continues, and vicious accusations still abound.  Hundreds of books and articles have been written about Pearl Harbor trying to assign responsibility to individuals and/or departments of the American government and military.  For some the subject is extraordinarily bitter and larded with vituperation. 

There are many who allege President Franklin Roosevelt withheld vital intelligence from Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, and General Walter C. Short, commander of U.S. Army forces at Pearl Harbor, to allow the attack to occur as a means of branding Japan as an immoral aggressor and to being America into World War II on a time of passionate patriotism.  Roosevelt was at once one of the most loved and most hated of America’s presidents.  Even 50 years later, dozens of authors and scholars are trying to establish that FDR was somehow a traitor to his country and to the U.S. Navy he loved so much. 

And a recently published book alleges that Prime Minister Winston Churchill knew the Japanese carrier fleet was sailing toward Hawaii but, in order to bring the United States into the war, did not share that intelligence with President Roosevelt.

Only now, 50 years later, are historians beginning to understand what really happened on the morning that changed the world.

The harbor tug USS Hoga (YT-146) sprayed water on the battleship USS Nevada (BB-36) following the surprise attack on Dec. 7, 1941.

World War II took more than three years of my own life as I served with the U.S. Navy Seabees in the Pacific, and I had often wondered about the Pearl Harbor debacle.  It was not until 1961, however, that a CBS documentary I was writing brought me into contact with Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz, who commanded U.S. Pacific naval forces during most of the war.  It began a friendship that lasted until the admiral’s death in 1966.

Nimitz had been ordered to Pearl Harbor to replace Admiral Kimmell, who would receive the bulk of the blame for American unpreparedness, just days after the attack.  Roosevelt directed Nimitz to “get the hell out of Pearl and stay there until the war is won.

On Christmas morning, 1941, the U.S. Navy flying boat carrying Nimitz circled Pearl Harbor.  He could see most of the main anchorage, which was covered with black fuel oil and floating debris.  The capsized battleships Oklahoma and Utah were clearly visible, and farther down the harbor he could see Arizona, West Virginia and California sunk in deeper water with only the topsides exposed.  Dozens of small power boats were circling in the harbor, picking up the bloated bodies of dead sailors who had been blown off their ships by Japanese bombs and torpedoes.  There were 2,403 Americans killed in the attack, including 68 civilians.

Nimitz found Kimmell a disheartened man.  A spent bullet had struck Kimmell during the attack, but he had not been wounded.  He told Nimitz he wished the bullet had killed him.

Kimmell returned to the U.S. mainland in what many considered to be disgrace.  Nimitz restored American confidence, projected American forces across the Pacific and accepted the final Japanese surrender aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay, September 2, 1945.

Nimitz’ Recollections

To my surprise, Nimitz did not consider the Japanese attack upon Pearl Harbor to be a complete disaster; in fact, he believed it to have been a Japanese strategic failure.  He pointed to the inflexibility of the Japanese plan, with its emphasis upon attacking battleships (most of which were later repaired and saw war action) and ignoring Navy storage tanks, which contained 4,500,000 barrels of fuel oil.  Had those been destroyed, the U.S. victory in the Pacific might have been delayed six months or more.

Nimitz also felt Admiral Chuichi Nagumo, the Japanese attacking force commander, had missed the opportunity to truly disable American forces by limiting the attack to two air strikes.  Had the Japanese plan been more bold, an invasion and occupation of the Hawaiian Islands might have succeeded.  That would have been a complete disaster for the United States.

Adm. Chester W. Nimitz, Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet, circa 1942, the last of the Navy’s 5-star admirals. In late March 1965, a week before his meeting with General Wallace M. Greene Jr. at Marine Corps Headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, Nimitz called Goerner in San Francisco. “Now that you’re going to Washington, Fred, I want to tell you Earhart and her navigator did go down in the Marshalls and were picked up by the Japanese,” Goerner claimed Nimitz told him.

As to Kimmel’s responsibility for American unpreparedness for the air attack, Nimitz would not assign it.  He called it a hazard of command and he indicated it could have happened to anyone, himself included.  He stressed that almost everyone in the U.S. military had believed the Japanese would strike at Malaya and probably Guam and the Philippines.  That was a fatal estimation.  Instead of stretching its imagination — planning for what the Japanese could do — American military intelligence was busy speculating about what the Japanese would do. 

Nimitz felt it might be considered a blessing that Kimmel had not gotten brief notice of the true Japanese intention.  He might have commanded the American fleet to sail for open water, and had the Japanese planes bombed and torpedoed the ships there, they would have been lost forever in deep water and the human casualties would have been much greater.

Nimitz also believed that ignorance and arrogance — both American and Japanese — played major roles in Pearl Harbor.  In 1941, Americans were generally ignorant about Japan and its people, believing America completely superior in leadership, equipment and fighting ability.  The prevalent military and civilian attitude was that Japan would not dare attack America.

At the same time, many in Japan saw America as a weak and divided nation that could never match Japan in spirit and willingness to sacrifice.  Japan believed it could overwhelm American forces early in a war, and that America would ask for peace on Japan’s terms.

Nimitz did not accept any of the theories about a Roosevelt conspiracy to withhold information obtained through secret Japanese codes, but he believed it would be many years, perhaps several decades, before highly classified records dealing with American cryptology activities prior to Pearl Harbor would be released and the full truth known.  When that day arrived, he admonished, historians should pay particular attention to what exactly the British cryptologists knew before the attack. 

Kimmel’s Agony

In the winter of 1967, I journeyed to see Admiral Kimmel at his home in Groton, Connecticut.  It was a cold, snowy day, well matched to his attitude.  He was brought into the small living room in a wheelchair.  His balding head glistened in the overhead light, and he squinted at me as if trying to determine whether I was friend or foe.  At 85, the fire still burned.

Adm. Husband E. Kimmell told Fred Goerner in 1967 that FDR was “a damned traitor” and put Adm. Harold Start, the chief of naval operations in 1941, in the same category.  “Stark picked me up when I returned to D.C. from Pearl Harbor, and he lied about everything,” Kimmel said. 

To call Kimmel bitter is an understatement.  He raged at me.  He called Roosevelt a “damned traitor,” and put Adm. Harold Start, the chief of naval operations in 1941, in the same category.  “Stark picked me up when I returned to D.C. from Pearl Harbor, and he lied about everything,” Kimmel said. 

Kimmel believed that Roosevelt, Stark and Army Chief George Marshall had purposely withheld vital intelligence that would have given him a chance to prepare for the Japanese air attack, and then they had made him the scapegoat, ruining his career and abandoning him to be scorned by history.  He told of vile letters he and his family had received over the years and said lies had been told about him and repeated as truth by the media.  In anecdote, Kimmel’s wife, Dorothy, was supposed to have returned from Hawaii by plane, mumping wounded Americans so her furniture could accompany her.  The truth was, Dorothy Kimmel has not been at Pearl Harbor.  The entire story was fabricated.

For more than two hours, Kimmel wove an intricate scenario of disappearing records, reluctant witnesses, deceit and chicanery.

His voice became a shout as he said, “That’s why I’m still living.  I’m going to be vindicated!  Some people are working on it right now.”

Kimmel died five months later, without the vindication he so wanted.  (End of Part I.)


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