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The US defeat at Pearl Harbour 7.12.1941. A politically motivated, self-inflicted defeat, or just US military incompetence? KA. The traditional story. Once upon a time…. Background.

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The us defeat at pearl harbour 7 12 1941 l.jpg

The US defeat at Pearl Harbour 7.12.1941

A politically motivated, self-inflicted defeat, or just US military incompetence?

KA


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The traditional story.Once upon a time…..


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Background.

  • The year is 1941. Japan has been waging a war of aggression in Asia since the 30s. She has conquered all before her.Her navy, army and airforce are undefeated.

  • She possesses modern technology and her soldiers use the latest thinking in strategy.

  • She has signed a pact with Nazi Germany (and Italy) because Germany looks like becoming the preeminent power in the West (Sept.1940). The Tripartite Pact.

  • Only the United States of America is managing to curb Japan’s ambition by restricting her oil supplies.


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Japan realises that to succeed in her ambitions she must remove American influence from the Pacific. Because America is bigger and more powerful than Japan a surprise assault is the only realistic way to defeat her.

7.12.1941 Imperial Japan’s First Air Fleet launches a surprise attack against the United States Navy (USN) based at Pearl Harbour in Hawaii.

The President of the USA, Franklin Roosevelt, called it ‘a date which will live in infamy’ because the attack came before war had been declared.

The result was that the United States joined World War Two as an ally of Britain against Germany and Japan.


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The Place. remove American influence from the Pacific. Because America is bigger and more powerful than Japan a surprise assault is the only realistic way to defeat her.



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The islands of Hawaii Hawaii.

Pearl Harbour


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Pearl Harbour, Hawaii, today. Ford island is in the middle, and battleship row is the dent on the SE side.


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Battleship Row and battleship row is the dent on the SE side.


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The attack force. and battleship row is the dent on the SE side.


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Kido Butai.The Japanese Carrier Striking Task Force. and battleship row is the dent on the SE side.

  • 6 aircraft carriers, 2 battleships, 3 cruisers, 9 destroyers,8 tankers, 23 submarines, 5 midget submarines, 441 aircraft.

  • This was the largest carrier task force the world had ever seen.

The Japanese aircraft carrier Soryu



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Ko-hyoteki- carriers in all.Japanese midget attack submarines

  • They were about the size of a bus. They held two crew and two torpedoes.

  • At least one of these machines would get past US defences and into the harbour before the attack.


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A Japanese carrier torpedo bomber. carriers in all.The Japanese attacked with over 400 planes like this. When was the last time you saw more than 2 aeroplanes in the sky at once? Just imagine what 400 would be like…


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Map of Hawaii showing the Japanese bombing routes to Pearl Harbour, Oahu island, Hawaii. The plan was simple: destroy the US air force on the ground and then destroy all the defenceless US ships in the harbour. To ensure surprise- attack on a Sunday.

Pearl Harbour


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The military commanders. Harbour, Oahu island, Hawaii. The plan was simple: destroy the US air force on the ground and then destroy all the defenceless US ships in the harbour. To ensure surprise- attack on a Sunday.


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Isoroku Yamamoto- the Japanese commander. Harbour, Oahu island, Hawaii. The plan was simple: destroy the US air force on the ground and then destroy all the defenceless US ships in the harbour. To ensure surprise- attack on a Sunday.

Fleet Admiral and Commander in Chief of the Imperial Japanese Navy.

Lost two fingers at Tsushima (1905) fighting the Russian navy.

He was well aware of what war meant and was a political ‘dove’ as a result . He believed that fighting was to be avoided and only used as a last resort. But once engaged in, war had to prosecuted with the utmost strength.

A formidable strategist and high calibre military leader he led the move to attack Pearl Harbour.

He had visited Italy after the British Navy air strike at Taranto had crippled the Italian navy. He realised the potential of air power.


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Commander in chief, US Pacific Fleet. Harbour, Oahu island, Hawaii. The plan was simple: destroy the US air force on the ground and then destroy all the defenceless US ships in the harbour. To ensure surprise- attack on a Sunday.He had the responsibility for the ships, planes and personnel of the US navy.In his view steel nets to stop torpedoes were not needed in harbour and merely got in everyones’ way.He relied upon the army air force to provide defence for him. He only had enough ‘spotter’ (reconnaissance) planes to cover 30% of the sea around Hawaii.

Rear Admiral Husband E. Kimmel

- the US commander.


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Lieutenant Commander Walter Short Harbour, Oahu island, Hawaii. The plan was simple: destroy the US air force on the ground and then destroy all the defenceless US ships in the harbour. To ensure surprise- attack on a Sunday.- commander of the US Army Air force

Responsible for the defence of military installations at Pearl Harbour.

He had control of the majority of the aeroplanes on the base; fighters, bombers and reconnaissance.

He had the idea of parking all aeroplanes close together in the open so that they could be guarded easily against saboteurs. Sabotage was feared because of the number of Japanese people who lived in Hawaii.

He had insufficient reconnaissance planes and was not allowed more despite requests.

He set up new chains of command and didn’t tell his superiors. This led to confusion.


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The targets. Harbour, Oahu island, Hawaii. The plan was simple: destroy the US air force on the ground and then destroy all the defenceless US ships in the harbour. To ensure surprise- attack on a Sunday.


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Battleships. Harbour, Oahu island, Hawaii. The plan was simple: destroy the US air force on the ground and then destroy all the defenceless US ships in the harbour. To ensure surprise- attack on a Sunday.

The battleship USS Arizona.

Part of the US power in the Pacific.

She could fire shells that weighed a tonne over 25 miles.

The USA had at least 8 of these powerful ships in the Pacific.

The US Navy placed more faith in these ships as a deterrent to Japanese aggression than their aircraft carriers.


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The USS Enterprise 1941 Harbour, Oahu island, Hawaii. The plan was simple: destroy the US air force on the ground and then destroy all the defenceless US ships in the harbour. To ensure surprise- attack on a Sunday.. The United States had 2 large aircraft carriers in the Pacific in 1941. More aware than the Americans, of the strategic advantage of carriers, the Japanese knew that they had to destroy them if they were to gain control over the Pacific. The Enterprise was scheduled to dock in Pearl Harbour 7.12.1941

Aircraft carriers


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US army air force. Harbour, Oahu island, Hawaii. The plan was simple: destroy the US air force on the ground and then destroy all the defenceless US ships in the harbour. To ensure surprise- attack on a Sunday.The US military had not made its mind up about who should control aeroplanes. As a result the navy had some and the army had some. Control was confused and co-ordination hampered. At Pearl Harbour the majority of planes were under army control. The US navy frequently took a superior attitude to the US army and this did not help efficiency.

The Curtis Kittyhawk fighter. Heavy and lumbering. No match for the nimble Japanese Zeke “Zero”.

The B 17 Flying Fortress bomber. Useful for reconnaissance. Pearl Harbour did not have enough. More arrived on Dec 7 1941 during the attack- and were destroyed.


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Prelude. Harbour, Oahu island, Hawaii. The plan was simple: destroy the US air force on the ground and then destroy all the defenceless US ships in the harbour. To ensure surprise- attack on a Sunday.


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Japanese carrier planes waiting to take off. Harbour, Oahu island, Hawaii. The plan was simple: destroy the US air force on the ground and then destroy all the defenceless US ships in the harbour. To ensure surprise- attack on a Sunday.

Observing radio silence and taking advantage of squally weather, the Japanese fleet arrives to the NW of Hawaii undetected. Planes were heavily laden with fuel and bombs


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The attack commences Harbour, Oahu island, Hawaii. The plan was simple: destroy the US air force on the ground and then destroy all the defenceless US ships in the harbour. To ensure surprise- attack on a Sunday.



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Dec7 1941. Japanese bomber over Hickam field (US army air force) (Hawaii). Notice large plumes of smoke.


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Hickam Field. An army B17 bomber lies cut in half. force) (Hawaii). Notice large plumes of smoke.



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US airfield under attack- notice all the planes lined up in neat rows. Easy targets for the Japanese fighters.


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Ford Island in the middle of the harbour- neat rows. Easy targets for the Japanese fighters.One building is burning, and wrecked aircraft are scattered about. Notice the planes parked in the open.


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Battleship Row as seen from a Japanese bomber 7.12.1941. Notice torpedo trails, and oil on the water. Notice the absence of torpedo nets.


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US ships sinking at anchor. Notice torpedo trails, and oil on the water. Notice the absence of torpedo nets.With the air force destroyed, the naval ships were now easy targets. Many sailors found ammunition stores locked as a peacetime security measure.


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Water is already up to deck level, and fire is raging. Notice torpedo trails, and oil on the water. Notice the absence of torpedo nets.With engines off there was no power to work fire hoses. Guns also had no power to operate, and ammunition hoists would not work.



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The USS Shaw explodes spectacularly. everywhere.The navy would repair her though, and she would fight again.


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USS Nevada. everywhere.A single valiant crewman managed to get this ship moving from a stone-cold start (quite some achievement). Bomb damaged and sinking she was to be beached by her captain. He didn’t want to take the risk of blocking the harbour entrance by sinking in it.


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USS California. Notice the ship listing severely and her crew abandoning ship to the left. Notice the oil in the water- some of which is already on fire.





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Airfield wreckage. The policy of parking all planes close together was disasterous. Notice the sailor just standing still- in the middle of a ‘battle’! It shows the utter helplessness of the defenders.


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More of the same… together was disasterous. Notice the sailor just standing still- in the middle of a ‘battle’! It shows the utter helplessness of the defenders.


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The USS Arizona. together was disasterous. Notice the sailor just standing still- in the middle of a ‘battle’! It shows the utter helplessness of the defenders. A bomb blows up her ammunition and she is totally destroyed. She is the only ship deemed irrecoverable. In her lie the majority of casualties from the attack. Her wreckage forms the base of the Pearl Harbour memorial which you can see today.


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The US lost 2,403 people dead, 1,178 wounded. 5 battleships, 3 cruisers, 3 destroyers and 188 planes were destroyed.

Japan lost 64 men dead and 1 captured.

29 planes and 4 midget submarines destroyed.

It was shocking to America because it was the first time since 1812 that the United States had been attacked on its own soil. (The next occasion would be 9/11- it too led to US involvement in a foreign war)


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Aftermath 3 cruisers, 3 destroyers and 188 planes were destroyed.

The United States joined WWII on the side of Britain and against the Tripartite ‘Axis’ of Japan, Germany and Italy. Recruiting posters used Pearl Harbour to get men to enlist. Ultimately Japan would be defeated.


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Courts-martial of the US navy and army air force commanders 3 cruisers, 3 destroyers and 188 planes were destroyed.

Both Kimmel and Short were dismissed the service on the grounds that they had neglected the defence of the fleet and were therefore in dereliction of duty


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Japanese Americans 3 cruisers, 3 destroyers and 188 planes were destroyed.

  • There was an understandable backlash of public hatred against Japanese Americans.

  • FDR signed an internment bill and these people spent the war in prison camps.

  • Most lost all their property and goods.


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The memorial to the US dead. 3 cruisers, 3 destroyers and 188 planes were destroyed.


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The Pearl Harbour war memorial 3 cruisers, 3 destroyers and 188 planes were destroyed.. This is built on top of the sunken USS Arizona to remind people of the 1177 sailors who died trapped inside her.


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Yamamoto. 3 cruisers, 3 destroyers and 188 planes were destroyed.

Already highly regarded, Yamamoto now achieved a huge status in Japanese public opinion.

Yamamoto himself knew, however, that this was unjustified. The attack had not achieved a primary objective- the sinking of American carriers.

In addition this public status would backfire on Japan. When Yamamoto was killed later in the war there was a large drop in Japanese morale.


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So it was a brilliant surprise attack? 3 cruisers, 3 destroyers and 188 planes were destroyed.…….Some other evidence to consider!!


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COMMUNICATIONS 3 cruisers, 3 destroyers and 188 planes were destroyed.

A radio transmitter/receiver 1940.


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Messages. 3 cruisers, 3 destroyers and 188 planes were destroyed.

  • Saturday Dec 6. US intercepts a 14 part Japanese transmission. It takes time to decode it. The US military is aware of Japanese military activity and expects further Japanese advances- maybe into Malaya.

  • Sunday Dec 7. Last part of the message is decoded and reads that diplomatic relations between Japan and the USA are to be severed. This is received in Washington DC at 9am.

  • Sunday Dec 7. Another Japanese message is received instructing the Japanese ambassador to tell the message to the Americans at 1pm.

  • The US military realises that 1pm Washington is early morning Hawaii. US military sends out an alert- but radio contact with Hawaii is lost.

  • General George Marshall needs to be found to send the message, but is out horseriding. He can’t be found.

  • Message is sent by commercial telegraph. Message received in Hawaii before the attack-7.33am- but although marked urgent it still isn’t received at HQ (by Japanese-American on a bicycle!) for 4hours.


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Questions: 3 cruisers, 3 destroyers and 188 planes were destroyed.

Was the decoding process very slow- or was it deliberately held up?

How reliable were radios in the 1940s?

Why was a message not received at Hawaii Command until 4 hours after the attack? Was this ineptitude or policy?

Why was General Marshall ‘out of touch’ with his command?


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PRECEDENT 3 cruisers, 3 destroyers and 188 planes were destroyed.


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Brigadier general ‘Billy’ Mitchell- United States Army Air Service.

  • The US Army air force was looked down upon by the US navy which considered itself superior (an idea it inherited from the British Royal Navy).

  • When US army airman Mitchell claimed, then, that a single plane could sink a battleship the navy was furious. It was even more furious when in 1928 Mitchell took a plane and sank the target battleship Ostfriedland (see above).

  • To rub salt into the wound Mitchell then repeated the exercise with the retired battleship Alabama- just to prove his point.

  • The navy claimed he had broken ‘the rules’ and chose to ignore his results.


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Mitchell was a much decorated war hero from WW1.He wasn’t going to be ignored and so he spoke to the press. He was posted to Hawaii, 1924, to keep him off the newspaper front pages. Mitchell returned with a report detailing why there would be a war with Japan and why there would be an attack on Pearl Harbour. This was ignored.

Mitchell was posted to Texas. Here he argued for one united US airforce. Currently the army and navy ran their own separate air forces. The navy quoshed the idea.

After an airship crash in which men died Mitchell accused both the army and navy of incompetence. He resigned before he could be dismissed.

Later on he would be the only person to have an airplane named after him in the US airforce.- the ‘Mitchell’ bomber. It would be the first US plane to bomb Tokyo in the war.


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Admiral Harry Yarnell - US Navy. going to be ignored and so he spoke to the press. He was posted to Hawaii, 1924, to keep him off the newspaper front pages. Mitchell returned with a report detailing why there would be a war with Japan and why there would be an attack on Pearl Harbour. This was ignored.

Conducted US Army/Navy exercises in February 1932. He had a fleet of ships with which to launch a practice attack on Pearl Harbour.

He took a chance and left all his battleships out of his plan, launching a carrier air attack on Pearl Harbour, on a Sunday morning.

His fleet arrived NW of Hawaii, observed radio silence and hid behind rain storms.

In the event the attack was a complete success and the defenders had little effective resistance. Not one ‘defending’ airplane left the ground.

These results were regarded as false by the US Navy. ‘It is doubtful if air attacks can be launched against (Hawaii)….’. They were well documented by Japanese observers however.

Harry retired in 1939 baffled.


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USS Lexington going to be ignored and so he spoke to the press. He was posted to Hawaii, 1924, to keep him off the newspaper front pages. Mitchell returned with a report detailing why there would be a war with Japan and why there would be an attack on Pearl Harbour. This was ignored. - Admiral Yarnell’s flag ship.


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Admiral Ernst King going to be ignored and so he spoke to the press. He was posted to Hawaii, 1924, to keep him off the newspaper front pages. Mitchell returned with a report detailing why there would be a war with Japan and why there would be an attack on Pearl Harbour. This was ignored.

  • 1938 Admiral Ernst King on board the USS Saratoga launched a trial attack on Pearl Harbour for the US Navy.

  • Just as in 1932. The defenders were taken completely by surprise, and the attack was overwhelmingly successful.

  • Once again the results were ignored.

The USS Saratoga 1942


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Battle of Taranto Nov 1940 going to be ignored and so he spoke to the press. He was posted to Hawaii, 1924, to keep him off the newspaper front pages. Mitchell returned with a report detailing why there would be a war with Japan and why there would be an attack on Pearl Harbour. This was ignored.

  • The British navy attacks the Italian navy at Taranto in Italy as WW2 escalates in Europe.

  • The British have 1 aircraft carrier and 19 old bi-planes.

  • The British modify torpedoes so that they can be dropped from the planes into shallow water.

  • The Italians lose 3 out of their 5 battleships. The British lose two planes.

  • The Japanese took a keen interest in this result. The US apparently ignored it.

The British ‘swordfish’ aircraft. Obsolete- but still able to defeat a battleship.

HMS Illustrious. One of the most modern aircraft carriers in 1940.


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Italian battleship casualty at Taranto. going to be ignored and so he spoke to the press. He was posted to Hawaii, 1924, to keep him off the newspaper front pages. Mitchell returned with a report detailing why there would be a war with Japan and why there would be an attack on Pearl Harbour. This was ignored.


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Questions: going to be ignored and so he spoke to the press. He was posted to Hawaii, 1924, to keep him off the newspaper front pages. Mitchell returned with a report detailing why there would be a war with Japan and why there would be an attack on Pearl Harbour. This was ignored.

If this attack had been planned and carried out successfully on at least 2 previous occasions, why were the results ignored by the high command?

Why did the US ignore the lessons of Taranto?

Is it evidence of inefficiency caused by prejudice within the US forces at the time?

Is it evidence of incompetence in the US armed forces and US Intelligence?

Does it imply that a competent US military was being handicapped by some other force?


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Real damage. going to be ignored and so he spoke to the press. He was posted to Hawaii, 1924, to keep him off the newspaper front pages. Mitchell returned with a report detailing why there would be a war with Japan and why there would be an attack on Pearl Harbour. This was ignored.


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Real damage? going to be ignored and so he spoke to the press. He was posted to Hawaii, 1924, to keep him off the newspaper front pages. Mitchell returned with a report detailing why there would be a war with Japan and why there would be an attack on Pearl Harbour. This was ignored.

  • Of all the US ships involved, all but one US battleship was recovered, rebuilt and re-entered the war. (the USS Arizona was too badly damaged)

  • Although there were thousands of dead, there were many thousands more to take their place. FDR had stepped up recruitment of soldiers before December 1941.

  • US war production would rapidly replace damaged war material.

  • Real naval power lay with aircraft carriers, and the US had lost none of these.

  • The harbour facilities lay largely untouched, especially the oil and pumping facilities.

  • Conclusion: the US could afford the temporary loss of its less useful ships and still win the war.


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The USS Oklahoma is pulled upright again by giant cables going to be ignored and so he spoke to the press. He was posted to Hawaii, 1924, to keep him off the newspaper front pages. Mitchell returned with a report detailing why there would be a war with Japan and why there would be an attack on Pearl Harbour. This was ignored.


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Questions: going to be ignored and so he spoke to the press. He was posted to Hawaii, 1924, to keep him off the newspaper front pages. Mitchell returned with a report detailing why there would be a war with Japan and why there would be an attack on Pearl Harbour. This was ignored.

Did the US Command realise that battleships were disposable assets by 1941?

Did FDR realise that the sinking of battleships could be useful as a tool to lever the US public into the war?

Is it likely that US political commanders would willingly sacrifice their sailors to achieve a political goal?

Is it just a coincidence that the American carriers were not in Pearl on Dec7 1941?


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Senior Leadership factor going to be ignored and so he spoke to the press. He was posted to Hawaii, 1924, to keep him off the newspaper front pages. Mitchell returned with a report detailing why there would be a war with Japan and why there would be an attack on Pearl Harbour. This was ignored.


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Winston Churchill. going to be ignored and so he spoke to the press. He was posted to Hawaii, 1924, to keep him off the newspaper front pages. Mitchell returned with a report detailing why there would be a war with Japan and why there would be an attack on Pearl Harbour. This was ignored.

  • Prime Minister of Great Britain. 1940-45.

  • Realised that if Britain was to survive the war against Germany it had to find much greater resources in terms of manpower and materials.

  • These things were available in the USA.

  • Conclusion:He had to involve the USA in the war.


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Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) going to be ignored and so he spoke to the press. He was posted to Hawaii, 1924, to keep him off the newspaper front pages. Mitchell returned with a report detailing why there would be a war with Japan and why there would be an attack on Pearl Harbour. This was ignored.

  • President of the United States of America (USA) 1933-1945

  • ‘The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.’

  • From 1940 he began sending all the aid he could to help Britain without actually joining the war.

  • Began increasing US war production, and military recruitment before 1941.

  • Wanted a ‘good neighbour’ policy to other nations, but after Pearl Harbour he organised global war as a way to restore global balance with the USA at the fore.

  • Became concerned with a mechanism to keep world peace and consequently thought much about a new United Nations.

  • Good friends with Churchill and General George C.Marshall.


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Churchill and Roosevelt 1941 going to be ignored and so he spoke to the press. He was posted to Hawaii, 1924, to keep him off the newspaper front pages. Mitchell returned with a report detailing why there would be a war with Japan and why there would be an attack on Pearl Harbour. This was ignored.

  • They were close personal friends.

  • On one occasion FDR unexpectedly came to see Churchill when he was staying with FDR in the White House. Churchill was in the bath. Churchill stood up in the bath, completely naked, saying ‘you see, Mr.President, I have nothing to hide!’ FDR found this highly amusing.

  • Met in August 1941 to discuss the war, co-operation, and the atom bomb.

  • Churchill later wrote of FDR ‘he not only anticipated history but altered its course’.


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Questions: going to be ignored and so he spoke to the press. He was posted to Hawaii, 1924, to keep him off the newspaper front pages. Mitchell returned with a report detailing why there would be a war with Japan and why there would be an attack on Pearl Harbour. This was ignored.

To what lengths were Churchill and Roosevelt prepared to go to win the war?

Was Roosevelt’s friendship with Churchill that strong that he was willing to sacrifice American lives to keep it?

Was Roosevelt’s vision of a non-imperial future dependent on a US-British alliance?

Did Roosevelt see US involvement in the war as a way to fully recover from the effects of the Great Depression?

Churchill and Churchill were both good political showmen. Did Roosevelt realise that to get America involved in the war, he had to put on a ‘good show’ of some sort?

‘Lost ground can always be regained’ FDR.

Did FDR see Pearl Harbour ships as ‘lost ground’ before Dec7?

Was Churchill right; did FDR alter the course of history by creating an occurrence that would not have happened in normal circumstances?

Did FDR see Pearl Harbour as a way to crush fascism,and imperialism at the same time, leading to a world dominated ultimately by the USA?


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Technological Inertia going to be ignored and so he spoke to the press. He was posted to Hawaii, 1924, to keep him off the newspaper front pages. Mitchell returned with a report detailing why there would be a war with Japan and why there would be an attack on Pearl Harbour. This was ignored.


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The faith placed in battleships in the 1930s is today hard to understand.

It lay in the investment, size and sheer monstrousness of these weapons.

The battleship represented the crowning technological achievement of the nation state.

So much money was to be made in building and maintaining these ships it would upset many people if they weren’t built!

In appearance the ships were meant to show power. They could deliver unheard of devastation whilst remaining invisible beyond the horizon.

They could hit harder, and strike further away than any other weapon before.

Battleship belief.


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  • An example of the astounding strength of the old battleships is the IJN Nagato. She survived the war and was used as an atomic bomb target ship in 1946.She survived the blast with ‘only minor damage’ !!!

  • No wonder people were unwilling to believe that these ships were outdated.


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This may’ve been true in 1906, but by 1939 airships could travel much further, and faster than battleships.

Fleets of aeroplanes could deliver greater hitting power than battleships (although at shorter ranges).

The development of the ‘aircraft carrier’ ship in WW1 gave the aeroplane the decisive advantage over the battleship.

Despite this the US still started building 12 battleships, but only 1 aircraft carrier, between1936-40.

Battleships are superior?

The German airship Hindenburg famously crossed the Atlantic.


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The Japanese Zeke , or ‘Zero’, fighter. travel much further, and faster than battleships.

Superb manoeverability and long range meant it outclassed all other fighters when originally produced. Made of top secret aluminium it had no armour, was incredibly light and very fast. It could also fly very slow, at only 60 mph, meaning that it could practically turn around on itself.It was the plane of choice for the Japanese navy.US pilots learned that to stay safe they had to stay out of range!In 1940 13 zeros shot down 27 enemy planes over China in under 3 minutes.When news of the zero reached the US the Americans claimed that it was impossible that the Japanese could build such an aircraft and dismissed the reports.


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Torpedo nets travel much further, and faster than battleships.

Since WW1 battleships had carried metal nets to protect them against torpedoes. The nets were held out on poles all around the ship. In harbour there were often permanent nets.

None of the ships in Pearl Harbour were protected by nets. Admiral Kimmel said that they got in the way of running the harbour efficiently and slowed the rapid deployment of the ships should they need to leave harbour quickly.


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Radar. travel much further, and faster than battleships.

  • A brand new system was operational in Hawaii to detect aeroplanes. It was called ‘radar’.

  • It was rather primitive and only showed ‘blips’ on a screen to indicate an object approaching or leaving.

  • Dec7th the radar picked up the incoming attack but the officer in charge dismissed it as an expected flight of US B17s arriving.

The actual Pearl Harbour radar.


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Question: travel much further, and faster than battleships.

Was it incompetence that led the US navy to build 12 battleships but only 1 aircraft carrier between 1936-40?

If battleships were so important, why did the US leave such precious assets badly defended ?

Why was battleship row not surrounded by torpedo nets?

In their attitude to Japanese know-how were the Americans basically racist and was this the reason for their complacency?

Why else would the US military ignore the reports of Japanese military technological advances?

Why might US military personnel be slow to pick up on the advantages of radar?

If Kimmel did not want torpedo nets because they impaired the speed of the fleet’s rapid deployment doesn’t it imply that he was expecting some form of attack? Doesn’t it make ‘peacetime’ measures, such as locked ammunition stores, even more inexcusable?


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Political interference travel much further, and faster than battleships.


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Admiral Richardson travel much further, and faster than battleships.

Commander of the US Fleet until relieved by Admiral Kimmel. Feb 1941

Oversaw the deployment of the US fleet to Pearl Harbour.

May 1940 was ordered to state to the press that ‘at his request’ the fleet was to stay at Pearl Harbour.

Richardson protested that this was improper and that the fleet should stay on the West Coast of the USA.

Dismissed by FDR and replaced by Kimmel.

Other Admirals, including Kimmel, approached FDR to return the fleet to the US. They were ignored.

The idea was promoted that the fleet would act as a deterrent to Japanese aggression.


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May 25 1999 travel much further, and faster than battleships.

  • The US Senate votes that the Commanders at Pearl Harbour Kimmel and Short be exonerated for their part in the defeat.

  • The reason for this is that they were deemed to have been denied vital intelligence reports that had been available to the US government in Washington DC.


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Questions: travel much further, and faster than battleships.

Why would FDR ignore the advise of his top naval adviser-Richardson- to keep the fleet on the US mainland coast?

Why would FDR replace one of his top naval advisers when the world was at war around him and he would need all the advice he could get? Does the replacement of a high ranking official herald a change in policy?

Admiral Halsey argued that if there was to be a fight then the fleet would be better off if it was closer to its enemy. Other Admirals said that in war you don’t lengthen your supply lines unnecessarily. Who do you think was correct?

Why has the US Senate exonerated the Pearl Harbour commanders if they were guilty?


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Other factors. travel much further, and faster than battleships.


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Ko-Hyoteki. Midget submarines. travel much further, and faster than battleships.

The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour with 5 of these.

Here one lies beached on the coast of Hawaii after the attack.

At least one of these machines had got past US defences and into the harbour before the attack.

One was attacked by a US guard boat outside the harbour before the air attack, yet this did not provoke a general alert. This is puzzling because they were extremely short range and their presence indicated the presence of other, larger forces.


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Pearl Harbour has a great disadvantage. It only has one very narrow entrance. This means that if there was an attack any ships inside the harbour would find it almost impossible to escape. Worse still-if an escaping ship sank in the entrance then the whole harbour would be out of action .


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Peacetime? narrow entrance. This means that if there was an attack any ships inside the harbour would find it almost impossible to escape. Worse still-if an escaping ship sank in the entrance then the whole harbour would be out of action .

  • The US air force kept its anti-aircraft ammunition locked away for safety in peacetime.

  • Anti-aircraft guns were carefully stored in the base and not strategically distributed around so as not to alarm the local populace.

  • Sunday stand-down routine was acceptable procedure during peacetime. Many crewmen left their ships as a result.

  • The government had sent a war threat memo to Admiral Kimmel- but it went on to outline possible Japanese aggressions in Borneo and Malaya- hundreds of miles away.


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Questions: narrow entrance. This means that if there was an attack any ships inside the harbour would find it almost impossible to escape. Worse still-if an escaping ship sank in the entrance then the whole harbour would be out of action .

Why were ‘all the eggs in one basket’ : why were all the battleships in one place at the same time?

Why were all the battleships docked in a harbour which was proven to be vulnerable to attack, and which was difficult to get out of in a hurry?

Do armed forces, in peacetime, really wait to be attacked without taking any precautions for self-defence?

Was the concentration of badly defended battleships proof of a political intention to provide bait to Japanese aggressors?

Why was no general alert sounded when the submarine threat was detected?