Nov 28, 2008

Clean Hands Hull; Thanksgiving, 1941.

As secretary of state, Cordell Hull's professional mission was to keep America out of war, war being an admission of failed  diplomacy by Cordell Hull.  Things had been intense at Foggy bottom, and he was getting frustrated with trying to deal with a couple of senior Japanese envoys. Caving in, he told Secretary of War Henry Stimson Thanksgiving morning: "(I've) washed my hands of it and it is now in the hands of you and Knox -- the Army and Navy."

(Bear Bryant, behind by two points with three minutes to play says, "Hell with it. I'm tired" and leads the Tide to the showers.) 

A dozen pay grades below was a worried Col. Rufus "Togo" Bratton -- who remembers him now? The Army's senior intelligence chief for Asia, he spent the  Thanksgiving holidays with decrypted Japanese cables from Tokyo to its embassies and consulates and writing a memo for the Limo Set. War by Nov.  30. He was a week off, but closer than most of his seniors.

The Bratton memo stirred his  superiors to meet and issue a warning to Pacific generals. "Negotiations with Japan appear to be terminated," began the Army version, then advised Hawaii to guard against sabotage and remarked that Washington was hurrying up on getting reinforcements to MacArthur in Manilla.  If the Japanese were crazy  enough to attack America, that's where it would happen.

Admiral Richmond Kelly "Terrible" Turner handled the Navy warning. He used the phrase "war warning" and parroted the Washington line: the real danger was to the Philippines. He was off only 4,000 ,miles or so.

In Hawaii,  General Short obeyed orders and bunched his warbirds in tight little knots, the better to ward off saboteurs. Admiral Kimmel consulted his war-plans chief about the liklihood of a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor  was was informed: "Almost none." 

In the far northwest Pacific, Kido Butai was bouncing badly at 14 knots, course now about due east en route to the final refueling point on the International Date Line. No problem from the crashing gray winter waves. Sailors take storms as a matter of routine, and by now all aboard knew that in a few  days they would come right a few points, bound for the comfortable swells of the warm northeast trades.


Back in the  U.S.A., public attention was rivited.  On Nov. 27, Joe Dimaggio was named Most Valuable Player, American League. 

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