Dec 3, 2008

Honorable Men

The gentlemen of Prime Minister Tojo's war cabinet meet Dec. 3  to begin drafting the 14-part message to Washington. As a matter of honor, it is to be delivered before aircraft of  carrier divisions 1 and 2 begin bombing. Respectable nations do not mount sneak attacks. The final wording makes no mention of  hostilities.

Now just  1,500 miles from Pearl Harbor, Admiral Nagumo and all his sailors curse the weather forecasters,  who had predicted smoother seas, as they steam into the worst storm of the voyage. Refueling will be impossible. On the bright side,  the foul weather will  keep American reconnaissance planes from Midway and the Aleutians far from the striking force.

In Washington,  Captain Safford again risked is career to relay to Pacific commanders that Tokyo had ordered its embassies in the Pacific region  and London to destroy their "Purple" machines --  the encrypt/decrypt devices for the most secret diplomatic traffic.  He was amidst the feud between the Office of Naval Intelligence and  the Office of Naval Communications. The turf battle turned on the issue of who was allowed to say what to fleet commanders. Admiral Richmond Kelly Turner had decreed that only he was allowed to alert fighting units to imminent danger, and he wasn't ready to do that yet. The Safford message was equivocal and without context, and Admiral Kimmel and General Short ended their day with about the same knowledge they possessed over their morning coffee.

London: Churchill continues to badger Roosevelt for an iron-clad pledge of armed asistance if Japan strikes Singapore.  Roosevelt promises  only "aid" in the event of a Jap assault on British or Dutch interests. He does not tell London about his clever little scheme of the three small boats, American flags flying, bouncing around in the Jap-infested waters between the Philippines and  Indo-China. For weeks he and the top policy echelons  have understood that war will  be politically acceptable only if Japan fires the first shot.

In downtown Honolulu, the Japanese consulate begins burning its secret files, and by nightfall the FBI discovers it.  It does not discover that a young attache there is a junior officer of the Imperial Japanese Navy who has for many weeks been blithely plotting American ship movements, including moored warships by name and precise place. He sends these plots to Tokyo via the consular code, which Pearl Harbor naval intelligence has been ordered to ignore.  Washington would tell them what they needed to know.


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