Dec 1, 2008

I dunno, whadda YOU think?

Monday, Dec. 1, 1941 and the band played on.  Spike Jones. 

Washington, D.C. --  Captain Arthur McCollum, head of the Far East desk for the Office of Naval Intelligence  took the results of his grueling three-day analysis of Japanese intentions to the admirals.  The Japanese are going to war, he told them. Yep, they agreed, but we pretty much knew that already.

And here in an existential moment  Captain McCollum put his career on the line with a question captains  just don't ask admirals:  "Have we told the fleet?"  They frowned and  said yep again, of course we have.

In an odd and ultimately useless  way, they had. All Pacific Ocean brass was alert to the possibility of attack on the Philippines, and the Dutch/Brit colonies  of south  Oceania and southeast Asia. And Kimmel in Hawaii had certainly been advised that the Nips were not playing nice and maybe more materiel would need to be taken from him to reinforce MacArthur in Manilla.

Admiral Stark took the McCollum report and the  admirals' views to the Oval Office where Roosevelt was sitting grumpy at having his Thanksgiving vacation cut short. He listened to his top sailor.  He said "It's all in the lap of the gods."  He called Treasury Secretary  Henry Morgenthau and told him to borrow another $1.5  billion because things "might be worse next week."

In Tokyo, Prime Minister Tojo's cabinet assembled in the Imperial Palace before Divine Emperor Hirohito. They met as a support group, confirming to one another that they had done everything possible for peace, that the November 30 deadline for ending negotiations was certainly fair, that it had passed, and that, therefore, it was just that  they declare carrier divisions 1 and 2 had passed the moral point of no return. 

In Pearl a lot of that good Navy coffee was being drunk around the clock as java-drugged officers and enlisted specialists continued to wonder where those damned carriers were. Kimmel wondered too, and tomorrow, on that subject,  he would embarrass Ed layton, the intelligence office he liked and respected. 

Kido Butai commander Nagumo was feeling better as those lost divisions steamed further eastward.  The  seas had calmed, permitting refueling. The final word from Tokyo was in hand. There would be no recall. His aide, Fujita wrote: "The radio signal for the beginning of hostilities has been received. Hawaii intelligence has begun to arrive, and now  everything is going as hoped for."

Across the world, in besieged London, sat Winston Churchill, increasingly satisfied that American food and arms would  soon be joined  by American blood in the war against Germany -- thanks to Tokyo. How much he knew of actual Japanese tactical intentions is, to this day, debated by serious men.


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