Dec 6, 2008

Liberty Call, Honolulu, Friday Dec. 5, 1941

The American Navy at peace borrowed from the unions. A man must have his weekends. When not on an actual voyage it was the custom to get underway Monday morning, play war games in local waters  through Thursday, and return to port  in time for all hands to shine, shower and shave before the first liberty boats began running about 1600 Friday. The married went to their wives, the bachelors to the beaches, the slop chutes,  the delights of Hotel Street. It was about like that on Dec. 5.  War clouds were apparent, but they were thousand of miles to the southwest of Honolulu. Washington said so. 

CincPac Headquarters --  Rear Admiral John Newton sails on the cruiser Chicago to escort the carrier Lexington. The task force is to deliver Marine fighter planes  and pilots to Midway, then scout the northwest approaches to Hawaii. Kimmel knew aircraft should be making these recons.   Washington was telling him he could expect more PBYs one of these days. The situation: All carriers at sea, along with their usual cruiser and destroyer escorts. The big battle wagons and their escorts are  either in the harbor on on their way.

Washington: Navy code breakers were given small cards with the words "higashi no kazi ami.' typed. In English it is "east wind rain." They were to look for that phrase which, naval intelligence believed, was the signal to all Japan's official world interests that U.S. - Japan relations had ruptured beyond repair.  Of itself it was not a declaration of war; it was a declaration of the intent to declare  war or perhaps just start shooting. Junior men in naval communications claim to have received  the "winds" message and  quickly passed it up the line. The senior officers and their political masters deny it ever happened.

Manila: General Douglas MacArthur receives British Admiral Sir Tom Phillips, visiting for a council of war. MacArthur tells his guest he "had every confidence he could defend this place."

The Kido Butai sails with poor visibility under gray skies and encounters Uritsky, a Russian merchantman.  Nagumo is under orders and perfectly willing to  smash and sink any passing ship which could report the existence of his force.  He permits Uritsky to pass unmolested toward her Siberian  destination. The Russian ship makes no report.

Below, in the hanger decks, mechanics make final checks on the Zeros, torpedo planes,  and dive bombers. In the pilot and crews' quarters, lockers are opened. The Emperor's sky warriors check their clean loin cloths and thousand-stitch belts.  One wages war dressed as a gentleman.



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