Dec 3, 2008

Tuesday, Dec. 2, 1941

In the  office of Admiral Husband Kimmel, Submarine Base, Pearl Harbor, the intelligence reports and charts mocked the assembled brass. There was still that matter of the Japanese Aircraft carriers. 

"What! You don't know where the carriers are?" demanded Kimmel.

Commander Ed Layton, intelligence boss, said "No."  Intense radio monitoring yielded no trace of the carriers' call signs.

Kimmel asked Layton to just guess where they might be. "Maybe in the home waters, Admiral, but we really just don't know." 

"You mean to say  they could be rounding Diamond Head right now and you wouldn't know it?" 

Layton later admitted how lame his answer was: "I hope they would have been spotted before now."


In Washington, Roosevelt needed a casus belli to move Congress to  give him the war he wanted, or the one he knew he would have to fight sooner or later.   He put his speech writers to work. They were to explain why America should fight even if Japan (remember that southern assault force in the South China Sea)  attacked only British possessions in south Asia -- Malaya, Singapore,  Bruma.

And he dreamed up, or accepted from someone else, a clever little ploy. Charter three small craft. Put American naval officers aboard, crew them with mostly Filipinos, fly the Stars and Stripes, and dangle them in front of the Japanese southern attack fleet. He called it a "defensive information patrol." Admiral Thomas Hart called it bait -- the hopelesss frog on a bass fisherman's hook. But like a good officer, he obeyed his commander-in-chief. 

The Kido Butai, steaming as before, approached the  International Date Line.  Admiral Nagumo looked with satisfaction on a precise list of American men of war moored or at anchor in Pearl Harbor as of November 28. To an aide he said: "I pray that the American fleet remains thus on X-day." 

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