Showing posts with label Tora Tora Tora. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tora Tora Tora. Show all posts

Dec 6, 2010


On December  7, 1941,  it started for us. 

McGee: "With every passing year  it will seem more quaint, the little tin airplanes bombing the sleepy giants." 

Not many months later, sergeants barely old enough to shave crept through the western Pacific island  jungles. It was not quaint for them. It was ultimate struggle. 
 For personal survival.  For revenge. And yes, for Mom and apple pie.

Fools are  willing to forget these men and women. No one else.

Dec 7, 2009

Tora Tora Tora

Leave it to Travis McGee to get things right. He marked this day as one which will, with each passing year, seem ever more quaint. The little tin airplanes bomb the sleeping giants and the world rushes giddily off to war.

This blog was born of an impulse to remember the attack. Oriental militants who gave an intense new meaning to the term jingo decided that your fathers and mine were simply too dangerous to their plan to loot all of the Far East.

It took a few years. American men and women gave up much. In the end they conquered the North Pacific and provided the margin of victory everywhere else.

I don't know if they were the greatest generation, but it seems to me they were the last competent one. The last stand of the kind of American to whom self-reliance was the worthiest goal. Most of them are dead, so I don't know for sure what they would say about what we have done with the gift they gave us. But I suspect they would not praise a people who create the entitlement culture of Amsoc.


Since it is my blog: Uncle Amzie, Uncle Gene, Uncle George, Mr. Earl Stouffer, Dr. M.B. Smith, Mr. Tom Hartigan, and all the others: Thank you.

Jun 19, 2009

I do not precisely recommend sending a destroyer out to WestPac under orders to conduct gunnery practice over the bow of any KorCom ship engaged in pissing us off. But let me hasten to add that if our Commander in Chief so orders, I shall not editorialize against it.


I certainly wish history had something to teach us about how seriously we ought to take aerial threats against Hawaii by insane oriental governments.

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.



Jabberwock. Dec. . 4, 1941


BERLIN -- Japanese  envoys to the Nazis are having a hard time of it. Ribbentrop won't, on his own, promise a declaration of war  on the U.S. if Japan attacks first. Only Hitler can do that, and he's busy at his forward headquarters directing the attack on Moscow.

TOKYO --  The decision is reconfirmed. Despite the lack of a German promise to modify the Tripartite Pact,  the assault on the American fleet is still on. 

HONOLULU --  Radio intercept operators report a massive increase in Japanese naval communications traffic, leading Layton to report to Kimmel his speculation that the "entire Japanese Navy is being prepared for drastic action."  

WASHINGTON --  The cables go out to U.S. naval attaches in Guam, Tokyo, Peiping, Shanghai, and Tientsin to destroy codes and secret material and to report compliance in the clear with the  code word  "Jabberwock."  The fleet at Pearl Harbor is not told of all this.

In the north-central Pacific, the still radio-silent Kido Butai reaches Point C, near the dateline, and hauls right to a southeast course, putting Pearl Harbor dead ahead, 1,000 miles over the bow. 

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.


Nov 30, 2008

Quicker than anyone dreams

Sunday, November 30, 1941, adds a fresh dateline. In Berlin, Japanese Ambassador Hirashi Oshima receives a cable from Tokyo: "Say very secretly to (the Germans) that there is extreme danger that war may suddenly break out between the Anglo-Saxon nations and Japan through some clash of arms and add that the breaking out  may come quicker than anyone dreams." 

Transmitted in "Purple," the highest security Japanese diplomatic code (which we had been reading for a very long time),  it may have been read in high-level Washington even before it was by the ambassador.   No one in Washington thought it important enough to relay to Hawaii. 


Ed Layton and  Joe Rochefort took no Sunday ease on Oahu beaches. Intelligence chief Layton pored again and again  over information from across the Pacific. Jap carrier divisions 1 and 2 were still no where to be found.  Rochefort's and his cryptographers, still trying to make useful sense of the  Japanese naval code JN25, made no important breakthroughs and were forced to use the crudest form of SigInt (signals intelligence)  -- guessing based on what little of the code they had  broken, primarily radio direction finding  on the (almost) enemy ships whose call signs they knew.

Pearl Harbor code breakers had been forbidden by Washington to read Purple code. In the Philippines, MacArthur had the necessary machines and could read it at will. 


Still far to the north, but getting closer,  Communications Officer Kazuiyoshi  Koichi of the  Hiel was having an uncomfortable  time of it.  Kudo Butai meteorologists had it wrong yesterday, and Sunday's weather was miserable. Besides,  he was sleeping badly on his wooden box pillow full of vital radio parts from the battle cruiser's transmitters. From Yamamoto himself had come the order:  Strict radio silence until after curtain rise, one week from today.

Nov 29, 2008

Pearl Harbor -- Tora Notes

It's fair to wonder where this stuff is coming from. Aside from the general memory of an amateur student of the matter, the reliance so far is primarily on "Infamy" by John Toland and "I Was There" by Edwin T. Layton.

An historical coincidence: The days of the week /dates this year  correspond to those of 1941.

All dates are western hemisphere. Add one to get eastern. (It's a lot easier to think of the International  Date Line as the Sunday-Monday line; Sunday here, Monday there. It saves a lot of mental wrestling with the old gain-a-day or lose-a-day explanations.)

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. 

Nov 25, 2008

Party down tomodachi

The kanji for reaching--pronounced dah-chee=friend, tomadachi

Sixty-seven  years ago today, November 25,  in the cold Kuriles,  a bunch flying    The kanji for reaching--pronounced dah-chees got together on  "Akagi" (Red Castle) for a gay old time. Hot saki by the quart  and a pep talk from the admiral who told them for the first time, "Next stop: Pearl Harbor."  The 30,000-ton carrier, converted from a battle cruiser,  rang with  "Banzais."

At Pearl, Admiral Husband Kimmel was doing what he'd been doing for months, getting the Pacific Fleet ready to fight the Imperial Japanese Navy.  And fighting Washington for information.

In Washington, Cordell Hull tinkered with the  proposal to placate Tokyo, the modus vivendi, finally said  Hell with it,  and ordered his wordsmiths to write something tougher. The questions still remains: Did Roosevelt, acting for Churchill, order him to?

Over at the War Department, Secretary of War Henry Stimson was about to learn that 30-50 Japanese men-of-war and troop transports  were southbound in the South China Sea.  So of course any  Japanese attack would assault  the Philippines or British southeast Asia possessions such as Singapore.   As to Hawaii and the United States fleet there? Not to worry. They wouldn't dare.

Nov 24, 2008

Travis McGee, historian

"With every passing year it will become more quaint. The little tin airplanes bombing the sleepy giants."


Sixty-seven years ago today Secretary of State Cordell Hull called diplomats from England, China, Australia, and Holland into his office for a chat about those annoying Japanese. Hirohito's lads  wanted a lot of American  oil, scrap metal, and  respect. Hull explained to his guests the Roosevelt-Hull scheme to give them a little of the first two and to pretend to give them a lot of the third; save their little oriental faces if we have to, just keep them quiet until MacArthur is ready (hah!).

Meanwhile,  aboard "Akagi," anchored in the bay of Etorofu,  a thousand miles north of Tokyo, swab jockies turned to and made the pilots' area shine.  Party time tomorrow, Baby-san!