Urge the President to Restore the Ranks of Kimmel and Short
Do you remember the attack on Pearl Harbor? Probably not. There aren't many people left from that time anymore. And it's hard to understand the impact of the event today. The Japanese took the United States totally by surprise. 2,403 men, women and children were killed. Our nation was shocked, and we charged into World War II as a result. Our country was never the same. The world was never the same.
The crazy part is that the entire disaster was blamed on just two Americans.
Admiral Husband Kimmel, commander in chief of the Pacific Fleet, and Lt. General Walter Short, the men in charge at Pearl Harbor at the time of the attack, were wrongly accused and scapegoated. They were manipulated into retirement, saddled with the grief and rage of an entire nation, and publicly disgraced.
Kimmel and his family fought for justice for decades. 36 Navy Admirals and the Pearl Harbor Survivors’ Association, eventually demanded that the commanders’ ranks be posthumously restored. In 2000, both houses of Congress passed a resolution recommending this action. The resolution, however, remains buried in the Defense Department. No action has been taken.
To this day, Admiral Kimmel and General Short have not been given back their honor. That is why we need your help. We need your signature, so that we can get Congress' resolution to the President's desk for action. Once he signs it, the struggle will be ended and justice finally done.
Underestimating the Threat
In 1941, America didn't understand the Japanese. They had been allies in World War I, and we thought them disciplined but too old-fashioned to be a threat to us.
Meanwhile, they were building up their military and working on new weapons technology. In particular, in 1941 they developed a torpedo capable of operating with deadly accuracy in shallow water. Previously, torpedoes had required more than 75 feet of water to function properly. Pearl Harbor, less than 40 feet deep, had seemed safe from enemy torpedo attack.
US intelligence's failure on the matter of torpedoes was one of many. Washington failed Admiral Kimmel, leaving him ignorant of the new development.
An Unthreatened Harbor
While America knew a Japanese attack was possible, Admiral Kimmel was never sent intelligence data that suggested a raid of Pearl Harbor was likely.
Meanwhile, President Roosevelt was pulling ships out of the Pacific and sending them over to the Atlantic to help in Britain's fight against attacks by German submarines. The intelligence Kimmel received in the Pacific suggested that Japanese hostile action would start elsewhere - possibly the Philippines or Thailand. For his part, Kimmel didn't have nearly enough planes or aircrews to conduct full aerial reconnaissance around Pearl Harbor.
On the morning of December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor had no warning of Japan's surprise attack, resulting in the huge loss of life and damage to warships.
Did Roosevelt Need an Attack
Conspiracy theorists suggest President Roosevelt knew that the attack was coming and allowed it to happen - in order that America would be pulled into the war. But no good evidence ever emerged to support that theory. Speculation about Washington allowing the Pearl Harbor attack, while false, probably grew out of the truth that it was important any conflict be started by the Japanese, not by the United States.
As the war with Germany raged on in Europe, Roosevelt knew that America would have to get involved, despite having pledged we would stay out. The attack on Pearl Harbor rallied the American people to do just that.
The U.S. stance, relayed to the Hawaii commanders by Chief of Staff George Marshall was merely:
"if hostilities cannot, repeat cannot, be avoided, the United States desires that Japan commit the first overt act."
So far as Kimmel and Short knew at the time, their superiors in Washington were as surprised as they were by the attack. A hurried commission of investigation concluded that Kimmel and Short had been guilty of "dereliction of duty" and responsible for the disastrous losses. They were not only relieved of command but pressured into retirement and publicly vilified. Two American military commanders, devoted to their country, had lost what they most valued - their honor.
But two years later, when Kimmel learned that the Washington command had had advance intelligence pointing to a possible attack but failed to share it with him, he was outraged. The Admiral devoted the rest of his life to searching for the full truth.
For years, America had been intercepting and decoding Japan's secret diplomatic messages. The messages were read in Washington, available to only a select few military and political leaders, and they shared only a fraction of it with Kimmel.
September 24th : A transmission from Japan , known as the Bomb Plot Message, is decoded. It orders a Tokyo spy in Hawaii to divide Pearl Harbor according to a grid system, plotting the exact location of US warships, armament and personnel. It indicates that Japan is planning an attack on Pearl Harbor. But Washington does not share this vital intelligence with Kimmel and Short.
November 27th : Pearl Harbor gets a general War Warning from Washington, informing Pacific commanders that war with Japan is looming if not imminent. It suggests, however, the Japanese will attack targets thousands of miles from Pearl Harbor.
December 7th : (4 hours before the attack): Washington decodes a Japanese message stating that negotiations with the US are about to end. Hawaii, however, is not immediately informed. The Washington command does not act speedily. When a warning message is eventually sent to Hawaii, transmission is delayed by bad weather. It is relayed on by Western Union, not even marked URGENT. The telegram arrives 8 hours late, long after the attack is over.
It's clear now that there was a broad failure of US Intelligence before Pearl Harbor. No one today would refute this. In fact, to quote a CIA publication, Washington was taken by surprise not because it:
"lacked clues to Tokyo's intentions and capabilities but because those clues lay unnoticed amongst volumes of unrelated or even misleading data."
Slighted in Spite of Evidence
By an act of Congress after the war, all officers were retired at the highest rank they had held - except for two men: Admiral Kimmel and General Short. They alone remained stripped of their original rank.
In spite of the mistakes in Washington that meant the two commanders had not received essential information, in spite of the 1944 Navy Court of Inquiry and Army Board that found that they had not been derelict in their duty, Kimmel and Short were disgraced. There was no justification for the dishonor heaped on these men, never has been.
Congress recognised that both commanders had had "excellent and unassailable" records until the attack. Admiral Kimmel had devoted his life to serving his country. His father had been a Major in the Civil War. All three of his sons served in the Navy during World War II. His eldest, Manning, a submarine skipper, was killed. His death had been what Abraham Lincoln had described in a famous letter to a grieving mother as
"a sacrifice upon the altar of Freedom."
There's never been any justification for not retiring Admiral Kimmel and General Short were at their highest wartime ranks and for not restoring their honor.
A Matter of Priority
Yet, the military has taken no corrective action.
Even Admiral William Standley, a member of the original Roberts Commission, later denounced the way it had been conducted, stating that the process had been improper and inaccurately recorded. Standley went on to champion the reputations of both men, saying they had been martyred. In his words:
"if they had been brought to trial both would have been cleared of the charge" of dereliction of duty.
The amendment passed by Congress in 2000, and included in the Defense Authorization Act, recognized that Kimmel and Short had done worthy work and urged the President to posthumously restore them to the ranks they had held as the commanders in the Pacific.
Pinning the blame on Kimmel and Short for the catastrophe at Pearl Harbor was done, as one Defense Department official has noted, merely because - at the time – scapegoats were "necessary".
Honor is at the heart of military service, and the fate of to these two commanders is more than a line in a history book. To military men and women, honor is above life itself, and that is why this still matters today.
Many military leaders, who well understand this, have recommended that the President clear Kimmel's and Short's names by approving Congress' resolution. Yet eminent figures such as now Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry, and former Senators Edward Kennedy and Strom Thurmond, were unable to make it happen.
But we can.
If this sort of injustice is not brought to the surface by a public outcry now, it stands very little chance of reaching the desk of the President.
The one hope we have of righting this wrong is for the people to insist upon it, for YOU to demand it. It is no use to throw up your hands and say, ITALS "There's nothing we can do." If enough people raise their voices, it will be difficult to ignore them.
The amendment in Congress' Act that could put this injustice to bed has been awaiting signature since 2001. But there will be no signature if the case is not thought important enough to be brought to the President's attention.
f you believe in standing up for what's right, this is your chance. Please sign our petition to restore the ranks of Admiral Husband Kimmel and General Walter Short. Do it to give these men, at last, the honor that was taken from them 75 years ago. Do it for their families. Do it for your country.
- The President of the United States
We need the President's signature to right a wrong done to two military men 75 years ago.
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