Why did Cordell Hull not see the attack on Pearl Harbor coming? OOTFH

Hello Indy, Spartacus, Astrid and the whole TimeGhost crew, thank you for such a wonderful channel! I have a question for Out of the Foxholes. It was mentioned in the Cordell Hull bio special that Hull did not anticipate an attack on Hawaii. Why did Hull not see this coming? Given Hawaii’s proximity to the southeast in perspective with the rest of the U.S. it seems like a clear target. Thank you!

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US Diplomatic and Military establishment foresaw a suprise attack on any high profile US target in Pacific but their main estimate was Phillipinnes not as far as Pearl Harbour and before Dec 7th 1941 they never ever could comprehend or accept how effective Japanese operations would be , how they would develop like clockwork , and how ineffective US and other Allied response would be in operational and tactical sense. Cultural prejudice , racist dismissal of Japanese military capabilities and overestimation of their own capabilities due to a naive nationalistic pride led US , British and Dutch to ignore or dismiss true capabilities of Imperial Japanese military resourcefulness

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Agree very good points and The first time I went to Hawaii it downed that it really is an Island paradise in December very far away from anything else(before the mass tourism age). Moreover the Japanese attacked on Sunday morning with a massive 6 carrier force. I can see why the Americans in Hawaii were not concerned too much. Especially not because there were lots of much closer US targets nearer to Japan and the British and Dutch fleets.

If you would try to timeshift to 5 December 1941 (Christmas spirit in the sun) and consider what you know as an American living then and totally forget the future This might make sense. (Timeshifting is pretty hard when writing papers but insightful)

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If I remember right, when diplomacy was going south, military leaders actually wanted to move the Navy HQ from the west coast to Hawaii, to send a message to Japan.

Supposedly years later, a letter popped up where if you read it literally, it sounds like we wanted Japan to attack Pearl Harbor. But really, the move there was to spark Japan into doing something aggressive towards the US in Indo-China (Quam or the Philippines). They didn’t actually expect that Navy HQ would be targeted, being so far out.

I think a lot of people don’t understand the significance of Hawaii. When everyone looks at a map of the US, they see an oversized Alaska and a small square block with Hawaii in it. Looking at a globe, Hawaii is pretty much right in the middle of the Pacific. Perhaps not much difference in distance between the US main ll and and Japan.

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Great points, moreover Hawaii was also a stopoverpoint for air routes from San Francisco to China. Basically SF, 18+ hours to Honolulu(Pearl), Midway(which is due to open up for tourism in September for day trips), Wake Island, Guam, Manila, Macao/Hong Kong.

Japan might not just go for Pearl but also might try to stop the regular transpacific flying boat service. Wish it was still up and running :slight_smile:

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By the way, seaplanes are safer than old landplanes as they can not just land on water (duh) but sail on backwards. This is a regular part of seaplane training and great :+1: fun. Doors, alilerons and rudder are used for steering :mermaid:‍♀

Also see chapter 4-6 of the seaplane flying handbook on sailing. Those were really popular in WW2. https://www.alaskafloatratings.com/faa-h-8083-23-handbook

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As others have stated the US knew the Japanese were going to attack but they had no real clue as to where the attacks would be. Prevailing thought was that it would be the Philippines or Indo China as that made logical sense and the US military was gearing up to send troops to reinforce their positions there later in December but as we know that did not happen.

Add to that like many other military powers of the time the US military had little faith in aircraft carriers as a first strike asset but rather as a support asset for the battleships. Also add to that many high ranking US military personnel were still stuck on WW1 tactics and resisted new ways of thinking of how to use naval assets which is also another reason why many felt Pearl Harbour was not an immediate target.

Finally there was built in prejudices and racial profiling where many in the US military felt the Japanese military was inferior in many ways and while Japan was a naval power their fleet was considerably smaller than the US fleet and many American planners felt that the Japanese fleet would not be a big factor in any naval warfare with the US but in fact the Japanese had superior tactics and better use of naval assets and it mostly came down to luck and Who got the first shot in.

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Although from a 6 December 1941 timeshift perspective we shouldn’t forget that Pearl did have substantial air assets and patrolling destroyers, moreover radar. So it wasn’t that no one was prepared. Logically more US planes could have been in the air as radar picked them up plus a in case a destroyer starts fighting naval targets a mass alarm would be given, right?

The Japanese were “lucky” that they weren’t spotted, the weather was great for them, operational mistakes were made by people who made understandable confirmation based assumptions.

The key here is timeshifting and just ignore all information the point in time. Frikking hard to do but fun…

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The Japanese strike force had radio silence from point-of-no-return (I don’t remember how far it was from Pearl Harbor) and communicated between ships via signaling flags. Also US radar did pick up the Japanese airplanes early but radar operators mistakenly thought they were US bombers and did not raise any alarms. There was also some Japanese one-man minisubmarines discovered few days before the strike as they had stuck and sunk in the anti-submarine netting.

That combined with the assumption that Japanese navy couldn’t pull such an operation and everything else that has been discussed here and some luck and history is made.

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Yes, that really happened.

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Regarding your question you really, in my humble opinion, take of the lid of a stinky bin in which is a very complicated and interesting issue on how much or how little the US government really was aware of the pending Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour.
There are a number of facts that imply that the US were thouroughly aware that an attack was imminent, both through confirmed intelligence from their own department and also by, you could say, 'common sense '.
Roosevelt was very much aware of the public opinion of isolationism and I believe that he intentionally chose to stay on the ridged path of restrictions and boycot towards Japan to both isolate and agrivate the Japanese so he would have a pretext, as surely the Japanese would directly attack the USA in the region, eventually insurging the USA into ww2, finally giving Roosevelt the opportunity to support the UK and also getting his idea of becoming a major power within the United Nations, which eventually was successful.
So, I think they knew and they also where not very surprised or concerned and even more in a way, despite of the terrible losses (never forget) relieved that they finally could join the war, as the industry was already fully geared up

I suspect my opinion might meet some questions or opposition but that is fine by me!
Greetings, Harry Janssens

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Not on Pearl Harbor though. Manila was considered a more likely target.

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That is still a point of debate, intelligence remains murky on the subject, I guess we’ll never know for sure until records will be released

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Intelligence being murky was precisely the reason why I think Kimmel and Short were undeserving of their punishments.

Having read nearly every available record on Pearl Harbor, I still can’t figure out how Manila’s chances over Pearl Harbor is still a point of debate. Still, Kimmel did the best he could to beef up Hawaiian defenses.

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I agree with you on all you say, my friend (if I may be so bold to assume you feel the same way😉), my major point is that the Roosevelt government was deliberately (a word he himself used in his famous speech) and intentionally going on a collision course to envoke war.
Whether Hawai, Wake, Midway or, the obvious, the Philippines would be the first target, I believe, is not so much to the point. As we saw lately in those wonderful episodes of ww2 IRT, Japan had their moment of Blitzkrieg and were all over SE Asia

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Not just with Japan. Read the German declaration of war. Note the mentions of the Greer, Kearny and Reuben James incidents.

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Yep, you hit the nail right on the money, so because Roosevelt wanted to help Churchill defeating the Germans you also see the ‘Germany first’ clause comming into action right about end december 1941. These were all underlaying motives to get the US into the war. Public opinion would, by that time, not condone a war on Germany, just because some ships were sunk and a major ally was in mortal danger, however, a direct attack by any of the Axis powers would be, ironically as it may seem, a blessing in disguise for FDR!

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I fully agree with you that both Kimmel and Short were being judged much to harshly and I really feel for them, especially Kimmel, when you consider the appalling treatment he (imho) wrongfully recieved.

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Even the Senate thought so:

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Hope for salvation of humanity remains! I really appreciate your everso knowledgeable and factual input on this forum!
:+1:

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