The Other Pearl Harbor Story – Kimmel and Short


People around the nation, including some vocal congressmen, asked why America had been caught off guard at Pearl Harbor.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt said he would appoint an investigatory commission. Supreme Court Justice Owen Roberts — a pro-British internationalist friendly with FDR — was selected to head it. Also appointed to the group: Major General Frank McCoy, General George Marshall’s close friend for 30 years; Brigadier General Joseph McNarney, who was on Marshall’s staff and chosen on his recommendation; retired Rear Admiral Joseph Reeves, whom FDR had given a job in lend-lease; and Admiral William Standley, a former fleet commander. Only the last seemed to have no obvious fraternity with the Washington set.

The commission conducted only two to three days of hearings in Washington. Admiral Standley, arriving late, was startled by the inquiry’s chummy atmosphere. Admiral Harold Stark and General Marshall were asked no difficult or embarrassing questions. Furthermore, all testimony was taken unsworn and unrecorded — an irregularity that, at Standley’s urging, was corrected.

The commission then flew to Hawaii, where it remained 19 days. When Admiral Husband Kimmel was summoned, he brought a fellow officer to act as counsel. Justice Roberts disallowed this on grounds that the investigation was not a trial, and the admiral not a defendant. Because Kimmel and General Walter Short were not formally “on trial,” they were also denied all traditional rights of defendants: to ask questions and cross-examine witnesses. Kimmel was also shocked that the proceeding’s stenographers — one a teenager, the other with almost no court experience — omitted much of his testimony and left other parts badly garbled. Permission to correct the errors — other than adding footnotes to the end of the commission’s report — was refused.

The Roberts Commission laid the blame for Pearl Harbor on the Hawaiian commanders. Roberts brought a final copy of the report to FDR. The president read it and delightedly tossed it to a secretary, saying, “Give that in full to the papers for their Sunday editions.” America’s outrage now fell on Kimmel and Short. They were traitors, it was said; they should be shot! The two were inundated with hate mail and death threats. The press, with its ageless capacity to manufacture villains, stretched the commission’s slurs. Even the wives of the commanders were subject to vicious canards.

By 1944, the Allies were clearly winning, and national security would no longer wash as a barrier to trials. A congressional act mandated the court-martials. At last, the former Hawaiian commanders would have their day in court.

In August, the Naval Court of Inquiry opened. A source inside the Navy Department had already tipped Kimmel and his attorneys about the scores of Magic intercepts kept from the admiral in 1941. One of the attorneys, a former Navy captain, managed to get at the Department’s files, and authenticated the existence of many. Obtaining their release was another matter. Obstruction after obstruction appeared — until Kimmel tried a ploy. Walking out of the courtroom, he bellowed to his lawyer that they would have to tell the press that important evidence was being withheld.

By the next day, the requested intercepts had been delivered — 43 in all. The admirals on the Court listened to them being read with looks of horror and disbelief. Two of the admirals flung their pencils down. More than 2,000 died at Pearl Harbor because those messages had been withheld. Navy Department officers gave additional testimony. After nearly three months, the inquiry finished. The verdict of the Roberts Commission was overturned. Admiral Kimmel was exonerated on all charges. Admiral Stark — who had rejected pleas of juniors to notify Hawaii on the morning of the attack — was severely censured.

Criticism of the president, incidentally, was forbidden to the proceedings as beyond their jurisdiction. But FDR held ultimate responsibility for Pearl Harbor, and the warnings he had received — some of which have only recently come to light — far exceeded anything they might have dreamed.

Naturally, the inquiry findings wrought dismay in the administration and Pentagon. But a solution was swiftly concocted. It was announced that, in the interest of national security, the court-martial results would not become public until the war’s end.

Other rather staged shows were carried out afterward. Witness reversed their original testimonies or memories were “refreshed.” It was discovered that just four days after Pearl Harbor, Rear Admiral Leigh Noyes, director of naval communications, told his subordinates: “Destroy all notes or anything in writing.” This was an illegal order — naval memoranda belong to the American people and cannot be destroyed except by congressional authority. Stories circulated of a similar information purge in the War Department. Some files, however, escaped destruction.

Congress did conduct a probe in 1995, at the urging of the families of General Short (died 1949) and Admiral Kimmel (died 1968). The families hoped to restore the ranks of their libeled, demoted fathers. The 1995 probe requested that the Pentagon reinvestigate Pearl Harbor in light of new information.

However, on December 1, 1995, Undersecretary of Defense Edwin Dorn concluded his own investigation with these comments: “I cannot conclude that Admiral Kimmel and General Short were victims of unfair official actions and thus cannot conclude that the remedy of advancement on the retired list is in order.”

However, on May 25, 1999, the U.S. Senate approved a resolution that Kimmel and Short had performed their duties “competently and professionally” and that our losses at Pearl Harbor were “not the result of dereliction of duty.” “They were denied vital intelligence that was available in Washington,” said Senator William V. Roth Jr. (R-Del.). Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.) called Kimmel and Short “the two final victims of Pearl Harbor.”


Farewell Salutes –

David Bone – Livonia, MI; US Navy, WWII, USS Kretchmer

Joe Carter – Lodge, SC; US Navy, WWII, Chief Petty Officerflag041

Harry Grim – Aransas Pass, TX; US Army Air Corps, WWII

Henry Kaufman – Jersey City, NJ; US Army Air Corps, WWII

Wallace Lutz – Lake Worth, FL; US Navy, WWII

Linda Milton – Tucumcari, NM; US Army, Sgt.

Jack Riley – Shelton, NE; US Army, Korea

William Stanley – Cheshire, CT; US Army, WWII, Ordnance

Bryan ‘Jim’ Whitmer Jr. – Waterville, OH; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 11th Airborne Division

Jess Wise – Spokane, WA; USMC, Korea, Force Recon



About GP

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GP is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on December 7, 2016, in First-hand Accounts, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 199 Comments.

  1. Much of the Pearl Harbor controversy rests in the timing between when our cryptographers broke the Japanese diplomatic code and when they broke the IJN code. The official story is that the IJN code wasn’t broken until after Pearl Harbor.

    BTW, it was the decrypted diplomatic messages that revealed the orders to Japanese embassy and consulate staff to activate their sabotage teams. But we had no way of knowing whether they’d actually done so. Rather than take a chance, orders were given to round up and confine most Japanese near the coast, en masse. Japanese ONI staff were exempt, of course, and continued to try to locate any active sabotage teams.

    There is no doubt whatsoever that FDR wanted to go to war with Germany ASAP. Nor is there the least doubt that he knew that declaring war on Germany would be avenged by Hitler killing the Jews. He’d been warned of this by William Dodd in 1938, and Hitler’s speeches had made it very clear that the Jews were hostages. Hitler had used “hostages” in connection with the Jews in a conversation with Hanfstaengl in August, 1933.

    If we had been prepared for the 1941 attack on Pearl, it might have been clear to the Japanese that their naval code had been broken. Even the least suspicion of this would have resulted in changing the codes. Every life given to maintain the pretense that we didn’t know they were coming had a payout in terms of our ability to wage war effectively thenceforth, often knowing the contents of IJN orders even before they were decrypted by the units receiving them.

    Was it a lucky accident that our carriers were elsewhere that Sunday?
    And was the deception worth it? I believe that FDR & Co. vastly underestimated US losses, being unaware that the latest Japanese bombs could penetrate deep into a battleship, destroying it in seconds. It may still have been worth it. We’ll never know. Inability to do the math with any certainty, either before or after the event, is part of warfare and diplomacy.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Most interesting. What came across to us was that Pearl Harbour was a sneaky and despicable act by the unscrupulous Japanese. Propaganda of the time, or something in it?

    Liked by 1 person

    • My point was, FDR did everything in his power to put a choke hold on Japan, freezing their assets and insisting other countries do the same. When Germany refused to declare war on us, FDR had to get Japan to make the first move (the U.S. isolationists wouldn’t go to war otherwise). FDR had given the UK far more in Lend Lease than Congress ever knew about and he had to get in the war to account for it.
      Secretary Hull knew what was happening, as did FDR. Why was every Pacific base informed about the Japanese fleet headed right for them – except Hawaii? Why was the attack on a Sunday, when the least amount of men would be on the base?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for sharing this fascinating story behind the story.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Speaking of infamy . . .

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Things haven’t changed a whole lot in the following years. CYA Uber alles.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Extremely interesting but just what I expect from your wonderful website 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. FWIW, the December 2016 issue of the US Naval Institute’s publication “Proceedings” has a number of articles relating to the Pearl Harbor attack.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thanks for this informative, though disturbing, recollection of events. Isn’t it sad that these two men were dishonored…
    Thank you, the words you write and the stories you tell are so important. I wish you a 2017 that is full of beautiful things ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Wish you all the best for 2017

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Hello; I managed to use WP attempts to force use of their “improved editor” to work in my favor. Within that new format, is a link to the dashboard; I saved the old editor “new post” page to my Firefox bookmarks, so I don’t have to deal with their Monarch ways.:

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I intend to post “setting the stage for war” and this together. WP is up to more shenanigans… can’t access my dashboard, just the “my sites” in the taskbar, so I’ll have to iron that out first.

    Liked by 1 person

    • When you look at your latest post, top left it says ‘My Site’. Click on that and scroll to the bottom. You will see ‘WP Admin’. Click on that and it will bring up your Dashboard. [it took me awhile to figure that out!!]

      Liked by 2 people

  12. Reblogged this on Lest We Forget and commented:

    Liked by 1 person

  13. GP, Had to check back on your Pearl post here that I missed. It is important to set the record straight on Kimmel & Short! Thorough accounting here by you!!! Never knew their story. Phil

    Liked by 1 person

  14. It is so sad that a few, with their own power, can twist, tarnish and hide the truth and quite often, the media is part of it. A very sad commentary.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. It is so unfair that our government only releases information that they want released. They hide from the American people so much information about our past, present, and future. Why not give us the information and let us decide if we feel it is correct. This happens in many others areas of life than just the military. Don’t get me started!

    Liked by 1 person

    • In some areas it is probably good that we don’t know, but I understand what you’re saying. Archived history takes so long to get de-classified and our politicians get away with far too much.

      Liked by 2 people

  16. Horrifying. But, not surprising. Look at our government. They will do anything, sacrifice ANYONE, to do whatever they want. I’m so happy the men were exonerated. What they went through was unfair and cruel. Your posts are so enlightening and informative. Thank you. The idea that all those men died because of information was withheld (and possibly destroyed) is business as usual. Nixon, shredded his papers, it happens all the time. Deniability. Shameful and unacceptable.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I believe that the treatment of Admiral Kimmel and General Short adds credence to Robert Stinnett’s conclusion in his book “Day of Deceit – The Untold Story of Pearl Harbor” that Roosevelt knew full well that the attack on Pearl Harbor was coming.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. I am embarrassed to say, but I was totally ignorant of this. Your site is a constant education, and a poignant reminder of the sacrifices made for the sake of our freedom. Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. I get so sad to seeing brothers die.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. GP, the story of Pearl Harbor is shameful and sad but the portion that blames FDR is only a Conspiracy Theory and yet you present this theory in your comments as factual when it is really just your own opinion. It saddens me to see that most of your readers not only agree with your opinion but also fail to see that you are expressing your opinion and not stating a fact. I also believe, however, that the majority of Americans do not share this opinion with you.


    • I have stated facts as I have read them time and time again. There are too many books to list or papers of officials, but not my opinions. I read and reread posts to ensure I do not insert my opinions. FDR was thought of as a King back then by many and will defend him to the death, while others were wary about his agenda and insisting on running for 4 unprecedented terms. (a law ratified after his death to ensure it never happened again too). I simply try to limit how long these posts are, perhaps that is wrong of me, for that I do apologize since many facts are withheld like that. People tend to agree with me because they’ve listened to their parents or read the facts themselves, I am not such a linguist that I can persuade people to think badly of another.

      Liked by 1 person

    • “Conspiracy theory” is only a label and is not an argument pro or con for the theory so labeled. There are conspiracies. They are a real thing, and we don’t have to look far for an example.


  21. An attack on the ships don’t know biy men is simply incorrect.In my eyes Kimmel is a murder thinking alone to himself


  22. A sad yet at the same time a shameful exposure of the disgusting commissions of inquiry into Pearl Harbour, even to the finish those two fine servicemen were never reinstated in the Retired list of Order it seems.
    Great post gp.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. The stories behind the story are always fascinating.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. I heard a similar story when I lived in Hawaii back in the 1970s–from a Navy man (Tom) that was there the day that Pearl Harbor was attacked. He told me that the ‘powers that be’ knew about the attack before it happened, and because the sailors were not told about the impending attack in advance, many lives and ships were lost unnecessarily. He said that the government needed and wanted something terrible to happen–something that would convince the people of our country that it was important to join the war. By allowing Pearl Harbor to happen, it would be easier to convince people that action to ‘prevent’ another Pearl Harbor was necessary.
    I asked him what made him think that there was some sort of conspiracy going on that day. He said very suspicious things were going on right before the attack–and a lot of the sailors knew something was up. Tom was visibly upset while he told me the story, even though it had happened many years ago. He said what he was saying was the truth, although most people did not know and wouldn’t believe it.
    I had never heard this ‘other side’ of the Pearl Harbor story before. When I told other people about Tom’s recollection of the Pearl Harbor attack–they told me that he couldn’t be right; it couldn’t be true. Our country wouldn’t allow its soldiers and sailors be killed, or its ships to be sunk and its planes to be destroyed–just to justify entering a war.
    Now I read what you have written and it coincides with things that Tom said. Tom died in the late 70s of lung cancer. I know that he would have appreciated knowing that there are others who know–or who at least suspect….

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m glad to know that that he told you what he knew. Too many back then were not so brave. I thank you very much for repeating your story about Tom and taking the time for all of us to read!


  25. Thank you very much.


  26. I appreciate you feeling my posts are worthy articles for your readers.


  27. Much appreciated, my friend.


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