THIS book is important. It should put to rest once and for all the conspiracy theories that have sprung up about the naval disaster that struck the United States Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
There was no conspiracy. There was no shortage of information that would have warded off the disaster. But the ample information obtained from breaking both the Japanese military and diplomatic codes and from supplementary sources, including open telegraph traffic from the Japanese consulate in Honolulu to Tokyo, was processed through "an unworkable system of military intelligence, including the fact that the Navy withheld from the Army vital intelligence information that called for Army action."
This is the conclusion drawn by Henry Clausen from a unique knowledge of the records. In November of 1944, Clausen, a temporary wartime major in the office of the judge advocate general in Washington, was summoned to the office of Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson and given the assignment of researching the Pearl Harbor record. He was also given the right of access to all secret and top-secret information. He spent the next seven months researching and writing his report for Secretary Stimson. Then it, t oo, was stamped top-secret. Now, a half century later, his work, much of which appears as collected evidence in the book's 157-page appendix, has finally been declassified.
Clausen is free to tell what he learned then and how he learned it. He also is free to draw up his own judgment of the acts of commission and omission, which make up the record of collective guilt for the tragedy. He lists the names of 14 persons who, in his opinion, were particularly responsible for the fact that US armed forces in Hawaii were taken by surprise. He puts at the top of his guilty list, with a rating of 10, only two names, Lt. Gen. Walter G. Short and Adm. Husband E. Kimmel, for failing to
take the defensive measures justified by the warnings they did receive. These two men, respected Army and Navy commandants at Pearl Harbor, were given a specific "war alert" on Nov. 27 and a further alert on Dec. 3.
Next on the Clausen guilt list, with a rating of nine, is Col. Carlisle Clyde Dusenbury, then an assistant in the Far East section of Army G-2 (Intelligence) in Washington. On the night of Dec. 6, he had delivered to proper officials the first 13 parts of a 14-part Japanese decrypt. He did not wait up for the 14th part and went home to bed. Clausen says:
"I believe that had Marshall [Gen. George C. Marshall, chief of staff of the US Army] received that night the 14-part message, in which it was made clear that diplomatic relations between Washington and Tokyo were going to be broken off, he would have sent a special alert to Short in time to blunt or repel the Japanese attack. As it stood, Dusenbury lost approximately nine crucial hours of this warning time."
The name of Franklin Delano Roosevelt comes at the end of the Clausen list with the lowest guilt rating of five. The president is faulted for having taken no further action after having read the first 13 parts of the Japanese message. President Roosevelt read it, and remarked to Harry Hopkins that "this means war." He was particularly sensitive to the implications of what he had read, but he took no immediate action. Had he also read the 14th part of the Japanese message, which included the time for deli very at noon the next day, he might well have done more.
This book is essential history. It is the authoritative appraisal of why American armed forces met the Japanese attack asleep, instead of with weapons in hand at the ready. It is the "final judgment" on the subject.