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Wednesday, December 7. 2011
The below is copied from Home Of Heroes. I hadn't heard this story before. On this day, 70-years after Pearl Harbor, take some time to navigate around the site, and find many stories you may not have heard before. And remember. And resolve for our future that lays in the hands of our Presidents to come and our servicemen and women who rise to the challenges for us all.
At 7:58 A.M. Paradise was shattered. The first of two separate waves of Japanese fighters and bombers unleashed death and destruction on the city below. Amid the bullets raking her deck, the men of the Nevada stood in formation without breaking ranks until the flag had been raised and the "Star Spangled Banner" finished its refrain. Then they begin what ultimately became a two hour struggle for survival. They watched in horror as the first bombs hit their sister ship the U.S.S. Arizona. A few minutes after 8 A.M. the Arizona sank beneath the surface of the harbor taking 1,103 men of its 1,400 crew to a watery grave.
Four years of warfare followed that fatefull day of December 7, 1941, the day that President Franklin D. Roosevelt said was "a date which will live in infamy." More than 16 million American men and women rose to the defense of freedom during World War II. Almost 300,000 gave their lives, twice that number suffered wounds. On August 10, 1945 another bombing raid made history. This time it was a single aircraft...and it was American. Four days after the "Enola Gay" dropped a single 10,000-pound bomb on Hiroshima, Japan accepted the terms of surrender that ended World War II. On that historic day the flag flying over the White House in Washington, D.C. spoke of a Nation's will not only to win, but to survive the most horrible adversity. It was the very same flag that had flown over Pearl Harbor four years earlier on December 7th, and survived that day of infamny.
Just as the flag that had flown over Pearl Harbor that December morning came to represent a Nation's resolve to "rise from the ashes" and fight to defend all it held dear, this flag also became a flag of peace. The flag of Pearl Harbor was present in San Francisco for the United Nation's Charter Meeting.
Though it was Sunday, the flag of the United States flew proudly in the wintery breeze of Washington, D.C. that December afternoon. Most of the residents of our capitol had returned from attending church and were enjoying lunch, unaware of the destruction and death suddenly unleashed half a world away. When the news finally broke, the citizens went into a frenzy, pressing against the gates at the edge of the White House lawn or silently glued to their radios. Mixed with the sadness was fear and uncertainty. As in Hawaii, the one symbol of hope was the sight of the Stars and Stripes still flowing in the breeze over the seat of our Nation. As it had inspired Francis Scott Key more than 100 years earlier when it survived the assault on Fort McHenry, the symbol of our freedom once again inspired the Nation by its very presence.
On Monday morning President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked Congress to decalre war on Japan. Before doing so, however, he took a rather unusual step. Though normally the flags flown over our Capitol are changed regularly, on this day the President spoke to his Nation under the same flag that had flown the previous day. That same flag flew again three days later when the Declaration of War was extended to include Germany and Italy. Then the President took personal care to preserve that historic flag. He called it the "Flag of Liberation" and took it with him on many historic occasions. In January, 1943 President Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill traveled to French Morroco to attend the historic "Casablanca Conference." One of the key issues was the pledging of the resolve of the British and American people to fight to victory in Europe. Whether as a symbol of that resolve, or as a personal symbol of the American commitment to survive utmost adversity, President Roosevelt carried his "Flag of Liberation" with him to Casablanca.
Two years later President Roosevelt's Flag of Liberation was unfurled to the breeze once again. Having accepted surrender terms on August 14, 1945, the Japanese had yet to sign the documents of surrender.
Tracked: Dec 07, 12:11
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The scene of the sailors standing to attention as bombs begin falling appears in the movie Tora, Tora, Tora.
A minor, technical point, USS Arizona was not the sister ship of USS Nevada.
Another minor point, the other famous flag associated with the Japanese surrender is the flag flown by Commodore Perry in 1854 (the Perry Expedition) when the Japanese signed a treaty with the US. The Perry flag was onboard USS Missouri for the surrender in '45.
The whole modern battleship era is fascinating on a number of levels. They built battleships (sometimes referred to as Dreadnoughts) in classes of two ship each with the exception of the first modern "pre-dreadnought" Indiana class which included the USS Oregon, Massachusetts and Indiana. These were supposed to be similar in ship building technology to the HMS Hood which was state of the art at the time. Then came the dreadnoughts of the Nevada Class (USS Nevada and Oklahoma) followed by the super-dreadnought Pennsylvania class (USS Pennsylvania and Arizona). All built in the space of 25 years of each other.
Amazing times back then. When I was a kid I built models of all of them.
USS Nevada was the first of the "Standard Type" BBs.
I think just as impressive is how battleships like Nevada were extensively refitted during their service lives. In 1916 she had the distinctive look of WW1 USN battleships, with the towering "birdcage" masts, after her 1942 modernization she had the more compact profile of a WW2 BB.
We should also remember that within hours of the PH raid, attacks were made throughout the Pacific, in the Philippines, Wake Island, Guam, Malaya, Thailand, Shanghai and Midway, and that by the end of the year Hong Kong would surrender and, like Uncle W in the Philippines, most of SE Asia/SW Pacific was living on borrowed time.
That's quite a site - I've never seen that before. Incredible stories about incredible people. I've just been looking through Brotherhood of Soldiers at War page - wow.
Not exactly on topic but close...
My mom's cousin was aboard the USS Helena at Pearl Harbor. He was aboard her again at the Battle of Kula Gulf where she was finally sent to the bottom. An heroic ship and crew.
Unfortunately he was long gone before I had the sense to want to hear the stories of such men and times. All I remember of him was that he refused to let anything bother him much - a peaceful man.
Recently, I came across a copy of the draft message to Congress prepared for FDR in the wake of Pearl Harbor. It includes FDR's handwritten amendments.
That most famous phrase of all was rather lamely worded:
"...a date which will live in world history..."
With his usual flair, FDR struck out that pedestrian and fatuous expression, replacing it with the solid and ominous:
"...a date which will live in infamy..."
Wikipedia has a copy of the draft at:
Readers of this post might find this post at In From the Cold interesting:
An excerpt from the post:
'Still, there is plenty of evidence that U.S. intelligence was aware the Japanese fleet was on the move in late 1941, and might carry out a strike against American possessions in the Pacific. In his book Day of Deceit, journalist Robert Stinnett debunked the myth that Japanese commanders maintained strict radio silence as they crossed the Pacific. In fact, American SIGINT sites intercepted scores of messages in late November and early December, linking them to Japanese carrier groups at sea. One source even claims that a location "plot" on enemy forces (maintained at ONI headquarters in Washington, D.C.) showed suspected Japanese carriers west of Hawaii on the evening of December 6th.
Additionally, radio direction finding assets on the U.S. West Coast (and in the Pacific region) placed Japanese naval formations northwest of Hawaii within 48 hours of the Pearl Harbor attack. There were similar warnings from British and Dutch cryptanalysts, who had some success in breaking Japanese military codes before the attack; they issued reports that Japanese carriers were heading towards Hawaii in late November 1941. There is also evidence that U.S. signals intelligence posts in Hawaii and on Corregidor provided similar reports in the weeks leading up to the attack."
Americans were moving toward war by then, anyway, if the Lend-Lease Act is any evidence. It was passed nine months before the Pearl Harbor attack, and at a cost several times (iirc 6x) the whole defense budget as it stood when FDR had taken office. This fact has to be taken into account alongside the idea that the citizenry had been strongly anti-war right up to Dec 07, 1941.
Beginning immediately post-war, there were either six or seven full-on official investigations of the ''How did it happen?" question --several congressional, as well as military and of course the press covering the congressionals.
One can take this to mean that the truth, whole truth, and nothing but the truth was finally sussed out.
One could also take the same fact to be evidence to the opposite, that none of the investigations past the first one would have been felt necessary, had the question been answered by the previous reports.
Stinnett's assertions about the alleged known location of the Japanese fleet near Hawaii have not been taken seriously because of the lack of any primary documentation. The blogspot itself does not give references.
I've read his book, and if I recall, he claims that a freighter at sea overheard IJN radio chatter ... but the radio logs are conveniently missing.
I'd like to see any primary sources that say radio direction finders had located the PH attack force. Other fleets were known to be moving south, and were presumed to be part of the invasion of allied territories in SE asia and western pacific.
this isn't to say that the USN and FDR weren't capable of misleading the congressional investigations, but they were covering up negligence and incompetence in intelligence gathering and distribution (Hawaii was denied intelligence summaries such as the "bomb plot" intercept that were forwarded to the Philippine commanders).
in the mid-1980s, the government declassified a mass of documents called the pre-Pearl Harbor intercepts. These were signals encrypted in the still-unreadable JN-25b cypher, and were given low priority after the cypher was broken in '42.
doing the monday morning quarterbacking routine, if there had been perfect insight, perfect distribution of the broken diplomatic signals traffic and assuming that the naval codes had been readable and distributed, PH looks very much a likely target.
in the late 1990s, the senate held hearings on the cashiering of Adml. Kimmel (Pac. Fleet commander) and Gen. Short (HA Dept and responsible for fleet security), receiving the testimony of modern historians. at least one drew attention to still-classified British intelligence summaries provided to Churchill from the end of November- early December 1941; there is speculation that their content concerns PH. in particular, that British and Dutch cryptographers had broken the JN-25b cypher but had not fully shared information with FDR. these hearings are available online.
to be clear on a few points appearing above. allied code breakers had penetrated the high level administrative "admirals" code but that was a misplaced effort, as it was not an operations code.
the diplomatic "purple" code had been broken, but it did not include military traffic.
the famous "winds alert" (east wind, rain) message was not transmitted until after the attack had gone in. this was a diplomatic message to Japanese embassies to destroy papers and coding machines and was regarded as a kind of war warning.
US codebreakers (google Stations HYPO and CAST) had not penetrated naval code JN-25b, the operations code in use at the time of the attack and successor to the partially readable JN-25a, and so far as we know, neither had the Dutch or British. regardless, all surviving evidence shows that the attack plans were written and distributed by hand and radios disabled once the PH attack force was at sea. none of the original attack plans exist.
lastly there is a common conclusion among the conspiracy buffs that because ship movement reports were readable in Dec. '41 then the at-sea location of the ships themselves must have been known. this is yet another example of extrapolating too much from too little. these are low grade harbormaster codes, reporting ship departures. that the IJN carriers were missing from their home ports in early Dec. '41 was no surprise, their location, regrettably, was.
There was a govt program in effect too, creating a good deal of Japanese disinformation being broadcast that had the fleet carriers moving between Japanese home ports when actually they were already on the high seas heading toward PH.
Another loose factoid, that the first reports of the codes having been broken (these transcripts are used in the conspracy case) refer to the system having been identified, but not to any specific findings. There was a lag, and it was crucial, between the 'eureka' moment and the actual deliverability of useful information (I realize this mention is light on specifics --only meant as a start point for those interested in looking further).
signals intelligence wasn't in its infancy in '41 but it wasn't nearly as important as it is today. there were in-service rivalries that cause bottlenecks of intelligence distribution, false assumptions of the USN over what the IJN would "really" do, errors in choosing what code breaking efforts were worth pursuing, possibly perfidious allies.
there was only a handful of Japanese language officers, something that I was surprised to learn, and they were chronically understaffed and it takes a lot of time and effort to build a "book" on a code and all that effort can be negated when the cipher is altered ("additives", see below). so the intercept stations might copy only a fraction of the total number of messages sent, and of that fraction, only a small part of any message could be read.
read here for more difficulties, from the NSA
the IJN could take a radio operator, whose "fist" was known to the listening stations, and whose job was on a carrier, put him on a destroyer headed in a different direction, and have him duplicate radio traffic from the carrier, now keeping radio silence.
...then after THAT ruse was figured out, they could put him back on the carrier and let him broadcast in the clear --!
When you think about it, of the four turning points --Guadalcanal and Midway (land and sea, Pacific) and El Alamein and Stalingrad (the Suez Canal and the Caspian oil basin, Atlantic) --three of them, all but Guadalcanal, turned on the secretly broken Enigma and IJN code systems.
Midway is an example of how fortune follows from preparedness. Signals intelligence provided the USN with a chance, and on a day when most actions went wrong, suddenly everything went right.