This evenhanded exposé of the scapegoating of the commander in chief of the Pacific fleet at the time of Pearl Harbor challenges official memory.
Adm. Husband Kimmel was roundly blamed for the destruction of the fleet at Pearl Harbor and loss of 2,403 lives on that terrible day of Dec. 7, 1941, but as co-authors Summers and Swan (The Eleventh Day: The Full Story of 9/11, 2011, etc.) show, he was conveniently used to hiding many missteps by his Washington, D.C., superiors. Both Kimmel and the Army’s Hawaiian commander, Lt. Gen. Walter Short, were forced into retirement after the debacle. The subsequent official fact-finding commission (the first of nine), the Roberts Report, blamed them for “dereliction of duty,” and they were charged with having failed to “confer and cooperate” with warnings by Washington leading up to the surprise Japanese attack. Kimmel dedicated the rest of his life to challenging these charges and vindicating his name. The truth, as close as the authors can ascertain, is that the intercepts cracking a Japanese supercode were not adequately shared with Kimmel, although Washington officials assumed that they had been. The key middleman in this failure to pass on valuable intelligence information was Chief of Naval Operations Harold Stark, who was ostensibly Kimmel’s longtime friend yet withheld critical information from him—e.g., the telltale Japanese dispatch of Sept. 24, which requested that Pearl Harbor be divided into special zones for the location of specific kinds of ships. Moreover, Kimmel was out of the loop in knowing about the deterioration of diplomatic negotiations between Japanese representatives and Washington in the final weeks leading to the attack, while the traffic analysts guessed that Japanese heavy carriers (which no one could locate) must be in home waters. In the end, the authors find enough blame, high and low, to go around.
A solid demonstration of how an insistence on secrecy proved to be a fatal breakdown as the Japanese attack loomed. A good complement to Steve Twomey’s Countdown to Pearl Harbor (2016).