The Charlotte News

Thursday, November 27, 1941


Site Ed. Note: First we note that neither the column of the previous week's official Thanksgiving day nor this one of the alternative, being celebrated in some places, remarks of its passing, as in previous years when Cash was aboard writing the bulk of the editorials. But this year carried with it a grimness, including the strange death in Mexico of Cash himself, a resignation to warfare imminent involving the United States, which few Thanksgivings in the country's history, probably excepting only those of 1860 and 1916, ever had. The expression of thanks therefore had to be expressed cautiously and apprehensively, lest it be perceived as sentimental drivel quickly devolving to Pollyannish silliness as the news out of Washington quickly slipped away from any form of optimism first to exasperation, then dread.

In keeping with that gray and macabre spirit of these latter November days, Herblock reminds in today's editorial cartoon of that grim statistic which he evoked August 18, eerily setting forth the number 2,390, representing the increase in traffic deaths in the first six months of 1941 over the first half of 1940--precisely the number to be killed ten days hence at Pearl Harbor.

That tragic accounting, no one could ever say, is subject to conspiratorial manipulation by man, unless you concede that the death statistic itself was manipulated, an unlikely, if not altogether absurd, scenario. There are, it would appear, certain conspiracies which are beyond the reach of man to manipulate, but which, when studied, tell us much about, not only the nature of man, but the nature in which man lives as a part, and why, when not living in symbiosis with it, with his fast-moving gas-guzzlers consuming arithmetically--by his increasing use thereof and his increasing proliferation and profligacy--the fossil fuels which make up his ancestors, he becomes quite susceptible to becoming at one with the Dinosaurs--already having explored and ascended the Olympian heights achieved first by the Caesars, then the Bezoars, and finally, the Azores.

"Polite War", in today's column, continues this resigned mood, recognizing the inevitability of war with Japan after the news had come forth, as expected, that the talks between Nomura and Hull had failed. There would still be attempts in the remaining ten days to bridge the gap, but the likelihood of any success was perceived by everyone from Hull and the President down as nil.

Hugh Johnson speaks of the fatalism of the soldier in World War II, as he gleans it from the toughness of the average American college football player, and further finds the fitness for duty, both physically and psychologically, being exemplified in the winnowing of the ranks of the unfit as compared to World War I.

Dorothy Thompson suggests, contrary to The News editorials of a few days earlier, that the President did not assure Congress the use of force, if necessary, to quell the captive coal mines strike in exchange for rescission of the Neutrality Act.

Behind the scenes this date, Saburo Kurusu communicated in code to Kamaichi Yamamoto of the Japanese Foreign Ministry, regarding the progress of talks with Secretary Hull, indicating that the "southern" matter had been the "monkey wrench" and that otherwise it had appeared for awhile that "the matrimonial question" would be settled. Kurusu then inquired of Yamamoto whether a child was imminent, to which Yamamoto replied that it was. Kurusu then asked whether it was a boy or a girl, to which Yamamoto responded, "It appears as if it will be a strong, healthy boy."

Intelligence interpretation had indicated that this code was referring to the movement south of the Task Force spotted off Formosa, headed in the direction of Indochina.

It was feared by Hull and Roosevelt that the Task Force would reach the southern tip of Indochina and then come into conflict with British and Dutch forces, triggering the need for U.S. support.

The rest of the code, according to intelligence interpretation, meant that war was imminent, that being the "boy". The matrimonial question was interpreted to mean cooperative diplomatic relations with the U.S., broken off by the discovery of the Task Force moving south.

But is this the proper interpretation of this intercommunication? We asked a decade ago the same question in the article on Cash's death. We are still asking.

Indeed, the discovery of the southward moving Task Force, plus the Ten Points being offered the day before to a likely unreceptive Tokyo, had caused the Administration pretty much to give up on a diplomatic solution, as war appeared inevitable. But the southward moving Task Force was not in fact the "monkey wrench" to the negotiations; it was simply the entrenched position of Tokyo, refusing to yield on the question of sovereignty of China and Indochina in exchange for resumption of trade and freeing up of its assets in the U.S. and U.S. assets in Japan.

Did Kurusu have reason to believe this issue to be the major gear-crusher causing the Ten Points and their stubborn insistence on withdrawal of the horns from China and Indochina?

And if so, then why didn't he ask Yamamoto to communicate with Tokyo to convince it to give orders to bring this fleet to full stop, dead in the water, to enable time for the marriage?

Assuming the "code" is properly interpreted, with this strangely inserted literal part and the rest of it so highly transparent, and assuming also the good faith of Kurusu and Nomura in seeking a peaceful settlement, assuming further Tokyo's wish to do so, at least on the terms on which it had thus far insisted, resumption of trade in exchange for no further expansion south, why wouldn't such an order have been proper not only for Kurusu to request but for Tokyo to grant?

One might first be tempted to answer that it would have meant a stoppage likewise of the Hawaii-bound Task Force. But not so. For that Task Force could have continued on to target, as it had not been discovered. The southbound Task Force, after all, was deliberately being used as a decoy, intentionally made easy to detect by allowing full radio communication during its voyage, sheltering in a shell game the silent "Operation Hawaii" Task Force. So, all the more reason the southbound would have been useful as a bargaining chip dead in the water. It was supposed to be discovered; it was supposed to be a bargaining chip.

Instead, however, of requesting of Yamamoto such a stop order, Kurusu ignores any such obvious request and simply asks whether, according to the code's interpretation, war is imminent. But, assuming for the nonce that Kurusu was, as Roosevelt believed, acting in bad faith, that he knew his mission was, as he had bluntly implied to the press on arrival to the U.S., a hopeless prospect, and that his real task was that of a courier of prestidigital distraction, then why does he bother to ask whether war is imminent? He would have known the full likelihood before leaving Japan two weeks earlier. So, why does he not ask that the southward moving fleet be stopped, if that is his reference in indicating so transparently in "code" this "southern matter--that south, SOUTH--southward matter" as the "monkey wrench"?

Thus, the question arises as to whether Kurusu was sent as an honest broker or merely a Magician to obfuscate further and keep "Miss Kimiko" and "Miss Fumeko"--that is, respectively, Roosevelt and Hull within the context of the code--studied on the empty shell, as the loaded one proceeded to elude the thusly captured vision.

Or, again, was he talking about something else entirely?

Was Kurusu's question anent birth meant, within the proper code, to convey Pearl as the girl and Philip as the boy, but within their common understanding, by the role reversal nomenclature already employed, implying the obverse of the answer provided, as, for instance, with Samson and Delilah?

Was this conversation in fact the communication--in advance of the interception on November 29 of the anticipatory broadcast of the competing contingent winds code messages--of the key to the understanding of the winds code itself, such that the contingency message of the 29th, consistent with the deadline set by Tokyo for final conclusion of any negotiations toward a peaceful resolution, was in fact the delivery of the "winds execute" code by prestidigital Magic? that is the delivery among red herrings of the "hidden word", that made manifest via the Purloined Letter Rule?

Well, as Melville remarked, "The whole world, a loose fish."

Speaking of which, under the heading, "A Lacing", anent the bottle of wine, fruit of the vine implication credited in brief, or rather discredited, by Time to the recently deceased Aguirre Cerda, "Don Tinto", President of Chile, and Roosevelt's consequent excoriation of the magazine for so publishing such a putative libel, we are compelled to refer you back to the pieces of July 21, 1940 and July 30, 1940, for your edification. And we ask whether such an obviously brief and innocuous mention was really so much an international incident, or was something else occurring? Was Washington, or more to the point, Roosevelt, now utilizing, in public statements, a sui generis form of code, one designed by more direct means than the normal diplomatic course of tête à tête to try to effect resolution of the crisis?

Ah, but some silly recalcitrants, stuck in the ancient and primitive notion of just war, might rejoinder that, after all, some things of evil wrought by man are simply meant to be, to provide some form of just balance in the scheme of things, hence good, and so not to be questioned or labeled by value judgments; thus, when the Cuban missile crisis was resolved, it was really thwarting that inevitable balancing, and so, while seeming a good thing of the moment, was really evil, and so, naturally... These are people who believe that if only Hitler had won the war... To say that they are uneducated stupes is to do them compliment; they are actually scheming power mongers, themselves bent on empire dreams, rationalizing them the while in the yin and the yang formulation of nowhere being somewhere, after their rationalizatuon of their realization that they are no different from the Hitlers of the world, that is, Hirohito's little poetic Empress offering up her wonderfully idiotic, boxed "poem" salving the "homeland" spirit of the hero soldiers giving her increased booty as they starve in the killing fields, slaughtering, torturing, beheading, eating their slaves, in most honorable primitive ritual of yin-yang, beneath her and her master's cannibalistic, idiotic and primitive feet, both smelly and sweet.

Raymond Clapper's hunches on the movement of protective troops to Dutch Guiana to protect against sabotage and its being possibly related to the Dutch East Indies are very prescient and accurate hunches.

Indeed, this very day also, because of the southward moving Task Force and the breakdown of diplomatic talks, three messages were sent to Hawaii: one ostensibly from General Marshall--though actually authored by his subordinates, as Marshall was overseeing troop maneuvers in North Carolina, as they came to an end in these last days of November--; the other from the Navy Department to Admiral Husband Kimmel (that was his actual first name, as in matrimonial situations, the healthy boy); and the third, of a lower priority, from the War Department to Lt. General Walter Short.

The first high priority message to Short stated that negotiations with the Japanese had failed and that "hostile action" was therefore "possible at any moment", that any such hostile action, however, must occur at the initiative of Japan, by their "first overt act". It also directed that reconnaissance take place actively, but not in a manner which would alert the civilian population. On Oahu, there were numerous Japanese citizens and Short naturally interpreted it to mean primarily to keep any such reconnaissance shielded from detection by these potential spies. He interpreted, fatally, the possible "hostile action" to mean sabotage only, rather than any form of direct attack, and so placed his planes in close formation, without a ready supply of handy ammunition, to avoid the prospect of surreptitious entry to the bases at Wheeler and Hickam, saboteurs then exploding the planes by means of the planes' own handily available ammunition.

His reasoning in this regard on sabotage was further confirmed by the second message he received this same day stating, "Subversive activities may be expected." Moreover, he understood from its wording that the higher priority first message was not directly from Marshall and assumed therefore that no attack was imminent by that very fact of less than top priority issuance--even if the message so purported itself to be.

In addition, his interpretation led him also to use his reconnaissance planes for routine patrols to the south and southwest of Oahu, skipping both long-range reconnaissance, which he believed was safely in the Navy's hands, and the critical northern approaches to the island, the very route which the Japanese intended to use.

Finally, he put his newly acquired six portable radar stations on only sporadic training usage, as the green operators were still learning about the new equipment, radar itself at the time being a new and relatively primitive and often unreliable device, useful in any event only on relatively short ranges, nevertheless susceptible of detecting inbound enemy aircraft.

Recall in this regard that there was a successful test on November 14 of the early warning system in place on Oahu, spotting approaching planes eighty miles out, enough time to scramble fighters and intercept them thirty miles from the Harbor.

Nevertheless, because the equipment was so new and the operators so inexperienced as yet in its use, the radar stations were not being operated on Sunday at all. Short this date changed this order to cause them to operate during the most dangerous period of the day, when air attack was thought most likely, 4:00 to 7:00 a.m., every day, including Sundays. But, of course, the attack came at just before 8:00 a.m. An hour more of precaution might have caught the attack eighty miles at sea and resulted in an air battle. Then again, had that happened, one cannot say that the picture necessarily would have been less gloomy or resulted in less loss of life, even if the lives lost would have been different ones. Inevitably, some of the Japanese planes would have likely gotten through the interceptors and, had the ships in the harbor had time to mobilize to try to exit the narrow entrance, then one of them may well have become the sunk bottle-up for the rest, thus accomplishing the goal the Japanese plan ideally sought, to close the harbor for six months.

We may conclude from all of these facts also that for the very ironic straw, as perceived by Short, that Marshall did not author the Army dispatch, for the reason that he was busy in North Carolina overseeing the last days of Army maneuvers, the critical air defenses of Oahu were not only unprepared for attack, unprepared for take-off fully loaded with ammunition, but, moreover, stood as sitting ducks bunched together in the pond for the dive bombers.

Yet, in point of fact, Marshall, as all of the rest of the U.S. high command, while recognizing the capacity of the Japanese to carry out such an attack, did not believe it would be done: too difficult and risky to cross the vastness undetected, while dispersing too much the Japanese fleet around the Pacific, thus making all of it too subject to being discovered and counter-attacked.

Meanwhile, to add to the state of unintended disarray, Admiral Kimmel received a sterner message from the Navy Department, stating "war warning", not merely "hostile action" possible. But then, having set forth such a clarion call for preparedness, it immediately diluted its warning as to Oahu by stating more specifically than did Short's message of the southward moving Task Force, that the target of the expedition was likely the Philippines, the Thai or Kra peninsulas or Borneo, thus throwing off Kimmel as to any impending hazard for Pearl Harbor. The message was clear to Kimmel that the danger area was the East Indies, the Philippines, and Thailand. The southward moving fleet had served its purpose properly to confuse and misdirect by Magic.

Again, therefore, if Kurusu's purpose was other than to propagate and exploit this misdirection, why did he not plead with Yamamoto of the Foreign Ministry to ask Togo to ask Tojo for a halt in that fleet's forward progress?

Or, again, were they this date talking about literally that southern, south, south, southward fleet--or something else entirely?

Finally contributing to their confusion, the day before, Kimmel and Short were authorized to ship up to 50% of the Army's bombers on Oahu to Midway and Wake islands for outlying defense against attack and to enable long-range reconnaissance. To Kimmel especially, such authorization from Washington communicated that there was no high level concern with air attack on Hawaii. So, while the number and type of aircraft was limited, it was eventually decided jointly by Kimmel and Short, that Kimmel would send out the carrier Enterprise, under the command of Admiral Halsey, on such a mission. This fact further served to corroborate Short's belief that long-range reconnaissance was covered by the Navy, freeing the Army's planes on Oahu to patrol locally.

The other carrier operating out of Pearl, the Lexington, would also be dispatched, fortunately, from the Harbor on Friday, December 5, for additional long-range reconnaissance.

But both of these carrier missions proceeded toward Midway, well south of the route of the Task Force headed for Hawaii, with therefore no chance of seeing them from routine reconnaissance flights off the carriers.

With 20-20 hindsight, this day therefore proved disastrous for the Fleet parked in Pearl on December 7: the marriage would fail; and, a healthy baby boy, being borne in Mamala Bay, would be birthed to wife and husband. His name, we take it, though not entirely consistent with the intelligence interpretation of the "code", was Sir Walter Raleigh. We shall return to that point come early December, as birth draws nigh.

Ultimately, however, to the surprise of the Japanese 1,335 days later, they would have borne to them twins, named "Fat Man" and "Little Boy".

Moral: Beware the use of codes intercepted, whether accurately translated and interpreted or not.

We stress that the intelligence interpretation, in context, makes little sense; it is likely that the Japanese knew well that their messages were being intercepted, and thus that the code used by Kurusu and Yamamoto meant something entirely different from that which it was considered so loosely literal to be.

But, we temper our skepticism with the realization of the probable truth in Melville's remark, "The whole world, a loose fish."

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