The Charlotte News
Friday, December 19, 1941
Site Ed. Note: There isn't much on which to make comment from this day's page. Amy Bassett provides her personal memoir of association with General MacArthur at the time of the Armistice during his command in France at the end of World War I.
We hold no brief for General MacArthur, who, after being a hero in the Philippines during World War II and in the Pacific theater generally, turned into a power-hungry usurper of executive authority from President Truman during the Korean War, and was finally relieved of his command in June, 1951. He seemed hell-bent at the time on starting World War III, risking nuclear exchange with the Soviets by desiring a head-on confrontation with the Chinese Communists on the other side of the Yalu River, certainly interfering with peace talks which Truman was attempting to effect at the time.
He came home for the first time in eleven years and gave his "Old soldiers never die, they just fade away," speech to thunderous applause in a joint session of Congress. MacArthur at the time had aspirations to become the Republican nominee for President in 1952, but never got that far.
Possessed of great power after World War II, he used it to try to eclipse the Constitution and set up a military role superior to that of the Commander-in-Chief; at least that was the effect. One can see MacArthur historically as a precursor to Curtis LeMay, Lyman L. Lemnitzer, and others of the sort of mentality which believed that civilian command of the military was a costly joke on the American people and antiquated in modern times.
Yet, we do not take away from MacArthur's military ability exhibited in command of the Philippines operations and his diplomatic ability shown in rebuilding Japan after the war, in effecting an understanding there between east and west. At the same time, it was MacArthur who was primarily responsible in sparing Hirohito from a war-crimes trial which he richly deserved. It is likely that such tendency to clemency in this instance was as much the result of his reverence for royalty as it was a desire to use Hirohito to effect transition to democracy, and in spite of the fact that this pardoning of Hirohito was opposed by many in leadership positions in the new government of Japan after the war, even by some within the royal family itself.
On balance, MacArthur was a checkered man with a checkered career, which also included his leading of the Army against the World War I veterans during the Bonus March in Washington in 1931, a dark episode in which Dwight Eisenhower also participated as a subordinate officer.
But the question inevitably arises as to whether he was representative of that sort of general who gladly took orders from a Commander-in-Chief he subjectively respected, but turned aside form such orders when he thought otherwise. The Constitution, by its design, affords no such royal subjective fiat by anyone, even including the President, whose oath is faithfully to execute the laws and uphold that same Constitution.
Returning to the key diplomatic conversations preceding Pearl Harbor, below we provide the verbatim transcript, as intercepted contemporaneously by ONI, of the telephone conversation between Special Envoy Saburo Kurusu in Washington and Yamamoto, Japanese Foreign Office American Division Chief in Tokyo, occurring between 11:27 and 11:34 p.m. Washington time on November 27, 1941. This transcript is taken from Part 12, Exhibit 1 of the Congressional Joint Committtee Report on the Pearl Harbor Attack. The references contained parenthetically to "Decode of voice code" are from the original exhibit and refer to the assumed meaning of the voice code being employed in the conversation. All other parenthetical statements are likewise from the original transcript.
We had never until yesterday seen this full transcript or the transcript, also included below, of the telephone conversation following it between the same two, from November 30 at 10:30 to 10:38 p.m., Washington time. The transcripts add to our theory on the multiple meaning of the "southern matter" in that there are actually two separate references to it in the first conversation and then another such reference in the second conversation, and thus not merely a mistake, or inadvertent lapse into the literal from an otherwise coded conversation, as thought by ONI at the time. For adopting ONI's view means that Kurusu was so dumb that he could not correct his slip of the tongue in three days time and utilize a more subtle reference to the southward movement of both the task force moving to the south and the troops moving south in Indochina. That is simply not reasonable. We do not fault ONI for that, given the time pressures on translation of numerous messages in these days and trying to make sense of them, each one a piece of a larger puzzle. But there it is.
As to ONI's interpretation of the meaning of the phrase, it is true that when negotiations broke off on Thursday, the 27th, the second Thanksgiving Day, with the introduction of Hull's Ten Points, the concern of FDR and Hull was primarily focused, as the third quoted section of material below reveals, on the movement of "tens of thousands" of Japanese troops to the south in Indochina, as well as to the southward moving Task Force, possessed of another 25,000 troops thought to be ready to land in Southeast Asia. The President expressed his concern that Rangoon could be taken from Pointe de Camau and thus cut off the Burma Road and overtake the Kra Peninsula, causing war with Great Britain and thus causing the United States to have to enter the war as well.
So, given its cryptic use not just once but on at least three occasions, what is the alternative meaning of the "southward matter"? That page from the The Mind of the South, beginning with "In Raleigh Jonathan Daniels...", is one such possibility. And again, we suggest that it makes entirely consistent sense as such, at least within the Alice Through the Looking-Glass world being then employed by the Japanese diplomats. For, if we assume they knew that their conversations were being tapped, as they obviously assumed, as evidenced by their very employment of coded language in the first instance, would it also not make sense, in this magical looking-glass world, with the Gentlemen of Shanghai making up the codes for Miss Fumeko and Miss Kimiko to hear, to employ a code which appeared inadvertently on its face to be literal, but which in fact was deceptively coded, in accord with "The Purloined Letter" rule? So, the repeated "slips of the tongue" out of code into the literal tongue which in fact was the coded tongue again within the apparent literal--through the looking-glass. All, by design, to confuse, to bemuse themselves, to assuage conscience for the surprise attack to come?
Or, was this strangely cryptic "southern matter", in need of no enigma if indeed it referred only to the movement of the fleet and troops to the south, deliberately stated that way by Kurusu, to give the Americans at least a "fighting chance" at figuring the matter out? not merely a hopeless ruse by which to assuage guilt but actually with the intent to provide them something from which the intelligence people might figure out the plan. Indeed, one could be charitable to Kurusu, (which is why we do not suggest Kurusu or Nomura were necessarily war criminals, as was the Emperor), and suggest that he and Nomura were battling to let the Americans know subliminally, fully aware that the messages were being intercepted, of the pending attack--not just anywhere or anytime, but at Pearl Harbor, on December 7 at 8:00 a.m.? Assuming that of course further assumes that Kurusu, at least, had in his store that information. Plainly, Togo knew, and Kurusu, having just left Japan during the second week of November, likely also knew precisely, not just the subject, but also the time and place for the implementation of the subject, which was implied when Togo said on the 25th that after November 29, things would happen "automatically"--that being to "Climb Mt. Niitaka".
It is a bit convoluted, those slips of the tongue, but we think it probable that one of these alternative explanations is the case, not merely a slip of the tongue. And, if you have forgotten why it is that The Mind of the South would be so employed, then remember that first, it was a primary non-fiction book in 1941, on everyone's must-read list, and second, that Cash's death in Mexico City appears to be anything but a suicide, as so labeled, but rather, for the reasons we have extensively set forth previously, in fact the work of Nazi agents. Once one accepts that as a reasonable premise from which to work, the rest naturally, magically, falls into place, and quite neatly so, even if a bit of a hyperbyssal thing into which to proceed.
(After connection was completed:)
KURUSU: "Hello, hello. This is Kurusu".
YAMAMOTO: "This is Yamamoto".
KURUSU: "Yes, Hello, hello."
(Unable to get Yamamoto for about six or eight seconds, he said aside, to himself, or to someone near him:) "Oh, I see, they're making a record of this, huh?"
(It is believed he meant that the six second interruption was made so that a record could be started in Tokyo. Interceptor's machine had been started several minutes earlier.)
KURUSU: "Hello. Sorry to trouble you so often."
YAMAMOTO: "How did the matrimonial question get along today?"
(Decode of voice code: "How did the negotiations go today?")
KURUSU: "Oh, haven't you got our telegram* yet? It was sent--let me see--at about six--no, seven o'clock. Seven o'clock. About three hours ago.
"There wasn't much that was different from what Miss Umeko said yesterday."
(Decode of voice code: "There wasn't much that was different from Hull's talks of yesterday.")
YAMAMOTO: "Oh, there wasn't much difference?"
KURUSU: "No, there wasn't. As before, that southward matter--that south, SOUTH--southward matter, is having considerable effect. You know, southward matter."
(Obviously trying to indicate the serious effect that Japanese concentrations, etc. in French Indo-China were having on the conversations in Washington. He tries to do this without getting away from the "Miss Umeko childbirth, marriage" character of the voice code.)
YAMAMOTO: "Oh, the south matter? It's effective?"
KURUSU: "Yes, and at one time, the matrimonial question seemed as if it would be settled."
(Decode of voice code: "Yes, and at one time it looked as though we could reach an agreement".)
KURUSU: "But--well, of course, there are other matters involved too, but--that was it--that was the monkey wrench. Details are included in the telegram* which should arrive very shortly. It is not very long and you'll be able to read it quickly."
YAMAMOTO: "Oh, you've dispatched it?"
KURUSU: "Oh, yes, quite a while ago. At about 7 o'clock."
(Pause.) "How do things look there?"
(Decode of voice code: "Does it seem as if a crisis is at hand?")
YAMAMOTO: (In a very definite tone): "Yes, the birth of the child seems imminent."
(Decode of voice code: "Yes, a crisis does appear imminent.")
KURUSU: (In a somewhat surprised tone, repeating Yamamoto's statement): "It does seem as if the birth is going to take take place?"
(Decode of voice code: "A crisis does appear imminent?")
"In which direction. . ."
(Stopped himself very abruptly at this slip which went outside the character of the voice code. After a slight pause he quickly recovered, then to cover up the slip, continued:)
"Is it to be a boy or a girl?"
YAMAMOTO: (Hesitated, then laughing at his hesitation took up Kurusu's cue to re-establish the voice code character of the talk. The "boy, girl, healthy" byplay has no other significance): "It seems as if it will be a strong healthy boy."
KURUSU: "Oh, it's to be a strong healthy boy?"
(Rather long pause.)
YAMAMOTO: "Yes. Did you make any statement to the newspapers regarding your talk with Miss Kimiko today?"
(Decode of voice code: "Did you make any statement regarding your talks with the President today?")
KURUSU: "No, nothing. Nothing except the mere fact that we met."
YAMAMOTO: "Regarding the matter contained in the telegram** of the other day, although no definite decision has been made yet, please be advised that effecting it will be difficult."
KURUSU: "Oh, it is difficult, huh?"
YAMAMOTO: "Yes, it is."
KURUSU: "Well, I guess there's nothing more that can be done then."
YAMAMOTO: "Well, yes."
"Then, today . . ."
YAMAMOTO: "The matrimonial question, that is, the matter pertaining to arranging a marriage--don't break them off."
(Decode of voice code: "Regarding negotiations, don't break them off.")
KURUSU: "Not break them? You mean talks."
(Helplessly:) "Oh, my."
(Pause, and then with a resigned laugh:) "Well, I'll do what I can."
(Continuing after a pause:) "Please read carefully what Miss Kimiko had to say as contained in today's telegram*."
(Decode of voice code: "Please read carefully what the President had to say as contained in today's telegram*.")
YAMAMOTO: "From what time to what time were your talks today?"
KURUSU: "Oh, today's was from 2:30."
(Much repeating of the numeral 2)
"Oh, you mean the duration? Oh, that was for about an hour."
YAMAMOTO: "Regarding the matrimonial..."
(Decode of voice code: "Regarding the negotiations.")
"...I shall send you another message. However, please bear in mind that the matter of the other day is a very difficult one."
KURUSU: "But without anything--they want to keep carrying on the matrimonial question. They do. In the meantime, we're faced with the excitement of having a child born. On top of that Tokugawa is really champing at the bit, isn't he? Tokugawa is, isn't he?"
(Decode of voice code: "But without anything--they want to keep on negotiating. In the meantime we have a crisis on hand and the army is champing at the bit. You know the army.")
(Laughter and pause.)
"That's why I doubt if anything can be done."
YAMAMOTO: "I don't think it's as bad as that."
"Well,--we can't sell a mountain."
(Decode of voice code: "Well,--we can't yield.")
KURUSU: "Oh, sure, I know that. That isn't even a debatable question anymore."
YAMAMOTO: "Well, then, although we can't yield, we'll give you some kind of a reply to that telegram."
KURUSU: "In any event, Miss Kimiko is leaving town tomorrow, and will remain in the country until Wednesday."
(Decode of voice code: "In any event, the President is leaving town tomorrow, and will remain in the country until Wednesday.")
YAMAMOTO: "Will you please continue to do your best."
KURUSU: "Oh, yes. I'll do my best. And Nomura's doing everything too."
YAMAMOTO: "Oh, all right. In today's talks, there wasn't anything of special interest then?"
KURUSU: "No, nothing of particular interest, except that it is quite clear now that that southward--ah--the south, the south matter is having considerable effect."
YAMAMOTO: "I see. Well, then, good bye."
KURUSU: "Good bye."
(M) Navy Trans. 11-28-41
*JD-1: 6915 (S.I.S. #25495). Outline of interview on 27 November with Roosevelt-Hull-Kurusu-Nomura.
**Probably #1189 (S.I.S. #25441-42). JD-1: 6896). Washington reports the two proposals presented by the U. S. on 26 November.
Next, in order, also from Exhibit 1, is the transcript of the Sunday, November 30 conversation, again with all parenthetical comments by ONI from the original exhibit. Note that the reference is made to FDR's return from Warm Springs where he went by train on Friday, passing through Charlotte along the way south on Saturday morning, as remarked in "Surrealism" from The News column of December 1. Because Hull believed an attack by the Japanese to be imminent, he had phoned FDR in Warm Springs on Saturday after the President's arrival there and requested that he return on Monday. (Meanwhile, recall, the President was able to avert the railroad strike planned by the brotherhood to commence December 7. He was able, in other words to place that strike on a tangent line, or in more common parlance, a sidetrack.)
30 November 1941 (2230 to 2238 EST)
Trans-Pacific Radio Telephone
(NOTE: Following is a preliminary, condensed version of conversation between Ambassador Kurusu and the Japanese Foreign Office American Division Chief Yamamoto on Sunday night.)
KURUSU: "It is all arranged for us to meet Hull tomorrow. We received a short one from you, didn't we? Well, we will meet him in regard to that. There is a longer one coming isn't there? In any case we are going to see him about the short one." (i. e. telegram. The longer one is probably Tokyo's reply to Mr. Hull's proposals.)
YAMAMOTO: "Yes. I see."
KURUSU: "The President is returning tomorrow. He is hurrying home."
YAMAMOTO: "Is there any special significance to this?"
KURUSU: "The newspapers have made much of the Premier's speech, and it is having strong repercussions here."
YAMAMOTO: "Is that so?"
KURUSU: "Yes. It was a drastic statement he made. The newspapers carried large headlines over it; and the President seems to be returning because of it. There no doubt are other reasons, but this is the reason the newspapers are giving."
"Unless greater caution is exercised in speeches by the Premier and others, it puts us in a very difficult position. All of you over there must watch out about these ill-advised statements. Please tell Mr. Tani."
YAMAMOTO: "We are being careful."
KURUSU: "We here are doing our best, but these reports are seized upon by the correspondents and the worst features enlarged upon. Please caution the Premier, the Foreign Minister, and others. Tell the Foreign Minister that we had expected to hear something different, some good word, but instead we get this." (i. e. Premier's speech)
(After a pause, Kurusu continues, using voice code.)
KURUSU: "What about the internal situation?" (In Japan.)
YAMAMOTO: "No particular ____ (one or two words faded out) ____."
KURUSU: "Are the Japanese-American negotiations to continue? You were very urgent about them before, weren't you; but now you want them to stretch out. We will need your help. Both the Premier and the Foreign Minister will need to change the tone of their speeches!!!! Do you understand? Please all use more discretion. "
YAMAMOTO: "When will you see them. The 2nd?"
KURUSU: "Let's see--this is Sunday midnight here. Tomorrow morning at ten. That will be Monday morning here."
"Actually the real problem we are up against is the effects of happenings in the South. You understand don't you?"
YAMAMOTO: "Yes. Yes. How long will it be before the President gets back?"
KURUSU: "I don't know exactly. According to news reports he started at 4:00 this afternoon. He should be here tomorrow morning some time."
YAMAMOTO: "Well then--Goodbye."
(M) Navy trans. 30 Nov. 1941 (R-5)
Following is an excerpt from "Appendix D" of the Barkley Committee Report of July, 1946, indicating initially a view expressed by Undersecretary of State Sumner Welles that, as of November 27, the "tens of thousands" of troops amassed in southern Indochina suggested a move on Thailand. There is then a summary of the communication preceding those above between Kurusu and Yamamoto, a mention of the one on the 27th, and a quote from Foreign Minister Togo to Kurusu and Nomura on November 28, referring to the "embarrassing" Ten Points of Hull which were unacceptable to Tokyo, and indicating that therefore negotiations would be "ruptured", as "inevitable", but that nevertheless the two envoys should give the appearance of continuing interest in negotiating the crisis.
Next in the report comes a summary of a War Council between the President, Hull, Secretary of War Stimson and Secretary of the Navy Knox at noon on Friday, November 28. Hull is quoted as indicating his belief that war was about to erupt with Japan. Stimson indicates that the consensus opinion from the meeting was that the 25,000 Japanese troops reported to be ready to land from the southern Task Force posed an immediate threat to the Kra Peninsula, Rangoon, and the Burma Road, that should these troops reach the southern tip of Indochina, Pointe de Camau, either by land or sea, that war with Britain was inevitable, and thus war with the U.S.
Stimson recommended against giving the Emperor any ultimatum, as the President had suggested doing, that instead the President should address the Congress as to the emergency and send the Emperor a tempered statement. This strategy was tentatively agreed upon. The President, however, did not address the situation publicly in the manner suggested. (Compare that strategy with the public address by President Kennedy during the course of the Cuban missile crisis, alerting the public fully to the emergency and what was at stake, albeit not during its initial stages. Perhaps, a close study of Pearl Harbor had produced the idea that full disclosure of such an emergent situation was better than trying to induce only military emergency preparedness through employment of secret channels.) Roosevelt did send a message to Hirohito, but that message was so delayed in transit in Japan that Hirohito did not receive it until after the attack commenced.
The report then goes on to discuss briefly the President's departure for Warm Springs on Friday, earlier telling the press that American merchant ships in the Pacific would not be armed "under existing circumstances".
We offer this excerpt for the purpose of first corroborating that the belief adopted by the translator at ONI, that the Kurusu-Yamamoto references to the "southern matter" having an effect, being the "monkey wrench", were to the southward movement of both troops in Indochina and the southern Task Force, is a reasonable one. But, we still question: why, since these movements were known by Kurusu to be known to Hull and Roosevelt, would he bother to employ code to mask the reference to them? Why not just refer to them as they were?
So, it is probable that this "southern matter" had a broader meaning than the ostensible meaning ascribed to it by ONI.
Was that meaning supposed to lead to Jonah tan Daniel? Was the Queen of the south also implied? Raleigh?
Were the three little ships authorized by Roosevelt on December 2, specifying use of the Isabel, a method of communication by Roosevelt in reply to an intuitive understanding on his part of this possible use of the phrase "southern matter"? Roosevelt did personally review all of these communications.
Were the three little ships, with their destinations slated for the area between Hainan and Hue, Camranh Bay, and Pte. de Camau, designed as innocent methods of troubling the Japanese with the notion that their attack plan was understood?--even though in fact it was not. That is to say, also referring back to the same page of The Mind of the South--a book slated to receive in Raleigh the Mayflower Cup on December 5, ultimately with Roosevelt's old "chief", Josephus Daniels, giving the posthumous award--, were The Charlotte News and Cam Shipp therefore implied by the President as a form of checking the Japanese?
Was the evacuation of the gunboats, Oahu and Luzon, from Shanghai, departing their patrol duty on the Yangtze, protecting the Burma Road supply route into China, further confirmation of this use of small non-threatening ships and ship names to act as communication? in the latter case, that the press reports of a planned invasion of Japan by the U.S. were erroneous, that the U.S. intended no aggressive activity toward the Japanese, provided that the Japanese did not start a war, that the retreat of the Oahu was symbolic of the Fleet at Hawaii, that the retreat of the Luzon was symbolic of the Fleet at Manila?
REVIEW OF THE DIPLOMATIC CONVERSATIONS BETWEEN THE UNITED STATES AND JAPAN, AND RELATED MATTERS, FROM THE ATLANTIC CONFERENCE IN AUGUST, 1941 THROUGH DECEMBER 8,1941
"I told Lord Halifax that information received this morning tended to show that Japanese troop movements in southern Indochina were already very active and that Japanese forces there were being quickly increased in number. I said these reports likewise indicated that the threat against Thailand was imminent. I said, in conclusion, that it was evident from the information received here that the Japanese were preparing to move immediately on a very large scale. The gravity of the situation, I thought, could not be exaggerated (ex. 18)."
While on November 27 (Washington time) both Secretary Hull and Under Secretary Welles thus believed the situation could not be more serious, the record before the Committee indicates that the political adviser to the Secretary, Dr. Stanley K. Hornbeck, was less concerned. In a memorandum of that date entitled "Problem of Far Eastern relations--Estimate of Situation and certain probabilities," Dr.
394 PEARL HARBOR ATTACK
Hornbeck expressed the opinion that he did not believe the United States was "on the immediate verge of 'war' in the Pacific." He stated that in his opinion there was less reason on November 27 than there was a week before for the United States to be apprehensive lest Japan make war on the United States. "Were it a matter of placing bets," he wrote, "the undersigned would give odds of five to one that the United States and Japan will *not* be at 'war' on or before December 15 [sic]." (Tr. 5523- 5537). [Italics in original.]
Apart from the remark of Bureau Chief Yamamoto during his telephone conversation with Ambassador Kurusu the evening of November 26 (Washington time), when Yamamoto told the Ambassador that he had expected that the United States would not yield to the demands made by the Japanese Government in its note of November 20, and Yamamoto's remark the next day in his telephone conversation with the Ambassador that Japan "can't yield," there is no evidence before the Committee that the Japanese Foreign Office furnished the two Japanese Ambassadors any official comment or instructions as to their next step until November 28 (Japan time). That day Foreign Minister Togo cabled the following instructions:
"Well, you two Ambassadors have exerted superhuman efforts but, in spite of this, the United States has gone ahead and presented this humiliating proposal. This was quite unexpected and extremely regrettable. *The Imperial Government can by no means use it as a basis for negotiations.* Therefore, with a report of the views of the Imperial Government on this American proposal which I will send you in two or three days, the negotiations *will be de facto ruptured. This is inevitable. However, I do not wish you to give the impression that the negotiations are broken off.* Merely say to them that you awaiting instructions and that, although the opinions of your Government are not yet clear to you, to your own way of thinking the Imperial Government has always made just claims and has borne great sacrifices for the sake of peace in the Pacific. Say that we have always demonstrated a long-suffering and conciliatory attitude, but that, on the other hand, the United States has been unbending, making it impossible for Japan to establish negotiations. Since things have come to this pass, I contacted the man you told me to in your #1180 and he said that under the present circumstances what you suggest is entirely unsuitable.  From now on do the best you can (ex. 1, p. 195)."
This message, in the above form, was available in Washington on November 28 (Washington time) (ex. 1, p. 195), whether before or after the War Council meeting that day is not known definitely, although, as noted below, there is some indication that it was not available until afterward.
The War Council met at noon at the White House, with President Roosevelt, Secretary of State Hull, Secretary of War Stimson, Secretary of the Navy Knox, and General Marshall and Admiral Stark present. Secretary Hull repeated the comments he had made 3 days before, at the War Council meeting on November 25, emphasizing again that there was "practically no possibility of an agreement being achieved with Japan," that the Japanese were likely "to break out at any time with new acts of conquest," employing the element of surprise as "a central point in their strategy," and that the "safeguarding of our national security was in the hands of the Army and the Navy" (Tr. 1203). Earlier that day Secretary Stimson had received from the Military Intelligence Division (G-2) a summary of the available information regarding Japanese military and naval move-
 This has reference to the suggestion made by the two Ambassadors on November 26 (Washington time) that they be permitted to propose to Secretary Hull that President Roosevelt send a personal message to Foreign Minister Togo (ex. 1, p. 180).
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ments in the Far East, and had taken it to President Roosevelt and suggested that he read it before the War Council meeting, which the President had called. In his notes of the meeting, Secretary Stimson said:
"When we got back there at 12:00 o'clock he had read the paper that I had left with him. The main point of the paper was a study of what the Expeditionary Force, which we know has left Shanghai and is headed South, is going to do. G-2 pointed out that it might develop into an attack on the Philippines or a landing of further troops in Indo-China, or an attack on Thailand or an attack on the Dutch Netherlands, or on Singapore. After the President had read these aloud, he pointed out that there was one more. It might, by attacking the Kra Isthmus, develop into an attack on Rangoon, which lies only a short distance beyond the Kra Isthmus and the taking of which by the Japanese would effectually stop the Burma Road at its beginning. This, I think, was a very good suggestion on his part and a very likely one. It was the consensus that the present move--that there was an Expeditionary Force on the sea of about 25,000 Japanese troops aimed for a landing somewhere--completely changing the situation when we last discussed whether or not we could address an ultimatum to Japan about moving the troops which she already had on land in Indo-China. It was now the opinion of everyone that if this expedition was allowed to get around the southern point of Indo-China and to go off and land in the Gulf of Siam, either at Bangkok or further west, it would be a terrific blow at all of the three Powers, Britain at Singapore, the Netherlands, and ourselves in the Philippines. It was the consensus of everybody that this must not be allowed. Then we discussed how to prevent it. It was agreed that if the Japanese got into the Isthmus of Kra, the British would fight. It was also agreed that if the British fought, we would have to fight. And it now seems clear that if this expedition was allowed to round the southern point of Indo-China, this whole chain of disastrous events would be set on foot of going.
"It further became a consensus of views that rather than strike at the Force as it went by without any warning on the one hand, which we didn't think we could do; or sitting still and allowing it to go on, on the other, which we didn't think we could do; that the only thing for us to do was to address it a warning that if it reached a certain place, or a certain line, or a certain point, we should have to fight. The President's mind evidently was running towards a special telegram from himself to the Emperor of Japan. This he had done with good results at the time of the Panay incident, but for many reasons this did not seem to me to be the right thing now and I pointed them out to the President. In the first place, a letter to the Emperor of Japan could not be couched in terms which contained an explicit warning. One does not warn an Emperor. In the second place it would not indicate to the people of the United States what the real nature of the danger was. Consequently I said there ought to be a message by the President to the people of the United States and I thought that the best form of a message would be an address to Congress reporting the danger, reporting what we would have to do if the danger happened. The President accepted this ides of a message but he first thought of incorporating in it the terms of his letter to the Emperor. But again I pointed out that he could not publicize a letter to an Emperor in such a way; that he had better send his letter to the Emperor separate as one thing and a secret thing, and then make his speech to the Congress as a separate and a more understandable thing to the people of the United States. This was the final decision at that time and the President asked Hull and Knox and myself to try to draft such papers (tr. 14,424-14,426)."
Shortly after the meeting ended, President Roosevelt left for Warm Springs, Ga., telling reporters that the Japanese situation might require his return at any time.  Also on November 28, the Netherlands Minister called on Secretary Hull to inquire what reactions the Secretary had had from the Japanese situation. The Secretary recorded that he handed the Minister "three cables from Saigon and other localities in the French Indochina area indicating that tens of thousands of Japanese troops with equipment, vessels, trans-
 Earlier that day he had informed the press that American merchant vessels sailing the Pacific would not be armed "under existing circumstances." When asked how long he expected the existing circumstances to prevail, the President had replied that that question "should be asked In Tokyo" (Washington Post, November 29, 1941).
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ports, et cetera, were proceeding to that area from the north." He examined the cables carefully and appeared much disturbed about the Japanese troop movements.
The Minister stated that this presented a very serious situation. The Minister wanted to make clear that he had supported me unequivocally in connection with the proposed modus vivendi arrangement which I abandoned on Tuesday evening. November twenty-fifth. Or practically abandoned when the Chinese had exploded without knowing half the true facts or waiting to ascertain them. I said that I had determined early Wednesday morning, November twenty-sixth, to present to the Japanese later on that day the document containing a proposed draft of an agreement which set forth all of the basic principles for which this Government stands and has stood for, for many years. Especially including the maintenance of the territorial integrity of China. I reminded the Minister that the central point in our plan was the continuance of the conversations with Japan looking toward the working out of a general agreement for a complete peaceful settlement in the Pacific area and that the so-called modus vivendi was really a part and parcel of these conversations and their objectives intended to facilitate and keep them alive and that, of course, there was nothing that in any way could be construed as a departure from the basic principles which were intended to go into the general peace agreement. The Minister said he understood the situation (tr. 4475-4476)."
Links-Date -- Links-Subj.