The Charlotte News

Saturday, December 6, 1941


Site Ed. Note: Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau this date transmitted to the President crucial data compiled as of November 1 on consumption by Germany during the Russian campaign since June 22 of its oil reserves. The numbers from the memo were not encouraging. The estimates varied between the Russians and both the U.S. Treasury and the British as to the amount of reserve on hand at the start of the campaign, the Russians and the U.S. estimating 7 million tons, the British estimating between 5 and 5.5 million. The estimated net rate of consumption of this reserve also varied between 900,000 tons per month, at which the Russians put it, and 400,000, where the British placed it. The British estimated that between June 22 and November 1 the reserve had been depleted by between 3.4 and 3.9 million tons, while the Russians pegged it at 3.4 million. The British further believed that the Germans could save 200,000 to 300,000 tons per month in military consumption by cutting operations and make up the remaining deficit through cuts in civilian consumption. But with a particularly bad winter in the making in Europe, this belief appears probably subject to challenge, as the wisdom of the whole Russian campaign, by the elements. The Russians, on the other hand, believed that Germany would run out of oil and either severely have to cut its armored operations in Russia and elsewhere or replace the missing oil with synthetic oil.

Based strictly on the monthly net reduction rates and the level of the reserve at the start of the Russian campaign, it would appear more dire by December 7 than believed by either the British figures, or those of the Russians and the U.S. Five and a half months of consumption at the rate of 400,000 to 900,000 in net depletion per month results in 2.2 to 4.950 million tons, leaving, on the British estimates of per month net consumption, only from 50,000 tons to 4.8 million tons of reserve remaining, enough for between about four days and twelve months of excess consumption, and, on the Russian estimates, between two days and five and a half months.

Thus, regardless of which of these figures were more accurate, the Nazi reserves were being depleted apace, probably leaving on average between three and six months of reserve by this date, certainly enough to cause curtailment of operations soon after the beginning of the spring offensive in Russia. With German oil running out at such a crucial time, Hitler appeared a dead duck.

And with the Caucusus campaign having run into considerable difficulty at Rostov in the past several days, the Russian campaign this date would take another unexpected negative turn for Hitler as General Georgi Zhukov, commanding a million and a half men in sub-zero temperatures, attacked the front near Moscow of General von Kluge, decisively pushing back the Nazis, who in some brigades had advanced close enough to Moscow to see the suburbs with binoculars.

Thus, the attack the following morning came just in time to save not only Japan from ceasing its operations in China for want of oil, rubber and necessary components of steel production, but by distracting American aid from Britain and Russia to support operations in the Pacific, thus potentially impacting the British bombing of Germany and aiding the North African campaign of Rommel, also afforded both directly and indirectly a much needed depletion of concentration of Allied resources in Europe in the hope of enabling Hitler to obtain the new oil reserves he needed for a land invasion of England in 1942 to win the war.

Raymond Clapper today tells further of the trade of Lend-Lease aid to Turkey to fulfill that previously made British commitment in exchange for resistance to all aggressors. The Lend-Lease aid came with an additional quid pro quo of supplying chrome, a necessary ingredient for hardened steel. Such was a further sign of anticipation of troubled times ahead, as chromite came from Africa as discussed by Mr. Clapper on October 18.

And, page sixteen of The News informs that Senator Josiah Bailey's son had so far not been able to avoid the draft despite having John Edgar Hoover, his new employer, completely on his side, suggesting his indispensability to the FBI after four days of employment there, that based on his being a crack shot since he was a small boy. The case remained under review at the highest levels of government after all appeals on the local and state level had failed to excuse Mr. Bailey from his duty.

From this page, we find further that: the Japanese had not replied yet to the Hull Ten Points and expectations were that reply would await new developments in the Russo-German war; hundreds of British, New Zealand, and Australian troops worked alongside Arabs to straighten hair-pin curves on the road from Beirut to Damascus, then under a united jurisdiction of Syria and Lebanon, together known as the Levant States; the new liberty ship Zebulon Vance was launched in Wilmington; the equivalent of Barney Fife was busy removing errant bicyclists from the sidewalks of Beardstown, Illinois; white-crowned sparrows, on the move in California, were found to be part of the eternal triangle, just as with poor old North Carolina native Tom Dula, delivering up the probable moral that too many birds foul the nest; the National Rifle Association insisted that owning a gun was no more dangerous than playing baseball, that fewer injuries occurred from guns the previous year than baseball, the problem, however, being in the gentleman's conception of "injury", for in the same breath he stated that of 190,000 accidental deaths in 1940, only 1,400 came from guns, leaving one to assume that it must have been a pretty horrific year for baseball; and in Estonia, the Nazis, proving their support of agrarian pursuits, appointed a simple farmer, son of a general and a storm troop leader in his own right, as the new Civil Administrator. He was also head of the German Horse-Breeding Association.

Somehow all of that news seems vaguely to fit with the tidbit on page thirteen, that the Nazi-controlled Dutch Waste and Refuse Board was encouraging the use of the Dutch boys' girlfriends' heads of hair to make ersatz suits. They went from camel hair and mohair to trammeled hair and no hair.

Such was life in a world of Central Europe being run by Nazis, as the rest of the world went about slightly nuts trying to avoid becoming their next victim.

And finally, from the little piece on the same page regarding stocks, we find that the biggest single threat to steel production is the shortage of scrap iron. Until recently, the country had been sending tons of scrap iron to Japan, some of which no doubt had made its way into some of the planes and bombs which were about to be dropped on Pearl Harbor starting at 7:53 local time the next morning, 1:23 p.m. Washington time.

Had the world gone completely mad with self-destruction and chaos? Was this in fact finally the prophecy of Armageddon come to reality? Alas, was the ultima ratio to be deemed murder or suicide?

The quote of the day, from Sydney Smith, says: "We cultivate literature on a little oatmeal." One might adapt that more appropriately to then extant conditions abroad the world by altering it a little to say that we cultivate war off a little cornflake.

The day began in Washington with an urgent warning that two Japanese units, consisting of a total of thirty-five troop transport ships, eight cruisers, and twenty destroyers, had been spotted off the southern-most tip of Indochina headed for Kra on the Malay Peninsula, some 14 hours away. The message strongly confirmed what had already been assumed, that an invasion of Malaya and Thailand was now beginning.

Ambassador Nomura was informed at 7:00 a.m. in Washington by Foreign Minister Togo in Tokyo that the reply to the Hull Ten Points of November 26 was now about to be fed in fourteen parts. It was to be decoded and transcribed under utmost secrecy, without the aid of a typist. It was to be held, however, until such time as Tokyo further instructed. The message began at 8:00 a.m. and was intercepted by the Navy at Bainbridge, Washington within minutes of each dispatch, and relayed to ONI and G-2, Army intelligence, in Washington. By 2:00 p.m., intelligence had all except the last part in its possession and decoders began work on each section as it was received. The work was accelerated by the fact that it was transmitted in English. The fourteenth part was sent from Tokyo at 2:38 a.m. December 7, was intercepted and decoded during the night, and was distributed Sunday morning to everyone in command including Roosevelt, the latter receiving it by 10:00, three and a half hours before the attack. The final part only indicated that further negotiations between the United States and Japan were useless. Thus, there was really no surprise.

Eventually, Nomura would be instructed to present the message to Hull at precisely 1:00 p.m., thirty minutes before the scheduled start of the attack. Because of the problem of physically decoding it and then laboriously using the consulate's poor resident typist to transcribe it to paper, it would not reach Hull until 2:00, 37 minutes after the attack had begun, four hours after the President had already seen the last of the reply himself. Thus, to have provided this reply to Hull at 1:00 p.m. would have affected nothing. The reply neither declared war nor indicated that an attack was imminent.

Even though not crucial as a war warning, the arrogance displayed by its late transmission inflamed Hull. As a slap in the face, much as the Japanese military command refused to discipline the soldier who had, without provocation, slapped Acting-Ambassador John Allison in Nanking in early 1938, it served only ineffably to exacerbate what was taking place by the time Hull, aka "Miss Fumeko" in Kurusu's "hidden word" dialogue, received the reply, eleven days after he had submitted his Ten Points in good faith to Nomura. And, at very least from the perspective of Tokyo, and more than likely from that of Nomura and Kurusu, it was deliberately aggravating. For, besides the primary strategic purpose of crippling the Fleet and air defenses for six months while Japan ran its will through Southeast Asia, an additional purpose of the raid on Pearl Harbor, one consistent with Hitler's aims, was to demoralize America's élan vital, confusing the American public if possible as they went, in the hope of effecting a peace characterized by appeasement; this simple act of despicable arrogance was yet one final jackbooted display meant to effect that demoralization at the highest levels of government.

But, as the Herblock caricature of the day points out, that violent arrogance would be reduced to crawling obeisance by its own ineffable hubris within 1,335 days.

Of signal importance, however, was the message to Nomura instructing deliverance of the reply only at 1:00 p.m., as intelligence discovered early on the morning of December 7. This instruction was thought significant enough to alert General Marshall of its contents, that the Japanese Government had, without precedent, alerted its U.S. Ambassador to deliver the reply to the Secretary of State at a specific hour on a Sunday, when ordinarily consular business was taking a respite.

Even so, in the end, though taken as a war alert, it was seen only as a war alert for Southeast Asia, that for which everyone was already prepared. No one associated it with the likelihood of attack at Pearl Harbor. All precautions had already been taken to alert commanders along the line and it was believed that, with the war warning having gone out to Admiral Kimmel the previous week, no ships would be in port in Hawaii, consistent with the Rainbow-5 general war plan.

The President sent a message directly to Hirohito on December 6 appealing for peace, assuring him that the United States had no intention of invading Indochina should Japan remove its forces there. The message was delayed in reaching Hirohito until after the attack; this message, too, short of complete capitulation to the demands of Tokyo, would not have delayed or averted "Operation Hawaii", otherwise irrevocably set in motion by the Emperor's own formal order delivered to Admiral Yamamoto December 3, indeed, had very little, if any, chance of being averted after the July 2 Imperial conference which set the whole operation afloat with the imprimatur of the Emperor personally provided.

Vice-Admiral Nagumo's First Air Fleet was now refueling in the early morning hours of Saturday, parked 600 miles north of Oahu, one day's normal sail to its destination 220 miles north, that from which it would launch its two waves of 350 bombers and torpedo planes, leaving a contingent behind of about 100 planes to scout and guard the Fleet during the attack, as well as to run interference in case of counter air offensive to the returning bombers and Zeroes after the attack. After refueling, the remaining tankers in the fleet sailed north, as the Task Force could now increase its speed to 20-24 knots to approach the target buoy by 6:00 a.m. the following morning, the designated zero hour for takeoff of the first wave from the six carrier decks.

On Oahu, Admiral Kimmel began the day with receipt of information that intelligence could still not confirm, as in previous days, the location of the Japanese carriers thought still to be in home waters, and that the remaining two were still associated with the southward moving Task Force. But this was no change from prior patterns, even though a few days earlier Admiral Kimmel had remarked with some degree of alarm his concern over this continued situation.

To avoid alerting the civilian population to any problem, consistent with the practice which he had been instructed by the Navy Department in Washington to follow, Kimmel this day made a fateful decision to keep his ships in Pearl Harbor. Another problem in deploying the ships to sea was refueling, as only one-eighth of the Fleet could be refueled in any 12-hour period. Moreover, he had instructed the ships now to turn to face the Harbor entrance before docking, in order to afford a quick exit, something Kimmel believed could be done, with sufficient advance warning, in the unlikely event of any air attack. Finally, it was necessary to maintain the Fleet in the Harbor for both defensive operations around Hawaii and to enable ready deployment to other areas when and if war came.

Lt. General Short was not informed of that which Admiral Kimmel knew, that the Japanese Consulate in Honolulu was burning documents on this morning in its front yard. Neither knew that they were burning code documents, though Kimmel understood that the Japanese consulates had been instructed to destroy all codes. As war was thus understood to be days or even hours away now, that was not deemed by Kimmel anything of fresh importance beyond that which they already understood from the war warning the previous week. And, the consulate had burned documents in its yard before.

Kimmel did not understand, however, that Short had maintained the position of his planes, bunched together and unarmed, to avoid sabotage, rather than placing them in an array to provide air support in an emergency, the fatal blunder which prevented more than token air resistance to the invaders set to hurl themselves over Oahu as the sun rose next morning in glorious tribute to the mission now amassing in spookily hidden waters to the north its machinery of destruction, reconciling in final checks of sequence of switches and prevision of targets, assiduously memorized by form as they would appear from above, its blood-lusting date with divine providence, registering in its collective brain its unshakable focus on its goal to effect maximum destruction to bring the Yanqui invader of their Asian Empire at long last to his knees, no longer to be the butt of his jokes, no longer to play the obsequious foreigner in his own Land of the Rising Sun.

Tokyo sent a message to the Japanese Consulate in Hawaii urgently asking for an update of all ship movements since December 4 into and out of Pearl Harbor. The consulate responded at 1:00 p.m. with a message which included the ships in the Harbor, indicating further that there were no barrage balloons in place and deeming it unlikely that there were torpedo nets, concluding: "I imagine that in all probability there is considerable opportunity left to take advantage for a surprise attack against these [airfields in the vicinity of Pearl Harbor]."

This message was intercepted by Army intelligence in Hawaii almost immediately, but could not be decoded and translated until Monday. Although the Army translation, later confirmed by the original author of the message, asserted the key phrase "surprise attack" was present, a Navy translation omitted it. Regardless, it was not received in time to serve as a warning, something of which the Japanese Consulate probably was well aware would be the case when it was sent.

As we have suggested, the only hidden warning may have been from required circuitous interpretation of Kurusu's message to Yamamoto of the Foreign Ministry on November 27 regarding the "southern matter", connecting that with the winds broadcast instruction of November 29.

If so, the question then arises whether the President's order of December 2 that the three little ships embark for the three designated areas off Indochina convey an understanding of that notion, or were the coincident symbols employed merely that, coincidence?

Does the evacuation of the two gunboats, Oahu and Luzon, from patrol duty on the Yangtze, returning via Shanghai to Manila, convey a message, either of foreknowledge of the attack, or more probably, a testing of waters, non-committally? a message consistent with Roosevelt's expressed message to Hirohito this day, one suggestive of no intention to invade Japan short of aggression by Japan on U.S. interests? that meant to allay such suspicions being promulgated by the Japanese press in the previous couple of days, based on press reports of the Chicago Tribune?

At around 10:00 p.m. this Saturday night, the President received a copy of the first thirteen parts of the Japanese reply to the Hull note. His response was that it meant war--but still, of course, the belief was that war would erupt in the region of the Philippines, Malaya, Thailand, and the Dutch East Indies. The fourteenth part, which he saw the following morning, indicating that all negotiations between the two governments would cease, served no more than to dilute his belief the previous night that the fourteenth part might have constituted an actual declaration of war. The document did not even formally sever diplomatic relations. It merely rejected Hull's conditions for respumption of normalization of trade, removal from China and Indochina and henceforth mutual cooperation and respect for the sovereignty of nations. All general preparations for war, the President was assured by Secretaries Knox and Stimson, were in place with the commanders throughout the Pacific. Thus, no new general alarum went forth.

During the night in Hawaii, at 3:42 a.m., the minesweeper Condor saw what it believed was the glimmer of a periscope in the vicinity of Pearl Harbor. Fifteen minutes later, it relayed the information to the nearby destroyer U.S.S. Ward, under the new command of Lieutenant William Outerbridge, stating that it had last spotted the periscope heading for the Harbor entrance at 3:50. The Ward, patrolling an area two square miles around the entrance, searched the area with sonar until 4:35 and then, finding nothing, ended the previous alert of general quarters. Having made no other sonar or visual contact, the Condor retired from duty at 4:58, coming into the Harbor through the submarine nets raised for its entry, not to be re-closed until after 8:40 a.m. per the usual practice to admit ships coming off duty.

At 1:50 a.m., Nagumo's Task Force received the message from the Japanese Consulate relayed through Tokyo that on the 6th of December there were three light cruisers, nine battleships three seaplane tenders, and seventeen destroyers in port and another two light cruisers and four destroyers in docks at Pearl, that all the heavy cruisers and carriers were gone. Although this message was disappointing to the Japanese commanders who wanted most to bag a carrier or two, the mission would proceed under Yamamoto's previous orders. Also of some, though expected, disappointment was the fact that the ships were in the 40-foot deep Harbor, not at the deeper Lahaina Roads, meaning sunk vessels might in time be refloated. This fact was a trade-off, however, for the fact that the Harbor had a narrow entrance subject to being blocked if a large ship could be sunk near the entrance.

The pilots began arising and preparing themselves at 3:00 a.m.

At 5:30, the Chikuma and Tone, each launched a single Zero-type reconnaissance seaplane to reconnoiter Pearl Harbor and the surrounding airbases, with directions to radio their findings, the first break of radio silence by any part of the Fleet since departure from Hitokappu Bay at 6:00 a.m. November 26, Tokyo time. Despite this daring maneuver, still no one on Oahu in the sleepy pre-dawn hours caught a glimpse of these two planes, or if so, identified them as Japanese aircraft.

From the six carriers parked 220 miles north of Oahu, pitching to and fro from eleven to fifteen degrees off level, heading east at twenty knots into a brisk wind, all of the first wave of 183 planes took off promptly within fifteen minutes after the start time of 6:00 a.m. After circling to formation, at the signal of their commander, Mitsuo Fuchida, the contingent departed for Oahu at 6:20. The First Air Fleet then proceeded south about twenty miles at twenty knots as the second wave was being lifted onto the deck of the carriers via slow elevators, delaying their take-off until after dawn. The carriers then turned east again into the wind at 7:05, and at 7:15 began launching the second wave of 167 planes under the command of Lieutenant Saburo Shindo.

Most of the pilots believed it would be their last mission. Remarkably, most lived to die another day. Vehement east wind reigns, blowing against them, carried them through their mission this day--you see. The weather at the time was west wind cloudy. As with their fellow traveler, Hitler, they had not paid much attention to this final omen of their destiny.

Nor, no doubt, had either Lieutenant Shindo, Commander Fuchida, Vice-Admiral Nagumo, Admiral Yamamoto, Ambassador Nomura, Special Envoy Kurusu, Foreign Minister Togo, Premier Tojo, or Emperor Hirohito read the first point made this day of Saturday, December 6, 1941, X-1 Day, by Senator Soaper. Would that they had and understood its significance, at least within the world of Edward Lear, to the whole of "Operation Hawaii", and responded instead affirmatively to the Hull Points: well over a million lives on both sides of the Pacific might yet have been spared during the ensuing 1,342 days, over one hundred thousand Japanese lives in the last four of those days.

A contingent of new B-17 bombers, not yet armed to enable stocking of more fuel for the long two thousand mile passage across the Pacific to their destination at Hickam Field, beside Pearl Harbor, had taken off the previous night at around 11:00 from California, set to arrive in Hawaii, after eleven and a half hours in the air, at precisely 8:00 a.m., December 7.

Framed Edition
[Return to Links-Page by Subject] [Return to Links-Page by Date] [Return to News<i>--</i>Framed Edition]
Links-Date -- Links-Subj.