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Walter C. Short and the Attack on Pearl Harbor
  • ISBN/SKU: 9781591140054
  • Binding: Paperback
  • Era: World War II
  • Number of Pages: 256
  • Subject: History
  • Date Available: September 2011
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Full Description:

Walter C. Short is remembered as the U.S. Army general who parked his airplanes wingtip-to-wingtip making them easy targets for Japanese pilots attacking Pearl Harbor. History's harsh indictment of his actions as commander of the Army's Hawaiian department is the result of a series of investigations that placed blame for the disaster on General Short and his Navy counterpart, Admiral Husband E. Kimmel. In this first biography of Short, the general emerges as an honorable man who made some fateful errors.

Published in cooperation with Association of the United States Army

Charles R. Anderson, who died in August 2003, was a longtime historian at the U. S. Army Center of Military History.


Praise for Day of Lightning, Years of Scorn

"This is good history: well researched, well written and well grounded." St. Louis Sunday Post-Dispatch

"Until now General Short’s decisions and actions before the Pearl Harbor attack have lacked context and detail. This balanced biography by Charles Anderson points out problems in the way the various investigations were conducted, as well as the failures in both Washington and Hawaii that contributed to the disaster. Anderson’s analysis is perceptive and revealing, his conclusions evenhanded, and his narrative style a delight." –Col. William T. Bowers, USA (Ret.), former Chief, Histories Division, U.S. Army Center of Military History

Customer Reviews
1 Review
Average Customer Reviews
5.00 Stars
"The Most Tragic Injustice in American Military History"
Wednesday, February 5, 2014
Vice President Biden in 2007 said that: "[The General Short] matter is the most tragic injustice in American military history." A senator in 1999, he was the chief sponsor of legislation recommending that the President posthumously advance Short to his highest held temporary wartime rank. Since then the Department of Defense has recommended against advancement. The current Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, then also a senator, voted for the legislation. So, now, as General Andrew Goodpaster put it: “With nothing less than our country’s honor still at stake, may, we hope, finally restore to...General Short the respect he deserves.” This book is sufficient contribution to that honorable end to be worthy of five stars--flaws notwithstanding. The author strives to present a balanced assessment of General Short's Pearl Harbor attack performance, which is a difficult undertaking given that Short's superior's "Marshall, Stark, Stimson, Knox, Hull, among others, committed perjury, suborned perjury, destroyed evidence and intimidated witnesses. Testimony during the nine investigations . . . presents a sordid picture of Washington officials covering themselves at the expense of the two Pearl Harbor commanders. . . Short[’s] . . . seniors in Washington shared culpability and acted in a disgraceful fashion in their attempt to deflect all the blame." Former Director of Naval Intelligence Tom Brooks concluded his preceding remarks in 2007, thus: “For this reason alone, a compelling case can be made to restore Short to [his] pre-war rank.” Indeed, the Army Board for Correction of Military Records in 1991 responded to an application for Short's rank restoration as alluded to on page 199. Inexplicably, the fact that the Board responded favorably to Short is not mentioned by the author. The Board found "injustice," and voted 2 to 1 in favor of recommending rank restoration. Nonetheless, the Assistant Secretary of the Army rejected the Board’s decision without making alternative findings of fact. The Secretary's reasoning: "posthumous advancement of Major General Short would reverse the course of history as adjudged by his superiors who were in a better position to evaluate the Pearl Harbor disaster.” Page 69 of DAYS OF LIGHTNING would lead the casual reader to incorrectly understand that MAGIC referred exclusively to a single species of diplomatic messages codenamed PURPLE, which, in turn leads to mischief, such as, what is found on page 100. "MAGIC...never found a transmission detailing...where hostile action would occur." The ships-in-harbor messages were not sent in PURPLE MAGIC, but in J-19 & PA-K2 MAGIC, and, of course, gave significant indications of where hostile action would and did occur. The Japanese in Hawaii did not have a PURPLE machine. It should be made clear that, "MAGIC was the term coined by Admiral Anderson Director of Naval Intelligence, to refer to any decrypted Japanese code message." (Roberta Wohlstetter, PEARL HARBOR WARNING AND DECISION, 1962, p.75, fn 5.) Page 76 states, concerning Marshall's famous 6/17/40 Alert to Hawaii, that, "Marshall wanted to test defenses in the Pacific," as though the Alert was only an exercise. But Marshall denied that the 6/17/40 Alert was an exercise in testimony to the Joint Congressional Committee (JCC). See 3PHA1055. The author uses the term "Alert" carelessly several times in the book. The fact is that only two Alerts were ever sent to Hawaii, the 6/17/40 Alert, and the late-arriving 12/7/41 Alert, both sent by Marshall. The navy did not send an Alert to Hawaii. As the book emphasizes in the foreword, and on page 96, damnation of Short rests mainly on his decision to guard against sabotage by "[parking] his airplanes wingtip to wingtip making them easy targets for Japanese pilots." Short's reasons for doing so were compelling. Marshall's November 27th message ordered Short to report measures he was taking. He did so report that he was protecting against sabotage. Not only was he not corrected for this mistake, he received three more orders to guard against sabotage, one the same day from Marshall's intelligence chief, and two the next day from Marshall's adjutant. The author mentions but two of the three, which is still compelling. The Mori trans-Pacific "espionage" telephone call is discussed on pages 102, 111, 187, and 202 to the detriment of Short without mentioning that Short was correct to ignore the call. The JCC was wrong to give it evidential weight. The FBI eventually learned that the call was not espionage related. Knox's report is discussed on pages 108, 109, and 202, but the most important parts are not included. On page 100 we read: "MAGIC...never found a transmission detailing when...hostile action would occur." Not included was Knox's report finding that, "Short [had no] knowledge of the plain intimations of some surprise move, made clear in Washington, through the interception of Japanese instructions to Nomura, in which a surprise move of some kind was clearly indicated by the insistence upon the precise time of Nomura's reply to Hull, at one o'clock on Sunday [Washington time, 7:30 AM in Hawaii]." Knox was referring here to the Pilot Message on the 6th, and Time-of-Delivery Message on the 7th. Also not included from Knox's report was his finding that, the "lack of an adequate number of [fighter] aircraft available to the Army for the defense of the Island is due to the diversion of this type before the outbreak of the war, to the British, the Chinese, the Dutch and the Russians." In other words, due to Lend-Lease, and who was in charge of Lend-Lease? Admiral Reeves, a member of the Roberts Commission. The Commission did not mention Lend-Lease in its report. Page 115 states that, "Justice Roberts made a sincere effort to conduct an exhaustive and fair investigation." Not mentioned is that Roberts Commission member, former CNO Admiral Standley repudiated the Commission's findings and styled Chairman Roberts' performance as chairman, "Crooked as a snake." Wilkinson testified and wrote that, MAGIC was "discussed freely" with Chairman Roberts in front of Marshall, Stark, Turner, Gerow, Miles, and himself; that Hawaii had the same information as Washington had; and that, "Nevertheless warning despatches [sic] had been sent out (24PHA1361)," as though sending warning messages was an unnecessary redundancy, because they were read alongside the MAGIC messages, and, accordingly, should have been understood by Hawaii. Roberts chose not to ask Short if he had access to MAGIC. FBI Director Hoover sent Roberts truly sensational secret information two weeks after the attack that, a "reliable source" [Colonel John Ter Bush Bissell, head of Counter-Intelligence for the Army in Washington] reported that the Army had intercepted "the complete plans" for the Japanese attack ten days prior to the attack, and sent this information to Hawaii. Hoover repeated Bissell's information in a second memo, and offered "investigative guidance" to Roberts to determine if "the complete plans" information was intercepted in Washington, and if it was, sent to Hawaii. Roberts tried hard to prove such information was sent to Hawaii, when he could not he dropped the matter and made no effort to determine if Washington had such information. In 1946, Senator Ferguson suspected Roberts had some secret information by the curious way Roberts asked questions in Hawaii in 1941. He asked Roberts about it. Roberts lied three times that he could not remember where he got his information even though he had received it twice in writing from the Director of the FBI. Page 120 states that, "Things turned out just as the master politician in the White House expected. Page 202 states that, "The public's preference to look for guilty individuals was not the result of any political chicanery in the White House." Reconciling these two statements is a challenge beyond the ability of the writer, especially after reading FDR's Executive Order to Roberts, and Charles Beard's chapter, "Engineering a Thesis of Guilt," in his book, PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT AND THE COMING OF THE WAR, 1941. Page 131 states that, "Marshall...told the [Army] Board about MAGIC," giving the impression that Marshall cooperated with the Board, which is grossly misleading. See General Russell's PEARL HARBOR STORY, for a detailed, firsthand account of how the Board found out about MAGIC and Marshall's mendacity concerning. Also see Clausen's FINAL JUDGEMENT [sic], for details of Marshall's perjury and subordination of perjury before the Board. Page 141 states that, "No one concluded that the [bomb-plot] message should be sent to the commanders in Hawaii." There is no authority for this statement. Marshall, Stark, Turner, and Wilkinson all testified that they thought MAGIC messages were going to Hawaii. Navy Intelligence Director Wilkinson testified to Roberts, in their presence, that Hawaii had the same information as Washington had. No one corrected Wilkinson, and he did not correct himself until 1945 before the JCC. Turner testified that he told the Chief of Naval Operations on three occasions that Hawaii had the same ability to decode MAGIC as Washington had. Bratton, McCollum, and Sadtler all tried unsuccessfully to send warning messages to Hawaii. Sadtler recommended sending Short a message to: "Take every precaution to prevent a repetition of Port Arthur." Page 171 states that, "...the most likely direction of attack was from the north..." Nimitz disagreed with this statement as did Richardson, Bloch, Herron, Andrews, Halsey, Layton, the Farthing Report, and the Martin-Bellinger Report. See Michael Gannon's PEARL HARBOR BETRAYED, for details of the mischief caused by the most-dangerous-sector myth. Surprisingly, the 1995 Dorn Report is not mentioned, as it appears to be right on point. It does not recommend advancement of Short, but finds that: "Responsibility for the Pearl Harbor disaster should not fall solely on the shoulders of...General Short; it should be broadly shared.... officials in Washington were neither energetic nor effective in getting [Marshall's 12/7/41 Alert] to [Hawaii]....the evidence of the handling of [MAGIC] messages in Washington reveals some ineptitude, some unwarranted assumptions and misestimates, limited coordination, ambiguous language, and lack of clarification and follow-up at higher levels." The Report does not mention who in Washington should share the responsibility. This book at least mentions some. Regards, Tom Kimmel


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