Stanley Johnston's Blunder

The Reporter Who Spilled the Secret Behind the U.S. Navy's Victory at Midway
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Binding:Hardcover
Published:October 15, 2017
By Elliot Carlson (Author)
 
 
In Stanley Johnston's Blunder: The Reporter Who Spilled the Secret Behind the U.S. Navy's Victory at Midway, Elliot Carlson tells the story of Stanley Johnston, a Chicago Tribune reporter who may have exposed a vitally important U.S. naval secret during World War II.
 
In 1942 Johnston is embarked in the aircraft carrier USS Lexington during the Battle of the Coral Sea. In addition to recording the crew's doomed effort to save the ship, Johnston displays great heroism, rescuing many endangered officers and men from the sea and earning the praise of the Lexington's senior officers. They even recommend him for a medal. Then his story darkens. On board the rescue ship Barnett, Johnston is assigned to a cabin where messages from the Pacific Fleet commander, Admiral Chester Nimitz, are routinely, and carelessly, circulated. One reveals the order of battle of Imperial Japanese Navy forces advancing on Midway Atoll. Containing information obtained by the Navy's code breakers, this dispatch is stamped "Top Secret." Yet it is casually passed around to some of the Lexington's officers in the cabin while Johnston is present.
 
Carlson captures the outrage among U.S. Navy brass when they read the 7 June 1942 Chicago Tribune front-page headline, "NAVY HAD WORD OF JAP PLAN TO STRIKE AT SEA." Admirals note that the information in the Tribune article parallels almost precisely the highly secret material in Nimitz's dispatch. They fear Japanese commanders will discover the article, grasp that their code has been cracked, and quickly change it, thereby depriving the U.S. Navy of a priceless military asset. When Navy officials confirm that Johnston wrote the story after residing in that Barnett stateroom, they think they understand the "leak."
 
Drawing on seventy-five-year-old testimony never before released, Carlson takes readers inside the grand jury room where jurors convened by the Roosevelt administration consider charges that Johnston violated the Espionage Act. Jurors hear conflicting testimony from Navy officers while Johnston claims his story came from his own knowledge of the Japanese navy.
 
Using FBI files, U.S. Navy records, archival materials from the Chicago Tribune, and Japanese sources, Carlson, at last, brings to light the full story of Stanley Johnston's trial.
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List Price: $29.95
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Product Details
  • Subject: World War II
  • Hardcover : 352 pages
  • Publisher: Naval Institute Press (October 15, 2017)
  • ISBN-10: 1591146798
  • ISBN-13: 9781591146797
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 X 9.3 in
  • Shipping Weight: 25.76 oz
Praise
  • “For anyone familiar with the Rochefort and Hypo stories . . . you're going to want to read this one.” —The Battle of Midway Roundtable
  • “In this gripping narrative, Elliot Carlson carefully stitches together the pieces of a complex and compelling story of war, secrecy, and journalism to explain how a charming scoundrel with a colorful background nearly exposed the U.S. Navy’s most important secret of World War II.” —Craig L. Symonds, author of The Battle of Midway; Ernest J. King Professor of Maritime History, U.S. Naval War College
  • “In Stanley Johnson’s Blunder,, Elliot Carlson has pierced the carapace of the decades-long myth of the purported Chicago Tribune’s compromise of the U.S. Navy’s codebreaking success at the Battle of Midway. Crisply written and meticulously researched, Carlson exposes the patchwork censorship system during World War II and the Navy’s overreaction—itself nearly exposing the secret. Stanley Johnson’s Blunder is both a lesson and a case study for today’s journalists and security personnel.” —Robert J. Hanyok, historian of Pacific War cryptology and co-author of West Wind Clear: Cryptology and the Winds Message Controversy—A Documentary History
  • "Here for the first time is the inside story of events that could have resulted in the biggest intelligence blunder of World War II—drawing attention to the United States' penetration of Japanese naval codes by prosecuting the reporter and editors responsible for the news story based on a leaked message. Elliot Carlson not only tells the story, he is responsible for the lawsuit that opened the case records." —John Prados, author of Islands of Destiny: The Solomons Campaign and the Eclipse of the Rising Sun
  • “For years Stanley Johnston’s brazenness in publishing a purloined list of the Japanese fleet composition for the Battle of Midway has come out in dribs and drabs. Now, thanks to Elliot Carlson’s thorough, meticulous research and a substantial legal victory, we now have the whole story. The text draws together biographical material on Johnston, whom the author at times treats with sympathy and other times with scorn. The prose offers you-are-there immediacy at sea, in the Chicago Tribune newsroom, and in court. This is, without question, the definitive account of the Johnston-Tribune affair.” —Paul Stillwell, author of Battleship Arizona and Battleship Missouri
  • “In Joe Rochefort's War, Elliott Carlson gave us a key piece of the Midway story not previously revealed: the full biography of the U.S. Navy's master codebreaker. Stanley Johnston's Blunder is a logical follow-on, revealing for the first time how a convoluted set of circumstances surrounding an embarked newsman very nearly handed Rochefort’s vital secrets to the Japanese.” —Ronald W. Russell, editor, The Battle of Midway Roundtable, 2002–2011
  • "Here for the first time is the inside story of events that could have resulted in the biggest intelligence blunder of World War II--drawing attention to the United States' penetration of Japanese naval codes by prosecuting the reporter and editors responsible for the news story based on a leaked message. Elliot Carlson not only tells the story, he is responsible for the lawsuit that opened up the case records." —John Prados, author of Islands of Destiny
  • “In Stanley Johnson’s Blunder, Elliot Carlson has pierced the carapace of the decades-long myth of the purported Chicago Tribune’s compromise of the US Navy’s codebreaking success at the battle of Midway. Crisply written and meticulously researched, Carlson exposes the patchwork censorship system during World War II and the Navy’s overreaction—itself nearly exposing the secret. Stanley Johnson’s Blunder is both a lesson and a case study for today’s journalists and security personnel.” —Robert J. Hanyok, Historian of Pacific War cryptology and co-author of West Wind Clear

ELLIOT CARLSON is a longtime journalist who has worked for such newspapers as the Honolulu Advertiser, the Wall Street Journal, and the AARP Bulletin. Carlson is the author of the Chief of Naval Operation's reading list title, Joe Rochefort's War: The Odyssey of the Codebreaker Who Outwitted Yamamoto at Midway.

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