War Warnings

Up Bomb Plot Winds War Warnings 13 Parts Part 14


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Table of Contents

Letter from SecNav to SecWar, 24 Jan. 41—re: security Pearl Harbor against attack
Reply from SecWar to SecNav, 7 Feb. 41—re: security Pearl Harbor against attack
Ten Years in Japan, page 368, by U.S. Ambassador Joseph C. Grew
War Warning of October 16, 1941
War Warning of November 24, 1941
War Warning of November 27, 1941



The following extract from the Roberts Commission's finding of facts reveals ample shortcomings of Admiral Kimmel and General Short for the preparation of adequate defenses for the Pacific Fleet and Navy Base at Pearl Harbor. This inquiry was the earliest on record, having commenced eleven days after the Japanese surprise attack on December 7, 1941. It was in session from December 18, 1941 to January 23, 1942.

Pearl Harbor is an important outlying naval base, and its security is vital to both offensive and defensive operations. It is the Army's function to insure the security of Pearl Harbor against hostile attack, and the Navy's function to support the Army indirectly by operations at sea and directly by making available therefore such instrumentalities of the Navy as are on the vessels of the fleet when in harbor and are located or based on shore either temporarily or permanently.

Effective utilization of the military power of the Nation is essential to success in war and requires that the operations of the Army and the Navy be coordinated. Under the then existing plans the joint defense of the Hawaiian frontier was to be coordinated by mutual cooperation between the commanders concerned. Plans for the defense of the Hawaiian coastal frontier were prepared by the commanding general, Hawaiian Department, and the commandant of the Fourteenth Naval District, the latter acting as a subordinate of the commander in chief of the Pacific fleet. Adherence to such a plan prepared in advance of hostilities does not suffice to relieve commanders of their responsibility to apply and adapt the plan to the situation as it develops.

Where, as here, the defense of an area is the joint responsibility of two commanders who are to coordinate their activities by mutual cooperation, the first duty of such commanders in the case of an emergency is conference and consultation with respect to the measures to be taken under the existing plans and the adaptation of those plans in whole or in part to the situation.

At about the time that Admiral Kimmel and General Short assumed their respective commands, the War and Navy Departments were in correspondence with respect to adequate defense against air raids on Oahu and the naval base. The correspondence between the departments exhibits a deep concern respecting the probability of this form of attack. These commanders were acquainted with this correspondence. Nevertheless there has been amongst the responsible commanders and their subordinates, without exception, a conviction, which persisted up to December 7, 1941, that Japan had no intention of making any such raid. Consequently this form of attack was a complete surprise to all of the superior officers of Army and Navy stationed in the Hawaiian area. This conviction persisted notwithstanding messages containing warnings and orders, brought to the attention of both commanders over a period of weeks prior to the attack. As early as October 16 the commanders were warned of the possibility of an attack by Japan on the United States and were directed to take precautions and make preparatory dispositions in the light of this information. A significant warning message was communicated to both the local commanders on November 24. On November 27 each responsible commander was warned that hostilities were momentarily possible. The warnings indicated war, and war only.

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Early Warnings

In the later months of 1940, the Navy  Department began setting the scene for serious planning concerning the possibility of war with Japan. Key personnel, which would play significant roles in months to come, were being transferred from sea-going billets to desk jobs in Washington.  One of these men was Captain Richmond Kelly Turner. On September 14, 1940, Turner was relieved as Commanding Officer to the USS Astoria (CA-34), a heavy cruiser stationed with the Pacific Fleet in Pearl Harbor, Oahu, Hawaii.

Captain Turner was eager to follow through on the strategic training he received at the Naval War College, and on October 19, 1940, welcomed his new assignment as the Director of War Plans in the Office of Chief of Naval Operations headed by Admiral Harold R. Stark. Little did he know that the office and desk he had to cross to enter his office belonged to another important newcomer on the Washington scene, Commander John L. McCrea, who reported for duty on September 1940, following service as Executive Officer of the battleship USS Pennsylvania (BB-38), also in Pearl Harbor.

At this stage, it is important that one has a clear understanding of McCrea's assignment during the early days after reporting for duty, because he played an important role in the drafting of a secret letter for Admiral Stark, which eventually found its way into the Hart Inquiry as EXHIBIT NO. 40. During his testimony at the Hart Inquiry, McCrea was asked about the closeness of his association with Admiral Stark and to indicate his acquaintance about the matters of major import which were in  Stark's mind." McCrea responded as follows:

"I reported for duty in the Office of Naval Operations in October, 1940. I was assigned to the War Plans Division for the purpose of record, but to do special jobs for Admiral Stark. In general, my work consisted in assembling for the Admiral, in brief form, reports on matters he had under advisement. My job carried me into all the Bureau and Offices of the Navy Department where my contacts were generally on a personal basis. Where cognizance overlapped between Bureaus or Offices, I endeavored to get the composite picture. I attended all of Admiral Stark's formal conferences and many of his informal ones."
Proceedings of the Hart Inquiry, April 6, 1944. pgs. 2, 3.

After his retirement from the Navy, Admiral John L. McCrea wrote a personal letter dated January 21, 1970 to Vice Admiral George C. Dyer—biographer for Admiral Richmond Kelly Turner—which described in slightly more detail the duties he performed for Admiral Stark.

"When I went to Washington (ex-Pennsylvania) in Sept. 1940, I found myself working on a special project for Stark [Chief of Naval Operations], (entitled) 'Are We Ready?' which had originated in the General Board. For want of a better place for me I was given quarters in the War Plans Division. Crenshaw had headed up that Division but he had departed and sometime in October, I think Kelly showed up as Crenshaw's relief. My office was next door to Kelly's and so situated that anyone who wanted to see him had to cross my line of vision. Kelly was astounded at the condition the War Plans were in and said so in a loud tone of voice. Oddly enough, I had never seen him until we met in Operations. He made- -as always- -an instant impression. The second day he was there, he stopped by my desk. 'McCrea, I'm going in my office and shut the door and write a plan for the war that is coming. Don't let anyone by to disturb me.' Well that was that, He [sic] and I got off to a great start. He kept using me on odds and ends despite the fact that I was working for Stark and no one else."
The Amphibians Came to Conquer: The Story of Admiral Richmond Kelly Turner,  by George C. Dyer, Vice Admiral USN (Ret.). Appendix A, pgs. 5,6.

What Turner did not realize is that McCrea was working on a very important secret document for Admiral Stark. The contents of this document became the core of an official letter from Secretary of the Navy, Frank Knox, to Henry L. Stimson, Secretary of War. The four pages of the letter can be viewed by clicking this letter-link.

Note that the heading begins with Op-12B-9-McC, and the letter to the Secretary of War is dated Jan. 24, 1941. Op-12 is the War Plans Division under Turner, however, McC stands for McCrea who had quarters in the War Plans area, but was not working for Turner. The War Plans Division and Turner should not be given credit for drafting this letter. McCrea, functioning as Admiral Stark's aide, drafted this letter for Stark, and it probably took a month to produce. There is a distinct possibility that Turner never knew what McCrea was working on. Vice Admiral Dyer, Turner's biographer, stated erroneously that the Director of War Plans drafted the letter.

"The Director of War Plans drafted the 24 January 1941 letter, approved by the Chief of Naval Operations, and signed by the Secretary of the Navy to the Secretary of War, which said in the first paragraph: If war eventuates with Japan, it is believed easily possible that hostilities would be initiated by a surprise attack upon the Fleet or the Naval Base at Pearl Harbor."

The biography needs to be corrected. Turner should not be given credit for this early war warning letter, especially since it pinpointed a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. A most accurate prediction credited to Admiral Stark with copies sent to the Fleet.

In 1940 and 1941 prior to December 7, 1941, Turner was not of the mentality to predict an attack on Pearl Harbor. In fact, Turner testified before the Joint Congressional Committee Investigation (November 15, 1945 - July 15, 1946) that "he thought it was about a 50-50 chance of the raid on Pearl Harbor." He also spent much of his time dwelling on hostilities by Japan in the direction of Siberia, if Germany succeeded in the war on the western front of Russia.
The Amphibians Came to Conquer: The Story of Admiral Richmond Kelly Turner,  by George C. Dyer, Vice Admiral USN (Ret.). Chapter 5, pg. 35.

Apparently President Roosevelt approved of the work Commander McCrea was doing as the aide to Admiral Stark, because in 1942, Roosevelt relieved Captain John R. Beardall as his Naval Aide and appointed McCrea to take his place. The President was notorious for rewarding officers who carried out his orders with choice duty assignments, in addition, to promoting those he favored. However, if an officer disagreed with White House policies and became too outspoken on the matter, he could wind up being dismissed from his duties—recall the case of Admiral James O. Richardson, Commander in Chief of the U. S. Fleet. This was the prerogative of the Commander-in-Chief, and this was "his Navy."

There is no doubt in this author's mind that McCrea had to be briefed by Lieutenant Commander Arthur H. McCollum in the Far East Section of the Intelligence Division concerning Japan's intentions, in order to compose the detailed letter to answer the question "Are We Ready." In fact, McCollum complained about the amount of time he had to spend briefing newly assigned officers on Japan. McCrea may have been one of these officers.

Finally, it is understandable that senior military officers and civilians who conducted investigations into the attack on Pearl Harbor realized that, in many cases, personnel being called to testify were at one time or another privy to Top Secret and Secret information. Knowing this, it seems as though the investigating bodies refrained from posing questions to witnesses, which were of this high level of classification.

During his testimony before the Joint Congressional Committee Investigation, Admiral Stark testified that maximum security was required to guard the fact that the United States could read Japan's diplomatic messages. This required a special code of honor as stated by Admiral Stark.

"Anybody who was let in on that (Magic-decoding & translating diplomatic intercepts) had to sign a paper never to disclose it, practically as long as he lived, or ever to talk about it." Gordon W. Prange, At Dawn We Slept (McGraw-Hill Book Company. 1981). p. 84.

The WWII historical record shows that U. S. policy and strategy concerning relations with Japan had some roots in the intercepted diplomatic messages, which found their way into the Communications, Intelligence and War Plans Divisions of the Department of the Navy, all within close proximity to the Admiral Stark and his Aide, Commander McCrea.

The letter from the Secretary of the Navy, which Commander McCrea originated as Naval Aide to Admiral Stark, while occupying office space with Op-12, War Plans, follows:



Directly above and below this link, you will find the two-page letter originated by the Secretary of War, Henry Stimson, and sent to the Secretary of the Navy, Frank Knox.

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Ten Years in Japan, page 368, by U.S. Ambassador Joseph C. Grew

Ambassador Joseph C. Grew published his Ten Years in Japan (1932-1942) in 1944. His book is "A Contemporary Record Drawn from the Diaries and Private and Official Papers." Page 368 contains Grew's entry on January 27, 1941 and specifies Pearl Harbor as the target for a Japanese surprise attack. The exact words in the book are as follows:

first rumors of a surprise attack on pearl harbor

January 27, 1941

    There is a lot of talk around town to the effect that the Japanese, in case of a break with the United States, are planning to go all out in a surprise mass attack on Pearl Harbor. Of course I informed our Government [via Secretary of State Cordell Hull].

In Day of Deceit page 31-32, Stinnett records how the Government handled this rumor. A cablegram was sent to the State Department the next morning and Secretary Hull read it.

my peruvian colleague told a member of my staff that he had heard from many sources including a japanese source that the japanese military forces planned in the event of trouble with the united states, to attempt a surprise attack on paearl harbor using all of their military facilities. he added that although the project seemed fantastic the fact that he had heard it from many sources prompted him to pass the information. grew

Hull distributed copies of the Grew cable to Army intelligence and the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI). Lieutenant Commander Arthur McCollum was directed to provide the ONI's analysis.

McCollum was the originator of the Eight-action memo on October 7, 1940. And this document proposed eight steps that President Roosevelt could put into effect to provoke a war with Japan. Pearl Harbor was not a target in McCollum's memo, although Action F in the memo was luring Japan into war—the American fleet's presence at Pearl.

McCollum discounted Grew's information as "rumor." On February 1, 1941, he sent the following analysis to the newly appointed commander of the Pacific Fleet, Admiral Husband E. Kimmel:

The Division of Naval Intelligence places no credence in these rumors. Furthermore, based on known data regarding the present disposition and employment of Japanese naval and armed forces, no move against Pearl Harbor appears imminent or planned for in the foreseeable future.

Is a ten-month plan from February 1, 1941 to December 7, 1941 in the foreseeable future? To some, Yes; to others No. Does it appear imminent if ten months is the considered time frame? This author chooses, NO. In addition, McCollum's analysis appears to contradict with the "Are We Ready" letters between the Secretary of the Navy and Secretary of War, which were circulating within Army and Navy, Washington offices at the same time as Grew's warning was being analyzed by ONI.

View the contradiction from Washington: Admiral Kimmel and General Short received information in Hawaii based on the "Are We Ready" letters between the Secretaries. The main purpose of these letters was to order Kimmel and Short to prepare the defenses for the Fleet and Navy Base at Pearl Harbor for a surprise attack by Japanese aircraft and submarines. Kimmel and Short also received McCollum's "rumor" analysis message of Grew's warning of a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor within the same time frame.

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War Warning of October 16, 1941

Professor Gordon Prange in his At Dawn We Slept, pages 287-288, documents a war warning issued by the Navy Department to Admiral Kimmel. President Roosevelt and his Cabinet feared that the incoming Japanese Cabinet would be "much more anti-American" than the outgoing. Secretary of War Simson's diary contains an entry concerning this fear.

The Japanese Navy is beginning to talk almost as radically as the Japanese Army, and so we face the delicate question of the diplomatic fencing to be done so as to make sure that Japan was put into the wrong and made the first bad move—overt move.

The crisis in Tokyo "created very much of a stir" in the Navy Department. Turner drafted a dispatch for Stark to send to Kimmel, King, and Hart, which the CNO "tempered. . .considerably" before speeding it on its way. Even so, it contained a strong warning that Japan might go on the war path.

The resignation of the Japanese cabinet has created a grave situation. If a new cabinet is formed it will probably be strongly nationalistic and anti-American. If the Konoye cabinet remains . . . it will operate under a new mandate which will not include rapprochement with the U.S. In either case hostilities between Japan and Russia are a strong possibility. Since the U.S. and Britain are held responsible by Japan for her present desperate situation there is also a possibility that Japan may attack these two powers. In view of these possibilities you will take due precautions, including such preparatory deployments as will not disclose strategic intention nor constitute provocative actions against Japan.

The message also asked that Kimmel notify the appropriate Army authorities and his naval district.

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War Warning of November 24, 1941

On November 24, 1941, Admiral Kimmel was in the North Pacific with his Black and White forces in the midst of Exercise 191. It was originally scheduled to be a four-day operation starting on Friday, November 21 and ending on Tuesday, November 25. He had to cancel the exercise.

In Day of Deceit, pages 150 and 151, Stinnett states that:

Kimmel's premature cancellation of the exercise came several hours after Washington sent him specific action orders. He was warned to expect a surprise aggressive movement by Japan in any direction, but not to place the Pacific Fleet in a position that would precipitate Japanese action.

Admiral Ingersoll, Assistant CNO, sent the following message:

Chances of favorable outcome of negotiations with japan very doubtful x this situation coupled with statements of japanese government and movements their naval and military forces indicate in our opinion that a surprise aggressive movement in any direction including attack on philippines or guam is a possibility. chief of staff has seen this dispatch concurs and request action adees [addressees] to inform senior army officers their areas x utmost secrecy necessary in order not to complicate an already tense situation or precipitate japanese action x guam will be informed separately.

Kimmel's judgement concerning this message was that it "directed him not to take provocative action against Japan." He recalled a directive Admiral Stark passed on to him in late September.

At the present time, the President has issued shooting orders only for the Atlantic and Southwest Pacific sub-area.

In emphasizing the presidential directive, Stark said that US Navy Regulations backed it up—implying a court-martial if disobeyed.

At the time, of course, Kimmel did not know of Washington's eight-action policy. If McCollum's action policy was to succeed in uniting America, Japan must be seen as the aggressor and must commit the first overt act of war on an unsuspecting Pacific Fleet, not the other way around. FDR and his highest-level commanders gambled on Japan committing the first overt act of war, and knew from intercepted messages that it was near.

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War Warning of November 27, 1941

George Morgenstern in his Pearl Harbor: The Story of The Secret War, pages 225-226, adds an important footnote to the "war warning" issued by the Navy Department on November 27, 1941. This author places it before the actual message.

*The use of the term 'war warning' in constant reference to this message of Nov. 27 to Adm. Kimmel creates a wrong impression. The entire message is of the utmost importance and should be read as a whole rather than adopt two words from it which when taken alone create the wrong impression.

Admiral Stark sent Admiral Kimmel the following "war warning" message on November 27, 1941. Kimmel showed it to General Short.

Consider this dispatch a war warning.* The negotiations with Japan in an effort to stabilize conditions in the Pacific have ended. Japan is expected to make an aggressive move within the next few days. An amphibious expedition against either the Philippines, or Kra Peninsula or probably Borneo is indicated by the number and equipment of Japanese troops and the organization of their naval forces. You will execute a defensive deployment in preparation for carrying out the tasks assigned in WPL 46. Guam, Samoa, and continental district have been directed to take appropriate measures against sabotage. A similar warning is being sent by the War Department. Inform naval district and Army authorities. British to be informed.

Morgenstern's Chapter 16 on the topic of "war warnings" is written under the heading "DO-DON'T WARNINGS" because of the confusing content in the messages Short received from Washington. When Army Headquarters failed to respond to Short's reply that his department was "alerted to prevent sabotage", Short believed that his action was correct. General Marshal testified before the Army Pearl Harbor Board that the War Department personnel did not "anticipate an attack on Pearl Harbor" giving further approval to Short's preparations against sabotage and hostile, subversive activities.

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