Counterintelligence And The Pearl Harbor Attack

3072 words - 13 pages

IntroductionA surprise attack on Pearl Harbor left millions of Americans heartbroken. It is one of the most significant moments in American history. In just a short amount of time, so much devastation occurred. If the Americans would have kept better tract of Japanese intelligence, the bombing of Pearl Harbor could have been avoided and many lives could have been saved. Some people believe this attack occurred because of American intelligence failure and the well-planned, secretive attack by the Japanese. I have researched many sources to determine what factors led to the attack of Pearl Harbor; what actually occurred during the attack; how the U.S. intelligence failed; how the Japanese intelligence was underestimated; and how we were successful in breaking down foreign intelligence.The Factors that Led to the Attack on Pearl HarborPearl Harbor is located in Oahu Island, Hawaii. In 1908 it was established as a naval base of the United State's Pacific Fleet. Various services provided on the naval base include a naval shipyard, a supply center, and a submarine headquarters. The Japanese were in desperate need of many natural resources. They decided to take control of the East Indies and Southeast Asia because those areas were very rich in raw materials. A Pacific war was obviously unavoidable. Therefore, the United States began to propose peace negotiations with Japan. The United States gave the Japanese an eight step plan, The McCollum Memo, for a peace settlement. This eight step plan stated that 'Japan would recognize the territory of China, French Indochina, and the British and Dutch colonies. The Japanese would remove forces from China and Indochina. The United States and Japan would recognize the Nationalist Government in China, and the United States and Japan would negotiate a mutual trade agreement ending the embargo with Japan' (The McCollum Memo, 2001). The Prime Minister of Japan at the time was Tojo Hideki. His corresponding messages to the U.S. proposals, during late November, gave the impression that he agreed with the negotiations and that the relationship between the two nations could soon be settled, but America was deceived. The Japanese government violated their peace agreement. It was later noted that when the U.S. submitted this plan on November 26, 1941 as the Japanese were already in route to Pearl Harbor. They continued to build a navy that would rival the U.S. navy. In accordance with the Washington conference in 1921-1922, the Japanese became the party to the nine and ten power treaties agreeing to limit the number of Capital ships in the Pacific and maintain territorial authority of China (Jewell, 1996). In response to the worldwide depression and desire for more territory with natural resources, the Japanese launched an invasion into Manchuria. The Japanese were not interested in peace in the Pacific. From their perspective, the Europeans had dominated Asian nations for two centuries and it was time for the Japanese to free them. The Japanese believed that this was their destiny to rule over the Asian continent and now was the time for them to seize the moment.What Occurred During the Attack?Throughout the 1930's the Japanese brushed off American cries for peace and Japanese-American relations began to sour, eventually culminating in the Japanese attack on the American fleet stationed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Admiral Yamamoto Isoroku was the commander in chief of Japan's fleet at the time. He was one of the people that conscientiously constructed the plans for the attack on Pearl Harbor. On November 26, 1941, a Japanese fleet sailed out to a point about two hundred seventy-five miles north of Hawaii. On December 7, 1941, an estimate of 360 planes were launched.Over 75 warships (including battleships, cruisers, destroyers, submarines, and auxiliaries) were based at this "Gibraltar of the Pacific"(Prange, 1982). All United States aircraft carriers were elsewhere. Observing radio silence, the Japanese had reached a launching point at 6 AM, December 7. At 7:50 AM, the first wave of Japanese planes struck Pearl Harbor, bombarding airfields and battleships moored at the concrete docks. The United States, totally taken off guard, had to defend themselves in pajamas. They used anti-aircraft guns in an attempt to stop and hold off the Japanese from their attack. They were trying to do everything in their power to soften the blow of the attack. Soon after, a second wave followed. All of these attacks on Pearl Harbor finally ended a little before ten o'clock. The overall results were devastating; eighteen battleships were hit and more than 200 aircraft were either destroyed or damaged (Farago, 1967). One battleship, the Arizona, was totally lost in the attack and the West Virginia and California were sunk. The Nevada was also heavily damaged. Overall in the attack on Pearl Harbor, there were 2,400 Americans that were killed, 1,300 wounded, and 1,000 missing (Farago, 1967). Japanese losses were fewer than 100 casualties, 29 planes, and 5 midget submarines. The Japanese had totally destroyed the United States naval power in the Pacific. For the United States, that was very costly and hard to try to get back (Prange, 1982).The goals of the Japanese were easily accomplished. They had caught the U.S. unprepared and were able to approach the island without any obstacles. Also, about eighteen months earlier, President Franklin D. Roosevelt had transferred the U.S. fleet to Pearl Harbor as a deterrent to Japanese aggression. Since the ships that were anchored at the island were grouped all together, the Japanese had a perfect target to aim for and they did. "In minutes destruction, death and turmoil took over Pearl Harbor" (Jewell, 1996). The cruel Japanese continuously bombed the naval base killing hundreds of Americans and destroying everything in sight. It wasn't until 9 o'clock that morning that the Japanese made it clear to the U.S. that there was a state of war between them.Intelligence FailurePearl Harbor was not an accident; it was merely a failure of American intelligence. The FBI, State Department and service intelligence organizations played a direct role in the attack on Pearl Harbor. The FBI's mission is to control the intelligence community. Their focal points of the operations regarding Pearl Harbor were to survey and report on activities by personnel assigned to the Honolulu Consulate and the Japanese Embassy staff. They recorded a great deal of observations and even placed wiretaps on official and unofficial telephone lines. The FBI's most important source of providing information to the intelligence community, concerning the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, came from the Honolulu office. However, with all their information collection capabilities, the FBI was still not able to provide information necessary for the military services concerning Japanese espionage activities in Hawaii. The State Department's main source of information collection and reporting came from U.S. ambassadors and their embassy staffs. Ambassador Joseph C. Grew was the head of the U.S. embassy in Tokyo. He was given very limited capabilities which did not allow him to provide in-depth information concerning Japanese intentions and activities. He and his staff had very difficult times trying to obtain information concerning the Japanese government and their military activity. Because Japan enforced limited access by embassy personal to Japanese military activities, collecting useful information was nearly impossible. Therefore, the State Department was not in a position to provide intelligence which could have prevented the attack on Pearl Harbor. The Military Intelligence Organizations consists of the War Department and the Navy Department. These organizations supplied the majority of intelligence information available to national and military decision makers prior to Pearl Harbor. The Military Intelligence Division had developed excellent capabilities in current intelligence. They were able to provide very useful information regarding the Japanese intelligence by intercepting, decrypting, and translating foreign and military communications.If the United States would have used their intelligence more wisely, they would have noticed all of the warnings around them. There were many warnings given by many different sources. One of the warnings was one given by the top British agent named Dusko Popov. He told the FBI of the specific plans that the Japanese were planning to attack Pearl Harbor very soon. The FBI told him that his information was not believable because it was too specific. His information spelled out exactly when, where, how, and why they were going to be attacked. The FBI thought this sounded like a trap so they didn't listen to what Dusko said (Mother of All Conspiracies, 2001). If the FBI would have listened to the British agent and examined his theory more carefully, they would have realized that he was right. Another forewarning to the attack on Pearl Harbor was given was by a man named Kilsoo Haan. This was "an agent for the Sino Korean People's League. Kilsoo had told a CBS anchor that the Korean underground in Korea and Japan had proof that the Japanese were planning to bomb Pearl Harbor before Christmas time. Kilsoo eventually convinced the United States senator Guy Gillette that the Japanese were planning to attack in December or January. Gillette alerted the state department, army, and naval intelligence, and Franklin Roosevelt himself. There were various warnings like these told to many important individuals, including Hawaiian commanders, General Short and Admiral Kimmel. If the U.S. would have took these warnings more seriously, than many lives could have been saved, and the attack could have been prevented.Japanese Intelligence UnderestimatedIf the United States had considered the power of Japanese intelligence, the attack on Pearl Harbor would have been prevented. There are three factors which directly complicated the U.S. intelligence collection ability and investigative effort. These factors consisted of the thorough Japanese planning, the strict security measures used by the Japanese society and military; and their use of deception (Stinnett, 2001). Japanese planners selected a northern approach route to the Hawaiian Islands because it was rarely used by shippers during the winter months when there were frequent storms and heavy seas. They hired a scout to check out this route to Honolulu and collected information concerning sea conditions, winds, visibility, and the presence of other shipping and American flight activity. Japanese security practices primarily took two forms: counterespionage and operations security. The Japanese had a "mania for spies" and implemented a broad national security program. This eliminated virtually any chance of its detection by foreign attaches, observers, or agents. There were many deception techniques used by the Japanese. These were very thorough and designed to cover up the gathering, formation, and transfer of their strike force. Japanese soldiers were dressed as sailors and pretend to leave in Tokyo to give the impression that the fleet was still in home waters. The aircrafts chosen for the carriers were replaced at their training bases by another unit in order to keep up the appearance of normal flight operations. Other deceptive activities included "reinforcing garrisons in Manchuria, implying a possible invasion of Russia" and sending "'false war plans for Chinese targets' to individual commanders" (Stinnett, 2001). The most important technique involved the simulation of carrier radio messages. Each operator has a distinctive means of sending the Morse code which was easily recognizable by trained combat intelligence intercept operators. Everyday false communications during the training period in Japan gave eavesdroppers, such as Rochefort's Combat Intelligence Unit, the impression that the first air fleet remained in the area for routine training. The final piece of deception was the continuation of negotiations in Washington, D.C., by Japanese Ambassador Kichisaburo Nomura.The Japanese had very intelligent and excellent spies. The United States knew that Hawaii was full of Japanese spies but because of the United States Constitutional rights, they could not do much about it. Takeo Yoshikawa was a 27-year-old graduate of Japan's naval academy. During October 1941, he was dispatched to Oahu to spy on the Pacific Fleet. He used the cover name of Tadashi Morimura and was assigned to the Japanese consulate in Honolulu. Western intelligence agencies became very suspicious of Morimura and found no diplomatic registration. The Americans tracked him all the way to Honolulu, where he was met on his arrival by at least one undercover agent. Documents uncovered by Stinnett through the Freedom of Information Act reveal that every move made by Morimura in Hawaii was observed, and his frequent detailed reports to his superiors in Tokyo were discovered and know by the Navy, then were sent to Washington by priority dispatch (Raimondo, 2001). Another Japanese spy, Kohichi Seki, was Honolulu's consulates treasurer. He traveled all around Pearl Harbor taking note of generally anything vital to the attack. Kohichi particularly paid close attention to the United States warships and their aircraft carriers. He recorded the times they come in and out of the harbor and where they were docked. Because of spies like Kohichi, the Japanese had a very good idea of the environment and area of Pearl Harbor which is how they figured out the best way to go in for an attack (Raimondo, 2001). The Japanese spies reported to the Japanese Counsel where the United States ships were located and even had the Japanese Naval Intelligence ask their Counsel General in Honolulu for a grid of the exact locations of American warships and aircraft carriers. The Japanese sent this message in their secret code.Breaking down Foreign IntelligenceThe Japanese had many different ways of coding messages, which only the Japanese intelligence could decipher. They had at least ten codes at one time during World War II, but in the battle of Pearl Harbor they only used three codes. These three codes were the Administrative code, the Ultra code, and the Magic code. The Administrated code was used for personal matters. The Ultra code was used strictly for military maters. And the Magic code was used for the instructions on a battle. Luckily the American intelligence was able to decipher the most important of these codes, the Magic code. They American's deciphered this code using a machine that cryptanalysts called "Purple". This machine was very accurate, but took long amounts of time to decode sometimes the simplest of a code (Emerson, 2001). Frank B. Rowlett, a 32-year-old civilian employee of the U.S. Army, was a code breaker. He was in charge of the team trying to crack the most secret diplomatic cipher of the Empire of Japan. He used this Purple machine and within hours on that day, Friday, September 20, he would be "celebrating one of the greatest moments in American cryptology" (Kahn, 1992). The Magic intercepts served as last minute signals to the Washington intelligence and decision-making communities. This information provided significant indications that Japan was going to formally break relations with the United States and probably conduct some major operation in the Pacific.The United States had intercepted messages transmitted between Washington and Tokyo. On November 5, 1941, a message from Tojo, the prime minister of Japan, to Admiral Nomura in Washington was intercepted regarding a settlement with the Americans and their allies in the Pacific stating that, it is absolutely necessary that the signing of this agreement be completed by the 25th of this month. Later on that month another call was intercepted stating, in short, that they have decided to wait until a later date, now moved to November 29. This time the U.S. declared that the deadline absolutely cannot be changed. After these interceptions, the U.S. knew for sure that the Japanese were no longer interested in trying to work out a peaceful settlement with the United States. If the U.S. did not comply with the numerous Japanese demands, they would attack the U.S. fleet at Pearl Harbor in hopes of knocking the U.S. out of the Pacific War before it ever started.ConclusionThe 9/11 attack on the Trade Towers has often been compared to that of the Japanese against Pearl Harbor as another recognized case of intelligence failure. On both occasions, there was plenty of evidence that the enemy might be pushed to undertake a desperate act. The signs leading up to 9/11 were ignored for similar reasons that the Japanese were able to catch the U.S. Pacific fleet at anchor of Pearl Harbor.If America had used better instruments to counter foreign intelligence, the war against Japan could have been prevented. "December 7, 1941" President Roosevelt addressed to the Congress, "is a date that will live in infamy" (National Archives and Records Administration, 1996). One cautiously and well-conducted plan weakened the United States. Although the Pearl Harbor attack had been anticipated, largely because of the excellent work done by the U.S. war and navy departments and cryptographers in cracking Japanese codes, no one anticipated that Japan had the capability to attack the U.S. Pacific Fleet's home base in Hawaii. The U.S. suffered over 2,000 losses and major warships of the Pacific Fleet were destroyed or crippled. However, this disastrous incident made America stronger and wiser. The great pain and rage felt by Americans brought a feeling of nationalism among United States citizens. Congress's Pearl Harbor committee declared that there should be "a complete integration of army and navy intelligence agencies" (Jewell, 1996). The establishment of the Central Intelligence Agency was created, and former President Hoover even attributed the CIA's existence to the attack on Pearl Harbor. The attack on Pearl Harbor gave everyone determination and motivation to the people in the U.S. to fight back with bravery and fortitude in what resulted as World War II. There is currently a national memorial built across from the U.S.S. Arizona where the Arizona battleship sunk. Pearl Harbor continues to be a naval base for the U.S. The memory of this tragic event will live on forever.


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