In the second half of 1941, the situation in the Pacific region deteriorated markedly due to the exacerbation of Japanese-American relations. Tokyo, under the impression of the successes of Allied Germany in Europe, sought by force to expand the zones of influence in Indochina and the southern seas, to seize key objects and territories there. These aggressive aspirations were negatively perceived by Washington, who feared to lose their positions.
The Japanese army has already established control over a large part of China, has carried out a “patronizing occupation” of French Indochina, and has deployed its contingent to Thailand. The United States demanded a “stop aggression” and imposed an embargo on the supply of iron and scrap metal and then oil and oil products to put pressure on Tokyo. The conflict deepened, the parties refused concessions and compromises.
Where will the Japanese go
During this difficult period, many politicians began to talk about the possibility of the Japanese-American war. In Washington received conflicting information from various sources. Some argued that Japan would begin military operations against the United States in the Pacific zone, others believed that it would be more likely to gain a foothold in Singapore and the Dutch India, starting combat operations against British bases and garrisons. Data also came that Japan decided to attack the USSR, taking advantage of its war with Germany.
The situation demanded reliable intelligence, revealing the actual intentions of the enemy. In the United States there were several intelligence services involved in obtaining information in the interests of military security. These included the management of naval and military intelligence. Attaches to foreign countries were subordinated to them, as well as departments of radio interception and interpretation. These structures were part of two separate ministries and almost did not coordinate actions.
The traditional source of military-political information was the State Department, which had diplomatic missions abroad. President Franklin Roosevelt and his administration’s top officials trusted the ambassadors ’reports than intelligence reports and reports, often of a contradictory and fragmentary nature. Therefore, there was rivalry between intelligence officers and diplomats, which also manifested itself during the preparation of Japan for a war with the United States.
In Tokyo, the successes of Germany, which in a short time defeated the western countries, pushed the military-political elite to aggressive actions in the southern direction. The state has intensified preparations for a major war in the Pacific zone. The final decision on its beginning was taken on July 2 by the top military-political leadership at a meeting with Emperor Hirohito. Military actions against the USSR were postponed until the moment when the development of events on the Soviet-German front would take a favorable turn for Japan.
The development of operational plans for the upcoming military operations in the selected areas has begun, groups of the naval forces have been created, aviation and ground forces. In mid-August 1941, the command fleet approved the plan of the Hawaiian operation, which provided for air strikes at the American naval base Pearl Harbor. If successful, the US Pacific Fleet, mainly based there, would suffer heavy losses. This allowed the Japanese to establish dominance in this theater of operations and to conduct unhindered further offensive operations.
Racism above facts
A powerful grouping of six aircraft carriers with 400 with extra strike aircraft on board, as well as two battleships, three cruisers, 11 destroyers, and six submarines were distinguished. Operational camouflage measures were taken to achieve surprise. In late November, the squadron began a covert passage to Hawaii. The attack was scheduled for December 7.
The United States watched Japan’s actions with caution, although Washington did not doubt that Tokyo would not dare to create any threats to a more militarily and economically strong state. Still, Roosevelt instructed the State Department and the naval intelligence agency in charge of this region to extract reliable information about Japan’s actual intentions.
At this time, reports from US diplomats and undercover sources, including in Japan itself, were not troubling. They, in particular, said that the forces of the empire were fully involved in the war with China and were incapable of operations in other places. Japanese industry allegedly experienced great difficulties in the production of military products, especially combat aircraft. In a number of reports it was emphasized: the country really intends to pursue an expansionist policy in East Asia, but gradually - each new territory will be developed and assimilated, and only then can the next operation be started. A number of reports contained data on the preparation by Japan of an attack on the USSR.
Sources did not see the build-up of the anti-American propaganda campaign; there were no obvious signs of deterioration in bilateral relations, despite the embargo imposed by Washington. In Tokyo, it was said in the reports, they are disposed towards a diplomatic resolution of controversial issues. Information from the FBI and military intelligence in the Western Hemisphere showed the active spying activities of the Japanese in Mexico and California, but in Washington they did not see anything unusual in this.
The US military and naval attache in Tokyo in their reports noted the low fighting spirit of junior officers of the Japanese army, as well as the fact that many local intellectuals negatively assessed the foreign policy of the empire, which could lead to extremely serious consequences.
Only one report, which came to the State Department from the US ambassador to Tokyo, contained very different information. It read: “My Peruvian colleague heard from various people, including the Japanese, that an unexpected attack on Pearl Harbor was planned in the event of a final deterioration in relations with the United States. He said that he reported this because he had heard in different places, although such a plan itself seemed to be clearly fantastic. ”
The State Department forwarded the message from the ambassador to the naval headquarters, who in turn passed it on to the commander of the Pacific Fleet with a comment: “The Naval Intelligence Division does not consider these rumors to be credible. Based on the available data on the deployment of Japanese sea and land forces and on the tasks assigned to them, it is impossible to speak of a movement to Pearl Harbor, or planned in the foreseeable future.
American intelligence did not have information about the combat strength and capabilities of the Japanese navy. They did not know that by the year 1941 the enemy had received seven newest combat ships, and the number of its aircraft carriers had reached ten. At this time, the naval command and its intelligence paid the greatest attention to the Atlantic, where German submarines began to attack US warships. The threat from Japan did not attach importance. The phrase of one of the American admirals is well known: “I do not believe that the Japs are going to attack us.”
Racial stereotypes also affected. Many Americans thought: slanting eyes would not allow Japanese pilots to make long-distance flights. The bombing of Pearl Harbor, located at a distance of 5500 kilometers from the Japanese islands, seemed incredible.
This view was held by most politicians in the United States. The Chicago Tribune wrote to 1941 in late October: “What are the vital interests of the United States that Japan could threaten? She can't attack us. This is impossible from a military point of view. Even our base in the Hawaiian Islands is beyond the reach of an effective strike by its fleet. ”
Drunk Courier - the shame of the diplomatic service
Only one type of American intelligence at the time obtained other information that could be used to conclude that Japan’s intentions were valid. Cryptoanalytical work in the US military has traditionally been at a high level. This was confirmed during the First World War, but even after it the American interpreters successfully engaged in the disclosure of foreign secrets, including in the Japanese direction.
Their special work was promoted by a special operation, during which it was possible to get acquainted with the design of the code machine, transported by courier from Tokyo to its embassy in the United States on board an American ship. She worked on the principle of the German "Enigma", but had a more complex structure. While the couriers were fast asleep after the heavy drinking and sleeping pills, the Americans took out the car and partially disassembled it, which made it possible to make several copies later. This made it possible to read the entire diplomatic correspondence of the Japanese from around the world. The Navy decoder also managed to uncover the Blue Code, the main one in the Japanese Navy, and read secret correspondence on military matters.
Intercept materials in November 1941-th testified to the tightening of the position of Tokyo in relation to the United States. It was about the impossibility of a compromise with Washington. And the leadership of the Navy decided to take preventive measures. A telegram was sent to the commander of the Pacific Fleet: "The probability of a positive outcome of the negotiations with Japan is doubtful, aggression in any direction, including attacks on the Philippines and Guam, is not excluded."
At the same time, 25 in November 1941 of the year Germany, Japan and Italy extended the period of the Anti-Comintern Pact against the USSR. This was taken in the United States as Tokyo’s desire to join the aggression of the fascist bloc against the Soviet state. And since technical types of intelligence did not note any activity of the Japanese fleet in the Pacific zone, the country's leadership received a report with the conclusion: "The Soviet Union is the primary target of the Japanese attack in the next three months." In the meantime, the strike force of the Japanese Navy had already completed deployment in radio silence around the Hawaiian Islands.
However, in the last days of November, the Navy intelligence service intercepted and deciphered the Japanese Foreign Ministry telegram to its ambassador in Washington, which said: “This message is rather lengthy, therefore it will be transmitted in 14 radiograms. The situation is very complicated, so that upon receiving full information, it should be kept secret for the time being. Regarding the time of the delivery of this memorandum to the United States, you will be especially informed about this. I would like it to be formulated more precisely in the remaining time, and you would take all the necessary measures to pass it on to the Americans as soon as you receive the relevant instructions. ”
The interception was immediately communicated to the president and the US military command. Navy radio intelligence was instructed to ensure that the rest of the Japanese document was received. On the morning of December 6, a bulk telegram from Tokyo began to arrive at the interception post. In its first parts, the Japanese views on “peacekeeping in Asia” were extensively expounded; they did not contain any important information. The last telegram (the Tokyo 910 number) had the following content: “After receiving and decrypting the radiograms for the 902, 907, 908 and 909 numbers, immediately destroy all machine codes. Do the same with secret documents. ”
The naval intelligence specialists did not see anything unusual in the decoded telegram. They considered: it simply confirms the termination by Japan of negotiations with the United States. There was no information about a surprise attack. The presidential administration and the command of the Navy did not rule out that the imperial army and navy could attack British and Dutch possessions in Southeast Asia, as well as, possibly, the Philippines, which were a US protectorate. Nobody even thought about Pearl Harbor, as none of the intelligence agencies reported on this. Therefore, no additional defense measures were taken there.
Torah of Heaven
On Sunday 7 December, the naval base at Pearl Harbor was in weekend mode. Much of the crews of warships were sent ashore, including the calculations of anti-aircraft guns and machine guns. Only three patrol airplanes were in the air, but they were conducting aerial reconnaissance in the southwestern sector, at the direction of the command, no one controlled the northern direction.
From there, having accurate intelligence data about the actions of the enemy, and the shock squadron of the Japanese Navy approached. The pilots had plans and plans for the targets that were to be hit. Early in the morning, aircraft began to massively take off from aircraft carriers, heading towards the island of Oahu, where the American base was located.
When the operators of the radar station on alert saw the approach of a large group of aircraft to the northern tip of the island, they immediately informed the commanders. However, the headquarters considered them their own, returning to base. And only after torpedoes and bombs rained down in tight rows of fighters and bombers on the harbor filled with warships and airfields were they heard the word “Torah.” Torah. Torah "(" Tiger. Tiger. Tiger "), which was a confirmation of the surprise attack.
As a result of two massive raids, the American fleet and aircraft suffered heavy losses: three of the eight battleships sank, one overturned, the rest suffered serious damage, three light cruisers and three destroyers were destroyed, many other ships and ships from 250 aircraft were destroyed carrier-based aircraft (based at the airfield) survived only 54.
The next day, the US Congress declared war on Japan, but what happened in the United States in Hawaii was called a catastrophe and stories military intelligence failure. Immediately after the Japanese attack, during the war and after its completion, open and closed investigations were carried out repeatedly, including by a joint commission of the US Congress, the reasons for the surprise attack, the unsatisfactory work of the special services and the erroneous actions of the presidential administration. In July, 1946, the final report was published, containing the 580 pages of conclusions, conclusions and recommendations. Attached were 39 volumes of witness testimony and other additional materials.
The main "accused" of the investigation were President Franklin Roosevelt, who by this time had passed away, and the high command, which "incorrectly" used the available data. Military intelligence, which proved itself well in the future, was largely justified. The service of interception and decryption has received the highest marks, however, as it was emphasized in the materials, its data were not properly analyzed and were not always taken into account.
As a result, recommendations were prepared for improving the work of intelligence agencies and their interaction with the top military and political leadership of the country. These materials were taken into account in the post-war period when reforming the US intelligence community.