“He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh.”

So far in At Dawn We Slept the Japanese have made their plans, and the fleet has just sailed for Pearl Harbor, around November 27; the Americans continue to be so-close-to-right, but clueless. Chapter 50: “To Be Considered A War Warning” covers the dispatches that were sent from the authorities in Washington to Kimmel and Short (the Navy and Army commanders, respectively) at Pearl Harbor.

The War Department sent one message, which included these phrases: “. . . Japanese future action unpredictable but hostile action possible at any moment. . . you are directed to undertake such reconnaissance and other measures as you deem necessary, but these measures should be carried out so as not . . . to alarm civil population or disclose intent. Report measures taken. . .” Short, who as the commanding Army officer on the island was responsible for protecting the Navy base, seems to have had a fixed delusion on the subject of sabotage. It was the only action that he could envision the Japanese taking against his forces. So, when he received this message, he activated Alert No. 1, which “was ‘a defense against sabotage, espionage, and subversive activites without any threat from outside.’ ” His method of protecting against sabotage was to gather the already limited number of planes under his command into one area, and store their ammunition in a separate location – to be easier to protect from fifth columnists among the local Japanese. Gordon Prange (with quotations from the subsequent investigations) writes,

“He believed that thirty to thirty-five minutes’ warning would give him ‘plenty of time to disperse the planes.’ But it would not ‘have been time to get them in the air,’ and that, after all, was their main reason for being on Oahu. Thus, the morning of December 7 found American aircraft huddled together with no ammunition available, a perfect target for Nagumo’s bombers and fighters.”

Short also assumed that the “reconnaissance” mentioned in the dispatch was entirely the responsibility of the Navy, and thus never even mentioned the subject to Kimmel. Had he inquired, he would have discovered that Kimmel neglected to properly inform and supervise his subordinate, Bloch, who was responsible for defensive measures on the Navy’s part. Bloch deployed the few reconnaissance ships and planes that were available completely to the southwest, between Pearl Harbor and Midway – thus totally neglecting the northwestern approach, which was how the Japanese were planning to come in.

The Navy Department sent Kimmel a second dispatch, which said in part, “This dispatch is to be considered a war warning. Negotiations with Japan . . . have ceased and an aggressive move by Japan is expected within the next few days. . . Execute an appropriate defensive deployment preparatory to carrying out the tasks assigned in [the basic war plan].” The Congressional investigations revealed that while the admirals in Washington considered the phrase “this is a war warning” to express “the strong conviction on the part of the Department that war was surely coming,” Kimmel understood it as meaning “no more than saying that Japan was going to attack someplace,” with no specific threat to the US bases. Admiral Turner, chief of the War Plans division, had used “deployment” to mean “a spreading out of forces. . . into the best positions from which to execute the operating plans against the enemy.” He had in mind Tasks G and H from the basic war plan, which called for protection of sea communications and territories of the Allies, which whatever patrols and other actions were needed to accomplish that. For some reason, he did not designate Tasks G and H specifically. When Kimmel read the dispatch, however, he concluded that “appropriate defensive deployment” meant ” ‘something similar to the disposition’ he had made on October 16. But most of those measures, such as full security of the ships at sea, were still in effect. While he considered stepping up the condition of readiness for the vessels in Pearl Harbor, he decided against it.”

The whole chapter is full of such examples of careful wording chosen in Washington, which was then understood in a very opposite way in Pearl Harbor. In another instance, Short, as directed, “reported to Washington” on his actions in response to the War Department dispatch. He stated specifically that he had instituted “precautions against sabotage,” and said nothing else. Stimson, the secretary of war, later testified, “I had no idea that being ‘alerted to prevent sabotage’ was in any way an express or implied denial of being alert against an attack by Japan’s armed forced.”

Prange concludes the chapter by saying,

“Short’s measures were to help the Japanese achieve one of their important objectives – nailing the Hawaiian Air Force to the ground and preventing it from effectively interfering with the attack or retaliating against the task force. These measures were in contradiction of the Martin-Bellinger and Farthing reports and all major war games held in the Hawaiian area since 1933. With the best of intentions all along the line, the ‘war warning’ messages of November 27 left Hawaii less ready to meet a Japanese attack than it had been before the dispatches arrived.” (italics added)

In another passage, Prange attributed to “a malevolent cosmic demon” the manner in which the Japanese fears for things which might prevent them from succeeding were exactly matched by American decisions which removed those precise obstacles. He was right to conclude that the events leading up to Pearl Harbor were beyond coincidence. He just attributed the planning incorrectly.

It is also written,
“Can a bird fall in a snare upon the earth, where no gin is [laid] for him?
Shall one take up a snare from the earth, and have taken nothing [in it] at all?
Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid?
Shall there be evil in the city, and the Lord hath not done it?”                                               Amos 3:5-6

I’m not offering to explain God’s reason for setting up Pearl Harbor; but I know it didn’t happen by accident. By the same token, I am absolutely certain that our current situation in Iraq is not an accident. I would guess that a history written fifty years from now from original interviews (as At Dawn We Slept is) would show a similar series of misunderstandings and pitfalls leading to the mess we seem to be in now. (In other words, Bush didn’t lie; humans can make mistakes with good intentions.) I think I know maybe a few of God’s reasons for this, already. Our nation deserves judgment for all our evil and immoral actions, and I’m sure Saddam Hussein’s Iraq deserved judgment too. Kill two birds with one stone. So, that means God has North Korea and Iran firmly in his plans, too. They’re not doing anything that’s he’s not aware of, that he’s not in control of. (God, please, could your plan not include another atomic bomb exploding?)

“This is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree of the Most High, which is come upon my lord the king:
That they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. . .
Till thou know that the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will. . .

“Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment;
And those that walk in pride he is able to abase.”                                                                  Daniel 4:24-25, 37

“Be wise now therefore, O ye kings; be instructed, ye judges of the earth.
Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.
Kiss [submit to] the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little.
Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.”                                          Psalm 2:10-12