Critical Reaction to Zimm's Attack on Pearl Harbor?

David Vandenbroucke's picture

I am an economist by profession.  I try to sit in the back of the H-War room and not make trouble for people who know what they're talking about.

Recently I read Alan D. Zimm's Attack on Pearl Harborwhich I found absolutely fascinating.  He reconsiders every aspect of the Pearl Harbor raid, from conception to aftermath.  He is highly critical of the Japanese on the basis of military competency (the Americans, too, of course).  The result is to turn much of the standard narrative about Pearl Harbor upside down.  

Has there been any critical reaction to his book?  What do the professional historians think of it?  Is it the ground-breaking work it appears to be?  Is Zimm just a crank?  Are his conclusions correct?  Are they surprising?  I find him very persuasive, but I am painfully aware that I don't have the background to evaluate the book properly.

Dav Vandenbroucke
Senior Economist
Office of Policy Development & Research
U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development
david.a.vandenbroucke@hud.gov

Categories: Query

The only real problem with Zimm's work is recent scholarship on IJN underway replenishment capability at the start of WW2 has made his point on the Japanese operating at beyond logistically supportable extended ranges from their bases than planned plain wrong.

I'm referring to this article:

David C. Fuquea, "Advantage Japan: The Imperial Japanese Navy’s Superior High Seas Refueling Capability" The Journal of Military History 84 ( January 2020): 213-235.

Short form -- The WW2 USN institutional narrative on IJN underway replenishment in "Beans, Bullets, and Black Oil. The Story of Fleet Logistics Afloat in the Pacific During World War II" is wrong,

And Zimm replied upon it in his analysis.

The IJN in fact had a large UNREP capability at the beginning of WW2 through to the 25–27 October 1942 Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands. It was this at start UNREP capability that made Pearl Harbor, the Darwin raid, The Indian Ocean raid and Midway possible.

It was the US Navy's use of Ultra code breaking and submarines to hunt down the Japanese tanker fleet that broke the IJN UNREP capability.

The consistent breaking of Japan's most secure naval code was not foreseeable in pres-war Japanese planning.

I think Zimm did a fair bit (along with Parshall & Tully) for revamping our understanding of Pearl Harbor. Gordon Prange's magisterial work was, to a large extent, 'captured' by Mitsuo Fuchida who was, to put it politely, an unreliable narrator, and both Zimm and P&T show the distortions and inaccuracies caused by that capture. My major critique of the book (if I remember correctly -- it's been a bit since I read it) was that Zimm tended to let the perfect be the enemy of the good in his analysis and that a fair number of things he criticized the Japanese for doing wrong during the attack were the kind of errors that happen in every battle, rather than being really reflective of incompetence.

(It does also show the way in which folks from other disciplines can make useful contributions to military history -- even, I suspect, economists.)

I agree with most of the above, that Zimm's book (which I reviewed favorably for the online Michigan War Studies Review) is a useful critique of the Pearl Harbor operation, touching on areas that Prange (and Fuchida) ignored or got wrong. The Japanese were certainly fortunate that the US commanders in Hawaii suspended the high alert state they had enforced through the end of November 1941; had they maintained this alert the Japanese would have encountered a fleet at general quarters with AA guns loaded and ready, and possibly as many as 80 modern fighters in the air. It's not hard to imagine the high attrition within the Kido Butai aircraft striking force and a much lower level of damage inflicted on the US defenders. Zimm also persuaded me that a follow-on attack on the US naval support infrastructure at Pearl Harbor was neither contemplated nor even possible, given what the Japanese had available. Finally, Zimm chipped away effectively at the myth of Admiral Yamamoto as a naval genius, a demolition task completed by Parshall and Tully in their book about Midway.

Alan Zimm's The Attack on Pearl Harbor: Strategy, Combat, Myths, Deceptions is a highly-regarded  analysis by a highly-regarded professional naval analyst (and naval officer). Trent Telenko is correct in noting that it has become OBE in the one respect of Kaigun at-sea refueling capabilities, but the implication of a broader full-spectrum underway replenishment capability is unwarranted, for they had not developed means for transporting and transferring large volumes of stores, let alone ammunition. Nor, fast oilers aside, did the Japanese have sufficient logistic shipping to support sustained major operations. Indeed, it will be noted that the examples he cites were all brief raids.

Telenko's assertion that "It was the US Navy's use of Ultra code breaking and submarines to hunt down the Japanese tanker fleet that broke the IJN UNREP capability," needs some important qualification. The application of the ULTRA cryptonym to USN COMINT product output      belongs to a later date than the brief period of effective IJN at-sea refueling capability and COMINT's actual role in the destruction was less central than he makes it out to have been. Note also that ULTRA was only ever a product cryptonym, not a system one as his statement might be taken to imply.

I had the pleasure of aiding Alan in his research for the book and later shared a stage with him (at his invitation) in a series of lectures at JHU commemorating the 75 anniversary of the attack. My text has been published in a brief book, together with supporting information: Undefending Pearl Harbor: How America's Strongest Bastion Became its Most Weakly Defended.

Just to pile on, I've talked to a number of naval and military historians about the book, to include Chris Gabel, Jon House, John Lundstrom, Jon Parshall, and Will O'Neil.

I tend to agree with most of them--for whom the book is on the whole quite effective. The book is quite valuable as an operations analysis of the attack and corrects many many misconceptions, not the least of which is the mythical "third wave" and the supposed vulnerability of its targets, including the oil storage farm.
Zimm, is more than "just" and ops analyst, he is no mean historian. I first encountered his work on the Flying Deck Cruiser in Warship International, he has a real talent for teasing out stuff from the evidence that tends to contradict "conventional wisdom."

HIs Pearl Harbor is right up there with books like Learning War (Trent Hone), Shattered Sword (Parshall and Tully), Black Shoe Admiral (Lundstrom), and Battle of Surigao Strait (Tully) in revising our understanding of World War II in the Pacific.
vr, John T. Kuehn, Ph.D.
FADM E,J. King Professor, Naval War College

I am always enlightened by these exchanges as they expose the gaps in my own learning. I became, as a professional matter, interested in military history, especially US, given my on teaching and later work experiences in East Asian history concerning interactions between China, Korea, Japan, and Vietnam (the Confucian or Sinic World).
While the contributors to this discussion are all very capable historians of American reactions to Japanese activities in East Asia and the Pacific, I wonder if the discussion could be broadened by introducing Japanese reactions to American actions and their view of the world after 1930. We know the "how" of the Japanese attack, but do we think it useful to discuss the "why"?
Alternatively, I know Dr. Kuehn teaches at CGSC. When discussing disasters like Pearl Harbor, have you ever used the matrix used by Cohen and Gooch in Military Misfortunes? When I was Command Historian in Korea I found it useful in explaining in a very brief compass parts of the Korean War. I found it fairly easy to modify to suit my pedagogic purposes.

The question posed by Dr. Bernstein is very central and very fraught: just why did Japan embark on a war that many of her foremost thinkers believed it very likely she could not win? The overwhelming majority of works published by Western scholars are seriously infected with mirror-imaging, greatly reducing their value. But most of the literature by Japanese authors is little better. To modern Japanese, prewar Japan is a foreign land. 

Remarkably, many Western historians seem almost as lost when it comes to the motivations behind U.S. actions. 

I essay some answers in appendices A and B to my Undefending Pearl Harbor: How America's Strongest Bastion Became its Most Weakly Defended, which if nothing else provides a useful bibliography of most of the relevant literature published up to 2015. I am at work, sporadically, on a more thorough exploration of these issues, drawing on some more recent publications.

Dr. Bernstein's question is a very good one indeed. And William O'Neil response is equally compelling. For one Japanese ultranationalist, insider's view of the road to Pearl Harbor, please see my new book, Zen Terror in Prewar Japan: Portrait of an Assassin. In addition, the critically important role that expansion into Manchuria played in prewar Japanese thought must also be taken into account. 

William O'Neil:
>The question posed by Dr. Bernstein is very central and very fraught: just >why did Japan embark on a war that many of her foremost thinkers >believed it very likely she could not win? The overwhelming majority of >works published by Western scholars are seriously infected with mirror->imaging, greatly reducing their value. But most of the literature by >Japanese authors is little better. To modern Japanese, prewar Japan is a >foreign land.

I found Sadao Asada's work provides a compelling answer to that question, and he seems to have a firm grasp on prewar Japan. I strongly recommend this work:

Asada, Sadao. From Mahan to Pearl Harbor: The Imperial Japanese Navy and the United States. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2006.

The ruling Imperial Japanese military factions of the interwar-WW2 period was a classic example of the "irrational regime under pressure hypothesis" that has been rattling around the noonosphere since 9/11/2001.[1] [2]

The basic concept of the hypothesis is that for certain unstable regimes (or even stable ones with no effective means of resolving internal disputes peacefully, particularly the succession of power) domestic power games are far more important than anything foreign, and that foreigners are only symbols to use in domestic factional power fights.

The reason "Irrational Regimes" become more so under pressure are due to the internal power games of "I'm more militant than thou" take over. This militant behavior is driven by the need to show ideological purity and resolve -- "virtue signaling" in modern terms -- as it became the primary means of achieving power and gaining resources inside the ruling faction in-group.

This power-reward process becomes far more important than objective reality. Outside reality is merely a prop or symbol to be used in the internal power games. And as external pressure in terms of objective reality mounts in the form of increasingly angry armed foreigners getting closer, "Irrational Regimes" become more so under pressure

This positive feedback loop of militant behavior in the Intra-Nippon military factional politics lead to the extreme self-defeating militancy that dehumanized the Imperial Japanese state & people in the eyes of the American people and political leadership. Thus leading directly to the events of August 1945.

Imperial Japan's Ketsu-Go suicidal fight to the death strategy of 1945, after losing Okinawa, was the ultimate expression of irrational Imperial Japanese militancy in pursuit of an unachievable national policy goal -- maintaining the Japanese imperial system via a post-war armistice rather than unconditional surrender.

U.C. - Santa Barbara historian Tsuyoshi Hasegawa has described this factional decision making in enormous detail, in multiple articles and books, trying to establish what the positions of each faction were at each point in the decision process.

Short form:
Survival of the Imperial House was the only concern to those that made the surrender decision, and they had to consider the military die-hards in that as that faction had a very different agenda.

Hirohito et al wanted to surrender on terms which let them stay in office, subject to an American shogunate which they expected would be temporary, and got those terms from the Truman Administration.

The Emperor and his supporters wanted to avoid an invasion because they believed it meant a coup by the Imperial Japanese Army die-hard faction, and such complete destruction and starvation that the surviving Japanese civilians would kick the Imperial House out after the defeat…plus face a likely Communist takeover following termination of the U.S. occupation.

So it was a question of the Emperor and the peace faction getting the military die-hards to stand down. That was what the A-Bomb meant - the Imperial Japanese Army wouldn't get a glorious last stand as they'd just all be nuked from a distance.

And in this decision making, the A-Bombs, plural, were decisive.

It is my opinion that the chemical tests of Japanese physicists working for the separate IJA &IJN nuclear programs had detected the difference between the HEU Hiroshima and Nagasaki Plutonium bombs, telling the Imperial Japanese Military that America had two different production methods for making nuclear bombs.

The Soviet attack was icing on the cake. It gave the Imperial House another argument to use on their military fanatics - that the Communists would conquer the place because the Imperial Japanese Military couldn't defend Yamato. This was an emotional, not rational, argument.

This is why neither the chiefs of staff of the IJN & IJA provided zero support for the final coup attempt.

[1] The Noonosphere is the whole huge realm of ideas that are current and moving around from person to person. See the history of the concept here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noosphere

[2] The term "Irrational" is usually replaced with much less academic, and more derogatory, terms.

Since I opened this aspect of the discussion, I may as well comment too. In order to get a greater understanding we must consider a Japanese view of the world. We can find examinations of this in the various works of Akira Iriye as well as the several works of Dorothy Borg. Understanding the dilemma faced by the post-1919 Japanese military, especially the army, is also important. One should look at Mark Peattie's work as well as the older monographs by Richard Storry and Ben-Ami Shillony. James Crowley's work on Japanese national security policy in the 1930s is also instructive. Please do not ignore Ed Drea's work on the Japanese army and his interesting doctoral dissertation on the Japanese general election of 1942. James Crowley's work on translating Japanese semi-official history should not be overlooked neither should the work of Christopher Thorne. There are many other authors one can consult but I don't want this post to turn into a bibliography. To further complicate matters we should also consider the state of the world in July 1940 and the perceived military-diplomatic options for Japan, the USSR, Nazi Germany, the British Empire, and the USA.

I hope this expands the discussion a little.

Dr. Bernstein is quite correct to add these titles. Especially the mention of Ed Drea's work and the earlier work of Crowley and Peattie. Mark Barnhart and Japan Prepares for Total War should also be mentioned.

I am sure that Rich Frank's new work on the Pacific War includes some cogent prose on this topic, although it is on my reading list and I have not consumed it yet (but I will).

Finally, Will O'Neil vectored me to Japan's Road to the Pacific War series and it too, including the editor's comments has much to offer on this fascinating story of "why" go to war when the prospects seemed so dismal. Short answer is, of course, the slippery slope, and it was squarely in China.
However--shameless self promotion here-- I must add that if anyone wants a broad contextual trajectory suggesting some answers/questions, I might recommend my own A Military History of Japan, published by Praeger in 2015, a work of synthesis that provides key context from Meiji onwards and even before in the roots of Japan's long and troubled history as an imperial polity dominated by the Samurai class legacy after the Heiian Period.

vr, John T. Kuehn

Being a disciple of William of Occam I am prone to parsimony. We have puzzled over Japan's road to (self)destruction in the 1930s and 1940s and I cast my mind back to Political Science 101, learning about "status quo powers" and "non-status quo powers." The two main Axis partners were in the latter category and those in charge desired control of resources as well as the states and territories where those resources were located. Ergo, marches of conquest. The largest status quo powers, the USA and UK, were in the way -- tangentially, at least. To my mind the most interesting question is, could Japan have exercised restraint and pursued its Pacific Rim hegemony without directly confronting the USA? Here we get into murky territory, with the embargoes, economic & military support for the Kuomintang, etc. And if the Japanese had refrained from attacking the Pacific Fleet and our forces in the Philippines, what would it have taken to provoke America to declare war? Diplomatic coercion and third-party support was one thing, but isolationism was pretty strong on this side of the ocean, I think.

John K. is right, we have a lot more to read.

Ralph, after reading Dennis & Peggy Warner's book on the Japan/Russia war, I am convinced that personal ego of the Togo grandson of Marquis Togo Heihociru Sodeyosh who was trying in Pearl Harbor to emulate his grandfather's victory over the Russians . Also the long standing perception that Japanese were not up to talking on a Western Nation.

Walter McIntosh
Bluff, New Zealand.

Mr. Telenko's offered posting, allows am hoping for some reply which had been considering bringing forward as subject on H-war. It does inn ways relate to hese thoughts about historical evidences and decisions leading to war in the 1940s and Pacific region.

Prof. Brodie[UCLA/Rand Corp.], offered against the backdrop to Vietnam war, his slim volume, Escalation and the Nuclear Option[1966] a probable insight and reflection on this subject matter; his final chapter, the Appendix was devoted to The Intractability of States: A Distinctive Problem. In his thoughts of that time, he delved into some of the psychoanalytic thoughts of the day concerned with anti-violent influencing of an Adversary. Here, the effort to relate psychology to analysis of political problems and governmental decisions comes more focused.
As his chapter points out governments as composed of persons, both individual and groups. In particular n p.145, he calls attention to what psychoanalysis offers, not in the examination of state to state relations but, "the profitable area is rather relations of individuals within each state, especially those factors which account for the rise to power and to influence of particular persons, groups and cliques, and which determine how those persons or groups exercise their power and the devious and usually extremely subtle ways by which individual psychic quirks can be translated into foreign policy...........'that psychology---is a science dealing with human behavior."
He is writing against a background of then existing experts of the generation who were recognized a "Soviet experts" and their ability to contribute to understanding the Communist and Russian mentality and behavior in relations.

And to add another log on this fire, I would cite Alter's translation: "my son beware: of making many books there is no end, and much chatter is a weariness of the flesh." (Qohelet/Ecclesiastes 12:12) Having citied that verse, I would add that a good way to understand the Japanese motivations is to understand both the proximate and the somewhat deeper background - we should try to understand the world of 1940 and its effect of the Nazi triumph in Europe and Asia - to wit John Lukacs, The Last European War: September 1939-December 1941 and Akira Iriye, The Origins of the Second World War in Asia and the Pacific.

To give a tentative answer to Ralph Hitchens, personally, I don't think the Japanese wanted to exercise restraint given the way the world looked in the summer-fall of 1941 - they did not want to miss out on the division of the spoils.

H-Warriors,

I must say that in the 20+ years I've participated in H-War, this has been one of the most educational/interesting threads!

Happy to eavesdrop, and thanks, Rob Kirchubel

William O'Neil,

Regards this --

"The application of the ULTRA cryptonym to USN COMINT product output belongs to a later date than the brief period of effective IJN at-sea refueling capability and COMINT's actual role in the destruction was less central than he makes it out to have been. Note also that ULTRA was only ever a product cryptonym, not a system one as his statement might be taken to imply."

No.

We are deep in a Jon Parshall and Anthony P. Tully "Commander Fuchita's Three Whoppers at Midway" class moment regards the real history of IJN at sea refueling capability in the Pacific War.

And to be frank, most of the big named foundational Pacific War historians, to include both Jon Parshall and Anthony P. Tully now getting to play either the role of Commander Fuchita (I'm looking at you Samuel E. Morison) or the English Language historians who did not talk to the Japanese historians for 15-20 years.

The list of historical works and authors that Fuquea throws well deserved elbows at for getting the IJN's underway replenishment capability wrong includes the following:

o Samuel E. Morison, History of United States Naval Operations in World War II
o Clark Reynolds, The Fast Carriers
o Gordon W. Prange, At Dawn We Slept, the Untold Story of Pearl Harbor
o Paul Dull’s Battle History of the Imperial Japanese Navy (1941–1945)
o David C. Evans and Mark R. Peattie, Kaigun: Strategy, Tactics, and Technology in the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1887–1941
o Jonathan B. Parshall and Anthony P. Tully, Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway

As for ULTRA and the dates of the extermination of IJN fast tanker UNREP capability, it was all after Midway and the breaking of the JN25 code.

The following are two paragraphs from the conclusion of David C. Fuquea's article:

"Conclusion
In the next twenty-four months of the war, whatever monopoly or superiority
regarding underway refueling the IJN possessed completely disappeared. Japanese
naval leaders, even after the death of Yamamoto, still understood the critical
importance of speed and fuel to any plan and, therefore, the need to sustain the
fleet with underway refueling. Yet, in June 1944, at the Battle of the Philippine
Sea, the remnants of the Kidō Butai, now under the same Admiral Ozawa who
employed underway refueling so well during the Indian Ocean operation, sortied
with only four oilers in support of the Kidō Butai. In October, off to the Battle
of Leyte Gulf, he sailed with only two. Admiral Kurita, well acquainted with the
importance of oilers at Midway, had none despite carrying the main effort in
the same battle. Kurita stopped his fleet to refuel in port only 800 miles from
his objective because underway refueling was no longer a capability for the IJN.
Doctrine still remained. Training and practice conducted early in the war had
perfected the skills. Leaders still understood the need. Yet, the “fast oiler” and
tanker fleet and the specialized equipment they carried was gone.

By Midway,103 losses included three of the sixty oil-carrying vessels available to
the IJN six months before. USN submarines and aircraft took two more by the end
of the year. Limited industrial capability turned toward replacing the lost carriers,
cruisers, and destroyers from Midway and the “streetfight” in the Solomons, not
oil carriers. In 1943, the IJN lost twenty-four more oil tankers, twenty-two to the
torpedoes of U.S. submarines. Half of the losses were “fast oilers,” including three
of the seven that had sailed against Hawaii. The following year, as was the case with
the entire Japanese Navy, the results for underway refueling were worse. Thirty-six
oil tankers sank to the bottom, two thirds victims of submarines. In response, the
Japanese could only field three additional vessels. The last nine months of war did
not leave many targets, but nine additional tankers went down. By war’s end, only
three of the original sixty oil-carrying vessels available to the IJN in December
1941 still floated. The IJN’s capability, once a monopoly, was shattered."

David C. Fuquea's article "Advantage Japan: The Imperial Japanese Navy’s Superior High Seas Refueling Capability" is a stud, frame and baseboard tear down and remodeling of Pacific War historiography.

This is a great time for young, up and coming, military history master's and graduate students. The whole of the Asia-Pacific War historiography related to IJN operations from America's 1941 oil embargo through Midway is now up for rewrite and they get to be on the ground floor of doing so.

Prof. Lewis Bernstein writes: "Since I opened this aspect of the discussion, I may as well comment too. In order to get a greater understanding we must consider a Japanese view of the world."

Forgive this Japan-focused medievalist for stepping in to the 20th C, but I haven't seen Eri Hotta's book mentioned.

Hotta, Eri, Japan 1941: Countdown to Infamy. First edition. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2013.

As Dr. O'Neill states: "The overwhelming majority of works published by Western scholars are seriously infected with mirror-imaging, greatly reducing their value. But most of the literature by Japanese authors is little better."

Perhaps there's something I'm missing as a non-specialist in this era, and it's been a few years since I read Hotta's book. For those looking for technical data, military hardware, or even tactical decision making, other books are better. But in my admittedly limited reading, I find that some of the "why" writing on Pearl Harbor in English is by Western (usually American) authors who can at best read the translated official transcripts of IJN and political leader "meetings" and try to shoehorn their preconceptions of what the Japanese were thinking into these sources. Hotta does an excellent job in my opinion of delving into a wider range of sources, such as personal writings and documents, that help build a more complete picture of the disjointedness of Japanese "strategic" "thinking." Whether or not Hotta's book "is little better" or not I'll leave up to the group, but it's certainly different than most approaches I've seen from some Japanese scholars focused on the trees and not the forest, or many Western scholars working with incomplete source bases and somewhat dated cultural conceptions. That isn't meant as a shot at any particular historian or author already mentioned in this thread, as the ones I'm familiar with like Edward Drea, Tsuyoshi Hasegawa, Mark Peattie, Akira Iriye, and Sadao Asada are all obviously great.

Lewis, The question of why Japan decided to jump in has been dealt with at length, but Yamamoto's concerns give a clue. He was a member of the "Treaty Faction" of admirals who resided in the Naval Ministry, heirs to Kato Tomasaburo (and who also included the unfortunate Admiral Nomura Kichisaburo, another moderate who had almost been assassinated in the wave of violence after the approval of the London Treaty in 1930-31). Yamamoto opposed Japan's decision to become a member of the Axis, believing it would lead to war with the Western powers. This earned him a spot on the assassination list, which is why he was moved from the Naval Ministry to become head of the Combined Fleet, it was easier to protect him if he worked on the Battleship Nagato.

At any rate, it was the Tojo regime's fear that Japan would miss out on the spoils of war that Germany (not so much Italy) was reaping. The decision was one of let's get in and get something before all the pickings are gone. This seems such a trivial decision to start a war with such a questionable outcome, but for that reason it probably rings truest.

The great irony of course was Japan's attack on December 8 (Tokyo time) came three days after the Soviets counterattacked at Moscow, an event which if Japan had waited might have made her reconsider. Then again the die was cast, eh?

My question, what was Japanese intelligence on the Soviet offensive? They had open lines of communication with the Soviets, and of course the Soviets had many high placed spies in Japan. Did Tojo et al. realize that they had just joined the losing side, or was it too early for them to have made this calculation because of the fog of war surrounding what was happening to culminated, freezing, HEER all along the Eastern Front?

vr, John T. Kuehn

Will et al. David C. Fuquea has been shaking the trees for some time. His "Task Force One: The Wasted Assets of the United States Pacific Battleship Fleet, 1942," came out in JMH in 1997, yet the "battleship" myths remain and are applied unthinkingly to the aircraft carrier debates of today. (e.g. aircraft carrier is obsolete just like battleships were in 1941).
Americans--including military historians-- seem to hang on to their myths, naval and otherwise, according to Thomas Kuhn's paradigm logic, refusing to reconsider even when presented with overwhelming evidence. Gasp, I have even noticed myself exhibiting such behavior.

Parshall's "3 whoppers"--which Will mentioned, is a case in point. I have a colleague who refuses to read anything Parshall or Tully write anymore because he believed all three of Fuchida's whoppers as sacrosanct truth. He decided that anyone responsible for such "scholarship" could not have anything useful to say.

Will is correct-- the fields are "white unto the harvest" for rewrites of America's naval operations in World War II (among other things). Hey, maybe eventually people will even remember that Frank Jack Fletcher was one of the heroes of both Coral Sea and Midway, to say nothing of the Battle of the Eastern Solomons. It is a great time to be a naval historian. We are finally coming out from under the long shadow cast by S.E. Morison.

vr, John T. Kuehn
Fleet Admiral E.J. King Professor
Naval War College

Professor Ledbetter's note fills me with chagrin - I have not read Eri Hotta's book although it is in the stack on my night stand. I shall get to it forthwith.

As for the timing of the Pearl Harbor raid, did the Soviets trumpet the start of their winter offensive and how good was Japanese army intelligence in re the Red Army? More importantly, when did they understand that the Germans were losing the war? This realization did not dawn on the resistance groups in Western Europe until Stalingrad. And how much of Japan's actions were based on an examination of American divisions in 1940-41?

Regarding Admiral Fletcher, did he ever speak to Morison or his assistants? If not, why? The aircraft carriers were the fleet's most valuable asset and had to be preserved until the new Essex class ships would join the fleet. These new ships do not appear in great numbers until the seizure of the Marshalls.

I am certainly with Dr. Kuehn in looking for a much more favorable assessment of Vice Adm. Frank J. Fletcher's performance in the first year of the war. Samuel Eliot Morrison doubtless listened too much to Admiral King and any number of other (mostly aviator) senior officers who denigrated and shamelessly second-guessed Fletcher's performance in those early carrier battles.

John Lundstrom's revisionist portrayal of Fletcher was long overdue. What I've taken away from Lundstrom as well as other recent historians is that Fletcher had the misfortune to command early in the war, when "systems" were still in development, technology moving fast but not fast enough, and a lot of what worked so well later in the war just didn't give consistent satisfactory performance during the first year. Radios, radar, reconnaissance procedures, all were intermittently deficient, forcing Fletcher to stagger along on "a wing and a prayer" in all of his battles. Mitscher and McCain and the host of their capable subordinate carrier admirals in the Fifth and Third Fleets later in the war had much more certainty about what they were facing.

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