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The Myths of Pearl Harbor.
Few events in the history of the United States have generated as much controversy
as the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Rumors abounded during the war, and the release of the Congressional Investigation
Report on July 26, 1946, while containing information that would scotch
most of them, did not end the speculations. Part of the problem with the
Pearl Harbor Attack Investigation Report (PHA for short) was that it was
in 40 parts contained in 23 volumes. Extracting the answers to the bizarre
stories that ran rampant was a daunting task for even the most serious
Today, however, with the aid of computer searching, we can locate information
about events and people that have been buried in stacks and university
attics for decades. Of course, no one will be able to convince the die-hard
Roosevelt-haters that he didn't arrange, or at least allow, the attack,
but for those of us who simply want the answers to questions such as "Why
didn't the Opana Point radar-contact report reach Adm. Kimmel?", the
testimonies of the people involved will illuminate the situation in a most
Each link below will take you to a document which explains why a particular
myth is either wholly false or a distortion of the facts. We will be adding
more myths as time permits, but do write
us with your favorite if you don't see it on the list. We'll check
the record and provide what documents are available on that topic in the
timeliest manner possible.
MYTH: The US carriers were hustled out of port just before the attack,
to "save" them for a war that FDR already knew would be dominated
by the flattop.
FACT: The two carriers then operating from Pearl Harbor, Enterprise
and Lexington, were on missions to deliver additional fighters to
Wake and Midway. See the document. These assignments
sent the carriers west, toward Japan and the IJN, widely separated
and lightly escorted.
"OK, but they were still out of port!" Yes, but Enterprise
was doing her best to get back into Pearl. Her first ETA was Saturday evening,
but a storm delayed her. The next time set was 7 AM, 55 minutes before
the attack started, but that proved too optimistic as well. She was, however,
close enough to Pearl to send her aircraft ahead to land at Ford Island,
and some of them were shot down by "friendly fire." See
one isn't a myth, just one of the more bizarre things to be found in the
MYTH: Pearl Harbor was not sent an urgent message on the morning
of Dec. 7th so as to prevent the fleet from being alerted. Variations include
using commercial telegraph instead of military radio to transmit the message
so as to delay arrival of the message.
FACT: Atmospheric conditions prevented radio communications between D.C.
and Pearl Harbor. The choice of commercial telegram, while possibly not
the best means of communication, was chosen for reasons given to the investigations.
the Congressional evaluation.
Army Board was rather more critical of the choices made.
MYTH: The U.S.N. thought that the harbor at Pearl Harbor was too shallow
to allow a torpedo attack.
FACT: The document shown is a message from the Chief Of Naval Operations
which states that no harbor is to be considered safe from torpedo attack.
The consideration at Pearl Harbor, however, was that the fleet should be
ready to sortie on short notice and removing anti-torpedo netting would
slow the units' exit from the harbor. [See
MYTH: The "Fourteen-part message", which the Japanese ambassador
was supposed to deliver to the U.S. Secretary of State 1/2 hour before
the attack on Pearl Harbor began, was a declaration of war, or at least
a breaking off of negotiations which would have signaled war.
FACT: The message is not a declaration of war, and did not even break off
negotiations. Beyond a recapitulation of Japanese greivances against the
U.S., and the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, there doesn't seem to
be any real point to the message at all.[See
So when did the Japanese government prepare the declaration of war?
Was it just not delivered on time? The record from Japanese sources shows
that the meeting called to write it didn't convene until 12:44 pm, Dec.
7th, Pearl Harbor time.[See
MYTH: The Captain of USS WARD, on anti-submarine patrol outside the
entrance to Pearl Harbor, sent a message that he had sunk a submarine over
an hour before the aerial attack began.
FACT: See the file for WARD's actual report to the ComFOURTEENTH message
center. Captain Outerbridge reports attacking a sub, but not sinking it.
(As time permits we will follow the message through the system to Adm.
Kimmel, who will not be playing golf while this is all going on.)
[See the document.]
of the Bishop's Point Radio Log
which shows WARD's reports to Com 14th. The other signifcant message
is at 1810Z, when a coded request for confirmation came to WARD. Decoding
the message and encoding a reply took time and by the time it was ready,
bombs were already falling.
MYTH: The Opana Point Radar reported the Japanese attack 1 hour before
the planes arrived over the harbor, but Adm. Kimmel refused to do anything
FACT: Lt. Kermit Tyler, having ending his first tour of training at the
newly established Fighter Control Center, received the report and, thinking
it was a flight of B-17s due in from the mainland, told the operators to
"forget it." The report went no higher than that. Interestingly
enough, the new radars tracked the planes coming and going, but
the Army did not tell the Navy about this pointer to the Japanese carriers
until the 8th, a fact which quite possibly saved our carriers. (Testimony
of the Opana Point radar operator, Pvt. Eliot, will be added later.) [See
Page maintained by Larry W. Jewell,
firstname.lastname@example.org. Created: 11/29/96 Updated: 12/7/96