Considerations about the raid on Bomba, of 22 August, 1940, and more on Taranto.
Prof. Roberta Wohlstetter wrote in 1962 Pearl Harbor, Warning and Decision
, the most
realistic and balanced book of its time about the attack and is frequently quoted. She had hard words for Washington
and believed the recanting of Cmdr. McCollum's testimony, as he admitted he was put under pressure
by the inquiry commission. It is certain she never saw John Opie's report or the Illustrious
'. Nor did she speak with anyone
involved. She would have detected both the duds and the wires and her book could have been quite different.
She did indeed dig into torpedoes but with the incomplete information available in ’62. One wonders why on
earth Taranto was still classified unless it was to prevent people like her to work better.
At pages 369, 370, she writes:
In a letter from Admiral Stark, dated February 15, 1941, Admiral Kimmel has been assured that
A minimum depth of water of seventy-five feet may be assumed necessary to successfully drop
torpedoes from planes. One hundred and fifty feet of water is desired. The maximum height
planes at present experimentally drop torpedoes is 250 feet. Launching speeds are between
120 and 150 knots. The desirable height for dropping is sixty feet or less. About two hundred yards
of torpedo run is necessary before the exploding device is armed, but this may be altered.
Kimmel was also informed that the depth of the waters in which torpedoes were launched in the successful
attacks at Taranto was 84 to 90 feet, with a few runs at 66-72-foot depths. The depth of the water in
Pearl Harbor is 30 feet or less, except in channels, where it is 40 feet.
A follow-up letter on June 13 from Admiral Ingersoll added more second thoughts:
Recent developments have shown that United States and British torpedoes may be dropped from planes
at heights of as much as three hundred feet, and in some cases initial dives of considerably less
than 75 feet, and make excellent runs... It cannot be assumed that any capital ship or other
valuable vessel is safe when at anchor from this type of attack if surrounded by water at a
sufficient distance to per an attack to be developed and a sufficient run to arm the torpedo.
And some third thoughts:
While no minimum depth of water in which naval vessels may be anchored can arbitrarily be assumed
as providing safety from torpedo plane attack, it may be assumed that depth of water will be one
of the factors considered by any attacking force, and an attack launched in relatively deep water
[or 60 feet] or more) is much more likely.
Notice the quiet shift from flat statements of infeasibility (of torpedo bomb drops from altitudes below
250 feet or in water shallower than 75 feet) to the milder assumptions that water depth would be a factor
considered by the enemy, and - somewhat stronger - that deep-water attacks were more likely.
This information was forwarded to all fleet commanders in connection with requesting their recommendations
on antitorpedo baffles. The commanders were instructed to keep in mind that their ships had to have ample
maneuvering room, and that “where a large force such as a fleet is based, the installation of satisfactory
baffles will be difficult because of congestion”. No light antitorpedo net that could be swiftly and easily
installed and removed had been developed by December, 1941, and naval technicians seem agreed that any other
type of net would simply not have been practicable at Pearl Harbor. Kimmel and his staff, as well as Admiral
Bloch, believed after reading the June communication that “the danger of a successful torpedo attack on
Pearl Harbor was negligible”. On the basis of their information, their judgment was correct. But once
more the objects of static intelligence were to behave dynamically.
Adm. Kimmel became CinCPac in February of 1941, taking over from Adm. James O. Richardson. Maybe Adm.
Richardson read the Taranto reports, and maybe not, but he must have certainly asked for them. Retired admirals do write memoirs
and essays but they are only allowed to say so much. They are bound and restricted by military law, even when
they defend Adm. Kimmel. Gen. Bonner Fellers
and Adm. Kimmel himself also had their hands tied. Was the Taranto
report ever shown to Kimmel? We'll find out. Anyhow, the wires are not in the report; they must be in some
other paper unless, as said, they were considered so ordinary.
Once more, the wire prevented the torpedo from plunging deeper than 33-34 feet. Adm. Stark, instead,
writes an ambiguous, misleading letter to Kimmel in 1941, [see Wohlstetter above] mentioning
that Taranto was 85-90 feet deep [so what?] and he therefore was safe from torpedoes at Pearl Harbor. Either Stark
became an overnight complete fool or a criminal. Not that we hear he was such a great admiral, but he was certainly not a criminal
nor a fool, and could not have misinterpreted the reports and their implications, having had too many competent experts around.
The only answer left is that he was under orders. Find another explanation if you can. If Stark was under
orders, so were others. After all, ‘Terrible’ Turner had quite a career during the war. The plot would
thicken a lot, of course, ...if Kimmel too knew about the wires.
The US Navy officially admitted only in 1999 that the battleship Maine
blew up on its own in Havana harbor,
igniting the Spanish-American war. The very first, immediate Navy investigation found that out,
the Senate refuted it, and the sailors tagged along for almost a century. How many officers died in disgrace
many years later because of that? How many little Kimmels? A century of silence gives you the right to
think whatever you please. Did the Maine
Please do not misinterpret our writings. All this is not against Pearl Harbor. This is not a protest. Pearl Harbor got America
into the war and the world would be an outlandish nightmare if it had not. A supposed Fortress America
would have given in to whatever siege long ago. So, people should stop being myopic about Pearl Harbor.
It is only that it should not have happened that way.
Forget about decoding or not decoding JN-25. So many
other well known, at the time, Russian, Japanese, British, German and American factors made it happen
and pointed there. Churchill and Stalin were desperate for a US involvement. But Stalin was ten times
more desperate than Churchill, if that is possible. He had just been distraught
twice: about the Germans not having bled themselves to exhaustion along with France in a two-year war,
like he and most German generals predicted, and because his often forecast Soviet ‘liberation’ of a
ravaged Europe [“We shall go in last”] was now out for good, like Lenin's belief in a German Red
revolution which never succeeded. He knew Hitler would and somehow had to turn on him [and vice-versa, the rest
is words], and when Hitler did - but a little soon - at least Stalin's pre-calculated Russo-Japanese
non-aggression pact came to fruition, after his poised, monumental armies and superior armament initially had not, for a
total absence of defenses.
Hadn't he said, all elated after seeing off and kissing Foreign Minister Matsuoka at Moscow station: “With this
pact Japan can now do what it pleases in the Pacific”? With life or death of the USSR at stake, nothing was more vital than
being dead sure about his back door and, as they say: ‘You are better served by yourself than by others.’
Pacts are only pacts, and Stalin, who read maps very well, judged everyone according to himself without leaving much
to chance both at home and elsewhere. (Soviet-Japanese Neutrality Pact - April 13, 1941
See Haas & Whiting, 1956