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May 2
Vice-Admiral Yamagata, head of the Japanese Naval Air-Force Bureau was reported to say that "the achievements of the German Air Force in Norway [...] have indicated a turning point in naval warfare." Yamagata went on to state that "the Japanese Navy was developing 1,000 kg bombs for attack on battleships and had developed a special apparatus for releasing aerial torpedoes from any height desired without them exploding.109 (Chapman, p.277) (see also November 11-12, 1940)
109 It is unclear whether or not this was a public pronouncement.
July 25
A "Memorandum For Files" in the Navy Department, Bureau of Ordnance states that the E.W. Bliss Company of Brooklyn, NY was manufacturing torpedoes for the British Government.112 (National Archives, RG 74, Bureau of Ordnance Research and Development Division, Torpedo Data, 1918-1943, Box 23) (See also August 8, 1939, November 11, 1940, December 17, 1940, and March 1941)
112 It is unclear what torpedo model was manufactured at this plant. The irony would be stinging if it were the Mark XII, the shallow water torpedo later used by the British at Taranto. Unfortunately, U.S. Naval intelligence and U.S. Navy torpedo development was so backwards and disorganized before Pearl Harbor that the procurement of this type of information was virtually impossible. For a detailed description of U.S. torpedo development before and during World War II see Robert Gannon, Hellions of the Deep: The Development of American Torpedoes in World War II. (See November 11, 1940)
September 27
Tripartite Pact signed. Also known as the Berlin, Rome, Tokyo Axis. The Pact is a military alliance between Germany, Italy, and Japan. The Pact creates spheres of influence for each of the signatories. Germany receives the "Euro-African space," Italy the "Mediterranean area," and Japan the "East Asia space". The agreement contains a clause that relations between the signatories and the Soviets would not be affected. Furthermore, the Japanese expected the Soviets to sign on to the pact quickly (See footnote below). Sorge works closely with Ott and other German officials during the shaping of the Pact - he plays a crucial role in influencing the language of the Pact through his persuasive influence with Ott.116 (Heller and Nekrich, p.352; Guillain, p.90) (See also Early 1939)
116 Neither Emperor Hirohito nor Prime Minister Konoye liked that Pact but acceded to it under pressure. Said Konoye: "I believe the signing of the German military alliance cannot be helped in the present situation. If there are no other means of dealing with the U.S. it may be the only solution." (Behr, p.229) According to Guillain (who interviewed Konoye in 1945), Konoye had "accepted the Tripartite only at the condition, formerly accepted by the Reich, to soon make it a four sided pact [including the Soviets]." If Konoye wanted the Soviets as allies, this explains his reluctance, later on, to push the Japanese north against the Soviets in Siberia. In an interview with Guillain after the war Konoye says that he signed the Tripartite Pact: I) To keep the United States out of the war; and 2) To make the alliance an alliance between four countries including the USSR. Konoye tells Guillain that he did not wait for the signature of the Soviets because it was expected at a later date. Konoye stated: "the change of attitudes of Germany in March 1941 was a treason of the agreed policy." Why the Pact would keep the U.S. out of the war is unclear. It is possible that Konoye thought that the alliance would act as a deterrence. The Emperor himself had asked why the Japanese government did not wait for the Soviet signature on the pact. (Guillain, pp.90, 94; Le Figaro, September 14, 1945, p.1; Le Monde, September 15, 1945, p.1)
November 11-12
Within a week of the Taranto Attack the Japanese Navy sent Lt. Commander Naito Takeshi to Taranto to "investigate the attack and estimate the damage." Naito shared the results of his visit to Taranto with Genda Minoru - the soon to be executive planner and strategist of the Pearl Harbor attack and protege of Admiral Yamamoto - who from his office in London quickly forwarded a report of the attack to Tokyo. The close study of Taranto by the Japanese enormously influenced Admiral Yamamoto's plan to develop his own shallow water torpedo. Prior to Taranto the Admiral "assumed that his pilots would need to develop the highest possible bombing accuracy... [and that] he could not use aerial torpedoes which were devastating ship killers, because Pearl Harbor's shallow depth was insufficient for an air-launched torpedo's requirement of roughly 70 feet122 ". Taranto changed all that, for the Japanese discovered that the British had modified their torpedoes for shallow water123. From this intelligence the Japanese would learn how to reconfigure their torpedoes using wooden fins that facilitated operations in shallow water (the British shallow water design was different, but nonetheless inspirational)124. (Prange, At Dawn We Slept, p.320; Volkman, p.182) (See also Appendix IV entitled "Taranto," October 10, 1941, late October 1941, November 11-13, 1941, and December 6, 1941).
In response to the British Attack on Taranto U.S. Secretary of the Navy Henry Knox orders that the "highest priority must be given to getting more interceptor aircraft, AA guns, and additional radar equipment" in order to protect Pearl Harbor against a surprise attack. Knox also suggested to then Rear Admiral, Commander of Cruisers, Battle Force, and soon to be Admiral and Commander in Chief of the United States Fleet Husband E. Kimmel, that anti-torpedo net barriers should be installed as a protective measure in the Harbor. Kimmel rejected the idea because it "would restrict boat traffic by narrowing the channel." (Costello, The Pacific War, pp.83-4)
Adolf Hitler is "shaken" by the British victory at Taranto. Coupled with the turn of events in Greece, Hitler feared that the road was now opened for a British offensive in the Balkans. (Preston, p.403)
122 The literature suggests that the British had fitted their torpedoes with special wooden fins later copied and fine-tuned by the Japanese. The British torpedoes did not use wooden fins. Instead, they "used a fine wire cable, coiled on a drum, which connected plane and torpedo. When the torpedo was dropped, the carefully calculated length and breaking point of the wire placed the falling torpedo at the correct depth and angle." And, according to John W.G. Well ham, the torpedoes did not dive much passed the 33 feet at which they were set to detonate - the wire prevented a deeper dive. In fact, he said, the torpedoes did not go beyond 37 feet. If this is the case then the claim that Pearl Harbor's depths would be a deterrent to a shallow water attack is patently wrong. We now know, because of the mechanics of the wire cable device, that the depth was practically inconsequential at Taranto-so long as it exceeded 33 feet. The same must be said of Pearl Harbor. The use of the wire cable determined torpedo depth and set it in the 30-some-odd foot range.
123 Most, if not all, American books and articles misstate the history of the torpedoes at Taranto and Pearl Harbor. The literature articulates that the British had fitted their torpedoes with special wooden fins later copied and fine-tuned by the Japanese. The British tested, but did not use wooden fins. Instead, they "used a fine wire cable, coiled on a drum, which connected plane and torpedo. When the torpedo was dropped, the carefully calculated length and breaking point of the wire placed the falling torpedo at the correct depth and angle." At Taranto the Swordfish had to be traveling at an altitude of 150 feet at slow speed in level flight or with nose slightly down for the weapon to be released. The water depth could not be less than 33 feet, and the distance to the target had to be greater than 900 feet in order for the torpedoes to arm themselves. The modified Japanese version used at Pearl Harbor, however, was far more ingenious and accurate, not requiring the cumbersome wire system of the British shallow water weapon. Japanese engineers instead used a "breakaway wooden fin to stabilize running depth and angle." Two British torpedoes were found in the harbor without exploding, and were left for Italian, and eventual Japanese inspection (one torpedo was found floating in the harbor, its striking head crushed but the warhead undetonated, another under the Littorio's keel. This torpedo affair is not trivial. It is pivotal to the understanding of the relationship between the two attacks. (Lowry and Well ham, pp.88-91; Smithers, p.111)
124 The success of the shallow water torpedo depended upon intelligence gathered at Pearl Harbor-the layout of the Harbor, its defenses, and ship locations would be essential to a well planned attack. In the year to come Japanese intelligence gathering at Pearl Harbor would provide them with a decisive advantage in their surprise attack.
November 13
Prime Minister Churchill makes a statement to the House of Commons highlighting what he calls the "glorious episode" of the British victory at Taranto. (Gilbert, p.1090)
November 14
Lt. Commander John N. Opie, III, U.S. Navy Assistant Attaché at the London Embassy, and the official U.S. observer aboard HMS Illustrious, sends a full report to the Chief of Naval Operations and the Office of Naval Intelligence detailing the British attack at Taranto. Opie's report states: "The torpedoes were set to a depth of 33 feet with a run of about 3,000 yards at 27 knots. The duplex pistol, instead of arming itself after 400 yards of run, was set to arm itself at 250 yards [...]" In the memo, Opie stressed the lessons learned from Taranto. "AA fire is not effective [...] The British believe that the torpedo plane attack made at dawn or dusk or under moonlight conditions is the best form of plane attack. The British Navy has definitely given up high level bombing and its second choice to the torpedo attack is the dive bombing attack. They do not advocate steep dive bombing attacks because they do not want to lose control of the plane and experience loss of correction of aim during the dive." It is unclear how the office of the C.N.O. or of Naval Intelligence utilized this information. The only mention of Taranto in the formulation of US. policy did not come until June of 1941 in a letter from Rear Admiral Royal E. Ingersoll to Admiral Kimmel discussing the development of shallow water torpedoes by the Americans and British. The attack at Taranto was used as an example of these technological advances. (See June 13, 1941)
November 16
November 16 Prime Minister Churchill sends the following letter to FDR about Taranto. "[...] I am sure you will have been pleased about Taranto. The three uninjured Italian battleships have quitted Taranto to-day, which perhaps meant they are withdrawing to Trieste. I am writing you a very long letter on the outlook for 1941, which Lord Lothian will give you in a few days [...]" (Gilbert, p.1098-9) (See also November 21, 1940)
November 20
A Bureau of Ordnance Memorandum contains the "suggested" itinerary for R.A.F. Wing Commander Bruce's visit to the Department of the Navy, and later to the Naval Torpedo Station, Newport. The itinerary highlights a meeting with Commander Gallery and Lieutenant Commander C.O. Glisson that "will cover details of our aircraft torpedoes (present and proposed), and. the torpedo directors." (National Archives, RG 74, Bureau of Ordnance Research and Development Division, Torpedo Data, 1918-1943, Box 32) (See also December 17, 1940)
November 21
Churchill sends FDR a detailed memo outlining the specifics of the Taranto Attack. The memo states, among other things, that "duplex pistols were used and probably contributed to the success of the torpedo attack." This information alone should have spurred on the American government to investigate the feasibility of shallow water torpedo attacks, even in "protected" harbors. (Gilbert, p.1122; Lash, p.250) (See also November 11, 1940)
November 22
Captain (and later Admiral) Richmond Kelly Turner and Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Harold R. Stark send a letter to Chief of the United States Fleet Admiral James O. Richardson concerning the safety of the Pacific fleet moored in Pearl Harbor. The letter states: "By far the most profitable object of a sudden attack in Hawaiian waters would be the Fleet units based in that area." The letter inquired if it might not be desirable "to place torpedo nets within the harbor itself..." Richardson rejected these fears, believing instead that torpedo nets within the harbor were "neither necessary nor practicable. The area is too restricted and ships, at present, are not moored within torpedo range of the entrance."125 (Prange, At Dawn We Slept, p.40) (See also 1914, 1932, and March 1938)
125 Richardson mistakenly assumed that a torpedo attack would come from a submarine force, not from planes carrying modified torpedoes. Cleary, Richardson, unlike the Japanese, had not learned the lessons of the British attack at Taranto. (See also November 12-13, 1941)
November 26
A letter from W.R. Furlong, Chief of the U.S. Navy's Bureau of Ordnance to Captain Thomas Withers, Jr. at the U.S. Naval Torpedo Station, Newport highlights the British Attack on Taranto. "Newspaper reports of the heavy damage to three Italian battleships in the attack on Italian ships at Taranto brought out the fact that the damage was done with torpedoes rather than bombs. There has been considerable comment in the papers on this subject, emphasizing to the public a thing we already knew, that a torpedo from an airplane would do more damage than a bomb." (National Archives, RG 74, Bureau of Ordnance Research and Development Division, Torpedo Data, 1918-1943, Box 32)
November 27
In the wake of the Taranto attack and a British attack against the Italian battleship Vittorio Veneto off Cape Teulada in Sardinia, an Italian Naval Ministry spokesman was quoted as saying: "It has become increasingly clear how very dangerous a weapon the torpedo plane has become in naval warfare. Even when defenses are strong the torpedo plan is in a position to cause the severest damage to ships at both battle stations and in port." (Chapman, p.277) (see also November 11-12, 1940 and December 7, 1941)
November 28
The British Naval Attaché requests, from the U.S. Navy Bureau of Ordnance, "information concerning any types of target seeking torpedoes" and "developments in torpedo propulsion including jet propulsion and turbine drive." (National Archives, RG 74, Bureau of Ordnance Research and Development Division, Torpedo Data, 1918-1943, Box 32)
December 14
A memo to the Inspector of Ordnance in Charge at the Naval Torpedo Station in Newport discusses the visit of Wing Commander Bruce, Royal Air Force, to that facility. "Commander Bruce has been conducting aircraft torpedo development work for some time. He states that he was sent to the United States for the purpose of giving the U.S. Navy all available information regarding the development of aircraft torpedoes by Great Britain, and that he will visit the Naval Torpedo Station, Newport, as long as desired by that station... It is also requested that Commander Bruce be given access to all torpedo development and production activities, except for such as concern the two secret projects now under development." The nature of these "two secret projects" is not known. (National Archives, RG 74, Bureau of Ordnance, General Correspondence, Box 110) (See also December 17, 1940)
December 15
German Luftwaffe Colonel Baron von Gronau127 and Johann Jebsen survey the wreckage at Taranto harbor, providing the Japanese with information that must have included the specifications of the successful modification of torpedoes for shallow water use from unexploded, salvaged ordnance.128 (Lowry and Well ham, p.88) (See also Early 1941 and early August 1941)
127 Gronau was an Attaché at the Tokyo German Embassy at this time (in 1945 he became a Major General). This begs the question: why send a German from Tokyo to Taranto to investigate? Were the Germans more intimately aware of Japanese plans as they developed around Taranto and eventually Pearl Harbor? It would seem that the answer to the second question is a resounding yes. The answer to this puzzle sits with Dusan "Dusko" Popov, a German-British double-agent, who tried to provide FBI Chief J. Edgar Hoover with information concerning German surveillance at Pearl Harbor on behalf of the Japanese (See early August 1941 and August 12, 1941 for the complete details of Popov's exploits). Jebsen was his contact, and was also a German-British double-agent. One has to assume that Jebsen shared the details of his trip to Taranto with his British control. It is not THAT difficult to connect the dots.
128 In late June 1941 Jebsen shared the details of his Taranto visit with Popov. Jebsen, Popov tells us, thought it "peculiar" that he was sent by the Abwehr to Taranto on behalf of the Japanese. When asked by Popov "Why are the Japanese so interested in Taranto?" Jebsen replied, "Why? Because it shows how one successful attack may annihilate a large part of an enemy fleet. Cunningham, the British Admiral, sneaked his aircraft carrier, the Illustrious, to about a hundred a seventy miles from Taranto... The Japanese wanted every last detail: the effectiveness of the nets protecting the anchored ships, damage done to the dockyards, the petrol installations, the workshops. Everything. Now if they're planning something similar, they've got a yardstick to go by." Jebsen continued, wondering about the chances for war between the Japanese and the US. "I got an expert opinion on the situation from an old friend, Baron Gronau, last week. Gronau was in Taranto with me, also for prestige. He's the German Air Attaché in Tokyo and was one of our aces in the First World War. Also he's an intimate friend of Goering's. Gronau says the Japanese will be forced into the war if Roosevelt keeps insisting that they evacuate China and Indo-China and above all if he declares an oil embargo against them. The Japanese Navy has about eighteen months' reserves of oil. Gronau says the logistics are that they'll have to strike before the reserves drop below twelve months... If my calculated opinion interests you the Japanese will attack the United States." (Popov, pp.116-120) (See late June 1941)
December 17
Wing Commander Bruce of the Royal Air Force arrives at the U.S. Naval Torpedo Station in Newport, Rhode Island "for the purpose of discussing British developments" in torpedo development. A memorandum addressed to the Chief of Bureau of Ordnance regarding Bruce's visit states that "British have for some time had an officer engaged exclusively in aircraft torpedo development. We have had one for only for months. The necessity for such an officer is obvious from the progress we have made in this short time."129 (Bureau of Ordnance Papers, Box 27, Folder "Development of Glider Attachments for Use On Torpedoes Dropped By Aircraft") (See also November 20, 1940)
129 Bruce's arrival is another example of the continued cooperation between the U.S. and the British on torpedo development.
Late 1940
S.S. Colonel Josef Meisinger130 (also of the Gestapo), recently assigned to Tokyo German Embassy as Security Officer, is asked to investigate Sorge by Walter Schellenberg, Chief of the Foreign Intelligence section of the S.S. Reichsicherheitshauptarnp (RSHA or the Reich Central Security Department).131 Meisinger reports that Sorge is held in the highest esteem by Embassy officials. Schellenberg had wanted the investigation contained. However, Meisinger mentions his work to the Kempei Tai, who in turn place Sorge on a list of potential spies. (Johnson, p.172; Schellenberg, p.162)132
130 Meisinger was also known as the "Butcher of Warsaw," (he earned his diminutive nickname from his fellow Germans for savagery during the destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto). Schellenberg describes him as "a frightening individual, a large coarse-faced man with a bald head and an incredibly ugly face. However, like many men of his type, he had drive and energy and an unscrupulous sort of cleverness." Without a drop of irony Schellenberg writes of Meisinger's actions "I had received an incredible amount of material on Meisinger from Warsaw, and had collected a huge file which proved him to be so unutterable bestial and corrupt as to be practically inhuman." Schellenberg passed this material on to Mueller. An investigation followed "which revealed such atrocities that Himmler ordered Meisinger to be court-martialed and shot at once." At this point Heydrich intervened and managed to save Meisinger from Himmler-he was quickly transferred to Tokyo where he served until the end of the war. He was deported to Poland in 1945 where he was executed for war crimes (there are unfounded rumors that he escaped death, however). Schellenberg points out that Heydrich was "inordinately ambitious. It seemed as if... he must always prove himself the strongest and assume the leadership. He had to be the first, the best, in everything, regardless of the means, whether by deceit, treachery, or violence. Untouched by any pangs of conscience and assisted by an ice-cold intellect, he could carry injustice to the point of extreme cruelty." (Johnson, p.I72; Schellenberg, pp. 13, 160, and 177)
131 Formed in 1939. The RSHA combined the Security Police (Gestapo and Criminal Police) and the S.S. Security Service. Until June 1941 Schellenberg headed the AMT IV E division of the RSHA which covered counter-espionage work for the Gestapo in German and the occupied countries. In June 1941 Schellenberg became head of and reorganized the AMT VI, the Foreign Intelligence Service. Finally, during the summer of 1944, upon the liquidation of the Abwehr, Schellenberg took over German Military Intelligence and "so achieved his ambition of a unified Foreign Intelligence Service. The "Reichsfuehrer S.S. - Himmler's title as the supreme head of the S.S. - was intended to be the counterpart of the Jesuits' 'General of the Order,' and the whole structure of the leadership was adopted from these studies of the hierarchic order of the Catholic Church." The S.S. had been "built up by Himmler on the principles of the order of the Jesuits. The service statutes and spiritual exercises prescribed by Ignatius Loyola formed a pattern which Himmler assiduously tried to copy. Absolute obedience was the supreme rule; each and every order had to be accepted without question." Ribbentrop would later be "protected" by Himmler's obsession with the S.S. fraternity. Himmler was born in 1900, "son of a daughter of a Savoyard greengrocer and a former tutor of the Bavarian court." That made him part French. Name dropping should go both ways, not only when a remote national wins a Nobel or breaks a record, but also when a national is an intimate party to one of the great tragedies of the century. (Schellenberg, pp. xii-xiii & 15; Hohne, p.257)
132 There is some suspicion that Sorge was protected within the Nazi Party by a Soviet plant. According to Hede Massing (a fellow Soviet Agent) Sorge had a guardian angel, "another Soviet agent who had been planted in the Gestapo. Sorge never knew his name, although he knew of his existence. At the crucial moment, this agent, had been able, temporarily, to remove all the incriminating evidence from the file on Sorge." (It seems as if this "plant" moved Sorge's files around to keep them out of the wrong hands) (Prange, p.87) Protection was also offered by Walter Schellenberg who saw some advantage in his relationship with Sorge. But even Schellenberg's own investigation into Sorge's past generated more questions than answers, revealing close ties to the KPD, but also to the National Socialists. If Sorge did, in fact, have a relationship with the Soviets then Schellenberg thought, why not profit from it? It was therefore decided that Sorge would be protected from any suspicions so long as he included intelligence material on the Soviet Union, China, and Japan. (Schellenberg, p.178) Some have suggested that Sorge also spied for Germany. This is inaccurate. Most of the information that he gave to Moscow he would also give to Germany (as long as it did not compromise the Soviets) This helped to maintain his cover, and was put to little good use in German hands. Apparently the Germans did not know what to do with Sorge's intelligence. It is certain that Sorge used his connections in Germany to gauge reaction to his various ideas and theories before sending them to Moscow, as he did with his many friends and associates in the German Embassy in Tokyo. According to journalist Robert Guillain, Sorge was involved, on some level, with four German organizations: the Abwehr, the Secret Service of Ribbentrop, the Gestapo, and the Organization of Foreign Germans. (Guillain, p.186) Sorge's relationship with Wilhelm von Ritgen (head of the Nazi Party's Reich Press Department) also offered some protection. Sorge, according to Schellenberg, had "maintained a personal correspondence with von Ritgen which was, in reality, a comprehensive reportage." In 1940, the Nazi Party, suspicious of Sorge's past political activities, pressured von Ritgen to have Sorge investigated. Hence the investigation by Schellenberg which quieted the Nazis until Sorge's arrest. (Schellenberg, p.175)