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Where were the "missing carriers" at Pearl Harbor?

Discussion in 'Pearl Harbor' started by OpanaPointer, Dec 23, 2008.

  1. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

    Jun 5, 2008
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    Proof of a conspiracy by person or persons in the United States is frequently provided by the comment, "Well, it's a fact that the carriers were hustled out of Pearl just hours before the attack."

    On Nov. 26th, 1941, Adm. Kimmel received a message from the Navy Dept. It advised that an agreement had been reached with the War Dept. concerning reinforcement of Wake and Midway.
    The message started off, “In order to keep the planes of the Second Marine Aircraft Wing avail*able for expeditionary use OPNAV has requested and Army has agreed to station twenty five Army pursuit planes at Midway and a similar number at Wake provided you consider this feasible and desirable. It will be necessary for you to transport these planes and ground crews from Oahu to these stations on an aircraft carrier.” [FONT=&quot][1][/FONT]
    Notice that the phrase “provided you consider this feasible and desirable” is included. The trips would be made only if Kimmel thought them possible. When Adm. Kimmel was asked if he considered this message “a directive or a suggestion”, he replied, “I considered it as a suggestion, …”[FONT=&quot][2][/FONT]
    When asked about this Adm. Stark, Chief of Naval Operations, testified, “The dispatch was not a directive of execution. It distinctly puts up a proposition and states, ‘Provided you consider it feasible and desirable.’ ”[FONT=&quot][3][/FONT]
    Adm. Kimmel responded to the Nov. 26th message on Nov. 28th. “…in this letter I also stated the arrangements I had made for handling material for planes and ground crews at Wake and Midway and of the fact that I was sending the Enterprise and the Lexington to Midway.”[FONT=&quot][4][/FONT]

    "...We had very limited facilities on these islands to maintain the planes at that time. And that was the reason we had delayed sending the planes out there until the last minute. ..."[FONT=&quot][5][/FONT]

    The Navy Court wanted to be perfectly clear about who decided that the carriers would be out of port that day:

    Adm. Kimmel, Proceeding of the Navy Court of Inquiry, PHA pt. 32

    Pg. 232

    “We sent the ENTERPRISE to Wake with one Marine fighting squadron, which departed from Pearl on 28 November and landed the planes on Wake on 3 December.

    Pg. 238

    “120. Q. Do you consider the matter of stationing these twenty-five pursuit planes at Midway and a considerable number at Wake to be a directive or a suggestion? How do you consider that?
    A. I considered it as a suggestion, and in my letter of December 2, 1941, to the Chief of Naval Operations, which I request be read to the court and placed in evidence, you will the steps that we took and that we recommended.

    Pg. 239-240

    “…in this letter I also stated the arrangements I had made for handling material for planes and ground crews at Wake and Midway and of the fact that I was sending the ENTERPRISE and the LEXINGTON to Midway.”

    “129. Q. About how many days would you estimate for the trip to Wake?
    “A. My recollection is that Wake is some 2,000 miles from Pearl Harbor. Midway is about 1,100 miles. Halsey, in the ENTERPRISE, left on the 28th of November and would have arrived back in Pearl Harbor on 7 December.

    “131. Q. Did you report to the Navy Department that you were dispatching or had dispatched a carrier to Wake or Midway for the purpose of delivering planes in response to its suggestion of 26 November?
    “A. I told the Navy Department that I was dispatching a carrier to Wake on 28 November and that I expected to send another carrier with Marine planes to Midway later.
    “132. Q. You say the Navy Department gave you no instructions as regards to sending the carrier on its mission, as you have stated, you reported to them in your dispatch of 28 November?
    “A. You mean did it stop me?
    “133. Q. Yes.
    “A. No.”[FONT=&quot][6][/FONT]

    Hart Inquiry, page 330

    I had not broken radio silence since we left Pearl.

    Hart Inquiry, page 257

    72. Q. You mean that you were not to undertake offensive operations after a declaration of war or start of war?
    A. To amplify: Our plan called for reconnaissance, including attacks in force, on Marshall positions. We felt that we should not move within easy striking distance where we might be sighted and possibly disturb any remote chance that still remained of averting war. As a consequence, our forces were held in close proximity to Hawaii where they could be kept fully fueled and ready to move toward the Marshalls. Two groups, each of which included a carrier that had been carrying aircraft reenforcements to Wake and to Midway, were exceptions. They were to return to Pearl Harbor as soon as possible after completing their assigned task.

    Enterprise was not doing anything surprising by sailing on the 28th, this was her scheduled departure date as given in the quarterly employment schedules. What was important was to cover the fact that she was going somewhere with a load of fighters. Unless she was going to Guam or the Philippines there were really only two places she would take those planes, Wake or Midway. This bit of information could have been used to ambush her if the enemy had so chosen.

    Hart Inquiry, page 323

    36. Q. Admiral, do you feel that the dispatching of Marine planes to Wake was a consequence of this dispatch that you have had before you or had that been decided before the dispatch arrived?
    A. I believe it was precipitated by this dispatch and the fact that the air fields were just ready at that time. In other words, it was a hurry-up move. One more reason for that was the fact that my task force was due to proceed to sea on the 28th of November and in order not to violate security, they wanted to make it appear a perfectly natural move.
    36. Q. In other words, under the published employment schedules, you were due to go out on the 28th?
    A. Exactly.

    43. Q. Did you have time, on that day, for any thought concerning the security of Oahu, Pearl Harbor, and so forth?
    A. No, sir, I was entirely surrounded by thoughts of my own task force, getting out without people knowing what I was doing.

    Hart Inquiry, page 323

    44. Q. As regards your own task force, upon putting to sea, did you institute any security measures advanced over those which had been in effect while at sea for some time previously?
    A. Immediately on clearing the channel, I diverted the battleships, three in number, cruisers and destroyers, under Admirals Draemel and Kidd, and told them to carry out exercises in a certain area. I then headed West with the remainder of my task force. As soon as we were out of sight of the remainder of the task force, I sent a signal

    to put war heads in all torpedoes; to regard any submarine seen as hostile and sink it; armed the planes with bombs; gave orders to shoot down any plane seen in the air that was not known to be one of our own. We went into Condition 3, as I remember it, and kept that the entire way out until we got close to Wake and then I went into Condition 2. In other words, I tried to make full preparations for combat. I also ordered ready ammunition for all guns. I might add one other thing. I carried out morning and afternoon searches to three hundred miles, as I remember it, for any sign of hostile shipping. I kept a combat patrol over the ships at certain times.

    Halsey also testified that he had given the orders that resulted in three of the eight battleships being in port that morning. “Immediately after clearing the channel, I diverted the battleships...( Nevada, Oklahoma, and Arizona)”[FONT=&quot][7][/FONT] and those ships returned to Pearl Harbor at the time Enterprise was originally due to return, Dec. 6th. No Washington plan to have all the old and “expendable” battleships in port to be sacrificed would have been possible without Halsey’s cooperation.

    The carriers were thus “safely” out of port, but were they safe? According to Adm. Kimmel, no:

    “236 Q. Would not the sending of a carrier over 2,000 miles to the westward, within 600 miles of a Japanese base as proposed by these dispatches from both CNO and the War Department, have been a rather dangerous operation if war was expected immediately?
    “A. Yes, and when we sent Enterprise to the westward—this affected my estimate—that is, to Wake, we covered our advance by a couple of squadrons of patrol planes operating between Pearl, Johnston, Midway and Wake.”[FONT=&quot][8][/FONT]

    In his book on this topic Edwin P. Layton, Adm. Kimmel's Intelligence office, states:

    "…Rear Admiral John H. Newton who sailed in the morning in Chicago to provide the heavy cruiser escort for carrier Lexington in Task Force 12. The mission of this task force was to ferry the marine fighter reinforcements to Midway and carry out extensive reconnaissance sweeps of the northwestern approaches to the Hawaiian Islands…."[FONT=&quot][9][/FONT]

    As the Kido Butai was approaching the Hawaiian Islands from the north and, it seems strange that anyone would send a carrier into that area to be safely out of the way of that fleet.
    Adms. Newton and Halsey also were aware that they were going into dangerous waters. Testimony of Adm. Brown:

    “30. Q. Do you recall having any particular concern over the fact that the mission was advancing your force over a thousand miles toward Japan?
    “A. I considered that I was going into waters that had not been frequented by our ships for some time and, as there might be more danger from submarines than we had considered in the past, I set a speed of 17 knots in day light and zig-zagged. Also, I had scouting flights made by planes to cover our advance.”[FONT=&quot][10][/FONT]

    The carriers had, indeed, left Pearl before the attack. Enterprise had left on November 28th, and Lexington on Dec. 5th. This is in variance to the claims that both carriers where “hustled” out of the harbor shortly before the attack.
    It is understandable that people would be confused as to the exact dates of these sorties as the men on the scene did not want the absence of the carriers from Hawaiian waters to be too obvious. Adm. Halsey’s testimony includes the following:

    “Admiral Standley. You were asked a question in the beginning of your statement as to why radio silence. Would you please answer that, the reason for radio silence?
    “Admiral Halsey. Because we were on a very secret mission, to land these Marine fighting planes on Wake with the then possible enemy learning of it. I might say, the results—I saw a report the other day of what those 12 fighting planes accomplished on Wake, and despite the fact there was no Radar on Wake—it hadn’t been landed—it was little short of remarkable.”
    “Admiral Standley. Then, then the reason for radio silence was that you suspected or you thought it possible that there might be a Japanese attack?
    “Admiral Halsey. Exactly.”[FONT=&quot][11][/FONT]

    Toshikawa Hideo was making regular reports to Japan regarding the ships in port, and dates of sailings and returns. He made a "ships in port" report on the 6th, indicating no carriers in the harbor. This message was in the PA-K2 code and translated on Dec. 8th by the Army. We could speculate that, given the knowledge that Pearl Harbor was being watched, we could have "baited the trap" with the carriers, and actually hustled them out late on the 6th, rather than risking the enemy's calling the whole thing off because the carriers were gone. This presupposes that someone would have known about the attack in the first place.

    Testimony of Adm. Halsey:

    “The Chairman. In the event of a hostile air attack, the effort would be to sortie the battleships?
    “Admiral Halsey. A great deal depends, sir. We might have had a very much worse catastrophe here if these vessels had been in the process of sortieing when this happened. For instance, my ship, my task force had planned to be off Pearl Harbor about seven o’clock in the morning, and by the grace of God we had bad weather out there that held us up and I could not have gotten in until about four o’clock in the afternoon.
    “It might have happened that I would be in the middle of the channel when this thing happened, and that would have been very serious, because we would have been sunk, and then we would have had something.
    “Admiral Reeves. What is your flagship, Admiral?
    “Admiral Halsey. The USS ENTERPRISE.
    “The Chairman. The USS ENTERPRISE, a carrier.
    “Admiral Halsey. Yes.”

    Hart Inquiry, page 322

    The Marine planes were finally selected and for security reasons it was necessary to get those planes on board the ENTERPRISE at sea the next day without anyone knowing where they [298] were going. This required a tremendous amount of planning and subterfuge before we hit on a scheme for flying these people aboard. We told them they were going out for two or three days' maneuvers. At the same time, to show the Army that it was possible to fly Army fighter planes off carriers, it was arranged to take two Army fighter planes aboard from the dock and fly them of at sea to land in Honolulu. This again required much planning so as not to excite people and break the security.

    1. Q. Please state your name, rank, and present station?
    A. Vincent R. Murphy, Captain, U. S. Navy, Head of the Post-graduate School, Annapolis, Maryland.
    2. Q. Where were you stationed on 7 December 1941?
    A. I was a member of the Commander-in-Chief, Admiral Kimmel's Staff as Assistant to the War Plans Officer.


    That idea, as well as I recall, was to get Admiral Halsey's forces, which had been at Wake and which were or would be, out of fuel, back into Pearl Harbor and get them fueled ready to conduct the first operation of the War Plans. Admiral Brown's force was then at Johnston Island, as I recall, getting ready to conduct a practice landing operation. Another force under Admiral Newton, I think it was a task group under Admiral Brown, was delivering planes, or on the way to deliver planes at Midway. The general plan was to get all those ships back and fueled and proceed with our War Plans.

    The objection may still be made that it doesn’t matter why the carriers were out of port, they were still out of harm’s way. For this to be true we would have to assume that the carriers were in no way going to be exposed to possible damage from enemy action. This would further require us to believe that Adm. William Halsey would have heard about the attacks on so many U.S., British and Netherlands’ territories and not wish to take any action. It if far more likely that Halsey would have raised Caine about such orders during the several inquiries that followed.
    What actually happened was that the carriers were ordered to seek out and engage the enemy, at odds of 1-to-6. Adm. Brown testified:

    About 1000 or 1100 that morning, I received a message from Admiral Halsey to the effect that I was to assume enemy carriers about 200 miles South of Oahu at that time and retiring on the Marshalls. My orders were to intercept and destroy. I, thereupon, changed course to take me to the east- (pg. 345) ward of Johnston Island and attempt, that afternoon, to contact enemy by planes and to make an attack by planes that afternoon in order to slow him down so that I could make physical contact during the night or the following day.[FONT=&quot][12][/FONT]

    Adm. Halsey was closer to the Islands and thus in a better position to engage. Unfortunately (or perhaps not unfortunately) Hawaiian naval staff analysts made an assumption based on radio direction finding data that the enemy forces were south of the Island, not north. Therefore, Enterprise was directed to sail south by Adm. Kimmel. Halsey thought they were actually to the north, but followed orders.
    Every pertinent log, message, or other document shows that Enterprise and Lexington were ordered to seek out and engage the enemy forces. These carriers were separated by a considerable distance and unable to support each other. They would have faced considerable opposition and in all likelihood would not have survived the encounters, but they were ordered to find the enemy and they made determined efforts to do so.

    [FONT=&quot][1][/FONT] U. S. Congress Joint Committee on Pearl Harbor Attack Hearings, (hereinafter referred to as PHA.) Pt. 32, Proceedings of Navy Court of Inquiry (hereinafter referred to as Navy Court), pg 1177, Exhibit No. 18

    [FONT=&quot][2][/FONT] Ibid, pg. 238.

    [FONT=&quot][3][/FONT] Ibid, pg. 32

    [FONT=&quot][4][/FONT] Ibid, pg. 239-240.

    [FONT=&quot][5][/FONT] Navy Court, pg. 239

    [FONT=&quot][6][/FONT] Ibid, pg. 240.

    [FONT=&quot][7][/FONT] PHA. Pt. 26, Proceedings of the Hart Inquiry (hereinafter referred to as of Hart Inquiry), pp. 323-324

    [FONT=&quot][8][/FONT] Ibid, pp. 266-267.

    [FONT=&quot][9][/FONT] Layton , Edwin P. (with Captain Roger Pineau, U. S. N. R. (Ret.) and John Costello), And I Was There: Pearl Harbor and Midway—Breaking the Secrets; pg. 263, 1985, William Morrow and Co., N. Y, N.Y.

    [FONT=&quot][10][/FONT] PHA. Pt. 22, Proceedings of Roberts Commission (hereinafter referred to as of Roberts Commission), pg. 343

    [FONT=&quot][11][/FONT] PHA, Roberts Commission, pp. 619-620.

    [FONT=&quot][12][/FONT] PHA, Navy Court, pp. 344-345.
    Falcon Jun, John Dudek and Slipdigit like this.
  2. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Good Ol' Boy Staff Member WW2|ORG Editor

    May 21, 2007
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    A most excellent post, OP.
  3. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

    Jun 5, 2008
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    Thanks. At one time I had submitted it to Naval History magazine, but I withdrew it after some thought.

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