"From 1946 until at least 1995, when the [War and Navy] department[s] conceded for the first time that the responsibility for Pearl Harbor 'should not fall solely on the shoulders of Admiral Kimmel and General Short; it should be broadly shared,' the department[s] consistently deflected blame onto the shoulders of its designated scapegoats... Princely self esteem and institutional sclerosis prevented [them] from acknowledging misjudgments of [their] own." (p. 209)It is not often that a book can captivate me to the point where I don't want to do anything else but read it. I finished this excellent work in less than a week even though I had already read a book on the subject of Pearl Harbor a mere year before. This one takes a different slant however.
Gannon spends little time on the attack itself, relegating it to the back burner, and instead focuses on an analysis of the events leading up to December 7, 1941 and the players involved. To some he may come across as too fond of Kimmel (I certainly felt that way at first), but in the end he does much better than a fine job of defending the man with facts and not just adulation.
Besides defending Kimmel and writing well, Gannon crucifies those 'history revisionists' who (also defending Kimmel) solely blame FDR and concoct elaborate conspiracy theories.
One of the key points Gannon covers is that even if Kimmel knew the attack was coming (which he could have to some small extent were it not for government bureaucracy, poor means of communication, and false, first impressions that signals of a surprise attack were actually caused by normal military activities) there was little he could do to stop it. WW II saw a new era in military strategy and means of success. Assaults launched via air craft carriers were usually highly successful with or without the element of surprise. Along the same lines, the Japanese victory at Pearl wasn't as big as it was shocking. The Japanese didn't wipe out the air fleet and did no damage to the carriers, repair facilities, or fuel supplies which would have set the U.S. far more back than the destruction of ships which, for the most part, were later repaired and weren't crucial to the subsequent war effort anyway.
I'll probably stop here with my readings of Pearl Harbor. (Apparently, there is a large group of Pearl Harbor connoisseurs who have read 20+ books on the subject.) But for those of you who have only read Lord's book or one like it, this is one that serves as a good companion.
from the publisher:
A new and groundbreaking investigation into the tragic errors that led to the devastating Pearl Harbor attack, Washington’s role in it, and the man who took the fall for the Japanese tactical victory.There are many myths surrounding the disaster at Pearl Harbor. Michael Gannon disproves two of the most tenacious: first, that there was a conspiracy to withhold intelligence from the Pacific Commander in order to force a Pacific war, and second, that Admiral Husband E. Kimmel was informed but failed to act. Instead, Gannon points to two critical factors ignored by others: that information about the attack gleaned from the "Magic" code intercepts was not sent to Admiral Kimmel, and that there was no possibility that Kimmel could have defended Pearl Harbor because the Japanese were militarily far superior to the American forces in December of 1941.
Beginning with the essential background story of Japan’s imperialist mission and the United States’ uncertain responses -- especially two lost chances of delaying the inevitable attack until the military was prepared to defend Pearl Harbor -- Gannon uses newly revealed primary documents to create an authoritative account of the "impossible to forget" attack. From there, he goes on to explore, in stunning detail, eyewitness accounts of the Japanese tactical victory, and the aftermath, which focuses on the commander, who was blamed for the biggest military disaster in American history. In doing so, Pearl Harbor Betrayed rewrites the history of America’s tragic "Day of Infamy."
Michael Gannon is a professor of history and the author of Operation Drumbeat, Black May, and a novel, Secret Missions. He lives in Gainesville, Florida.