Sunday morning, December 7, 1941, Japanese bombers, fighter planes, and torpedo planes attacked the American naval base at Pearl Harbor. This sneak attack plunged the United States into World War II. The first wave, consisting of 183 planes, arrived at approximately 7:50AM. They had taken off from aircraft carriers about 200 miles to the northwest, a fleet commanded by Vice Admiral Chuichi Nagumo (Thomas 3). The Japanese goal was to destroy the ships on Battleship Row and the airplanes on the ground at the Naval Air Station, Wheeler, and Hickam Airfields. Because it was a Sunday morning, most of the 780 antiaircraft guns were not manned.
Many military personnel were on shore for the weekend and hundreds of others were still asleep on their ships. Did the U. S. Government know about the attack beforehand? Why were the warning signs not more deeply investigated?The Naval Air Station, Wheeler, and Hickam Airfields were the first to be hit by the Japanese to ensure the US had no ability to fight back.
212 of the fleets grounded airplanes were hit, and the 53 that were able to take off were shot down in the attack. The U. S. S.
Oklahoma, West Virginia, Arizona, California, and Nevada were five of the 19 sunken or damaged U. S. ships. In the midst of the attack, 2,403 American military personnel were killed; including the 1,177 forever entombed in the Arizona. Another 1,178 were wounded.
The U. S. did not inflict much damage to the Japanese during the attack. The Japanese only lost one midget submarine and 29 planes; 20 were kamikaze missions, 2 were mechanical malfunctions, and only 7 were shot down. December 8, the president of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt, addressed Congress and the American people.
“Yesterday, December 7, a date which will live in infamy-the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by the naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan” Congress declared war on Japan, and the US was dragged into World War II (Thomas 5). The warning signs of the attack were there, but weren’t investigated. The 3 major warning signs that the Japanese were going to attack were the “East Wind Rain” message, the unidentified submarine, and the radar signals. On the morning of Dec 4, 1941 Naval Officer Ralph T. Briggs was on watch at the Cheltenham, MD, intercept station, when he received the startling and unexpected “East Wind Rain” message. “We had been anticipating the tip-off code phrase for the impending Japanese diplomatic break with Great Britain including attacks on Thailand, Malaya and the Dutch East Indies,” Briggs said.
“Nishi no kaze hare, meaning ‘West Wind Clear,’ There also was a possible ‘North Wind Cloudy’ message, which meant war with Russia. But I did a double take after I copied Higashi no kaze ame, which means ‘East Wind Rain’ in Japanese. This was their code that warned there would be a break with the United States. It was a war warning message” (Pearl Harbor: Legacy of Attack). A copy of the message was sent to the Naval Intelligence headquarters in Washington.
The “East Wind Rain” message was received in Washington’s Navy Department by the watch officer, who immediately notified Lt. Comdr. A. D. Kramer, head of the translation section of the Navy’s communication’s intelligence (COMINT) unit.
When Kramer saw Brigg’s message from Cheltenham, he leapt from his chair and rushed into Captain Laurence Safford’s office with the news. His hands shook as he threw the long yellow Teletype paper at Safford, exclaiming, “This is it!” (Ellsworth 22). After Kramer handed Safford the message, he read the whole thing, more than 200 words of combined news and weather, with the “East Wind Rain” message appearing right in the middle of the paper. Safford immediately sent the original Teletype containing a message to his superior officer, Rear Adm.
Leigh Noyes, director of Naval Communications. A few moments later, Safford breathed a sigh of relief when verification of “message received” came from Noyes. Happy with the success, Safford wired a message to his men: “Well done! Discontinue coverage of the target. ” (Thomas 7).
That was a far as the message got. After the attack, government officials went through the intercept stations .