Edward R. Kimmel's Remarks

Land’s End USS San Francisco CA-38 Memorial Service

May 26, 2002

Land's End Memorial Park, San Francisco, California


Members of the USS San Francisco Association, Distinguished Military and Civic Organizations and guests –

It is a great pleasure for me to address you – I feel as though I have a special relationship with the USS San Francisco Association and also the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association.

My father, Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, USN, hoisted his flag as a Rear Admiral for the first time on the USS San Francisco as Commander of Cruiser Division 7 in 1938 at the Bremerton, Washington, Navy Base. You may wonder how I remember these details. Well, I was 16 years old and had driven across the continent with my father. My father was not the best automobile driver – and, of course, I at 16 knew everything. When we arrived in Bremerton the local authorities were conducting a program to raise the driving skills of the populace. My father was driving when all of a sudden a loudspeaker blasted out, "That was an excellent left-hand turn, T-6770 of the District of Columbia" – well, my father was so puffed up that from that point on I dared not say anything to anyone about him as a driver.

However, I then became even more closely associated with this cruiser. My father invited me to accompany him on the ship when it left Bremerton for San Francisco. I, of course, was ecstatic. In addition, while aboard I received a letter advising me I had been admitted to Princeton University. Last, but not least, the ship went to Anacortes, Washington, and a boat was put over for those who wanted to fish for King Salmon. Needless to say I fished and needless to say I caught nothing!!

However, these memories are as vivid and real to me today as they were in 1938.

Captain Vincent Colan, USNR, who just addressed you, in 1938 was a member of the San Francisco’s crew. He was a signalman, and in that position got to know my father very well since they were on the signal bridge together most of the time. He came to admire my father and has been a loyal supporter throughout my father’s horrendous experience following the Pearl Harbor disaster. He has left no stone unturned to advocate on our behalf and to persuade members of government and others to assist in the restoration of the honor and reputation of the Admiral he served so long and well. The Kimmel family thanks him for his super effort over many years, continuing to this day. One of the pamphlets handed you today was written by Captain Colan.

As I am sure you must be aware, my rather went on to become Commander-in-Chief of the Pacific and United States Fleets and occupied that position in 1941 when the Japanese attacked December 7.

This accounts for my special relationship with the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association. In 1984 this group adopted a resolution at its meeting at Grossinger’s in New York State honoring my father and Lieutenant General Walter C. Short, Commander of the Army’s Hawaiian Department at the time of the Japanese attack. This resolution was to be awarded to the next of kin of these two officers at the Association’s meeting in Hawaii on the occasion of the 45th anniversary of the attack.

And it was this action by the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, the group most impacted upon by the attack, which led my brother and me to become actively involved in efforts to restore our father’s and General Short’s honor and reputation. We reasoned that if the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association was willing to honor the Pearl Harbor Hawaiian Commanders that maybe the public attitude toward them had changed.

My brother and I conferred and decided that an appropriate goal would be to have the government accord the Hawaiian Commanders the privileges of the Officer Personnel Act of 1947 which provided that World War II flag officers could be retired at their highest-held World War II ranks if nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate.

These two fine officers had been covertly denied this privilege when the War and Navy Departments failed to send their names over to the President for nomination when the 1947 Act was implemented. They were the only two eligible flag officers not nominated for this privilege.

So my quest for the past 16 years has been and continues to be to achieve this goal.

The Callaghan-Scott legacy, which is the origin of this memorial service, memorializes the courage and ensuing deaths of these two Admirals, the only two World War II admirals to lose their lives in surface ship shellfire. They knowingly went into harm’s way against the almost certainty that their losses in men and ships would be heavy.

What I want to share with you today is the contrasting legacy of another Admiral, my father, who, along with the Commander of the Army’s Hawaiian Department, was placed in harm’s way by the Navy and Army Washington High Command depriving him and General Short of vital military intelligence with respect to Japanese intentions to attack Pearl Harbor.

These two officers did not lose their lives by enemy surface ship shellfire, but they lost their honor and reputations as the result of the unfair blame put upon them by unfounded and unjust charges occasioned by political expediency. My father was hit by a spent Japanese bullet in the course of the attack. He is reported to have said "it would have been more merciful if it had killed me." He knew what lay ahead.

The Pearl Harbor disaster has the distinction of being the most investigated event in American history. Heaven knows what this portends for any yet to be instituted investigation of the Pentagon and World Trade Center disasters.

In the case of Pearl Harbor, the number of witnesses, venues, exhibits and years over which the investigations occurred exceed those of the Lincoln conspirators, Teapot Dome, the Black Tom Case, the JFK assassination, Watergate, Iran-Contra, and the more recent Independent Counsel Investigations of the Clinton Administration.

The circumstances surrounding the attack on Pearl Harbor have been the subject of ten government investigations. Their finds are set forth in some detail in the pamphlets supplied you for this occasion and you can read them at your leisure.

Today, I want to share with you some of the "behind the scenes" activity that went on in these investigations to bring to life for you the frustrating battle that my father and the Kimmel family have fought to have history record the truth about the Pearl Harbor attack.

Second, it is important for you to have an overview of what these investigations show:

The hurried Roberts Commission Investigation, instituted by President Roosevelt in December 1941, six weeks later, in January 1942, charged my father and General Short with being "derelict in their duty" and being solely responsible for the success of the Japanese attack. These charges were broadcast to all the world and ruined the reputations and honor of these two officers.

Four subsequent official government investigations exonerated these two officers from the "dereliction of duty" charge. And, in 1995, 54 years after the event, these two were exonerated from the "sole responsibility" charge by a specific finding that ...responsibility for the Pearl Harbor disaster should not fall solely on the shoulders of Admiral Kimmel and General Short. It should be broad shared."

And most recently, in the year 2000, the Congress, both Senate and House, passed legislation declaring that Kimmel and Short had performed their duties "competently and professionally" and requesting the President to nominate them to their highest-held World War II ranks of Admiral and Lieutenant General, respectively.

So, as they say, we’ve come a long way, baby!!

What accounts for this change in attitude towards the Hawaiian Commanders?

It was the fight put up by my father and his perseverance against government efforts to "cover up" what was known by the Washington High Command prior to the attack and what they failed to pass onto the Hawaiian Commanders.

For example, my father only learned what the Washington High Command knew prior to the attack when the Navy’s Chief Cryptographer, at great personal risk because he was violating Navy Regulations and Federal Law, visited him in 1944 and told him about secret information in the hands of the Navy Department prior to the attack. This information had been obtained because of our nation’s ability to decipher Japanese codes and he had just then determined it had not been sent to Admiral Kimmel, although up to that time he thought it had been.

I might mention that until that time the Chief Cryptographer blamed my father for being caught unprepared and for the disaster. When he found out that the deciphered secret information in the Navy’s possession prior to the attack had not been sent to my father, he became incensed at the injustice perpetrated and made his visit to him.

This courageous "whistleblower" action by the Navy’s Chief Cryptographer was what led eventually to the public learning the truth about the Pearl Harbor attack. I likened his action to that of a football quarterback completing a perfect forward pass to a determined aggressive receiver who ran for a touchdown.

At this point my father turned into a "fighting tiger." Until this time he had blamed himself for not being smart enough or for having overlooked something. He immediately hired a lawyer and caused legislation to be introduced in the Congress, subsequently enacted, which directed the Navy and War Departments to investigate the circumstances surrounding the attack. Up to this time neither the Navy nor the Army had made any attempt to preserve records or record testimony relating to the attack.

These investigations were completed in the fall of 1944, but not without efforts by the government to suppress their conclusions. For example, my father only succeeded in bringing the information orally supplied him by the Chief Cryptographer before the Navy Court in written message form by threatening to call a press conference and disclosing its existence. When he made the threat, the messages were produced for the Navy Court the next morning.

Similarly, the Army Board of Investigation was about to conclude its proceedings when a routine question to my father asking if he had anything further to say brought a response which disclosed to the Army Board the existence of the decoded secret information known as "Magic" in the possession of the Washington high command. The Board reconvened the investigation. It developed that General Marshall had ordered his staff not to disclose the existence of this "Magic" information to the Army Board. In my book this action was nothing short of subornation of perjury!

Just recently, in February 2002, there was brought to my attention a book dictated in 1946 but not published until 2001, by Major General Henry D. Russell, a member of the Army Pearl Harbor Board, which relates in detail the difficulty he had getting pre-Pearl Harbor information from the Army and confirms that it was not forthcoming until after Admiral Kimmel’s previously mentioned statement to the Board.

What is very interesting is the similarity between the Navy and Army treatment of pre-Pearl Harbor information. It is clear that it would never have seen the light of day had it not been for what the Navy’s Chief Cryptographer told my father and his ensuing follow-up actions.

The Administration was perfectly willing to sacrifice the Pearl Harbor Commanders and leave them hanging from the yardarm while denying them access to pre-attack facts, thereby thwarting their ability to build any credible defense to the charges leveled against them. The Administration made them scapegoats, as later investigations revealed.

Even when the Army and Navy investigations were completed in 1944, their conclusions were kept secret. In the case of the Navy, the Court’s report had been prepared in two parts – one secret and the other, which exonerated my father, for disclosure to the public – but the Secretary of Defense, over the protests of the President of the Navy Court, classified the entire report "secret."

Neither report was disclosed until after V-J day 1945.

The Administration made one last effort to suppress or cover up pre-Pearl Harbor attack information when in April 1945 it introduced legislation to the Congress which, if enacted, would have required approval by a government department head or the President before any coded message could be released to the public.

Quite by chance my father saw an obscure little paragraph in the New York Herald Tribune reporting the substance of this legislation and noted that it had been passed by the Senate and was being referred to the House. He forthwith got on a train to Washington.

He couldn’t locate anyone in the House or Senate to help him, so in desperation he went to the owner of the Washington Post, Eugene Meyer, who he had met previously, and told him that if this legislation were enacted the public would learn nothing more about the Pearl Harbor attack. Meyer believed him, got hold of his competitor, the Washington Times Herald, and the two papers raised such a ruckus that the bill died in committee.

Even during the Congressional Investigation, which took place from the fall of 1945 to the summer of 1946, the cover-up effort continued. Some military personnel were ordered by their superior officers not to testify.

In addition, a 1945-1946 study of pre-Pearl Harbor Japanese messages, intercepted by our Navy prior to December 7, 1941, transmitted in the Japanese navy’s operational code, JN 25, and decoded in 1945 by our National Security Agency, was never supplied the Joint Congressional Investigating Committee despite the fact the study was delivered to the Chief of Naval Operations while the Committee was still sitting. The study would have raised serious questions about the navy’s ability, pre-Pearl Harbor attack, to decipher these messages and what efforts had been made to break this code.

This study showed that these messages, purportedly not decoded until 1945, clearly revealed the composition of the Japanese strike force known as "Kido Butai" and its objective, a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 8, Japanese time.

My father fought for the rest of his life to gather more facts, but he had achieved one of his main goals, which was to bring everything then known to the attention of the public. And he saw to it that records and documents pertaining to all the investigations to that date were brought together and bound for ready reference. This material comprises 39 printed volumes and can be found in most public libraries in the country. And, I might add, I have a set in my office.

Following the 1945-1946 Congressional Investigation, numerous books and articles dealing with Pearl Harbor continued to emerge. It was clear that the public simply was not satisfied that the investigation had brought closure to the subject. Pearl Harbor just wouldn’t die.

My father died in 1968. But even so books and articles continued to emerge after his death dealing with the evidence put before the Congressional Committee and questioning conclusions. Again, the subject of Pearl Harbor wouldn’t go away. The public was not satisfied with the explanations offered and the subject was very much alive.

As I mentioned earlier, the 1984 resolutions of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association activated my brother and me. From that point on until 1995 we sought to be heard by the Department of Defense. They "stonewalled us."

On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the attack, in 1991 we sought relief. It was denied by President George H. W. Bush and his Secretary of Defense Richard Cheney, despite the fact that 37 navy admirals, including two former Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and five former Chiefs of Naval Operations, petitioned the President for relief. Secretary Cheney wrote that he didn’t think the promotion process was the way to establish Admiral Kimmel’s place in history, but he offered no alternative.

We also had resolutions from the Naval Academy Alumni Association, the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and other organizations in support of posthumous advancement in rank of the two Pearl Harbor Commanders.

And President George H. W. Bush’s Military assistant had the temerity to write me that the "uniformed navy" did not support our cause. Needless to say I wrote him a blistering letter asking how he could take such a position with a straight face when I had the support just described from naval personnel and organizations.

It was then I turned to the Senate for help. I approached Senator Strom Thurmond. He asked, "What else can you do?" I told him that the Department of Defense has never granted my brother and me an audience so we could face off with them. Whereupon the Senator, who at that time was Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he could fix that, and he convened a hearing requiring Department of Defense representatives to attend and face off with the Kimmel family.

Time doesn’t permit me to detail the whole process. But the final result was a report by Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, Edwin S. Dorn, issued in 1995 which is the government’s most recent on the subject of Pearl Harbor and is covered in one of your pamphlets. It was most helpful to our cause.

First, it said unequivocally that Admiral Kimmel and General Short were not solely responsible for the Pearl Harbor disaster – that responsibility should be broadly shared.

Second, it said code breaking intelligence in Washington the evening of December 6 and morning of December 7 provided warning of an attack on the United States at dawn (Hawaii time) on December 7 by Japan but the Hawaiian commanders were not informed.

I want to comment at this point that the Administration and its high military and naval command have never been able to make a cogent explanation of the dark night and ghastly morning of December 6 and December 7 and their failure to warn the Hawaiian Commanders based on information at their disposal. Thus their activities are still enveloped in a dirty and dark fog, characterized by Secretary Dorn in his next finding.

Third, it said "the evidence of the handling of these messages in Washington reveals ineptitude, some unwarranted assumptions and misestimates, limited coordination, ambiguous language, and the lack of clarification and follow up at higher levels.´ If this isn’t an indictment of the performance of the Washington High Command, I don’t know what is!!

While the Dorn Report declined to recommend the Hawaiian Commanders for promotion to their highest-held World War II ranks, it allowed those in Washington whom it said should share the blame for the success of the attack on Pearl Harbor to keep their World War II promotions when they retired.

Armed with the results of 10 investigations and having been turned down by the Department of Defense and one Administration, I now turned to the full Senate for relief. Again time does not permit me to detail my efforts, but I can assure you I got my PhD degree in practical politics.

Suffice to say that eventually, in the year 2000, after two years of effort on Capitol Hill with both the Senate and House, provisions were inserted into the Defense Authorization Act for 2001 reciting that the Hawaiian Commanders had performed their duties "competently and professionally" and requesting the President to nominate them to their highest-held World War II ranks. The legislation was passed by both houses with these provisions and sent to the President who signed the bill.

At this point let me say that I regard this action by the House and Senate, elected representatives of the people, as tantamount to exoneration of the Pearl Harbor Commanders and restoration of their honor and reputations.

I am seeking their posthumous nominations to their highest-held World War II ranks by the President to remove from the record any remaining evidence that the government of the United States continues to regard these two officers as solely responsible for the success of the Pearl Harbor attack.

President Clinton failed to honor the request of the Congress to make the nominations. In February 2001 I wrote President George W. Bush and reviewed the situation to that date and asked him to make the nominations. So far he has not seen fit to honor the Congressional request nor mine. But I can assure you that I am doing everything I possibly can to pressure him into doing so – and Captain Vince Colan and many of you in the USS San Francisco Association are with me and engaged in the same effort.

In late September 2001 a book was released, Pearl Harbor Betrayed – The true story of a nation and a man under attack, written by retired University of Florida history professional, Michael V. Gannon. This book is fully researched, closely written and factually accurate. I regard it as the definitive work delineating the accountability and performance of my father during his 1941 tenure as Commander-in-Chief of the Pacific and United States Fleets including the naval forces at Pearl Harbor.

The author was given access to my father’s files, and he uncovered a draft of a letter, never sent, to Admiral Harold R. Stark, a close personal and old friend who was Chief of Naval Operations at the time of the attack, and my father’s superior to whom he reported and from whom he received orders.

For the first time, as far as I am concerned, my father’s true feelings about Admiral Stark and his part in the Pearl Harbor disaster were revealed. There was bitterness in his every use of the world "betrayed." The draft read in full:

"You betrayed the officers and men of the fleet by not giving them a fighting chance for their lives and you betrayed the Navy in not taking responsibility for your actions; you betrayed me by not giving me information you knew I was entitled to and by your acquiescence in the action taken on the request for my retirement; and you betrayed yourself by misleading the Roberts Commission as to what information had been sent to me and by your statements made under oath before the Court of Inquiry that you knew were false."

"I hope that you never communicate with me again and that I never see you or your name again that my memory may not be refreshed of one so despicable as you." (page 282)

Earlier I mentioned Major General Henry D. Russell, a member of the Army Pearl Harbor Board, who dictated a book in 1946, which wasn’t published until 2001.

General Russell wrote on scapegoating –

"I believed then and believe now that all those responsible for our defeat at Pearl Harbor should have been dealt with alike. If one was driven out of the service all should have been. To select an individual as a sacrifice for the sins of the group was not only unfair, but was downright despicable. To me the conduct of those in high places, after the attack, was dishonest and inexcusable." (page 160)

General Russell also commented on General Marshall –

"Marshall knew that his derelictions were equal to or greater than those of Short, and that military men, so long as they studied the catastrophe of Pearl Harbor, would censure Marshall’s conduct in protecting his own official life by destroying that of his subordinate Short." (pages 118-119)

In July 2001 President George W. Bush asked the Department of Defense to give him a recommendation as to whether to posthumously advance my father and General Short to their highest-held World War II ranks.

I wrote the President in February 2002 that ever since my brother and I started our effort in 1987 to correct the injustice done our father by the government that the Department of Defense had opposed us at every turn, and the bottom line was that we had beaten them back and our point of view had prevailed.

I wrote the President that, ironically, now we find our fate is in the hands of those who have consistently opposed us since 1987 – but with one important exception, namely, that he, the President, has the authority to reverse the DOD’s stubborn refusal to accept the facts as revealed by the many investigations of the Pearl Harbor disaster.

I can only hope that when the President looks at the facts he will as readily perceive the injustice done these two fine officers as did the Congress.

At this stage, after 16 years of effort, the Kimmel family has convinced the Congress of the merit of its quest. It has convinced those most impacted upon by the disaster, the Pearl Harbor Survivors, of the merit of its quest. It has convinced the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the merit of its quest. It has convinced the Naval Academy Alumni Association of the merit of its quest. It has convinced the Admiral Nimitz Foundation of the merit of its quest. It has convinced 37 Navy Admirals of the merit of its quest. Each of these organizations has registered its views with the government by resolution or petition.

At the moment the result of all these efforts is "in the lap of the gods" with President Bush as the final decision maker.

In a 1961 letter Admiral Raymond Spruance, the naval commander at the Battle of Midway, wrote to Samuel Eliott Morrison, Naval Historian –

"I have always felt that Kimmel and Short were held responsible for Pearl Harbor in order that the American people might have no reason to lose confidence in their Government in Washington. This was probably justifiable under the circumstances at that time, but it does not justify forever damning these two fine officers."

In closing let me note that in the 60-plus years since the attack on Pearl Harbor I, personally, have experienced only one irresponsible statement with respect to the subject – of unknown origin – on a postcard – delivered to me in the spring of 1942. It read:

"How dare you serve in the navy. You, the son of an infamous traitor father."

Let me assure you. I had no difficulty at all serving in the Navy in World War II – and with great pride in my father and family. My brother, Manning, was killed in World War II. He was commanding officer of a submarine which hit a mine in Balabac Strait, north of Borneo. My brother, Tom, served as a submarine officer during all of World War II and went on to a distinguished naval career, dying of natural causes in 1997. My uncle, Admiral Thomas Cassin Kinkaid, was Commander of the 7th Fleet and had an exemplary wartime career.

Thank you for the opportunity to participate in this Memorial Day remembrance and to acquaint you with another legacy – The Kimmel Family’s Struggle To Have History Record The Truth About Pearl Harbor

 


Details on the pages of the Kimmel Family Record web site come from the collection of
Timothy W. Kimmel of Fort Wayne, Indiana.  You can contact Tim at timkimmel@comcast.net

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