Letters to the Editor 2019

To the Editor: 

Shortly after World War I, Japan began to lay claims to island nations in Micronesia and started to develop its military and naval forces. By 1923, the situation became such that the U.S. felt concerned because of our holdings in Guam and the Philippines.

Lt. Col. Billy Mitchell began warning his supervisors of the dire situation. He predicted the Japanese would soon attack our naval forces at Pearl Harbor and it would take place on a Sunday morning. His statements of concern became so provocative that he was court marshaled for speaking his mind. One of his jurors was Gen. Douglas MacArthur.

In 1932, Rear Admiral Henry Yarnell, during a mock exercise, successfully launched 152 blue airplanes off two air crafters and then theoretically wiped out his opponent's black airplanes, which were lined up neatly on an airfield in this simulated naval war game. The “virtual” exercise was reported in the New York Times Feb. 7, 1932.

Because the exercise was such a resounding victory, that same newspaper reported it again the following day. The narrative was so compelling and overwhelmingly in favor of Yarnell’s exercise that the embarrassed naval command in Washington claimed the exercise was skewed in favor of Yarnell and disallowed its results.

A Japanese consulate in Honolulu was so astounded by the two articles he immediately cabled the full details to Tokyo – alas loose lips sink ships. 

Fast forward to Dec. 4, 1941, at a private dinner party at the Carlton Hotel in Washington to honor Vice President Henry Wallace. After many toasts and speeches, the last presenter began by saying: “We are very close to war in the Pacific. It may begin tonight. We are that close, but I want you to know the U.S. Navy is ready. Every man is at his post and every ship is at its station. The Navy will not be caught napping.”

The speaker was Frank Knox, secretary of the Navy. Seventy–two hours later, Pearl Harbor was attacked on a Sunday at 7:45 a.m. and guess how and where our airplanes were neatly situated on the airfield?

Ironically, it was MacArthur who did not get his airplanes off the ground in the Philippines, having received notice of Pearl Harbor’s fate 24 hours earlier and been told to move them by his superiors in Washington.