The Unanswered Question

After reviewing the mountain of evidence in books, government documents, personal accounts, and the nine investigations, the one clear conclusion is that no definitive conclusions were drawn in any of the nine investigations, which is why there were nine investigations. If any one of them was definitive in their conclusions there would have been less than nine. The Report of the Joint Congressional Committee on the Investigation of the Pearl Harbor Attack July 16, 1946 is comprehensive, but not definitive. Many of the Report’s conclusions lack strong evidence, and are refuted by earlier investigations and Kimmel himself the Report gives no evidence to resolve the conflicts. Thus, one must choose which conclusions from the nine investigations to accept.

The problem was and is none of the nine investigations has the legal force of a court-martial verdict. SECNAV Knox should have convened a court-martial. Kimmel requested a court-martial in order to clear his name. The Roberts Commission charged Kimmel with "dereliction of duty," which should have caused SECNAV to convene a court-martial. Some have said that “dereliction of duty” was not then a court-martial offense, and Kimmel was not charged with “neglect of duty” which was a court-martial offense. “Dereliction of duty” and “neglect of duty” mean the same thing; thus Kimmel was charged with a court-martial offense by the Roberts Commission. All the above leads to the following conclusions:

  1. Kimmel was charged with a court-martial offense by the Roberts Commission.  
  2. A court-martial should have been convened by SECNAV.
  3. By not convening a court-martial the Navy denied Kimmel the right to "due process."

The other eight investigations, in that case, are just window dressing, and have no weight. None of their conclusions, in terms of responsibility, are real in a legal sense. A fact that the government could not have overlooked, which leaves the question: Why was no court-martial convened? There is no answer; only conjecture and each can be dismissed:

  1. Magic intercepts had to remain secret.
    1. Granted, however, the Magic evidence could have been presented to a court-martial in closed session.
  2. There simply were not sufficient grounds to sustain a successful prosecution.
    1. Then there were not sufficient grounds to sustain the charge of “dereliction of duty;” thus it never should have been leveled.
  3. The government feared bringing charges because a court-martial would have put other senior military and civilian leaders in a bad light.
    1. This could have been true, but is never a reason not to look for the truth.
  4. There was a war on, and for the good of the nation all possible distractions had to be put aside.
    1. There was time for eight investigations into the Pearl Harbor Attack during the war; thus there was time to convene a court-martial. It would have, in all probability, saved time.
    2. The nation was at war to protect its way of life, which must include the rights of citizens none more basic than the right to due process.58

While, the investigations may have been just window dressing, and have no weight, and none of their conclusions, in terms of responsibility, are real in a legal sense that does not make them useless. The investigations are valuable in that they are official records of their time, and that they exist is a testament to the importance of the event they investigated.


Paternalism was a factor in the underestimation and misjudgment of the Japanese ability and skill to attack United States soil. As stated above, Paternalism, in this case, can be defined by the following statement: the Japanese are under developed, but could and should be given the values and belief system of Western culture, and thus live in the most technologically advanced and civilized society possible. The inferior view the above statement implies was evident in the following areas:

  1. The Germany first strategy; Japan was a lesser threat.
  2. Misallocation of men and material leading to shortages, which in turn, had a direct adverse bearing upon the effectiveness of the defense of Pearl Harbor on and prior to December 7, 1941.
  3. Underestimation of their ability to operate carriers, no one thought the Japanese could attack Pearl Harbor; thus intelligence that pointed to Pearl Harbor was overlooked.

The above was not only, the view of the government, but also of the American people as well; thus they should have blamed themselves for their unreadiness to meet the Japanese attack.

Last Words

Admiral Husband E. Kimmel was no more nor less responsible for the misjudgments that led up to the Attack on Pearl Harbor than every other Naval officer or civilian leader, or citizen. He served his country with honor, and earned better treatment from it than he received.


58 For a discussion of due process and court-martial, see Keegan Thesis,, 11-35.