Intelligence Failure at Pearl Harbor essay


The Pearl Harbor attack took place in December of 1941. The Japanese led this attack against the United States to prevent the United States Pacific Fleet against interfering with the military actions planned in Southern Asia by the Empire of Japan against the territories affiliated with United Kingdom, Netherlands and the United States. These territories were situated overseas. The attack at Pearl Harbor resulted to losses in both property and human life. For instance, it led to the sinking of four United States Navy battleships, destruction of 188 U.S aircraft and 2,402 deaths. Almost 1,282 people were injured. Both the United States and Japan suffered the effects of the war although it is alleged that the United States suffered more casualty. This was a surprise attack on the United States as because they received no warning or threat from the Japanese. Consequently, the Americans joined the Second World War with a declaration of war against the Japanese.

It also led to support of Americans by the Britons, and this led to entry of other super powers into the war. Germany and Italy are the two countries that joined forces with Japan. This immediate attack on American by Japan leaves a lot to be desired since there were negotiations underway, while Japan resorted to attack without any formal warning. However, Japan's success reflects how a nation should be prepared for attacks and arguments emanating as to whom blame should be placed concerning the attacks. Many quarters laid the blame as a failure of intelligence for not furnishing the government and military decision makers with adequate and accurate information. Other people assume that the intelligence failed in the interpretation of the message they had thus resulting to the immediate attacks, and lack of preparedness from the United States government and military. This paper explores reasons as to why intelligence failure has to be blamed for the 1941, Pearl Harbor attack.


The first reason as to why the Pearl Harbor attack was an intelligence failure is realized from an analysis of the United States and Japan relations prior to the attack. There are several reasons here that indicate the attack was because of intelligence failure. Firstly, research establishes that the U.S and Japan were on a collision course prior to the attacks. This could have aided the U.S intelligence to predict an imminent attack, but they failed to predict the coming of a potential attack. The collision course between Japan and United States is traced back from 1905 after Japan emerged victors over Russia. This meant that Japan became the East Asia powerhouse a situation that troubled America and made them cautious over Japan. This prompted the American military to plan for war against Japan, a plan that they never executed earlier.

The military made the "war plan Orange" intended for future war with Japan. The situation in America also increased hostility between Japans and Americans because of the worsening relationship exhibited. Research establishes that Americans became hostile to Japan immigrants into the country and mistreated them by the use of racism and economic anxiety. This situation worsened through America limiting the number of Japanese who migrated into the country and those seeking to become citizens through landholding or naturalization. There were also reports of personal violence against the Japan in America. These problems between Japan and America continued through World War I through Japan grabbing of German's concessions in China, which infuriated Franklin Roosevelt who was the secretary of the American Navy at that time. America took some stringent measures that made Japan realize that America still treated it as a second rank country. However, at that time Japan restrained itself choosing to abide to international norms.

Japan was then hit by some internal wrangles that saw the military take over the Manchurian area and forming a state. United States condemned this move and declared it will only recognize the rightly elected wing of parliament and not the military led. This led to Japan's withdrawal from the League of Nations and the Washington Naval Disarmament Treaty. Another factor that increased hostility between Japan and America was the move taken, by America and Britain to impose a disadvantageous naval ratio to Japan. This move pushed Japan to be war minded in that, they viewed war as the only means through America and Britain will start respecting it as a first-class nation. Therefore, Japan embarked on the formation of pact with countries such German in 1936 referred to as the Anti-Comintern pact. The ultra-nationalist groups in Japan also started to spread their ideologies while refuting those of the western world.

Japan sought to show its militant prowess to countries considered its detractors such as the United States and Britain by declaring a military policy on China. This was the Sino-Japanese conflict. Another conflict was the signing of pacts prior to commencement of Nazism. Japan signed the Tripartite pact and discouraged Americans from getting involved in the war, a situation the American could not withstand as Great Britain was struggling alone and America detested Nazism to let it proceed unchecked. These conflicts between Japan and America could have enabled the United States intelligent to predict a possible attack a thing they failed to do leading to the surprise attacks on their country.

Secondly, the Pearl Harbor attacks can be blamed on intelligence failure as it is attested that Japan's intention was either misinterpreted or misread. At that time, Japan was considered an enemy of the United States and they should have deeply investigated any moves made by the Japanese during that period. For instance, it is claimed that the Japanese prior to the Pearl Harbor attacks assembled their army but concealed lied about their intentions claiming that they wanted to move militarily somewhere in the pacific or southeast Asia. The United States intelligence did not take sufficient steps to establish their real intentions and instead chose to ignore this move by the Japanese. It might be this negligence that led to the Japanese military attack because if the United States intelligence could have become threatened by the Japanese move, they could have moved quickly to prevent any imminent attacks. Some people who partly blame the attacks on intelligence failure also view it as a deliberate step taken by the United States for it to become involved in World War II.

This is because the United States received the Japanese codes and could conclude that Japan was planning something, which was supposed to take place within 24 hours and will involve American interests. What some people are asking is why the United States did not take a step towards stopping the attacks. The fact that the United States failed to detect the Japanese career fleet also makes it appear deliberate. Investigations into the aftermath of the attacks also show some probability of intelligence failure in curbing the attacks. For instance, there was some misreading of signals. Research establishes that the U.S intelligence failed to distinguish between "noise" and "signal". This is relevant in radio interception and the fact that they failed to distinguish between noise and signal cost the country an immense deal. This is viewed from the perspective that the intelligence also failed to comprehend between useful information and the information that is intended to deceive. In addition, it is revealed that the intelligence failed to translate some information until after the attack. The intelligence did not also look into the fact that some information was conveyed through telegraph instead of the military cable, which was not the protocol.

Thirdly, the Pearl Harbor attacks were because of intelligence failure, as the intelligence did not build the trust it needed to develop of the other associates in the defense sector. This is established from the fact that since its formation, the United States intelligence never offered any information that was utilized positively towards the prevention of any imminent attacks. In addition, since its formation there was no any serious threat to the United States thus it was not appreciated, as it was supposed to be. Though the United States government hindered the development of intelligence prior to the attacks, the intelligence department can still be blamed for the Pearl Harbor attacks, as they did not try to offer any credible reason as to why they should start to be taken seriously. The intelligence is also blamed for lacking a viable doctrine.

The United States intelligence also resulted to the attacks because it seems they got word about the commencement of the war but did not take any step to prevent the attacks. However, they are accused of anticipating how the war will begin. Arguably, the United States Congress who practiced isolationism for preventing going to war is accused of prevailing at that time. This is reflected from Churchill's account of the then President's talk in which the president claimed that he will wage war but not commence it. The president is categorically blamed for citing instances that will result to the United States going to war with Japan. This proves that the government had enough information on the possibilities of imminent attacks that will result to war, but they did nothing to prevent the commencement of the attack. For instance, the congress decided that if Great Britain resorted to war, then the United States will also be compelled to fight, and in the event of Japan attacking regions such as the Netherlands and East Indies, they would be compelled to fight. This proves a failure in the United States intelligence since they did not resort to peace, but they chose war.

In conclusion, the Pearl Harbor attack by Japan that occurred in 1941 appears to be a surprise military strike. However, the intelligence is blamed for partly for their failure to do certain tasks required of them. For instance, the intelligence failed to interpret the messages that it received from Japan. They misinterpreted the information, and some of the information ended up being interpreted after the attack, which proves intelligence failure to handle their task. Secondly, intelligence did not predict an imminent attack as it should rely on its previous relations with Japan. According to history, Japan and the United States fell out long before the attacks. In fact, the relationship between these two countries continued to be sour as the years advanced something that the intelligence should be able to tell.

Thirdly, the intelligence was somewhat defunct or irrelevant in the United States, as they were not providing any useful information to other defensive units. In addition, United States had a long history of peace, and so the intelligence department did not see any need for engaging in their work seriously as required of them. Lastly, intelligence mistake is viewed from the fact that they got wind of the imminent attacks but did nothing to prevent the attacks. Instead, they were contemplating how they will become involved in the war, which means they partly participated in the resulting of the attacks.

Intelligence Failure at Pearl Harbor essay

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