Thursday, January 13, 2022

The Lonely Prophet of the Pearl Harbor Attack

 Admiral James O. Richardson

Most people believe that the American Pacific Fleet had had a long history at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii by December 7, 1941.  Such was not the case.  Until February 1941, the U.S. Pacific Fleet homeport was San Diego, California.

In 1940, the Roosevelt Administration, without consulting with senior military advisors decided that stationing the Fleet in Hawaii would restrain Japanese aggression in the Far East.

Admiral James O. Richardson, as Commander in Chief, United States Fleet (CinCUS), protested stationing the Pacific Fleet in Hawaii. Richardson, the Navy's outstanding authority on Pacific naval warfare and Japanese strategy, believed that a forward defense was neither practical nor useful and that the Pacific Fleet would be the logical first target in the event of war with Japan since it was vulnerable to air and torpedo attacks. At least two naval war games, one in 1932 and another in 1936, proved that Pearl Harbor was vulnerable to such an attack.

In October 1940, Richardson went to Washington, D.C. to present his viewpoint in person to the President.  Franklin Roosevelt was annoyed by the criticism and made clear his own opinion that war with Japan would not happen anytime soon.  Richardson put his career on the line by requesting a second face-to-face meeting with Roosevelt five days into the New Year of 1941.  The plain-spoken Admiral said, “Mr. President, I feel that I must tell you that the senior officers of the Navy do not have the trust and confidence in the civilian leadership of this country that is essential for the successful prosecution of a war in the Pacific.”

Richardson’s warnings went unheeded, and by February 1, 1941, the Admiral was out of a job, re-assigned from Fleet duty to desk duty in Washington. 

On December 7, 1941, forces of the Empire of Japan launched a devastating sneak attack on the American Fleet at Pearl Harbor, as predicted.

         Sneak Attack! (Four Alternative History Stories)