Wednesday, December 07, 2011


There they were, lined up like the ducks, bunnies and bears of the old-time Coney Island shooting galleries, the Battleships of the mighty United States Pacific Fleet. Never mind that the world was at war, the Pacific Fleet was still in peaceful slumber.
In one of the most closely held secrets of the war the USA had broken some, not all, of the Japanese codes. We actually did know that Japan was going to attack and had even some clue of when. Not the date and time but within a couple of months. Why, then, was the Pacific Fleet asleep?
First, we thought the Japanese were going to attack south toward the oil fields and rubber plantations of (then) Malaya. After that the mighty Pacific Fleet could sail out and savage Japan's supply lines. We also knew that Pearl Harbor was too shallow for aerial torpedoes. We knew that when a torpedo bomber dropped in water as shallow as the waters of Pearl, the torpedoes would bury themselves in the underwater mud.
No one knows exactly why the giant brains of the US Navy had slept through the night of 11-12 November, 1940 when the British sent their own aerial torpedo planes into the shallow harbor of Taranto and sunk the Italian Fleet. The Japanese, though, were awake.
After learning that this was possible the Japanese Navy went to work, practicing and modifying her torpedoes until they found that if they put a modified rudder fin assembly on the rear of the torpedoes and dropped from a certain precise altitude and speed the fish would stay out of the sand and mud and drive straight home.
And so, on December the seventh, 1941, they did. This, of course, was not the only failure of imagination on that day, seventy years ago. The airplanes of the Army Air Corps were all lined up neatly on he fields of both Hawaii and in the Philippines. Seems the brass wanted to protect our airplanes against sabotage. After all, can't have those evil people sneaking around with bombs.
Funny how that works. We had partial information ten years ago, too.What we didn't have then, and don't have now, is the imagination to use that partial information. In 1941 those Battleships were moored instead of at sea. Now we all know that a ship must spend time in port, the crews need rest, the ships need to be maintained. One must wonder why, though, that all of the Battleships needed to be in port at once. During my war, some two and a half decades later, our ships spent extra time in port because the Navy was having to save on the costs of fuel. We will see more of this as the 'cross the boards budget cuts happen.
Another Pearl Harbor, another 9/11 is coming. The sooper duper geniuses to our government demand it in the name of keeping us safe!

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