The Nation's Outlying Defenses in 1941

The peacetime strategic frontier of Alaska-Oahu-Panama that was recommended in 1933 1 as America's outlying western defense line readily commended itself. It was a line that the United States could probably maintain with its normal forces. Also it was one that the United States would have to maintain as a minimum for the full security of the west coast. The need of holding a sea frontier marked out by those specific land areas was apparent. (1) Alaska's long line of Aleutian Islands bordered the Great Circle route from Japan to the west coast ports; developed by America, it would provide a series of bases for defense against any attack from the northwest; on the other hand, in enemy possession it could offer continuous threat of harassing raids, if nothing more, against coastal cities, and obviously an enemy should be prevented from getting a foothold in any part of Alaska. (2) Oahu, the most populous of the Hawaiian Islands and the site of Pearl Harbor, provided a natural base for mobile defense forces protecting America from seaborne attacks from either west or southwest; likewise it would be an invaluable base for mounting an American seaborne assault upon enemies in the west. (3) Panama was vital to America by reason of the Canal, which permitted rapid shifting of the fleet between Atlantic and Pacific and in that sense doubled the size of the battle fleet and its auxiliary shipping.

All three of these essential bastions of America's outer defenses were comfortably distant from the west coast (from Dutch Harbor to Seattle is 1,707 sea miles, from Honolulu to San Francisco 2,091, from Panama to Los Angeles 2,913). While this meant that supplying and reinforcing them from the mainland called for exertion and shipping resources, it also meant that so long as these bastions (and the patrol screens based upon them) remained intact, an enemy would be held off from America by a considerable margin of safety. Each part of the strategic triangle therefore was important of itself. Each was still more important


as a factor in America's outer defense line; Oahu-based forces would be capable of co-operation with the forces based at the other points of the triangle and with lesser forces installed at secondary bases in mid-ocean.

On the inviolability of this strategic triangle, accordingly, rested much of the prewar strategic planning of Army and Navy. It was an understood premise in the program of the Navy's Hepburn Board, whose report of 1 December 1938 (weakened though it was by Congressional refusal to fortify Guam or even dredge a harbor there) started the Navy at its all-important base-development activities of 1939-41.2  Prior to the development of the long-range airplane (which by 1941 was beginning its tremendous modification in strategic planning) the nation's first line of defense was wholly provided by the Navy. It was for this reason that in peacetime the Navy normally possessed the readiest of the nation's military forces and, accordingly, exerted leadership in many aspects of defense planning. The Army's primary function in the Philippine and Hawaiian archipelagoes was to protect the naval bases, just as its primary function in Panama was to protect the Canal installations that were essential to the Navy. Planning of Army and Navy was developed in unison through the Joint Board, but with recognition that in the first phase of any war in the Pacific the Navy would provide the principal American offensive instrument; the Army would require a considerable time for the upbuilding of its strength before it could assume anything more than a defensive posture. The actual aid that the prewar Army could provide to the strategic triangle itself (exactly as in the case of the Philippines, previously discussed) was limited by the Army's scant current resources of men and materiel. The places that were chiefly defended, therefore, were the places that most surely must be defended, as judged by the military planners.

The Situation in Alaska

Defense of the extreme north Pacific was not a major anxiety of the War Department in 1939. General Marshall's estimate of the situation, in late November of that year, was that while any major operations by an enemy in the Alaska-Aleutian area were highly improbable, the undefended harbors should be provided air and ground defense against seizure by minor enemy forces. Specifically the naval stations at Kodiak and Sitka and the radio station and fuel


reserves at Unalaska called for protection. At Anchorage the War Department wished to set up an Army air base and was including this item in its coming budget estimates for the 1941 fiscal year; also, in order to protect the projected air base, it was seeking authorization for installing at Anchorage a composite ground force of 3,000 men.3  In April 1940 there was increased anxiety, for the House Appropriations Committee disallowed the $11,000,000 request for the Anchorage base, thus limiting the Army's air facilities in Alaska to an auxiliary base at Fairbanks that the Army judged to be wholly inadequate for major defense purposes. Within the Department at this time there was less anxiety over Japanese intentions than over what might develop in the Russian maritime provinces. Hitler's attack on the USSR was not to take place until 22 June 1941, and at the moment, April 1940, German naval and technical personnel were still assisting the Soviets under the existing Russo-German agreement. This threat was set forth in a Staff memorandum that showed uneasiness over imperilment to the strategic triangle of Alaska-Hawaii-Panama and, giving up hope for the entire amount of $11,000,000 needed for the proposed air base at Anchorage, urged an appropriation of $4,000,000 for preparatory work there.4  Later in the month WPD urged the Chief of Staff to renew his efforts to get the whole appropriation for Anchorage and also to seek authorization for the 3,000-man garrison, arguing shrewdly (in quest of Navy support) that otherwise the Navy's contemplated Alaska installations would be insufficiently protected from enemy attack.5  The effort succeeded, but not because of WPD's pleading. Rather, it was the German Blitzkrieg that startled Congress into hasty approval not merely of preparatory work but of the whole Anchorage project, now estimated at $12,743,060 for the air installation alone. Congress also looked with favor on allowing $6,379,225 for permanent construction for the ground forces; and without waiting for final formalities General Marshall authorized preparation of the garrison troops for departure.6 While Alaska was then in


the area of the Fourth Army, the latter's commander recommended creation of a special Alaska command. Accepting the suggestion, General Marshall designated as commander Col. Simon B. Buckner, Jr., later, as a lieutenant general, to meet death on Okinawa.7

Midsummer consideration by the joint Board developed a realization that there was now a "recognizable menace of surprise aggression against Alaska by either Japan or Russia." A seven-page study concluded that while potential Alaskan bases could be controlled without actual military occupation, there was need for development of the permanent installations at Kodiak and Sitka and of the Army bases at Unalaska, Anchorage, and Fairbanks. In a broad sense control of the peninsula was recognized as dependent upon control of the north and east Pacific, but it was seen that sea control in turn would be aided by the existence in Alaska of secure operating bases ashore. This placed upon the Army responsibility for affording protection both to air and naval bases, particularly during the unavailability of the fleet. 8 With secretarial approval of the joint Board's plan for improving the Alaska defenses, garrisons began moving northward in greater number, Navy and Marine Corps assuming interim responsibility. Besides the 153 officers and 3,388 enlisted men designated for the Anchorage garrison, plus a composite air group (1 pursuit and 2 bomber squadrons) to move in as soon as the base was ready, 1,489 men were designated to go to Unalaska on 4 July 1941, and 2,300 more to Sitka and Kodiak when facilities should become available.9 Still later in the year WPD was suggesting assignment of tanks to the Alaska airfields for protection against paratrooper attacks from Russia, and scheduling work upon 11 emergency airfields. 10

As the winter advanced, WPD faced the possibility that the real peril to Alaska was from Japan, and asked G-2 for a study of the situation. G-2's con-


clusion was against Japan's diverting from her own "impregnable area" enough forces to seek use of Alaska for primary fleet operations. On the other hand G-2 predicted that, if unopposed, Japan would promptly occupy useful parts of Alaska with a reinforced division, in order to gain a base for light naval, submarine, and air strikes against American targets ashore and at sea. An added purpose would be to deny to the United States use of these same areas for such attacks against Japan.11  The Navy took Alaskan matters less seriously. It was explained that enemy forces were too much occupied elsewhere to be so disposed, and that Alaskan objectives were much less important to Japan than were Hawaii or the west coast: Navy deployment, however, would be such as "to make any enemy movement in force toward Alaska extremely hazardous: " 12  Nevertheless the Navy appears to have pressed for an increase in the protective Army garrisons and, with both WPD and the Chief of Staff recommending an increase in the total garrison by 18,500 men, the Secretary in mid-April took a considerable step in that direction, approving 11,200.13  July 1941 brought another wave of anxiety with respect to Alaska, occasioned by what WPD regarded as the "increasing danger of complete Russian collapse and subsequent possibility of Axis operations toward Alaska." The result was consent to increase the Alaska garrison to a total of 1,154 officers and 22,892 men; it was intended that only one-third should be sent before 1942, but later arrangements placed 22,895 officers and men there by October 1941, and 29,566 by February 1942.14

There was a desire within WPD for increase also of the air strength of Alaska at the earliest practicable date, not only for normal defense but for possible preventive attacks on enemy installations in eastern Siberia. Already, however, Alaska's peril was being eclipsed by that of the Philippines, and General Marshall wrote a regretful personal letter to General Buckner that further air reinforcement of Alaska was beyond immediate possibility. He was able only to inform the Alaskan commander of the schedule of future air deliveries to that


distant outpost, running on to October 1942.15  Navy touchiness over General Buckner's vigorous use of such air patrols as he possessed (the old issue of Navy responsibility for air patrols far out to sea) brought about a mild controversy which ended with General Marshall's discreet decision that the need for those particular Army air patrols was past. He assured Admiral Stark that the patrolling had ceased. "However," he continued "the situation may change suddenly . . . . The operation of such patrols is a responsibility of the Navy, but if adequate Naval forces are not available for this purpose, the Commanding General in Alaska must, in an emergency, employ the means at his disposal . . . . " 16 The vulnerability of Alaska was recognized, but the impossibility of hastening more aid there, even on the day after the 27 November "war-warning" message, was also admitted. As war drew nearer, this was beyond dispute.17

The Panama Situation

While it was obvious that Alaska's long coast line and meager defensive installations exposed that area to attack, whether by Japan or by a strengthened Russia, Army and Navy rightly estimated that the logistic difficulties of operations in the forlorn and fog-swept region made a grand-scale assault unlikely: the results to be gained would be disproportionate to the necessary effort. The threat of a raid on either of the other two points of the American defensive triangle in the west was entirely different in both respects: it was logistically practicable, and strategically attractive to an enemy. A successful assault on Hawaii would do incalculable damage to the United States Fleet, and it was primarily to safeguard the fleet and its base, as the Chief of Staff pointed out to the new commander in Hawaii in 1941,18  that the Army was there at all. Much the same thing was true of Panama where, again, it was recognized that the Army's function was "to guard the Canal that it may at all times be available to the Navy." 19


In August 1939, when the minatory rumbling of Hitler's drums convinced observers that war was imminent in central Europe, these Panama Canal defenses were among the War Department's first concerns. It was already decided that if war should come immediate reinforcement of the Canal garrison would be required, and a message assuring reinforcements was sent to the Commanding General, Panama Department, Maj. Gen. (later Lt. Gen.) Daniel Van Voorhis. In the Canal Zone were 13,403 men; the promise was of 889 antiaircraft "filler" personnel to sail in early September, to be followed by an infantry brigade of 2,678, and later by aviation reinforcements. (The brigade would "not form a permanent part of your garrison, and its return after the emergency is contemplated.") Besides the immediate reinforcements, plans of that period called for the ultimate but unscheduled forwarding of still other elements, which would raise the August total of 13,403 to an eventual 37,554 officers and men.20

Later in the winter General Van Voorhis made persistent efforts to round out the Canal Zone's defenses against enemy air raids. He envisaged a likelihood of brief but destructive attacks which (with a surmise of what later eventuated at Pearl Harbor) he said "may come before any offensive action is expected"; they were likelier from the Pacific than from the Atlantic, "due to the surveillance of both Army and Naval forces based on Puerto Rico." A small enemy bombing force in a few minutes might "completely stop marine traffic" through the Canal for a period of months. Because no emergency help from the United States could arrive instantly to cope with such an attack he stated that it was necessary to prepare adequate defenses on the spot in the form of an established force whose "primary mission remains the protection of the Canal," not the supplying of elements for an expedition elsewhere.21 In this same letter General Van Voorhis emphasized the necessity of establishing in peacetime a reliable aircraft warning service. His recommendations for -the defense project in general were for the most part approved by WPD, and WPD's resultant program was accepted by


General Marshall. Antiaircraft artillery increases, creation of a mechanized reconnaissance unit, and lesser changes were approved; General Van Voorhis' proposal to substitute heavy for medium bombers and long-range for medium reconnaissance planes (which the Chief of the Air Corps did not support) was rejected, and one for the construction of a bombproof command post was deferred for later consideration.22

In June the Pacific prospect was altered by the Russo-Japanese compact which for a time greatly reduced the possibility of those two nations' coming to war. The Staff conjecture in Washington was that this compact could well free Japan of a long-standing uneasiness over Russian intentions, and to that extent encourage Tokyo to embark on a trans-Pacific raid against American installations, without prior declaration of war. Accordingly on 17 June General Marshall ordered that warnings and instructions be sent to the most important and vulnerable of American possessions, Hawaii and the Canal. He directed that General Van Voorhis

. . . quietly but immediately take every possible precaution against surprise action, naval, air, or sabotage, which may be intended to put the Canal out of commission. Your air component and antiaircraft forces must be in state of preparedness for action at any hour. . . 23

Three days later General Marshall penciled another message informing General Van Voorhis: "Fleet may be ordered to Atlantic; possibility of sabotage of canal anticipated; continue present precautions." In the interval there was a disturbing incident in Panama waters. A strange submarine surfaced some 5,000 yards from Taboga Island and was detected during searchlight drill as it moved away and out of sight. After consultation with the governor and the naval district commandant, General Van Voorhis reported, protective mines were laid on both sides of the Canal, in accordance with the joint plan of defense.24  The celerity with which General Van Voorhis' office was attending to increased responsibilities soon involved him in a resumption of the ancient conflict of Army and Navy commands. The squadron commander in the port pointedly reminded the Army chief orally, and later in writing, that the squadron was "not in your chain of command." The sting of that reminder was not wholly concealed by the cordiality of his added remarks. A little later, by ac-


knowledged error, General Van Voorhis' office sent to the naval district commander a directive (rather than the normal request) for implementing the 17 June alert. The oversight brought from that dignitary's chief of staff this extraordinary communication:

1. The Fifteenth Naval District not being part of the command of the Panama Canal, and orders emanating from that source having no authority in said District, enclosed order is returned herewith.
2. If it becomes necessary to communicate important information to the Commandant of the Fifteenth Naval District he may be found through Telephone 2-2661 or 2-2662.

This brought results reaching much further than the distance between Panama's Army and Navy installations. General Van Voorhis addressed to General Marshall a four-page letter quoting both communications. He gave assurance of the cordiality of his Navy relations and expressed the view that the existing dual command was equally embarrassing to the admirals. However, he made it clear that "after all, the Army is here to guard the Canal that it may at all times be available to the Navy," and that he could not even continue laying his defensive mines without having them guarded by destroyers that the Navy was not supplying.25  Ignoring for the time being the latter point, General Marshall directed his attentions to the irritating matter of interservice protocol persisting even in those critical times, and himself started the preparation of a sharp written complaint to the Chief of Naval Operations, as the Panama admirals' superior. It began and ended thus:

Please glance over the following and then talk to me about it. The Canal is a pretty important consideration in our National Defense structure, and any accident there might have calamitous results. We cannot defend it with a debating society ....

The Commandant of the 15th Naval District is not under General Van Voorhis, but the whole tone of this procedure awakens my concern as to satisfactory arrangements for the defense of the Canal. We cannot be involved in quibbles over such matters at the present time, and I am deeply concerned over the reaction shown in these communications. Van Voorhis has a long record of getting along with people. He became conspicuous for that quality in the handling of the flood situation in the middle West. I am certain of his qualities.

I think it would be unfortunate to bring this up in an official manner, but I do think you and I will have to arrive at some satisfactory basis for the defense of the Canal. Germany has given us too good an illustration of the contrast between unity of command and the reverse.26


United Command Becomes an Issue

In this manner the military chiefs of Army and Navy came to oral discussion of the united command problem which was to recur time and time again, and which a year later was to bring about in this Panama-Caribbean area an experimental and not too successful merging of interservice authority. A necessary step toward this was the consolidation of the several Army commands that sprang up with the development of the new bases, and such an establishment was formally proposed by WPD in December 1940. It called for creation of a Caribbean Defense Command, made up of the Panama Canal Department (including Jamaica), the Puerto Rican Department (including the Bahamas, Antigua, and Santa Lucia), and the Trinidad Base Command (including British Guiana). The War Plans Division argued that these areas, plus adjacent neutral areas, would be included in a Caribbean theater of operations, and that the prospective wartime commander of such a theater should be making his peacetime preparations.27 General Marshall approved the program and also the designation of the Panama Canal Department commander to the over-all post. In May the majority of the Staff divisions came to the conclusion that the over-all post was important enough to occupy one man's whole time and recommended both that the Caribbean Defense commander be relieved of immediate responsibility for the Canal Department, and that his headquarters be moved to Puerto Rico. Although G-1, G-3, and G-4 Joined WPD in its proposal, General Marshall disapproved.28  His desire was to have the headquarters kept at the Canal, possibly because Army Air was being increasingly recognized as sure to be the dominant defense element at that point, whereas Navy was likely to insist upon Navy domination in the Caribbean proper; possibly, too, General Marshall already had in mind the Air officer who would one (lay exercise unified command at Panama. This was Maj. Gen. Frank M. Andrews, lately Chief of G-3 in Washington, now the new commander of the air elements in the Panama Canal Department, and in September 1941 successor to General Van


Voorhis as commander of both the Caribbean Defense Command and the Panama Canal Department, with rank of lieutenant general.29

In the first week of 1941 General Marshall had written to General Van Voorhis enclosing a tentative study of this question of unified command. He admitted the difficulty of effecting agreement with the Navy on the touchy subject, and proposed, first, the Army's full co-ordination of the activities of its own air elements. It was "for that reason that [he had] sent Frank Andrews down to the Canal Zone, so that [General Van Voorhis] would have a very competent man for this purpose." 30  Two months later, in another personal letter, General Marshall asked for the Panama commander's review of the situation with regard to defense from air attack, remarking that "coordinating all means available to this end is a matter of first priority." It brought from General Van Voorhis a prompt and extended reply. The word "coordination" appears to have touched a spot made tender by earlier communications on that subject. "While recognizing its necessity," the Panama commander wrote, "I have been more concerned with the acquisition of means and training than I have with coordination." He outlined his own views on patrols, with which he was not in accord with the Air Corps; on the necessity of a much fuller aircraft warning service; on the circumstance that the Caribbean's problems were so different from those of the United States that he could not see great profit in sending representatives to the coming west coast air defense exercises, to which General Marshall had invited his attention.31 Absence on an inspection trip prevented General Marshall from considering either the substance or the tone of this letter until April. He then wrote a letter mildly referring to his wish that, despite admittedly differing situations, basic control and coordination techniques which were applicable should be applied generally in the interests of uniformity. Only a little later, following critical observations by the Chief of the Air Corps and by General Andrews, a nettled WPD recommended a letter to Panama pointing out the faults of the Canal's air defense organization and ordering their correction. (Sometime later an extended report by Col. William E. Lynd to WPD related


them in detail).32  This letter brought from General Van Voorhis, in the form of an indorsement, a detailed and obviously angry reply. He referred to his earlier letters. He intimated that Washington staff officers' "superficial knowledge" of the situation had inspired the criticism. He reiterated that "I am more concerned about means at the present time than I am coordination." And, while recognizing the War Department's difficulties, he grimly listed the continuing shortages in equipment which he had tried unsuccessfully to correct. It was an impressive list -not one modern combat plane; no modern detectors; no 37-mm. ammunition; no balloons; a shortage of 30 antiaircraft directors; a lack of two thirds of the allotted 37-mm. guns, 92 of the 90-mm. guns, and quantities of ammunition. He requested that his reply be brought to General Marshall's personal attention.33  It was, and instead of using a formal indorsement drafted by WPD for his signature, General Marshall wrote his angry subordinate a personal letter, admonishing him but with noteworthy gentleness. He assured the older officer that there had been no Staff intention to reflect on him, and that in fact the Caribbean Defense Command air defense organization had been brought to conformity with general practice. He concluded:

Frankly, while you have your difficulties with the government of Panama, I do not think you have quite enough. You lack the flood of daily irritations and disturbances that we have every hour, which eventually produces either prostration or a case-hardened front to the world. So far as I can, I try to deal in a very direct and semi-personal manner with the overseas commanders, but there are limits, and the formal staff productions should be received with due regard for the immense burden these people up here are carrying.34

The unsettled question of the dual Army-Navy commands in Panama apparently did not disturb the agreeable personal relations of General Van Voorhis and his naval colleagues. General and admiral may even have co-ordinated their reports to higher authority, for their separate admissions that their joint antisabotage measures were inadequate, because of insufficient equipment and personnel, reached Washington at about the same time in July. General Marshall and Admiral Stark discussed them both. General Van Voorhis was thereafter assured by


WPD that the Navy Department was sending some of the needed equipment. He was also advised that, contrary to his wishes, the local Navy forces could not be put under his command, but that he must continue to rely on mutual agreements with the naval district commander.35  His correspondence with Washington as late as 17 September continued to stress the needs of his aircraft warning service and the inadequacy of naval means for surveillance of the Pacific coastal zone. On 19 September (his retirement for age coming a year afterward) he was replaced as head of the Caribbean Defense Command by General Andrews.36  It is of interest to note that once more the Army had given to General Andrews exceptional responsibilities, first as G-3, and now as head of a critical defense command. In both cases, it may be conjectured, the appointment was made because of General Andrews' recognized broad qualifications for command, but with awareness of his special qualifications in this case as an Air Corps officer of long experience. Air patrols and air defense techniques, clearly, were of dominant importance at Panama and in the Caribbean command generally, for defense in the war then envisaged.

During 1941 the Panama garrison had been appreciably enlarged, and its equipment materially bettered. The ground force now was approximately up to its 21000-man authorization and the air garrison up to its authorized 11,000. (The 31,47 total of 30 November 1941 compared with a 13,403 total in August 1939) It was recognized at the War Department (under Rainbow 5 planning) that war's arrival should add 10,000 to the ground garrison and 6,100 to the air element, but in November 1941 it was ruled that no immediate increase was practicable.37

The Situation in Hawaii

Of the three points in the Pacific's "strategic triangle" Hawaii, after May 1940, was most important in one pre-eminent sense -it was the base for the United States Fleet, and this meant that at times practically the entire fleet was


in Pearl Harbor. That is, the Hawaiian defense's mission was to care for the fixed installations of the great base (just as the mission at Panama was to protect the Canal) but it included also the protection of that portion of the fleet itself which at any given time was in harbor. It was the fleet which constituted the Navy's most important weapon. It was the fleet which made the Pearl Harbor base and most other sea bases necessary. It was the fleet which would supply patrols northward toward Alaska and eastward toward Panama as a defense screen for the west coast. It was the fleet, and only the fleet, which could make possible the ultimate reinforcement of Manila Bay, and thus justify the holding of that distant strong point long enough to permit reinforcements to make their way across the sea. Long before, in 1919, this aspect of the situation was plainly summarized in the Joint Board judgment that

. . . our retention of the Philippines in case of war with Japan is entirely dependent upon our command of the sea in the Pacific. Without a naval superiority no military garrison, however large, will be able to defend the Philippines indefinitely as it could not be supplied with food and munitions.38

This memorandum was sent to the Commanding General of the Hawaiian Department of the Army in January 1920 with instructions to use it as the basis for an estimate of the Pacific situation and a revision of defense plans.39  His mission was simply stated -to defend the naval base at Pearl Harbor against (1) damage from naval or aerial bombardment or by enemy sympathizers, (2) attack by enemy expeditionary force or forces, supported or unsupported by an enemy fleet or fleets. It was his successors, during whose tenure momentous changes took place in Pacific geopolitics and resultant strategy, who had to adjust their defense plans to a changing need. They were guided by the current Orange War Plan for use in the event of war with Japan ("Orange" in the code of that period), a plan that was modified from time to time in minor respects and in 1936 was wholly restated. The broad revision of 1936, as explained by the Joint Board, was necessitated by radical changes brought about in the situation since 1919 by the Washington Arms Limitation treaties of 1922, by the abrogation of the Anglo-Japanese treaty, by the organization of the U. S. Fleet and its stationing in the Pacific Ocean, by the strengthening of the Oahu defenses, by aviation advances, and by the decision to grant Philippine inde-


pendence.40  A prophetic paragraph recognized the possibility of enemy attack on Hawaii by a surprise raid or by a major expeditionary force (the exact possibility developed in the 1932 joint maneuver at Oahu) and then proceeded:

Against the first form of attack the existing peacetime forces of the Army and Navy in the Hawaiian islands, including their necessary munitions and supplies, are believed to be adequate. The success of our defense against this form of attack will depend almost wholly upon our not being totally surprised by the enemy, and will require an efficient intelligence service, not only in the Hawaiian Islands but elsewhere.

A syllabus prepared two years later on Hawaiian defenses again included as significant assumptions "the historic purpose of Japan to attain preeminence in the Pacific; its precipitation of war without notice." 41  Thereafter from time to time there was further recognition of the peril of total surprise. In 1939, when WPD revived its own 1935 injunctions for installing an aircraft warning service at all exposed areas-where the Army had major defense responsibilities, it initiated a restudy of Hawaii's 1939 requirements-even though the joint Planning Committee's exploratory study of April 1939 had held that Japan would use commercial and economic means, rather than military, for its southward penetration.42  The new study was directed and conducted during the next four months by a five-man board which had originally been named by Maj. Gen. C. D. Herron, then commanding the Hawaiian Department, in order to devise a warning system. Its report he approved, with modifications, and on sending it to Washington he added his own recommendations for establishment of a warning service as soon as practicable. This was the basis for airplane-detector installations initiated later in 1940 but still incomplete in 1941.43  The need for much tighter protection of Hawaii's great naval base mounted swiftly in May 1940 when the U. S. Fleet, previously employing supply and maintenance facilities firmly set up on the California coast, transferred its base to Pearl Harbor.


The June 1940 Alert in Hawaii

American uneasiness over Japanese intentions was spurred in mid-1940 by the Russo-Japanese agreement for a composition of Far East differences. This, as viewed in Washington, notably by General Marshall, would free Japan of worry over possible Russian interference, which for years had been a nightmare in Tokyo, and thus would permit Japan to embark with less trepidation on a war with the United States. So intense was his uneasiness on this score that on 17 June 1940 General Marshall sent alerting messages both to General Herron and (as previously mentioned) to the Panama Canal command. The former was as follows:

Immediately alert complete defensive organization to deal with possible transpacific raid, to greatest extent possible without creating public hysteria or provoking undue curiosity of newspapers or alien agents. Suggest maneuver basis. Maintain alert until further orders . . . .44

Two days later, General Herron was "authorized to modify gradually" the measures he had obediently set up but was instructed to maintain adequate guards at critical points, and at the same time to "avoid publicity." When nothing of note happened in the course of a month there was a further easing of the alert, but a letter of explanation that General Marshall prepared (explaining that the mid-June alarm was over a possible "raid against Oahu, following the departure of the U. S. Fleet from Hawaii") was never sent out, apparently in the belief that explanation was unnecessary. It would appear from that unsent letter that General Marshall then thought of the island, rather than the fleet, as the threatened target. General Herron, however, felt that "precautions must increase," as he explained in an informal memorandum to General Marshall on 15 October.45  He continued to press for the aircraft warning installations, as did the War Plans Division in Washington, also for bombproofing, for antiaircraft artillery reinforcements, and for a grant to the Army Air Forces of a larger defense responsibility than that allotted by the Orange War Plan. His 18 December 1940 memorandum remarked that "No single item is more important or more urgent in the defense of Hawaii than is the Aircraft Warning Service." Admiral Husband E. Kimmel was "much interested in this matter and


in its expedition." 46 General Herron's suggestion for increasing the number of heavy bombers based on the mainland did not meet with General Marshall's immediate approval, because of a new Navy plan for stationing 180 long-range patrol planes in the Hawaiian Islands (a plan whose fulfillment was prevented by later demands upon naval air equipment).47  The basic purpose of Army forces in Oahu did not alter. This purpose was, primarily, to defend the naval base and the air installations, and to co-operate fully with the Navy in doing so. It was the weapons and methods of defense that changed, largely as a result of the rapid development of air power and a consequent increase of the base's vulnerability to sudden assault.

The mounting concern over Pearl Harbor's security from air attack, expressed by General Herron and the Navy officers in Hawaii, was felt in Washington as well and by American observers elsewhere. An example was the message which U. S. Ambassador Joseph C. Grew in Tokyo sent on 27 January 1941, reporting that his Peruvian colleague had heard from various Japanese sources that the Japanese were planning a mass attack on Pearl Harbor: he conceded that "the idea appears fantastic" but passed it on to Washington, where the Navy discounted it, assuring Admiral Kimmel that "no move against Pearl Harbor appears imminent or planned for in the foreseeable future." 48  That it was not at all fantastic was evidenced later in the year: in that same month of January when Mr. Grew sent his warning, it was later discovered, the Japanese began their study of the Pearl Harbor raid project.

Navy dissatisfaction with the existing protection for the U. S. Fleet base was expressed in a formal communication, prepared by the Operations Division for


transmittal by the Secretary of the Navy to the Secretary of War three days before Ambassador Grew's warning. This was the result of a studied discussion of Pearl Harbor affairs by Admiral J. O. Richardson, whom Admiral Kimmel had just relieved as fleet commander.49  Admiral Richardson's views, concurred in by Admiral Kimmel, dwelt upon the insufficiency of the Army's antiaircraft defenses of the base and obviously added to the general anxiety of the period both in Hawaii and Washington, over the possibility of an air attack. Years later General Marshall observed:

I have never had explained to me why there was apparently the cessation of fears of an air attack which seemed to be preeminent in the mind of Admiral Kimmel in February [this is a slip of memory; the Secretarial correspondence of 24 January 1941 sprang from the Richardson letter of January, not the Kimmel letter of February] when he wrote a letter to the Secretary of the Navy and that official wrote to the Secretary of War and embarrassed us greatly because we had almost nothing to give- we were bankrupt so far as materiel was concerned- and the later urgent requests with regard to radar. . . 50

Admiral Richardson's remarks on the imperilment of the all-important base were made the more pointed by recent events in the European war, for aerial fleets were making successful attacks by bomb and torpedo upon ships at bases. Applying this lesson to the situation at Pearl Harbor, therefore, Secretary Knox wrote to Mr. Stimson: "If war eventuates with Japan it is believed easily possible that hostilities would be initiated by a surprise attack upon the Fleet or the Naval Base at Pearl Harbor." 51

Six types of danger were prophetically envisaged "in their order of importance and probability." At the top of the list were placed attacks by bombing planes and torpedo planes, from a carrier force. Mr. Stimson's studied reply two weeks later, prepared with the assistance of General Gerow of WPD, concurred fully on the urgency of preparing a co-ordinated defense against such a peril. It remarked that the Hawaiian Department already was "the best equipped of all our overseas departments" and was continuing to hold high priority for the completion of its projected defenses. Plans called for 148 pursuit planes, of which 36 were in operation, 31 were to leave San Diego within 10 days, and 50 of improved type to leave in March. Of the projected 98 3-inch


antiaircraft guns, 82 were there; of 308 .50-caliber antiaircraft machine guns, 109 were there; of 120 37-mm. guns, 20 were en route. All the aircraft warning service equipment should be delivered by June and (it was then believed) installed promptly. Of the barrage balloons only 3 were on hand, but 84 were being manufactured for summer delivery. Smoke screens, which the Navy had suggested, the Army did not believe effective for Pearl Harbor use, but a new examination would be made. Full defense co-ordination of Army and Navy was recognized as essential, and Secretary Knox's suggestions on this subject, with further advice from the War Department, were sent on to the Army command in Hawaii.

Change in the Hawaii Command

That command shifted on 7 February from General Herron to Lt. Gen. Walter C. Short, to whom General Marshall immediately wrote a lengthy letter, partly to make it clear that "the fullest protection for the Fleet is the rather than a major consideration for us; there can be little question about that," partly to impress on him specific Navy hopes for fuller protection of Pearl Harbor, and partly to inform him of the difficulty which the Army had and would have in meeting those hopes at an early date, because of shortages in materiel. As an example he cited his effort to meet the Navy's wishes for improved antiaircraft protection for the Navy's Cavite base in the Philippines. By pulling away 3-inch guns here and there from regiments in training he had accumulated 20 for Cavite, just in time to have the Navy divert 18 of them to other island defenses, leaving but z for Cavite. There were disturbing shortages in Panama as well, and General Short was advised to make clear to the U. S. Fleet commander, Admiral Kimmel, that the Army could not "perform a miracle." Nor, it developed, could General Short expect too high quality in some of the new equipment in prospect. Even the newest pursuit plane would "lack the rapidity to climb of the Japanese plane." The new medium bomber, on which Hawaii would have first priority, was only just going into production. Augmentation of the .50-caliber machine guns was scheduled, but "I have no hopes for the next few months," and barrage balloons would be a long time coming. General Marshall reminded his correspondent of pressures from Panama and Alaska and the newly leased bases, all in serious need of defensive equipment, and also informed him confidentially of the possible occupation of the Azores, then contemplated by the President, which if carried out would


take still another bite from the Army's low stocks of equipment. In view of events to come in December there is interest in General Marshall's remarks of February 1941:

. . . if no serious harm is done us during the first six hours of known hostilities, thereafter the existing defenses would discourage an enemy against the hazard of an attack. The risk of sabotage and the risk involved in a surprise raid by Air and by submarine constitute the real perils . . . .

Please keep dearly in mind in all of your negotiations that our mission is to protect the base and the Naval concentration, and that purpose should be made clearly apparent to Admiral Kimmel. I accentuate this because I found yesterday, for example, in a matter of tremendous importance, that old Army and Navy feuds . . . still persist in confusing issues of national defense . . . . 52

In a six-page reply General Short reported conferences with Admiral Kimmel and his subordinate, Rear Adm. C. C. Bloch, commanding the Fourteenth Naval District (Hawaiian Islands), with whom General Short, under the joint defense plan, divided the immediate responsibility for defense of the Hawaiian Coastal Frontier. He reported cordiality of relations and on both sides readiness for co-operation. He explained at some length his desire to effect changes that he regarded as important, several of them in line with earlier efforts by his predecessor, General Herron, although not so identified in the letter. These fields of effort, already undertaken or newly proposed, included the naming of Army-Navy committees for cooperation, dispersion of aircraft and camouflage of protective areas, improved antiaircraft defense, improved harbor defense, better use of searchlights, highway and trail construction, bombproofing of installations, and increase of engineer troops.53  With like persistence shortly afterward he urged the War Department as had General Herron several weeks earlier, to spur the Interior Department to action whereby a park area could be utilized for installation of aircraft warning service devices, remarking sharply that the Department's radiogram "does not appear to appreciate the seriousness of the situation." Eventually he wrote to General Marshall in person expressing the view that the gravity of his needs was not yet appreciated in the War Department. In manifest irritation with the National Park Service's delays he


expressed the view that "all quibbling over details should be stopped at once" when they interfered with completion of the Aircraft Warning Service on which both "defense of these islands and adequate warning for the United States Fleet [was I dependent." That General Marshall was equally indignant was apparent, for he immediately laid the case before the National Park Service authorities in a telephoned demand for action.54

The Army's current experiments in air defense techniques had already led the Chief of Staff on 5 March to identify air defense coordination as "a matter of first priority," to send General Short a copy of General Chaney's report on British methods, and to ask the Hawaiian commander for a review of the air defense situation in his area. In a prompt and vigorous reply General Short referred to the 19 February recommendations and expressed anew his concern over the vulnerability of Army and Navy airfields alike to an attack by air. He continued his insistent requests for both money and engineer troops to hasten the providing of dispersal areas, stressed the need for more antiaircraft personnel, and agreed with General Marshall's suggestion that his own antiaircraft chiefs could profitably attend the defense exercises scheduled on the west coast for later in the year. In answer General Marshall gave approval to several recommendations, assurance that engineers would be sent out in April, a forecast of materiel deliveries, and a promise that further funds would be set up when General Short's estimates were received.55  The new commander's energetic efforts to expedite defensive measures included his pressure, both by radio and letter to General Marshall in April 1941, for authority to lease without delay 230 small parcels of land on which to erect strong points that he felt it was essential to get under way at once. Concerned by the delays in normal allotment of funds he also pressed not only for $17,000,000 for known airport construction but for an added $10,000,000 to be available in emergency.56


The Defense Establishment in Hawaii on 7 December 1941

What the Army establishment in the Hawaiian Department amounted to on 7 December was, in manpower, 42,857. It included two infantry divisions, a light tank company, four antiaircraft regiments, four harbor defense regiments of coast artillery (two incomplete), the engineer, chemical, and aircraft warning units attached to headquarters, two bomb groups (8 squadrons), and two pursuit groups (9 squadrons). The modern heavy bombers in operating condition that day numbered only six. (Table 5.) Of the 149 fighters, modern and obsolescent, 69 were grounded for lack of repair parts. As to antiaircraft equipment, a post-raid appraisal showed that of the 98 authorized 3-inch guns all but 12 were on hand; of the 37-mm. guns only 20 of 120 authorized were on hand; of the .50 caliber machine guns only 113 of the authorized 246 were on hand. These shortages were troublesome, particularly as only the small-caliber weapons were useful against low-flying aircraft, but more serious still had been the delay in installing the Aircraft Warning Service's full equipment of detectors. Six mobile sets had been authorized and were on hand although in service for only a few hours of the day. Six fixed sets had been authorized; of these, three had not arrived, and the other three were in course of installation and hence not in service at the critical time. A very considerable amount of construction work had been au-



Type On Hand 7 December

Lost or Damaged

On Hand 20 December

Total Operational Total Operational
All types 234 125 128 154 117
Bombers 72 a 39 34 63 50
Fighters 149 80 88 83 61
Reconnaissance 13 6 6 8 6

a Includes 6 B-17's, 23 B-18's and 10 A-20's.
b Includes 29 bombers from mainland.

Source: Pearl Harbor Attack, Part 24, Proceedings of Roberts Commission, Exhibit No. 7, p. 1784, and Part 39, Report of Army Pearl Harbor Board, p. 119.


thorized at Washington, for improvement of airfields and storage, but much of it was still under way. Such bunker-building (for protection of dispersed aircraft) as had been completed was waste effort, unfortunately, for the command's precautions against sabotage called for concentration of the planes under guard, rather than for dispersal that was a requisite for resisting the aerial raid that came to pass. The WPD chief at the first post-raid inquiry, where he presented the figures just recited, felt that "all reasonable requests by the Commanding General, Hawaiian Department, for funds and the supply of equipment and materiel have been met within the means available." 57

General Short's vigorous planning for use of all possible resources in defending Oahu eventually brought him into a dispute with the Air Force, decided by General Marshall in favor of the latter. The Hawaii commander, in a 14 July 1941 order, directed that local Air personnel be trained for close-in defense of the area, in the event the Air Force should be rendered inoperable as such. Before issuance of the order this project was opposed by the Hawaiian Air Force commander, Maj. Gen. F. L. Martin, on the ground that this training could be given only at the cost of essential training of the Air personnel in its own principal task, but General Martin was overruled. Subsequently General Martin's case was taken up in Washington by his superior, the Chief of the Army Air Forces, and in late October General Marshall advised a somewhat resentful Hawaiian Department commander that his project should be subordinated "for the present at least" to the Air commander's own training program.58

The Air Commanders' Remarkable Prevision

General Short's efforts to better Hawaii's defenses had resulted in April in completion, for War Department examination, of the joint commanders' revised defense plan for the joint Coastal Frontier (Oahu and adjacent land and sea areas as required for Oahu's defense; the Hawaiian Naval Coastal Frontier, in


distinction, included also Midway, Johnston, Palmyra, Canton, and Wake). This plan, specifying the joint and separate responsibilities of Army and Navy, was agreed to by General Short and Admiral Bloch on 11 April 1941 and forwarded to Washington, together with a previously agreed-upon Annex VII and other documents.59  One of these documents, the estimate of the Army and Navy air commanders in the area, includes surmises so precisely confirmed by the event of the next December as to justify quotation of the following excerpts:

[From I (c) I A successful, sudden raid against our ships and naval installations on Oahu might prevent effective offensive action by our forces in the Western Pacific for a long period.

[From I (e) I It appears possible that Orange submarines and/or an Orange fast raiding force might arrive in Hawaiian waters with no prior warning from our intelligence service.

[From II (b)] . . . The aircraft at present available in Hawaii are inadequate to maintain for any extended period . . . a patrol extensive enough to insure that an air attack from an Orange carrier cannot arrive over Oahu as a complete surprise.

[From III (b)] It appears that the most likely and dangerous form of attack on Oahu would be an air attack. It is believed that at present such an attack would most likely be launched from one or more carriers which would probably approach inside of three hundred miles.

[From III (e)] In a dawn attack there is a high probability that it could be delivered as a complete surprise in spite of any patrols we might be using and that it would find us in a condition of readiness under which pursuit would be slow to start . . . .

[From IV (a) Action open to us] Run daily patrols as far as possible to seaward through 360 degrees to reduce the probabilities of surface or air surprise. This would be desirable but can only be effectively maintained with present personnel and materiel for a very short period and as a practicable measure cannot therefore be undertaken unless other intelligence indicates that a surface raid is probable within rather narrow time limits.60

After the Secretary of War had given formal approval (2 June 1941) to Rainbow War Plan 5, largely based upon the ABC agreements, the Army pushed ahead with its detailed implementation of that plan in all its commands. The Orange Plan as last revised (1938) before its replacement by Rainbow 5 was the basis for the new planning so far as Hawaii was concerned, and when the resultant Army Strategical Plan (approved by the Secretary on 19 August


1941) was completed it did not greatly alter the Hawaiian Coastal Frontier Defense instructions which Orange Plan had set up and on which the Short-Bloch agreement just referred to had been based. Notably that Coastal Frontier remained in Defense Category D -that is, one which "may be subject to major attack," rather than in Category E, which designated an area which "in all probability will be subject to major attack." 61  This was manifestly in line with War Department thinking on Pacific prospects. It must be recognized as a factor in the thinking at Oahu as well, on the eve of the raid.

The New Defensive Screen of Atlantic Bases

Until 1940 the defensive screen that the Alaska-Oahu-Panama triangle afforded to the west coast states had no such well-developed counterpart off the east coast even in contemplation, for the installations at Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands then existing were designed primarily to protect the Panama Canal rather than the United States itself. Responsibility for this relative unconcern over the east coast's security can be easily traced to the long-standing American confidence in a friendly Britain and France whose fleets, combined with America's, were half-consciously regarded as ample assurance of security in the Atlantic. It was on this reasoning that the United States had confidently moved its dominant naval units to the Pacific.

The German triumphs of May 1940 violently shook American serenity, and on 21 May a Staff memorandum to General Marshall advised that the United States take steps to acquire "British and French possessions in the Atlantic." 62  The following day WPD members suggested the "protective occupation" of European possessions in the Western Hemisphere, presumably to prevent a victorious Germany from making efforts to acquire control of footholds on the continent itself. On 24 May the Joint Board instructed the Joint Planning Committee to draw up plans for such an occupation.63  Only lately (on 15 May) Mr. Churchill had told President Roosevelt of his hope for forty to fifty American destroyers, and in a short time two compensating programs -based on American


eagerness for a protective screen of air and naval bases, and on British eagerness for desperately needed destroyers- were merged in the destroyers-for-bases transaction that was formally announced on 4 September 1940.64

British intentions to grant 99-year leases on sites in the Atlantic islands, the West Indies, and Newfoundland were announced by Mr. Churchill in the Commons on 20 August without awaiting the destroyer statement, and on that day the Chief of Naval Operations orally directed the Joint Planning Committee to prepare a study of suitable sites in Newfoundland, Bermuda, Jamaica, St. Lucia, Trinidad, and British Guiana. To these six sites Antigua and the Bahamas were later added. The report of a week later, plus an appendix, proposed Navy patrol planes for all eight bases, and base facilities for heavy fleet units at Newfoundland, Bermuda, and Trinidad, with Army garrisons somewhat in proportion.65  That is, to provide security for a large Trinidad base which then was thought to be needed as a jump-off point for a possible expedition to South America, the Joint Planning Committee contemplated a 2-division corps, plus harbor defense units and a composite air wing. For Bermuda a reinforced infantry division was thought necessary, and at Newfoundland the need was calculated at only two reinforced battalions, plus air, presumably because its location permitted rapid reinforcement from Canada, at need. As to the other five bases, reinforced regiments, plus air, were originally contemplated for Guiana, Antigua, Jamaica, and St. Lucia, and a reinforced battalion for the near-by Bahamas. (All these were rapidly modified downward.) For the selection of specific sites a board headed by Rear Adm. John W. Greenslade was named by the President on 1 September and its findings examined by War and Navy Departments as each item was completed, the leases themselves being finally agreed upon in London on 27 March 1941. Work had been proceeding meantime without the excessive concern over the formal leases that troubled some of the British colonial officials for a time. As early as 6 September 1940 General Marshall approved a proposal that WPD be given full authority for site development (the work to be done by the Corps of Engineers) and ordered that estimates of expense be expedited.

It was partly the haste of the planning that produced programs and estimates remote from the later developments of several of the bases, but a large reason for the early miscalculation was the alarm of State, War, and Navy Departments alike at the time over the supposed imperilment of Latin America. This explains why, in the expenditures laid before General Marshall in obedi-


ence to his 6 September instructions, much the largest outlay was that proposed for Trinidad-$95,660,100 of the $215,000,000 total.66  WPD planning contemplated using that island, just off the Venezuela coast and 1,200 miles from Belem in Brazil, as the jump-off base should an expeditionary force be dispatched to South America. The next heaviest outlay, $41,552,600, was scheduled initially for Jamaica in line with the Navy's short-lived intention of developing there a major supply base for Caribbean operations. Similar false starts were made, naturally, in plans for permanent garrisons at those two bases, for although the extravagant ideas about huge Caribbean operations soon were abandoned, a subsequent plan still contemplated that Trinidad would have 15,400 enlisted men and Jamaica 8,430. In contrast the three Newfoundland posts (St. John's, Argentia, and Stevensville) combined now were to have only 5,180, Bermuda was to have 4,400, and the other four bases were to have approximately 340 each.67 Later planning reduced Trinidad and Jamaica plans much further.

Priority for Newfoundland

Special attention was given to Newfoundland at the instance of the Permanent Joint Board on Defense, Canada-United States, which had been created in August 1940 (following conversations of President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Mackenzie King) to effect coordination of effort on the part of the United States and Canada.68  This coordination was proceeding independently of the bases-for-destroyers negotiations, but as one of Canada's largest anxieties at the time was the protection of the mouth of the St. Lawrence, Mr. Churchill's assurance that a Newfoundland base would be leased to the United States touched a point of prime concern to the Permanent Joint Board. General Embick, senior American member of the board, laid the matter before General Marshall and on 13 September the Chief of Staff ordered consideration of a


proposal to send troops to the Avalon Peninsula of Newfoundland, and a reinforced battalion of infantry was promptly designated. But although the survey party for Newfoundland arrived there on 13 October, long before the other seven bases were surveyed, satisfactory winter housing for the supporting elements of combat troops could not be provided immediately. Not until 15 January 1941 did the initial Army garrison of 56 officers and 822 enlisted men sail from New York to support the party already ashore, and the transport that carried them remained in harbor for some weeks as their shelter.69

By March 1941 when the eight leases were formally announced, not only were the surveys well advanced but material progress was under way, particularly in Newfoundland. A battery of 155-mm. guns was emplaced to guard the approach to St. John's harbor, antiaircraft machine guns were in position, ammunition unloaded and stored, housing construction begun. There was a temporary delay in the arrival of a spring troop augmentation because of well-founded rumors of German intentions for Atlantic raids, culminating in the sensational and ill-fated excursion of the giant Bismarck. The rumors aroused President Roosevelt's special concern over the security of Bermuda and he examined with misgivings the War Department's schedule of April troop movements to Newfoundland, Bermuda, and Trinidad. Then he returned it with a notation "OK, but hurry Bermuda. That is necessary priority. Get planes there as soon as any place can be prepared. FDR." 70  As a result of his intervention the schedule of troop movements was altered slightly by reversing the time of movements for Bermuda and Newfoundland. Not much could be done with regard to planes, for the landing strips were months from completion, but air patrol facilities were enlarged temporarily by sending three more Navy flying boats to the Bermuda lagoon.

The April augmentation for Newfoundland (chiefly six B-18 planes) therefore arrived on 1 May, and the flying element was promptly assigned to the


task of making an aerial survey of Labrador in quest of possible landing strip sites. These were for the projected ferry route to Britain, via Newfoundland, Greenland, and Iceland, over which short-range planes were destined to be moved in large numbers during the coming year. Meantime General Embick and his Permanent Joint Board colleagues, examining the reports of the Commanding General, First Army (under which the Newfoundland activities were first placed), provided a calm estimate of the current situation. In contrast with others' alarm, General Embick felt that the situation "does not indicate the need for the augmentation of the permanent garrison . . . at this time." He recommended rather that "full advantage be taken of the present immunity of Newfoundland to correct as rapidly as possible the lack of communications," both highway and rail, which would be needed for moving supplies from dockside to the interior air bases.71  A considerable part of the rehabilitation cost the War Department prevailed on the Reconstruction Finance Corporation to pay.

The May augmentation brought the Newfoundland garrison to 1,666 officers and men, and, little occurring thereafter to cause anxiety about the position's security, only moderate additions were made in ensuing months. In late August, shortly before it was suddenly decided to reduce the Army's total personnel 72  in order to reduce the strain of munitions production for all armed forces, the Newfoundland garrison reached 2,211, which was close to the total on 30 November, a week before Pearl Harbor, of 2,383.73  At the time of the Staff discussion of the President's reduction proposal in September General Marshall admitted that the base garrisons were larger than had proved necessary thus far, but pointed out the time that would be "involved in reconstituting full garrisons in the bases in the event that something happened to the British Navy." 74  This was still a possibility in the fall of 1941.

Early Anxiety Over Bermuda Security

The strategic importance of Bermuda in Atlantic defense was apparent in its location, almost in the middle of a line connecting Nova Scotia and Puerto


Rico, and approximately a like distance from New York. Its usefulness as a coaling base had commended Bermuda to the British generations before. Its availability under the bases-for-destroyers agreement now commended it for development as a naval and air base in line with the planning of Rainbow 4. The Joint Planning Committee report to Admiral Stark and General Marshall, presented on 28 August 1940, a week in advance of the bases-for-destroyers announcement, proposed accordingly that the Navy use it for six patrol squadrons and a carrier group, while the Army proposed to place upon it a reinforced infantry division and a composite air wing.75 As in the case of other bases, a closer scrutiny of requirements greatly reduced the original estimate, the infantry element being whittled down to a reinforced battalion.76 By Air Corps estimate the recommended composite wing, with base personnel, would call for 220 officers and 2,300 men,77  but these estimates also were due for reduction. The impulse to rush defense forces to Bermuda ahead of schedule in April 1941 (occasioned by Mr. Roosevelt's anxiety over threatened German raids) was controlled by the fact that the Bermuda air strips were not yet ready for use, and by the time the strips were ready, the more acute worry was over. Actually Bermuda was to be of far greater importance to Navy strategy in the antisubmarine campaigns later in the war. By the time of Pearl Harbor the base's development was moving ahead at only a moderate pace. Instead of the 2,920 total of officer, enlisted, and nurse personnel contemplated in August 1940, only 1,280 were there on 1 December 1941.

The Dwindling Importance of Trinidad

Trinidad's usefulness likewise was overestimated in the August 1940 report of the Joint Planning Committee, which contemplated sending a larger garrison than was scheduled for any other of the Atlantic bases. The September 1940 report of the board of experts cut the corps that once was proposed down to a reinforced division, but that was only the beginning of a steady reduction program. The early miscalculation was occasioned by planning of that day, when there was serious expectation that it would be necessary to send an expeditionary force to Brazil to cope with expected Nazi uprisings and invasion. As months


passed, such an expedition became less likely and hence Trinidad became less likely to be required as a staging base. The September planning for 23,813 personnel fell away in October to 16,202,78  and then was so severely revised that when the first contingent of Army troops (preceded by the usual advance element of Marines) reached Trinidad in April 194r, it was made up of 1,303 officers and men, of whom 519 were National Guard personnel. By 1 December 1941 reinforcements had brought the garrison up to 2,866 of all ranks, making it at the time larger than any other Atlantic base garrison, save Iceland's, but with the slow elimination of anxiety over extensive German operations in the Western Hemisphere, Trinidad's importance faded and the garrison shrank accordingly.

Early Jamaica Plan Soon Abandoned

The Greenslade Board had originally recommended extensive development of Jamaica, including a large naval and air base, and as this met with the initial support of the Chief of Naval Operations it was accepted by the Chief of Staff and the President as well. This explains the Army Engineer's $41,552,600 estimate of construction costs, the Navy proposing to spend $7,000,000 more. By December, however, Admiral Stark had changed his views radically, reasoning that any likely war operations affecting the Caribbean would take place far to the east of Jamaica, and that as Jamaica had few requirements for a base anyway the project would best be scaled down.79 In view of the altered strategic requirements, the Army reduced its own plan proportionately, not only in expense but in personnel. Instead of the 520 officers and 8,430 enlisted men in the once projected garrison, a January revision called for 52 officers and 1,338 men, plus about 300 service personnel.80  In July General Marshall approved a further reduction to 800 officers and men, regarded as sufficient to cope with such small raids as could be expected there. Other than the service personnel referred to and a military police detachment of 51, the first garrison actually sent to Jamaica was of 350 men, ordered there not to cope with invasion but to protect the property from strike damage.81  It sailed on 17 November.


Minor Bases Planned for the Bahamas, Antigua, St. Lucia, and Guiana

No large investment was ever contemplated for the Bahamas, which are moderately close to the Florida mainland, nor for Antigua, nor for St. Lucia, nor for British Guiana, although all four were in the list of eight leased bases. The island of Antigua is near the north end of the Lesser Antilles and was of interest in 1940 partly because it was conveniently near to the French island of Guadeloupe. St. Lucia, near the south end of the same chain of islands, was likewise a convenient place from which to keep an eye on the nearby French island of Martinique. British Guiana was of interest as a bauxite source, near which unidentified planes were reported in April 1941; also because it lay between Venezuela (from which a stream of important materials flowed to the United States) and Dutch Guiana, with French Guiana just beyond, with Brazil still further. Originally, the Greenslade Board had contemplated for each of the four an airplane staging field with limited servicing facilities and a guard. The JPC report of 28 August 1940 had contemplated for protecting each base a reinforced battalion and a composite air group, but by November a thriftier War Department had decided on a small standard garrison of 14 officers and 328 enlisted men, this being the estimated requirement for coping with any likely air attack from a carrier. It would be composed of an infantry company (7 officers and 226 men), with automatic weapons detachment, service troops, airways detachment, aircraft warning detachment, and Signal Corps and medical troops.82  So far as the Bahamas were concerned, even this minimum was under suspicion, and in May 1941 the President, while approving the base site which had been selected after long delay, expressed his doubt that so much of a force was needed.83  The Joint Board's own doubts on that subject increased to the point where it soon recommended no present action whatever, and in September all existing directives for acquiring land or garrisoning the island were finally revoked.84  The accompanying papers noted that the islands offered no suitable site, the limestone made grading costs heavy, and results would not justify the outlay. Accordingly, the tabulation of garrison strength on 30 November 1941 in the Atlantic bases shows no troops whatever in the Bahamas. The bases in the Lesser Antilles meantime had been examined with equally critical eye, not only as to the cost of


construction work but as to the dubious urgency of any development work upon them in a season when men and materiel were desperately needed elsewhere. At the end of November 1941, accordingly, their garrisons were still small. That at British Guiana was of 288 men, that at Antigua 282, that at St. Lucia 275.85

Delay in Utilizing Greenland

Even before World War II the possible usefulness of Greenland for American defense was considered and in May 1939 in the U. S. Senate there was a proposal that the United States purchase it from Denmark. The War Department was asked for an expression of views. The answer was discouraging. WPD's findings at the time, supported by the Navy's WPD, were that Greenland, mostly ice-capped and fogbound, had no natural facilities for operating either aviation or naval forces, and that strategic considerations offered "no justification for [its] acquisition." 86 General Craig, then Chief of Staff, and Secretary of War Woodring approved the view. A year later, however, with the war under way, aerial surveys from Newfoundland were seeking landing stages for the ferry route to Britain, via Iceland, and the observers noted in Greenland several landing-field possibilities which the Coast Guard cutter Northland was dispatched to investigate.87  There was no immediate decision, and in February 1941 the Canadian Government indicated its own interest in building a radar station and meteorological station near Julianehaab. Canadian intention to utilize this area served to quicken American interest. So did the current report of a German flight over Iceland where British weather observers had already set up a station, and on 8 March 1941 the War Department organized a Greenland Survey which set out within ten days.88  Without waiting for its findings, the War Department came to a decision that the delivery of planes to Britain now required landing fields in Greenland, that their construction was practicable, and that there should be no delay in building them. A WPD draft of a request to the President for funds to start the enterprise was approved by Secretary of War Stimson on 2 April and promptly carried by General Marshall to the White House where Mr. Hopkins "promised action this a. m.


with funds probably from Lend-Lease." 89  Actually the necessary $5,000,000 came from the President's Emergency Fund.90 WPD immediately urged assignment of a reinforced engineer battalion to assure protection for the construction party, but it was 17 June before the Army transport Munargo sailed with the initial garrison of 24 officers and 370 enlisted men.91 There was expectation of early reinforcements, for on that same day WPD outlined a construction plan which called for housing for 2,050 personnel near Julianehaab and for 482 at Ivigtut (to protect the cryolite mines, which were a factor in aluminum manufacture).92  The plan was laid before General McNair at GHQ, who shortly decided that Canadian fears for the safety of the mines at Ivigtut were unwarranted, that land attack on the mines was improbable, and that the Army's antiaircraft artillery unit unaided could accomplish the defense mission. General McNair recommended withdrawal of the infantry component, thereby reducing the garrison from 482 to 302 officers and men. Later the President ordered the total contemplated garrison (2,532 in the housing program) to be reduced to 1,500 by the spring of 1942.93  The imperilment of Greenland was small, but its value was great, thanks to the weather, radio, and radar stations that were installed upon it (the weather data from Greenland helped General Eisenhower to set D Day for the Normandy invasion in 1944), and to the airstrips that provided a welcome staging for airplanes in passage.

Work on the three runways which fulfilled the latter purpose proceeded slowly because of weather harassments, but in October 1941 it was possible to report that one of them was ready for light planes. Not until January 1942 was it capable of taking all types of planes, and even then the radar was not ready to operate. The housing for ferry personnel was up by October and awaiting only furniture to make it comfortable. That for the garrison was not completed until March 1942, which meant that the garrison did its wintering in temporary quarters.94


The Situation in Iceland

The British garrisoning of Iceland started in May 1940 on invitation after the German crushing of Denmark and Norway. The possibility that reinforcements would be needed developed in September immediately after the announcement of the bases-for-destroyers transaction, when Hitler was reported to be considering seizure of the Atlantic islands from Iceland to the Azores. During the ensuing months British diplomacy appears to have encouraged a somewhat reluctant Icelandic Government to propose American garrisoning (to replace the British troops whom Mr. Churchill wished to utilize elsewhere) and in February 1941 this suggestion reached the State Department by way of the U. S. Consul in Reykjavik.95 On 25 March the issue became more urgent. Hitler announced inclusion of Iceland in the zone within which neutral shipping would be sunk on sight, and the U. S. Navy actions previously chronicled 96 were initiated. In that month was reached not only the agreement that, in the event of war, the United States would assume responsibility for the defense of Iceland, but the decision on the manner of assuming that responsibility. The first American garrison would be a provisional Marine brigade of 4,100 men.97  This would be relieved by reinforced elements of the 5th Infantry Division, planning for whose movement began therewith.98

The operation was hastened by Hitler's decision, well forecast by Allied intelligence, to open the grand assault upon Russia in late June. Up to then, the first American operation of the sort in prospect had been the friendly occupation of the Azores, as a countermove against Hitler's supposed plan for moving through Spain to a control of Gibraltar. When, instead, Germany's western Mediterranean plan was abandoned in favor of the war on Russia, the Azores operation lost its urgency and the Iceland enterprise was quickly substituted. On 16 June Mr. Roosevelt gave oral instructions to the Chief of Naval Operations that the


Iceland operation be undertaken, relieving British troops then in garrison, and on that same day Admiral Stark ordered the Marine brigade commander to proceed with Operation INDIGO.99  The Army's own planning proceeded, aided by an extended reconnaissance report on Iceland from the Army Special Observer in London that had previously been ordered.100  Time would be needed, for in the upbuilding of the new Army organizations Selective Service personnel had been placed in almost every Regular Army unit and until the Selective Service Act's current restrictions should be removed it was impossible to send any draftee out of the country against his will. This was the political situation with which General Marshall himself had to grapple, and which he attacked boldly on 30 June in his biennial report, calling for new legislation which would extend the one-year term of service.101

The Marines, being volunteers, were immediately usable. The brigade proceeded accordingly toward Iceland, while British diplomatic agencies went through some rapid steps to have the Americans "invited" by Iceland's Prune Minister. It was close calculation, for the invitation was received and accepted only on 7 July and instantly announced by the President in a message to Congress of that date; it was on that same evening that the U. S. fleet and convoy loaded with the Marines reached Reykjavik harbor.102  The President had been dissuaded from announcing the expedition some days earlier, the Navy pleading that no announcement be made until the Marines should finish their voyage through waters of the war zone.103

Further study of requirements for men and materiel and ships convinced the General Staff that the early plans for sending a total of 30,000 Army troops to Iceland (the British forces there included 25,000 Army, 2,000 Navy, and 500 Royal Air Force) would have to be revised, and the time of troop arrival extended.104  While the Marines were at sea, accordingly, warning was sent to London that the plans for Army movements to Iceland were undergoing a


change. It now was proposed to send an Army force of only 267 officers and 5,966 enlisted men. It also was proposed to have them relieve, not the British but the Marines, who were ticketed for expeditionary duty elsewhere.105  Upon reconsideration this proposal of 5,966 was revised upward temporarily, the President directing in July, rather, that 10,000 Army troops be sent, but in August he altered the arrangement again, so that the Marines would remain, and only 5,000 Army troops be sent.106 It was this circumstance that called for consideration, affecting the relationship of the Marines and the Army command. Interservice protocol finally was disposed of by Presidential order, placing the Marine brigade under command of the American senior officer, Maj. Gen. C. H. Bonesteel of the Army. On General Bonesteel descended additional duties of a semi-diplomatic nature, involving relations with the British force, larger than his own, and with the Icelanders, whose coolness at the outset was gradually overcome by a combination of General Bonesteel's tact, General Marshall's advice, and the cooperation of the American Minister, Lincoln MacVeagh.107  The matter of British and American commands had been arranged with forehanded expectation of unpleasant possibilities. These threatened to develop in October, when two United States Senators directed to the War Department inquiries on whether American troops in Iceland were under British command, and whether they would be forced into action by an attack on the British. The prompt answer was that American troops were under American command; that if there was an attack on Iceland it would be against an American position (which President Roosevelt had announced in his 7 July message); and that in such a case, certainly, Americans would react.108


The graver difficulty with regard to getting Army troops to Iceland was over the issue that General Marshall had foreseen in June-the restrictions of Selective Service. Because the legislation extending the period of draft service was delayed, his expectations were dramatically fulfilled in a manner that he described to the President. Although the infantry element which was sent forward in August was less than one regiment (a squadron of pursuit planes had been sent in July aboard the carrier Wasp) there was difficulty in getting that small number under way. Of the Reserve officers 82 percent volunteered to go overseas, waiving their legal right to refuse. Of the Selective Service personnel only 22 percent volunteered. To fill the ranks it was necessary to comb out another infantry regiment and numerous other organizations in the division, this sometimes entailing a good deal of effort. Thus, to get qualified men in numbers sufficient to fill the roster of one of the service companies, whose total was only 3 officers and 150 men, it was necessary to obtain transfers from 19 organizations, including key instructors from one of the schools. In order to make up the expedition's shortages, other units of the 5th Division were deprived of many of their experienced 3-year men and refilled with the short-term men who had balked at overseas duty. As General Marshall described it, in explaining his acute need for draft extension: "The organization of additional forces of this nature will require the disruption of approximately three regiments for every one sent and, even so, with small probability of securing volunteers of certain specialists essential to forces of this type." 109

The passage of the extension act ended this worry, but other anxieties about personnel replaced it,110 and by October the Navy was pressing for a decision by which Army personnel must be found to relieve the Marines. The British had been able to relieve but 950 of their own garrison.111  These pressures, still being applied after the Pearl Harbor attack, would constitute a subject for argument for months to come.112  The entire Army personnel in Iceland on 1 December, just before Pearl Harbor, still numbered 5,974.113


In the Dutch Islands, Aruba and Curacao

Because of their geographical location in the Caribbean and also because of justified Navy anxiety over their protection, something may here be said of the Dutch possessions of Aruba and Curacao, lying north of Venezuela and much more important in 1944 all considered, than was the distant Dutch Guiana. Because of their value as oil producers and their obvious vulnerability to injury by submarine raid or by local sabotage, they were included in Rainbow 4 planning. WPD (to meet General Marshall's view that Army personnel at the various bases could be reduced in order to cope with a troop shortage) re-examined the Rainbow plans and proposed to reduce the Aruba-Curacao allotments. A letter to the Caribbean Defense Command suggested that Aruba would need only a total of 36 officers and 915 men to supplement the British and Dutch garrisons of 375 and 450 respectively. For Curacao, where the British had 775 and the Dutch 1,100, the Staff proposed 60 officers and 1,423 men.114  The Caribbean Defense Command suggested only small modifications (mainly for improved air patrol), but immediate action in Washington was held up because of a diplomatic complication. The State Department wished to negotiate the matter with the Dutch only if the Dutch should agree to accept a Venezuelan mission at the same time. This the Dutch declined to do, and accordingly, when the war broke, no American garrison had started for either Aruba or Curacao. On 7 January Rear Adm. J. H. Hoover, commanding the Tenth U. S. Naval District at Puerto Rico, expressed to the Navy Department his concern over the vulnerability of these important oil areas, and stressed the need for an air patrol, fighter planes, and also naval vessels. Admiral Stark forwarded a copy of the letter to General Marshall, who pursued the matter in his own way, quite aware that any halt in the flow of oil to the United States at that critical time was to be averted if at all possible. The Dutch agreed to extend the two existing airfields to make them more useful immediately, and the Caribbean Air Force set about getting a detachment of 2 officers and 35 men to each of the two areas. On 29 January Secretary Stimson in person carried to the White House a letter reporting the State Department's role in the delay, and presenting evidence of the situation's urgency, which Admiral Hoover had not exag-


gerated.115  On 16 February German submarines shelled the great refinery at Aruba, and sank five tankers in nearby waters.

The Fixed Defenses in Both Oceans

The Strategic Triangle in the Pacific and the defensive screen of bases in Atlantic and Caribbean were well designed to afford a basis of protection for both west and east coasts, but they were a design rather than the actuality that fuller installations would provide. No military authority thought of the bases as even potentially impregnable, for no position will stand if the attacker makes his assault long enough, strong enough, and skillful enough. Because Hawaii was a vital part of western defense, and because it was the base for the invaluable fleet, it had received a maximum of attention and personnel and equipment in proportion to the total available supply, and it was this circumstance that nurtured the unfortunate surmise that its very strength would discourage assault by an enemy, simply because assault on an alerted Hawaii presumably would prove too costly. That is a wholly different thing from making attack impossible, or from believing that an attack would be beaten off without damage to installations. Sea and air operations had already demonstrated repeatedly that, even with a foe on continuous wartime alert, surprise attacks were possible and that, while attacking forces could be made to suffer severely, some bold and fortunate pilots would unfailingly get past the interception defense and drop their bombs on target. The belief in Washington in late November 1941 was not only that Hawaiian installations were strong enough to stand against any likely assault, but that Japan, aware of it, would hesitate to risk the heavy losses that presumably would ensue. In this confidence, reinforcements were being prepared, rather, for the Panama Canal and, in lesser quantity, for the Alaskan corner of the Strategic Triangle, and of course were being hurried in greater volume to the notoriously vulnerable Philippines.

In the Atlantic defense chain nothing approached the strength of Oahu's installations. This was by design. The great base at Pearl Harbor was not only an indispensable defensive position in an immense ocean, far distant from supporting bases and hence requiring power to sustain itself against attack by a


known foe possessing large sea and air forces. It was indispensable also as a well developed base for offensive expeditionary operations. Nothing in mid-Atlantic was comparable. Even Bermuda, most exposed by remoteness from other bases, was quickly accessible by air, and all the others were easily reached by sea as well. None of the islands was vitally needed as a base for an expeditionary force for Europe. No European foe was immediately capable of moving across the Atlantic in great strength, despite the excessive nervousness on that score that was apparent in Washington in the spring of 1941 and was still present in some degree as the year moved toward its close. The actual danger was from enemy submarine attacks upon shipping and, less troublesome, from hit-and-run raids. Against neither of these perils would large ground-force installations on the newly leased bases be of great use, and this explains the modest base-garrisoning program that has been described, greatly reduced from the extravagant original program of August 1940. The actual Army strength at the Atlantic bases in late 1941 was scant, but it was sufficient for the small need that developed. The first shock of war was due to come, not in the Atlantic, not in those Latin American areas that for years had stirred anxiety over hemisphere defense, not even where American defenses were known to be weak. Rather, it would come where American defenses were thought to be too strong to invite attack.


page created 12 December 2002


Previous Chapter        Next Chapter

Return to the Table of Contents

Return to CMH Online