Pearl Harbor 75 Years On…”A MATTER OF HONOR”


Mostly, other books recount the saga of the catastrophe itself and the behind-the-scenes events that led up to it. Our investigation of those events led to new discoveries that show, more vividly than ever before how human failure – much of it by the top brass in Washington – led to the surprise attack. Our special focus, too – for the first time – is the tragic inside story of the man who commanded the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl. Admiral Husband Kimmel, the creme de la creme of his naval generation, was removed from his post, accused of “dereliction of duty,” and lived out his life under a cloud of disgrace. Thanks to unprecedented access to tens of thousands of documents – we tell the story straight for the first time.

For a military man governed by the code “death before dishonor”, what befell Kimmel was unthinkable. Dominating his thinking, always, was the memory of the men for whose deaths he had been vilified – 2,403 of them. Through nine official investigations and extraordinary challenges – political trickery, betrayal and personal tragedy (his own eldest son, a submarine skipper, was killed in the Pacific) Kimmel fought until he died to clear his name. First his sons, and after them his grandsons, took up his cause, and are fighting it to this day.

We report on documents never unearthed until now: a naval chart showing that – ten months before the Japanese attack U.S. Naval lntelligence had detailed evidence showing that aerial torpedoes could be successfully launched in water as shallow as that at Pearl Harbor. Kimmel and his command team were vitally interested in such data. lt was never, however, shared with them, and probably lay filed and forgotten at Navy HQ in Washington. That was only one of multiple screw-ups. It has long been known that, eager to safeguard a vital wartime secret, the fact that U.S. codebreakers were reading Japan’s diplomatic message traffic, government and military leaders failed to share it with Admiral Kimmel and General Short, the Army commander in chief in Hawaii. They, more than almost anyone from the military point of view, ought to have been made aware of it. Our book reveals how and why HQ blew it – and how, later, they covered up.

Because history ignored repeats itself. The lead-up to the 9/11 attacks, which we investigated for our 2011 book “THE ELEVENTH DAY”, is a prime example. There is another parallel. The 9/11 story is bedeviled by allegations of high level U.S. foreknowledge – so too with the Pearl Harbor case, and it can be argued that it spawned the age of conspiracy. President Roosevelt’s enemies, who latched on to the holes in the case against Admiral Kimmel and General Short, used multiple apparent mysteries to sow distrust of FDR and his advisers. The mud stuck. A brief look at the Internet shows that vast numbers of people believe, seventy-flve years on, that FDR, and/or Winston Churchill. or the men around them, had foreknowledge of the coming attack on Pearl Harbor. Our book. almost alone among the serious books on Pearl Harbor, tackles the conspiracy theories with irrefutable new evidence.

We lucked into it, then worked damned hard. We encountered the Admiral’s grandson Tom Kimmel. Jr. a former senior FBI agent and retired naval officer, by pure chance. Tears came to his eyes when he discussed the case, and that piqued our interest. As we probed. we found that the entire extended Kimmel family was imbued with the intense desire to clear their forebear’s name. They opened their archives to us without reservation and said, “Let the chips fall where they may!” Cooperation coupled with evident integrity was hard to resist. We had first-ever access to a treasure trove of unpublished letters, diaries and photos.

We read into the published literature and dissected the forty volumes of testimony and documentary evidence of the Pearl Harbor investigations. That gave us a sense of the holes in the official story, the lingering questions. Then, we combed the archives, dug into obscure diaries, letters, and legal records, and tapped our international connections for research in Holland, Germany and the UK. The mountain of documents that we’ve gathered fill thirty file drawers.

We’ve tackled some of the biggest stories of the last century – from the rise of the American Mafia, to the Kennedy assassination, to Watergate. to 9/11. Every time we start a book, someone says, “But hasn’t that been done before? We’ve always had to dig deep, and “A MATTER OF HONOR” has been no different. Seventy-five years after the attack, we find ourselves holding critical, unknown documents.

It depends on what day you ask us….
When weore working on a book, we become barely capable of speaking about anything else. Our children and our friends bear the brunt. Working so closely together can be very intense, and we don’t always agree. In the main, though, we trust each other’s judgments. We feel privileged to be able to work on stories that matter. In the case of “A Matter of Honor”, that has also meant being able to contribute an important correction to the historical record. Admiral Kimmel was scapegoated for the mistakes of many. We hope that our work helps to restore his reputation – and his honor. Both houses of Congress voted in 2000 to recommend that he be posthumously restored to the four-star rank he held at the time of Pearl Harbor. No president has made that a reality. Obama may yet do so.


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11 responses to “Pearl Harbor 75 Years On…”A MATTER OF HONOR”

  1. Don Reed

    Excellent show tonight on History Channel (10 pm Sunday 12/04/16). Am looking forward to reading your book.

  2. Walton Chapman

    My mother lived near enough to Pearl Harbor that she could watch the Japanese planes bombing the harbor. My father, a US Marine captain, was CO of the Marine detachment on the cruiser Astoria–which was at sea on 12/7. But my parents and their Navy friends who were at Pearl always blamed Adm Kimmel for the scale of the losses because he, unlike his predecessor who insisted on keeping the capital ships outside of the harbor, at anchor and with steam up, allowed them to berth side by side inside the harbor. This choice was popular with crews since going on liberty was easy compared with riding a ship’s boat in from the anchorage, and watch duties were less strenuous. As we all know, they became sitting ducks. My father had other interesting stories about the state of readiness of the fleet–let me know if you’d like to hear more

    • Bill Knight

      One wonders how Admiral Kimmel would have reacted had he been privy to some of the intelligence known to Washington, information withheld from both he and General Short of the Army. His peers, including such illustrious names as Admirals “Bull” Halsey, Raymond Spruance and David Layton believed Admiral Kimmel’s actions leading up to the December 7 attack were fully in accord with sound Navy doctrine.

      Kimmel certainly should have been made aware of the sheer magnitude of Japanese communications concerning Pearl Harbor in 1941. Admiral Kimmel was made Commander in Chief, USN, for a sound reason: he was a proven leader. Regrettably, in this instance his hands were tied behind his back without his direct knowledge. It is doubtful anyone else in his position would have fared better.

      Bill Knight
      Greensboro NC
      336 402 0701

  3. I was a US Navy Sailor stationed in and around Pearl Harbor 1954 to 1958 aboard LST 887 – USS Lawrence County a WWII Navy beach landing attack ship. I have published a book “Soft Bullets” By John Raby which is about our trips to and from Eniwetok nuclear test grounds where 90% of your crew died from nuclear contamination induced lymph cancer. All toll, some 400,000 Navy Fleet men died over 1945 to 1957 at the average of 57. I am therefore a 10% survivor of a massive military endeavor.
    John C Raby

  4. Mahmud Manning

    And that Admiral Yammamoto was a staff liaison officer in the U.S. In the early 1920’s and studied the American wargame appreciation of a surprise attack by an eastern (Jananese) opponent on Pearl Harbour (using battleships not aircraft carriers) and then how the American forces would counter attack through the Solomon Islands (Island hopping) geddit!

  5. Don Reed

    I fail to understand why the authors or heir representatives have failed to respond to the inquiries on this page (I have made none). Therefore, I request that my subscription to this site please be cancelled.

    • Don Reed

      I should add that I would have done this already on my own initiative, but there is no facility for doing this on this page. Repeat, please disconnect me from this site and cease all further communications. Thank you.

  6. Obama may yet do so? Yeah sure ya betcha.
    Not a drop of patriot concern runs thru the Obama veins. Unless story could be used to run down US perception in the world…Obama
    would surely be found on the golf course…. not recognizing the legacy of a mere Naval officer.

  7. Mahmud

    A further book of interest is Baywater’s ‘War in the Pacific’ which shows how Admiral Yamamoto had read this book when a Naval attaché in Washington 1919-20 and then understood strategic actions and ways of attack (although at that time with battleships not aircraft carriers) which led to his attack plan on Pearl. Was the attack plan known and held back by FDR including the intended declaration of war by the J ambassador in order to shock the US public into entering the war, which they didn’t want? And the rumour of gold and munitions of the Luisitania leaked to the Germans in WW1 for that matter!

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