Intelligence Failure at Pearl Research Paper

Pages: 10 (3354 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 10  ·  Level: Master's  ·  Topic: Military  ·  Buy This Paper

Intelligence Failure at Pearl Harbour

Intelligence failure at Pearl Harbor

It was the dawn of December 7th 1941 when six Japanese fleet carriers arrived 270 miles north of the Hawaiian Islands, and launched more than 200 attacking planes in the American fleet on the Pearl Harbor. This was the first attack after which the second attack with 170 planes was launched. These were the surprise attacks that greatly destroyed most of the American defense at the Pearl Harbor. Severe damage was suffered by the American army. This attack killed more than 2500 American marines and more than 1700 men were wounded. Why did America fail to prevent the Japanese attack? And was the attack unavoidable? This paper will aim to examine the main reasons of failure of the United States in preventing the attack launched by Japan on the Pearl Harbor. The main problem in the prevention of the attack was the failure in proper collection, and analysis of intelligence

. Japanese Pacific Fleet crossed the Pacific and started to attack the American Fleet located at the Pearl Harbor. The failure of intelligence of the American Army is reflected by the fact that the attack came as a great surprise to the Americans. There are a number of lobbies that have highlighted the element of failure. Two of the main ideologies have been given by David Kahn and Roberta Wohlstetter. It has been mentioned by David Kahn that the Japanese attack on the Pearl Harbor was the result of American failure in collecting the information related to the attack. But the point-of-view given by Roberta Wohlstetter is that the necessary intelligence of the Japanese attack was collected and gathered by the U.S. intelligence. The American army located at the Pearl Harbor was given the information that the Japanese fleet was on its way to the Pearl Harbor. The error was in the analysis of the collected intelligence. Attack on the Pearl Harbor is one of the main failures at the end of the American Military. There are a number of lessons that are to be learnt with this failure. One of the main reasons of the failure is the failure of the American intelligence. There are a number of lessons that are to be learnt from this failure. Thereby, the main purpose of choosing the topic is to highlight the failure of American intelligence in the attack of the Japanese fleet on the Pearl Harbor and to learn the lessons from the failure so that such attacks can be prevented in the future. The lessons learned by the American fleet after the attack on the pearl harbor included complete damage to four operational warships, four main battleships and Utah that sank. The historians have mentioned that attacks such as on the Pearl Harbor have never been seen by the American army. This is the kind of attack that still lingers in the memory of the Americans. It is important that the reasons of such a destructive attack are to be found out. One of the main facts that need to be mentioned here is that all the errors are not to be attributed to the American intelligence but it can be argued as the issue of the limits of the behaviors of the human beings

One of the main objectives of this study is to establish that the intelligence failure at Pearl Harbor was one not of an analysis both of military intelligence gathering and sharing.

There are two main research questions of this study.

1. Did the attacks of Pearl Harbor occur from severe lack of interest, investment and co-ordination in the intelligence service?

2. What specific steps should USA take in order to prevent another Pearl Harbor?

Review of the Literature

There are a number of reasons that have been highlighted by the literature in the past. One of the main reasons includes the conspiracy theory. The conspiracy in this case is that President Roosevelt wanted that Japan should attack first. It was known that the Japanese would attack the Pearl Harbor. America was aware of the Japanese attack and the aggression that Japan had. If this was the case, it worked as it helped in uniting the American people

. The Congress at the end decided to launch an attack against Japan. On the contrary, there are a number of beliefs that the failure of the American fleet in defending the attack on the Pearl Harbor was not based on any conspiracy. Firstly, President Roosevelt must not have to decide to wait for the Japanese attack on the Pearl Harbor as the attack was too large in scale to be ignored and waited upon. A great number of American soldiers were killed in the attack, many battleships were destroyed in the attack, installations as well as equipment was destroyed, and all the killed men and the equipment were necessary for the American navy. Secondly, if Washington had taken a decision to tolerate the attack on the Pearl Harbor, several warnings would not have been issued in regards to the attack

. Thirdly, it needs to be taken into account that if President Roosevelt was aware of the Japanese plan to attack the pearl harbor, he would not have prepared for the speech that was delivered on the Japanese attack on the Asian regions. The speech was delivered in order to make sure that the American navy and military was convinced for any attacks that could be launched by Japan. Some lobbies have mentioned that the speech delivered by President Roosevelt almost failed to convince the American army and public to fight against Japan on the forefront. The main concluding fact that needs to be mentioned here is that the attack launched by Japan at Pearl Harbor was too big and if America was aware of the attack, there is no chance that it could be kept as a secret as the damage that was caused by the attack could be calculated, if the risk was taken

The second reason highlighted by the literature is that the American officials were sure about the Japanese attack but were unsure about the location where japan would launch the attack. An analysis was conducted by the Americans

. Some of the locations that were highlighted by the Americans after the analysis included Thailand, Burma, Malaysia, Netherlands, Philippines, as well as a Russian Maritime Province. The analysis had mentioned that Pearl Harbor and American locations were never indicated in the analysis. The analysis indicates that Thailand was the important spot for possible attack by Japan. There was an increase of the troops entering in Indochina, based on which assumption of Thailand was made. It was thought by the American consul that if Japan attacks Thailand, it will have an access to Ragon and Malaya which will in turn open the roads to Burma Road. The reality, on the contrary showed that Thailand was not the target. The attack greatly shocked president Roosevelt as it was expected that Japan would attack somewhere in Asia and not in Hawaii

. The American commanders who were located in the Hawaiian Islands were also surprised as they were not assuming that the attack would be on the Pearl Harbor. If the American troops knew that Japan would attack the Hawaiian Islands, Japan would have considered japan as their own threat and Americans would have dealt with Japan in an appropriate manner. If the factors that could have led to the Japanese attack were known to the Americans, the attack on the Pearl Harbor would have been dealt in a more vigilant manner. Thereby, it can be argued here that one of the main reasons could be an unclear definition of the Japanese target. One other important reason of the failure of American defense that needs to be considered is the failure of intelligence. The history has shown that there were several means that were used by the American intelligence. Important sources that were used by the American intelligence in order to collect intelligence in regards to the Japanese attack included the following.


The Japanese information was to be decoded by the Americans by the various methods that were easily available to the Americans. This operation was named as the MAGIC. The most private level of communications that were carried out between the Japanese government and some of the Japanese embassies in Washington, Rome, and Berlin were being decoded. The Japanese intentions and plans were well-known by the Americans in advance. The success of the Americans can be highlighted by the fact that the top priority secret level of Japanese information was decoded by the Americans. This information was called as Purple

. Several high technology machines were installed by the Americans and in these cases, it was seen that these machines were helpful in decoding the Japanese information much more rapidly. It was mentioned by Captain Safford, the head of a decoding team of the Americans that some of the purple information was failed… [END OF PREVIEW]

Four Different Ordering Options:

Which Option Should I Choose?

1.  [This option is temporarily unavailable.]


2.  [This option is temporarily unavailable.]


3.  Access all 175,000+ papers:  $41.97/mo

(Already a member?  Click to download the paper!)


4.  Let us write a NEW paper for you!

Ask Us to Write a New Paper
Most popular!

Intelligence Failure of Pearl Harbor Term Paper

Intelligence Failure at Pearl Harbor Roberta Wohlstetter Term Paper

Pearl Harbor and the Cuban Missile Crisis Term Paper

Pearl Harbor Term Paper

Intelligence Failure of Pearl Harbor Term Paper

View 50 other related papers  >>

Cite This Research Paper:

APA Format

Intelligence Failure at Pearl.  (2012, November 7).  Retrieved February 18, 2019, from

MLA Format

"Intelligence Failure at Pearl."  7 November 2012.  Web.  18 February 2019. <>.

Chicago Format

"Intelligence Failure at Pearl."  November 7, 2012.  Accessed February 18, 2019.