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Editorial Summary of Pearl Harbor Committee Testimony (2)
December 10-11, 1945 Washington, D.C.
Senator Ferguson resumed questioning on Monday and dominated the entire four-hour session. During the morning testimony, Senator Ferguson sought evidence that President Roosevelt had committed the United States to war prior to Pearl Harbor. He began by asking Marshall questions about the U.S. chiefs of staff’s meetings with the British concerning the Far East. This led to questions about Marshall’s knowledge of the U.S. fleet’s combat status, the conditions under which the U.S. would go to war with Japan, and President Roosevelt’s order to send three small ships into the South China Sea in early December 1941. (Pearl Harbor Committee, Hearings, pp. 1235-41, 1243-52.)
After lunch, Ferguson sought to demonstrate that the military commanders in Washington must have recognized that war was at hand by December 6. He led Marshall through a sentence-by-sentence examination of the various documents relating to the November 27 warnings sent to Hawaii and the Philippines, touching upon the president’s understanding of the need for the warning, the Japanese movements that precipitated the warning, and comparing Marshall’s memory of ideas and events against what Secretary of War Stimson’s diary indicated. The senator suggested—and Marshall rejected—the idea that because the wording differed in the army’s and navy’s separate messages to their commanders in Hawaii, those commanders might have been confused as to what Washington desired them to do. (Ibid., pp. 1269- 1305.)
Marshall testified three hours this day; Senator Ferguson asked the questions for three-quarters of that period. Marshall commented again on various aspects of the November 27 warning message to Lieutenant General Short, the fourteen-part Japanese message of December 6-7, and the handling of MAGIC messages. (Ibid., pp. 1308-12.) Marshall explained once more his whereabouts on the evening of December 6 and the morning of December 7. (Ibid., pp. 1327-28.) Senator Ferguson was particularly interested in why any mention of MAGIC documents had been omitted from the public portion of the Roberts Commission’s 1942 report and why, subsequent to the army’s 1944 Pearl Harbor Board Report (which Marshall asserted that he had never read) the War Department had directed that Major Henry C. Clausen and Colonel Carter W. Clarke conduct investigations on the handling of documents relating to Pearl Harbor. (Ibid., pp. 1327-36.)
Congressman Frank B. Keefe (Republican from Wisconsin) used the session’s remaining half hour by putting questions to Marshall about various pre-Pearl Harbor military maneuvers and plans, particularly the alert that began in June 1940.
Recommended Citation: ThePapers of George Catlett Marshall, ed.Larry I. Bland and Sharon Ritenour Stevens(Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 1981- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 5, “The Finest Soldier,” January 1, 1945-January 7, 1947 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003), pp. 382-383.