5-410 Editorial Summary of Pearl Harbor Committee Testimony (4)

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: April 9, 1946

Subject: Postwar

Editorial Summary of Pearl Harbor Committee Testimony (4)

April 9, 1946 Washington, D.C.

Marshall was called before the Joint Committee on the Investigation of the Pearl Harbor Attack for the eighth time, interrupting testimony by former Chief of Naval Operations Harold R. Stark, because, as Senator Alben W. Barkley, the committee’s chairman, told his colleagues: “General Marshall advises me that he is extremely anxious to return to China. . . . He is getting daily requests to return immediately.” (Pearl Harbor Committee, Hearings, pt. 11, p. 5174.)

The committee counsel’s questions were brief, merely having Marshall reiterate that he was at home on the night of December 6, 1941, went riding the next morning, and knew nothing of the fourteen-part Japanese message prior to about 10:30 A.M. on December 7. Most of the rest of the session was taken up by questions from and Marshall’s answers to three members of the Republican party: Senator Owen Brewster (Maine), Senator Homer Ferguson (Michigan), and Representative Frank B. Keefe (Wisconsin).

Senator Brewster sought to get from Marshall an “estimate of whether the Japanese attack might be logically expected.” Consequently, he asked about Marshall’s knowledge of the war around Moscow in December 1941 and its possible impact on Japanese planning, the exchange of information between Great Britain and the United States, the state of Japanese-American relations, and Japanese decision-makers’ psychology in late 1941. The Japanese, with some reason, had misjudged U.S. fighting capabilities in late 1941, Marshall said, and then he repeated his December 1945 estimation that the Hawaiian installations were “reasonably well equipped” and “the commanders had been alerted. . . . In our opinion, that [Hawaii] was the one place that had enough within itself to put up a reasonable defense.” (Ibid., pp. 5186-87.)

Senator Ferguson asked if President Roosevelt had sought to maneuver Japan “into a position where they would be compelled to fire the first shot.” Marshall denied this; the discussions in the autumn of 1941, he said, were about what procedures to follow “so we would not find ourselves in a dangerous position where we had to do something initiating a fight. . . . That was the general opinion, that they [the Japanese] were going to attack, definitely, in the Southwest Pacific.” The senator then returned to the importance and impact of the December 6-7 Japanese fourteen-part message—particularly the president’s “offhand” (Marshall’s word) comment “this means war”—so Marshall again described his actions regarding the message on the morning of December 7. (Ibid., pp. 5188-89, 5190-91.)

Mr. Keefe of Wisconsin was interested in determining whether Roosevelt’s military advisors had met at the White House on the evening of December 6. Marshall was “absolutely certain” that he was not there. Marshall took this occasion to correct an impression that he had given in previous testimony that he was uncertain where he was on the evening of December 6: “I am certain I was at home.” (Ibid., p. 5194.) Unlike his December testimony, newspaper accounts of this session were generally not front-page news.

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. 520-521.

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