3-002 Statement for the Roberts Commission, January 19, 1942

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: January 19, 1942

Subject: World War II

Statement for the Roberts Commission1

[January 19, 1942] [Washington, D.C.]

At about 11:25 a.m., Eastern Standard Time, Sunday, December 7, 1941, the Chief of Staff of the Army and the Chief of Naval Operations learned from an intercepted message from Tokyo to the Japanese Ambassador in Washington2 that what amounted to an ultimatum would be delivered to the United States Government by the Japanese Ambassador at 1:00 p.m. in Washington that day and that diplomatic relations between the two nations would probably be severed.

The Chief of Staff communicated with the Chief of Naval Operations by telephone at once, expressed his apprehension of possible attack without warning in any area and recommended sending an immediate additional warning message to the Commander of the Hawaiian Department (and to the Commanding Generals of the forces in the Philippines, Panama, and on the Pacific Coast). He personally drafted such a message, and at 11:45 a.m., Eastern Standard Time, [the Chief of Naval Operations] requested that the various Army Commanders to receive this message be instructed to communicate its contents to their naval opposites. The Chief of Staff added a sentence to that effect.

This message, in the longhand of the Chief of Staff, was personally delivered at 11:50 a.m. by a General Staff officer to the Communications Officer stationed in the War Department Message Center for immediate transmission by the most rapid means. The message in longhand was then typed and entered in the War Department Message Center register at 12 noon. The Chief of Staff specifically inquired through a second General Staff officer (Colonel Bundy, now deceased),3 what would be the elapsed time necessary for the message to reach its destination. He was informed that it would require about thirty minutes for transmission and delivery.

The War Department Communications Officer was able to send the message to the other points of destination by Army radio. He discovered, however, and we find this to be the fact, that due to physical and aerial conditions he could not raise the Army radio station at Oahu. He therefore delivered the coded message to the Western Union Telegraph Company by which it was transmitted on a through circuit to San Francisco and then relayed by the Radio Corporation of America to its office in Honolulu where it was received at 7:33 a.m., Hawaiian Time, one hour and three minutes after it was filed in the War Department Message Center. Thus the message which the Chief of Staff understood should arrive at Army Headquarters at about 7:00 a. m. actually arived at the Radio Corporation of America’s office in Honolulu at 7:33 a.m. The message was dispatched by the Radio Corporation of America by messenger to Army Headquarters. Before it was delivered the attack started.4

Document Copy Text Source: Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs (RG 165), Project Decimal File 1941-43, 384 Hawaii [12-7-41], National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland.

Document Format: Typed draft.

1. See note 5, Telephone Conversation with Lieutenant General Delos C. Emmons, December 16,1942, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #3-019 [3: 21-23].

2. The phrase “from an intercepted message from Tokyo to the Japanese Ambassador in Washington” was omitted from the transcript at Marshall’s request. See Joint Committee on the Investigation of the Pearl Harbor Attack, Pearl Harbor Attack, Hearings . . . , pt. 23, Proceedings of Roberts Commission (Washington: GPO, 1946), p. 1076.

3. Marshall had sent an investigating team to Hawaii: Major General Herbert A. Dargue, commanding general of the First Air Force; Colonel Charles W. Bundy, chief of the Plans Group, War Plans Division; and five others. All were killed on December 12 when their transport plane crashed in bad weather a hundred miles east of Los Angeles, California.

4. For an examination of the events of December 7 prior to the Japanese attack, see Watson, Chief of Staff pp. 513-15. Memorandums by other officers regarding their recollections of activities in the War Department on December 7 are in NA/RG 165 (OCS, Project Decimal File 1941-43,384 Hawaii [12-7-41]).

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. 3, “The Right Man for the Job,” December 7, 1941-May 31, 1943 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991), pp. 5-7.

Digital Downloads




Holding Rights: Public Information
Holding ID: 3-002

Rights: Public Information