History Essay: Intelligence Team Of America


Discuss about the History Essay for Intelligence Team of America.



The attack on Pearl Harbor has kept many Americans in wonder as they were not warned and they could not even detect or predict the act before it had already occurred. Even many scholars have wondered that how the Pacific Fleet on America could happen without any prediction. The joint congressional committee had investigated the attack while putting the question in a sharp manner that even if there were finest intelligence teams available in the American history who could gain knowledge of any war in the contemporary times, it could not contemplate regarding the Pearl Harbor attack that had been executed by Japan on a December morning in the year 1941 (Prange, Goldstein and Dillon 2014). This surprise attack at the Pearl Harbor had taken more than two thousand lives of American and damaged around twenty one ships with the US Pacific fleet. As the nation was stunned with the attack and could do nothing but mourned at its losses, many demanded to know why the country was underprepared or entirely unprepared for the attack (Feis 2015). There were numbers of rumors that kept on circulating, although no one provided an infallible answer to the question. This report will try to explore the answer from the American context.


The Intelligence Team of America

The best form of intelligence is like a hostile power. America had the best intelligence team even though it could not break the Japanese code. The primary job of the intelligence team of any country is to solve the secret messages of the other countries or the enemy countries. This is like putting a mirror behind the cards of the player. Historically the effort of the intelligence team has been considered the trustworthy and faster than the spies who are to transmit their messages through various means to the home country however, the spies have already been suspected due to failing in their effort or of dishonesty (Hayashi 2014). Spying generally views the future occurrences from an aerial investigation and detects the future from the present scenario. However, solving the underground messages of the enemy countries has a broader scope than spying or interrogating the prisoners who mostly know way less than they are initially expected from them. Moreover this procedure is also cheaper and has less conspicuous and it is also an underground method within the country. However from the historical evidences it can be indicated that the code breaking process also has the chances of failure (Pape 2014). The code breaking system could not catch or provide the messages that have not been put through the airwaves and the process being apparently omniscience tends to portray the fact that the other countries are already getting the messages. From the Pearl Harbor incidence the American Intelligence Team has gained an insight to the entire code breaking system from the Pearl Harbor attack that even the finest intelligence team of the country could not break the secret codes of Japan and was unable to notify the country regarding the secret intention of Japan.

The importance of code breaking has been noticed during World War I, where the usage of radio machines met this code breaking complexity for the first time. However the navy and army had sent strong ciphers and codes, but the codes were encrypted easily and the mathematicians and linguists could break those as they had already learnt the cryptanalysis (Asada 2013). This code analysis has helped various countries at the time of war; for instance it had significantly helped France in blocking the extreme German power.

The United States had targeted Japan from the time of World War I. Before the war Japan had defeated China and Russia and became the most influential power in the western Pacific. Therefore it had targeted the United States while it had occupied the islands and put a serious threat on the ocean routes to Philippines (Morgenstern 2017). The US Army could feel that Japan has formed a serious threat to the country, however they could not realize or warn the danger that was about to come to the country. However US Army had set up a conjoint department named the Cipher Bureau in the year 1919 under the leadership of Herbert O. Yardley who was the head of the code breaking department of the military intelligence of the US Army in World War I. The Cipher Bureau was working with the all the rudimentary knowledge regarding the Japanese Army and it was successful in cracking the diplomatic codes of Japan. A bewhiskered follower of the organization was able to crack the messages into English and informed the American representatives before the Washington naval disarmament conference regarding the positioning of Japan on the capital ships (Wirtz 2017). Therefore the American representatives were able to push Japan on that issue. The US Army did not have the code breaking unit throughout however after hiring Agnes Meyer Driscoll was the code analyst was a significant step for the US Army. Soon she has been proved to be an exceptional cryptanalyst. She had mostly broken all the Japanese codes into English and showed her aptitude in both the language learning and in code breaking . Even though there were a lot of issues with the language and the machine could not break all the Japanese word, yet the code breaking system of the US Army had improved with the course of time.

The Purple Problem

By the year 1937, the encrypted messages and the solutions of the overseas messages started going to the President of the country. Soon the messages have noticed the potential adherence of the Japan- German Anti Comintern Pact in the year 1937 and it was reported to the American representatives and the diplomats. Therefore the issue was also solved with the cryptanalysts. However in the next year the code braking unit of America had replaced the older machines with the newer ones and within 1939, three new messages were broken, however the messages for the next few months started disappearing (McDermott and Bar-Joseph 2016). The significant messages of Japan have started being unreadable; therefore it faced a severe loss for the paramount intelligence of the nation. Furthermore facing this loss the intelligence team concentrated more on solving the new machine, where the higher diplomats exercised the allover supervision himself. The new code was called Purple also due to its fit to the profound mystery of the Japanese codes. Due to the purple problem the United Stated had employed more cryptanalysts and provided the best intelligence team in solving the issue (Dockrill 2016). After a long analysis and the code could be analyzed and contrasting to that the purple messages were solved and the US army could concentrate on breaking the other codes. However, the US intelligence could not encrypt the messages before December 7, when the attack on Pearl Harbor actually took place.

The Conspiracy Theories

Even though there are several conspiracy theories regarding the attack on Pearl Harbor, but according to the intelligence team the messages did not provide any message regarding the surprise attack. Several researchers have suggested that there were several messages that dealt with the ship movements out and in the Pearl Harbor; therefore it should have prepared the US military about an approaching attack, however the cryptanalysts had suggested that similar messages were also being transmitted to Philippines, Seattle, San Francisco and the Panama Canal (Sarmiento 2017). However the US intelligence did not put much significance to those messages and did not consider those to be an indication of the approaching attack. The authorities had considered it to be the mere evidence of the abbreviated communications. Several other studies and researchers also suggest that the messages were already intercepted before the Pearl Harbor attack yet it was not solved. However the conspiracy theories debate an entire different thing regarding the attack on Pearl Harbor. It has been claimed that the US Government officials have the knowledge of the attack in advance yet it was not revealed. Several other studies have also claimed that the British and the US governments have known the attack and the British Government have informed the US government but it was claimed that the US government might have let the attack happen and encouraged the attack for enforcing the US military into the World War II (Powaski 2017). However the conspiracy theory has been considered as the fringe theory but several historians have rejected the idea.

However the conspiracy theory states that as the US intelligence team has improved impressively within the year 1941 and it had already intercepted several other messages and performed an incredible job in shutting down other attacks yet it could not break this code. Several researchers consider this to be an unreasonable idea. By the end of the 1941 the intelligence team of US already broken the other Japanese ciphers and even it had intercepted the highest diplomatic code with higher security yet it could not break the code. In the conspiracy theory, few researchers find the diplomatic political context where the attack has been considered as a ‘back door to war’ (Kass and Phillip 2014). The theorists have suggested this view challenging the conventional theory of considering the Pearl Harbor attack to be a surprise one and indicated that Roosevelt primarily wanted the United States to join the war against Germany. However it was never stated officially. The famous novelist and historian Thomas Fleming had argued that President Roosevelt had wished to join the war and for that reason he wanted Japan or Germany to blow the strike at the first place (Hess 2014). Furthermore after the attack on Pearl Harbor the public anger of the United States would be expressed to Japan. Nonetheless on another note while Hitler had declared war, it had brought the United States into the war of Europe as they were unforced by treaty. This attack was also described by the ‘sitting duck’ theory which stated that the British government along with the Roosevelt government wanted America to intervene into the European conflict; therefore they had deliberately let the Pearl Harbor attack to take place and made it successful while apparently it was considered to a surprise one. The sole intention behind the attack was to take the United States into the European conflict.

Several historians also claim the attack to be a preplanned one from the signal intelligence context. Considering this context, the historians have made five claims. In the first place they had claimed that as the US administration intercepted the ‘purple’ code by the end of 1941; they could guess the Japanese aggression. Therefore the purple code had sufficed the US administration with particular clues which indicated that the attack is being planned on the Pearl Harbor (Reyes 2015). In addition to that the Japanese fleet code JN – 25 had also been intercepted, therefore it was known that there was a force which was being sent against the United States (Ford 2015). The government had also taken effectual steps that could hinder the Japanese force in Hawaii. However, the next claim also indicated that the Kido Butai or the Japanese task force was detected travelling towards Hawaii but there was nothing that could be done with it. However, several historian state that there is no fundamental base of the conspiracy theory, whereas it could be proved that the US military and the administration did their part to detect the Japanese force yet there was not much time left while something could be done to stop the attack on Pearl Harbor.


In conclusion, it can be said that Pearl Harbor to be a conspiracy and a preplanned attack could not be proved, however it can be indicated that the finest intelligence of the US team had decoded the message, however they could be quick enough to prevent the attack on them. Many indicate that the intelligent team was fine however it was not fine enough to understand the Japanese code languages. Japan had effectively closed all the doors that could help the United States to gather information regarding their intentions. Therefore the Pearl Harbor attack can be considered as the intelligence failure and this could be the fundamental reason that the American were not aware of the possible attack beforehand.

Reference List and Bibliography

Asada, S., 2013. From Mahan to Pearl Harbor: The Imperial Japanese Navy and the United States. Naval Institute Press.

Dockrill, S. ed., 2016. From Pearl Harbor to Hiroshima: The Second World War in Asia and the Pacific, 1941–45. Springer.

Feis, H., 2015. China Tangle: The American Effort in China from Pearl Harbor to the Marshall Mission. Princeton University Press.

Ford, D., 2015. A Statement of Hopes? The effectiveness of US and British naval war plans against Japan, 1920–1941. The Mariner's Mirror, 101(1), pp.63-80.

Hayashi, B.M., 2014. Kilsoo Haan, American Intelligence, and the Anticipated Japanese Invasion of California, 1931–1943. Pacific Historical Review, 83(2), pp.277-293.

Hess, G.R., 2014. The United States at War, 1941-1945. John Wiley & Sons.

Kass, L. and Phillip, J., 2014. Surprise, Deception, Denial and Warning: Strategic Imperatives. Orbis, 57(1), pp.59-82.

McDermott, R. and Bar-Joseph, U., 2016. Pearl Harbor and Midway: the decisive influence of two men on the outcomes. Intelligence and National Security, 31(7), pp.949-962.

Morgenstern, G., 2017. Pearl Harbor: The story of the secret war. Pickle Partners Publishing.

Pape, R.A., 2014. Bombing to win: Air power and coercion in war. Cornell University Press.

Pastorello, M. and Testa, M., 2017. Intelligence failures: between theories and case studies. SICUREZZA, TERRORISMO E SOCIET?, p.49.

Powaski, R.E., 2017. Franklin D. Roosevelt, the State Department, and the Navy: US Policy Toward Japan, 1937–1941. In American Presidential Statecraft (pp. 169-218). Springer International Publishing.

Prange, G., Goldstein, D.M. and Dillon, K.V., 2014. December 7, 1941: the day the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Open Road Media.

Reyes, M.B., 2015. Waking The Sleeping Giant At Pearl Harbor: A Case For Intelligence And Operations Fusion. Pickle Partners Publishing.

Sarmiento, K., 2017. Events That Changed the Course of History: The Story of the Attack on Pearl Harbor 75 Years Later. Atlantic Publishing Company.

Wirtz, J.J., 2017. The Cyber Pearl Harbor. Intelligence and National Security, pp.1-10.

Zaromb, F., Butler, A.C., Agarwal, P.K. and Roediger, H.L., 2014. Collective memories of three wars in United States history in younger and older adults. Memory & cognition, 42(3), pp.383-399.

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