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Military Readiness in the United States, to June 1941

In January 1941, Peru's minister to Japan heard something about Japan planning to attack Pearl Harbor, and he told a US official. On January 27 the US embassy in Japan telegraphed this information to the US State Department. Secretary of State Cordell Hull passed the message on to Army intelligence and the Office of Naval Intelligence. And, on February 1, naval intelligence contacted the commander of the Pacific Fleet in Hawaii, Admiral Husband E Kimmel. Naval Intelligence advised Kimmel that it "placed no credence" in the rumors that Japan was planning to attack Pearl Harbor and that "no move against Pearl Harbor appears imminent or planned for in the foreseeable future." note61

A treasurer at Japan's consulate in Hawaii, Kohichi Seki, had been gathering information about the movements of American ships, and in March a new Consul General from Japan arrived in Hawaii. With him was a trained spy, Takeo Yoshikawa. Meanwhile the House Committee on Un-American activities had been investigating spy activities among the Japanese in the United States. It was concerned with Japanese on the west coast who were loyal to Japan. Japanese-American fishermen on the west coast were under intense scrutiny, although fishermen were seeing little more than could be seen by anyone on board the large ships from Japan that regularly anchored on the Pacific coast.

The view of US military intelligence, and of Admiral Kimmel, was that the major threat to the fleet at Pearl Harbor was from local saboteurs – not from a military force from Japan. Hawaii had a good number of people of Japanese descent, and their loyalty was questioned – although no cases of espionage by Japanese-Americans had been uncovered.

A more pressing concern among analysts was the limited supplies and manpower available to defeat enemy forces. On June 2, Roosevelt's Joint Army-Navy Board decided that should war come against Japan and its allies, Germany and Italy should be defeated first, while war against Japan would be defensive. US military strategy held that the Japanese were not likely to attack the Philippines because of the strength of US forces. They believed, as did Douglas MacArthur, that the Americans and Filipinos could more than adequately defend themselves against the Japanese. MacArthur told an American reporter, John Hersey, that the Americans, British and Dutch could handle the Japanese with half the forces they had in the Pacific, that if the Japanese went to war against them "the Japanese navy would be either destroyed or bottled up tight." note62


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