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Scapegoats: A Defense of Kimmel and Short at Pearl Harbor

by Edward L. Beach, Captain, USN (Ret.)

Published by the Naval Institute Press


Reviewed by Leigh Kimmel

Edward L Beach, a retired US Navy captain, takes up the cause of the reputations of the Hawaiian commanders in this slender but carefully argued volume. In the military tradition that one does not speak ill of the commander-in-chief, Beach carefully avoids any suggestion that Roosevelt willfully set up the Pacific Fleet to take a fall in order to bring the United States into the war against Hitler. At most Beach allows that Roosevelt may have succumbed to that all-too-human reaction to a peril to one's own reputation by leaving others to take the fall.

Beach keeps the focus of his arguments on the commanders in Hawaii and the extent to which they were inadeguately supported by their superiors in Washington. In particular, Beach zeroes in on the question of access to intelligence reports that would have given them a better picture of the seriousness of the situation with Japan. It is Beach's conclusion that they were not adequately informed, and that a major portion of the responsibility for this failure must be laid at the doorstep of Richmond Kelly Turner. This domineering admiral had so completely overstepped his authority that he was effectively controlling the Chief of Naval Operations. In his quest for control, Turner had tied the flow of intelligence into knots.

In view of this systemic failure, Beach argues that the commanders in Hawaii did not deserve the destruction of their careers and reputations that they experienced. Although the ruin of their careers is beyond repair, a posthumous restoration of these men to their highest ranks is not only possible but imperative. Such an act would benefit not only the families of the wronged men, but the honor of the nation as a whole.

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Review posted March 26, 2001

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