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Admiral Nimitz : Three Mistakes Japan Made At Pearl Harbor(as)


An interesting story about the insight Admiral Nimitz had into the "Mistakes" the Japanese made when they bombed Pearl Harbor.

Tour boats ferry people out to the USS Arizona Memorial in Hawaii every thirty minutes. We just missed a ferry and had to wait thirty minutes. I went into a small gift shop to kill time. In the gift shop, I purchased a small book entitled, "Reflections on Pearl Harbor" by Admiral Chester Nimitz.
Sunday, December 7th, 1941--Admiral Chester Nimitz was attending a concert in Washington D.C. He was paged and told there was a phone call for him. When he answered the phone, it was President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on the phone. He told Admiral Nimitz that he (Nimitz) would now be the Commander of the Pacific Fleet. Admiral Nimitz flew to Hawaii to assume command of the Pacific Fleet. He landed at Pearl Harbor on Christmas Eve, 1941. There was such a spirit of despair, dejection and defeat--you would have thought the Japanese had already won the war.

On Christmas Day, 1941, Adm. Nimitz was given a boat tour of the destruction wrought on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese. Big sunken battleships and navy vessels cluttered the waters every where you looked. As the tour boat returned to dock, the young helmsman of the boat asked, "Well Admiral, what do you think after seeing all this destruction?" Admiral Nimitz's reply shocked everyone within the sound of his voice. Admiral Nimitz said, "The Japanese made three of the biggest mistakes an attack force could ever make or God was taking care of America. Which do you think it was?" Shocked and surprised, the young helmsman asked, "What do mean by saying the Japanese made the three biggest mistakes an attack force ever made?"
Nimitz explained.

Mistake number one: the Japanese attacked on Sunday morning. Nine out of every ten crewmen of those ships were ashore on leave. If those same ships had been lured to sea and been sunk--we would have lost 38,000 men instead of 3,800.

Mistake number two: when the Japanese saw all those battleships lined in a row, they got so carried away sinking those battleships, they never once bombed our dry docks opposite those ships. If they had destroyed our dry docks, we would have had to tow everyone of those ships to America to be repaired. As it is now, the ships are in shallow water and can be raised. One tug can pull them over to the dry docks, and we can have them repaired and at sea by the time we could have towed them to America. And I already have crews ashore anxious to man those ships.

Mistake number three: every drop of fuel in the Pacific theater of war is in top of the ground storage tanks five miles away over that hill. One attack plane could have strafed those tanks and destroyed our fuel supply. That's why I say the Japanese made three of the biggest mistakes an attack force could make or God was taking care of America.

I've never forgotten what I read in that little book. It is still an inspiration as I reflect upon it. In jest, I might suggest that because Admiral Nimitz was a Texan, born and raised in Fredricksburg, Texas--he was a born optimist. But anyway you look at it--Admiral Nimitz was able to see a silver lining in a situation and circumstance where everyone else saw only despair and defeatism. President Roosevelt had chosen the right man for the right job.

We desperately needed a leader that could see silver linings in the midst of the clouds of dejection, despair and defeat.
Comments (3)


  1. John Dullighan August 24 2011, 4:32 pm

    The attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese Navy was a tactical success by any standard but it was a strategic disaster for Japan.

      The Japanese were mesmerized by the line of OBSOLETE battleships lined up neatly and attacked them almost to the exclusion of other targets.  The OIL tank farm, or the CARRIERS were much more important than the battleships.  The oil tanks were a dead easy target.  They were big, stationary and unarmed.  The carriers were tougher but they had to be close, they arrived back in Pearl that evening.  The Japanese didn’t have radar (neither did the Americans).  The Japanese should have put as many airplanes in the air as needed and gone out and found them.  The Japanese had the best torpedo in the world at that time (the Long Lance) and they proved they had the combination of pilot/airplane to deliver a very high percentage of hits.  They sank the Royal Navy’s “Prince of Wales” which was brand new, with heavy armor and well armed with anti-aircraft weapons, more than any other battleship at the time.  There is no doubt in my mind that they would have sunk the carriers and in deep water.

    In 1941 the United States was a country very much against getting involved in WW2.  They favored England and they wanted them to win but that was as far as they wanted to go.  After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the American public was thoroughly pissed off at the Japanese and almost universally united in their determination to do whatever it took to beat them.  This by far was the most important consequence of the Japanese attack.

    It’s amusing to look back and see the genuine anger expressed by the American public at what they thought was an attack without warning.  When was the last time we fought a war that was declared.  Would you believe WW2.  If you insisted on declaring war today, you would be locked up as crazy.

  2. David Deyo December 08 2011, 5:14 am

    I have just recently returned from a trip to Honolulu. The new Pearl Harbor museum is beautiful and oh so enlightening.
    please do a tour if you can. So far it’s the star of my bucket list.

  3. Louis Banuelos December 08 2011, 12:04 pm

    I was 12yo when Pearl Harbor was attacked. I didn’t realize the implications at that time.Backtrack to 1939. Iwas passing a room and the students were singing a song I had never heard before , I liked it . At recess I asked what the song was the answer “The Marine Corps Hymn” . What’s a Marine Corps? I went to the Library and found out. Since that time I had wanted to be a Marine. A brother - in law had a cousin who is a Marine, came to our house he was resplendent in dress Blues- White trousers, Blue Coat and white Cover that clinched it I wanted to be a Marine in the worst way Our Colors were raised on Iwo on my birthday 23 Feb 45.

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