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Christopher "Kit" Menkin is of editor (, an internet trade publication for the finance/leasing industry. He has 46 years experience in the finance/leasing industry as well as being a founder of a commercial regional bank and serving on several company... More
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  • "Reflections on Pearl Harbor " by Admiral Chester Nimitz 15 comments
    Dec 7, 2011 12:43 PM

    (This is a true story: Day in American History)


    1941- At 7:55 local time in Hawaii, “a date that will live in infamy,” nearly 200 Japanese aircraft attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, long considered the US “Gibraltar of the Pacific.” The raid, which lasted little more than one hour, left nearly 3,800 dead. Nearly the entire US Pacific Fleet was at anchor there and few ships escaped damage. Several were sunk or disabled, while 200 aircraft on the ground were destroyed.

    The attack on Pearl Harbor brought about immediate US entry into World War II, a “Declaration of War” being requested by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, carried live on radio, and approved in a record time by the Congress, December 8, 1941, only a few hours after President Roosevelt address to a joint meeting of Congress.

    December 11, Germany and Italy, in a pact with the Japanese, declared war against the United States. Misinterpreting the anti-war sentiment in the U.S., they thought we would not want to enter two separate wars, particularly with a decimated U.S. Navy and would leave Asia and Australia for Japan to conquer. They thought American's weak and without the will, particularly without the weapons to fight back.

    ( lower half of )

    In reality, Former Admiral Chester Nimitz saw three of the biggest mistakes an attack force could ever make:

    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.

    After making plans, organizing his staff, 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 every one 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.

    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.

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Comments (10)
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  • hopetoland
    , contributor
    Comment (1) | Send Message
    I'm doing a project on pearl harbor and this information is so much help!
    10 Jan 2013, 06:51 PM Reply Like
  • Christopher Menkin
    , contributor
    Comments (99) | Send Message
    Author’s reply » Glad to be of help.
    11 Jan 2013, 11:15 AM Reply Like
  • Al Sonnier
    , contributor
    Comment (1) | Send Message
    No Navy ship ever had 9 of 10 of it's crew on liberty ashore especially in those tense times. In the peace time Navy of the sixties we always had one-third of our men on duty aboard ship when overseas. In wartime one-half would be aboard.
    31 Oct 2013, 09:42 PM Reply Like
  • Christopher Menkin
    , contributor
    Comments (99) | Send Message
    Author’s reply » This is an older article, but I do remember the Japanese admiral being criticized. He said he struck on Sunday as the ships would not be fully
    ready to defend themselves as most sailors would be on leave, and most ships would be in the harbor. He had planned another wave of planes to destroy the fuel depot, as well as the harbor, but the missing of the US aircraft carrier and whatever ships were with it bothered him and he didn't want to be caught by it, and was concerned about his resources at the time, so called off the attack and retreated.
    12 Nov 2013, 02:25 PM Reply Like
  • User 11893231
    , contributor
    Comment (1) | Send Message
    Appreciate Nimitz's wisdom. If ever there is a need for wisdom, it is in the military commanders of a nation at war or in a perilous world. Where was that wisdom as the Japanese steadily marched southward from Manchuria, to China, to Vietnam......
    29 Dec 2013, 12:38 AM Reply Like
  • Christopher Menkin
    , contributor
    Comments (99) | Send Message
    Author’s reply » The fog of war
    29 Dec 2013, 01:04 PM Reply Like
  • Westcoaster
    , contributor
    Comments (860) | Send Message
    Not sure if you caught all of the shows on JFK this past season.


    I was really struck by what he did after the failed Bay of Pigs invasion. He invited President Eisenhower to Camp David to debrief on the mistakes of the mission.


    Eisenhower asked him how he had met with his generals, and Kennedy said in a large group. Eisenhower chided him on that because by not meeting with them individually he couldn't really determine what they knew and how they felt. Oh, the downside to groupthink.


    I recall the same sort of group meeting that led Johnson into Vietnam.


    Happy New Year.....
    30 Dec 2013, 12:08 PM Reply Like
  • Christopher Menkin
    , contributor
    Comments (99) | Send Message
    Author’s reply » Didn't see that part. Thank you for sharing. Very profound observation.
    31 Dec 2013, 12:09 PM Reply Like
  • George Onion
    , contributor
    Comment (1) | Send Message
    I would like to purchase Admiral Nimitz's book on "Reflections on Pearl Harbor" by William H. Ewing.
    His Three Mistakes made by the Japanese are monumental as well as historical.
    15 Jan 2014, 10:31 AM Reply Like
  • Christopher Menkin
    , contributor
    Comments (99) | Send Message
    Author’s reply » I did a search and could not find it anywhere for sale.


    You can find a copy in a local library, use this url for the closest one to you.


    eBay did not have the book, although lists other books on Pearl Harbor.

    16 Jan 2014, 11:38 AM Reply Like
  • EDMer
    , contributor
    Comment (1) | Send Message
    "Chester W. Nimitz: Admiral of the Hills" by Frank A. Driskill and Dede W. Casad is available and covers these and other historical events in detail.
    5 Apr 2015, 09:01 PM Reply Like
  • RPBernard
    , contributor
    Comment (1) | Send Message
    The information in Menkin’s contribution is the stuff of sea stories, and shouldn’t be taken as history.


    “It was early afternoon Washington, D.C., time and Rear Admiral Chester Nimitz was at home enjoying a radio broadcast of the New York Philharmonic”. (The Admirals, Walter R. Borneman)


    “Tell Nimitz to get the hell out to Pearl and stay there til the war is won”. (President Roosevelt to Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox, December 16, 1941). (Borneman); (Commander In Chief, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, His Lieutenants, and Their War, Eric Larrabee)


    Nimitz left San Diego on a flying boat on Christmas Eve. He flew into Pearl at 7:00 AM on Christmas Day. (Borneman)


    The flying boat landed near the submarine base east of Battleship Row. Still in a civilian suit, Nimitz boarded a whaleboat for the short trip to the dock. “As horrific as the scene was, Nimitz had a pressing question on his mind. ‘What news of the relief of Wake?’, he asked the three officers who met him”. (Borneman)


    Neither in Bornean, nor Larrabee, nor in Gordon Prange’s, At Dawn We Slept is there a reference to a helmsman asking Nimitz “… what do you think after seeing all this destruction”, nor of Nimitz’s response as stated by Menkin. From the experience of 20 years of active U.S. Navy service, I’m fairly certain that a young seaman would not be so bold as to address a soon to be 4-star admiral that way.


    There appears to be no documentation regarding “Nimitz’s Three Japanese Mistakes”. The historical record indicates that Nimitz had Christmas dinner with Admirals Kimmel and Pye, and Mrs. Pye; there is no record of Japan’s three mistakes during the dinner conversation. Nor is there a mention of those three mistakes in the letter the Admiral wrote to his wife Catherine that evening.
    19 Jun 2015, 01:06 PM Reply Like
  • Christopher Menkin
    , contributor
    Comments (99) | Send Message
    Author’s reply » Reportedly came from a book, but the main point is the three
    Japanese Mistakes make a lot of common sense. As I remember watching the TV series on Pearl Harbor, the Admiral was going to bomb the fuel depot, but since the carrier they expected was not in port, he decided to call his planes back and leave the area. It was a tactical error and bombing on Sunday as well as not blowing up the harbor so work could not be done on the ships were also tactical errors. Major mistakes.
    20 Jun 2015, 01:02 PM Reply Like
  • History 2
    , contributor
    Comment (1) | Send Message
    So what are three mistakes that Japanese made. How did those mistakes impact on the war
    8 Dec 2015, 11:55 AM Reply Like
  • Christopher Menkin
    , contributor
    Comments (99) | Send Message
    Author’s reply » It's in the original story. Please go to the top of this blog.
    12 Dec 2015, 04:42 PM Reply Like
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