January 4, 1996 in Nation/World

Pearl Harbor Commanders Still Unabsolved Pentagon Won’t Restore Ranks, Despite Report That Spreads Blame

Baltimore Sun
 

Rejecting the pleas of families and supporters, the Pentagon Wednesday refused to clear the names and restore the ranks of the two senior U.S. military commanders at Pearl Harbor during the 1941 Japanese raid.

A Pentagon report said Rear Adm. Husband E. Kimmel and Maj. Gen. Walter C. Short were not solely to blame for the disaster, which cost 2,403 American lives, and had “suffered greatly” for it.

“They lost men for whom they were responsible,” the report said. “They felt too much of the blame was placed on them. Their children and grandchildren continue to be haunted by it all. For all this, there can be sadness. But there can be no official remedy.”

The author of the 50-page report, undersecretary of defense for personnel Edwin Dorn, said blame for the disaster “should be broadly shared” between the commanders in Hawaii, who failed to respond appropriately to warnings, and the top brass in Washington, who failed to provide full intelligence to the officers in Pearl Harbor. But he said this did not “absolve” the two of their “accountability.”

Retired Navy Capt. Thomas Kim mel of Annapolis, Md., Kimmel’s 81-year-old son, said Wednesday: “My first reaction is they finally admitted they didn’t send the proper messages to Pearl Harbor. That comes in right clearly, doesn’t it?

“I also think it comes in loud and clear that Kimmel and Short were not the only ones to be blamed by a long shot. We don’t feel satisfied, but we feel we made some progress, and I think we will be at it again.”

Sen. Strom Thurmond, the South Carolina Republican chairman of the Armed Services Committee, who asked the Pentagon to review the actions of the officers, said: “I am certain that as historians and scholars study the events and circumstances surrounding the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the good names of these two men will be restored.”

At the time of the attack, Husband E. Kimmel was a four-star admiral commanding the Pacific Fleet. Short was a three-star lieutenant general commanding the Army in Hawaii.

Dorn denied the families’ requests that the two officers, who were reduced to two-star rank after Pearl Harbor, should be restored posthumously to their pre-attack ranks.

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