By Martin Bennett
So, here's the back story. In around 2009, I was hired by a
screenwriter named Martin Bennett to review a screenplay he was writing
regarding the life of Mitsuo Fuchida. In the course of that review, I
pointed out a number of areas where Fuchida had made statements
regarding WWII that had turned out to be untrue. It was in the review
of that same screenplay that I first became aware of Fuchida's claim to
having attended the Japanese surrender ceremony on the USS Missouri.
As a result of that statement, I did some additional research, and
ended up publishing an article on Fuchida in the Spring 2010 issue of
the U.S. Naval War College Review, entitled Reflecting On Fuchida, or “A Tale Of Three Whoppers”.
Other than an occasional email, that was the last I heard from Mr. Bennett until March 14, 2012, when I received a phone call from him. Mr. Bennett apprised me that he was thinking of publishing a rebuttal of the assertions I'd made in my Naval War College article. He also expressed his frustrations with how Fuchida was portrayed online, and on Wikipedia, noting that he felt it imperiled his ability to secure funding for his film project.
As it turned out, he had actually already gone ahead and published his article on his blog. Apparently, Mr. Bennett had come to the conclusion that his odds of securing funding for his project would be commensurately increased should the stone-throwers against Fuchida be discredited. This includes me, and where comments regarding the book Shattered Sword are concerned, my co-author Anthony Tully. Any unbiased reader needs to keep this in mind. In any case, upon reviewing his document, I decided a response was necessary.
In the course of preparing that response, I was grimly amused to discover that not only had Mr. Bennett been busily preparing an attack on me; he had also been busily trying to "cleanse" the online historical record. On four separate occasions, Mr. Bennett has tried expurgating any mention of the controversy regarding Fuchida's wartime statements by simply deleting all reference to them in Fuchida's Wikipedia article. Again, Mr. Bennett has a direct financial (not to mention emotional) investment in his Fuchida film project. His performing a cleansing of any negative views of Fuchida in order to get a movie sold is, to put it mildly, rather unethical.
The following article is a point-by-point refutation of Mr. Bennett's work. It is annotated with additional references, clarifications in reasoning, and (in some cases) with the actual primary source documentation used to come to my conclusions. As will be shown, Mr. Bennett's attacks on my scholarship are without merit.
I apologize in advance for the length of this thing. Trust me, I didn't enjoy wasting two weeks of my life responding to this stuff. For those of you looking to go straight to the nitty-gritty on other misstatements by Fuchida, go here
This article is in response to a piece written by Jon Parshall which first appeared in the Naval War College Review in 2010 (Jon Parshall, "Reflecting on Fuchida, or A Tale of Three Whoppers,” Naval War College Review, Spring 2010, Vol. 63, No. 2.) and subsequently online here. All quotes of Jon Parshall in this examination are from that article unless otherwise noted. When I first came across Jon’s article I was interested and even intrigued, but the more I read, the more apparent it became that this piece was simply not sound, and not up to the standards I believe people expect from someone like Jon Parshall.
As I will demonstrate in turn, except for some minor nitpicks, Mr. Bennett's attacks on my scholarship are baseless. They simply reveal Mr. Bennett's elementary grasp of history, his incomprehension of which primary sources are used to study the Pacific War, and his rather shoddy techniques for weighing evidence.
I believe one element that may have colored what otherwise might have been an objective analysis, was his clearly stated goal to "bury Fuchida." A cynical set conclusion is generally not a good starting point for much of anything good.
My conclusion was not cynical. It was simply rather definite. "Bury" simply meant counteracting Fuchida's standing and influence as a reliable historical source. I have no real malice towards Mitsuo Fuchida. I frankly care very little for what he did postwar. Rather, I am interested in what his misstatements did to the study of the Pacific War. And, as will be seen, I will produce yet more evidence that Fuchida is an untrustworthy source that no serious scholar of the war should be willing to take at his word. Fuchida can only be used in conjunction with corroboration by other sources.
That said, Parshall also says he was fascinated by him and stated that he, “… would have loved to have had a beer with him, too. Fuchida was, by all accounts, lively, intelligent, and charismatic—qualities well reflected in his writing … So, while I am sure I would have asked him some rather pointed questions while hoisting that beer, I am equally certain that I would have had a wonderful time and would have been personally enriched by meeting him.” And Fuchida did love beer.
As a person with a love for history, I’ve enjoyed the works of many authors, including Jon Parshall. I’ve learned much from his book and look forward to his next work, whatever it may be, so I have nothing against him personally. So, although I tended at first to accept some of his rather troubling accusations, the more I examined them, the less sense they made. In his rush to discredit Fuchida, he may have done more to discredit himself.
Good research begins with questions, and ends with conclusions when facts permit. Parshall attempts to make the facts fit his conclusions, and when they don't fit, he uses conjecture and assumptions to try to bridge the gap to his conclusions. In his search for the truth, it seems ironic that he ended up with quite the opposite, all the while employing of a wide variety of euphemisms accusing Fuchida of “lies.” One would expect a less snarky, cynical analysis from a historian.
Contrast Parshall’s attitude with this introduction from Dr. Don Goldstein for Gordon Prange in At Dawn We Slept:
"The editors believe that Gordon Prange approached this study with as nearly an open mind as any American could bring to the subject of Pearl Harbor … As he often said, he began this project with 'no ax to grind, no preconceived thesis to prove, no one to attack, no one to defend.' He tried at all times to be as objective as humanly possible" (Gordon Prange, At Dawn We Slept, p. ix).
I don’t think Parshall ever expected anyone to fact-check his article because it doesn’t appear he did.
As will become evident, I did fact check. And, in the course of this rebuttal, I went back and fact-checked yet again.
I knew he made some mistakes on my first reading, I just never realized how many until I sat down and started checking. I hope that in his own retrospect he would realize that this piece is not up to the standards people would expect from a nonfiction writer of history. But don’t take my word for anything. It’s all sourced.
There’s no doubt that Jon Parshall is a historian, and a very smart and knowledgeable one at that, who’s done some great work. But, in this case, instead of overturning the record on Fuchida, Parshall’s whopper article rather turned a light onto his own methods and called into question the trustworthiness of the entire body of research for Shattered Sword. If Parshall’s whopper article is this sloppy and inaccurate and this full of conjecture and speculation, what does that say about his book? I hope nothing, but that’s a question for others to take up, and one that would take a massive amount of time and research.
Since most of the arguments come down to the credibility of four primary people, let’s take a look at who they are:
Jon Parshall: This is how he’s described for his own article – “ Jon Parshall is the coauthor of Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway and the owner of a website on the Imperial Japanese Navy, www.combinedfleet.com. Mr. Parshall has been published in such periodicals as the U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, World War II, and this journal, and he has made frequent television and guest lecture appearances on the topic of the Imperial Navy in World War II. He is also an adjunct lecturer for the Naval War College. Mr. Parshall is currently in the software industry.”
Dr. Gordon W. Prange received his Ph.D. in history in 1937 at the University of Iowa and began his teaching career the same year as a professor of history at the University of Maryland. In 1942, he was granted a leave of absence from the University to embark on a wartime career as an officer in the United States Navy. He was sent to Japan in 1945 as a member of the American Occupation Forces. He completed his Navy service soon thereafter, but continued in Japan as a civilian from 1946 to 1951 as the chief of General Douglas MacArthur's 100-person historical staff.
He is the author of six books, some of them released posthumously. Among the most prominent of his books is At Dawn We Slept: The Untold Story of Pearl Harbor, which was the culmination of thirty-seven years of research, highly footnoted and supported by one hundred-twenty pages of references to source material of every kind. He was arguably the most knowledgeable person on the details of Pearl Harbor until his death in 1980. He also interviewed Mitsuo Fuchida for hundreds of hours over a period of years, beginning shortly after the war.
Dr. Donald Goldstein taught at the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh for many years and is now a faculty emeritus. With the late Katherine V. Dillon and the late Gordon W. Prange, he co-wrote numerous World War II classics, including At Dawn We Slept; Miracle at Midway; and God's Samurai: Lead Pilot at Pearl Harbor. He also collaborated with historian J. Michael Wenger on several books, including The Way It Was: Pearl Harbor-The Original Photographs (Brasseys, Inc., 1995); Rain of Ruin: A Photographic History of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (Brasseys, Inc., 1995); and The Pearl Harbor Papers. He is today the most prominent living historian on Pearl Harbor and Fuchida.
Mitsuo Fuchida was the senior flight commander of the First Air Fleet of the First Carrier Division who led the attack on Pearl Harbor and ended the war as a captain. After the war he and Masatake Okumiya co-authored the book Midway, the Battle that Doomed Japan, the Japanese Navy’s Story.
Refutation Summary: Ad hominem attacks on my credentials show poor form.
The preceding section is nothing more than a rather clumsy attempt at creating an ad hominem indictment of my credentials as an historian. Such attacks are logically flawed, and are also viewed as being “poor form” in historical circles. Mr. Bennett misses the point that what matters more than "credentials" in creating credible history is using the proper sources, and evaluating them soundly.
I have never claimed to be anything other than what I am. I was never a history major. I am not an academician. I do not teach at any university. I have only published a single book. I would never pretend to have Prange or Goldstein’s publication track record, for the very simple reason that amassing historical publications is rather unimportant to building a career in the field of technology. I happen to write military history as a hobby. I have been fortunate enough to have produced a single very well-received book on the subject of the Battle of Midway. As a result of that, I have likewise been fortunate enough to be asked to lecture at the Naval War College and other venues. The War College, apparently, judges my qualifications as sufficient.
It would be unworthy of me to follow suit here by pointing out Mr. Bennett’s historical credentials with respect to the study of the Imperial Navy. They will become more apparent in the course of my responses.
Regarding the overall credibility of their [Fuchida and Okumiya's--JP] book, the introduction to the 1992 edition, military historian Thomas B. Buell explained that this was not an “official” record, but rather that of two officers who manned Japanese carriers and that the book was their view of the battle, and that this was supplemented by other records and documents. He says this in the Introduction (bold is mine):
"[Midway] is a story written by two Japanese naval officers who were in a position to know about the details of that battle, but much of what they have to say is personal opinion, which may not necessarily have been shared by colleagues. Although the book does not have a bibliography, the editors' preface states that they researched and authenticated the data to the extent possible using both Japanese and American records. As one of the editors was Roger Pineau, the premier American expert on the Japanese navy in the war, there is good reason to believe that the data as to events is accurate. I am not aware of any challenges to its assertions since this book was first published in 1955." (Fuchida, Midway, p. ix).
Herein is an illustration of Mr. Bennett's fundamental unwillingness to accomodate new scholarship on (apparently) much of anything. The statement of Thomas Buell's quoted above was made in good faith by Buell. And it was an accurate assessment of Western scholarship on the Pacific war as it stood in around 1992. However, it is not an accurate assessment of Japanese scholarship on the matter, even as early as the 1980s. Nor is it an accurate assessment of Western scholarship now. This says nothing bad about Mr. Buell, as solid Western histories utilizing Japanese source materials other than fragmentary firsthand accounts were still in their infancy at this time. However, using Mr. Buell’s comment in this context simply demonstrates that Mr. Bennett somehow prefers to remain unaware of Japanese scholarship on Midway since the 1970’s. In other words, Mr. Bennett is simply unable to accept that history does change as new evidence is unearthed.
Keep this quote in mind as you read my response. Genda did not contest this content to the publishers even though he was very much alive and well, nor did any other experts or eye witnesses to the events of Midway. Fuchida also wrote his memoirs which were published posthumously in Japanese, then later in English, entitled For That One Day: The Memoirs of Mitsuo Fuchida, Commander of the Attack on Pearl Harbor.
So let’s break it down.
Parshall’s first set of accusations are three-fold:
1.) That Fuchida had never “mentally earmarked” fuel-tank farms for destruction.
2.) That Fuchida never entered into a heated argument on the bridge of the Akagi “demanding” a third wave attack, and
3.) That a “mere air group commander” like Fuchida would never be privy to such information regarding the details of a possible land invasion.
In addition to addressing Parshall’s more formal points, he makes numerous mistakes throughout the piece, so I’ll address them where they seem to fit best. Here’s one to start with:
In Parshall’s first whopper section, he erroneously says that, “… the Japanese sank or badly damaged the majority of the American battleships in the harbor, thereby accomplishing (or so they presumed) their overall goal of destroying the U.S. Pacific Fleet’s striking power,” and therefore would then have free reign in the south Pacific. False. The Japanese had stated from the very beginning in many places that the key to crippling the American’s Pacific Fleet was sinking their carriers[vi], which they didn’t accomplish. Parshall gets this wrong.
Refutation Summary: Mr. Bennett is not up to speed on the current scholarship regarding Pearl Harbor.
Mr. Bennett would be very well advised to read Alan Zimm’s recent work The Attack on Pearl Harbor: Strategy, Combat, Myths, Deceptions, in which Zimm makes the very well-supported argument (pp. 21-23) that sinking American battleships was Yamamoto’s primary aim. Yamamoto also desired to sink carriers, of course (and Genda desired it perhaps even more so). But the American battleships were the primary objective of Yamamoto’s attack plan. This is logical, in that prior to the Pearl Harbor attack, carriers were still viewed as an unproven weapons system. Battleships were still seen as the primary coin of naval power by most authorities. These viewpoints only changed as a result of both Pearl Harbor and the sinking of Prince of Wales and Repulse by Japanese land-based naval aircraft two days later. Indeed, the importance of the survival of the American carriers was not fully recognized even within the Japanese Navy until the Doolittle Raid against Tokyo in mid-April 1942.
There were 8 battleships at Pearl Harbor. The Japanese sank five and damaged the other three, thereby achieving Yamamoto’s primary goal. The destruction of the American battle line materially damaged the U.S. Navy’s ability to project combat power in the Pacific in the near term. Fuchida’s views on the perceived success of the attack are stated in his USSBS interview after the war. The fact that at least four American battleships had been sunk was judged to be sufficiently good that no further attacks were needed. My statement, therefore, is correct.
Let’s look at each of Parshall’s charges:
1.) Fuchida never made a mental earmark to target the tank-farms.
Jon Parshall believes he knows what Fuchida did or didn’t think about as he circled Pearl Harbor and looked down at massive fuel storage tanks and finds it unbelievable that Fuchida thought they’d make opportune targets. Parshall believes Fuchida added this only in 1963 in order to make himself appear wiser than he actually was.
What would be truly unbelievable would be if the Imperial Japanese Navy’s top pilot didn’t have these thoughts and ideas. Of course Fuchida knew the list of target priorities carefully outlined in meetings in Yokosuka and Kyushu,
The targeting list for Pearl Harbor was very clearly
established in Annex 3 of Operation Order No. 1, issued on 1 November
1941 (as cited in H.P. Willmott’s Pearl Harbor, p. 64). Targeting priorities were as follows:
2) Aircraft carriers
4) Cruisers and other warships
5) Merchant shipping
6) Port facilities
7) Land installations
These targeting priorities are important to our discussion of this incident.
but he’d also spent the afternoon circling Pearl Harbor with a pair of binoculars in one hand,
Fuchida actually departed Pearl Harbor at around 1000, shortly after the second attack wave was finished (Prange, Dec. 7, p. 327). He landed aboard Akagi around noon (Prange, At Dawn We Slept, p. 542).
a map in the other, and a notepad strapped to his leg assessing the scene. Parshall’s “proof” is that there was no independent confirmation (of Fuchida’s mental notes). Do other people make note of Parshall’s thoughts? This is an absurd claim.
Refutation Summary: Mr. Bennett uses faulty
methods of historical inquiry, and has no real understanding of the
military culture that produced Mitsuo Fuchida.
Mr. Bennett points out that we cannot logically know what a man was thinking at the remove of 70 years. He then makes the supposition that it would be unbelievable if Fuchida hadn’t been eyeing Pearl Harbor’s fuel tanks for destruction. Mr. Bennett nowhere explains why he supposes that this would be the case, but it is easy enough to see that his argument rests on what one might call a “common sense” explanation. That is, we, as modern Western observers, find it incredible that Fuchida would not have noticed the crucial importance of the fuel tanks—it was simply common sense to have attacked them—and that therefore Fuchida logically must have noticed the same. This approach to historical investigation fails on several counts, because it makes the erroneous assumption that the subject’s mental framework was the same in 1941 as ours is today. But how, then, can a historian make claims regarding what a man in 1941 might or might not have prioritized in combat? The answer is: by understanding that man’s training and doctrine, and looking at his orders.
As Alan Zimm points out (pp. 13-14)
“One of the most important things a commander must be able to do is have an idea of the range of probable results when given combinations of forces engage…
This mental process is accomplished by an (often subconscious) application of the commander’s mental models of engagements, models that are developed during his training and over his experience in the service… In addition to being predictive, these mental models act as filters to the data presented to the commander. Things that agree with the preconceptions the commander carries into battle will be seen and registered and considered; those that do not agree can be rejected as invalid and not cognitively processed, can be ignored, or can be rapidly passed over as unimportant in the press of events…”
Mr. Bennett would have us proceed to investigate Fuchida on the basis of our own contemporary Western mental models. This is a faulty approach. It is actually preferable to examine Fuchida’s actions in light of the known facts regarding the Imperial Japanese Navy’s training and indoctrination. Commander Fuchida was the product of a military culture. That military had spent a great deal of time training and indoctrinating him, creating the mental models that he was to use when exercising command. Fuchida can be expected to generally act within the framework of that training. It is here that Mr. Bennett’s thesis falls apart.
Fuchida’s targeting orders were explicit. At the time of the departure of the second attack wave, there were a plethora of higher-importance targets left in Pearl Harbor. There were three battleships damaged but not sunk. There were four large cruisers that essentially hadn’t been touched. Dozens of destroyers remained in the same state. The submarines had gone unscathed. There were various destroyer and submarine tenders, repair ships, and oilers present that were undamaged. All of these were higher priority targets, and Fuchida would have logically given these targets his attention for any follow-up strike. If he did not, he would be disobeying his orders. Fuchida would need to explain to us why it was that he was apparently ready to disregard these orders and make the momentous decision to attack lower-priority targets instead—a decision that represented nothing less than the complete repudiation of twenty years of training, indoctrination, and habit. Yet, he gives us none of that. Instead, he would have us believe that he simply disregarded his orders, skipped over the plethora of more important targets that were available, and instead made the conceptual leap to zero in on the crucial importance of the fuel tanks. This is not a credible claim for Fuchida to make, because fuel tanks would not have fit his mental model as a Japanese commander in 1941.
Mr. Bennett’s belief that Fuchida’s attention would have naturally been drawn to the fuel tanks betrays his lack of understanding of the underlying doctrine and training of the Japanese Navy, and its almost complete disregard for logistical matters. The Imperial Navy, from its inception, was a force that had firmly embraced the teachings of Alfred Thayer Mahan. One of Mahan’s primary tenets was that seapower devolved axiomatically from the destruction of the enemy’s naval forces (which in Mahan’s day meant, essentially, the opponent’s line of battleships). As the Imperial Navy evolved during the 1920s and 1930s, the ever-present pressures of being the underdog in any contest with the U.S. Navy resulted in a further warping of Japanese doctrine, such that by the beginning of the Pacific War it was myopically focused on conducting a decisive battle at sea against the American battle line, and had neglected its studies of many of the other facets of what was required to be a great power navy. Logistics was one of these, and it is illustrated in the performance of the Navy during the war.
Examples of this neglect of logistics abound. A rather famous one is the failure of Vice-Admiral Mikawa Gun’ichi to follow up his victory after the Battle of Savo Island. Mikawa, having destroyed an Allied cruiser force off Guadalcanal, declined to press on and attack the American attack transports, believing that his potential exposure to air attack outweighed any benefit from attacking merchant ships, since the naval battle had been won in any case. Had he perceived the importance of these vessels, he might have ended America’s campaign at Guadalcanal almost before it began. Japan’s failure to mount any sort of a sustained campaign against Allied merchant shipping is another example. Their failure to effectively protect their own shipping is yet another. In short, this was not a Navy that paid much attention to logistics. Fuel tanks and logistical vessels did not fit their mental models. Indeed, as David Evans and Mark Peattie remarked in their groundbreaking Kaigun: Strategy, Tactics, and Technology in the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1887-1941, “The problems of ‘bullets’ beans, and black oil’ could not hold the attention of either staff or line officers…” (Evans & Peattie, Kaigun, p. 401).
During the attack on Pearl Harbor itself, there were instances when Japanese pilots declined to bomb or even strafe the oiler Neosho, deeming it an unworthy target. Yet there are many cases where the Japanese pilots did attack targets that were higher on the priority list, even in cases where those attacks were of questionable worth. For instance, Zimm makes the very strong case that the second wave dive-bombers expending much of their attacking power on attacking the USS Nevada was a poor usage of their combat power, in that their bombs were poorly suited to attacking a heavily armored target like a battleship. Yet when presented with a moving target that fit their mental model of what constituted an important target (“That’s a battleship!”) they attacked it instead, and Fuchida (as force commander) did nothing to stop them.
Taken in sum, Mr. Bennett’s assertion that it would have been "unbelievable" had Fuchida not paid attention to the fuel tanks fails in multiple ways, and demonstrates the peril of making “common sense” judgments about an historical figure without having any understanding of the military culture in which he served. Fuchida had every opportunity to explain the reasoning behind the rather extraordinary claims he made. He did not. I am therefore well within my rights to remain highly skeptical that he ever made this mental leap during the heat of combat in 1941. This skepticism is shared by historians such as H.P. Willmott, Haruo Tohmatsu, Alan Zimm, John Lundstrom, and others.
Parshall believes that no one thought of bombing the tank-farms until the Americans pointed it out later on.
Despite Mr. Bennett’s doubts, I don’t think the Japanese truly realized the importance of these matters until they were tipped off by Allied sources of some sort. So, the material question is actually what does “Later on” mean? Was it after Pearl Harbor, but before Midway, or was it post-war?
He then refers to an interrogation in 1945 where Fuchida was asked by the Americans why there hadn’t been a follow-up attack at Pearl Harbor. Fuchida answered the question but made no commentary about possible targets in the event of such an attack (which wasn’t germane to the question). This is Parshall’s smoking gun. There are two problems here: First, post-war military inquiries aren’t free-flowing conversations; they’re more like legal depositions. You’re asked a question, you give an answer (see an actual example here (Interview with Genda, University of Pittsburgh Archives, UA 90/F-78:) of Genda being interviewed by the American military).
Refutation Summary: Mr. Bennett doesn’t understand how the USSBS interviews were conducted.
Mr. Bennett has an unwarranted sense of certitude regarding how these interviews were conducted. As it turns out, while he is correct regarding the rather terse nature of the final prepared transcripts of such interviews, he is wrong regarding the volume of conversation that took place during them. For instance, there is a set of documents prepared by the U.S. Navy’s Air Technical Intelligence Group (ATIG) that interviewed several of the same Japanese officers that were interviewed by the USSBS interviews. In fact, when one compares the interview dates of the transcripts, as well as the questions asked, it is clear that the interviews were taking place at the same time, with both teams of interrogators present. Yet the written transcripts from both sets of documents differ in the selection of material to be recorded, because the USSBS and ATIG team had different topic areas of interest. These transcripts make it clear that there was much more conversation occurring than the transcripts would have a casual reader believe. All of this is to say that if Fuchida was inclined to volunteer information, he certainly had the opportunity to do so. Indeed, the USSBS summary of him indicates that he was quite forthcoming.
Second, Fuchida did in fact make mention of the tank-farms to Gordon Prange on March 4, 1948 (Gordon Prange, God’s Samurai: Lead Pilot at Pearl Harbor p. 38, footnoted as “Interviews with Fuchida, 4 March 1948 and 11 December 1963.".
Refutation Summary: Amusingly, the citation Mr. Bennett quotes actually refutes his arguments.
Mr. Bennett overlooks the fact that in this citation, Prange lists interviews that occurred in both 1948 and 1963. Both of these documents are in possession of J. Michael Wenger. Mr. Wenger kindly re-checked them for me. They prove quite illuminating. In the 1948 interview, Fuchida stated to Prange that his targeting priorities for a third strike were 1) to attack the damaged battleships with level bombers, 2) to attack the ships in the Navy Yard with dive bombers, and then 3) to launch strikes on the “all important installations, oil tanks, etc. In other words, in his 1948 interview, Fuchida supported a follow-on attack that is broadly congruent with the targeting priorities he’d been given, and which puts fuel tanks dead last on the list.
By 1963, though, Fuchida had changed his story. In 1963, Fuchida told Prange that during the return flight he still thought in terms of battleships, “but now he also had his mind on the destruction of U.S. fuel reserves”. With respect to targets in the next strike, Fuchida earmarked “occasional ships, the naval and dock yards and the fuel tanks.” After Fuchida gave his report to Nagumo, when asked by Kusaka, “What do you think the next targets should be?” Fuchida replied, “The next targets should be the dock yards, the fuel tanks and an occasional ship.” In other words, in the intervening 15 years, Fuchida’s testimony had morphed to put fuel tanks above warships. It is this reversal of prioritization that is replicated by Prange, and that is subsequently inserted into Tora! Tora! Tora!, where it remains in the common wisdom to this day. In sum, then, the assertion that Fuchida had up-prioritized the fuel tanks as early as 1948 is not substantiated by the interview notes found in Prange’s papers.
But was Fuchida making himself to be some kind of genius (supposedly in retrospect) by saying he thought about bombing the fuel tanks? Not at all, because s Japanese captain on another fleet carrier had the exact same idea:
"On board the carrier Soryu, Adm. Tamon Yamaguchi reported that his ship and the carrier Hiryu and their aircraft were ready to launch the third wave attack. Capt. Jisaku Okada of the carrier Kaga, the second carrier accompanying the Akagi, recommended that the fuel tanks and dock facilities be included in the list of targets, even if the attack sorties were flown the next day. The remaining two carriers – Shokaku and Zuikaku – reported that they were ready to return for another attack on Pearl Harbor (Steve Horn, The Second Attack on Pearl Harbor: Operation K and Other Japanese Attempts to Bomb America in World War II, p. 16).
Mr. Bennett is leaping to conclusions regarding the possible targets for a third strike. It is quite true that many of the aviators in Kido Butai were inclined to hit Pearl Harbor again. However, that doesn’t mean that they wanted to hit the fuel tanks. J. Michael Wenger reviewed the source materials from various other commanders at Pearl Harbor, including Comdr. Ito Seiroku (Senior Staff Officer, CarDiv2) aboard Hiryu, and Comdr. Sata Naohiro, Kaga’s air officer. Neither of these sources makes any mention whatsoever of what the proposed targeting priorities should be. Sata merely stated that “there was much more damage that could be inflicted on warships and installations.” Nothing in any of these transcripts imply that the original targeting priorities for the mission had somehow been overturned. They remained as they were, with warships at the top, and fuel tanks near the bottom. With dozens of warships still available to be attacked, these would have been the priorities of any follow-up attack.
It’s literally impossible and therefore wrong for Parshall to declare what Fuchida was thinking about that day and then call him a “liar” when his testimony was consistent from 1948 to 1963 and with others in the fleet who had the same idea as well.
Actually, as demonstrated above, Fuchida’s testimony changed dramatically during this time. In his 1951 book (Midway,
pp. 42-43), Fuchida states that he initially wanted to move Kido Butai
to the south of Oahu to look for the American carriers. In the process,
Kido Butai would attack Oahu again: “A further air strike [against
Oahu], I thought, might help draw them in.” In other words, consistent
with the mission’s targeting orders, Fuchida was trying to devise a
method for finding and striking the targets at the top of his target
list. Barring that, “as the next best thing, when I reported to Admiral
Nagumo the results of the initial strike, I strongly recommended a
further attack on Oahu.” Fuchida makes no mention whatsoever of fuel
tanks and logistical facilities in this context. Instead, his reasoning
for wanting a third strike was “not so much to inflict additional damage
on the targets already hit as it was to find and destroy the enemy
carriers which had so fortuitously eluded us.” (Fuchida, Midway, p. 42)
However, by the time At Dawn We Slept was published, we are being treated to Fuchida’s new story of wanting to hit the fuel tanks as the top priority. Clearly, in the intervening years, Fuchida had changed his story.
Parshall’s charge is false.
Summary: As has been explained above, Mr. Bennett does not use proper historical techniques, and does not understand the military culture that Fuchida was part of. Likewise, he has not seen the interview notes from the Prange collection. Armed with such data, it is quite possible to make inferences regarding Fuchida’s command decisions based on proper knowledge of Japanese doctrine and tactics. By 1963, Fuchida is telling us that he had strongly advocated a course of action which would have represented nothing less than a complete renunciation of his doctrine and training. He makes this claim without any supporting evidence or explication. This is both extraordinary and not credible. Therefore, the more prudent judgment is that he invented this passage during the course of time after the war.
2.) There wasn’t a heated argument on the bridge of the Akagi following the successful two waves against Pearl Harbor.
Mr. Bennett is putting words in my mouth. I never used the phrase “heated argument” anywhere in my Naval War College article, nor stated that such an argument took place.
Here Jon Parshall is arguing with himself. First, he alleges that Fuchida “pressed vigorously for a follow-up attack,” then shows how this never happened.
Fuchida, on page 43 of Midway: The Battle That Doomed Japan, states “When I reported to Admiral Nagumo the results of the initial strike, I strongly recommended a further attack on Oahu.” That, I believe, quite clearly qualifies as Fuchida pressing “vigorously” for such an attack.
This section would be better named “Parshall’s Tale of the Missing Argument,” as neither Fuchida nor Genda, nor did anyone else testify that Fuchida had demanded a follow-up attack or that he was in a fierce argument on the bridge.
Please see citation above; Fuchida himself says that he did, in fact press for such an attack. And I never used the phrase “fierce argument.”
Parshall is mistaken on this point as well. He relies on Haruo Tohmatsu for this fiction, who repeatedly stated that Fuchida “demanded” a third wave attack in both of his books, A Gathering Darkness, (p. 98) and Pearl Harbor (pp. 142–157). He footnotes this “fact” in his one book, A Gathering Darkness by referencing his own other book Pearl Harbor, which has no footnotes – a strange method for a serious nonfiction writer. So Parshall is using a secondary, undocumented source for this false information.
I suggest that Mr. Bennett take up the matter with either H.P. Willmott or Tohmatsu-sensei. Both are generally regarded as fine historians, and I am within my rights to cite them. Do I wish their level of citation had been somewhat more robust? Yes, I do.
Parshall goes on to state that “This same scene was mirrored in the movie Tora! Tora! Tora!” But this statement is also incorrect, as in the motion picture we see Genda arguing with Nagumo for an attack, not Fuchida. The bigger question is, why is Parshall getting his research information from Hollywood movies?
Refutation Summary: 1) movies often help cement
the common wisdom on important events, and are worth examining. 2)
Prange and Fuchida were the sources of the common wisdom regarding a
third strike against Pearl Harbor, as shown in Tora! Tora! Tora!
First, in answer to the question of why I would include Tora! Tora! Tora! in my article, it is to demonstrate how historical events can seep into the “common wisdom” of an important historical event. Like it or not, Tora! Tora! Tora! has colored our interpretations of the battle ever since it came out. As an example, perhaps the most famous line in the entire movie is Admiral Yamamoto statement that he fears that Japan “has simply awoken a sleeping giant.” This line appears, while probably consistent with the man’s outlook, appears to be a constructed amalgam of his quotes, created for the movie’s script. Yet it is cited over and over and over by the American public interested in this battle. So, I didn’t go looking to the movie for facts: I used it to demonstrate a point.
Mr. Bennett is quite correct in pointing out that in Tora! Tora! Tora! it is Genda who is seen arguing with Nagumo, and not Fuchida. However, as Mr. Bennett knows, directors and screen writers sometimes take license with history in order to make a better film. This includes using a different character to add narrative when it might have been a different historical figure that actually made the statement. In fact, during the movie, Genda goes to the Akagi’s bridge window, looks down at Fuchida, who is standing on the flight deck looking back up at him in frustration. Genda then gives voice to those frustrations regarding a third strike. So, perhaps I could have chosen different wording, but ‘mirrored’ is not at all an unreasonable description of what occurs in the film. Indeed, in the movie, Fuchida and Genda are both reflecting the same opinion in this particular scene.
The more important point to be made here is that the film puts forward the idea that 1) an argument took place on the bridge of Akagi regarding a third strike, 2) that the target for such a strike ought to be Pearl Harbor’s dry docks, and 3) that many members of the Japanese strike force (including both Fuchida and Admiral Yamaguchi) expected that a third strike would be delivered almost as a matter of course. That argument has become a part of the common wisdom of the battle, as has a third strike. It is also worth noting that while Fuchida is not placed on the bridge, he is depicted as being angered by Nagumo’s decision. The bottom line is that the director and/or screenwriter felt that the idea of a third strike, and the outrage produced when such a strike was not delivered, was important enough to put in the movie. Why? And what was the source for this scene?
Gordon Prange’s manuscript, which would become his books At Dawn We Slept and Tora! Tora! Tora! (the latter being published only in Japan), was also the basis for the screenplay for this movie. Prange was likewise an historical consultant for the movie, as was Genda. Fuchida, while not a technical advisor, is listed as one of the veterans consulted (this is confirmed in the official pressbook for the movie, which Anthony Tully has in his possession). Connecting the dots, and given Fuchida’s statements to Prange regarding this matter (which appeared not only in At Dawn We Slept, but also in his Dec. 7, 1941: The Day the Japanese Attacked Pearl Harbor (pp. 327-328), it is only logical to conclude that Fuchida’s testimony figured heavily in the inclusion of this scene.
Parshall then states: “Commander Minoru Genda, the First Air Fleet’s staff air officer, acknowledged in his own memoirs that he was aware of the Tora! Tora! Tora! scene but explicitly denied that such an incident had actually taken place or that any such proposal had been put forward by Fuchida.” I guess this is supposed to condemn Fuchida, but instead it’s a vindication of him and a condemnation of the film (which Genda was a historical consultant to but Fuchida was not).
Mr. Bennett misunderstands what Genda is saying. Genda isn't just saying that Fuchida made no such proposal; he's saying that noone made any such proposal. The question then becomes, why was it in the movie? I believe I have laid
out a plausible explanation to that question—that Fuchida’s postwar
testimony on the matter influenced Prange sufficiently that it made it
into Prange’s manuscript, and from there into the screenplay. After the
movie was made, Genda was essentially saying, “Hey, don’t look at me. I
wasn’t the source for this stuff.” Genda doesn’t come out and say who
was, but that’s fairly obvious.
Mr. Bennett is right that I should not have cited Fuchida in my article as being a technical advisor for the film. However, he was consulted on the film. Not only that, but his statements to Prange, which heavily influenced Prange’s manuscript, were also incorporated into the script. It is not widely known, but Prange took a leave of absence from teaching to consult on the making of the film. In fact, given the sensitive nature of the movie, Prange was charged by the director to review and approve every quote in the film. Thus, Tora! Tora! Tora! represents a rather special case in terms of the unprecedented amount of direct control that a primary consultant (Prange) had over the final script. As such, it is quite likely that Fuchida’s lines in the films were suggested by, or certainly vetted, by Fuchida himself.
Neither Fuchida nor Genda ever made such a proposal
Again, for the third time, Fuchida himself says he made such a proposal in his book Midway, pp. 42-43.
and Genda affirmed it (ironically) in Parshall’s own piece, so again, we find Parshall completely mistaken about his accusation regarding Fuchida.
Here is the exact text from At Dawn We Slept:
"Fuchida was sitting in the command post on the upper flight deck, wolfing his first food since a predawn breakfast, when the order came: 'Preparations for attack canceled.' Akagi broke out her signal flags to advise the rest of the task force that they would retire to the northwest. Fuchida rushed to the bridge to protest. He saluted Nagumo upon entering and asked, “Why are we not attacking again?” Nagumo opened his mouth to answer, but Kusaka forestalled him. “The objective of the Pearl Harbor operation has been achieved. Now we must prepare for other operations ahead.
So definite was Kusaka’s tone that Fuchida had no opening for a rebuttal. Still, it took a firm act of will for him to swallow his disappointment and outrage. Not trusting himself to speak, he saluted, turned on his heel, and stalked out, 'a bitter and angry man.'" (At Dawn We Slept, p. 546)
Fuchida saluted, asked one question, and left. That’s it. No argument. No demands.
To repeat: what Genda is saying is that Fuchida never even came to the bridge to make such a proposal in the first place (Willmott, pp. 156-157, citing Genda in Shinjuwan sakusen kaikoroku (Recollections of the Pearl Harbor Operation), pp. 300-301). It is worth noting that in another of Prange’s Pearl Harbor books, Dec 7, 1941: The Day the Japanese Attacked Pearl Harbor, pp. 327-328), Fuchida is described as being “furiously frustrated” when he discovered that Nagumo had no intention of renewing the attack. His unhappiness with the decision is also shown in the movie.
Prior to this, Fuchida was debriefed by Nagumo and Kusaka in Genda’s presence on the bridge (At Dawn We Slept, pp. 542-545] where they carefully assessed the total situation. Having imagined losing up to half their ships and half their aircraft, all were contemplating some way to exploit the overwhelmingly favorable circumstances, but in the end, Nagumo went with Kusaka’s advice to cash in their chips and head home. There is no indication throughout this section of any heated arguments, fist-pounding, or histrionics.
I didn’t describe anything of the sort in my article. In fact, I did not use the phrase “heated argument” at all: that is purely Mr. Bennett’s attempt to put words in my mouth. The point I made was that a vigorous proposal was put forth to attack Oahu, (which Fuchida clearly states in his book Midway), and that a sequence of similar nature made it into the movie. The conclusion I drew is that Fuchida was the source of this apocryphal exchange, which Prange then approved for inclusion in the movie’s script. However, Genda says such an exchange never took place.
Anyone with even a cursory knowledge of Japanese culture and protocol within the Imperial Japanese Navy would immediately know that a subordinate officer would never in a million years “demand” anything of a superior officer.
Refutation Summary: Mr. Bennett again misquotes me, and again demonstrates his lack of knowledge regarding the Imperial Navy.
First off, I never used the word “demand,” and I confess I grow rather weary of Mr. Bennett’s tiresome habit of putting words in my mouth. The exact phrase I used in my article was that “Upon landing, he allegedly pressed vigorously for a follow-up attack aimed at these targets, becoming ‘bitter and angry’ when Admiral Chuichi Nagumo instead turned for home.” That sentence is certainly supported by both Fuchida and Prange’s writings.
Likewise, Mr. Bennett once again betrays his lack of knowledge of the workings of the Imperial military. One has only to recall that a drunken Admiral Yamaguchi once placed his superior Nagumo in a judo headlock in order to “persuade” him to include Yamaguchi’s shorter-ranged Carrier Division 2 in the Pearl Harbor attack force. Nagumo, for his part, once threatened to stab a fellow officer (see Shattered Sword, p. 77 for details on both these events). Likewise, politically-motivated incidents of intimidation and even assassination by junior officers were commonplace throughout the 1920s and 1930s. The wars in China had been started by rogue officers in the Kwantung Army. Indeed, one of the reasons that Admiral Yamamoto was promoted to commander in chief of Combined Fleet was so that he would be safely posted outside of the political hotbed of Tokyo, where he would run the risk of being targeted for assassination for having supported the Washington naval treaty, and for being opposed to Japan’s membership in the Tripartite Pact. So, Japan had a well-established track record for bellicosity, insubordination, and sometimes outright violence within its officer corps.
A careful reading of Tohmatsu’s works shows that he was primarily upset about Nagumo and Kusaka being ostracized or scapegoated for looking like cowards in turning back after the Pearl Harbor attack in what seemed to others like an opportune time to finish off the Americans. This criticism was launched from both the Japanese, including Yamamoto and Ugaki as well as the rank and file (Hiroyuki Agawa, The Reluctant Admiral – Yamamoto and the Imperial Navy, p. 265), and from the Americans. He makes a good case and I tend to agree with Tohmatsu, that Nagumo made the best choice possible. Still, neither he nor Kusaka ever lived it down. The fictional scene from Tora! Tora! Tora! didn’t help things, either.
As I have shown, that historical fiction, and the resulting movie scene, most likely came from Fuchida. And Prange certainly okayed its inclusion in the movie’s script.
And here’s the best part of this section. Parshall includes a posting on a website by a guy who said he knew a guy (I’m not joking, it’s in his article) who claimed he was “well acquainted” with another guy who called himself “Reverend Fuchida” who said the Japanese were saving the oil tanks because they were going to use them after they invaded Oahu.
Where do I begin here? How does one classify this level of hearsay? Does this source really belong in an academic work, or is this not an academic work? You decide.
Refutation Summary: this email was real.
The email in question was sent to the Battle of Midway Roundtable, which includes both researchers and Midway veterans among its membership. I’ve been involved with it since about 2001. The email was sent to the Roundtable newsletter on 28 March, 2009, by Bill Vickrey, who was personally acquainted with many BoM veterans. It can be viewed in the online archives of the Roundtable here:
Mr. Vickrey’s communication was as follows:
28 March 2009
From: Bill Vickrey
There is one question which keeps coming up and that is "why didn’t the IJN bomb the oil tanks at Pearl Harbor?" That would certainly have damaged the Pacific Fleet more than all the damage they did to the old battleships. Over the years I got to know a retired captain who went aboard the Enterprise shortly after Midway. In his retirement years he became well acquainted with Reverend Fuchida [who had led the Pearl Harbor attack]. They spent many hours with him and learned a lot that few were privileged to know. One of the things they learned is that the Japanese did not bomb the oil tanks because they planned to use them after they invaded Oahu.
I’ve also seen other mentions of this myth online in various forums.
Fuchida was not ordained, nor was he a “reverend,” nor did anyone ever refer to him as such, especially himself. Anyone who says he was well acquainted with “Reverend Fuchida” was, well, not well acquainted with him by any measure.
Then Mr. Vickrey made this minor mistake in clerical nomenclature. I merely quoted him. I should note, too, that becoming upset over calling Fuchida “Reverend” is much akin to someone picking nits over a “city manager” being called “mayor.”
This is pure malarkey. Why would anyone include junk information like this?
The bottom line is that this is not “junk information.” If Mr. Bennett cares to take up the question of this particular veteran’s testimony, he should feel free to contact Bill Vickrey.
3.) A “mere air group commander” like Fuchida would never be privy to such information.
This is Parshall’s last attempt to try to “bury” Fuchida in this section. Following on with the malarkey story on the internet of the guy who knew a guy who knew a guy, Parshall says regarding a plan to invade Oahu:
"Finally, of course, even if there had been such plans on the grand strategic level, a mere air group commander like Fuchida almost certainly would not have been privy to their details on 7 December. Yet Fuchida’s “privileged” statements to this retired American captain played nicely to the whole American psychology relating to this battle.
From the top scholar on Pearl Harbor, Dr. Gordon Prange wrote in At Dawn We Slept regarding the highest ranking Japanese officers in this attack and their conversations on the way to Pearl Harbor:
"Immediately after lunch Nagumo held another
meeting in Akagi’s ward-room. His own staff attended, as did Yamaguchi
and Hara, with their staffs, and all the flying officers, headed by
Fuchida. Nagumo opened this meeting by reading the instructions which
Genda and Fuchida had prepared for him en route to Hitokappu Bay. When
the young flying officers discovered that they would attack Pearl
Harbor, "their joy was beyond description.”
Then the airmen took over. Genda spoke for almost an hour. For the benefit of those who had not attended the first session, he repeated what he had said that morning. Then he analyzed the five major attack plans which he and Fuchida had prepared. They had worked out the plans with their flight commanders in Kyushu during September and October, so they were not pulling any major surprise. But they took full advantage of this last chance to rehearse, to coordinate group thinking, and to improve upon the design (At Dawn We Slept, p. 377).
Fuchida would have definitely known about a follow-up invasion because he and Genda would have been instructed what not to strike.
Summary: I should not have stated that Fuchida would not have had access to such information.
I reviewed John Stephan’s Hawaii Under The Rising Sun, which examines the topic of Japanese plans towards Hawaii. Stephan makes the following points:
First, plans for invading Hawaii had been bandied about within Combined Fleet’s staff organization in mid-1941. However, this was an internal planning matter for Combined Fleet. No staff officers from the subordinate First Air Fleet were included in this preliminary planning (Stephan, p. 77).
Second, it was determined on 13 September 1941 that such an invasion was impractical and too risky (Stephan, p. 83). This took place at a final war game in Tokyo to examine initial war operations. Fuchida almost certainly would have attended this war game.
Thus, in retrospect, I was wrong in pointing out that Fuchida would not have known about such deliberations, as these would have been discussed at such a war game. However, what this reveals is that Fuchida would also have definitely known that such an invasion was off the table, meaning that his subsequent statements to Bill Vickrey’s friend about wanting the oil tanks intact were even more inexcusable. If this supposition had been true, then the oil tanks and other shore facilities would not have been included at all in the original targeting orders.
First, Fuchida was personally appointed by Rear Admiral Nagumo as the senior flight commander of the First Air Fleet of the First Carrier Division. He trained and commanded the Kidô Butai’s combined air forces for the six aircraft carriers comprised roughly of 400 aircraft and 800 fliers – hardly a “mere” commander. Second, Fuchida and Genda were best friends from the Eta Jima Naval Academy and throughout the war. They worked very closely together in the months leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor. Fuchida easily knew more details about this attack than Nagumo and Yamamoto combined, and he showed it in his many, many interviews. Had there been any serious plans to invade Oahu, Fuchida would certainly have been among the very first to know. Parshall's speculation has no foundation here.
To summarize, Parshall gets everything wrong in this section, and then some.
Refutation Summary: Mr. Bennett’s summarization isn’t even remotely accurate.
The only changes that I would make in retrospect would be in my characterization of Fuchida as a technical advisor to Tora! Tora! Tora! He was not, although he was consulted during the making of the movie, as explained above. Likewise, in retrospect, I should not have stated that Fuchida would not have had access to information regarding an invasion of Hawaii: John Stephan’s work makes it clear that he would have definitely known that no Hawaiian invasion was planned during the time of the Pearl Harbor attack. That said, I have clearly defended the following major points:
First, it is possible, using proper technique, to draw conclusions about what targets Fuchida would have identified as being worthy of a third strike, based on both the targeting orders for the mission, as well as knowledge of the doctrine and training of the Imperial Navy. That is, we do have insights into what the “mental model” of Fuchida as a commander should have been.
Second, Fuchida’s accounts of the matter did, in fact, change over time. In his 1951 account, he presented reasoning for a third strike that was consistent with what one would expect from a Japanese air group commander of the time—namely, as a mechanism to attract and attack the high-priority target of the American carriers. Yet by the time of the publication of At Dawn We Slept, Fuchida had completely reversed his story and placed the fuel tanks at the top of his personal target list.
Third, Given Fuchida’s indoctrination and training, it is extremely unlikely that Fuchida would have made such a mental leap, as it would have gone against the explicit targeting orders for the mission in favor of a target set that his naval culture would have regarded as utterly unimportant.
Fourth, given that Fuchida’s post-war fixation on the fuel tanks was offered without any explication or comment, and with no corroborating statements from any of the other Japanese participants, it simply is not credible. This is confirmed by Genda.
Fifth, the notion of a third attack aimed at Pearl Harbor’s harbor facilities has gone into the common wisdom surrounding the battle as a result of the movie Tora! Tora! Tora! The most likely source for this assumption was Prange’s Tora! Tora! Tora! manuscript, which quoted heavily from Fuchida on this matter.
In other words, except for a couple minor nitpicks, all of Mr. Bennett’s accusations are completely without merit. Not only that, but they betray his pedestrian knowledge regarding the Imperial Japanese Navy.
Essentially, Parshall makes Fuchida out to be a dirty, rotten, low-down, filthy “liar”
Mr. Bennett would, again, be very well-advised to refrain from hyperbole. In Shattered Sword, Chapter 24, Tully and I made one very carefully scoped review of Fuchida’s misstatements with respect to to Midway. In my subsequent Naval War College article, the word “liar” isn’t even used, although it was clear by the time I wrote it that Fuchida’s misstatements encompassed more than just Midway.
who's ruined history ever since for saying that at Midway, the Japanese were five minutes away from launching a counter-attack. He puts it this way, “Fuchida’s entire rendition of the climax of the most important naval battle in American history was a lie. The Japanese were nowhere near ready to counterattack at this time.
Mr. Bennett’s usage of hyperbolic phrases such as “dirty, rotten” and “ruined history ever since,” again show rather poor form. The reader need do nothing more than peruse our Chapter 24 of Shattered Sword to demonstrate what Tully and I actually said.
Let’s break this one down as well.
Parshall gives a great summary leading up to the point of the Japanese’ imminent counter-attack to the American fleet, and he should because he co-wrote a book on the Battle of Midway, Shattered Sword.
Let’s start with facts I expect everyone will agree on, especially the best informed experts, namely, that there is a tremendous amount of conflicting information, records, and testimonies on all sides of the events leading up to and including the turning point of the Battle of Midway. Every book on Midway that I’ve reviewed says the same (including Parshall’s book) which is understandable – it was an incredibly chaotic day, and looking at your watch or making log entries was the last order of business for men fighting for their very lives on both sides. Nagumo's communications log in his battle report was compiled from the records of escort vessels and not from the actual log kept on the Akagi (understandably lost when the carrier went down)
It is another “common sense” misnomer to argue that, “Well, the ship sank, so the logs were lost.” In fact, Akagi was abandoned in an orderly fashion, and only after a lengthy battle to contain her fires. Her log actually survived the battle, while apparently the headquarters log of First Air Fleet was lost. Akagi’s air group records (along with the those from the other carriers) incontestably also survived, as did those of the other carriers. Those are the basis for many of the conclusions in our book. Other Japanese records, such as signals to other ships, survived as well, although some were destroyed after the war by the Japanese.
Here’s a taste from Dallas Isom’s book, Midway Inquest, “Senshi So-sho fudges this …” and “… the entries in Nagumo’s battle report showing that the rearming operation was ordered at 0715 and countermanded at 0745 were fabrications to put Nagumo in a better light." (Isom, p. 10)
While we differ with Mr. Isom’s reconstruction in some key particulars, Mr. Bennett fails to realize that Isom, too, shows the Fuchida account was false, and a counterstrike was not close to being launched when Fuchida claims it was.
Parshall’s book is filled with reports of contradictions of every kind, from records to accounts of pilots (page 231 of his book is full of them), but he rejects those accounts that don’t seem to agree with his conclusions and accepts those that do agree, which is arbitrary and inconsistent. Also keep in mind that the Japanese lost four carriers in the battle and many log books. Much of their information had to be recreated after the facts.
What Mr. Bennett is attempting to do here is begin laying the groundwork for an attack on the credibility of Japanese operational records. As will be shown, he hasn’t the faintest idea of what he’s talking about.
Let’s move on. In his article, Parshall says:
During the course of the morning’s operations the Japanese carriers came under attack no fewer than five times by nine separate groups of American aircraft. Not surprisingly, Japanese flight decks were quite busy with combat air patrol (CAP) requirements. These activities, as well as the interspersed American attacks, made it nearly impossible for the reserve strike force to be readied on the Japanese flight decks …
Did he say, “nearly impossible”? So it was possible, then, according to Jon Parshall.
Mr. Bennett is engaged in semantic straw-grabbing. As will be demonstrated, Nagumo had no ability whatsoever to be ready to launch at the time of the fatal dive-bomber attack commencing around 1022 on 4 June.
Earlier in his article Parshall said they were “nowhere near ready to counterattack.” Which Parshall are we to listen to here?
Again, if Mr. Bennett needs to stoop to the level of semantics to find something on which to hang his argumentative hat, that is his business, but it does little credit to the material strength of his arguments.
He goes on to state that, according to air group records, planes were landing on the Akagi just fifteen minutes before the attack, which would require that the aft deck be totally clear. Were these records accurate? We don’t know.
Summary: Mr. Bennett doesn’t understand the Japanese sources or their usage.
Mr. Bennett is now attempting to impeach the credibility of an information source about which he knows absolutely nothing, and has no qualifications to use in any case. These records, referred to as kodochoshos (often just “kodos”), are the tabulated operational records for Japanese air groups. A unit’s kodochosho provides crucial data, such as the names of every aviator in the operation, which planes they were in, what ordnance was carried and expended, the takeoff times, landing times, and other chronological details, the conditions of the aircraft upon landing, condition of personnel, reasons for the loss of an aircraft, and so on. They are, in short, very detailed, and provide a wealth of information useful to modern historians.
An example kodo is seen here:
This is Akagi's kodo for her morning strike on the island of Midway, 4 June, 1942. It shows the details of the 18 dive-bombers that she launched that morning.
The first serious usage of the kodos probably dates to John Lundstrom’s ground-breaking First Team books, published in the mid-1980s. My collaborator J. Michael Wenger uses them for his studies of the Indian Ocean and Pearl Harbor operations, as do other Pearl Harbor scholars such as David Aiken. My co-author Anthony Tully and I used them in Shattered Sword as well. They form the basis for all modern scholarship on Japanese air activities, and are used by any scholar attempting to understand what a Japanese air group was up to during any given operation. Let me repeat: all serious Pacific War scholars use the kodos. And anyone who would attempt to argue to those same scholars that the kodochoshos are a data source that cannot be trusted would simply be laughed out of the room. Mr. Bennett, putting it politely, is profoundly ignorant regarding current methods of historical inquiry in the Pacific War. He simply has no business commenting on the veracity of these records. His credibility in this respect is zero.
He then says that “The official Japanese war history on the battle, Senshi So-sho, explicitly states that at the time of the American attack there were no attack aircraft on the Japanese flight decks, only combat air patrol fighters.” Hmmmm. The attorney and historian Dallas Isom states clearly that the Senshi So-sho “fudged” entries. I wonder how many were “fudged”? These compiled records are not reliable. Primary sources are best, that is, eye witnesses (preferably ones who were not shooting or being shot at), not post-battle writers.
Summary: Mr. Bennett, again, should refrain from commenting on things he doesn’t understand.
Mr. Bennett misunderstands the nature of primary sources. The kodochoshos are primary sources. They were recorded, in handwritten Japanese, on pre-printed forms, during the course of the operations they described—a sort of ‘running record’ of events. And Senshi Sosho, which is the official war history series prepared by the Japanese government’s War History Section at the National Institute for Defense Studies, was in turn built not only on the basis of Japanese eyewitness accounts, interviews with participants, but also from the kodos.
Indeed, Mr. Bennett’s attempted impeachment of Senshi Sosho is simply indicative of his ignorance regarding the modern study of Pacific War history. What Mr. Bennett is essentially saying here is “Mitsuo Fuchida’s 1951 account supersedes all wartime records and subsequent Japanese research, and it must be given precedence over Senshi Sosho, not to mention the bulk of modern Japanese scholarship on the Pacific War!” Clearly, this is an absurd argument to make, and it does Mr. Bennett little credit. Let me repeat: Shattered Sword is based heavily on the research of Japanese historians. Likewise, it was Japanese historians who first called Fuchida’s account into question, nearly thirty years before myself and Anthony Tully. Similarly, our central claims regarding Fuchida’s misstatements were independently confirmed by Dallas Isom’s book, and he was using Japanese sources that in some cases we did not have access to. The point to be made here is that Shattered Sword is hardly a lone voice crying in the wilderness. Instead, what we have done is to bring Western scholarship on the battle more closely into alignment with the Japanese scholarship that has existed for over thirty years.
Parshall also says in his book that the idea that there were only a few fighters on the deck of the Akagi, “stands in apparent conflict with certain eyewitness accounts made by American pilots, which often painted lurid portraits of bombs exploding among packed enemy squadrons, and Japanese planes being catapulted around the flight decks or enveloped in sheets of flame (Shattered Sword, p. 231).” These “eyewitness accounts” match exactly with what Fuchida said. Exactly.
For the sake of illustrating the correct usage of sources when dissecting an historical event witnessed by two opposing sides, let me produce an instructive analog. Suppose that a modern Japanese book came out claiming that during the Battle of Midway, Lt. Kobayashi and his fliers from Hiryu’s dive-bomber squadron actually hit the carrier Yorktown with, say, five bombs (instead of the actual three), and that the truth of that was verified by the Japanese pilot accounts? On the basis of Mr. Bennett’s logic, we would be forced to accept these Japanese pilot accounts at face value, simply because they were eyewitnesses. However, in actuality, we would be well within our rights to say, “These assertions fail. We have Yorktown’s after-battle report, which details exactly what damage was done to her. It was our ship, and we ought to know.” Thus, in the hypothetical scenario above, we would rightly give precedence to American records with respect to the damage inflicted to an American warship.
This same principle applies precisely in reverse when it comes to evaluating what was actually happening on the Japanese ships at Midway. Broadly speaking, all sources are useful, and they should be weighed carefully. In this sense, American aviator accounts are certainly useful. And some of them support Fuchida’s account (although it should be noted that as many of the American pilot accounts contradict Fuchida’s account as support it.) But not all sources are equal. And when push comes to shove in matters regarding Japanese air operations, Japanese air operational records should generally be given precedence.
But there’s another eyewitness source I’ve never seen referenced – that of Minoru Genda. Parshall quotes Genda in his article and obviously considers him a credible source of information. So do I. His testimony was that the Akagi was fifteen minutes away from launching her attack (U.S. Military Interview with Genda, 1948, University of Pittsburgh Archives, UA 90/F-78). Is he making things up now, too? Fuchida’s book wasn’t out yet, so he had no idea what Fuchida was going to write, and certainly had no idea someone was going to compare his obscure answers to Fuchida’s book seventy years later.
Summary: Mr Bennett doesn’t understand the nature of our refutation of Fuchida.
Mr. Bennett misunderstands the central nature of the argument we make about the timing of the American dive bomber attack. Everything we know about Japanese carrier operations generally supports the notion that preparing a strike force for launch required about 40 minutes to accomplish. Several activities needed to be performed during this time, including fueling the aircraft, physically moving them to the flight deck, warming up their engines, and in some cases arming them with bombs. Certain of those operations were inexorably governed by the physical constraints of the equipment involved, such as elevator cycle times, and engine warmup times. But in general, 40 minutes is a good working figure to use.
Akagi’s kodochoshos clearly state that she landed a trio of fighters at 1010, meaning that her flight deck absolutely had to be clear at this time. It would be physically impossible for those aircraft to have landed aboard her had there been a strike force being spotted on her flight deck. And she was then bombed at 1025.
The kodo in question is reproduced here for reference:
Fifteen minutes is simply insufficient time to spot and launch a strike. Thus, the argument we are creating here is not one of “He said this vs. some other guy said that.” Rather, we are simply saying that fifteen minutes does not equal forty minutes. And any refutation of that argument requires explaining how fifteen minutes somehow does equal forty minutes. It should be noted, too, that Isom’s book makes similar mathematical demonstrations of these points.
Our basic math is further upheld by the actions of the carrier Hiryu. If Fuchida’s account is to be believed, at the time of the attack, the carrier Hiryu ought to have been five minutes away from launching her own strike. Yet, in the event, Hiryu does not deliver her own counterattack against the Americans until the 1052-1057 range at the earliest (Hiryu’s records says 1057), that is, thirty minutes or more after the American dive-bomber attack commences. In other words it would appear that the spotting process aboard Nagumo’s carriers had only barely begun, if at all, at the time of the attack.
The corollary to this is that we don’t agree with Genda’s statement regarding the force being 15 minutes away from launch. However, it is also clear that Genda himself would not have supported a version of events wherein Akagi was literally in the middle of conducting her initial fighter launches, as Fuchida has written.
The final point that needs to be made here is that Akagi’s kodochoshos demonstrate clearly that the Zero fighter being launched at 1025 when Akagi came under attack was not a strike fighter. It was a combat air patrol fighter. That pilot, PO1c Kimura Koreo, is clearly listed as being a part of Akagi’s 9th CAP patrol. In other words, Fuchida ended up taking an actual historical event (Kimura's CAP launch) and morphing it into something that never happened (the mythical preparedness of Akagi’s counterstrike).
The kodo in question is reproduced here for reference:
So let’s make it very, very clear what we are comparing: On one side we have the calculations of part-time historian who has never seen a Japanese carrier let alone stepped on board one, calculations he made 60+ years after the facts based on records that are frequently contradictory, often made by unknown third parties, incomplete, and sometimes clearly altered.
This is just a laughably poor summation of the “facts,” replete with yet more ad hominem insinuations regarding my research methods and credentials (and those of my co-author Anthony Tully), wrapped in with a rather pathetic attempt at trying to refute a primary source that Mr. Bennett has no familiarity with, and whose importance eludes him. Under Mr. Bennett’s arbitrary system of credentialing, Gordon Prange, Walter Lord, Donald Goldstein, John Lundstrom, and Craig Symonds all likewise had no business writing about Japanese carriers at Midway because they, too, never stepped foot on one. Mr. Bennett, apparently, has no idea of what historians do. And he certainly has no idea of how Pacific War historians do what they do, what sources they rely on, or how they use those sources.
On the other hand we have two eye witnesses, career officers who had lived on Japanese carriers for years, knew the Akagi from stem to stern, who trained and instructed crews, witnessed daily routines of mechanics attaching and detaching torpedoes, who had personally taken off and landed aircraft on carriers hundreds of times, and thoroughly understood the operations for preparing an attack on a first-hand basis who were there at the time of battle.
Parshall with his calculator and stop-watch says it was “nearly impossible” for them to be prepared for a counter-attack. Fuchida said they were five minutes away and Genda said they were fifteen minutes away, so let’s split the difference and say they were actually ten minutes from a launch instead of five.
A symbolic refutation of Mr. Bennett’s logic is apropos here:
(wrong) – (wrong) ≠ (right)
Put another way, the issue is not one of five minutes or ten or fifteen; it is 30 or 40, as demonstrated above, and it is Japanese sources that are saying so.
No one would respect a traffic cop handed out tickets to people for going half a mile over the speed limit. We'd think they were crazy. No one in their right mind would consider a five minute disparity in the fog of war a “whopper” of a lie. Fuchida’s five minute estimate and Genda’s fifteen minute estimate are the most reliable sources of information on the timing of their counterattack. They have been reliable on everything else in their works with minor errors, so there's no overriding reason to discard their testimonies here.
Historians like Parshall have made estimates based on information for how long it might normally take mechanics to switch from land bombs to torpedoes, raise the aircraft to the deck, etc., and figure in how attacks by Americans might have slowed down the operation. That’s fine and makes good sense, but at the end of the day, it has nothing to do with what actually took place. Maybe he envisioned Japanese mechanics carefully unbolting carriages under Nakajima B5N bombers, but I see more like NASCAR pit crews rushing to get the job done as quickly as possible because their very lives depended on it. There are so many, many variables in the hours leading up to the time of the actual attack, many of which Parshall, myself, and others may know nothing about, so no one can possibly “calculate” what actually happened. Only someone who was there would know.
Refutation Summary: Sadly, physical constraints can’t simply be wished away.
Again, as related previously, many of the factors of the spotting process were constrained by physical limitations of the weapons systems involved. We clearly illustrate these factors, as does Isom’s work, as do the Japanese sources such as Hiryu’s Detailed Action Report from the Indian Ocean. Simply wishing that Akagi’s elevators would go faster, for instance, wasn’t going to make them go any faster. Likewise, the physical constraints of warming up aircraft engines were impervious to the needs and desires of the pilots—the oil in the cylinders was not going to be evenly distributed without a proper warmup, whatever Nagumo’s wishes on the matter might have been. Thus, we are perfectly within our rights to make educated judgments regarding the timing of these operations based on our knowledge of the ships and aircraft involved.
Also, it is improper to characterize Nagumo’s state of mind immediately prior to the dive-bomber attack as being rushed. There are no indications that anyone felt that a swift launch was crucial in the sense that “their very lives depended on it.” It must be recalled that up until this point in the battle, the Japanese had crushed every American attack that had been thrown their way. So, the Japanese were certainly moving things along, but nobody was rushing or cutting corners. The only rushing we have evidence of is aboard Hiryu alone, and only after the American dive-bomber attack materialized. On board that ship, apparently, Yamaguchi had to really push things along to get her planes airborne in about 35 minutes.
Interestingly, the one exercise we know of where the Japanese rehearsed the switching of armament from one type to another was performed aboard Hiryu immediately after her foray into the Indian Ocean in April 1942. This is detailed in her action report. And her results agreed almost exactly with the estimates that Anthony Tully and I independently came to during the course of our research for Shattered Sword. We feel quite confident in our numbers.
Let me give a personal anecdote that may give some insight into why I’m taking the time and trouble to examine these accusations. Years ago in the course of applying for work I recounted to a prospective employer a particular printing job I had overseen, delivering two million pieces of literature to a particular customer at a particular time. The man said that it was impossible. I was taken aback as I was honestly unprepared for him to question me, as I was telling him the truth, so I explained again, in more detail, how we got the job done. He repeated to me that he didn’t believe me, that there was no way I could have accomplished the job in that time frame. At this point I was truly at a loss for words. I had initiated the job, overseen the printing, and stood on the back of the truck helping to unloaded the job. I was there, he wasn’t. I had told him the absolute truth, but he, in his own mind, had made calculations that “proved” to him that I was lying. It was a very helpless feeling.
While I applaud Mr. Bennett's laudable proficiency in matters related to commercial printing, they have no bearing on arguments related to WWII aircraft carriers, or military history in general. Some things simply are impossible. The unquenchable will does not axiomatically triumph over equally intransigent matter. In many cases, such impossibilities are driven by physical constraints in the system, and Akagi’s slow elevators and the need to warm up engines certainly count as such.
Jon Parshall wasn’t there that day. Fuchida was. Genda was. Their testimony is consistent.
But their testimony is inconsistent with the Japanese air group records. And in matters related to the timing of air group operations, kodochoshos which were recorded at the time of the battle outweigh statements recalled years or even decades later by participants such as Genda. The kodochoshos must be given precedence in this matter. Likewise, with all due respect, Mr. Bennett does not possess the knowledge to refute the Japanese experts and researchers in this matter who likewise do not accept Fuchida’s testimony.
In conclusion, a jury faced with the calculations of a part-time historian/computer software executive sixty years after the facts vs. two career military officer eye witnesses who had lived on the Akagi and knew just about everything there was to know about the ship and its operations (along with American eye witnesses), well, a jury would call this an open and shut case in favor of the witnesses.
Any trial on these matters would actually require the jury to become familiar with the subject material at hand, rather than simply dismissing them out of ignorance. And having actually used the Midway kodochoshos to demonstrate these matters to general audiences at numerous public talks I have given, I can state that even a layperson can quickly be brought up to speed on the importance of these documents. It is to Mr. Bennett’s discredit that he apparently would prefer to dismiss such sources out of hand, rather than trying to understand them.
Me, too. I'd go with Genda and Fuchida on this one. Parshall’s speculations don’t stand up under scrutiny.
Refutation Summary: I have demonstrated that Mr. Bennett has only an elementary comprehension of the Japanese sources that were used in the creation of Shattered Sword. He does not understand them, therefore he does not trust them, and attempts to discount them. Mr. Bennett likewise does not comprehend that Fuchida’s account had already been discredited by Japanese scholars for decades prior to Tully and I writing our book. His effort to repair Fuchida’s reputation at my expense can only be successful by then going on to impeach the body of Japanese scholarship on these matters. Mr. Bennett does not have any credible ability to do this. Taken as a whole, I do not concede a single point regarding the Battle of Midway—all of Mr. Bennett’s arguments are logically flawed, based on poor historiography, and betray his rudimentary knowledge of the source material and the scholarship on the battle.
In the book, God’s Samurai, Fuchida recounts the events leading up to and including the surrender ceremonies on the deck of the USS Missouri on September 2, 1945 and how he was called on to help ferry Japanese personnel that day and remained aboard the ship during the ceremonies. Parshall considers this an “egregious” claim and does his best to completely discredit Fuchida with disparaging remarks and insults, but with no evidence whatsoever. None. His accusations rest entirely on conjecture and speculation.
Here are the exact references, the first, from God’s Samurai:
"These preliminaries led up to the climax on the morning of 2 September, the formal surrender aboard the Missouri. Fuchida prepared transportation for the Japanese delegation, but the launches he secured proved unnecessary. An American destroyer carried the official party to the battleship. Several liaison officers, army and navy, went out in a “big, beautiful launch” assigned to the Yokosuka commander. Fuchida was among them. These men ranked too far down the echelon to rate a position on the surrender deck, but he could see the ceremony clearly from an upper deck".(God's Samurai, p. 174)
And a second reference from the newly translated For That One Day: The Memoirs of Mitsuo Fuchida by Douglas Shinsato and Tadanori Urabe:
"In my role as Staff of General Navy Headquarters, I was assigned miscellaneous tasks to help the Japanese side’s preparations. Since I was not an official attaché, I was watching the signing ceremony from the upper deck along with the crews of the USS Missouri."
When I first heard Parshall’s charges they seemed a little far-fetched, but if he really wasn’t there, I was willing to admit that, indeed, Fuchida made this up – but it never quite sat right with me. The more I examined the facts surrounding Fuchida on board the Missouri, the more it had the ring of authenticity to it.
Let’s break down Parshall’s last set of questions and charges:
1.) Why would Fuchida have been aboard the Missouri? What possible business did he have there?
There were many liaisons and delegates working for many nations to pull this ceremony together. To think otherwise would be foolish. Even more foolish would be to think that each of the Japanese dignitaries made their own arrangements for transportation. Fuchida’s simple statements are completely reasonable. If anything, they were a bit humiliating as he was relegated to the role of taxi driver.
Mr. Bennett prefers to overlook the fact that no arrangements for transportation were required of the Japanese. The Americans instructed the Japanese surrender delegation to report to a dock in Yokosuka, where they boarded an American destroyer. From there they were transported out into Tokyo Bay, transferred to a ship’s boat, and then taken to USS Missouri. Transportation was thus provided strictly by the U.S. Navy, and was completely under USN control at all times. Fuchida’s services were unnecessary.
Parshall assumes that Fuchida wanted to place himself there to make himself look bigger than he was, but in fact Fuchida’s account of the story is quite the opposite. He despised MacArthur and considered him arrogant, but after watching the ceremony, he was put in his place and admitted that MacArthur was actually quite gracious to the Japanese, far more gracious than the Japanese would have been to the Americans. This doesn’t lift Fuchida up, it humbles him.
Mr. Bennett misunderstands my statement. Being able to claim attendance at such an event was what made Fuchida seem important as the years progressed, in just the same way as a baby-boomer now might try to claim attendance at Woodstock or the Kent State shootings, or being a Vietnam combat veteran.
2.) Why would an American sailor give up his place at this historic event to an unknown Japanese officer?
The war was over, in every sense, and in addition to an end of physical hostilities, there was also an end of social hostilities. In the book, Genda's Blade: Japan's Squadron of Aces: p. 343, Henry Sakaida and Koji Takaki show how, after the war, the American and Japanese pilots looked over each other’s aircraft like teenagers at a Friday night car show, talking shop about octane, horsepower, and RPM’s. Parshall knows full well that after the Emperor gave his surrender speech, by and large, the Japanese were shockingly submissive and compliant to the American occupation, despite the extreme bitterness of that pill. They submitted to the Emperor in war, and then likewise afterwards and there was even some camaraderie between the former enemies. No surprise that this relationship continued on the USS Missouri as well.
None of which would give Fuchida a seat at the ceremony if he had no need to be there. Fuchida literally had no business being on board the Missouri, since transportation for the surrender delegation was being taken care of strictly by the U.S. Navy. Likewise, in his description of the security arrangements aboard his ship that day, Missouri's captain explicitly points out that armed guards were used to make it clear to the Japanese newspaper correspondents on board that they were being very closely watched. There was no "camaraderie" whatsover in evidence at this particular ceremony.
3.) Why would Fuchida be allowed to “wander into the command spaces of the flagship of the U.S. fleet?”
There certainly was concern among top navy brass that one or two extreme nationalists might try to sabotage the ceremony, especially with a kamikaze plane, so they took many precautions. All of the air bases in the greater Tokyo/Yokohama area were evacuated, the planes disarmed and then disabled. The man entrusted with this high security detail – Mitsuo Fuchida, because he was the commander of all IJN aircraft.
Any assertion that Mitsuo Fuchida was “commander of all IJN aircraft” is simply laughable. Fuchida was a staff officer attached to Combined Fleet. He didn’t have a combat command, and had no direct control over the aircraft. In fact, he had not held a combat command of any type since the Battle of Midway.
Fuchida also helped head off a coup, personally brought in Japanese officers holding out against surrender, and authored a widely distributed pamphlet entitled "We Believe This!" to encourage those in the Japanese military to submit to the Emperor in peace as they had in war and to fully comply with all the terms of surrendering to the U.S. and to fully cooperate.
If any Japanese officer would be trusted for security reasons on the USS Missouri that day, it would be him.
The assertion that the enemy flight leader who led the attack against Pearl Harbor would be viewed as somehow particularly trustworthy, so trustworthy in fact, that we are expected to believe that he was allowed to gambol about Admiral Halsey’s flagship without an escort, is simply ludicrous. Indeed, after the cease fire, but before the surrender ceremony, Halsey had already had several Japanese aircraft shot down for snooping on TF 38.
There’s no indication that Fuchida wandered all over the ship as Parshall implies. He certainly knew better than that and rather went up
Without an escort, presumably? I repeat: ludicrous. And this opinion is shared by the curator of the USS Missouri museum as well.
to a viewing position and simply stayed there. As for the unknown photographers who were a part of the press corps, yes, they were watched very, very closely as the record shows.
Again, this entire argument rests on some perceived need for Fuchida to have been in attendance at the ceremony. There was none. Transportation had already been taken care of.
4.) Why were there no photographs of him when we have photos of the surrender delegation?
This sounds a bit reasonable at first, but on consideration isn’t a strong argument. Fuchida wasn’t a part of the surrender delegation, nor did he ever claim to be. And this was the most humiliating day in the history of the Japanese people. No self-respecting Japanese officer would be leaning into any photos that day. This is something Fuchida would more likely avoid.
Photographers took pictures of all the key people, and as Parshall correctly points out, Fuchida simply wasn’t one of them. Even the Commander of the USS Missouri, Admiral Stuart S. Murray, stated that he wasn’t in any random pictures at the ceremony as well, and he was the commander of the ship! (http://web.archive.org/web/20070821191456/http://www.ussmissouri.org/coll_MurryHistory.htm) Regarding photos of himself that day, the commander said that, apart from a few formal shots where he was in the background, “… I'm not generally visible anywhere.” If that’s how the Commander of the USS Missouri was photographed that day, why would Fuchida be elevated so much higher than him?
But let’s look on the affirmative side. There are some pretty clear photos of those on the decks of the ship that day, like the one right here. It’s a high resolution photograph so you can zoom into the third level just to the above left of the Japanese flags. Here’s a close-up. And here’s a photo of Fuchida from during the war.
I’m not an expert on the US Navy in WWII, but I don’t think that “Hitler styled” mustaches were popular at that time … and we know that Fuchida kept his mustache after the war as he was photographed giving testimony at the war crimes trials[xxiv]. So, just as Fuchida described, here on board the USS Missouri, right before the surrender ceremonies, on an upper deck, we find a round-headed, Asian-looking man with a Hitler mustache among the American sailors. Is this Fuchida without his hat? It certainly could be.
Mr. Bennett is to be congratulated for finding a photograph of a short person with a somewhat darker complexion. However, Michael Weidenbach, curator the Battleship Missouri Memorial, and a former military photographic analyst, who has all of the photographic records from that day, commented that the individual in question is "obviously a sailor in whites with the headphones and mic of a sound powered phone visible. I have other views of the bridge with this sailor in view." (Email from Michael Weidenbach to Parshall, 26 March, 2012)
5.) Michael Weidenbach, the curator of the Battleship Missouri Memorial, verified Fuchida’s absence from the ship that day and Fuchida’s presence would have been noted in the official records.
Jon (correctly) credits me with obtaining information from Mr. Michael Weidenbach, Curator/Archivist of the Collections Department for the Battleship Missouri Memorial at Pearl Harbor, Oahu, Hawaii. Jon Parshall states it like this when he quotes Mr. Weidenbach:
"If Fuchida had been aboard the Missouri in any capacity whatsoever, “his presence would have been noted, and his placement would have been noted in the official records . . . and would have been strictly monitored and recorded.” The lesson from the third whopper is yet another reminder (if any were needed) that proving a negative is oftentimes a lot harder than proving a positive. However, it is the historian’s job to produce positive evidence to support the claims that are made by the participants in our narratives. In this case, the onus was on Fuchida to support his rather incredible claims. His story, while superficially plausible, failed when subjected to the weight of the other positive evidence we have on this highly documented ceremony."
OK, now I get to say it, “Hey, not so fast.” Mr. Weidenbach “verified Fuchida’s absence”? That’s actually quite difficult to do. Yes, he verified that he wasn’t a part of the official boarding party, but then Fuchida never said he was, and he said there is no record of him being on board that day, so case closed, right? Ah, no. Upon further reflection, I contacted Mr. Weidenbach again and asked for a full roster of personnel on board the USS Missouri that day, and this is what he said (bold is mine):
"There is no single roster of all the individuals
that were aboard that day. There are records scattered around in various
records depositories that we are still seeking out and gradually
There are rosters of the dignitaries and key officers that were invited to participate or witness the ceremony, but there appears to be no record made of their accompanying staff members or others who may also have arrived aboard.
We’ve tracked down a listing of war correspondents, but it may or may not be complete or entirely accurate.
We have a copy of the MISSOURI crew roster from the National Archives, but it is dated July, 1945; so it is very likely not accurate for September.
In short, we have records and we are continuing to search and gather, but we don’t yet have a complete or clear record of all those who were aboard that day.
What? No single roster? No official records of accompanying staff? No complete or clear records? Then there certainly is no way to “verify” that Fuchida wasn’t aboard. It's plain logic.
Mr. Bennett has fallen into a classic logical fallacy. He is basically arguing that “there is no concrete evidence that Fuchida wasn’t there, therefore he was there.” This is clearly flawed. As Missouri’s
museum curator, Mr. Weidenbach, confirmed in an email to me on 20 March, 2012, “We know Fuchida was not a member of the Japanese delegation and was not one of the Japanese correspondents onboard. There is no record of any other Japanese military or civilian personnel being aboard that day.” Mr. Weidenbach concludes “The absence of any record of his existence onboard is not justifiable proof that he was board.”
The question at hand is trying to establish that Fuchida was on board the USS Missouri. There needs to be positive evidence presented to that effect, certainly something other than just Fuchida’s word on the matter. We need not take Fuchida at his word without such corroborating evidence. This is particularly true in cases where the author of the statement in question has a track record for prevarication and telling tall tales (yet more examples of which will be included later in this refutation.) We have no positive evidence that Fuchida was present. Therefore I am within my rights to conclude, absent any need for him to be there, that he was not. Mr. Weidenbach is strongly of the same opinion.
Over time, as I've thought about this event, more and more things simply pointed in the same direction bearing out that Fuchida's consistent testimony was true from the beginning. Here are a couple of more things that support him. I noticed this section in God's Samurai:
Umezu, who had fought surrender to the last ditch, signed for both the Japanese armed forces. As he did so one of the Chinese delegates hissed loudly and triumphantly. “The U.S. delegates didn’t like this impolite gesture, from the expression on their faces,” Fuchida recalled (God's Samurai, p. 175).
No one would have even cared about such a minor footnote of the ceremony or noted it, no one but a Japanese national. Fuchida did both.
Being able to creatively embellish an account is certainly not proof that Fuchida was there.
Gorgon Prange and Donald Goldstein, experts on the Pacific War and military protocol had no issue with Fuchida’s description of him being at the ceremonies. None. And Prange was a navy officer who worked with MacArthur and would understand U.S. Navy protocol at the time extremely well.
As has already been demonstrated, Gordon Prange relied overly heavily on Fuchida’s testimony on a wide range of matters, and was none too critical of him as a source.
Parshall states in his piece that “There were literally thousands of potential American witnesses to this particular story, who might have come forward to debunk it.” Maybe no one did because no one could.
You connect all of the dots of the facts and they point to one thing – Fuchida was there, and there is no evidence of any kind contradicting that. Nothing.
Refutation Summary: Mr. Bennett is a poor logician, an equally poor historian, and has proven nothing.
Perhaps this is where the roots of Parshall’s cynical judgment of Fuchida come to light. He makes a host of sweeping judgments based on speculation, conjecture, and, as you can see in this article so far, a good number of errors, and then paints him as cocky, religious phony everyone loves to hate.
Mr. Bennett again demonstrates his talent for putting hyperbolic words in my mouth. My article makes absolutely no such portrayal of Fuchida as a “religious phony” or someone that others loved to hate. I simply pointed out Fuchida’s pattern of historical errors.
Here’s how Parshall begins:
"A glimpse into the inner character of the man is revealed in the movie Tora! Tora! Tora! for which both Prange and Fuchida were technical advisers. During one scene, near the beginning of the movie, Fuchida lands his plane on the carrier Akagi. Dismounting, he is immediately surrounded by other aviators. Fuchida tells them they’d better treat him well, because he is their new air group commander. Surprised by this news, one of the pilots asks how he rated another promotion. Fuchida responds, to the general hilarity of all assembled, “Well, exceptional people get exceptional treatment!” I believe this illustrates something central about the man."
Oh, no … is Parshall going back to Hollywood again for research? C'mon, man!
In my Naval War College article, I clearly stated at the beginning of this section of the article that I was engaged in speculation. In other words, I have taken off my historian hat. This is not “research” in the historical sense—it is looking for clues on the character of the man. And given Fuchida’s close association with the man directly responsible for overseeing Tora! Tora! Tora!’s script (Gordon Prange), I had good reason to feel the quote was authentic.
Fuchida was NOT a consultant for the film, Genda and Prange were, and even as consultants they had no control over the shooting script. Next, THIS SCENE IS TOTALLY FICTIONAL.
As I have shown above, Mr. Prange in fact had a very high degree of control over the script. Likewise, as Mr. Bennett explained during a phone call to me on 14 March, 2012, screenplays are known for taking liberties with their scenes. They often do this to illustrate central points in their movie. We know that directors and screen writers do not include scenes in a movie without perceiving the need to either establish a character or to move the plot along. Someone thought this vignette was important, and that’s why it’s in the movie. Given that Prange was well-acquainted with Fuchida, and Fuchida was himself consulted, it is reasonable to assume that someone felt that this characterization of Fuchida was important to include. Indeed, it is not improbable that the quip was offered up by either Fuchida or Genda.
Parshall is stabbing a straw man with a rubber knife. Fuchida never said such a thing
Actually, we can’t know that for certain.
nor is there any record of him saying this,
That statement is more precisely correct.
but that doesn’t stop Parshall from using fictionalized movies to make his psychological analysis of Fuchida to attempt to destroy him once and for all. Instead, Parshall drives a stake into the heart of his own character when it comes to reliable research and analysis. What kind of a person uses fiction to judge someone’s character?
One is tempted to ask Mr. Bennett what value his own proposed motion picture on the life of Fuchida purports to serve, if, apparently, movies do nothing to illustrate the inner nature of their central characters? And, as I have already demonstrated, there was a great deal less fiction in the final script of Tora! Tora! Tora! than in most movies, because of the extraordinary level of editorial control Prange wielded over the project. Thus, while we have no record of Fuchida making that exact statement, the fact that it made it into the script suggests that it represented an actual incident, or was analogous to something Fuchida had once related to Prange.
Was Fuchida a cocky pilot? Probably. Most attack pilots on the front line of battle are. They have to have an element of confidence far above the rank and file to take the risks they do and still make it back alive. In that respect, Fuchida would fit in with military pilots of today of any nation. And I know, my father was a fighter pilot (sorry, Dad). But that's not the person Fuchida was after the war.
Tora! Tora! Tora! depicts Fuchida prior to his conversion. Frankly, I have no real interest in Fuchida’s actions after the war, or his conversion. They are utterly irrelevant to critiques aimed at his historical accounts of the war.
Parshall goes on to state again, erroneously, that Fuchida was “ordained” and loved the accolades and attention it brought him. Where are the facts to support any of this? He wasn’t ordained so Parshall's ideas surrounding that fiction are false. Did Jon Parshall ever meet him? Did he interview people who did? I did, several. I travelled to meet with a man who worked beside him after the war for many months, and he described Fuchida as a very humble, gentle man who never bragged about his part in the war, but rather profusely apologized at every opportunity, the exact opposite of Parshall’s picture.
I quote from Thurston Clark’s Pearl Harbor Ghosts,
p. 120. “Like everything in Fuchida’s life, his conversion was
dramatic. He jumped into the speaker van of evangelical American
missionaries preaching in Osaka, grabbed their microphone, and shouted,
‘I am Mitsuo Fuchida who led the air raid on Pearl Harbor. I have now
surrendered my heart and my life to Jesus Christ.’” Very humble, indeed.
I likewise seem to recall from Mr. Bennett’s own screenplay that
Fuchida’s conversion was pretty dramatic stuff. Clark likewise notes
that prior to his conversion, Fuchida commented that “My days passed in
loneliness… I was like a star that had fallen. At one moment I was
Captain Mitsuo Fuchida, and the next, I was nobody.” (Clark, p.
119-120). Thus, there would seem to be evidence that Fuchida was not
averse to the spotlight.
In actuality, as I stated, I don’t really care about Fuchida’s conversion to Christianity, or whether he was ordained or not, or his subsequent work as an evangelical. Genuine or not, I really don’t care. Mr. Bennett is the one who is apparently concerned that Fuchida’s tall tales from the war might cast doubt on his conversion and reputation as a Christian. I personally couldn’t care less: it is Fuchida’s erroneous statements regarding the war that concern me. If Mr. Bennett doesn’t like my speculations regarding Fuchida’s motivations, that’s fine. They are merely speculations.
Over my years of research on Fuchida I've come into contact with many who knew him or worked with him or met him saying the same kinds of things. I've never known or heard of anyone who painted the kind of picture Parshall does, nothing even close. His conjecture falls under the weight of facts.
Parshall fully admits that “I have been called to task more than once by World War II veterans who express incredulity that a man of the cloth like Fuchida could have lied about his wartime experiences.” Well, add me to that list, and I think I'm more familiar with Fuchida than Parshall is, and I believe he would freely concede that point.
I think we have finally hit the core underlying issue. It is simply this: Mr. Bennett, who has professed his strong Christian beliefs to me on several occasions, apparently cannot make the mental leap to acknowledging that Fuchida was, in essence, two different men. Accepting the image of Fuchida as a similarly professed Christian, but one who then continued lying freely about his past persona, is a
mental paradox that Mr. Bennett doesn’t seem to be able to get past. I’m
sorry that’s the case. But that’s not really important to our study of
the war. What matters are the historical facts, not Mr. Bennett’s perceived need to keep Fuchida’s postwar stature intact.
The other underlying point that Mr. Bennett misses is that Fuchida was the product of a military culture that placed a very low premium on truth-telling. Indeed, any incredulity on the part of Westerners regarding Fuchida’s ability to spin a tall tale must be understood in the context of his twenty five years of training and indoctrination in one of the most warped military cultures of all time. The Japanese military was riddled with delusional outlooks on its role in the world, and its conduct during the war. It routinely underrated the intentions and strengths of its enemies, overrated its own capabilities, and then lied to itself after each new calamity inexorably pushed it ever-closer to defeat. Likewise, this was a military culture that placed a premium on producing the sort of “information” that superiors wanted to hear, regardless of whether it bore any relation to reality. Fuchida’s tall tales are simply symptomatic of that culture. And it’s clear that even after his conversion to Christianity, on those occasions when Fuchida reverted to this older personality, his fabrications continued unabated.
One more visit remained to round out Fuchida’s American experience, and that would be the acid test: Hawaii. In a newspaper photograph taken after landing in Honolulu early on 1 July 1953, he looked like a well-pleased baby elephant, all ears, nose, and happy smile.
He was not as confident as he looked. Sachs, who with his wife accompanied Fuchida to Honolulu, had in mind the making of a movie about him and planned some Hawaiian scenes, among them a shot of Fuchida placing a wreath on the Arizona. Fuchida was not at all enthusiastic. It would look artificial and self-conscious and could well give the impression of a hypocritical publicity hound. But Fuchida couldn’t claim to be an expert on American psychology and public opinion; presumably Sachs understood his countrymen. And so Fuchida went along with the plan. His estimate of the situation turned out to be correct. A sounding out of the plan in the Honolulu press revealed that such an act would be unpopular, to put it mildly. After about two weeks Sachs officially withdrew the request, much to Fuchida’s relief (God's Samurai, pp. 251-252).
This is hardly the description of an arrogant, attention-seeking former pilot that Parshall tries to make Fuchida to appear.
Here’s an alternate account of a similar event ten years later, taken from Thurston Clark’s book Pearl Harbor Ghosts, pp. 120-121:
“On December 6, 1966, Fuchida attended a dinner part at the home of Bud Smyser, editor of the Star-Bulletin. Among the guests were Kendall Fielder, chief of Army Intelligence in Hawaii in 1941, and his former deputy, George Bicknell. I read an account of the occasion in a newspaper clipping and noticed that Fielder, unable to manage the customer ‘all is forgiven’ statement, had said, ‘You try to forgive and forget.’ He was described as pausing for a moment before adding, ‘I lost a lot of friends that day.’
Bud Smyser told me Fuchida stood in the middle of the room. At first he was nervous and the conversation was stilted. The atmosphere changed when Smyser’s six-year-old son asked, ‘How big were the bombs you dropped?’ Smyser produced photographs of the attack taken by Japanese planes, perhaps by Fuchida himself, and Fuchida immediately ‘lightened up.’ He moved a finger back and forth across the photographs, naming every ship.
Bicknell’s widow told me, ‘Fuchida’s eyes were glowing, you could see he was thrilled. As he made those zooming motions with his hands, I thought, ‘He’s still in the air bombing Pearl Harbor. It was the high point of his life, and he’s still there.’”
Clark concluded, “The more I learned about Fuchida, the less I liked him.”
Again, I don’t really care one way or the other. I’ve offered my speculation on Fuchida’s motives and inner workings. If Mr. Bennett doesn’t care to accept them, that’s fine. Again, the material issue at hand is simply the facts around Fuchida’s historical misstatements.
Let me pose some questions for Jon. Does he personally demonstrate the kind of integrity and character he demands of Fuchida? Has he demonstrated these qualities in his “Whopper” article? Would he want his own life and character to be judged by the same standard, using hearsay, conjecture, and fiction by someone who believed the worst when faced with questionable information? Would Parshall want anyone to judge his life with the same standard of presumption of guilt, then broadcast it without him being able to respond?
I can’t really cure the fact that Fuchida’s dead. Apparently, by Mr. Bennett’s standards, historians are no longer allowed to write about dead people.
How could Parshall get so many things so very wrong? In his dash to “bury Fuchida” I believe he ended up burying the truth.
To recapitulate: thus far, I have conceded two nitpicks regarding the precise usage of the word “technical advisor,” as well as Fuchida’s knowledge of invasion plans vis-à-vis Hawaii. That’s it. Oh, and I shouldn’t have said Fuchida was “ordained.” My bad. That said, I stand by the rest of my conclusions. I have bolstered them with additional information, as well as clarifications. It is, in fact, Mr. Bennett that has gotten many, many things very, very wrong.
I don’t believe that what Parshall has done here isn’t right, it isn’t fair, and it’s certainly not professional, nor would he ever want anyone to assault his character in the same way, nor would I stand for it. I would be among the first to dig out Parshall were someone to attempt to “bury” him with speculation and hearsay, and I mean it.
Which is a fascinating statement given the overall tone, and very personal attacks, of Mr. Bennett’s remarks thus far.
I doesn't seem that Parshall ever took the time to actually read the complete story of Fuchida. Had he done so, he may have had a much clearer and accurate picture of who Fuchida really was. I hope one day he does. Half of the book is about his post-war years and who he became. He was once a man filled with hatred toward Americans with an inflated pride in Japan, but in the end he was a humble man who loved his former enemies. Some people can and do change. Fuchida did.
My reading on Fuchida never encompassed his complete life, because it wasn’t relevant to my research. As a writer, I am primarily interested in the events around the year 1942, and I focus on that. I don’t deliberately expand my reading list to encompass subjects which are uninteresting, and Fuchida’s post-war career very much falls into that category for me. The only reason I addressed Fuchida’s lack of credibility in Shattered Sword was because his account of Midway was so blatantly wrong that it demanded correction. Had Fuchida’s Midway been simply a minor work of history, it wouldn’t have mattered much. But his account had cemented Western understanding of this battle for decades, and it demanded redress.
Again, Mr. Bennett here misses a central point. What Fuchida became after the war is immaterial to his place as an historical author. Fuchida’s charitable acts and personal humility and whatever else are utterly irrelevant to the study of World War II history. Historians are interested in matters of fact and evidence. Historians don’t care what the giver of an account happens to do in his off hours. Whether Fuchida happened to be working in a soup kitchen and feeding the poor during the times that he wasn’t busy prevaricating to to us is immaterial. We only care that he wasn't telling the truth. In this sense, Fuchida’s life after his conversion, laudable as it may have been, cannot rehabilitate his historical writings. Mr. Bennett needs to be able to separate "Fuchida the Christian" from "Fuchida the Prevaricator" and move on with his film project. Both of these men lived, and they both existed simultaneously.
Fuchida made some horrible mistakes in his life, but he admitted them and made huge changes. What about Jon Parshall? Some small ones maybe?
I politely note that I am unaware of Fuchida ever retracting any facets of his military accounts during his lifetime. Quite the opposite—they expanded in grandiosity as he aged. Given the close cooperation between Prange and Fuchida, there were certainly ample opportunities for Fuchida to come clean, had he wished to. He may not
have felt that he was able to, or he may simply have not wanted to. Either way, Fuchida’s errors were never corrected by Fuchida—it took other historians, both Japanese and American (and not just me), to correct the record. Which brings me too...
Another Trip To The Drive-Thru: Three More Wartime Whoppers Courtesy of Mitsuo Fuchida