ONE DAY OF MAGIC
At 1:28 on the morning of December 7, 1941, the big ear of the Navy's radio station on Bainbridge Island near Seattle trembled to vibrations in the ether. A message was coming through on the Tokyo-Washington circuit. It was addressed to the Japanese embassy, and Bainbridge reached up and snared it as it flashed overhead. The message was short, and its radiotelegraph transmission took only nine minutes. Bainbridge had it all by 1:37.
The station's personnel punched the intercepted message on a teletype tape, dialed a number on the teletypewriter exchange, and, when the connection had been made, fed the tape into a mechanical transmitter that gobbled it up at 60 words per minute.
The intercept reappeared on a page-printer in Room 1649 of the Navy Department building on Constitution Avenue in Washington, D.C. What went on in this room, tucked for security's sake at the end of the first deck's sixth wing, was one of the most closely guarded secrets of the American government. For it was in here -- and in a similar War Department room in the Munitions Building next door -- that the United States peered into the most confidential thoughts and plans of its possible enemies by shredding the coded wrappings of their dispatches.
Room 1649 housed OP-20-GY, the cryptanalytic section of the Navy's cryptologic organization, OP-20-G. The page-printer stood beside the desk of the GY watch officer. It rapped out the intercept in an original and a carbon copy on yellow and pink teletype paper just like news on a city room wire-service ticker. The watch officer, Lieutenant (j.g.) Francis M. Brotherhood, U.S.N.R., a curly-haired, brown-eyed six-footer, saw immediately from indicators that the message bore for the guidance of Japanese code clerks that it was in the top Japanese cryptographic system.
This was an extremely complicated machine cipher which American cryptanalysts called PURPLE. Led by William F. Friedman, Chief Cryptanalyst of the Army Signal Corps, a team of codebreakers had solved Japan's enciphered dispatches, deduced the nature of the mechanism that would effect those letter transformations, and painstakingly built up an apparatus that cryptographically duplicated the Japanese machine. The Signal Corps had then constructed several additional PURPLE machines, using a hodgepodge of manufactured parts, and had given one to the Navy. Its three components rested now on a table in Room 1649: an electric typewriter for input; the cryptographic assembly proper, consisting of a plugboard, four electric coding rings, and associated wires and switches, set on a wooden frame; and a printing unit for output. To this precious contraption, worth quite literally more than its weight in gold, Brotherhood carried the intercept.
He flicked the switches to the key of December 7. This was a rearrangement, according to a pattern ascertained months ago, of the key of December 1, which OP-20-GY had recovered. Brotherhood typed out the coded message. Electric impulses raced through the maze of wires, reversing the intricate enciphering process. In a few minutes, he had the plaintext before him.
It was in Japanese. Brotherhood had taken some of the orientation courses in that difficult language that the Navy gave to assist its cryptanalysts. He was in no sense a translator, however, and none was on duty next door in OP-20-GZ, the translating section. He put a red priority sticker on the decode and hand-carried it to the Signal Intelligence Service, the Army counterpart of OP-20-G, where he knew that a translator was on overnight duty. Leaving it there, he returned to OP-20-G. By now it was after 5 a.m. in Washington -- the message having lost three hours as it passed through three time zones in crossing the continent.
The S.I.S. translator rendered the Japanese as: "Will the Ambassador please submit to the United States Government (if possible to the Secretary of State) our reply to the United States at 1:00 p.m. on the 7th, your time." The -- "reply" referred to had been transmitted by Tokyo in 14 parts over the past 18' hours, and Brotherhood had only recently decrypted the 14th part on the PURPLE machine. It had come out in the English in which Tokyo had framed it, and its ominous final sentence read: "The Japanese Government regrets to have to notify hereby the American Government that in view of the attitude of the American Government it cannot but consider that it is impossible to reach an agreement through further negotiations." Brotherhood had set it by for distribution early in the morning.
The translation of the message directing delivery at one o'clock had not yet come back from S.I.S. when Brotherhood was relieved at 7 a.m., and he told his relief, Lieutenant (j.g.) Alfred V. Pering, about it. Half an hour later, Lieutenant Commander Alwin D. Kramer, the Japanese-language expert who headed GZ and delivered the intercepts, arrived. He saw at once that the all-important conclusion of the long Japanese diplomatic note had come in since he had distributed the 13 previous parts the night before. He prepared a smooth copy from the rough decode and had his clerical assistant, Chief Yeoman H. L. Bryant, type up the usual 14 copies. Twelve of these were distributed by Kramer and his opposite number in S.I.S. to the President, the secretaries of State, War, and Navy, and a handful of top-ranking Army and Navy officers. The two others were file copies. This decode was part of a whole series of Japanese intercepts, which had long ago been given a collective codename, partly for security, partly for ease of reference, by a previous director of naval intelligence, Rear Admiral Walter S. Anderson. Inspired, no doubt, by the mysterious daily production of the information and by the aura of sorcery and the occult that has always enveloped cryptology, he called it MAGIC.
When Bryant had finished, Kramer sent S.I.S. its seven copies, and at 8 o'clock took a copy to his superior, Captain Arthur H. McCollum, head of the Far Eastern Section of the Office of Naval Intelligence.
He then busied himself in his office, working on intercepted traffic, until 9:30, when he left to deliver the 14th part of Tokyo's reply to Admiral Harold F. Stark, the Chief of Naval Operations, to the White House, and to Frank Knox, the Secretary of the Navy. Knox was meeting at 10 a.m. that Sunday morning in the State Department with Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson and Secretary of State Cordell Hull to discuss the critical nature of the American negotiations with Japan, which, they knew from the previous 13 parts, had virtually reached an impasse. Kramer returned to his office about 10:20, where the translation of the message referring to the one o'clock delivery had arrived from S.I.S. while he was on his rounds.
Its import crashed in upon him at once. It called for the rupture of Japan's negotiations with the United States by a certain deadline. The hour set for the Japanese ambassadors to deliver the notification -- 1 p.m. on a Sunday -- was highly unusual. And, as Kramer had quickly ascertained by drawing a navigator's time circle, 1 p.m. in Washington meant 7:30 a.m. in Hawaii and a couple of hours before dawn in the tense Far East around Malaya, which Japan had been threatening with ships and troops.
Kramer immediately directed Bryant to insert the one o'clock message into the reddish-brown looseleaf cardboard folders in which the MAGIC intercepts were bound. He included several other intercepts, adding one at the last minute, then slipped the folders into the leather briefcases, zipped these shut, and snapped their padlocks. Within ten minutes he was on his way.
He went first to Admiral Stark's office, where a conference was in session, and indicated to McCollum, who took the intercept from him, the nature of the message and the significance of its timing. McCollum grasped it at once and disappeared into Stark's office. Kramer wheeled and hurried down the passageway. He emerged from the Navy Department building and turned right on Constitution Avenue, heading for the meeting in the State Department eight blocks away. The urgency of the situation washed over him again, and he began to move on the double.
This moment, with Kramer running through the empty streets of Washington bearing his crucial intercept, an hour before sleepy code clerks at the Japanese embassy had even deciphered it and an hour before the Japanese planes roared off the carrier flight decks on their treacherous mission, is perhaps the finest hour in the history of cryptology. Kramer ran while an unconcerned nation slept late, ignored aggression in the hope that it would go away, begged the hollow gods of isolationism for peace, and refused to entertain -- except humorously -- the possibility that the little yellow men of Japan would dare attack the mighty United States. The American cryptanalytic organization swept through this miasma of apathy to reach a peak of alertness and accomplishment unmatched on that day of infamy by any other agency in the United States. That is its great achievement, and its glory. Kramer's sprint symbolizes it.
Why, then, did it not prevent Pearl Harbor? Because Japan never sent any message saying anything like "We will attack Pearl Harbor." It was therefore impossible for the cryptanalysts to solve one. Messages had been intercepted and read in plenty dealing with Japanese interest in warship movements into and out of Pearl Harbor, but these were evaluated by responsible intelligence officers as on a par with the many messages dealing with American warships in other ports and the Panama Canal. The causes of the Pearl Harbor disaster are many and complex, but no one has ever laid any of whatever blame there may be at the doors of OP-20-G or S.I.S. On the contrary, the Congressional committee that investigated the attack praised them for fulfilling their duty in a manner that "merits the highest commendation."
As the climax of war rushed near, the two agencies -- together the most efficient and successful codebreaking organization that had ever existed -- scaled heights of accomplishment greater than any they had ever achieved. The Congressional committee, seeking the responsibility for the disaster, exposed their activity on almost a minute-by-minute basis. For the first time in history, it photographed in fine-grained detail the operation of a modern codebreaking organization at a moment of crisis. This is that film. It depicts OP-20-G and S.I.S. in the 24 hours preceding the Pearl Harbor attack, with the events of the past as prologue. It is the story of one day of MAGIC.
The two American cryptanalytic agencies had not sprung full-blown into being like Athena from the brow of Zeus. The Navy had been solving at least the simpler Japanese diplomatic and naval codes in Rooms 1649 and 2646 on the "deck" above since the 1920s. Among the personnel assigned to cryptan alytical duties were some of the Navy's approximately 50 language officers who had served in Japan for three years studying that exceedingly difficult tongue. One of them was Lieutenant Ellis M. Zacharias, later to become famous as an expert in psychological warfare against Japan. After seven months of training in Washington in 1926, he took charge of the naval listening station on the fourth floor of the American consulate in Shanghai, where he intercepted and cryptanalyzed Japanese naval traffic. This post remained in operation until it was evacuated to Corregidor in December, 1940. Long before then, radio intelligence units had been set up in Hawaii and in the Philippines, with headquarters in Washington exercising general supervision.
The Army's cryptanalytical work during the 1920s was centered in the so-called American Black Chamber under Herbert O. Yardley, who had organized it as a cryptologic section of military intelligence in World War I. It was maintained in secrecy in New York jointly by the War and State departments, and perhaps its greatest achievement was its 1920 solution of Japanese diplomatic codes. At the same time, the Army's cryptologic research and code-compiling functions were handled by William Friedman, then as later a civilian employee of the Signal Corps. In 1929, Henry L. Stimson, then Secretary of State, withdrew State Department support from the Black Chamber on ethical grounds, dissolving it. The Army decided to consolidate and enlarge its codemaking and codebreaking activities. Accordingly, it created the Signal Intelligence Service, with Friedman as chief, and, in 1930, hired three junior cryptanalysts and two clerks.
The following year, a Japanese general suddenly occupied Manchuria and set up a puppet Manchu emperor, and the government of the island empire of Nippon fell into the hands of the militarists. Their avarice for power, their desire to enrich their have-not nation, their hatred for white Occidental civilization, started them on a decade-long march of conquest. They withdrew from the League of Nations. They began beefing up the Army. They denounced the naval disarmament treaties and began an almost frantic shipbuilding race. Nor did they neglect, as part of their war-making capital, their cryptographic assets. In 1934, their Navy purchased a commercial German cipher machine called the Enigma; that same year, the Foreign Office adopted it, and it evolved into the most secret Japanese system of cryptography. A variety of other cryptosystems supplemented it. The War, Navy, and Foreign ministries shared the superenciphered numerical HATO code for intercommunication. Each ministry also had its own hierarchy of codes. The Foreign Office, for example, employed four main systems, each for a specific level of security, as well as some additional miscellaneous ones.
Meanwhile, the modern-style shoguns speared into defenseless China, sank the American gunboat Panay, raped Nanking, molested American hospitals and missions in China, and raged at American embargoes on oil and steel scrap. It became increasingly evident that Nippon's march of aggression would eventually collide with American rectitude. The mounting curve of tension was matched by the rising output of the American cryptanalytic agencies. A trickle of MAGIC in 1936 had become a stream in 1940. Credit for this belongs largely to Major General Joseph O. Mauborgne, who became Chief Signal Officer in October, 1937.
Mauborgne had long been interested in cryptology. In 1914, as a young first lieutenant, he achieved the first recorded solution of a cipher known as the Playfair, then used by the British as their field cipher. He described his technique in a 19-page pamphlet that was the first publication on cryptology issued by the United States government. In World War I, he put together several cryptographic elements to create the only theoretically unbreakable cipher, and promoted the first automatic cipher machine, with which the unbreakable cipher was associated. He was among the first to send and receive radio messages in airplanes. As Chief Signal Officer, he retained enough of his flair for cryptanalysis to solve a short and difficult challenge cipher. He was also talented in other directions: he played the violin well and was an accomplished artist, exhibiting at, among others, the Chicago Art Institute.
When he became head of the Signal Corps, he immediately set about augmenting the important cryptanalytic activities. He established the S.I.S. as an independent division reporting directly to him, enlarged its functions, set up branches, started correspondence courses, added intercept facilities, increased its budget, and put on more men. In 1939, when war broke out in Europe, S.I.S. was the first agency in the War Department to receive more funds, personnel, and space. Perhaps most important of all, Mauborgne's intense interest inspired his men to outstanding accomplishments. More and more codes were broken, and as the international situation stimulated an increasing flow of intercepts, the MAGIC intelligence approached flood stage.
Mauborgne retired in September, 1941, leaving an expanded organization running with smooth efficiency. By then the Japanese had completed the basic outline for a dawn attack on Pearl Harbor. The plan had been conceived in the fertile brain of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, Commander-in-Chief Combined Fleet, Imperial Japanese Navy. Early in the year, he had ordered a study of the operation, contending that "If we have war with the United States, we will have no hope of winning unless the United States fleet in Hawaiian waters can be destroyed." By May, 1941, studies had shown the feasibility of a surprise air attack, statistics had been gathered, and operational planning was under way.
In the middle of that month, the U.S. Navy took an important step in the radio intelligence field. It detached a 43-year-old lieutenant commander from his intelligence berth aboard U.S.S. Indianapolis and assigned him to reorganize and strengthen the radio intelligence unit at Pearl Harbor. The officer was Joseph John Rochefort, the only man in the Navy with expertise in three closely related and urgently needed fields: cryptanalysis, radio, and the Japanese language. Rochefort, who had begun his career as an enlisted man, had headed the Navy's cryptographic section from 1925 to 1927. Two years later, a married man with a child, he was sent, because of his outstanding abilities, as a language student to Japan, a hard post to which ordinarily only bachelor officers were sent. This three-year tour was followed by half a year in naval intelligence; most of the next eight years were spent at sea.
Finally, in June of 1941, Rochefort took over the command of what was then known as the Radio Unit of the 14th Naval District in Hawaii. To disguise its functions he renamed it the Combat Intelligence Unit. His mission was to find out, through communications intelligence, as much as possible about the dispositions and operations of the Japanese Navy. To this end he was to cryptanalyze all minor and one of the two major Japanese naval cryptosystems.
His chief target was the flag officers' system, the Japanese Navy's most difficult and the one in which it encased its most secret information. From about 1926 to the end of November, 1940, previous editions had provided the U.S. Navy with much of its information on the Japanese Navy. But the new version -- a four-character code with a transposition superencipherment -- was stoutly resisting the best efforts of the Navy's most skilled cryptanalysts, and Rochefort was urged to concentrate on it. The other major system, the main fleet cryptographic system, the most widely used, comprised a code with five-digit codenumbers to which were added a key of other numbers to complicate the system. The Navy called it the "five numeral system," or, more formally, JN25b -- the JN for "Japanese Navy," the 25 an identifying number, the b for the second (and current) edition. Navy cryptanalytic units in Washington and the Philippines were working on this code. Rochefort's unit did not attack this but did attack the eight or ten lesser codes dealing with personnel, engineering, administration, weather, fleet exercises.
But cryptanalysis was only part of the unit's task. The great majority of its 100 officers and men worked on two other aspects of radio intelligence -- direction-finding and traffic analysis.
Direction-finding locates radio transmitters. Since radio signals are heard best when the receiver points at the transmitter, sensitive antennas can find the direction from which a signal is coming by swinging until they hear it at its loudest. If two direction-finders take bearings like that on a signal and a control center draws the lines of direction on a map, the point at which they cross marks the position of the transmitter. Such a fix can tell quite precisely where, for example, a ship is operating. Successive fixes can plot its course and speed.
To exploit this source of information, the Navy in 1937 established the Mid-Pacific Strategic Direction-Finder Net. By 1941, high-frequency direction-finders curved in a gigantic arc from Cavite in the Philippines through Guam, Samoa, Midway, and Hawaii to Dutch Harbor, Alaska. The 60 or 70 officers and men who staffed these outposts reported their bearings to Hawaii, where Rochefort's unit translated them into fixes. For example, on October 16, the ship with call-sign KUNA 1 was located at 10.7 degrees north latitude, 166.7 degrees east longitude -- or within Japan's mandated islands.
These findings did not serve merely to keep an eye on the day-to-day locations of Japanese warships. They also formed the basis of the even more fruitful technique of traffic analysis. Traffic analysis deduces the lines of command of military or naval forces by ascertaining which radios talk to which. And since military operations are usually accompanied by an increase in communications, traffic analysis can infer the imminence of such operations by watching the volume of traffic. When combined with direction-finding, it can often approximate the where and when of a planned movement.
Radio intelligence thus maintains a long-range, invisible, and continuous surveillance of fleet movements and organization, providing a wealth of information at a low cost. Of course it has its limitations. A change of the call-signs of radio transmitters can hinder it. The sending of fictitious messages can befuddle it. Radio silences can deafen it. But it cannot be wholly prevented except by unacceptable restrictions on communications. Hence the Navy relied increasingly on it for its information on Japanese naval activities as security tightened in Japan during 1941, and almost exclusively after July, when the President's trade-freezing order deprived the Navy of all visual observations of Japanese ships not on the China coast.
It was in July that a Japanese tactic set up a radio pattern that was later to deceive the Combat Intelligence Unit. The Nipponese militarists had decided to take advantage of France's defeat and occupy French Indochina. The naval preparations for the successful grab were clearly indicated in the radio traffic, which went through the usual three stages that preceded major Japanese operations. First appeared a heavy flurry of messages. The Commander-in-Chief Combined Fleet busily originated traffic, talking with many commands to the south, thereby indicating the probable direction of his advance. Then came a realignment of forces. In the lingo of the tranalysis people, certain chickens (fleet units) no longer had their old mothers (fleet commanders). Call-sign NOTA 4, which usually communicated with OYO 8, now talked mostly with ORU 6. Accompanying this was a considerable confusion in the routing of messages, with frequent retransmissions caused by the regrouping: Admiral Z not here; try Second Fleet. Then followed the third phase: radio silence. The task force was now under way. Messages would be addressed to it, but none would emanate from it.
During all this, however, not only were no messages heard from the aircraft carriers, none were sent to them, either. This blank condition exceeded radio silence, which suppresses traffic in only one direction -- from the mobile force -- not in both. American intelligence reasoned that the carriers were standing by in home waters as a covering force in case of counterattack, and that communications both to and from them were not heard because they were being sent out by short-range, low-powered transmissions that died away before reaching American receivers. Such a blank condition had obtained in a similar tactical situation in February. American intelligence had drawn the same conclusions then and had been proven right. Events soon confirmed the July assessment as well. Twice, then, a complete blank of carrier communications combined with indications of a strong southward thrust had meant the presence of the carriers in Empire waters. But what happened in February and July was not necessarily what would happen in December.
During the summer and fall of 1941, the pressure of events molded America's two cryptanalytic agencies closer and closer to the form they were to have on December 7. The Signal Intelligence Service, which had 181 officers, enlisted men, and civilians in Washington and 150 at intercept stations in the field on Pearl Harbor Day, had been headed since March by Lieutenant Colonel Rex W. Minckler, a career Signal Corps officer. Friedman served as his chief technical assistant. S.I.S. comprised the Signal Intelligence School, which trained Regular Army and Reserve officers in cryptology, the 2nd Signal Service Company, which staffed the intercept posts, and four Washington sections of the S.I.S. proper: the A, or administrative, which also operated the tabulating machinery; the B, or cryptanalytic; the C, or cryptographic, which prepared new U.S. Army systems, studied the current systems for security, and monitored Army traffic for security violations; and the D, or laboratory, which concocted secret inks and tested suspected documents.
The B section, under Major Harold S. Doud, a West Point graduate, had as its mission the solution of the military and diplomatic systems not only of Japan but of other countries. In this it apparently achieved at least a fair success, though no Japanese military systems -- the chief of which was a code employing four-digit codenumbers -- were readable by December 7 because of a paucity of material. Doud's technical assistant was a civilian, Frank B. Rowlett, one of the three original junior cryptanalysts hired in 1930. The military man in charge of Japanese diplomatic solutions was Major Eric Svensson.
The Navy's official designation of OP-20-G indicated that the agency was the G section of the 20th division of OPNAV, the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, the Navy's headquarters establishment. The 20th division was the Office of Naval Communications, and the G section was the Communication Security Section. This carefully chosen name masked its cryptanalytic activities, though its duties did include U.S. Navy cryptography.
Its chief was Commander Laurence F. Safford, 48, a tall, blond Annapolis graduate who was the Navy's chief expert in cryptology. In January, 1924, he had become the officer in charge of the newly created research desk in the Navy's Code and Signal Section. Here he founded the Navy's communication-intelligence organization. After sea duty from 1926 to 1929, he returned to cryptologic activities for three more years, when sea duty was again made necessary by the "Manchu" laws, which required officers of the Army and Navy to serve in the field or at sea to win promotion. He took command of OP-20-G in 1936. One of his principal accomplishments before the outbreak of war was the establishment of the Mid-Pacific Strategic Direction-Finder Net and of a similar net for the Atlantic, where it was to play a role of immense importance in the Battle of the Atlantic against the U-boats.
Safford's organization enjoyed broad cryptologic functions. It printed new editions of codes and ciphers and distributed them, and contracted with manufacturers for cipher machines. It developed new systems for the Navy. It comprehended such subsections as GI, which wrote reports based on radio intelligence from the field units, and GL, a record-keeping and historical-research group. But its main interest centered on cryptanalysis.
This activity was distributed among units in Washington, Hawaii, and the Philippines. Only Washington attacked foreign diplomatic systems and naval codes used in the Atlantic theater (primarily German). Rochefort had primary responsibility for the Japanese naval systems. The Philippines chipped away at JN25 and did some diplomatic deciphering, with keys provided by Washington. That unit, which like Rochefort's was attached for administrative purposes to the local naval district (the 16th), was installed in a tunnel of the island fortress of Corregidor. It was equipped with 26 radio receivers, apparatus for intercepting both high- and low-speed transmissions, a direction-finder, and tabulating machinery. Lieutenant Rudolph J. Fabian, 33, an Annapolis graduate who had had three years of communication intelligence in Washington and the Philippines, commanded. The 7 officers and 19 men in his cryptanalytic group exchanged possible recoveries of JN25b codegroups with Washington and with a British group in Singapore; each group also had a liaison man with the other.
Of the Navy's total radio-intelligence establishment of about 700 officers and men, two thirds were engaged in intercept or direction-finding activities and one third -- including most of the 80 officers -- in cryptanalysis and translation. Safford sized up the personnel of his three units this way: Pearl Harbor had some of the best officers, most of whom had four or five years of radio intelligence experience; the crew at Corregidor, which in general had only two or three years' experience, was "young, enthusiastic, and capable"; Washington -- responsible for both overall supervision and training -- had some of the most experienced personnel, with more than ten years' experience, and many of the least: 90 per cent of the unit had less than a year's experience.
Under Safford in the three subsections most closely involved with cryptanalysis were Lieutenant Commanders George W. Welker of GX, the intercept and direction-finding subsection, Lee W. Parke of GY, the cryptanalytical subsection, and Kramer of GZ, the translation and dissemination subsection. GY attacked new systems and recovered new keys for solved systems, such as PURPLE. But while it made the initial breaks in code solutions, the detailed recovery of codegroups (which was primarily a linguistic problem as compared to the more mathematical cipher solutions) was left to GZ. Four officers in GY, assisted by chief petty officers, stood round-the-clock watches. Senior watch officer was Lieutenant (j.g.) George W. Lynn; the others were Lieutenants (j.g.) Brotherhood, Pering, and Allan A. Murray. GY had others on its staff, such as girl typists who also did the simple deciphering of some diplomatic messages after the watch officers and other cryptanalysts had found the keys.
Kramer was in an odd position. Though he worked in OP-20-GZ, he was formally attached to OP-16-F2 -- the Far Eastern Section of the Office of Naval Intelligence. This arrangement was intended in part to throw off the Japanese, who might have inferred some measure of success in codebreaking if a Japanese-language officer like Kramer were assigned to communications, in part to have an officer with a broad intelligence background distribute MAGIC so that he could answer the recipients' questions. Kramer, 38, who had studied in Japan from 1931 to 1934, had had two tours in O.N.I. proper before being assigned full time to GZ in June, 1940. An Annapolis graduate, chess fan, and rifle marksman, he lived in a world in which everything had one right way to be done. He chose his words with almost finicky exactness (one of his favorites was "precise"); he kept his pencil mustache trimmed to a hair; he filed his papers tidily; he often studied his MAGIC intercepts several times over before delivering them. Included in this philosophy was his duty. He performed it with great responsibility, intelligence, and dedication.
The first task of OP-20-G and of S.I.S. was to obtain raw material for the cryptanalysts. And in peacetime America that was not easy.
Section 605 of the Federal Communications Act of 1934, which prohibits wiretaps, also prohibits the interception of messages between foreign countries and the United States and territories. General Malin Craig, Chief of Staff from 1937 to 1939, was acutely aware of this, and his attitude dampened efforts to intercept the Japanese diplomatic messages coming into America. But after General George C. Marshall succeeded to Craig's post, the exigencies of national defense relegated that problem in his mind to the status of a legalistic quibble. The cryptanalytic agencies pressed ahead in their intercept programs. The extreme secrecy in which they were cloaked helped them avoid detection. They concentrated on radio messages, since the cable companies, fully cognizant of the legal restrictions, in general refused to turn over any foreign communications to them. Consequently, 95 per cent of the intercepts were radio messages. The remainder was split between cable intercepts and photographs of messages on file at a few cooperative cable offices.
To pluck the messages from the airwaves, the Navy relied mainly on its listening posts at Bainbridge Island in Puget Sound; Winter Harbor, Maine; Cheltenham, Maryland; Heeia, Oahu; and Corregidor and to a lesser degree on stations at Guam; Imperial Beach, California; Amagansett, Long Island and Jupiter, Florida. Each station was assigned certain frequencies to cover. Bainbridge Island, which was called Station S, copied solid the schedule of Japanese government messages between Tokyo and San Francisco. Its two sound recorders guarded the radiotelephone band of that circuit; presumably it was equipped to unscramble the relatively simple sound inversion that then provided privacy from casual eavesdropping. Diplomatic messages were transmitted almost exclusively by commercial radio using roman letters. The naval radiograms, however, employed the special Morse code devised for kata kana, a syllabic script of Japanese. The Navy picked these up with operators trained in Japanese Morse and recorded them on a special typewriter that it had developed for the roman-letter equivalents of the kana characters. The Army's stations, called Monitor Posts, were: No. 1, Fort Hancock, New Jersey; No. 2, San Francisco; No. 3, Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio; No. 4, Panama; No. 5, Fort Shafter, Honolulu; No. 6, Fort Mills, Manila; No. 7, Fort Hunt, Virginia; No. 9, Rio de Janeiro.
At first both services airmailed messages from their intercept posts to Washington. But this proved too slow. The Pan-American Clipper, which carried Army intercepts from Hawaii to the mainland, departed only once a week on the average, and weather sometimes caused cancellations, forcing messages to be sent by ship. As late as the week before Pearl Harbor, two Army intercepts from Rio did not reach Washington for eleven days. Such delays compelled the Navy to install teletypewriter service in 1941 between Washington and its intercept stations in the continental U.S. The station would perforate a batch of intercepts onto a teletype tape, connect with Washington through a teletypewriter exchange, and run the tape through mechanically at 60 words per minute, cutting toll charges to one third the cost of manually sending each message individually. Outlying stations of both the Army and Navy picked out Japanese messages bearing certain indicators, enciphered the Japanese cryptograms in an American system, and radioed them to Washington. The reencipherment was to keep the Japanese from knowing of the extensive American cryptanalytic effort. Only the three top Japanese systems were involved in this expensive radio retransmission: PURPLE, RED (a machine system that antedated PURPLE, which had supplanted it at major embassies, but that was still in use for legations such as Vladivostok), and the J series of enciphered codes. The Army did not install a teletype for intercepts from its continental posts until the afternoon of December 6, 1941; the first messages (from San Francisco) were received in the early morning hours of December 7.
The intercept services missed little. Of the 227 messages pertaining to Japanese-American negotiations sent between Tokyo and Washington from March to December, 1941, all but four were picked up.
In Honolulu, where a large Japanese population produced nightmares of antlike espionage and potential sabotage, the 14th Naval District's intelligence officer, Captain Irving S. Mayfield, had long sought to obtain copies of the cablegrams of Consul General Nagao Kita. If Rochefort's unit could solve these, Mayfield figured, he might know better which Japanese to shadow and what information they sought.
His intuitions were sound. On March 27, 1941, not two weeks after Mayfield himself took up his duties, a young ensign of the Imperial Japanese Navy, 25-year-old Takeo Yoshikawa, who had steeped himself in information about the American Navy, arrived in Honolulu to serve as Japan's only military espionage agent covering Pearl Harbor. Under the cover-name "Tadasi Morimura," he was assigned to the consulate as a secretary. He promptly made himself obnoxious -- and drew suspicion upon himself within the consulate staff -- by coming to work late or not at all, getting drunk frequently, having women in his quarters overnight, and even insulting the consul himself on occasion. But he managed to tour the islands, and within a month was sending such messages as: "Warships observed at anchor on the 11th [of May, 1941] in Pearl Harbor were as follows: Battleships, 11: Colorado, West Virginia, California, Tennessee...." These were sent in the consulate's diplomatic systems, not in naval code.
But Mayfield's hopes of peering into these secret activities through the window of a broken code were stymied by the refusal of the cable offices to violate the statute against interception. His desires grew more intense as another source failed to yield any information of counterespionage activity. For months one of his enlisted men, Theodore Emanuel, had tapped half a dozen of the consulate's telephone lines, recorded the 50 or 60 calls made on them each day, and turned the recordings over to Lieutenant Denzel Carr for translation and summarization. But this eavesdropping produced at best some juicy items about bachelor Kita's sex life (such as his chasing a maid around a bedpost one night after a sake-soaked Japanese wedding); there was little to help Mayfield.
So when David Sarnoff, president of the Radio Corporation of America, vacationed in Hawaii, Mayfield spoke to him. It was subsequently arranged that thenceforth R.C.A.'s Japanese consulate messages would be quietly given to the naval authorities. But the consulate rotated its business among the several cable companies in Honolulu, and R.C.A.'s turn was not due until December 1.
In Washington, however, intercepts overwhelmed GY and S.I.S. The tiny staff of cryptanalysts simply could not cope with all of them expeditiously. This difficulty was resolved in two ways.
One was to cut out duplication of effort. At first, both services solved all their Japanese diplomatic intercepts. But beginning more than a year before Pearl Harbor, messages originating in Tokyo on odd-numbered days of the month were handled by the Navy, those on even days, by the Army. Each began breaking the messages sent in from its own intercept stations until it reached the Tokyo date of origin; it would then retain them or send them over as the dates indicated. The cryptanalysts utilized the extra time to attack as-yet-unbroken systems and to clean up backlogs.
The other method was to concentrate on the important intercepts and let the others slide, at least until the important ones were completed. But how can a cryptanalyst tell which messages are important until he has solved them? He cannot, but he can assume that messages sent in the more secret systems are the more important. All dispatches cannot be transmitted in a single system because the huge volume of traffic would enable cryptanalysts to break it too quickly. Hence most nations set up a hierarchy of systems, reserving the top ones for their vital needs.
Japan was no exception. Though her Foreign Office employed an almost bewildering variety of different codes, resorting, from time to time, to the Yokohama Specie Bank's private code, a Chinese ideographic code list, and codes bearing kata kana names, such as TA, JI, or HEN, it relied in the main on four systems. American cryptanalysts ranked these on four levels according to the inherent difficulty of their solution and the messages that they generally carried. Intercepts were then solved in the order of this priority schedule.
Simplest of all, and hence the lowest in rank and last to be read (excluding plain language), was the LA code, so called from the indicator group LA that preceded its codetexts. LA did little more than put kata kana into roman letters for telegraphic transmission and to secure some abbreviation for cable economy. Thus the kana for ki was replaced by the code form CI, the kana for to by IF, the two-kana combination of ka + n by CE. Its two-letter codewords, all of either vowel-consonant or consonant-vowel form and including such as ZO for 4, were supplemented by a list of four-letter codewords, such as TUVE for dollars, SISA for ryoji ("consul"), and XYGY for Yokohama. A very typical LA message is serial 01250 from the Foreign Minister to Kita, dated December 4, which begins in translation: "The following has been authorized as the year-end bonus for employee typists of your office." This sort of code is generally called a "passport code" because it usually serves for messages covering the administrative routine of a mission, such as issuance of passports and visas. LA was a particularly simple one to solve, partly because it had been in effect since 1925, partly because of the regularities in its construction. For example, all kana that ended in e had as code equivalents groups beginning with A (ke = AC, se = AD), and all that began with k had code equivalents beginning or ending with C. Identification of one kana would thus suggest the identification of others.
One rung up the cryptographic ladder was the system known to the Japanese as Oite and to American codebreakers as PA-K2. The PA part was a two- and four-letter code similar to the LA, though much more extensive and with codegroups disarranged. The K2 part was a transposition based on a keynumber. The letters from the PA encoding were written under this keynumber from right to left and then copied out in mixed order, taking first the letter under number 1, then the letter under number 2, until the row was completed. The process was repeated for successive rows.
For example, on December 4 Yoshikawa wired the Foreign Minister that "At 1 o'clock on the 4th a light cruiser of the Honolulu class hastily departed -- Morimura." In romaji (the roman-letter version of the kata kana) this became 4th gogo 1 kei jun (honoruru) kata hyaku shutsu ko -- morimura. In PA, with the parentheses getting their own codegroups (OQ and UQ), it assumed this form: BYDH DOST JE YO IA OQ GU RA HY HY UQ VI LA YJ AY EC TY FI BANL, with FI indicating use four-letter code. (The code clerk made two errors. After encoding kata by vi, he encoded an extra ta into LA and an unnecessary re into TY.) This was then written under the keynumber from right to left, with an extra letter I as a null to complete the final five-letter group:
Transcribed line by line according to the numbers (S under 1 first, D under 2 second, etc.), prefixed with system indicator GIGIG and key indicator AUDOB, the message number, and the telegraphic abbreviation of Sikuyu ("urgent"), the message (with three more errors: the Y under 13 became the J in CJYHH, the F under 2 became the E in IYJIE, and the T under 9 became the I in AUIAY) became the one actually sent over Kita's name:
PA-K2 did not pose much of a problem to experienced American cryptanalysts. Rochefort estimated that his unit could crack a PA-K2 message in from six hours to six days, with three days a good average. The transposition was vulnerable because each line was shuffled identically; the cryptanalyst could slice a cryptogram into groups of 15 or 17 or 19 and anagram these simultaneously until the predominant vowel-consonant alternation appeared on all lines; the underlying code could then be solved by assuming that the most frequent codegroups represented the most frequent kana (i, followed by ma, shi, o, etc.) and filling out the skeleton words that resulted. Since the system had remained in use for several years, this reconstruction had long been accomplished by the Washington agencies. Hence solution involved only unraveling any new transposition and, with luck, might take only a few hours. It could also take a few days. Primarily because of PA-K2'S deferred position in the priority list, an average of two to four days elapsed between interception and translation.
The code clerk in Honolulu enveloped Yoshikawa's final messages in PA-K2 only because higher-level codes had been destroyed December 2 on orders from Tokyo. Normally, espionage reports of shipping movements and military activities, sent routinely by Japanese consuls from their posts all over the world, were framed on that next level of secrecy. Here prevailed a succession of codes called TSU by the Japanese and the J series by Americans. These were even more extensive and more thoroughly disarranged than PA, and they were transposed by a system of far greater complexity than the rather simple and vulnerable K2. Furthermore, the code and the transposition were changed at frequent intervals. Thus J17-K6 was replaced on March 1 by J18-K8, and that in turn by J19-K9 on August 1.
The transposition was the real stumbling block. Like the K2, it used a keynumber, but it differed in being copied off vertically instead of horizontally, and in having a pattern of holes in the transposition blocks. These holes were left blank when the code groups are inscribed into the block. For example, letting the alphabet from A to V serve as the code message:
The letters were transcribed in columns in the order of the keynumbers, skipping over the blanks: BJMV EHKT NW CGORX AFILQU DPSY. This would be sent in the usual five-letter groups.
The first step in solving a columnar transposition like this, but without blanks, is to cut the cryptogram into the approximately equal segments that the cryptanalyst believes represent the columns of the original block. The blanks vastly increase the difficulty of this essential first step because they vary the length of the column segments. The second step is to reconstruct the block by trying one segment next to the other until a codeword-like pattern appears. Here again the blanks, by introducing gaps in unknown places between the letters of the segments, greatly hinder the cryptanalyst.
The problems of solving such a system are illustrated by the fact that J18-K8 was not broken until more than a month after its introduction. The cryptanalysts had to make a fresh analysis for each pattern of blanks and each transposition key. The key changed daily, the blank-pattern three times a month. Hence J19-K9 solutions were frequently delayed. The key and pattern for November 18 were not recovered until December 3; those for November 28, not until December 7. On the other hand, solution was sometimes effected within a day or two. Success usually depended on the quantity of intercepts in a given key. About 10 or 15 per cent of J19-K9 keys were never solved.
This situation contrasts with that of PURPLE, the most secret Japanese system, in which all but 2 or 3 per cent of keys were recovered and in which most messages were solved within hours. Did the Japanese err in assessing the security of their systems? Yes and no. PURPLE was easier to keep up with once it was solved, but it was a much more difficult system to break in the first place than J19-K9. The solution of the PURPLE machine was, in fact, the greatest feat of cryptanalysis the world had yet known.
The cipher machine that Americans knew as PURPLE bore the resounding official Japanese title of 97-shiki O-bun In-ji-ki. This meant Alphabetical Typewriter '97, the '97 an abbreviation for the year 2597 of the Japanese calendar, which corresponds to 1937. The Japanese usually referred to it simply as "the machine" or as "J," the name given it by the Imperial Japanese Navy, which had adapted it from the German Enigma cipher machine and then had lent it to the Foreign Ministry, which, in turn, had further modified it. Its operating parts were housed in a drawer-sized box between two big black electrically operated Underwood typewriters, which were connected to it by 26 wires plugged into a row of sockets called a plugboard. To encipher a message, the cipher clerk would consult the thick YU GO book of machine keys, plug in the wire connections according to the key for the day, turn the four disks in the box so the numbers on their edges were those directed by the YU GO, and type out the plaintext. His machine would record that plaintext while the other, getting the electric impulses after the coding box had twisted them through devious paths, would print out the ciphertext. Deciphering was the same, though the machine irritatingly printed the plaintext in the five-letter groups of the ciphertext input.
The Alphabetical Typewriter worked on roman letters, not kata kana. Hence it could encipher English as well as romaji -- and also roman-letter codetexts, like those of the J codes. Since the machine could not encipher numerals or punctuation, the code clerk first transformed them into three-letter codewords, given in a small code list, and enciphered these. The receiving clerk would restore the punctuation, paragraphing, and so on, when typing up a finished copy of the decode.
The guts and heart of the machine were the plugboards and the coding wheels. They diverted the current flowing along the connections from the input typewriter to the output one so that when the a key was depressed on the input keyboard an a would not be typed on the output machine. The diversion began with the plugboard connections. If the coding box were not present, a plugboard wire would take the electric impulse from the a key of the plaintext typewriter and bring it directly to, say, the R typebar of the ciphertext machine. Other wires would similarly connect the plaintext keys to noncorresponding ciphertext typebars. This would automatically produce a cipher, though a very elementary one. Each time plaintext a was depressed ciphertext R would appear. So simple a system affords no security. The plugboard connections can be changed from message to message, or even within a message, but this does not noticeably augment the system's strength.
Here is where the four coding wheels came in. Interposed between the plugboard of the plaintext typewriter and that of the ciphertext machine, they were shifted constantly with respect to one another by their supporting assembly. The enciphering current had to traverse their winding wire paths to get from one typewriter to the other, and the constant shifting continually set up different paths. Thus impulses from a given plaintext letter were switched through the box along ever varying detours to emerge at ever differing ciphertext letters. Plaintext a might be represented in a long message by all 26 letters. Conversely, any given ciphertext letter might stand for any one of 26 plaintext letters. Switches on the coding wheels could be flicked one way or the other; this constituted part of the key and was done by the code clerk before enciphering. Usually the plugboard connections were changed each day.
These factors united to produce a cipher of exceptional difficulty. The more a cipher deviates from the simple form in which one ciphertext letter invariably replaces the same plaintext letter, the harder it is to break. A cipher might replace a given plaintext letter by five different ciphertext letters in rotation, for example. But the Alphabetical Typewriter produced a substitution series hundreds of thousands of letters long. Its coding wheels, stepping a space -- or two, or three, or four -- after every letter or so, did not return to their original positions to re-create the same series of paths, and hence the same sequence of substitutes, until hundreds of thousands of letters had been enciphered. The task of the cryptanalysts consisted primarily of reconstructing the wiring and switches of the coding wheels -- a task made more burdensome by the daily change of plugboard connections. Once this was done, the cryptanalyst still had to determine the starting position of the coding wheels for each day's messages. But this was a comparatively simple secondary job.
American cryptanalysts knew none of these details when the Japanese Foreign Office installed the Alphabetical Typewriter in its major embassies in the late 1930s. How, then, did they solve it? Where did they begin? How did they even know that a new machine was in service, since the Japanese government did not announce it?
The PURPLE machine supplanted the RED machine, which American cryptanalysts had solved, and so probably their first clue to the new machine was the disconcerting discovery that they could no longer read the important Japanese messages. At the same time, they observed new indicators for the PURPLE system. Clues to the system's nature came from such characteristics of its ciphertext as the frequency of letters, the percentage of blanks (letters that did not appear in a given message), and the nature and number of repetitions. Perhaps the codebreakers also assumed that the new machine comprised essentially a more complicated and improved version of the one it replaced. In this they were right.
Their first essays at breaking into the cipher both accompanied and supplemented their attempts to determine the type of cipher. Their previous success with the RED machine and with the lesser systems had given them insight into the Japanese diplomatic forms of address, favorite phrases, and style (paragraphs were often numbered, for example). These provided the cryptanalysts with probable words -- words likely to be in the plaintext -- that would help in breaking the cipher. Opening and closing formulas, such as "I have the honor to inform Your Excellency" and "Re your telegram," constituted virtual cribs. Newspaper stories suggested the subject matter of intercepts. The State Department sometimes made public the full texts of diplomatic notes from Japan to the American government, in effect handing the cryptanalysts the plaintext (or its translation) of an entire dispatch. (State reportedly did not pass the texts of confidential notes to the cryptanalysts, though this would have helped them considerably and was done by other foreign ministries.) Japan's Foreign Office often had to circulate the same text to several embassies, not all of which had a PURPLE machine, and a code clerk might have inadvertently encoded some cables in PURPLE, some in other systems -- which the cryptanalysts could read. A comparison of times of dispatch and length, and voilà! -- another crib to a cryptogram. Errors were, as always, a fruitful source of clues. As late as November, 1941, the Manila legation repeated a telegram "because of a mistake on the plugboard." How much more common must errors have been when the code clerks were just learning to handle the machine! The sending of the identical text in two different keys produces "isomorphic" cryptograms that yield exceedingly valuable information on the composition of the cipher.
The cryptanalysts of S.I.S. and OP-20-G, then, matched these assumed plaintexts to their ciphertexts and looked for regularities from which they could derive a pattern of encipherment. This kind of work, particularly in the early stages of a difficult cryptanalysis, is perhaps the most excruciating, exasperating, agonizing mental process known to man. Hour after hour, day after day, sometimes month after month, the cryptanalyst tortures his brain to find some relationship between the letters that hangs together, does not dead-end in self-contradiction, and leads to additional valid results. "Most of the time he is groping in the darkest night," one solver has written. "Now and again a little flicker of light gleams across the darkness, tantalizing him with a glimpse of a path. Hopefully he dashes to it only to find himself in another labyrinth. His knowledge that night is inevitably followed by day keeps his waning courage up, and he steers his course towards where the morning sun is soon to appear. Except that sometimes he is engulfed in an interminable polar night."
It must have seemed like that interminable night to the cryptanalysts who began attacking the new Japanese machine. The codebreakers went just so far -- and for months could not push on further. As William Friedman recalled, "When the PURPLE system was first introduced it presented an extremely difficult problem on which the Chief Signal Officer [Mauborgne] asked us to direct our best efforts. After work by my associates when we were making very slow progress, the Chief Signal Officer asked me personally to take a hand. I had been engaged largely in administrative duties up to that time, so at his request I dropped everything else that I could and began to work with the group."
Friedman was (and is) the world's greatest cryptologist. Then in his late forties, he was a quiet, studious man, well liked by his associates, of average height and build, and a natty dresser given to bow ties. Trained as a geneticist, he had become interested in cryptology in 1915 at a research institution in Illinois called the Riverbank Laboratories. He served as a cryptanalyst with the American Expeditionary Forces in World War I, and returned to Riverbank to write an 87-page tract that revolutionized cryptanalysis by introducing statistical methods for the first time. Hired by the Signal Corps in 1921, he applied these methods to a cipher-machine solution that placed America in the forefront of world cryptology. During these years, his wife, the former Elizebeth Smith, whom he had met and married at Riverbank, was solving rumrunners' codes for the Coast Guard. He wrote textbooks in cryptanalysis that are models of clarity. He became head of S.I.S. when it was founded and continued to exercise his extraordinary cryptanalytic abilities. His genius soon manifested itself in the attack on PURPLE.
Lighting his way with some of the methods that he himself had developed, he led the cryptanalysts through the murky PURPLE shadowland. He assigned teams to test various hypotheses. Some prospected fruitlessly, their only result a demonstration that success lay in another direction. Others found bits and pieces that seemed to make sense. (OP-20-G cooperated in this work, with Harry L. Clark making especially valuable contributions, but S.I.S. did most of it.) Friedman and the other codebreakers began to segregate the ciphertext letters into cycles representing the rotation of the coding wheels -- gingerly at first, then faster and faster as the evidence accumulated. The polyalphabetic class of ciphers, to which PURPLE belonged, is based ultimately upon an alphabet table, usually 26 letters by 26. To reconstruct the PURPLE tables, the cryptanalysts employed both direct and indirect symmetry of position -- names only slightly less forbidding than the methods they denote. Errors, caused perhaps by garbled interceptions or simple mistakes in the crypt-analysis, jarred these delicate analyses and delayed the work. But slowly it progressed. A cryptanalyst, brooding sphinxlike over the cross-ruled paper on his desk, would glimpse the skeleton of a pattern in a few scattered letters; he tried fitting a fragment from another recovery into it; he tested the new values that resulted and found that they produced acceptable plaintext; he incorporated his essay into the over-all solution and pressed on. Experts in Japanese filled in missing letters; mathematicians tied in one cycle with another and both to the tables. Every weapon of cryptanalytic science -- which in the stratospheric realm of this solution drew heavily upon mathematics, using group theory, congruences, Poisson distributions -- was thrown into the fray.
Eventually the solution reached the point where the cryptanalysts had a pretty good pencil-and-paper analog of the PURPLE machine. S.I.S. then constructed a mechanism that would do automatically what the cryptanalysts could do manually with their tables and cycles. They assembled it out of ordinary hardware and easily available pieces of communication equipment, such as the selector switches used for telephones. It was hardly a beautiful piece of machinery, and when not running just right it spewed sparks and made loud whirring noises. Though the Americans never saw the 97-shiki O-bun In-ji-ki, their contraption bore a surprising physical resemblance to it, and of course exactly duplicated it cryptographically.
S.I.S. handed in its first complete PURPLE solution in August of 1940, after 18 or 20 months of the most intensive analysis. In looking back on the effort that culminated in this, the outstanding cryptanalytic success in the whole history of secret writing up to its time, Friedman would say generously:
Naturally this was a collaborative, cooperative effort on the part of all the people concerned. No one person is responsible for the solution, nor is there any single person to whom the major share of credit should go. As I say, it was a team, and it was only by very closely coordinated teamwork that we were able to solve it, which we did. It represents an achievement of the Army cryptanalytic bureau that, so far as I know, has not been duplicated elsewhere, because we definitely know that the British cryptanalytic service and the German cryptanalytic service were baffled in their attempts and they never did solve it.
Friedman, was, despite his partial disclaimer, the captain of that team. The solution had taken a terrific toll. The restless turning of the mind tormented by a puzzle, the preoccupation at meals, the insomnia, the sudden wakening at midnight, the pressure to succeed because failure could have national consequences, the despair of the long weeks when the problem seemed insoluble, the repeated dashings of uplifted hopes, the mental shocks, the tension and the frustration and the urgency and the secrecy all converged and hammered furiously upon his skull. He collapsed in December. After three and a half months in Walter Reed General Hospital recovering from the nervous breakdown, he returned to S.I.S. on shortened hours, working at first in the more relaxed area of cryptosecurity. By the time of Pearl Harbor he was again able to do some cryptanalysis, this time of German systems.
Meanwhile, S.I.S. constructed a second PURPLE machine and gave it to the Navy. A third was sent to England in January of 1941 on King George V, Britain's newest and largest battleship, which had just brought over her new ambassador to the United States, Lord Halifax. Two Army and two Navy cryptanalysts accompanied the machine. In return the United States received British cryptanalytic information, presumably about German codes and ciphers. This machine eventually reached the British codebreaking group at Singapore, and was evacuated with it to Delhi after the JapaneSe swarmed down Malaya. A fourth machine was sent to the Philippines, while a fifth was built as an extra for S.I.S. A machine for Hawaii was under construction at the time of Pearl Harbor; this became instead a second machine sent to England for use there by Great Britain.
OP-20-G contributed importantly to the ease and speed of daily PURPLE solutions when 27-year-old Lieutenant (j.g.) Francis A. Raven discovered the key to the keys. After a number of PURPLE messages had been solved, Raven observed that the daily keys within each of the three ten-day periods of a month appeared to be related. He soon found that the Japanese simply shuffled the first day's key to form the keys for the next nine days, and that the nine shuffling patterns were the same in all the ten-day periods. Raven's discovery enabled the cryptanalysts to predict the keys for nine out of ten days. The cryptanalysts still had to solve for the first day's key by straightforward analysis, but this task and its delays were eliminated for the rest of the period. Furthermore, knowledge of the shuffles enabled the codebreakers to read all the traffic of a period even though they could solve only one of the daily keys.
This fine piece of work, on the shoulders of the tremendous initial Friedman-S.I.S. effort, resulted in the paradoxical situation of Americans reading the most difficult Japanese diplomatic system more quickly and easily than some lower-grade systems. They also became very facile in reading two-step systems in which PURPLE superenciphered an already coded message. The Japanese did this from time to time to provide extra security, usually with the CA code, the personal code of an ambassador or head of mission. A year after S.I.S. handed in its first PURPLE solution, the cryptanalysts solved a message enciphered in "the highest type of secret classification used by the Japanese Foreign Office." The message was first enciphered in CA; this was then juggled according to the K9 transposition (normally used with the J19 code), and the transposed codetext was then enciphered on the PURPLE machine. The solution, which on the basis of the number of combinations involved might have been expected to take geologic eons, was completed in just four days.
The question of who should receive this hard-won, easily-lost information was the knottiest, most nagging, most intractable problem in the whole operation of MAGIC. It involved a delicate balancing of security against utility. On the one hand was the need to turn the results to as much good effect as possible, and the more persons who saw it the greater its value would be. "I see no use in breaking a cipher," one admiral remarked dryly, "unless you use its contents." On the other hand was the danger that too wide a distribution would jeopardize this invaluable intelligence by increasing the possibility of a leak. In general, policy leaned heavily toward security, toward minimizing the risk as much as practicable by narrowly restricting the number of recipients.
In an agreement dated January 23, 1941, the intelligence chiefs of the Army and the Navy listed those eligible to see MAGIC. The ten named comprised perhaps the most elite group in the American power structure of the day: the President, the secretaries of State, War, and Navy, the Chief of Staff, the Chief of Naval Operations, the heads of the Army and Navy War Plans divisions, and the heads of the Army and Navy intelligence divisions. In practice, of course, many others saw the intercepts, such as McCollum, the heads of the Army and Navy communications divisions (which controlled the cryptanalytic bureaus), and the cryptanalysts and translators themselves. In time so did others not on the original list nor involved in the processing. By December the Navy's Assistant Chief of Naval Operations was regularly reading MAGIC. On the White House staff, President Roosevelt's right-hand man, Harry Hopkins, and the President's military and naval aides saw MAGIC; in fact, when Hopkins was confined to the Navy Hospital in November of 1941, Kramer brought it over to him specially. While Marshall interpreted the rules strictly and did not even entrust one of his closest assistants, Colonel Walter Bedell Smith, secretary to the general staff, with a key to the MAGIC briefcase, other officials, like Hull, Knox, and Stark, let their aides handle the details and so see the intercepts. In addition, at least four subordinate State Department officers saw MAGIC with fair regularity: Sumner Welles, the Under Secretary; Dr. Stanley K. Hornbeck, advisor on political relations; Maxwell M. Hamilton, chief of the Far Eastern desk, and Joseph W. Ballantine, a Far Eastern expert.
Excluded from this tiny group were the field commanders of major military and naval forces. Security mainly controlled, but the feeling that this high-level, mainly political information should be analyzed in Washington contributed to this decision. But while the actual intercepts -- indeed, the very existence of MAGIC -- were kept from them, such intelligence extracted from it as Washington thought would help them was sent to them, usually attributed to "highly reliable sources." For example, on July 8, Lieutenant General Walter C. Short, commanding in Hawaii, was told that "Movement of Jap shipping from Japan has been suspended and additional merchant vessels are being requisitioned." This information came from MAGIC.
The Philippines constituted a special case. Cavite was the Navy's most favorably situated intercept post for Tokyo radio traffic, particularly Tokyo-Berlin, of which Hawaii, the East and West coasts, and England combined could not get more than 50 per cent. To cut the number of retransmissions of intercepts from Cavite to Washington, and thus reduce the danger of Japanese discovery of the MAGIC operation, the Navy in March sent out a PURPLE machine to the Philippines. OP-20-GY radioed the daily PURPLE and J19 keys to Fabian's unit; he applied these to the messages intercepted by his and the Army's intercept stations. He was then to forward the important solutions by radio. This procedure was practically abandoned later in the year, when almost every PURPLE message was important and all intercepts bearing its indicator were retransmitted to Washington. The Philippines were also regarded as the most threatened American outpost, and since diplomatic MAGIC was available right there because of a geographical accident, it went to General Douglas MacArthur and to Admiral Thomas C. Hart.
In sending the MAGIC keys to Fabian, OP-20-GY employed a restricted cipher. Had the messages been sent using the general Navy keys, any of the many ships and shore installations holding those keys could have read them. Worse, had the Japanese worked an Oriental MAGIC of their own on these general keys, they would have learned of America's most precious secret. The most secure naval cryptosystem was the E.C.M., or Electric Coding Machine, a device similar to but much stronger than PURPLE, which used a kind of code-wheel called a rotor. The MAGIC cipher used the E.C.M. with a special set of rotors, resulting, in effect, in a new cipher. Traffic in this cryptochannel, called COPEK, was kept down, and extra precautions were taken to guard against occurrences that might aid cryptanalysis. Only officers of the radio intelligence organizations in Washington, Cavite, and Honolulu held the rotors. They also used COPEK to exchange information on Japanese naval codes that they were solving.
Rochefort in Hawaii could read the COPEK messages sending diplomatic-code keys to Fabian, and it may have been from him that Lieutenant Commander Edwin T. Layton, intelligence officer for the Pacific Fleet, learned that the Asiatic Fleet had the diplomatic MAGIC. On March 11, 1941, he asked McCollum to send it out to him. The head of the Far Eastern branch of naval intelligence declined, expounding what might be called the official line. On April 22 he wrote:
I thoroughly appreciate that you would probably be much helped in your daily estimates if you had at your disposal the DIP. This, however, brings up matters of security, et cetera, which would be very difficult to solve...It seems reasonable to suppose that the Department should be the origin for evaluated political situations, as its availability of information is greater than that of any command afloat, however large, its staff is larger and it should be in a position to evaluate the political consequences...I should think that the forces afloat should, in general, confine themselves to the estimate of the strategic and tactical situations with which they will be confronted when the time of action arrives. The material you mentioned can necessarily have but passing and transient interest as action in the political sphere is determined by the Government as a whole and not by the forces afloat...In other words, while you and the Fleet may be highly interested in politics, there is nothing that you can do about it.
The inconsistency of this position reflects Washington's more basic inconsistency of, on the one hand, trying to keep MAGIC from the field commanders for security reasons and, on the other, constructing PURPLE machines for them.
Nevertheless, despite Washington's determination not to send MAGIC to the field, not to use the ordinary Navy cipher for it, and never to identify it as such in dispatches, the Navy in July wired Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, commanding the Pacific Fleet, a whole series of messages that gave the very serial numbers of the Japanese diplomatic messages in summarizing their contents! And on July 19, Washington began a message "PURPLE 14 July Canton to Tokyo" and continued with a quote from it. This practice ceased in August, suggesting tightened security, but again on December 3 the Navy clearly indicated Japanese intercepts as the source of its information.
The tightening may have resulted from several scares that Washington had just had. In March, State lost MAGIC memorandum No. 9. A horrified Army intelligence officer once found another MAGIC memorandum casually discarded in the wastebasket of Brigadier General Edwin M. (Pa) Watson, the President's military aide. In Boston the F.B.I. picked up a man connected with the cryptanalytic work who was attempting to sell information on it. The worst frights of all came in the spring of 1941.
On the afternoon of April 28, Hans Thomsen, counselor of the German embassy in Washington, cabled his Foreign Ministry, in a message not read by the U.S.: "As communicated to me by an absolutely reliable source, the State Department is in possession of the key to the Japanese coding system and is therefore also able to decipher telegrams from Tokyo to Ambassador Nomura here regarding Ambassador Oshima's reports from Berlin." After thinking about it for a few days, Berlin gave this information to its Axis ally through Baron Hiroshi Oshima, the Japanese ambassador to Germany. He passed it to Tokyo on May 3 in a cable saying he believed it, and Tokyo, on May 5, asked Washington "whether you have any suspicion" of the matter. The American codebreakers, who had been following the Japanese messages from Berlin to Tokyo to Washington, held their breath. They remembered how Japan had canceled her J12 code in 1940 on her first inkling that the British and Dutch were reading it. But Nomura's reply -- "The most stringent precautions are taken by all custodians of codes and ciphers" -- evidently soothed the Foreign Office, for it contented itself with issuing stricter regulations for coding.
Then, on May 20, Nomura told Tokyo: "Though I do not know which ones, I have discovered the United States is reading some of our codes." The cryptanalysts shuddered. Would they have to start all over again? Nothing happened at once, but a few days later an incident made it appear that only the shipment of new systems from Japan was delaying the change of codes. On May 30, Japan prohibited her merchant vessels all over the world from further use of Code s. More to the point, she did so less than 24 hours after she learned that U.S. narcotics agents had removed codes from the tanker Nichi Shin Maru near San Francisco during a search.
The dreaded change of code, which would have cost the United States her best source of information just as it was needed more and more, now seemed inevitable. But morning after morning, the messages bore the same aspect and continued to break down under the same treatment. After days of anxious waiting, Navy cryptanalysts read a cable from Tokyo to Mexico on June 23, warning the legation: "There are also some suspicions that they [the Americans] read some of our codes. Therefore, we wish to exercise the utmost caution in accomplishing this mission."
Was this to be the extent of the Japanese security precautions? It seemed incredible, yet it appeared so. The cryptosystems continued unchanged. The Foreign Office capped its ludicrous cryptosecurity program of pointless warnings and regulation changes with a step that was almost as effective as the others: on November 25, it directed its embassies to print "Kokka Kimitsu" ("State Secret") in red enamel on the right of the number plate of their cipher machines. Perhaps they thought that this incantation would prevent cryptanalysis as an amulet was supposed to ward off sickness!
But if the Foreign Office discredited the rumors of solution (because, in its natural pride, it could not imagine its codes being anything but impregnable), the American recipients of MAGIC knew that they were all too true. In 1939, the director of naval intelligence had personally brought MAGIC in a looseleaf folder to a recipient, waited there while he read it, then took the folder on to the next recipient. The increasing volume of MAGIC had slowly eaten away at this original iron security. Colonel Rufus S. Bratton, chief of the Far Eastern section of Army intelligence, found himself wasting so much time chaperoning his single copy that he began to have duplicates and triplicates made. The number of copies grew from 4 in early 1941 to 14 by December. Subordinates assumed the time-consuming messenger function. Kramer took over for the Navy. Bratton, who had a higher rank and more responsibilities than Kramer (his opposite number was Kramer's superior, McCollum), had to delegate some of this work still further. Three assistants in the Japan subsection of his Far Eastern section, Lieutenant Colonel Carlisle C. Dusenbury, Major Wallace H. Moore, and Second Lieutenant J. Bayard Schindel, made some of his rounds for him. Instead of carrying around a single folder, copies were left with the recipient.
Marshall saw danger in all this: "I intervened very directly and required that it [MAGIC] be locked in a pouch and delivered by pouch, the pouch unlocked and it be read by the recipient and put back in the pouch." The "pouches" were actually zippered briefcases made by the Washington leather shop of Becker & Co. Each had a padlock to which there were only two keys, one held by the disseminator, one by the recipient, either personally or by his aide. This crackdown -- about September -- compelled the executive officer of the military intelligence division, who had been seeing MAGIC while his chief was on leave, to surrender his key and to stop reading the intercepts. The Navy soon adopted the Marshall precautions. Kramer, for example, often sat next to the recipient and explained references, furnished background, answered questions, and so forth -- which is why so valuable an officer was given the apparently menial messenger task. Nevertheless, departures from this ideal occurred. The messenger could not very well stand over the Secretary of War or the Chief of Naval Operations while the messages were being read. In the State Department, the pouch was actually left overnight and exchanged the next day for a new one.
Still, the documents circulated in a cloud of mystery and continuous precaution. When Kramer telephoned in advance to recipients to find out where they were before delivering the intercepts, he would say only guarded words like, "I have something important that you should see." Bratton's immediate superior frequently saw him "leave his office with several parcels under his arm and be gone for several hours," and, because he knew that his superior wanted it that way, never asked about it. He also received packages from S.I.S. Chief Minckler when Bratton was out; these he locked up in his safe and turned over to Bratton on his return without having looked into them. Before MAGIC was given to State, Army and Navy officers met with Hull to explain how a loose word could suddenly extinguish the light shed by these intercepts. When Knox received the documents at his apartment, he did not explain them to his wife. At high-level conferences, recipients took care not to mention MAGIC when men not privy to the secret attended. All copies had to be returned. No recipient could retain them for reference, though back copies were sometimes included in new folders when later messages referred to them. The cryptanalytic agencies each filed two copies, one by date, one by subject, and the Far Eastern sections of Army and Navy intelligence each kept one. All other copies were burned.
Before an intercept could even begin the rounds that would end in this fiery immolation, it ordinarily had to be translated, and translation was the bottleneck of the MAGIC production line. Interpreters of Japanese were even scarcer than expert cryptanalysts. Security precluded employing Nisei or any but the most trustworthy Americans. The Navy scoured the country for acceptable translators, and through prodigious efforts in 1941 it doubled its GZ translation staff -- to six. These included three whom Kramer called "the most highly skilled Occidentals in the Japanese language in the world."
But ability in standard Japanese alone did not suffice. Each translator had to have at least a year's experience in telegraphic Japanese as well before he could be trusted to come through with the correct interpretation of a dispatch. This is because telegraphic Japanese is virtually a language within a language, and, as McCollum, himself a Japanese-language officer, explained, "the so-called translator in this type of stuff almost has to be a cryptographer himself. You understand that these things come out in the form of syllables, and it is how you group your syllables that you make your words. There is no punctuation.
"Now, without the Chinese ideograph to read from, it is most difficult to group these things together. That is, any two sounds grouped together to make a word may mean a variety of things. For instance, 'ba' may mean horses or fields, old women, or my hand, all depending on the ideographs with which it is written. On the so-called translator is forced the job of taking unrelated syllables and grouping them into what looks to him to be intelligible words, substituting then such of the Chinese ideographs necessary to pin it down, and then going ahead with the translation, which is a much more difficult job than simple translation."
Hence the situation of Mrs. Dorothy Edgers. She had lived for thirty years in Japan and had a diploma from a Japanese school to teach Japanese to Japanese students up to high-school level. Yet, because she had only two weeks' experience in GZ at the time of Pearl Harbor, Kramer considered her "not a reliable translator" in this field. And on the important messages, only reliable translators could be used. To unclog this bottleneck, messages in the minor systems were given only a partial translation. If a translator saw that they dealt with administrative trivia, they were frequently not formally translated at all.
With manifold streamlinings like that, with enlarged staffs, with the fluidity gained by experience, OP-20-G and S.I.S. gradually increased the speed and quantity of their output. In 1939, the agencies had often required three weeks to funnel a message from interceptor to recipient. In the latter part of 1941 the process sometimes took as little as four hours. Occasionally an agency broke down a late intercept that bore on a point of Japanese-American negotiations and rushed it to the Secretary of State an hour before he was to meet with the Japanese ambassadors. Volume attained overwhelming proportions. By the fall of 1941, 50 to 75 messages a day sluiced out of the two agencies, and at least once the quantity swelled to 130. Some of these messages ran to 15 typewritten pages.
The top-echelon recipients of MAGIC clearly could not afford the time to read all this traffic. Much of it was of secondary importance anyway. Kramer and Bratton winnowed the wheat from this chaff. Reading the entire output, they chose an average of 25 messages a day for distribution. At first Kramer supplemented his translations with gists for recipients too busy to read every word of the actual intercepts, starring the important ones, but he abandoned these in mid-November under the pressure of getting out the basic material. Bratton, who had been delivering summaries of MAGIC in the form of Intelligence Bulletins, began on August 5 to distribute MAGIC verbatim at Marshall's orders. This, however, had the effect of increasing the volume. Marshall complained that to absorb every word of it he would have had to "retire as Chief of Staff and read every day." To save the recipients' time, Bratton checked the important messages on a list in the folder with a red pencil; Kramer slid paper clips onto them. The recipients always read the flagged messages; the others they did not always read thoroughly, but they did leaf through the folder and skim them.
Distribution was usually made twice a day. Intercepts that had come in overnight went out in the morning, those processed during the day went out at the end of the afternoon. Especially important messages were delivered at once, often to the recipients' homes if late in the evening. Each agency sent its MAGIC copies on to the other with exemplary promptitude, despite a natural competition between them. As Bratton put it: "I was further urged on by the fact that if the Chief of Naval Operations ever got one of these things before General Marshall did and called him up to discuss it on the telephone with him, and the General hadn't gotten his copy, we all caught hell." (Marshall demurred: "I don't think I gave anybody hell much.")
Delivery to the White House and the State Department incurred difficulties. Under the January 23 agreement, the Army and Navy at first alternated in servicing the two. The Army, however, discontinued its deliveries to the White House after its turn in May, partly because of Watson's wastebasket security bungle, partly because it felt that these diplomatic matters should go to the President through the State Department. The Navy continued its deliveries through the President's naval aide, Captain John R. Beardall, though once in the summer Kramer himself carried a particularly "hot" message -- probably dealing with negotiations the next day -- to Roosevelt. Near the end of September, a month originally scheduled for Army delivery, during which nothing was delivered to the White House, the President said he wanted to see the intercept information. In October naval intelligence sent him memoranda based on MAGIC, but on Friday, November 7, Roosevelt said he wanted to see MAGIC itself. Beardall told him that it was an Army month. The President replied that he knew that and that he was either seeing MAGIC or getting information on it from Hull, but that he still wanted to see the original intercepts. He feared that condensing them would distort their meaning. On Monday, a conference agreed that the Navy would furnish the White House with MAGIC and the Army the State Department. At 4:15 p.m., Wednesday, November 12, Kramer made the first distribution to the White House under this system.
Thus, by the fall of 1941, MAGIC was being demanded at the topmost level of government. It had become a regular and vital factor in the formation of American policy. Hull, who looked upon MAGIC "as I would a witness who is giving evidence against his own side of the case," was "at all times intensely interested in the contents of the intercepts." The chief of Army intelligence regarded MAGIC as the most reliable and authentic information that the War Department was receiving on Japanese intentions and activities. The Navy war plans chief thought that MAGIC, which was largely diplomatic at this time, affected his estimates by about 15 per cent. The high officials not only read MAGIC avidly and discussed it at their conferences, they acted upon it. Thus the decision to set up the command of United States Army Forces, Far East, which was headed by General MacArthur, stemmed directly from intercepts early in 1941 showing that Germany was pressuring Japan to attack Britain in Asia in the hope of involving the United States in the war; on the basis of this information, the command was created in July to deter Japan by enhancing American prestige in the Western Pacific -- and it is a fact that Japan did not then comply with Germany's wishes.
The intricate mechanism of the American cryptanalytic effort pumped MAGIC to its eager recipients smoothly, speedily, and lavishly. Messages flew back and forth along the COPEK channel as if along nerve cells. Intercepts poured into Washington with less and less of a time lag. S.I.S. and GY grew increasingly adept at solution; the translators picked out the important messages ever more surely. Bratton and Kramer hustled from place to place with their locked briefcases. MAGIC gushed forth in profusion. So effectively did the cryptanalytic agencies perform that Marshall could say of this "priceless asset," this most complete and up-to-the-minute intelligence that any nation had ever had concerning a probable enemy, this necromantic gift of the gods of which one could apparently never have enough, that "There was too much of it."
In October the cabinet of Prince Konoye fell, and the Emperor summoned General Hideki Tojo to form a new government. One of the first acts of the new Foreign Minister, Shigenori Togo, was to call in the chief of the cable section. Togo, remembering a book that Herbert O. Yardley had written disclosing his 1920 solution of Japanese diplomatic codes, asked the cable chief, Kazuji Kameyama, whether their current diplomatic communications were secure. Kameyama reassured him. "This time," he said, "it's all right."
With the assumption of total power by the militarists under Tojo, the last real hopes for peace died. Almost at once, events began to slide toward war. On November 4, Tokyo sent to her ambassadors at Washington the text of her proposal B, which Togo described as "absolutely final." The ambassadors held it while they pursued other avenues, even though Tokyo, on November 5, told them that "Because of various circumstances, it is absolutely necessary that all arrangements for the signing of this agreement be completed by the 25th of this month."
That same day, Yamamoto promulgated Combined Fleet Top Secret Order Number 1, the plan for the Pearl Harbor attack. Two days later, he set December 8 (Tokyo time) as Y-day and named Vice Admiral Chuichi Nagumo as Commander, First Air Fleet -- the Pearl Harbor strike force. In the days that followed, the 32 ships that were to compose the force slipped, one by one, out to sea and vanished. Far from any observation, they headed north to rendezvous in a bay of barren Etoforu Island, one of the chill, desolate Kuriles north of the four main islands of Japan. Behind them the ships left their regular wireless operators to carry on an apparently routine radio traffic in their owe "fists," or sending touch, which is as distinctive as handwriting.
As the force was gathering, the Foreign Office, which knew only that the situation was tense and was never told in advance of the time, place, or nature of the planned attack, prepared an open-code arrangement as an emergency means of notification. Tokyo sent Circular 2353 to Washington on November 19:
Regarding the broadcast of a special message in an emergency.
In case of emergency (danger of cutting off our diplomatic relations), and the cutting off of international communications, the following warning will be added in the middle of the daily Japanese language short-wave news broadcast:
1) In case of Japan-U.S. relations in danger: HIGASHI NO KAZE AME ("east wind rain")
2) Japan-U.S.S.R. relations: KITA NO KAZE KUMORI ("north wind cloudy")
3) Japan-British relations: NISHI NO KAZE HARE ("west wind clear")
This signal will be given in the middle and at the end as a weather forecast and each sentence will be repeated twice. When this is heard please destroy all code papers, etc. This is as yet to be a completely secret arrangement.
Forward as urgent intelligence.
This open code related the winds to the compass points in which the named countries stood in regard to Japan: the U.S. to the east, Russia to the north, England to the west. Tokyo also set up an almost similar code for use in the general intelligence (not news) broadcasts.
As the secret messages establishing these open codes whistled through the air, Navy intercept Station S at Bainbridge Island heard and nabbed them. The station teletyped them to GY, which identified them as J19 and began cryptanalysis.
Many of the ships of the Pearl Harbor strike force had by then gathered in bleak Tankan Bay, where the only signs of human presence were a small concrete pier, a wireless shack, and three fishermen's huts. Snow covered the surrounding hills. In the gray twilight of November 21, the great carrier Zuikaku glided into the remote harbor to complete the roster. The force swung at anchor, awaiting the order to sortie.
A few hours later, on November 20 (Washington time), the Japanese ambassador to the United States, Admiral Kichisaburo Nomura, and his newly arrived associate, Saburo Kurusu, presented Japan's ultimatum to Hull. It would have required the United States to reverse its foreign policy, acquiesce in further Japanese conquests, supply Japan with as much oil as she required for them, abandon China, and in effect surrender to international immorality. While Hull began drafting a reply, Tokyo cabled its ambassadors in message 812 that "There are reasons beyond your ability to guess why we wanted to settle Japanese-American relations by the 25th, but if within the next three or four days you can finish your conversations with the Americans; if the signing can be completed by the 29th (let me write it out for you -- twenty-ninth); if the pertinent notes can be exchanged; if we can get an understanding with Great Britain and the Netherlands; and in short if everything can be finished, we have decided to wait until that date. This time we mean it, the deadline absolutely cannot be changed. After that things are automatically going to happen." Two days later, Togo wirelessed: "The time limit set in my message No. 812 is in Tokyo time."
The calendar had become a clock, and the clock had begun to tick.
On November 25, Yamamoto ordered the Pearl Harbor strike force to sortie next day. At 6 a.m. on November 26, the 32 ships of the force -- six carriers, two battleships, and a flock of destroyers and support vessels -- weighed anchor and sliced across the wrinkled surface of Tankan Bay. They steamed slightly south of east, heading into the "vacant sea" -- the wintry North Pacific, whose wastes were undefiled by merchant tracks and whose empty vastness would swallow up the force. They had been ordered to return if detected before December 6 (Tokyo time); if discovered on December 7, Nagumo would decide whether or not to attack. Strict radio silence was enjoined. Aboard the battleship Hiei, Commander Kazuyoshi Kochi, a communications officer for the force, removed an essential part of his transmitter and put it in a wooden box, which he used as a pillow. The force drove eastward through fog, gale winds, and high seas. No one saw them.
Meanwhile, Hull, after a frantic week of drafting, consultations, and redraftings, had completed the American reply to Japan's proposal. It called upon Japan to withdraw all forces from China and Indochina and in return promised to unfreeze Japanese funds and resume trade. Nothing was said about oil. On November 26, the day that he handed it to Nomura and Kurusu, a message came from Tokyo setting up an open code for them for telephone use to speed up their reports. In it, the President was MISS KIMIKO, Hull was MISS FUMEKO, Japanese-American negotiations were to be referred to as a MARRIAGE PROPOSAL, the criticality of the situation as the imminence of the birth of a child, the China question as SAN FRANCISCO, and so on. They had occasion to use it the very next night to report on an interview with Hull. Kurusu talked for seven minutes, starting at 11:27 p.m. Washington time, with Kumaicho Yamamoto, the chief of the American bureau of the Japanese Foreign Office. American interceptors had their recording machine running even before the Japanese started theirs, and succeeded in capturing even this rare form of communication. Kramer translated the conversation, interpreted the rather amateurish application of the open code (even detecting an attempt to bolster it with some extraneous comments), added the colorful description of vocal nuances and pauses, and distributed it with the routine MAGIC intercepts the following day.
The same day that this conversation was held, Tokyo circularized its major embassies with still another open code. While the winds code envisioned abolition of all communication with the embassies, this new code -- called the INGO DENPO ("hidden word") code -- was intended for a less critical situation. It seems to have been arranged at the request of the consul in Singapore in case code but not plain language telegrams were prohibited. It set up such equivalences as ARIMURA = code communications prohibited; HATTORI = relations between Japan and (name of country) are not in accordance with expectation; KODAMA = Japan; KUBOTA = U.S.S.R.; MINAMI = U.S.A.; and so on. "In order to distinguish these cables from others," Tokyo said, "the English word STOP will be added at the end as an indicator. (The Japanese word OWARI [end] will not be used.)"
The next day, November 28, the Navy cracked the transposition for the J19 message of nine days earlier and learned of the winds code arrangement. The cryptanalytic agencies saw at once that this arrangement, which dispensed with the entire routine of coding, cabling, delivery, and decoding, could give several hours' advance warning of Japan's intentions. They erupted into activity to try to intercept it. This wrenched facilities away from the commercial (for Japanese diplomatic), naval, and radiotelephone circuits with which the agencies were familiar and put them on voice newscasts.
The Army asked the Federal Communications Commission to listen for the winds code execute. Army stations at Hawaii and San Francisco tuned to the newscasts, as did Navy stations at Corregidor, Hawaii, and Bainbridge Island, and four or five along the Atlantic seaboard. Rochefort placed his four best language officers -- Lieutenants Forrest R. Biard, J. R. Bromley, Allyn Cole, Jr., and G. M. Slonim -- on a 24-hour watch on frequencies suggested by Washington and on others that his unit had found. The Dutch in Java and the British in Singapore listened. In Washington, Kramer made up some 3 x 5 cards for distribution to MAGIC recipients. They bore only the portentous phrases, "East Wind Rain: United States. North Wind Cloudy: Russia. West Wind Clear: England."
Soon plain-language intercepts were swamping GZ. Bainbridge ran up bills of $60 a day to send them in. Kramer and the other translators, already burdened, now had also to scan 100 feet of teletype paper a day for the execute; previously only three to five feet per week of plain-language material had come in. The long strips were thrown into the wastebasket and burned after checking. Several times the GY watch officers telephoned Kramer at his home at night to ask him to come to the office and check a possible execute. It always proved false.
Meanwhile, other signs of increasing tension were not lacking. On the 29th, Baron Oshima in Berlin reported that the German Foreign Minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop, had told him, "Should Japan become engaged in a war against the United States, Germany, of course, would join the war immediately." Next day, Tokyo replied, "Say very secretly to them that there is extreme danger that war may suddenly break out between the Anglo-Saxon nations and Japan through some clash of arms and add that the time of the breaking out of this war may come quicker than anyone dreams." Both these messages were translated on December 1, and Roosevelt considered the latter so important that he asked for a copy of it to keep. Kramer, after paraphrasing it for security's sake, gave him one.
At Pearl Harbor, Rochefort had just been presented with an unpleasant confirmation of that tautening situation. The Japanese fleet reassigned its 20,000 radio call-signs at midnight, December 1 -- only 30 days after the previous change. It was the first time in Rochefort's experience that a switch had occurred so soon after a previous one.
The one on November 1 had been expected; it had followed by the usual six months the regular spring call-sign shift. With the facility born of long experience, Rochefort's Combat Intelligence Unit identified in fairly rapid order the senders and receivers of a large percentage of the traffic. The unit observed the rising volume and southward routing of messages on the 200 radio circuits of the Japanese Navy. This fitted in almost perfectly with the widely known Japanese buildup for what the world thought was a strike at Siam or Singapore. By the third week in November, the unit had sensed the formation of a Third Fleet task force and its imminent departure in the direction of those areas. Aircraft carriers were not addressed during this buildup, nor did they transmit. To Rochefort, the situation shaped up like those of February and July, when Japanese fleet units moved south to support the takeover in French Indochina while the carriers remained in home waters as a reserve. They were there, he felt, to protect the exposed flank of the Japanese forces from the American fleet, which, from its bases at Cavite and Pearl, could sever the supply lines of the aggressor.
Rochefort's view was shared by fleet intelligence officer Layton. He knew that the two main carrier divisions had not appeared in the traffic for at least two weeks, and maybe three. He suspected their presence in home waters, but since he lacked positive indications of it, he omitted his presumptions from a report on the Japanese fleet that he submitted to Kimmel on December 1. Whereupon, Layton recalled:
Admiral Kimmel said, "What! You don't know where Carrier Division 1 and Carrier Division 2 are!"
I replied, "No, sir, I do not. I think they are in home waters, but I do not know where they are. The rest of these units, I feel pretty confident of their location." Then Admiral Kimmel looked at me, as sometimes he would, with somewhat a stern countenance and yet partially with a twinkle in his eye, and said:
"Do you mean to say that they could be rounding Diamond Head and you wouldn't know it?" or words to that effect. My reply was that "I hope they would be sighted before now," or words to that effect.
On the same day that Layton gave his report to Kimmel, the Office of Naval Intelligence produced a memorandum of "Japanese Fleet Locations" that Layton, when he saw it, considered as "dotting the i's and crossing the t's" of his own estimates. It placed Akagi and Kaga (Carrier Division 1), and Koryu and Kasuga in southern Kyushu waters, and Soryu and Hiryu (Carrier Division 2) and Zuikaku, Shokaku, Hosho, and Ryujo at the great naval base of Kure. All this was just a more precise way of saying "home waters."
These estimates were based on the November observations. The call-sign change of December 1 obliterated the intricate communication networks that the radio intelligence units had so painstakingly built up and forced them to begin anew. The Japanese bedeviled them with new communication-security measures. Dispatches were sent "on the umbrella" -- broadcast to the fleet at large and copied by all ships. This sort of blanket coverage made identification difficult. Multiple addresses were used. They sent dummy traffic, which, however, did not confuse the listeners. Just before the change, the communicators passed many old messages. Rochefort's unit spotted them, and guessed that they were attempts either to pad the volume or to get through to the addressee before the change caused routing difficulties.
On December 2, after only two days of analyzing the new calls, Rochefort's unit stated in its Communications Intelligence Summary: "Carriers -- Almost a complete blank of information of the Carriers today. Lack of identifications has somewhat promoted this lack of information. However, since over two hundred service calls have been partially identified since the change on the first of December and not one carrier call has been recovered, it is evident that carrier traffic is at a low ebb." In the next day's summary appeared the last mention of carriers before December 7, and it was rather negative: "No information on submarines or carriers."
Other messages, however, clearly indicated the drive to the south, which Japan made no attempt to conceal. Twice before, Rochefort, Fabian, Layton, and O.N.I. had seen exactly the same conditions, and twice before their reasoning that the carriers were being held in empire waters had been proved right. Now, they thought, they were seeing it happen again. Temporarily oblivious to the possibility of a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, they watched the forces moving against Malaya as hypnotically as a conjuror's audience stares at the empty right hand while the left is pulling the ace out of a sleeve.
American preconceptions were reinforced by two PURPLE messages of December 1, which the Navy read that same day. In the first, Tokyo directed Washington: "When you are faced with the necessity of destroying codes, get in touch with the naval attaché's office there and make use of chemicals they have on hand for this purpose. The attaché should have been advised by the Navy Ministry regarding this." Five days earlier, the cryptanalysts had read Tokyo's detailed instructions on how to destroy the PURPLE machine in an emergency. These two code-destruction messages appeared to be just pre-cautionary measures in a tense situation, and this impression was strengthened by the second message of December 1. It seemed to virtually announce a Japanese invasion of British and Dutch possessions and to relegate conflict with the United States to a subsequent date: "The four offices in London, Hongkong, Singapore and Manila have been instructed to abandon the use of the code machines and to dispose of them. The machine in Batavia has been returned to Japan. Regardless of the contents of my circular message #2447 [which MAGIC did not have], the U.S. (office) retains the machines and the machine codes." American officials breathed easier. The messages appeared to give the United States a bit more of what it needed most -- time, time to build up its pitifully weak Army and Navy.
While the world gazed with tunnel vision toward Southeast Asia, and American radio intelligence envisioned the Japanese carriers in home waters, six of them -- Akagi, Kaga, Hiryu, Soryu, Shokaku, and Zuikaku -- were in fact butting eastward through the high winds and waves of the vacant sea. Late in the afternoon of December 2, Tokyo time, the force picked up, apparently on a blanket broadcast, an electrifying open-code message intended for it: NIITAKA-YAMA NOBORE ("Climb Mount Niitaka"). It informed the strike force that the decision for war had been made and directed it to Proceed with attack. Niitaka-yama, also known as Mount Morrison, is a peak on Formosa whose 12,956-foot elevation made it the highest point of what was then the Japanese empire. The symbolism could not have been lost on the officers. The force refueled from its tankers.
There was trouble in Honolulu. The F.B.I. had, early in November, begun to tap the telephone of the manager of an important Japanese firm in the hope of obtaining some clues to possible espionage activity. The tap was in addition to those placed on the Japanese consulate by Mayfield, who was helped by an employee of the telephone company whom the 14th Naval District Intelligence Office had cultivated as its contact. Unexpectedly, however, a telephone repairman came across the jumper wire that the F.B.I. had put across the connections in the junction box. The Navy's contact man immediately tipped off Mayfield's office, which warned the F.B.I. -- who promptly complained to the telephone company that their confidence had been breached. Mayfield, fearful that the commotion would disclose his own telephone surveillances and that such disclosure would give the Japanese an excuse for almost any action, pulled his taps. His recording operator jotted a wistful farewell under his final notes. "At 4 p.m. Honolulu time in the 1941st year of Our Lord, December 2 inst., I bade my adieu to you my friend of 22 months standing. Darn if I won't miss you!! Requiescat in Peace." The F.B.I., however, maintained its other taps.
Earlier that day, the consulate had received Circular # 2445 in J19, relayed by Washington from Tokyo:
Take great pains that this does not leak out.
You are to take the following measures immediately:
1. With the exception of one copy each of the o [PA-K2] and the L [LA] codes, you are to burn all telegraph codes (this includes the codebooks for communication between the three departments [HATO] and those for use by the Navy).
2. As soon as you have completed this operation, wire the one word HARUNA.
3. Burn all secret records of incoming and outgoing telegrams.
4. Taking care not to arouse outside suspicion, dispose of all secret documents in the same way.
Since these measures are in preparation for an emergency, keep this within your consulate and carry out your duties with calmness and care.
dThe codes were duly burned, including the TSU, or J19, in which the circular was transmitted. That evening Kita sent HARUNA. Henceforth the consulate code secretary, Samon Tsukikawa, would have to transmit the spy messages of Yoshikawa, alias Morimura, in the simpler PA-K2.
The first such message arranged four signaling systems by which a spy might report on the condition of the ships in Pearl Harbor. The arrangement had been submitted to Yoshikawa by an Axis spy in Hawaii, Bernhard Julius Otto Kühn. Nazi Propaganda Minister Josef Goebbels had transferred him to the islands in 1935 after a contretemps with Kühn's daughter Ruth, who had become Goebbels' mistress when she was 16. In his signaling system, Kühn stipulated that numbers from 1 to 8 would mean such things as A number of carriers preparing to sortie (which was 2) and Several carriers departed between 4th and 6th (which was 7). Then he arranged that bonfires, house lights shown at certain times and places, or want ads broadcast over radio station KGMG would mean certain numbers. For example, 7 would be represented by two lights shown in the window of a house on Lanikai Beach between 2 and 3 a.m., or by two sheets between 10 and 11 a.m., by lights in the attic window of a house in Kalama between 11 and 12 p.m., or by a want ad offering a complete chicken farm for sale and listing P.O. Box 1476. If all these failed, a bonfire on a certain peak of Maui Island between 8 and 9 p.m. would indicate 7. The purpose of the system was to eliminate dangerous personal contacts between Kühn and the Japanese. Kühn tested it on December 2, found that it worked, and passed it to Yoshikawa. He had it encoded (in PA-K2) and sent to Tokyo in two long parts on December 3.
It was now the third day of the month in which the Japanese consulate gave its cable business to R.C.A. Following Sarnoff's instructions, George Street, district manager of the firm, had had the Japanese consulate messages copied on a blank sheet of paper with no identification of the sender or addressee. About 10 or 11 a.m., December 3, Mayfield called at the branch office and Street slipped him a blank envelope containing the messages. As soon as Mayfield returned to the District Intelligence Office, he had a messenger bring them down to Rochefort.
In Washington that Wednesday, the Signal Intelligence Service solved a PURPLE message from Tokyo -- and the readers of MAGIC, who only two days earlier had been lulled by the supposition that Japan might temporarily spare the United States, were stunned by the realization that the arrow of war might be loosed momentarily. For the message ordered the Washington embassy to "burn all [codes] but those now used with the machine and one copy each of o code [PA-K2] and abbreviating code [LA]...Stop at once using one code machine unit and destroy it completely...wire...HARUNA." Under Secretary of State Welles saw it and felt that "the chances had diminished from one in a thousand to one in a million that war could then be avoided." When the President's naval aide, Beardall, brought the message to Roosevelt, he said in substance, "Mr. President, this is a very significant dispatch." After the Chief Executive had read it carefully, he asked Beardall, "When do you think it will happen?" -- referring to the outbreak of war. "Most any time," replied the naval aide, who thought that the moment was getting very close.
At the Japanese embassy at 2514 Massachusetts Avenue, the code clerks were executing these destruction orders. The code room stood at the southeast corner of the embassy, with windows overlooking the embassy parking lot and another legation next door. Half a dozen desks clustered in the middle of the room. Two cipher machines waited on desks against the west wall and a third, broken, rested in the walk-in safe. In utter disregard of the regulations promulgated for the security of communications, the embassy had hired an elderly Negro janitor named Robert to dust and clean the code room and its supersecret furnishings each day. The code clerks did make some obeisance to the security regulations by not allowing him in the room unless some Japanese were in it. But the situation was, to say the least, ironical. While the Japanese Foreign Office was exercising almost superhuman security precautions and American cryptanalysts were suffering nervous breakdowns to solve the PURPLE machine, an American citizen was running his duster over tables on which stood the intricate machines that were the vortex of this silent struggle.
But just as the Japanese seemed not to have given serious thought to the possibility of Robert's being a spy, so the Americans seemed to have given no serious thought to the possibility that a spy might have been insinuated into the Japanese embassy to ease their cryptanalytic burden. Of course, even if they had thought about it, they might have rejected the idea, for discovery of the spy would have meant an automatic change of codes. The danger of this was much less if the systems were read through cryptanalysis.
The paper codes of the Japanese consisted of folders whose four or six pages could be opened into a single long sheet. Embassy Counselor Sadao Iguchi, who was in charge of the code room, directed telegraph officer Masana Horiuchi and code clerks Takeshi Kajiwara, Hiroshi Hori, Juichi Yoshida, Tsukao Kawabata, and Kenichiro Kondo in the burning of the paper codes. Demolition of the code machine was more complicated, and followed the guidelines transmitted recently by the Foreign Office. The machines were dismantled with a screwdriver, hammered into unrecognizability, and then dissolved in acid from the naval attaché's office to destroy them thoroughly. Some of these operations were carried out in the gardens of the embassy; so when Bratton, who had read the code-destruction intelligence, sent an officer to the embassy to check, he obtained immediate confirmation.
Now the American officials realized the ominous meaning of the HARUNA messages that had been intercepted as they were sent from New York, New Orleans, and Havana and that had been received just that day in S.I.S. The Army and Navy high command universally regarded the destruction of codes as virtual certainty that war would break out within the next few days. As Stark's deputy put it: "If you rupture diplomatic negotiations you do not necessarily have to burn your codes. The diplomats go home, and they can pack up their codes with their dolls and take them home. Also, when you rupture diplomatic negotiations you do not rupture consular relations. The consuls stay on. Now, in this particular set of dispatches they not only told their diplomats in Washington and London to burn their codes, but they told their consuls in Manila, in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Batavia to burn their codes and that did not mean a rupture of diplomatic relations; it meant war."
A few hours after the code-destruction MAGIC reached Stark, he dispatched the electrifying news to Kimmel and Hart:
Highly reliable information has been received that categoric and urgent instructions were sent yesterday to Japanese diplomatic and consular posts at Hongkong X Singapore X Batavia X Manila X Washington and London to destroy most of their codes and ciphers at once and to burn all other important confidential and secret documents X
He followed this five minutes later with another message:
Circular twenty four forty four from Tokyo one December ordered London X Hongkong X Singapore and Manila to destroy PURPLE machine XX Batavia machine already sent to Tokyo XX December second Washington also directed destroy PURPLE X all but one copy of other systems X and all secret documents XX British Admiralty London today reports embassy London has complied
In Washington urgency drove out all thoughts of security. The strict injunction against ever mentioning MAGIC was completely overlooked. When Kimmel got the message, he asked Layton what "PURPLE" was. So tight had security been that neither of them knew. They checked with Lieutenant Herbert M. Coleman, the fleet security officer, who told them that it was a cipher machine similar to the Navy's.
Marshall authorized his intelligence chief, Brigadier General Sherman Miles, to direct the military attaché in Tokyo to destroy most of his codes and ciphers:
Memorize emergency key word # 2 for use of SIGNUD without repeat without indicators destroy document Stop SIGNNQ SIGPAP and SIGNDT should be retained and used for all communications except as last resort when these documents should be destroyed and memorized SIGNUD used Stop Destroy all other War Department ciphers and codes at once and notify by code word BINAB Stop Early rupture of diplomatic relations with Japan has been indicated State Department informed you may advise ambassador
Next day after lunch the Navy followed suit in advising its Far Eastern attachés:
Destroy this system at discretion and report by word JABBERWOCK Destroy all registered publications except CSP 1085 and 6 and 1007 and 1008 and this system and report execution by sending in plain language BOOMERANG
At 8:45 p.m. that night, Thursday, December 4, the watch officer of the F.C.C.'s Radio Intelligence Division telephoned the Office of Naval Intelligence to ask if it could accept a certain message. The O.N.I. officer was not sure and said he would call back. At 9:05 GY watch officer Brotherhood called the F.C.C. and was given a Japanese weather report that sounded like something the F.C.C. man had been told to listen for. He read it to Brotherhood: "Tokyo: today -- wind slightly stronger, may become cloudy tonight; tomorrow -- slightly cloudy and fine weather. Kanagawa prefecture: today -- north wind cloudy; from afternoon -- more clouds. Chiba prefecture: today -- north wind clear, may become slightly cloudy. Ocean surface: calm." Brotherhood was relieved that it included nothing about EAST WIND RAIN, which would have meant the United States, but in any case this message seemed to lack something that would have been required in a true execute. For one thing, the phrase NORTH WIND CLOUDY, which would have meant Russia, was not repeated twice. Nevertheless, Brotherhood telephoned Rear Admiral Leigh Noyes, director of naval communications, who remarked that he thought the wind was blowing from a funny direction. The consensus was that it was not a genuine execute, and the search continued.
In Tokyo, where it was December 5, Foreign Minister Togo received representatives of the Army and Navy general staffs. A general and an admiral wanted to discuss the delicate matter of the precise timing of Japan's final note to the United States. Drafted in English by the director of the Foreign Office's American bureau, the note had been approved by the Liaison Conference, a six-man war cabinet, at its meeting the day before. It rejected Hull's offer of the 26th and concluded: "The Japanese Government regrets to have to notify hereby the American Government that in view of the attitude of the American Government it cannot but consider that it is impossible to reach an agreement through further negotiations."
Article I of the 1907 Hague Convention governing the laws of war provides that "...hostilities...must not commence without previous and explicit warning, in the form either of a reasoned declaration of war or of an ultimatum with conditional declaration of war." Togo had suggested to the Liaison Conference that the note was far stronger than an ultimatum and that to include a specific declaration of war would be "merely to reiterate the obvious." The conferees had gratefully acceded to this casuistry, since it enabled them to comply with the prior-notification requirement without endangering the surprise of the attack. Since the Hague Convention does not specify how long in advance such notification must be given, Premier Tojo and the other conferees thought to shave the time as much as possible. Dawn in Hawaii was about noon in Washington. The Liaison Conference had tentatively set 12:30 p.m., Sunday, December 7 (Washington time), as the time of delivery of the note.
But when the two military men called upon Togo the next day to fix the exact time, Vice Admiral Seiichi Ito, vice chief of the naval general staff, told the foreign minister [Togo later wrote] "that the high command had found it necessary to postpone presentation of the document thirty minutes beyond the time previously agreed upon, and that they wanted my consent thereto. I asked the reason for the delay, and Ito said that it was because he had miscalculated...I inquired further what period of time would be allowed between notification and attack; but Ito declined to answer this, on the plea of operational secrecy. I persisted, demanding assurance that even with the hour of delivery changed from twelve-thirty to one there would remain a sufficient time thereafter before the attack occurred; this assurance Ito gave. With this -- being able to learn no more -- I assented to his request. In leaving, Ito said: 'We want you not to cable the notification to the Embassy in Washington too early.'" In this demand lay the seeds of Japan's juridical culpability.
Yoshikawa, in Honolulu, had continued sending his ship-disposition reports after the switch to PA-K2. They were an odd mélange of accuracy, error, and outright falsehoods. On December 3, for example, he correctly reported that the liner Lurline had arrived from San Francisco but stated that a military transport had departed when no such thing had occurred. The next day he informed Tokyo about the hasty departure of a cruiser of the Honolulu class; no such ship either entered or cleared the harbor on the 4th. Then, on the 5th, he cabled that three battleships had arrived in Pearl Harbor, making a total -- which he reported with deadly accuracy -- of eight anchored in the harbor. His messages, sent over Kita's signature, were decoded in the Foreign Office and routed to the North American section, where Toshikazu Kase passed them immediately to the Navy Ministry. Here they were redrafted, encoded in a naval code, and transmitted on a special frequency not normally used by the Navy and without any direct address to the Pearl Harbor strike force. Commander Koshi decoded it and brought to his chief this latest information.
The communication-security precautions paid off. Whether or not the messages slipped by the American radio monitors in Hawaii mattered little. Mere interception would not have helped much. The messages bore no external indication of their intended recipient, and they could not have been read. Rochefort's attack on Japanese naval codes had achieved some minor successes in late October and November, but he could read only about 10 per cent of the naval traffic, and much of this consisted of weather and other minor systems. The information obtained, Rochefort said, "was not in any sense vital." Cavite was spottily reading JN25 messages -- which revealed nothing about Pearl Harbor -- until December 4, when the superencipherment was suddenly changed. As a message that moved on the COPEK channel put it: "Five numeral intercepts subsequent to zero six hundred today indicate change of cipher system including complete change differentials and indicator subtractors X All intercepts received since time indicated checked against all differentials three previous systems X No dupes." Corregidor was not to get the initial break into the new superencipherment until December 8. And the only other system in which the Yoshikawa messages might have been forwarded -- the flag officers' system -- remained unsolved.
A possibility of warning was opened at the source, however, when Yoshikawa's original messages became available to Rochefort's unit. Mayfield had picked up another batch of cables in the surreptitious fashion from Street on Friday morning and immediately sent them down to Rochefort's unit by messenger. Solving them was not part of its duty, but when a superior officer and colleague asks one to do a favor, it is hard to say no. Rochefort assigned the messages to Chief Radioman Farnsley C. Woodward, 39, who had had some experience with Japanese diplomatic codes at the Shanghai station from 1938 to 1940. He had some help from Lieutenant Commanders Thomas H. Dyer, Rochefort's senior cryptanalyst, and Wesley A. Wright, Dyer's assistant. Although the unit was not working on the diplomatic systems, it had information on them in the Navy's R.I.P.s, or Radio Intelligence Publications, with which all radio intelligence units were supplied. The R.I.P. gave, however, only the PA code list, leaving the onerous reconstruction of the current K2 transposition to the cryptanalyst. The half-dozen or so dispatches, plus some in LA, reached Woodward about 1:30 or 2 p.m. Friday, and he immediately began the first of a series of 12- and 14-hour days to read them. He had no difficulty with the LA messages, which were translated into English by Marine Corps Captain Alva Lasswell, but these yielded "nothing but junk." The K2, however, eluded him, and he worked on it far into the night.
At about 5 p.m. that day, a trans-Pacific telephone call came through to Mrs. Motokazu Mori, wife of a dentist prominent in Hawaii's Japanese community. She was the Honolulu correspondent for the militaristic Tokyo newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun. Mrs. Mori had received a wire from her editor the previous day asking her to arrange a telephone interview with a prominent Japanese on conditions in Hawaii. She cabled an acknowledgment but, unable to get anyone, she took the call herself.
Yomiuri: Hello, is this Mori?
Mrs. Mori: Hello. This is Mori.
Yomiuri: I am sorry to have troubled you. Thank you very much.
Mrs. Mori: Not at all.
Yomiuri:...I would like to have your impression on the conditions you are observing at present. Are airplanes flying daily?
Mrs. Mori: Yes, lots of them fly around.
Yomiuri: Are they large planes?
Mrs. Mori: Yes, they are quite big.
Yomiuri: Are they flying from morning till night?
Mrs. Mori: Well, not to that extent, but last week they were quite active in the air.
There ensued Q-and-A about the number of sailors, relations between Japanese and Americans, factory construction, population growth, whether the airplanes carried searchlights, Hawaii weather, newspaper comment, and comparison of impressions made during stopovers in Hawaii by two ambassadors to the United States, Kurusu of Japan and Maxim Litvinoff of Russia. The interview continued:
Yomiuri: Do you know anything about the United States fleet?
Mrs. Mori: No, I don't know anything about the fleet. Since we try to avoid talking about such matters, we do not know much about the fleet. At any rate, the fleet here seems small. I don't [know if] all of the fleet has done this, but it seems that the fleet has left here.
Yomiuri: Is that so? What kind of flowers are in bloom in Hawaii at present?
Mrs. Mori: Presently, the flowers in bloom are fewest out of the whole year. However, the hibiscus and the poinsettia are in bloom now.
The editor seemed a little confused about the hibiscus, but the interview continued with discussions about liquor and the number of first- and second-generation Japanese. Finally the editor thanked Mrs. Mori. She asked him to hold on for a moment, but he had already hung up.
Unknown to both of them, someone had been listening. And that someone thought that the talk about hibiscus and poinsettias sounded mighty suspicious -- especially on an expensive transoceanic telephone connection, and especially at a time of extraordinarily tense relations.
In Tokyo it was a little after 1 p.m. on Saturday, December 6. The Japanese reply to Hull's note of the 26th had recently been sent to the cable room of the Foreign Ministry for transmission to the embassy in Washington. Kazuji Kameyama, the cable chief, broke it into fourteen approximately equal parts to facilitate handling and ordered these enciphered on the 97-shiki O-bun In-ji-ki. He also enciphered a shorter "pilot" message from Togo alerting the embassy that the reply was on the way and instructing it "to put it in nicely drafted form and make every preparation to present it to the Americans just as soon as you receive instructions." At 8:30 p.m., the pilot message was telegraphed from the cable room to Tokyo's Central Telegraph Office, from where, 45 minutes later, it was radioed to the United States. Bainbridge Island intercepted it and relayed it to OP-20-G. By five minutes past noon on Saturday, December 6 (Washington time), OP-20-G had delivered the teletype copy to S.I.S., which promptly ran it through the PURPLE machine. By 2 p.m. Bratton had it, translated and typed. An hour later it was in the hands of the Army distributees. S.I.S. had officially closed at 1 p.m. and was not due to reopen until 6, when it was to go on 24-hour status. But this notification of the imminent receipt of the long-awaited reply to Hull's note of the 26th led to telephoning employees Mary J. Dunning and Ray Cave about 2:30 and asking them to report to work. By 4 both were there.
In Tokyo, Kameyama had released the first 13 parts of the Japanese note to the Central Telegraph Office. Following the instructions of the American bureau, he retained the crucial 14th part, which broke off negotiations. Shortly after 10 p.m., commercial radio began sending the 13 parts to Washington. Most of them took less than ten minutes to transmit, but even though two transmitters were used, it was not until two minutes before 2 a.m. that the tail of the last part had gone. Bainbridge, of course, was listening, and it picked the parts up in this order: 1, 2, 3, 4, 10, 9, 5, 12, 7, 11, 6, 13, 8. One batch arrived by teletype at OP-20-G at eleven minutes before noon, Saturday, December 6, Washington time, and the other at nine minutes of 3 that afternoon. Though it was Saturday, December 6, an even date and hence an Army date of responsibility, the Navy handled the dispatches because it knew that S.I.S. was not expected to work that afternoon, and it considered the intercepts of great importance. Decryptment did not go very smoothly, however. Something seemed to be in error. GY knew the key, but it was producing garbles every few letters. The cryptanalysts tried to correct them.
Meanwhile, a decode into Japanese of the long PA-K2 message that Yoshikawa had sent concerning Kühn's visual-signal system for Hawaii was placed on the desk of Mrs. Edgers in GZ. "At first glance," she said, "this seemed to be more interesting than some of the other messages I had in my basket, and so I selected it and asked one of the other men, who were also translators working on other messages, whether or not this shouldn't be done immediately and was told that I should and then I started to translate it. Well, it so happened that there was some mistake in the message that had to be corrected and so that took some time. That was at 12:30 or perhaps it was a little before or after 12:30; whatever time it was, we were to go home. It being Saturday, we worked until noon. I hadn't completed it, so I worked overtime and finished it, and I would say that between 1:30 and 2 was when I finished my rough draft translation." Mrs. Edgers left it in the hands of Chief Yeoman Bryant. But the message was still not entirely clear, and she had not yet had enough experience for her translations to be sent out without further checking. Kramer, busy with the 13 parts, did not examine it in detail.
To speed processing of the 13 parts, GY, learning that some people were in S.I.S., sent over parts 1 and 2. But when Major Doud of S.I.S. ordered Miss Cave to OP-20-G to help in the smooth typeups, the two parts were returned to GY for solution there, probably because of the garbles. But other messages also coming in were retained by S.I.S.
At 3 o'clock, Kramer, in GZ, had checked with GY to find out whether any more Tokyo traffic had come in before releasing his translators for the day. Since the critical matter of a diplomatic note is often found in the last sentences, GY broke down the last part intercepted for him. The first part of the first line indicated in Japanese that this was part 8 of a 14-part message. After about three lines of Japanese text in the preamble, the message came out in English, just as the Foreign Office had sent it. Kramer could let his translators go home. Interspersed throughout the English text were many of the three-letter codewords indicating punctuation, paragraphing, and numbering, but these posed no problem since they had been recovered long ago.
At 4 o'clock, when Linn took over the GY watch, the garbles still had not been cleared. He decided to start from the very beginning, to check the key, find what was wrong, and redecrypt the messages rather than to try to guess at the garbled letters and possibly make serious errors that would distort the sense. Discarding all the previous work caused a serious jam on the Navy's one PURPLE machine, and about 6 p.m. GY again called on S.I.S. for help. Parts 9 and 10 were sent over; an hour later, the decrypts came back in longhand. By 7:30, the last of the 13 parts was being decrypted.
Not all the garbles had been scrubbed out. Part 3 had a 75-letter smudge that could not be read at all, Part 10 a 45-letter blur, and Part 11 one of 50 letters. Part 13 went awry in two patches. One deciphered as andnd and the other as chtualylokmmtt; GY thought the first should be and as and the second China, can but.
In the Japanese embassy, about a mile away, the code clerks had completed deciphering the first seven or eight parts of the message by dinnertime. Then they all repaired to the Mayflower Hotel for a farewell dinner for Hidenari Terasaki, head of Japanese espionage for the western hemisphere, who had been ordered to another post.
While they were enjoying themselves, American code clerks at the Department of State were at work encoding a personal appeal for peace from the President of the United States to the Emperor of Japan. This had been off again, on again since October, Roosevelt apparently wishing to save it for a last resort. Now he decided that the time had come. The message was on its way by 9 o'clock. It traversed the 7,000 miles to Tokyo in an hour. But it took ten hours to get from the Central Telegraph Office to the American embassy.
As the President was addressing a message of peace to the Emperor, the men of the Japanese strike force were listening to a message of war. Shortly before, Admiral Nagumo had topped off the fuel tanks of his combat ships for the final dash. His crews waved farewell to the slow-moving tankers. Now the officers read a stirring message from Yamamoto to all hands: "The moment has arrived. The fate of the empire is at stake. Let every man do his best." Banzais rent the air. Up the mast of Akagi fluttered the very flag that had flown at Japan's great naval victory over Russia in 1905. It was a moment of great emotion. Nagumo altered course to due south and bent on 26 knots. Through a mounting sea, the battle force plunged toward its target.
Lovely, peaceful, that target lay "open unto the fields, and to the sky," oblivious to the onrushing armada of destruction. But many people were seeking clues to Japanese intentions, particularly concerning sabotage, which was regarded as a serious threat. Among these was Robert L. Shivers, special agent in charge of the F.B.I.'s Honolulu office and the man who, under authority of the Attorney General, had ordered the tap on the overseas phone that picked up Mrs. Mori's interview. By noon he had received a transcript in English of the call, and soon after 4 p.m. was conferring about it with Mayfield and the Army assistant G-2, Lieutenant Colonel George W. Bicknell, in his office on the sixth floor of the Alexander Young Hotel in Honolulu. Mayfield consulted with Lieutenant Carr, who had translated the Navy telephone taps and who happened to be duty officer that afternoon at the District Intelligence Office; both thought that Cart should listen to the original recording to see if any hidden meaning was concealed in the intonations. Shivers said he would have it by 10 the following morning. Bicknell, whose job included heading the Army's counterintelligence in Hawaii, was convinced that the hibiscus and poinsettias smelled of espionage. He telephoned his boss, Colonel Kendall J. Fielder, the G-2, and said he wanted to see him and General Short immediately on a matter of importance.
They were both on their way to dinner at Schofield Barracks, and Fielder asked if it couldn't wait until tomorrow. Bicknell said it was too important; Fielder agreed to see him. Bicknell drove hurriedly out to Fort Shafter, where Fielder and Short had their homes side by side, and at about 6 p.m. the three men discussed the message for a while, but though they considered it "very suspicious, very fishy," Fielder said, "we couldn't solve it, we couldn't make heads nor tails out of it." The flower references seemed totally out of place, as if they were indeed conveying secret military information by open code, but, on the other hand, the Japanese spoke quite openly about airplanes and the fleet. The whole thing was very baffling, and they never did reach a conclusion about it.
They did not know that the Yomiuri Shimbun was then being hawked on the streets of Tokyo with an atmosphere feature on Hawaii based on the Mori interview -- complete with reference to flowers. Nor, apparently, did they realize that the Japanese did not need so weak and dangerous a system. They could send much more detailed reports by cable in their diplomatic code. And, in one of the most ironical of situations at Pearl Harbor, they were doing precisely that at that very minute. While the three American army officers were standing on Short's porch worrying about the hibiscus, the R.C.A. office was time-stamping "1941 Dec 6 PM 6 01" on a message from the consulate. It was signed "Kita" but it came from Yoshikawa. It was brief (only 44 groups) and cheap ($6.82), but it reported that "(1) On the evening of the 5th, the battleship Wyoming and one sweeper entered port. Ships at anchor on the 6th were: 9 battleships, 3 minesweepers, 3 light cruisers, 17 destroyers. Ships in dock were: 4 light cruisers, 2 destroyers. Heavy cruisers and carriers have all left. (2) It appears that no air reconnaissance is being conducted by the fleet air arm." Yoshikawa was, as usual, partly right and partly wrong. He mistook Utah for Wyoming. His figure on the battleships was correct, but in harbor that afternoon were 6 light and 2 heavy cruisers, 29 destroyers, 4 minesweepers, 8 minelayers, and 3 seaplane tenders. With this message Yoshikawa completed his assignment. It was the last cable sent by the Japanese consulate in Hawaii for many years.
By 8:45 p.m. in Washington, the 13 parts had been typed in smooth copies and put up in folders. Kramer began telephoning the recipients to find out where they were so he could bring the MAGIC to them. He also called his wife, Mary, who agreed to chauffeur him during his deliveries. They reached the White House first, at about 9:15. The naval aide, Beardall, had told the President that some MAGIC would be delivered that evening, and at about 4 p.m. he had ordered his communications assistant, Lieutenant Lester R. Schulz, to stand by and bring it to the President. Schulz was waiting in Beardall's small office in the corner of the basement mail room in the White House when Kramer arrived. The Roosevelts had been entertaining at a large dinner party, but the President had excused himself. Schulz obtained permission to bring the MAGIC to the President, and an usher accompanied him to the oval study on the second floor and announced him. Roosevelt was seated at his desk. Only Harry Hopkins was with him. Schulz unlocked the briefcase with the key that Beardall had given him, removed the sheaf of MAGIC, and handed it to the President. He read the 13 parts in about ten minutes while Hopkins paced slowly up and down. Then Hopkins read them. The 13th part rejected Hull's offer, and when Hopkins had passed the papers back to the President, Roosevelt turned to him and said, in effect, "This means war." Hopkins agreed, and for about five minutes they discussed the situation, the deployment of Japanese forces, the movement towards Indochina, and similar matters. The President mentioned his message to Hirohito. Hopkins remarked that it was too bad that the United States could not strike the first blow and prevent any kind of surprise in the inevitable war.
"No," the President said in effect, "we can't do that. We are a democracy and a peaceful people." He raised his voice: "But we have a good record." He tried unsuccessfully to get Admiral Stark on the telephone, deciding against having him paged at the National Theater for fear of causing undue alarm.
The President then returned the papers to Schulz and, about half an hour after he had entered the study, Schulz left. He found Kramer seated at one of the long tables in the mail room. Schulz gave him the pouch and soon thereafter went home. Kramer, however, continued to the Wardman Park Hotel, where Secretary Knox had a suite. For about twenty minutes, while Kramer chatted with Mrs. Knox and the acting manager of Knox's Chicago Daily News, the Secretary read the 13 parts. He agreed with Kramer that, even incomplete, it pointed to a termination of negotiations. He went into another room to make some telephone calls, and when he came out he told Kramer to bring the latest MAGIC to a meeting that had been arranged for 10 a.m. the next morning with Stimson and Hull in the State Department. (Bratton had delivered the 13 parts to the night duty officer at State at 10 p.m., admonishing him to get them to Hull at once.) Knox returned the intercepts to Kramer, who then went to the home of Rear Admiral Theodore S. Wilkinson, director of naval intelligence, where Beardall and Army intelligence chief Miles happened to be dinner guests. All three studied the intercept in a room away from the other guests, Beardall reading from an extra copy that Kramer had. They too seemed to feel that negotiations were coming to an end.
It was after midnight when Kramer left the Wilkinson house. His wife drove him back to the Navy Department, where he put the MAGIC back in his safe in GZ and checked to see if the 14th part had yet come in. It had not. Finally he went home himself.
In S.I.S., meanwhile, the new teletype that would expedite the forwarding of intercepts was being set up in the "cage," the barred room where PURPLE traffic was processed. Monitor Post 2 was requested to send in some intercepts as a test. In San Francisco, Harold W. Martin, the noncom in charge, punched onto the teletype tape the intercepts that the post had picked up since airmailing in the bulk of the day's material, as well as the earlier ones. Among the later ones was Yoshikawa's final message, which thus became one of the first to move on the direct wire as a real, nontest item. S.I.S. received it a little after midnight. But PA-K2 was a low-priority system, and the message had originated in a consular office. It was set aside to be worked on later.
Besides, S.I.S. had more important things to worry about. Like OP-20-G, it was going frantic in a search for the 14th part. Captain Robert E. Schukraft, head of the intercept section, and Frank B. Rowlett, the civilian cryptanalyst in charge of the Japanese diplomatic solutions, checked and rechecked to see whether one of the stations had picked it up and had somehow neglected to forward it. The message preambles had said that it existed, but they could find no trace of it. Neither suspected that the Japanese Foreign Office had deliberately held up transmission of this final conclusive part for security's sake.
Neither did the code clerks at the Japanese embassy. They had returned from Terasaki's party about 9:30, and by midnight had completed deciphering of the 13 parts. While they waited for the final section, they busied themselves by disposing of the remnants of the cipher machine they had destroyed the night before. But they did nothing to fulfill the orders of the pilot message to prepare the dispatch for immediate presentation.
Finally, fourteen hours after the last part of the previous 13 parts had been transmitted, the Foreign Office released the crucial 14th part that broke off negotiations. At 4 p.m., Tokyo time, it ordered it transmitted via both R.C.A. and Mackay Radio & Telegraph Company to ensure its correct reception. An hour and a half later, it wired to the Central Telegraph Office the coded message ordering the 1 p.m. delivery of the 14-part note. This too was sent via the two companies.
As usual, the indefatigable ear of Bainbridge Island detected the ethereal pulses of both messages. It picked up the Mackay transmission of the 14th part between 12:05 and 12:10 a.m., December 7, local time, and the even briefer one o'clock message between 1:28 and 1:37 a.m. It teletyped them to GY in a single transmission, the 14th part as serial No. 380 of Station S, the one o'clock as No. 381. Brotherhood, who was GY watch officer, ran them through the PURPLE machine. He evidently had some trouble with the 14th part, for it took an hour to break. But by 4 a.m. he had it in English. The three-letter codegroups were quickly translated into punctuation; the message would need little more than typing. The one o'clock message, however, turned out to be in Japanese. He sent it to S.I.S. for translation, knowing that translators were on duty because S.I.S. was beginning its round-the-clock tours. It was a little past 5 a.m., Washington time.
In the embassy of Nippon, the code clerks who had waited all through the night for the 14th part were, on Counselor Iguchi's advice, being sent home. Just as they were climbing wearily into their beds, the naval attaché arrived and found the mailbox stuffed with cablegrams. The duty officer telephoned the clerks at their homes about 8 a.m. and ordered them back to work.
A few hundred miles north of Oahu, the Japanese task force, bristling with guns, planes, and hate for Americans, bore down on the Pacific Fleet. A few hours earlier, a message had arrived from Tokyo that caused Commander Mitsuo Fuchida, the pilot who was to head the first wave of the air attack, to breathe a sigh of relief. It had been relayed from Yoshikawa, and it reported that no barrage balloons had yet been emplaced to protect the fleet from air attack. The same message also caused Commander Minoru Genda to sigh with relief. It stated that the battleships appeared not to be protected by torpedo nets. Genda had conceived the plan of shallow-water torpedo attack on the anchored American ships.
A little more than an hour after the hands of Honolulu clocks had snipped off December 6 and opened out into the first hours of December 7, the Pearl Harbor strike force received Tokyo's relay of Yoshikawa's final message. The American ships were still in harbor, awaiting the ax stroke with fat complacency. They were apparently not even protected by air search. Was it all a decoy? The strike force's radio officer, Commander Kanjiro Ono, listened intently to Honolulu's radio station KGMB for any inkling that the Americans knew of them. He heard only the soft melodies of the islands. On Hiryu, the flight deck officer slipped bits of paper between each plane's radio transmitter key and its contact point to make sure that radio silence, so carefully preserved for almost two weeks, would not be accidentally broken in the last few hours to destroy the element of surprise.
As Yoshikawa's final report was being decoded aboard Akagi, Kramer returned to the Navy Department he had left only seven hours before, and began working again. It was 7:30 on the morning of Sunday, December 7.
Brotherhood's decryptment of the 14th part was on his desk when he arrived. It took him about half an hour to ready a smooth version, and at 8 o'clock he delivered the neatly typed copy to McCollum. Other copies went to S.I.S. for its distribution. Kramer then worked on other traffic in his office, interrupting himself only once, at 8:45, to bring a copy of the 14th part to naval intelligence chief Wilkinson on his arrival at the Navy Department. At 9:30 he set out to deliver the full 14 parts to the meeting of the three secretaries. He stopped at the office of the Chief of Naval Operations to make sure that Stark had been given the message, which he had, and then walked and trotted to the White House. He got there at about 9:45 and gave the MAGIC pouch to Beardall, who had assigned himself to duty that morning because he thought the 14th part of the message that he had seen at Wilkinson's house the night before might be coming in.
Beardall brought the folder to the President, who was in his bedroom. Roosevelt said good morning to him, read the intercept, and commented that it looked like the Japanese were going to break off negotiations. Then he returned the MAGIC, and Beardall took it back to the Navy Department.
Kramer, meanwhile, had hurried across the west lawn of the White House to the ugly, ornate State Department building, arriving at about ten minutes of 10. The Army courier appeared at almost the same moment with the MAGIC for Hull and Stimson. Three State Department officials who saw MAGIC -- Hornbeck, Ballantine, and Hamilton -- were shown the 14th part by Hull's aide, John Stone, and the group discussed the situation in general terms until the secretaries arrived a few minutes later. Kramer gave his pouch to Knox and headed back to the Navy Department.
Meanwhile, the translation of the one o'clock message had come up from S.I.S. It was placed in Bratton's hands about 9 a.m. while he was reading the 14th part. It "immediately stunned me into frenzied activity because of its implications, and from that time on I was busily engaged trying to locate various officers of the general staff and conferring with them on the exclusive subject of this message and its meaning," he said later. He tried first to get in touch with Marshall, calling him at his quarters at Fort Myer, and was told by an orderly that the chief of staff had gone on his customary Sunday morning horseback ride. Bratton directed the orderly:
"Please go out at once, get assistance if necessary, and find General Marshall, ask him to -- tell him who I am and tell him to go to the nearest telephone, that it is vitally important that I communicate with him at the earliest practicable moment." The orderly said he would. Bratton called Miles, told him of the message, and urged him to come down to the office at once. Between 10 and 10:30, Marshall called Bratton back. The colonel offered to drive out at once with the one o'clock message, but Marshall told him not to bother, that he was coming down to his office at once. Bratton obeyed.
Kramer arrived back in GZ at about 10:20, and found there the one o'clock message. It struck him as forcibly as it had Bratton. He at once had Yeoman Bryant prepare a new set of folders for immediate delivery of the intercept. Included in the new set were other messages which S.I.S. had decrypted, and on which Kramer had been working earlier in the morning: Tokyo serial No. 904, which directed the ambassadors not to use an ordinary clerk in preparing the 14-part ultimatum for presentation to the Secretary of State, so as to preserve maximum security; serial No. 909, thanking the two ambassadors for all their efforts; and serial No. 910, ordering destruction of the remaining cipher machine and all machine codes.
Kramer was about to dart out again when Pering, the GY watch officer, brought in a message in plain-language Japanese, ending with the telltale STOP that indicated it was an INGO DENPO message: KOYANAGI RIJIYORI SEIRINOTUGOO ARUNITUKI HATTORI MINAMI KINEBUNKO SETURITU KIKINO KYOKAINGAKU SIKYUU DENPOO ARITASI STOP TOGO. Kramer recognized KOYANAGI as the codeword for England, and HATTORI as a codeword whose meaning he did not recall. He consulted his code list and saw that it meant Relations between Japan and (name of country) are not in accordance with expectation. But in his haste he overlooked that the common Japanese word minami, which means "south," had an INGO DENPO meaning of U.S.A. He interpreted the message as "Please have director Koyagani send a wire stating the sum which has been decided to be spent on the South Hattori Memorial Library in order that this business may be wound up." Consequently, he dictated a decode that omitted United States: Relations between Japan and England are not in accordance with expectation. Yeoman Bryant inserted this and three other minor messages that had come over from the Army into the folders. Kramer meanwhile made a navigator's time circle that indicated that one o'clock in Washington was dawn in Hawaii and the very early hours of the morning in the Far East around Singapore and the Philippines, which everybody seemed to be watching. He shoved the folders into the briefcase and dashed out the door.
He went first to Stark's office, where the officers were discussing the 14th part, summoned McCollum, gave him the pouch that included the final code-destruction and one o'clock messages, and mentioned to him the significance of the latter's timing. McCollum grasped it at once and disappeared into Stark's office. Kramer wheeled and hurried down the passageway. He emerged from the Navy Department building and turned right on Constitution Avenue, heading for the meeting in the State Department eight or ten blocks away. The urgency of the situation washed over him again, and he began to move on the double.
He half trotted, half walked to State, getting there at about 10:45. Hull, Knox, and Stimson were still meeting. Kramer saw them grouped around the conference table when the door to Hull's office was opened briefly. He gave the MAGIC messages to Stone, explaining to him how the one o'clock time of delivery of the ultimatum tied in with the movement of a big Japanese convoy down the coast of Indochina, and mentioning in passing that the time in Hawaii would be 7:30 a.m. The final code-destruction message was self-explanatory. Kramer carried a MAGIC pouch to the White House, and then returned, perspiring, to the Navy Department, to busy himself with still more MAGIC. At about 12:30, he spotted the omission of United States from the INGO DENPO message. Because the one o'clock meeting was so close, he telephoned the recipients with the correction, a practice he had followed several times in the past, but reached only McCollum and Bratton. He told them that United States was to be inserted in file number 7148. The force of it had been considerably lessened by the one o'clock message, but Kramer, conscientious beyond the basic requirements of duty, nevertheless planned to send around a corrected version.
Safford later estimated that OP-20-G handled three times as much material that weekend as on a normal one; the GY log shows at least 28 messages in PURPLE alone handled that Sunday. And these messages were processed much more expeditiously than at any other time in the past, Kramer said. The cryptanalysts had done their duty, and had done it superbly. Events now passed out of their hands.
In Tokyo, the President's message to the Emperor had finally been delivered to Grew after a delay of ten hours. The chief of the censorship office had ordered that all foreign cables be held up for five hours one day and ten hours the next. The order had been issued at the request of a lieutenant colonel on the general staff, who asked that this be done "as a precaution." The President's "triple priority" message arrived on one of the ten-hour days, was stalled for the required time, and was finally delivered at 10:30 p.m., Tokyo time.
Grew immediately arranged for a meeting with Togo and, when the message had been decoded, drove to Togo's official residence at 12:15 a.m. He requested -- as is the right of all ambassadors -- an audience with the head of state to present the message, then read it aloud to Togo and gave him a copy. Togo promised to present the matter to the Throne and, despite the lateness of the hour, telephoned the Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal for an audience. Ministers of state would be received at any hour, and the audience was arranged for 3 a.m. Togo began having the message translated.
It was then about 5:30 a.m., December 7, in Hawaii. The Japanese task force was only 250 miles north of Pearl Harbor. More than 2,000 Americans with less than three hours to live slept or played in blissful ignorance of that fact. The hands of clocks in the Foreign Office in Tokyo, in the code room at the Japanese embassy in Washington, in the War and Navy departments, in Pearl Harbor, circled around and around, but not so quickly as the spinning propellers of Nagumo's ships. At 5:30, two cruisers catapulted off a pair of scout planes to make sure the Americans were still there.
The clerks at the embassy had straggled back to work between 9:30 and 10. They began decoding the longer cables first, as experience had shown that these were usually the more important. At the same time, the embassy's first secretary, Katzuso Okumura, was typing up the first 13 parts of the ultimatum. He had been chosen because the Foreign Office had forbidden the use of an ordinary typist in the interests of secrecy and he was the only senior official who could operate a typewriter at all decently. At about 11:30, code clerk Juichi Yoshida adjusted the Alphabetical Typewriter to the proper keys and typed out a short code message. To the consternation of the entire staff, it turned out to be an instruction to deliver the 14-part message to Secretary Hull at 1 p.m., Washington time. The 14th part had not even been decoded from the sheaf of incoming cables! And only one code machine was left to decipher all the messages!
A few blocks away, General Marshall had just arrived at the War Department. On his desk was the MAGIC folder with the 14-part message on top and the one o'clock message under it. He began to read the ultimatum carefully, some parts several times. Bratton and Brigadier General Leonard T. Gerow, the war plans chief, tried to get him to look at the one o'clock message, but it is rather difficult for subordinates to interrupt a four-star general, and he finished the ultimatum before finding the time-of-delivery message. It struck him with the same sense of urgency that it had the others, and he picked up the telephone to call Stark to see if he wanted to join him in sending a warning message to American forces in the Pacific.
At approximately the same time, Ambassador Nomura was calling Hull to request an appointment at 1 p.m. And 230 miles north of Hawaii, the first wave of Japanese planes was thundering off the flight decks of the carriers.
Stark was at that moment discussing the significance of the one o'clock message with Captain R. E. Schuirman, Navy's liaison with State. He told Marshall that he felt that enough warnings had been sent and that more would just confuse the commanders. Marshall thereupon wrote out the dispatch he wanted sent:
Japanese are presenting at one p.m. Eastern Standard Time today what amounts to an ultimatum also they are under orders to destroy their code machine immediately Stop Just what significance the hour set may have we do not know but be on alert accordingly Stop
On his desk Marshall had a scrambler telephone with which he could have called Short in Hawaii. The scrambling apparatus stood in a room next to his office, thus obviating the possibility of tapping the conversation in unscrambled form, as was done with the Mori message. But Marshall knew that scramblers afforded protection merely against casual listeners; they could be penetrated by a determined eavesdropper with proper equipment. He had on several occasions warned the President about security on his transatlantic telephone conversations with Ambassador Bullitt in France and later with Churchill -- a wise move, for, though he did not know it, the Nazis had already penetrated that scrambler. The Japanese had evidenced some interest in the San Francisco-Honolulu scrambler, and Marshall was acutely sensitive "that the Japanese would have grasped at most any straw" to suggest to the isolationists that the administration had committed an overt act that had forced the Japanese hand. Japanese interception of a scrambler warning might thus have sent the country to war divided. So Marshall shunned the scrambler telephone and relied on the slightly slower but much more secure method of enciphering a written message.
As he was completing the message, Stark called him back. He had reconsidered and wanted Marshall to add the usual admonition to show the message to the naval opposites. Marshall added: "Inform naval authorities of this communication." Stark offered the Navy communication facilities, but Marshall said that the Army's could get the message out as quickly.
Marshall gave the message to Bratton to take it to the War Department message center for transmission to the commanding generals in the Philippines, Hawaii, the Caribbean, and West Coast, after vetoing a suggestion that it be typed first. As Bratton was leaving, Gerow called out that if there was any question as to priority, to send it to the Philippines first. Bratton, greatly agitated, gave the message to Colonel Edward French in the message center and asked how long it would take to get it out. French told him that it would be encoded in three minutes, on the air in eight, and in the hands of the addressees in twenty. Bratton returned and reported to Marshall, who did not understand the explanation and sent him back for a clarification. He still was not sure and sent Bratton back a third time, after which he was finally satisfied with the answer.
Meanwhile, French had had the message typed anyway and then ordered it encoded on a machine that was operated from a typewriter keyboard. During the few minutes that this took, he checked his Honolulu circuit, and found that since early morning interference had been so bad that the small 10-kilowatt War Department radio could not "bust" through it. He knew that R.C.A. in San Francisco had a 40-kilowatt transmitter which would have no difficulty in getting through, and that Western Union in San Francisco had a tube running across the street from its office to this R.C.A. office. He had also learned on the previous day that R.C.A. was installing a teletype circuit from its office in Honolulu to Short's headquarters at Fort Shafter. French figured that this would therefore be his most expeditious route; after the message had been encoded, he personally carried it over to his bank of six Western Union teletypes and, at 12:01 p.m. December 7, sent it on its way. Western Union forwarded it at 12:17, and 46 minutes later it was received by R.C.A. in Honolulu. Local time was 7:33 a.m. The first wave of Japanese planes was then only 37 miles away -- so close that the Army radar operators at Opana Point, who had tracked the flight for several hours and had been told to "Forget it" when they first reported it, were about to lose it in the dead zone of the nearby hills. But though the teletype connection for Fort Shafter had been completed the day before, it was not in operation pending tests on Monday. R.C.A. put Marshall's message in an envelope marked "Commanding General" for hand delivery.
In Tokyo, Togo had been received by the Emperor. He read the text of Roosevelt's message, then a draft of the imperial reply that he and Tojo had prepared. It stated that the 14-part note was to be considered as Japan's response. Hirohito assented, and at 3:15 a.m. Togo withdrew from the Divine Presence. Deeply moved, he recalled, "I passed solemnly, guided by a Court official, down several hundred yards of corridors, stretching serene and tranquil. Emerging at the carriage entrance of the Sakashita Gate, I gazed up at the brightly shining stars, and felt bathed in a sacred spirit. Through the Palace plaza in utter silence, hearing no sound of the sleeping capital but only the crunching of the gravel beneath the wheels of my car, I pondered that in a few short hours would dawn one of the eventful days of the history of the world." Even as he pondered, Japanese planes were circling over Pearl Harbor.
In stark contrast to the calm stillness of Tokyo was the hectic bustle of the Japanese embassy on Massachusetts Avenue.
Soon after the one o'clock message had been decoded, Okumura finished typing the first 13 parts. But he decided that this rough draft did not suit the formality of a document to be delivered to the Secretary of State. He began retyping it from the very beginning, being assisted now by a junior interpreter, Enseki. His task was complicated by two messages sent up from the code room, one ordering the insertion of a sentence that had been accidentally dropped, one changing a word. This required the retyping of several pages, including one just completed with a great deal of trouble. At about 12:30, the code room finally gave him the 14th part of the ultimatum, but Okumura was nowhere near finished with the first 13. Nomura kept poking his head in the door to hurry him on. A few minutes after one, when it was evident that the document would not be finished for some time, the Japanese called Hull to request a postponement to 1:45, saying that the document they wished to present was not yet ready. Hull acquiesced.
At almost exactly the time that the call to Hull was being placed, Commander Fuchida and his flight of 51 dive bombers, 49 high-level bombers, 40 torpedo planes, and 43 fighters arrived over Pearl Harbor. He fired a "black dragon" from his signal pistol to indicate that the squadrons should deploy in the assault pattern for complete surprise. Nine minutes later, he wirelessed the message "To, to, to" -- the first syllable of the Japanese word for "Charge!" and the signal to attack. As the planes moved into position for their runs, he felt so certain that he had achieved complete surprise that, at 7:53, two minutes before the first bomb even fell, he jubilantly radioed "TORA! TORA! TORA!" ("Tiger! Tiger! Tiger!") -- the prearranged codeword that indicated surprise. On Akagi, Nagumo turned to a brother officer and grasped his hand in a long, silent handshake. At 7:55, the first bomb exploded at the foot of the seaplane ramp at the southern end of Ford Island in the middle of Pearl Harbor.
Okumura was still typing. His fingers struggled with the keys as torpedoes capsized Oklahoma, as bombs sank West Virginia, as 1,000 men died in the searing inferno of Arizona. At 1:50 p.m. Washington time, 25 minutes after the attack had started, he reached the end of his typing marathon. The two ambassadors, who were waiting in the vestibule, started for the State Department as soon as it was handed to them.
The Japanese envoys arrived at the Department at 2:05 and went to the diplomatic waiting room [Hull wrote]. At almost that moment the President telephoned me from the White House. His voice was steady but clipped.
He said, "There's a report that the Japanese have attacked Pearl Harbor."
"Has the report been confirmed?" I asked.
He said, "No."
While each of us indicated his belief that the report was probably true, I suggested that he have it confirmed, having in mind my appointment with the Japanese Ambassadors...
Nomura and Kurusu came into my office at 2:20. I received them coldly and did not ask them to sit down.
Nomura diffidently said he had been instructed by his Government to deliver a document to me at one o'clock, but that difficulty in decoding the message had delayed him. He then handed me his Government's note.
I asked him why he had specified one o'clock in his first request for an interview.
He replied that he did not know, but that was his instruction.
I made a pretense of glancing through the note. I knew its contents already but naturally could give no indication of this fact.
After reading two or three pages, I asked Nomura whether he had presented the document under instructions from his Government.
He replied that he had.
When I finished skimming the pages, I turned to Nomura and put my eye on him.
"I must say," I said, "that in all my conversations with you during the last nine months I have never uttered one word of untruth. This is borne out absolutely by the record. In all my fifty years of public service I have never seen a document that was more crowded with infamous falsehoods and distortions --infamous falsehoods and distortions on a scale so huge that I never imagined until today that any Government on this planet was capable of uttering them."
Nomura seemed about to say something. His face was impassive, but I felt he was under great emotional strain. I stopped him with a motion of my hand. I nodded toward the door. The Ambassadors turned without a word and walked out, their heads down.
The warlords' hopes of shaving the warning time to the closest possible margin had quite literally gone up in the smoke of attack, and Japan had started hostilities without giving prior notification. Later, this failure to declare war would be made part of the charges on which the Japanese war criminals were tried -- and convicted, some of them paying with their lives. Togo would try to exonerate himself by throwing the blame on the embassy personnel for neglecting to decipher the cables promptly and to type the ultimatum at once. Perhaps some lawyer's talking point might have been salvaged if the ambassadors had grabbed Okumura's original copy, no matter how messy, and taken it to Hull at 1 p.m., or if they had taken the first few pages of the fair copy at 1 p.m. and directed the embassy staff to rush the other pages over as completed. But even if the entire document had been delivered on time, the 25 minutes that remained until the attack would not have been sufficient time for all the steps needed to prevent surprise: reading the document, guessing that a military attack was intended, notifying the War and Navy departments, composing, enciphering, transmitting, and deciphering an appropriate warning, and alerting the outpost forces. This was just what the shoguns intended. But just as a multitude of human errors on the part of Americans, cascading one atop the other, helped make tactical surprise perfect, so a series of similar human errors on the part of the Japanese deprived them of their last vestige of legality.
Shortly after the attack commenced, Tadao Fuchikama, a messenger for the Honolulu office of R.C.A., picked up a batch of cables for delivery. He knew that the war had started and that it was the Japanese who were attacking the ships in the harbor, but he felt he had his job to do anyway. He glanced at the addresses on the envelopes, including the one marked "Commanding General," and planned an efficient route. Shafter was well down the list. His motorcycle progressed slowly through the jammed traffic; once he was stopped by National Guardsmen who had almost taken him for a paratrooper. At 11:45, almost two hours after the last attackers had vanished, Marshall's warning message was delivered to the signal officer. It got to the decoding officer at 2:40 that afternoon and to Short himself at 3. He took one look at it and threw it into the wastebasket, saying that it wasn't of the slightest interest.
In Tokyo, Grew was awakened at 7 a.m. by the telephone, summoning him to a meeting at 7:30 with Togo. On Grew's arrival, the Foreign Minister gave him the Emperor's reply to the President. He thanked Grew for his cooperation and saw him off at the door. Four hours had elapsed since the attack had begun, but Togo never mentioned it. Shortly thereafter, Grew learned of the outbreak of hostilities from an extra of the Yomiuri Shimbun hawked outside his window. The Japanese soon closed the embassy gates and prohibited cipher telegrams. Grew ordered execution of the State Department regulation to destroy all codes. The embassy's second and third secretaries, Charles E. Bohlen and James Espy, locked the code room from the inside and destroyed the several score documents. "No Japanese interrupted that process," Grew wrote, "nor could he have, since the heavy door of the code room was securely locked. None of our codes, nor any part of them, nor any of our confidential correspondence fell into the hands of the Japanese."
The Japanese themselves were not so smart. They did all right in Washington, breaking up their last code machine and burning all remaining codes after encoding a final message that they were so doing -- the last message sent on the Washington-Tokyo circuit, and read, of course, by the American code-breakers. But in Honolulu, police guarding the consulate after the attack smelled papers burning and saw smoke coming from behind a door. Fearing a conflagration, they broke in and found the consulate staff burning its remaining documents in a washtub on the floor. The police confiscated what proved to be the telegraph file plus five burlap sacks full of torn papers. These reached Rochefort's unit that evening. Woodward was still working long hours in an attempt to break the PA-K2 messages that Mayfield had brought. Since the attack, the fear of sabotage had swelled to enormous proportions. "Nothing coming to light," his notes read, "so it was decided to reverse the process of deciphering, allowing for the encoding party to have either purposely encrypted the messages in this manner or possibly to have made an error in using the system employed due to confusion. This netted results."
At about 2 a.m. on December 9, he cracked one of the messages picked up in the consulate. It was one sent from the Foreign Ministry to Kita on the 6th: "Please wire immediately re the latter part of my #123 any movements of the fleet after the 4th." With this, he was soon able to unlock the other PA-K2 messages -- including the long one setting up Kühn's light-signaling system. At about the same time in OP-20-GZ, Kramer, who had been too busy with the 13 parts on Saturday to work on this message, was breaking out charts of Oahu and Maui to help in degarbling the message, which was finally reduced to plaintext by Thursday. Marshall later said that it was the first message that clearly indicated an attack on Pearl to him -- but this was, of course, after the fact. The information from it was immediately passed to counterintelligence units in Hawaii, where invasion was thought highly probable. Their agents interrogated residents in the neighborhood of the houses mentioned in the dispatch and listened to recordings of KGMB want ads, but found that the signal system had never been used. They arrested Kühn, who confirmed this. He was convicted on espionage charges and imprisoned at Leavenworth Penitentiary until after the war, when he was paroled to leave the country.
On December 7, while Honolulu was still reeling from the devastation of the attack, F.C.C. monitors there picked up a Japanese-language news broadcast from station JZI in Japan. The announcer boasted of a "death-defying raid" at Pearl, reported other events, and, about halfway through the broadcast, declared: "Allow me to especially make a weather forecast at this time: west wind clear." The O.N.I. translator noted that "as far as I can recollect, no such weather forecast has ever been made before" and that "it may be some sort of code." It was the long-awaited winds code execute, apparently sent indicating war with Britain to make sure that some Japanese outpost that had not reported destroying its codes by the codeword HARUNA would burn them.
Shortly after noon in Washington on the day after the attack, the President of the United States stood before a stormily applauding joint session of Congress and opened a black looseleaf notebook. When the cheers had subsided into a hushed solemnity, he began to speak:
Yesterday, December 7, 1941 -- a date which will live in infamy -- the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.
He alluded to the fatal Japanese delay in delivering the ultimatum:
The United States was at peace with that nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its Government and its Emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific. Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in Oahu, the Japanese Ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to the Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. While this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or armed attack.
The war was on. The most treacherous onslaught in history had succeeded. Japan had cloaked the strike force in absolute secrecy. She had dissembled with diplomatic conversations and with jabs toward the south. She had -- in a precaution whose wisdom she but dimly realized -- swathed her plans in a communications security so all-enveloping that not a whisper of them ever floated onto the airwaves.
But if the cryptanalysts had no chance to warn of the attack and save American lives before the war, they found ample opportunities to exert their subtle and pervasive talents during the struggle. In the 1,350 days of conflict in which an angry America turned Japan's tactical victory at Pearl Harbor into total strategic defeat, the cryptanalysts, in the words of the Joint Congressional Committee, "contributed enormously to the defeat of the enemy, greatly shortened the war, and saved many thousands of lives."
That, however, is another story.
Copyright © 1967, 1996 by David Kahn