On the seventy-fifth anniversary, the authors of Pulitzer Prize finalist The Eleventh Day unravel the mysteries of Pearl Harbor to expose the scapegoating of the admiral who was in command the day 2,000 Americans died, report on the continuing struggle to restore his lost honor—and clear President Franklin D. Roosevelt of the charge that he knew the attack was coming.
The Japanese onslaught on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 devastated Americans and precipitated entry into World War II. In the aftermath, Admiral Husband Kimmel, Commander-in-Chief of the Pacific Fleet, was relieved of command, accused of negligence and dereliction of duty—publicly disgraced.
But the Admiral defended his actions through eight investigations and for the rest of his long life. The evidence against him was less than solid. High military and political officials had failed to provide Kimmel and his Army counterpart with vital intelligence. Later, to hide the biggest U.S. intelligence secret of the day, they covered it up.
Following the Admiral’s death, his sons—both Navy veterans—fought on to clear his name. Now that they in turn are dead, Kimmel’s grandsons continue the struggle. For them, 2016 is a pivotal year.
With unprecedented access to documents, diaries and letters, and the family’s cooperation, Summers’ and Swan’s search for the truth has taken them far beyond the Kimmel story—to explore claims of duplicity and betrayal in high places in Washington.
A Matter of Honor is a provocative story of politics and war, of a man willing to sacrifice himself for his country only to be sacrificed himself. Revelatory and definitive, it is an invaluable contribution to our understanding of this pivotal event.
The book includes forty black-and-white photos throughout the text.
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About the Author
Robbyn Swan was, with Summers, a Pulitzer Prize finalist for The Eleventh Day and the winner of the Golden Dagger Award. Swan has explored many of the seminal events of the past century, including the rise of the Mafia, the Kennedy assassination, and Watergate. Early in her career she worked as a researcher for John le Carre. She has written for Salon and the National Journal, and contributed to documentaries for CNN, PBS, and the History Channel. Swan and Summers have both written for Vanity Fair.
Malcolm Hillgartner is an accomplished actor, writer, and musician. Named an AudioFile Best Voice of 2013 and the recipient of several Earphones Awards, he has narrated over 175 audiobooks.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Dishonor in Washington “A Matter of Honor” is an exceptionally well-written and researched book, which left me with a sense of loss and sadness for the thousands of servicemen who died at Pearl Harbor and for the two senior career officers who never had a chance to redeem themselves. With excellent insights, a comprehensive index, bibliography, and informative documentation, it’s a “must read” resource for anyone interested in the saga of the Pearl Harbor attacks. In “Honor,” authors Summers and Swan systematically explore controversies around the Pearl Harbor attack, the roles played by key participants, and the validity of actions taken against the two senior American commanders. Strictly speaking, “Honor” is more a story about interactions between U.S. government departments than a conventional military history. The writers take us back to the dawn of the national security state which began inauspiciously for the United States with Japan’s attack on Hawaii in December, 1941. It serves as a useful but painful reminder that American war stories don’t necessarily have a happy ending for all the individuals involved. This was certainly true for Admiral Husband Kimmel, Pacific Fleet commander, and General Walter Short, commander of Army forces in Hawaii, who were both unceremoniously relieved of duty and disgraced following the attack. In “Honor,” the authors explore several recurrent themes: (1) the inability or refusal of the Navy and War Department’s intelligence functions to communicate timely information to the commanders in Hawaii who wanted it and needed it; (2) the headquarters insistence that all available actionable intelligence was shared with Kimmel and Short, but was then ignored; and (3) the defense establishment’s (alleged) use of Kimmel and Short as scapegoats and their rejection of continuing efforts by the two families to restore some measure of honor to the officers by reinstating them to the ranks they held on December 7, 1941. These are interesting topics, all well-covered. Following are several key lessons that emerge from “Honor:” *The Roosevelt administration didn’t conspire to precipitate war with Japan. Readers hoping for new conspiracy leads won’t find them here. *The Navy, War, and State Departments (and the FBI to a lesser degree) amassed vast information about Japanese intentions and capabilities before December 7, 1941, but lacked the organizational skills to analyze this material effectively or act on it quickly. There seemed to be no lack of qualified staffing. Still, no department was able to produce timely, useful guidance from the blizzard of data received. *The lack of coordination within and between Navy and War Departments’ intelligence organizations in Washington was epic. The Department of State’s and FBI’s pursuit of their own parochial interests contributed to the dysfunctional aura that existed among intelligence practitioners. *The Navy and War Departments were keenly aware that the Japanese Navy could attack Pearl Harbor with carrier-based aircraft. With the wisdom of hindsight, critics suggested that the Hawaii commanders lacked judgment by focusing too much on Japanese intentions, rather than capabilities. Kimmel and Short, it follows, should have recognized somehow that the Japanese had the capability to plan an undertaking unprecedented in scope, boldness, and complexity for its time. They should have anticipated that the Japanese could assemble a strike force of six fleet carriers (
A lot of ink has been spilled on the Pearl Harbor attack, but this is a perspective you've never read before - with a plethora of original research to back it up. "A Matter of Honor" opens with a window into the life of Admiral Kimmel, the admiral in charge of the US Pacific Fleet in 1941, many years after the attack, a man who carried the weight of the Pearl Harbor disaster on his shoulders almost entirely until he died. This emotional beginning stays with you through the devastating story of the attack and the rewind through exhaustive research to uncover the series of mistakes which prevented Admiral Kimmel from knowing what was coming. These mistakes are a case study in gross incompetence which is almost impossible to believe. The book makes pretty clear that it was just that - incompetence, inefficiency, blunder - which missed the coming disaster, but leaves no doubt that it was the incompetence of Kimmel's superiors which was to blame, not of Kimmel himself. Yet his superiors hung the attack around Kimmel's neck and dropped him in the ocean. They turned him into a national pariah, and the days and months after the attack read like a tragedy within the Pearl Harbor tragedy as Kimmel bore the fury of a nation. Kimmel, once lauded by FDR as the greatest naval strategist of his time, sat in disgrace watching his peers go on to great fame in WWII, his career in tatters. He bore it quietly, in deference to the war effort, until the time came to clear his name. I do not want to spoil the story or the research, but "A Matter of Honor" traces the facts with precision and brings to life an historic event which should never be forgotten.
Admiral Kimmel from the fate he suffered as a result of his bungling at Pearl Harbor. It is another effort by his family to have the Admiral absolved of the blame for what happened and to have him restored to the rank of Admiral. Oddly though, his real rank was as a brevet Rear Admiral and he held the rank of Admiral only while he was Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet so once he was relieved of his duties as CinC, Pacific Fleet, he was reverted to his regular rank. Therefore, even if he was exonerated of his responsibility for the Pearl Harbor disaster, the only rank he is entitled to is as a Rear Admiral, which is the rank he retired at. This latest effort to revise the history of Pearl Harbor is only one of many efforts to revise that history since World War II. This book is typical of efforts. It is just another example of the conspiracies often advanced to explain historical events. The main revisionist theory is and has been to blame it on President Franklin Roosevelt. But extensive and thoroughly examined historical evidence has absolved FDR of in anyway knowingly allowing the Japanese to attack Pearl Harbor. In fact, FDR had less knowledge of that possibility than Admiral Kimmel who was so convinced that the Japanese fleet would not attack Pearl Harbor, that he ignored such a possibility. To prove their point, the authors of this book cherry pick their facts in order to substantiate their claims that Kimmel was scapegoated. But when all the evidence is examined, Kimmel clearly derelict in his duties. He was not alone. There were a lot of people who shared in the blame but Kimmel was the man in charge and he made the bad decisions that led to the disaster. One of Kimmel’s problems was that he was old Navy, a battleship man, who thought little of aircraft carriers and did not understand their potential to wreak havoc on surface ships. One example of his lack of understanding was that he thought that it was safe to dock all his ships in Pearl Harbor which he thought was too shallow for a torpedo attack. If he had been more up to date on what carrier planes could do was the fact that the British had inflicted major damage on the Italian fleet at the battle of Taranto, launching torpedoes at a shallow depth. While Kimmel was ignorant of that, the Japanese were not and knowing that aircraft torpedo attacks were possible at Pearl Harbor convinced the Japanese to attack there. Indirectly, part of the blame falls on FDR because he fired Admiral James O. Richardson, in February 1941 and replaced him with Kimmel. Richardson, with the support of most of the Navy, was opposed to stationing the Pacific Fleet in Hawaii but Roosevelt wanted to station the Fleet in Hawaii as a means of discouraging the Japanese. Bad choice because that only encouraged the Japanese to attack the fleet which was a major concern of Admiral Richardson. Moreover, Richardson was well aware of the power f aircraft carriers. Thus Roosevelt’s folly was appointing Kimmel, who was not qualified to handle such a task and it was his incompetence that led to the disaster. Admiral Kimmel’s miserable performance at Pearl Harbor is taught as an example of how not to command at the Naval Academy and in the U.S. Naval War College. If the Navy is that convinced that Kimmel’s performance at Pearl Harbor was dereliction of duty, then that is how he should be judged in history. Not as the revisionist authors of this book write of him.