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This essay assignment allows students to conduct a case study of an important issue connected with the themes and content of the unit. The question calls for an analytical examination of a specific intelligence operation or problem. In writing your essay, you should think of yourself as a senior intelligence analyst preparing a report or policy brief for a senior government figure or oversight body.

The essay should:

  • Explain the essential nature and key elements of the intelligence issue, operation, failure or problem that is under consideration
  • Briefly place this issue within its broader historical context
  • Present and critically analyse the relevant evidence available for the issue
  • Offer a considered interpretation that answers the question asked, including a discussion of any other explanations that you have discarded
  • Conclude with some suggestions or comments on intelligence lessons that can be learned from this particular issue, operation, failure or problem The essay must:
  • Make use of relevant research materials

Why was the United States unable to predict or detect the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor?

(Key audience: President of the United States OR Prime Minister of Japan)

Key elements of intelligence in US

Generally, the success of the Japanese attack on the Pearl Harbour basically illustrates a case study of national awareness which has highly influenced military leaders in the USA. This started since December 7, 1941. Despite the in-depth investigations done on this issue, the circumstances surrounding the attack remained controversial. The reason for the attack was termed as the failure of intelligence. Every professional leader in a military group acts with utmost integrity so as to ensure mistakes done in the military. The case study explains how lack of intelligence led to the attack on Pearl Harbor.

In addition,key elements of intelligence in US was illustrated in d various ways.Different scholars and writers in the state argued that the attack was due to the failure of the USA intelligence system to give the appropriate information to the entire government and also to the military decision-makers in the state. The intelligence community had appropriate information that was not disseminated before the attack. By examining the whole history of US intelligence group it was clear that the failure was affected by the adequate time for Japanese military preparations.Also, utilization of the information from the military decision makers was also another opportunity that geared this attack. The whole concept of Pearl Harbour tends to be too valuable to be lost for revisionism. It shows a basis for teaching US future benefits to the government and also to the military leaders. The information gives a sense of having a clear use of intelligence for national preparedness benefits. As an aspect of recalling the future generation may repeat the same incidence and therefore there is a need to check power capabilities possessed by the appropriate nations.

First and foremost let's describe some of the key issues which describe the important aspect of intelligence. This suggests that Pearl Harbor was an intelligence. This indicates that not all the military organization. Not only in the entire naval military intelligence but also there was a failure in the other sectors. Different scholars have revealed that many including the FBI and the fielding Donovan organization too. It was through the Magic and most of US military leaders were unable to read what the Japanese ambassadors and other European leaders were saying on that day.US noted that Japanese had spies who used to report on what was happening in US military. This caught the US unaware since spies had already revealed the apt information needed by the attack. This raised an issue on the aspect of human failure in intelligence and also failed to signal changes in the US.

Failure of intelligence

This raised a question to the president on why both signal and human intelligence in the US failed at that high degree. This question was indeed a big issue and basis of operation. The answer was only found by thoroughly examining how the intelligence team in the US was highly misused or unused during the havoc. However, a one to one clue can be used to trace the inevitable attack by the Japanese. In fact, a member in intelligence team had warned the president on the anticipated attacker but no one could believe. The information spread in the entire state but many misinterpreted what was conveyed by arguing that the Japanese were unable to attack Pearl Harbour. Japanese demanded the US not to increase the military group. This was the idea of measuring the US intelligence since Japanese new that they would conquer the available military. In fact, no one could explain how the Japanese were a threat to the US until everything came out on the day of the attack.

The central debate on the aspect of intelligence is based on the questions which were mostly targeting the performance of the Allied American. The failure resulted in the failure of code breaking and direction funding which failed to reveal Japanese means and intentions in the North Pacific before the attack on the Pearl Harbour. According to the arguments revealed by the traditionalist one notice that description by the Allied-American on the diplomatic and other related naval code did result in any warning on the attack in Pearl Harbor. One could not get any single information encrypted in Japanese documents describing the attack. Has means there was no single warning about the attack on Pearl Harbour by the Japanese. Some of the revisionists in the US believed that the encrypted information had what the Japanese intended to do but they lacked the primary evidence to prove. Also, it has been known that US military intelligence at some points they used the safecracking technique so as to get appropriate Japanese codebooks. Furthermore in 1941 US had interpreted a number of Japanese messages that different historians had believed they pointed the Pearl Harbor attack. It was unusual for the British in the US to translate some of the Japanese messages. This was so much insecure thus affecting the US intelligence exchange process. Some of this messages from Japanese revealed their plans to attack the North Pacific - Pearl Harbor. At this time no one could believe the messages but they all summarized the intelligence scheme from all interception.

Human failure in intelligence

On the aspect of historical context, communication intelligence in the US was identified as the help for the Allied. This was seen through government used to protect the intelligence secrets. Memoirs and a large number of history played a huge impact on the wartime topics. The relevance of the topic is described in apt manner. This suggests that beyond all selections of evidence by the Historians then we tend to realize that there was a high degree of hostility towards the form of revisionism identified during attacker to the Pearl Harbor. In addition just to mention a brief history one tend to realize that Pearl Harbor will be fought subject which many will debate for a long period of time. The history shows that there were some individuals who could communicate what Japanese had planned about the attack Pearl Harbor. By considering the 1941 witness including the Leslie Grogan and also Johan Ranneft then we get to realize that the thesis for an official in the US had the ability and predict Japanese attack. This history basis for the topic formed a foundation for the break of Second World War. In this manner, the intelligence studied helps to reveal the unique insight offered in the decision-making process. Adequate intelligence existed in the US back in 1941 and this could help them if only they checked for the encrypted document released by the Japanese. Integrating and cross-checking available evidence is a way of measuring the intelligence basis.

United States was unable to predict or detect the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor because of reasons such as;

Many scholars and authors have continuously acknowledged that the surprise that Japanese's got in the massive attack on Pearl Harbor highly resulted from an increased failure of the United States Intelligence units to offer that information to both the authority and those implemented decisions in the military. These sources typically presume that the intelligence society had vital information that was much misunderstood, wrongly interpreted or inappropriately disseminated before the eve of the attack. Various revisionist adheres to existing conspiracy theories and acquires a belief that top officers hid information in order to contribute to World War II.

They cite the highly initial classified information as historical based evidence for their assertions. There also existed inaccurate viewpoints since the mostly reflected on misunderstanding the ultimate abilities and key information that was given to the U.S intelligence community just before the attack incident occurred at Pearl Harbor. One can disapprove these allegations by just evaluating the history of US intelligence society and the increased knowledge of Japanese military panels while preparing for offensive events.

Historical context of communication intelligence in the US

The controversies on why the available American forces present in Hawaii were so much unprepared for the Japanese Pearl Harbor attack incident continuous in the modern era. According to the US Senate and House of Representatives, the official members indicated that the event that occurred at Pearl Harbor resulted from a failure of Army and Navy. It is quite evident that the Army and Navy have comprised of the attendant increase in high caliber personnel and instruments of war, failed to provide important measures designated to detect and know about an upcoming hostile activity. With this particular war realization and knowledge, they would have been able to be ready and enact measures that would help in repelling the disaster.

The US Hawaiian commanders and forces literally failed to discharge their fully given mandate and responsibilities and take the full interest of the warnings issued out from Washington DC Also other important message possessed, relayed and also in full conformity with the principle of emergency command by use of mutual cooperation. They also failed to highly integrate and coordinate other defensive facilities and forces and also to make the Army and Navy available aware of the impending attacks. Thus they did not follow the correctly laid out protocol of dealing with warnings and intelligence.

They also failed to effectively liaison which was aimed at acquainting all of the forces with the consequent operations of each other. This was appropriate and important to the joint security forces which would lead to an increased exchange of core intelligence provided.

The Hawaiian commands failed to highly maintain an optimum critical reconnaissance within the constraints of the war equipment. They were unable to implement an aspect of readiness in the entire army and navy which are utilized in meeting and suppressing all probable attacks. They were unable to employ the required facilities, war materials, and high caliber or skilled personnel who are ready at their command. These adequate policies would have reduced the impacts of the attack in repelling the attackers. The commanders failed to appreciate the merits of intelligence reports and other crucial information conveyed to them from various parties. These particular erroneous acts done by the Hawaii Army and Navy commanders formed errors of the judgment's a matter of fact they were not errors of derelictions of responsibilities.

Also, the War Plans Division in the existing war department had a failure by not discharging its mandate and direct role or duty to offer advice to the commanding general on the immediate course of action. The person in charge had not adequately alerted the department after getting the instructions and reports on the same. In as much there were many officers under watch, evidence shows that all the in charge departments were not sufficiently made aware.

Controversies surrounding US Intelligence Units

However, the most significant reason why the US failed to detect the surprise attack is that the attack was successfully done in a thorough and careful manner. They were much prepared to execute the attack. Diplomatic codes could not be broken and message leaked since ship radios that could be detected by intelligence services were highly encrypted and complete radio silence assembled and reinforced. The training and practice of the impending attack on Pearl Harbor was done in a remote region. In the plan, ship officers and admirals were not adequately informed. The United States had no access on the ground intelligence assets in the Harbor before the attack was carried out. No westerner could carry out secret contacts with officers in the Japanese military and government authorities. The route identified conducive for the incident was hidden from the realization by sea lanes for commercial cruises so that there existed fewer opportunities to being discovered. The officers were ignorant and thought that such a small nation could not make a huge attack or wage war against the USA. The intelligence units in the US Army Air force campaign in Hawaii had inadequate resources such as insufficient long-range patrol craft which would have been properly utilized in the maintenance of ocean and other directions. This lack of adequate resources led to the failure of the local commanders to carry out various surveillance around the Hawaii regions. These would have immediately detected the Japanese's attack fleet before they had a chance to launch the dangerous attack.

The bomb plot message indicated that US intelligence should have the capability to highly accumulate raw message send then have high interception rates and interpret read message. It suggested that they should have to produce finished intelligence by knowing the significance of the intelligence message in future.

In conclusion, there should be useful reporting system and technique. The US forces were quite slow to highly adopt the radar technology which would have discovered the Japanese attack planes on the available radar scopes. Despite all these everyone in the forces with sufficient ranks should clearly understand the correct meaning for observations and alerts. Evidently, Pearl Harbor was a complete intelligence failure .Conversely, some of the conspiracy theorists argue that Roosevelt deliberately ignored provided intelligence regarding the impending attack with in order to acquire a legitimate capacity to declare war on Japan. We need not to ignore information’s from various sources .There was a memo that showed that Japan was attempting to contemplate a kind of military insurgency which was denied and ignored by intelligence officials. Ambassadors in Washington were never made aware of the plan neither were Japanese diplomats and consular officials alerted. Strike ships were also not radioed thus cryptanalyst was unable to discover the impending attack plan.


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Dahl, Erik J. Intelligence and surprise attack: Failure and success from Pearl Harbor to 9/11 and beyond. Georgetown University Press, 2013.

Dower, John W. Cultures of War: Pearl Harbor/Hiroshima/9-11/Iraq. WW Norton & Company, 2010.

Feis, H., 2015. China Tangle: The American Effort in China from Pearl Harbor to the Marshall Mission. Princeton University Press.

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Mahnken, Thomas G. "China's anti-access strategy in historical and theoretical perspective." The Journal of Strategic Studies 34, no. 3 (2011): 299-323.

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Otfinoski, Steven. Day of Infamy: The Story of the Attack on Pearl Harbor. Capstone, 2015.

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Trautman, Lawrence J. "Is Cyberattack the Next Pearl Harbor." NCJL & Tech. 18 (2016): 233.

Turner, Michael A. Historical Dictionary of United States Intelligence. Rowman & Littlefield, 2014.

Voss, James F. "Informal reasoning and international relations." In Informal reasoning and education, pp. 55-76. Routledge, 2012.

Wheeler, Gerald E. Prelude to Pearl Harbor: The United States Navy and the Far East, 1921-1931. Pickle Partners Publishing, 2017.

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