Former U.S. official vindicates Pearl Harbor scapegoats in speech at veterans event

Army veteran Robert Eastwood leads the color guard into the room at the veterans lunch at the Kennett Senior Center on Friday.
Army veteran Robert Eastwood leads the color guard into the room at the veterans lunch at the Kennett Senior Center on Friday. Chris Barber — Digital First Media

KENNETT SQUARE >> Addressing an audience of about 150 local veterans and their supporters, former U.S. Army counterintelligence agent and journalist Samuel L. Waltz Jr. described his efforts in vindicating the two commanders at the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, who had been widely scapegoated for a lack of preparedness.

He was the keynote speaker at the annual Veterans Luncheon at the Kennett Senior Center on Friday.

Waltz, who was heavily involved in urging a U.S. Senate vote that restored the late military officers to their highest ranks, said the devastation wrought by the Japanese on the island was not caused by the incompetence of Admiral Husband Kimmel and General Walter Short.

During the attack on Pearl Harbor, he said, about 2,400 people were killed and many more were injured. The fault, Waltz said, was not that of Kimmel and Short, but lack of notification of the coming attack by President Franklin Roosevelt.

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He cited a spirit of isolation in the nation and the protectiveness by the President of coded intelligence from Japanese communications.

Kimmel and Short, he said, had been encouraged to protect the United States territory in Hawaii from internal attacks — from enemy agents within the island.

“They were aware of their vulnerability and fearful of the presence of the Japanese in Pearl Harbor, Based on that, they protected from sabotage, and (the air attack) was a shock and the beginning of World War II.

And yet, Waltz said, the President knew the day before that an attack was coming from outside air attack, the outside, but did not send the message on.

As a result, the two men, who had risen in rank during their active duty before the war, were relieved of their duty and reduced in rank.

It was not until 1998 that they were vindicated by a Senate vote in 1998, with the effort led by Sens. Biden and Roth from Delaware and urged on by Waltz.

State Rep. Stephen Barrar, R-160, of Chadds Ford was also present and sponsored the luncheon. He spoke a brief greeting.

As chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, he said he is currently working on legislation that would grant the same financial benefits to the spouses of those killed in the military as the benefits given to those who are 100 percent disabled. Included in those benefits is relief from property taxes, he said.

Overall, he said, he is frequently asked about relief for all taxpayers from the burden, but it is a difficult problem to solve inasmuch as the money has to come from “someplace to replace it.”

Additionally, Barrar addressed the current mood of the United States following three hurricanes in one season and a national debate over athletes kneeling during the playing of the National Anthem.

“We have a right to protest,” he said, “But there’s a time and place to do it. ... I’ve seen guys with both their legs blown off stand. You should stand out of respect for the county. It represents the people.”

The Veterans luncheon is an annual event at the senior center. In addition to hearing a speaker, the guests receive entertainment, a free lunch and a lot of praise for their service.

The jazz band from the Avon Grove Charter School played several numbers, and local musician Bill Johnson played “Assembly” while a color guard marched in with the flags.

For the guests — many of them in dress uniform , it was a chance to get together with old friends and receive the recognition they sometimes were missing.

The luncheon was organized by Activities Director Andrea Durynski and included two “Thank-you-for-Your-Service”-decorated cakes for dessert.

Another Veterans-related event is planned on Veterans Day in Kennett Square at the American Legion on Nov. 11.

About the Author

Chris Barber

Chris Barber is the editor of the Avon Grove Sun. She was previously southern bureau chief of the Daily Local News and editor of the Kennett Paper, earning honors in writing and photography. Reach the author at agsun@kennettpaper.com .