I haven’t been posting recently, tied up with some additions, clarifications and other work needed to get Tipping Point actually published in print and EBook form. 

What I’ve also done is some ten hours of interviews since the first the year, starting a new series on both my national security and political assassination books with Chuck Ochelli, plus some additional interviews on the MLK books which Stu Wexler and I co-authored.  Most recently I did a two hour interview on Unidentified and will blog on that when I have time.

The Ochelli shows have been two hours in length and the discussion tends to cover a very broad spectrum of subjects.  In discussing Surprise Attack we explored the long standing rumors that certain attacks were known yet allowed to happen – that talk ranged from Pearl Harbor to 9/11. The dialog on Pearl Harbor led us into the attack on the Philippines, which hardly ever gets discussed, but was far more egregious in terms of neglected warnings than was Pearl Harbor. Few people know that McArthur actually chose not to communicate with Washington or the War Department for hours after being given the initial warnings that Pearl Harbor had been attacked and ordered to immediately implement his war plan.

I went into detail about the advance war alert which had been issued for Pearl Harbor and the specific defensive plans that should have interdicted the Japanese carrier strikes – had not the B- 17 aircraft which were supposed to be conducting off shore reconnaissance flights searching for the anticipated Japanese fleet northwest of the islands been rerouted to the Philippines for interdiction bombing strikes during the anticipated Japanese attack. Strikes which General McArthur failed to authorize even when his air commander begged for him simply to follow the standing war plans. That failure of command led to the destruction of the American strategic bombing plan for the Pacific – and air strikes which would have caught the Japanese aircraft which devastated the Philippines on the ground prior to taking to the air.

We concluded with a discussion of Benghazi and the highly secret CIA efforts then underway in Libya and Syria. Covert actions which received little attention (not surfacing at all in the follow on Congressional inquiries), but which were the real reason for the attack which targeted the American Ambassador to Libya (who was organizing weapons shipments to Syria) – and explain why the CIA security contractors were not stationed at the embassy, but rather at the much larger and highly secure CIA station some distance away. You can listen to part or all of that conversation here:

In our two hours on Shadow Warfare, Chuck and I explored the early post World War II origins of American covert warfare and regime change – beginning with the effort to stage major military incursions into southern China from Burma and divert the Chinese Army during the Korean War, and then expanding the American activities to regime change in Iran.  The Iranian experience proved to be the success (short term as it was) which gave the CIA a largely undeserved reputation for effectiveness – but one in which the regime change was more a matter of luck than the actual CIA plan, which had initially failed. One of the points of the discussion was that the Iranian experience illustrates the opportunity that the U.S. had to actually support the global anti-Colonial movements, but passed on in order to support the British position on dominating oil production in the Gulf States. A decision similar to that which led to supporting the French colonial position in SE Asia and the fragmentation of Vietnam.

The talk ranged on from the earliest  years of shadow warfare to discussion of how covert operations frequently become entangled with drug smuggling – largely because the logistics needed for deniable warfare create the commercial covers that can be easily hijacked and often rely on connections to smugglers who are already engaged in illegal activity.

Beyond that the “surrogates” involved in such actions – whether they be the Burmese hill tribes circa 1950, the Hmong in Laos during the 1960’s, the Nicaraguan Contras or the anti-Soviet (and later anti-government) Afghan forces –  always seem to involve at least some leaders who finance themselves with and base their power structures around drug sales.  Working with them inherently contains the poison pill of drug smuggling.  As I note in the Shadow Warfare, if you send in weapons to your surrogates by donkey, drugs come back, if you use helicopters drugs come back and if you ship Toyotas to Afghanistan, well you get the point.  You can listen to part or all of that conversation here:

Next up on the Ochelli interviews, on February the 18th, will be a discussion of my newest book on national security history and practices – “In Denial”

11 responses »

  1. John F. Davies says:

    Excellent discussion of the attack on the Philippines, as well as showing the other side of Douglas Macarthur. I’d like to add that in contrast, his Naval counterpart, Admiral Thomas Hart , Commander of the Asiatic Fleet, did everything right when it came to preparing for a potential Japanese attack. In fact, cryptologists from the Naval communications detachment on Corregidor had decrypts showing an impending Japanese assault on the Philippines, which MacArthur amazingly ignored. Hart also dispersed his ships and put the entire Asiatic Fleet on a war footing, so it was ready when Hart issued his famous order of 8 December, 1941-
    “Japan has begun hostilities. Govern yourselves accordingly.”

    MacArthur’s indecision and the destruction of his Air Force allowed the Japanese Air forces to devastate the Cavite Navy Yard, depriving Hart of the only repair facility at his disposal. Hart later left the Philippines to take charge of the multinational ABDA fleet, but political infighting and Hart’s strained relationship with FDR kept him from exercising an effective command. Soon Roosevelt relieved Hart and the Admiral returned to the U.S., serving on the Navy’s General board and later as a Republican Senator from Connecticut, his work in creating the Atomic Energy Commission being his greatest achievement.

    Another amusing fact is that Hart had been a close friend of Douglas’s older brother, Admiral Arthur Macarthur, and thus knew the General quite well. Hart was also one of the few who would address MacArthur by his first name. During MacArthur’s long monologues, Hart would often interrupt him saying -“C’mon Douglas, lets let someone else have their say.”
    Macarthur’s reaction is not recorded, but I think extreme annoyance would be a good guess.
    Link to Biography.

  2. larryjoe2 says:

    Great comment John, and it is worth noting that both the Navy and even Army Air Force tried to get it right in the Philippines. MacArthur’s air commander repeatedly went to him over several hours to get permission for the planned interdiction air strike (Army Air had been performing routine air recon of the Japanese held air fields where their attack force was staged) and he was refused permission to even talk to MacArthur – who in turn was not responding to an entire series of War Department warning cable messages (he was never called on to explain those actions).

    And in Hawaii it was Army Air B-17’s that had been tasked with the forward air reconnaissance against the anticipated Japanese carrier strike – but when those aircraft were redirected to the Philippines no complaints or protests were sent back to the War Department nor was any effort made to replace them by requesting a sortie of Navy cruisers wit float planes or more significantly a Navy carrier. Navy carriers did perform reconnaissance to the SW while transporting more fighter aircraft to Midway.

    Its another example of very solid threat intelligence work in both commands, but a failure to follow up with real world operational priorities. Which turns out to be true for most successful surprise attacks.

  3. John F. Davies says:

    Another comment on Admiral Thomas Hart.

    James Leutze’s biography of Admiral Hart, and the works of other Naval historians mention that President Franklin D. Roosevelt was likely attempting to provoke Japan into attacking the U.S., but not as some mythmakers say, at Pearl Harbor, but rather on the Philippines. It should be remembered that in 1941, the Philippine Islands were still U.S. Territory, and technically American soil. An armed attack by Japan on the Philippines meant an attack on America proper, and thus result in a declaration of war.

    Thus, in late November, 1941 two auxiliary vessels, the sail schooner Lanakai and the armed yacht Isabel were sent to the coast of Indochina for the purpose of reconnaissance. Admiral Hart and his staff, as well as the crews of the ships involved, soon figured out that the real purpose of the mission was to create an incident. The U.S. would then retaliate using Plan Orange, the American contingency plan for war against Japan. While Roosevelt was manipulative and crafty, it pushes any credibility to believe that FDR would sacrifice the capital ships of the Pacific fleet. Hart’s fleet was there for that very purpose, namely being the “trip wire” that would commence hostilities against Japan.

    As they say, the best laid plans always go awry. So focused was FDR on the Philippines, that he ignored any potential threat to Pearl Harbor. And according to Navy Secretary Frank Knox, Roosevelt was ashen with shock when they first met on 7 December, 1941.
    This was the only time Knox ever saw him react in this way. Like any myth, the belief that FDR had deliberate foreknowledge is an embellishment of another genuine and true fact. The Pearl harbor attack can be described as more the result of a miscalculation rather then a genuine conspiracy.

  4. larryjoe2 says:

    I’m not sure it was quite that well calculated, considering the other factors I discuss in Surprise Attack which include the covert project to set up an actual Flying Tiger bombing element in China which could have diverted the Japanese by a couple of raids on their homeland. For that matter there was a lot of media play to get across the message that the US was setting up strategic bombing forces surrounding Japan – whether to slow down their advance or at least make them pause is a question. Of course the alternative, assuming the Japanese took that seriously, was to force them into action as soon as possible.

    As usual I suspect there were a number of feints and diversions in play, but certainly not all the pieces had been put in place to respond to a Japanese strike on the Philippines if the wire had been tripped. I think the most serious miscalculation was that at that point Japan could be diverted from going after the desperately needed resources they needed to support their full scale war in China – as it was the monitoring of their fleet surge down from Vietnam towards the Dutch island chains should have given lie to that.

    But when you get down to cases, the bottom line is that an actual war alert had been issued for all Pacific commands from Alaska to Pearl, the Philippines and even the Canal Zone. Given that sort of alert it has always puzzled me that the first response from each command was not to surge out every long range aircraft – and the Navy resources at Pearl Harbor – to probe the expected attack corridors, including the so called “empty sea” northwest of the Islands.

    You would think the first priority would be to determine any incoming threat from Japanese carrier forces which could moving towards Pearl or the Canal, but that simply was not done. And if that had been done and the Japanese fleet detected coming towards Pearl, that would have functioned as a trip wire in and of itself – hostilities would no doubt have commenced against the carrier force.

    • John F. Davies says:

      Final Comment.
      re Long Range Air Patrols

      Once again, the only theater commander who did things right was Admiral Hart.
      When the war warning of 29 December, 1941 was received, Admiral Hart immediately ordered Navy Patrol Wing 10 to conduct extensive reconnaissance missions in the Philippine and South China Seas. It was from the PBY’s of VP-10 that the first reports were received of Japanese naval movements from Indochina Southward. Harts PBY’s later encountered Japanese air and naval Elements conducting recon missions around the Philippine main islands. All this information was immediately shared with MacArthur, as well as all other theater commands.

      And again, as mentioned, these warnings, while received were never acted on.
      The exception being the Asiatic Fleet and also General Brereton, MacArthur’s Air Chief . After hostilities began, Pat Wing 10 committed itself into combat, performing incredible acts of airmanship and bravery . Among these men was one Lt. ( jg) Thomas Moorer, who later went on to become Chief of Naval Operations and then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs.

  5. John F. Davies says:

    Correction: 29 November, 1941

    • larryjoe2 says:

      John, thanks for highlighting Hart’s command decision. In Chapter 2 of Surprise Attack I point out that it was accepted as reality that once Japan decided to sortie towards the Malay Barrier and the British and Dutch territories south of Vietnam they would have committed themselves and would have to defend their flank, which at a minimum meant interdicting any American thrust from the Philippines.

      When Hart’s aircraft detected that move, and radio intercepts confirmed the size of the force involved, combat was clearly imminent. Which is why the war alerts were issued – those alerts were not simply a caution, they were a directive that each command initiate actions to defend itself.

      As you say, MacArthur’s air commander took his own initiative, sending out reconnaissance aircraft and preparing for an interdiction strike on the Japanese air fleet on Formosa. He staged his bombers, had strike maps prepared and was ready to take out that formation – which he could have legally and quickly done since there were some eight hours following the attack on Pearl Harbor when the strike could have been launched. Yet MacArthur consistently stonewalled his requests – one of the most serious command failures of the earliest years of the war.

      For anyone really wanting to dig into this issue I recommend William Bartch’s books including McArthur’s Pearl Harbor.

  6. Greg Kooyman says:

    Great article Larry!

    I had listened to some older podcasts that you did last year with Chuck Ochelli and can’t wait to listen to these new episodes.


  7. larryjoe2 says:

    Thanks Greg, as it turns out Chuck wants to go through all the books so we will doing another conversations every couple of weeks – starting with the national security books and going on to the political assassination works after those. That should take us through winter (thankfully) and well into spring.

  8. Greg Kooyman says:

    Good morning Larry; I hope you and your family are staying safe and warm during the snow and sub zero temperatures you are having.

    Best Regards,


  9. larryjoe2 says:

    So far so good but its challenging. Yesterday we had rolling power outages, a wind chill of -27 and were dealing with eight inches of snow and some two to three foot drifts. Last night we had eight more inches of snow and now drifts of three to four feet. Roads are closed, no idea when we will be able to get out …

    Things are improving weather wise but its going to be days before this snow goes away – we are fortunate compared to many around this state and especially in Texas where their power situation is much worse. What is being added is after several days of sub freezing temperatures, towns and cities are now dealing with water line cracks and breakages and that is becoming serious.

    Lucky to be well off here but it keeps you waiting for the next shoe to drop…or the rolling power outage to show up unannounced…

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