By FRANK BOYETT
Admiral Husband Kimmel was made a scapegoat for Pearl Harbor, and spent the rest of his days trying to clear his name, his oldest grandson said during a presentation here Friday afternoon.
"You couldn't talk to the man for two minutes without the subject of Pearl Harbor coming up," related Tom Kimmel of Cocoa Beach, Fla., who spent a lot of time with the admiral as a youngster. "His mind was always sharp. His body gave out on him but his mind was always sharp."
Kimmel said there is more at stake than just family honor. "If we continue to ignore the lessons we should have learned from the Pearl Harbor attack ... then we are doomed to repeat the errors of the Pearl Harbor attack," he told more than 50 people attending the event at Wolf's Banquet and Convention Center, which was sponsored by the Henderson County Historical and Genealogical Society.
He said he is in a position to draw parallels between the Pearl Harbor and 9-11 attacks, but "I don't have time to do that today."
Instead, he gave a minutely detailed analysis of the events leading up to and following the 1941 Japanese surprise attack.
Admiral Kimmel was relieved as commander of the Pacific Fleet 10 days after the attack, and within two months an inquiry found him and Army Gen. Walter Short "solely responsible" for allowing the attack to occur and finding them derelict in their duty.
"He and General Short were sold down the river as political expediency," Kimmel said. He noted there have been 10 different inquiries in the Pearl Harbor affair, but only one allowed Admiral Kimmel the opportunity to defend himself. That Naval Court of Inquiry, he noted, "found there was not a scintilla of evidence to support a charge of dereliction of duty."
Of particular importance, he said, is that the United States had cracked the code then being used by Japanese diplomats and spies. The situation, in a nutshell, he said, is that the highest levels of the U.S. government and military establishment had access to information from Japanese cables that made it clear an attack was imminent. But that information was not shared with the commanders most likely to be affected by an attack.
The U.S. War Department "had the information. All they had to do was give it to them. We didn't warn anybody, anywhere. If Admiral Kimmel had any idea this source of information was available to him, he would have moved heaven and earth" to get it.
With the passage of time, Kimmel said, some of the highest-ranking officials of the U.S. military establishment -- "a who's who of World War II" -- have said what happened to Admiral Kimmel was disgraceful, and that his former rank should be restored and his name cleared.
Congress even voted in 2000 to do just that, Kimmel noted, but so far the administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush have declined to do so. Furthermore, he said, the government refuses to explain why it won't clear Admiral Kimmel's name.
"That's all the Kimmel family is seeking," he said. "There's no money involved."
He said the public can help with the effort by writing President Bush. Kimmel provided his e-mail address -- email@example.com -- so people can contact him to learn more about how they can help.