Station S

Hilo Tribune Herald: Japan May Strike Over Weekend

“On October 7, 1940, Lieutenant Commander Arthur McCollum of the Office of Naval Intelligence submitted a memo to Navy Captains Walter Anderson and Dudley Knox,” notes the website. “Captains Anderson and Knox were two of President Roosevelt’s most trusted military advisors”:

The memo…detailed an 8 step plan to provoke Japan into attacking the United States. President Roosevelt, over the course of 1941, implemented all 8 of the recommendations contained in the McCollum memo. Following the eighth provocation, Japan attacked. The public was told that it was a complete surprise, an “intelligence failure”, and America entered World War Two.1

1 2 3 4 5 6
The McCollum Memo see page 4 for 8-step plan

Page four of the six-page McCollum Memo states in part:

It is not believed that in the present state of political opinion the United States government is capable of declaring war against Japan without more ado; and it is barely possible that vigorous action on our part might lead the Japanese to modify their attitude. Therefore, the following course of action is suggested:

  1. Make an arrangement with Britain for the use of British bases in the Pacific, particularly Singapore.
  2. Make an arrangement with Holland for the use of base facilities and acquisition of supplies in the Dutch East Indies.
  3. Give all possible aid to the Chinese government of Chiang-Kai-Shek.
  4. Send a division of long range heavy cruisers to the Orient, Philippines, or Singapore.
  5. Send two divisions of submarines to the Orient.
  6. Keep the main strength of the U.S. fleet now in the Pacific in the vicinity of the Hawaiian Islands.
  7. Insist that the Dutch refuse to grant Japanese demands for undue economic concessions, particularly oil.
  8. Completely embargo all U.S. trade with Japan, in collaboration with a similar embargo imposed by the British Empire.2

“When Tokyo talked, Bainbridge Naval Radio Station listened,” relates the Seattle Post-Intelligencer in an article regarding the island’s role in the United States entering World War Two.3

The Seattle Times details the importance of the region:

A vital link in the Navy’s communication system in the Pacific, [the Battle Point Naval Radio Station was] declared surplus by the Department of Defense and turned over to the General Services Administration. The 800 foot high steel transmitter tower,…some 200 feet taller than the Space Needle, reputedly once was the tallest tower in the world. The station is said to be the first point in the continental United States to receive word of the attack on Pearl Harbor. It intercepted coded Japanese radio messages during World War II.4

The Encyclopedia of American Intelligence and Espionage: From the Revolutionary War to the Present details Japan’s interest in the Hawaiian naval base during the weeks and months leading up to the attack:

On September 24, 1941, Tokyo sent a message to a Japanese espionage agent in Honolulu asking him to provide detailed reports on the types and classes of naval ships at anchor or tied up at wharves, buoys, and in docks at Pearl Harbor, giving their exact positions and noting “when two or more vessels [are] along side the same wharf.” This message was decrypted and translated on October 9th. Subsequent messages from Tokyo to the Honolulu agent requesting similar information during November and the first week of December were also intercepted before the Japanese attack.…

Throughout November 1941 U.S. Army and Navy intelligence noted increased Japanese military activity in China and Indochina, including the gathering of a strong naval force for operations off Southeast Asia, Palau, and the Marshall Islands. By November 27th Army intelligence reported that a large Japanese task force had been assembled in the area.… On November 1st adn again on December 1st, U.S. Navy COMINT units noted wholesale changes in Japanese ship call signs. These changes…frustrated the reconstruction of traffic patterns by American radio traffic-analysis units, thus creating uncertainty regarding the location of elemetns of the Japanese fleet. This uncertainty further obscured the location of the Japanese aircraft carriers, which had in fact departed the Kurile Islands in northern Japan on the Pearl Harbor mission on November 25th, and which were now proceeding under radio silence.… Surviving Japanese communications officers who took part in the attack state unequivocally that absolute radio silence was maintained, even ot hte extent that the tranmitter keys were sealed.…

A message sent by the Japanese foreign minister to his ambassador in Washington on November 5th specified November 25th as the absolute deadline for the negotiations to result in an agreement with the United States. Subsequent messages on November 11th and 15th reiterated the urgency of concluding an agreement by the 25th. On November 22nd, in response to a request for more time from the Japanese ambassador, the Foreign Ministry agreed to delay the deadline until the 29th, but warned that no additional delays would be possible and that “after that things are automatically going to happen.” Other messages sent from Tokyo to the ambassador during November reiterated theme that the Japanese government was making its final effort to achieve an agreement with the United States and that failure to do so would result in grave consequences. Frequent references were made to the possibility of war with the United States. All of these messages were intercepted by U.S. Army and Navy intelligence, decrypted withing twenty-four hours, and distributed to all those officials on the MAGIC distribution list.i

When the deadline of November 29th came and went without the desired agreement, Tokyo sent several messages to the Japanese ambassador and the special envoy stating that although negotiations had been “de facto ruptured,” the Japanese delegation should continue the talks “to prevent the United States from becoming unduly suspicious.” During the first week of December Tokyo sent instructions to its Washington embassy to begin destroying its codes, a clear indication that the breaking of diplomatic relations was imminent. These messages were also promptly decrypted and distributed to the MAGIC list.

On December 2nd Navy intelligence intercepted a message from Tokyo to a Japanese espionage agent in Honolulu requesting “day by day” reports of the American warships in Pearl Harbor, which information was characterized as of “the utmost importance,” and ordering the agent to report “whether or not there are any observations balloons above Pearl Harbor or if there are any indications that they will be sent up,” and “whether or not the warships are provided with anti-torpedo nets.” However, because of the workload and insufficient manpower, this highly suggestive message was not deciphered until December 23rd.5

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer describes the fateful events:

At 1:28 a.m. Dec. 7, 1941,…a Navy radio man stationed at the southern tip of Bainbridge Island near Seattle intercepted a final message from Tokyo to Japan’s ambassador in Washington, D.C. The message told the ambassador to state Japan’s final position to the U.S. by 1 p.m. Washington time. One p.m. Washington time was 7:30 a.m. at Pearl Harbor. So Bainbridge Naval Radio Station plucked from the air waves…the timetable, if not the target, for Japan’s attack.

The island…housed one of the most effective and least known…spy operations of World War II.

On Nov. 19, 1941, Bainbridge intercepted Japan’s plans for the famous “winds” code in which a weather forecast would signal the end of diplomatic relations. [From] “Building eleven” at Bainbridge,…the contents of those…dispatches…[were then] forwarded…to Washington by teletype for decoding.

The very existence of such a place as Building Eleven, a two story brick structure housing an operation called “security group” or “supplementary radio,” was and remains one of the best kept secrets of the war.

Some of Bainbridge’s undercover role was revealed by the Navy in 1946 during Congressional investigation of Pearl Harbor events. There is no apparent reason for secrecy today.

Secrecy haunts the veterans of “Station S,” the code name for Bainbridge. Over on Bainbridge,…people still say things like “loose lips sink ships.”

The Naval Radio Station was built in 1939 on the abandoned site of Fort Ward, an Army facility. The station handled communications for the 13th Naval District, broadcasting on a 50,000 watt transmitter. Station S was control center for a Pacific Coast network of radio direction finder (RDF) stations used to track both friendly and hostile craft. Bainbridge copied all of the Japanese government messages between Tokyo and San Francisco, and guarded the radiotelephone band of the same circuit for voice transmissions.

It was Bainbridge’s secret assignment, as much as the nearness of the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard at Bremerton, that led to the sudden evacuation of 225 Japanese Americans from Bainbridge on March 30, 1942. It was the first forced evacuation of its kind on the West Coast. Few knew at the time of the evacuation that the Navy on Oct. 27, 1941, translated messages sent by a Japanese agent “Sato” from Seattle to Tokyo, describing warship repairs at Bremerton.

[Some] operators at Bainbridge Dec. 6 and 7 were diverted to a strange new assignment –…somebody in Washington wanted badly to know about the wind direction. In case Japan U.S. relations were in danger, the code words would be…“east wind rain.” For Russia,…the signal was “north wind cloudy.” For Great Britain, the words were “west wind clear.” (Navy Commander Laurence F. Safford later insisted in the face of official denials that the U.S. had received all three wind code signals on Dec. 4 or 5. Japanese agents in Hawaii said they did not hear the “east wind rain” signal broadcast until two hours after Pearl Harbor was attacked.)

The message setting a 1 p.m. timetable to break off talks were completely intercepted at Bainbridge by 1:37 a.m. Relayed to Washington by teletype, the code was instantly recognized as “purple,” Japan’s toughest crypographic system. At 11:30 a.m., the message was in the hands of General George C. Marshall, Army chief of staff. At the same moment the Japanese Zeros were tearing through the sky 200 miles north of Pearl Harbor. Marshall’s last minute alert message, warning of the Japanese ultimatum due at 7:30 Hawaii time, reached Honolulu at 7:33 a.m., and even then was not immediately delivered to military commanders.

In Building Eleven, Station S, Bainbridge Island, the diplomatic circuits were still, as if dead. But there was noise, lots of it, from the Japanese Navy. In the sky over Pearl Harbor, Cmdr. Mitsuo Fuchida looked down from his high level bomber, saw that complete surprise had been achieved, and radioed the words “Tora, tora, tora.”

Years later, when the tide of war had turned…a signal from a Japanese radio man in the Kurile Islands…stopped, and suddenly, in plain language, he was sending the words: “They’re coming, they’re coming they’re coming.” 6

The congressional investigation into Pearl Harbor takes up 39 volumes,” notes Glenn P. Hastedt in American Foreign Policy: Past, Present, and Future, “and the success of the Japanese attack continues to bring forward a never-ending series of books asserting that U.S. policy makers knew of the attack and permitted it to happen.” 7

The Bainbridge Island Historical Museum has featured an award-winning exhibit of Ansel Adams – Portrait of Manzanar:

The United States government posted the first “Civilian Exclusion Orders” on Bainbridge Island, and on March 30th, 1942, armed military personnel escorted 227 men, women, and children of Japanese descent from the island onto the ferry Kehloken. Able to take only what they could carry, these Japanese Americans were sent to an internment camp in Manzanar, California.…

Despite having been uprooted from their homes, Manzanar’s inhabitants exhibited astounding resilience. They maintained a successful self-governing community complete with farming, schools, churches, a cooperative bank and store, and a newspaper.8

In this photo from 1942, Fumiko Hayashida, then 31, carries her daughter Natalie, 1, to the ferry that will take them from Bainbridge Island to internment camps in World War II. Both attended Saturday’s dedication.
Museum of History and Industry

“The Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Wall was dedicated Saturday [6 August 2011], honoring the 276 Japanese Americans from the island who were the first to be relocated to internment camps during World War II,” reports The Seattle Times:

Everywhere she went, Kayo Natalie Hayashida Ong, now 70, was greeted over and again with delight and recognition as “the baby!”

An iconic photograph of her at age 1, asleep in her mother’s arms as her family was forcibly removed from their Bainbridge Island home during World War II, became one of the best-known symbols of a dark period in American history.

They were among the first of 120,000 people of Japanese descent who were exiled from the West Coast or forced into internment camps by President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Civilian Exclusion Order after Pearl Harbor was bombed and the U.S. declared war on Japan.…

Built on the historic site of the Eagledale Ferry Dock, where the residents were loaded onto a ferry and taken from their homes, the cedar, granite and basalt wall honors the 276 Japanese Americans from the island who were the first to be relocated.9

i The MAGIC [compartmented] material was held very closely within the government, distributed only to the President and secretaries of state, war, and the Navy, and a small, select group of senior military officers and White House advisors.
– G.J.A. O’Toole, The Encyclopedia of American Intelligence and Espionage: From the Revolutionary War to the Present (New York, NY: Facts On File, 1988), p. 363.

1 “The McCollum Memo: The Smoking Gun of Pearl Harbor,”, at (retrieved: 11 March 2013).

2 Op. cit.

3 “‘East Wind Rain’; Bainbridge’s day in history: Dec 7, 1941,” Seattle Post Intelligencer, 7 Dec 1971, 108(341).

4 Charles Aweeka, “800 foot Bainbridge tower due to go down into history,” The Seattle Times, 23 April 1972.

5 O’Toole, The Encyclopedia of American Intelligence and Espionage, pp. 363-364.

6 Walter Wright, Building 11 and the fateful Japanese message, Seattle Post Intelligencer, 7 Dec 1971, 108(341), p. A17.

7 Glenn P. Hastedt, American Foreign Policy: Past, Present, and Future, Tenth Edition (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2015) p. 86.

8 Ansel Adams – Portrait of Manzanar, Bainbridge Island Historical Museum, 2015, at (retrieved: 10 May 2015).

9 Christine Clarridge, “Wall honors Bainbridge Japanese Americans sent to internment camps,” The Seattle Times, 6 August 2011, at (retrieved: 26 January 2014).

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