A fascinating look at the twelve days leading up to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor—the warnings, clues and missteps—by a Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter.

In Washington, DC, in late November 1941, admirals compose the most ominous message in Navy history to warn Hawaii of possible danger, but they write it too vaguely. They think precautions are being taken, but never check to see if they are. A key intelligence officer wants more warnings sent, but he is on the losing end of a bureaucratic battle and can’t get the message out. American sleuths have pierced Japan’s most vital diplomatic code, and Washington believes it has a window on the enemy’s soul—but it does not.

In a small office at Pearl Harbor, overlooking the battleships at the heart of America’s seafaring power, the Commander of the Pacific Fleet tries to figure out how much danger he really faces. His intelligence unit has lost track of Japan’s biggest aircraft carriers, but assumes they are resting in a port far away. The admiral thinks Pearl is too shallow for torpedoes, so he never puts up a barrier. As he frets, a Japanese spy is counting the warships in the harbor and reporting to Tokyo.

There were false assumptions, and racist ones: The Japanese aren’t very good aviators and they don’t have the nerve or the skill to attempt a strike so far from their home. There were misunderstandings, conflicting desires, painful choices. And there was a naval officer who, on his very first mission as captain of his very first ship, did exactly the right thing. His warning could have averted disaster, but his superiors reacted too leisurely. Japanese planes arrived moments later.

Twomey’s telescoping of the twelve days leading to the attack unravels the crucial characters and moments, and produces an edge-of-your seat drama with fascinating details about America at this moment in its history. By the end, the reader understands how assumption is the root of disaster, and how sometimes a gamble pays off.


 I found this book to have some very interesting information about not only the 12 days before the attack but also going back to a year before, and what Pearl was like. It was not the home of the Pacific Fleet, and that when they did move the Fleet from California to Hawaii Kimmel was not the commander. That commander got replaced by Kimmel less than a year before because he was critical of Washington moving the Fleet, but lacking the resources it needed for sustaining a viable force. Everything was still coming from the west coast, and the families of the sailors were still in California. Kimmel complained but in a less focal way to Washington, and was more upset with the amount of ships and equipment being sent to the Atlantic depleting his Pacific Fleet while still being told to protect Pearl, Guam, Wake Island, Philippines, and other Islands. One thing that Kimmel did do was practice, and train which actually did help the day of the attack. The author takes you through what was happening in Washington, and how they were reading information, but I felt not giving Pearl all of the facts. They were also leading him to believe that an attack at Pearl would not happen and to send ships and planes to other Islands. The book also gives you the Japanese side as well. You are given a lot of information and though the author does say it I still believe that Kimmel, and Short were set up to take the fall just the way everything happened and then the men of the investigation picked by Roosevelt. You also see that at least a year before we were already delivering 3,184 aircraft, light and heavy bombers, and fighter and patrol planes to British. That when Kimmel asked for PBY’S for patrol he was given none. Out of 376 built 97 went the Royal air force, 21 to Canadian, 18 to Dutch, 16 to Australian, the rest went to the U.S. Atlantic Fleet. Also what is not really talked about is the bombing by the British by carrier planes in 1940 in the Gulf of Taranto in Italy, in depth less than Pearl and the British used wooden fins on the torpedoes. This information was never given to Kimmel or the previous Commander, and in another book about Pearl Harbor their question is why not? So you see still after all of these years there are still questions. The book itself is good and makes you think that if just one thing was different that morning it may have not have been so bad. Overall a good book. I got this book from I gave it 5 stars. Follow us at 

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