Encrypted phone call from Winston Churchill to Franklin Roosevelt, 11-26-41, as intercepted and decrypted by German intelligence. [From Gestapo Chief The 1948 Interrogation of HEINRICH MάLLER by Gregory Douglas, Bender 1999]
B I am frightfully sorry to disturb you at this hour, Franklin, but matters of a most vital import have transpired and I felt that I must convey them to you immediately.
A That's perfectly all right, Winston. I'm sure you wouldn't trouble me at this hour for trivial reasons.
B Let me preface my information with an explanation addressing the reason I have not alluded to these facts earlier. In the first place, until today, the information was not firm. On matters of such gravity, I do not like to indulge in idle chatter. Now, I have in my hands, reports from our agents in Japan as well as the most specific intelligence in the form of the highest level Japanese naval coded messages (conversation broken) for some time now.
A I felt that this is what you were about. How serious is it?
B It could not be worse. A powerful Japanese task force comprising six of their carriers, two battleships and a number of other units to include tankers and cruisers, has sailed yesterday from a secret base in the northern Japanese islands.
A We both knew this was coming. There are also reports in my hands about a force of some size making up in China and obviously intended to go South.
B Yes, we have all of that. (Interruption) . . . are far more advanced than you in our reading of the Jap naval operations codes. But even without that their moves are evident. And they will indeed move South but the force I spoke of is not headed South, Franklin, it is headed East . . .
A Surely you must be . . . will you repeat that please?
B I said to the East. This force is sailing to the East . . . towards you.
A Perhaps they set an easterly course to fool any observes and then plan to swing South to support the landings in the southern areas. I have . . .
B No, at this moment, their forces are moving across the northern Pacific and I can assure you that their goal is the (conversation broken) fleet in Hawaii. At Pearl Harbor.
A This is monstrous. Can you tell me . . . indicate . . . the nature of your intelligence? (conversation broken) reliable? Without compromising your sources . . .
B Yes, I will have to be careful. Our agents in Japan have been reporting on the gradual (conversation broken) units. And these have disappeared from Japanese home waters. We also have highly reliable sources in the Japanese foreign service and even in the military . . .
A How reliable?
B One of the sources is the individual who supplied us the material on the diplomatic codes that (conversation broken) and a Naval offices(sic) whom our service has compromised. You must trust me, Franklin and I can not be more specific.
A I accept this.
B We cannot compromise our codebreaking. You understand this. Only myself and a few (conversation broken) not even Hopkins. It will go straight to Moscow and I am not sure we want that.
A I am still attempting to . . . the obvious implication is that the Japs are going to do a Port Arthur on us at Pearl Harbor. Do you concur?
B I do indeed. Unless they add an attack on the Panama Canal to this vile business. I can hardly envision the canal as a primary goal, especially with your fleet lying athwart their lines of communications with Japan. No, if they do strike the canal, they will have to first neutralize your fleet (conversation broken).
A The worst form of treachery. We can prepare our defenses on the islands and give them a warm welcome when they come. It certainly would put some iron up Congress' ass.
B On the other hand, if they did launch a bombing raid, given that the aircraft would only be of the carrier-borne types, how much actual damage could they inflict? And on what targets?
A I think torpedoes would be ruled out at the outset. Pearl is far too shallow to permit a successful torpedo attack. Probably they would drop medium bombs on the ships and then shoot (conversation broken) damage a number of ships and no doubt the Japs would attack our airfields. I could see some damage there but I don't think either an airfield or a battleship could sink very far. What do your people give you as the actual date of the attack?
B The actual date given is the eighth of December. That's a Monday.
A The fleet is in harbor over the weekend. The often sortie during the week . . .
B The Japs are asking (conversation broken) exact dispositions of your ships on a regular basis.
A But Monday seems odd. Are you certain?
B It is in the calendar. Monday is the eighth. (conversation broken)
A . . . then I will have to consider the entire problem. A Japanese attack on us, which would result in war between us . . . and certainly you as well . . . would certainly fulfill two of the most important requirements of our policy. Harry [Hopkins, UK amb. to US] has told me repeatedly . . . and I have more faith in him than I do in the Soviet ambassador . . . that Stalin is desperate at this point. The Nazis are at the gates of Moscow, his armies are melting away . . . the government has evacuated and although Harry and [Gen. Geo.] Marshall feel that Stalin can hang on and eventually defeat Hitler, there is no saying what could transpire if the Japs suddenly fell on Stalin's rear. In spite of all the agreements between them and the Japs dropping Matsuoka, there is still strong anti-Russian sentiment in high Japanese military circles. I think we have to decide what is more important . . . keeping Russia in the war to bleed the Nazis dry to their own eventual destruction (conversation broken) supply Stalin with weapons but do not forget, in fact he is your ally, not mine. There are strong isolationist feelings here and there are quite a number of anti-Communists . . .
B Fascists . . .
A Certainly, but they would do all they could to block any attempt on my part to more than give some monetary assistance to Stalin.
B But we too have our major desperations, Franklin. Our
shipping upon which our nation depends, is being sunk by the huns faster than
we could ever replace (conversation broken) the Japs attack both of us in the
Pacific? We could lose Malaya which is our primary source of rubber and tin.
And if the Japs get Java and the oil, they could press South to Australia and I
have told you repeatedly, we cannot hold (conversation broken) them much but in
truth I cannot deliver. We need every man and every ship to fight Hitler in Europe
. . . India too. If the Japs get into Malaya, they can press on virtually
unopposed into Burma and then India. Need I tell you the resultant destruction
of our Empire? We cannot survive on this small island, Franklin, (conversation
broken) allow the nips to attack, you can get your war declaration through your
Congress after all. (conversation broken)
A . . . not as capable as you are at translating their messages and the army and navy are very jealous of each other. There is so much coming in that everyone is confused. We have no agents in placed in Japan and every day dozens of messages are (conversation broken) that contradict each other or are not well translated. I have seen three translations of the same message with three entirely different meanings (conversation broken) address your concern about British holdings in the Pacific . . . if the Japanese do attack both of us, eventually we will be able to crush them and regain all of the lost territories. As for myself, I will be damned glad to be rid of the Phillipines. (sic)
B I see this as a gamble (conversation broken) what would your decision be? We cannot procrastinate over this for too long. Eleven or twelve days are all we have. Can we not agree in principle now? I should mention that several advisors have counselled against informing you of this an allowing it to happen. You see by my notifying you where my loyalty lies. Certainly to one who is heart and sour with us against Hitler.
A I do appreciate your loyalty, Winston. What on the other hand, will happen here if one of our intelligence people is able to intercept, decipher and deliver to me the same information you just gave me? I cannot ignore it . . . all of my intelligence people will know about it then. I could not ignore this.
B But if it were just a vague message then?
A No, a specific message. I could not just sweep it under the rug like that (conversation broken)
B Of course not. I think we should let matters develop as they will.
A I think that perhaps I can find a reason to absent myself from Washington while this crisis develops. What I don't know can't hurt me and I too can misunderstand messages, especially at a distance (conversation broken)
B Completely. My best to you all there.
A Thank you for your call.