Please, Have a Merry. Please. Oh, and get rid of the Orange Jerk!


Tuesday, December 10, 2019

WRITING STORIES - The Lawless Early Days of Print

I doubt you could have missed the pair, seated in the Swan tavern on Fleet Street in London, that 28 March,  1716.  Last to arrive was the infamous publisher, pornographer and plagiarist Edmund Curll, a scarecrow of a man, very tall and thin, splayfooted, and with gray goggle eyes that threatened to burst from his pale face like a cartoon character.
 Waiting for him like a spider on his web was one the greatest poets in history, the oft quoted and revered deformed genius Alexander Pope (above), with a Roman nose and a spine so twisted he stood barely four feet six inches tall from his stylish shoes to the top of the hump on his back. 
Curll thought he had been invited to settle their disagreements. Pope intended upon doing just that, by poisoning his guest's beer.  Later Pope joyfully wrote a mocking obituary of his victim, “A Full and True Account of a Horrid and Barbarous Revenge by Poison on the Body of Mr. Edmund Curll, bookseller...To be published weekly”. Curll was not killed, but he did projectile vomit until he wished his was dead. It was like a scene from Animal House. Ah, good times among the 18th century London literati.
Publishing was in its youth, as young as the internet is today, and just as chaotic, dishonest, unregulated, and unencumbered with a functional business model. In 1688 there were only 68 printing presses in London, all controlled by members of the Stationer's Company or guild.  But in 1695 Parliament refused to renew the company's monopoly, setting off a decade of pure anarchy. Daniel Defoe of "Robinson Crusoe" fame, noted, “One man studies seven year(s), to bring a finished piece into the world, and a pirate printer....sells it for a quarter of the price ... these things call for an Act of Parliament".  So in 1710 Parliament obliged with The Statue of Anne - she was queen at the time - which created a 14 year copyright for authors. Still, six years later one author felt required to strike at a pirate printer – by making him vomit for 24 straight hours, and then attacking him again in print with his obituary in rhyme .
“Next o'er his books his eyes begin to roll,
In pleasing memory of all he stole;
How here he sipp'd, how there he plunder'd snug,
And suck'd all o'er like an industrious bug.”
Alexander Pope (above)  The Dunciad (1728)
Pope's justification for the poisoning of  Edmund Curl was as revenge for embarrassing the smart and lovely Lady Mary Montagu. The morally pompous poet, so famous for his version of Shakespeare and translations of Homer that he was nicknamed “the Bard”, was smitten with the lady. They even maintained a correspondence.  Pope privately published one of her poems. Copies were discretely passed about the English court. But soon, Curll was selling copies on the streets. Cultured nobility were not supposed to engage in publication – it smacked of stooping to actually earning a living. So Pope saw himself as a knight protecting Lady Montagu's honor when he poisoned  Curll and attacked him (among others) in his poem, “Dunciad”.  Curll responded by pirating the poem about his own attempted murder, even publishing an annotated version, also called a “key”. Mocked Curll, “How easily two wits agree, one writes the poem, one writes the key”.
Edmund Curll was not quite the “shameless Curll” Pope portrayed – not quite. He was infamous for keeping a revolving stable of struggling quill drivers “three in a bed” in the “low-rent flophouses, brothels, and coffeehouses” jammed into Grub Street (above). Originally “grub” referred to the roots and insect larval uncovered when the street was originally scrapped out. Eventually it was adopted as a badge of honor by the poverty stricken occupants, like the eventual great biographer Samuel Johnson, or Ned Ward, who considered his profession as “ whoring....”.
These grubs were hack writers, named after the ubiquitous horse drawn Hackney cabs that plied London's streets, going where ever their paying passengers demanded. 
Which usually meant, obscenity, which as today, always sold well, as did insults and attacks on the pompous and well to do - like Pope (above). The occasional advance paid to a hungry writer was a “grub stake”, and the pitiful meals they could afford were “grub”. Jonathan Swift, eventual creator of “Gulliver's Travels”, grandiosely referred to this literary sub-culture as "the Republica Grubstreet-aria. But like Johnson, Swift was clever enough and lucky enough to eventually escape the life as a mere grub.
In fact, Curll employed no more Grub Street warriors than any other Fleet Street baron. But he was particularly adept at supplying what the public wanted - licentious sex, and manufactured controversy. Curll paid grubs to engage in a “pamphlet war” - much like the Fox News war on Christmas - over the 1712 trial of Jane Wehham for witchcraft. (She was convicted).
Curll also printed cheap pirated books that sold for a mere shilling, thus undercutting the actual author's authorized editions. His growing empire made Edmund Curll one of the most successful barons on Fleet Street. Acknowledged one critic, “He had no scruples either in business or private life, but he published and sold many good books.”  All paid for by the dirty and stolen books he published illegally.
With Pope's urging, Curll was convicted of obscenity in 1716, and twice more in 1725. In 1726, Curll struck back by befriending the mistress of a Pope confident. She passed him several letters in which the arrogantly moral Pope admitting to lusting after the Blount Sisters, Terresa and Martha. “How gladly would I give all that I am worth,” Pope wrote in one purloined missive, “for one of their maidenheads.” Embarrassed, Pope helped engineer yet another Curll conviction in February of 1727. 
This time a frustrated and exasperated court fined Curll and ordered him pilloried for an hour. At the mercy of the mob, Curll was spared the usual assault of rotted food and manure when a pamphlet was read to the well armed crowd, claiming Curll was being punished for defending the departed Queen Anne. Thus misinformed, the mob carried him home on their shoulders. Pope was infuriated and determined to even the score.
One of Edmund Curll's most profitable ventures was what came to be called “Curlicisms”. When a well known figure died, Curll would advertise a forthcoming biography, and ask the public for any anecdotes about or letters from the deceased. Then, without validating the submissions Curll would hire a Grub street hack to string them together into an instant and usually inaccurate biography, creating what one potential subject described as “one of the new terrors of death.”
Curll had done this when the Duke of Buckingham died in 1721. But Buckingham was a peer, a member of the House of Lords, and that body summoned Curll for interrogation. Curll was unrepentant, since it was not a crime to publish writings of a peer without their permission. So the Lords made it illegal, and in this Pope saw a new opportunity to injure Curll.
In 1731 Curll announced a upcoming “Curlicism” of Alexander Pope, himself; “Nothing shall be wanting,” Curll assured his potential readers, “but his (universally desired) death.” Again Curll called for submissions and a mysterious figured identified only as “P.T.” offered letters written by Pope to the Lord of Oxford.  In 1734 Curll published the letters in a vicious biography of Pope. The next year Pope published his own “Literary Correspondence for Thirty Years”, including the same letters to Oxford.  But the details in Pope's version did not match those published by Curll, as Pope pointed out when he alleged Curll had violated the privilege of a member of the House of Lords and worse, slandered the Lord while doing it. The trap was sprung.
The only problem was, Curll again refused to repent. Called again before the Lords, Curll quipped, "Pope has a knack of versifying, but in prose I think myself a match for him.” And in fact as well. The Duke of Oxford still had the original letters in his files. So, asked Curll, where had P.T.'s inaccurate versions come from? Curll produced P.T.'s letters so the Lords could judge for themselves who was implicated by the handwriting. 
For a few days, the city of London, or that section that cared about such things, held its breath. And then an ad appeared in a small newspaper offering 20 guineas if P.T. would come forward to admit he had “acted by the direction of any other person.”  P.T., of course did not appear. And the ploy fooled no one – Pope had written the originals and the fakes and even the ad, and everybody knew it. The House found a political solution; since the published letters were fakes, the law had not been broken. Case closed, except Pope now had even more egg on his face.
Wrote Curll, “Crying came our bard into the world, but lying, it is to be feared, he will go out of it.”.
And so he did.  Pope died on 30 May, 1744, and Edmund Curll followed him in December of 1747.
Thus, Curll earned the last word. He described his relationship with Pope this way, “A fitter couple was never hatched, Some married are, indeed, but we are matched”.
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Monday, December 09, 2019

Normalization and Climate Change

I can't make up my mind about climate change. Will we adjust our behavior in time, or does the human species lack the intelligence to survive? I hope the answer is yes and no, I worry the answer is no and yes. It seems to come down to how you define “intelligence”, by the smartest of us or the most obstinate and greedy? There are over 7 billion human brains working at this moment, and too many it seems are convinced meteorologists can't accurately predict if it will rain tomorrow, so of course scientists can't predict the average temperature a hundred years from now. But the first is almost impossible to predict, while the second is just extremely difficult.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration says “The difference between weather and climate is a measure of time”, while the Climate Impacts Group offers a more pragmatic definition; "You pick your vacation destination based on the climate but you pack your suitcase based on the weather." And it all started with a Swedish triple threat – he was an arrogant, racist atheist. But he was a very smart chemist. In fact Svante Arrhenius was so far ahead of his instructors that they gave his PhD dissertation a “C”, and in 1903 that same work won him the Noble Prize in Chemistry.
Growing up with those long cold Swedish winter nights made the racist Svante (above) curious as to why we weren't still having ice ages.  Being a chemist he naturally thought chemistry might provide the answer.  His knew that the sun heated the ground during the day, and  at night reflected most of that energy back into the air as infrared radiation, otherwise known as heat.  He suspected that the more carbon dioxide and water vapor there was in the air, the less of that reflected infrared radiation could escape into space. What he came up with in 1896 was his greenhouse law; “If the quantity of (carbon dioxide) increases in geometric progression, the augmentation of the temperature will increase nearly in arithmetic progression.”   He ran the numbers, and found, as he wrote a decade later, “...any doubling of the percentage of carbon dioxide in the air would raise the temperature of the earth's surface by 4 degrees Celsius; and if the carbon dioxide were increased fourfold, the temperature would rise by 8 degrees C.”   Svante had predicted global warming and climate change, four years before the 20th century had begun.
Poor old Svante. He had to do his calculations the old fashioned way – using unpaid graduate students who labored for hours with pencils and papers and slide rules.  And he made a couple of bad assumptions. He figured clouds were pretty much a wash, since they both reflected sunlight from their tops, and trapped heat under their shadows.  He was right about that, but he missed how sensitive the climate was to carbon dioxide by half.   In other words he saw that burning coal and oil and wood released carbon into the air, but he didn't realize how really bad that was.  In fact, being Swedish, he was looking forward to more beach weather.
It was the geologists who provided what I think is the most convincing piece of the puzzle, they just did not know it for a long time. You see, they were looking for gold and diamonds and copper and coal and oil and even water, which they did by first drilling a lot of holes all over the place. Now, each hole was an experiment, and these rock farmers recorded everything about the holes as they drilled them, including the temperature at various depths. Most of those numbers were kept secret by the companies that collected them. But eventually the more social geologists were able to collect a record of what they called the geothermal gradient world wide. They found that as a general rule at anything less than 200 feet the temperature was about 11 degrees Celsius – or 55 degrees Fahrenheit.  Below that you have to figure in ground water, rock type, how close you are to a volcano - but as a general rule the temperature goes up about 1 degree Celsius for every additional 1,000 feet down the hole you go.  And it wasn't until much later that other graduate students noticed that as a general rule, up close the general rules did not add up.
Plotting out the temperatures in great detail and very exactly, and allowing for volcanoes and such, still produced a steady rising temperature curve as you went down.  But on the other end, at the top of the holes, things were a little odd.  The line there seemed to be steeper than it ought to - not enough that it kept the rock hounds up at night, but it did nag at them.  And then somebody compared the carbon 14 dating of the rocks through which these holes had been bored, at the top.  And suddenly the ages and the temperatures of the upper rocks of the holes started to make sense. The closer you got to the surface, and the younger the rocks got, the higher the temperatures were above that general rule, beginning about 500 years ago, about the start of the industrial revolution, when a growing number of smoke stacks started spewing out all that carbon that Svante had measured.  And in 1998, a century after the chemist Svante started all of this,  three geologists , Henry Pollock, Shapeeng Huang and Po-Yu Shen provided geological confirmation of global warming. “The subsurface temperatures ...indicate that Earth's mean surface temperature has increased by about 1.0° (C) over the past five centuries.”
So two independent fields of science, chemistry and geology, had each independently produced a picture of a warming planet for the previous 500 years, and predicted it would continue to warm. Together they produced a coherent, unified story with an explanation. Glaciologist, the only scientists whose field of study melts if they don't work fast enough, had independently stumbled on a third proof. Snow falling on glaciers today has more carbon in it than water melted out glacier ice formed five hundred years ago, and far more than the snow that fell a thousand years ago. And the amount of carbon in the snow is increasing. And it wasn't until very recently that meteorologists got into this discussion, which was to be expected, since, their field of study is what every other scientist calls “background noise”.
Let me give you an example of that noise; from December 1st , 1801 to January 31st , 1802, only about an inch of snow fell in Albany, New York, a spot which on average gets closer to 32 inches during those two months. The temperature ranged between 4 and 10 degrees Celsius (40 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit), when it is normally around minus 3 Celsius (mid 20's Fahrenheit ). Along the Ohio River, in eastern Ohio, 3 inches of snow fell on November first in 1801, but after that they suffered not even another hard frosts for the rest of the entire winter. In January of 1802 tulips and violets bloomed in New Haven, Connecticut, and on the 28th of that month Salem, Massachusetts saw the thermometer hit 15.5 degrees Celsius (60 Fahrenheit). No less a numbers freak than Thomas Jefferson became convinced that “The change which has taken place in our climate is one of those facts which all men...are sensible of...”  And this was before the industrial revolution!
Less than 20 years later came the other extreme, the summer of 1816. On June 6th, snow fell in Albany, New York. Ice was observed on rivers and lakes in July and August as far south as Pennsylvania. Farmers in Massachusetts got a crop in that summer, but so little that oats were selling for 10 times what they had sold for the previous year. World wide probably 40,000 people died of starvation. It was referred to as “Eighteen Hundred and Froze to Death”, or “The Year Without a Summer”, and it was probably caused by the April 10th , 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia, the largest volcanic eruption in the last ten thousand years. To my mind, that is the real difference between weather and climate – weather is a record of extremes, and climate is a record of the average between them.
Yes, the 700 volcanoes that erupt every year throw about half a million tons of carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere, and a super volcano like Tambora may double that amount once or twice a century. But ever day today, humans spew 88 million tons of carbon into the atmosphere. Can there really be any doubt about why old extremes are becoming our new normal, or what is responsible for it?
Every scientific method we use to look at the past 500 years, every experiment we come up with to test what has happened over the last five centuries, tells us that the new normal is climate change, and that our industrial revolution is the one new factor over the last five hundred years that is driving our new normal to new climate extremes.  From this point forward there really is only one question more we have to ask. Does the human species lack the intelligence to survive? And the answer is up to all those idiots who voted for Donald Trump.
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Sunday, December 08, 2019


I don't know if you know this, but the Christmas carol started out as a dance, and then became a song. Whereas wassailing started out as a libation and then became a song and then darn near disappeared. Both traditions, caroling and wassailing,  suffered their original metamorphoses for the same reason – Puritan kill-joys.  The carol was revived and survives as a gentle Victorian anachronism.  Still, most of the music and some of the words remain recognizable.  But if somehow you could transport a 12th century English Celtic villain into a modern wassailing, the first words out of their mouth would be the medieval equivalent of “where is the booze and the broads?”  Call it the cost of Christianity, or progress, or even just the march of time, but clearly we've lost some things in reaching the 21st century.  And one of those some things was wassailing. Song
“Here we come a-wassailing
Among the leaves so green,
Here we come a-wand'ring
So fair to be seen.”
During the 2nd century C. E. when you the walked into any Inn or Public House in that far flung corner of the Roman Empire called England, you were greeted by your fellow vandals with the phrase, “Waes hael”, or “good health”.  And your proper response would be “Drinc hael”, or “A drink to your health”.  And what the Celtic holi-poloi would be drinking might be Mead, made from fermented honey, or a fermented version of whatever else grew locally – beer in rye growing areas, or in the hilly west counties, where the Celts grew apples, hard cider.  Everybody drank these concoctions because the alcohol killed most the pathogens in the local water supply.  That's why we still call consuming alcohol, drinking. Getting bombed was just a happy side effect.
“We are not daily beggars
That beg from door to door,
But we are neighbors' children
Whom you have seen before.”
The Inn keepers kept their mixture in a large “wassail bowl” as a centerpiece on the common table, so after dinner the paying guests could use their now empty food bowls to dip themselves an after-dinner drink. It is an oddity of these original pubs that the food cost money but the drinks were free. As the food supply increased, this pricing scheme would be reversed. On special occasions, the Mead would be added to the beer or cider, which improved the flavor and the alcohol content. And so taking a holiday drink from the wassail bowl became “wassailing”.
“Good master and good mistress,
As you sit beside the fire,
Pray think of us poor children
Who wander in the mire.”
All of this was ancient enough to be a Celtic tradition long before Rome was Christian. And about a month after the winter solstice the pagan Celts were even wassailing in their fields and apple orchards. They called it in Old English La Mas Ubhal (mangled into modern English as, “lambs wool”), or as perhaps the celebration of the apple. On the Twelfth Night of Christmas (see these pages for Twelve Days of Christmas) apple farmers would lug a large milk container filled with cider and cider soaked cakes into their fields. In the dark and the cold they would build a fire, drink and eat and dance. In song the men would threaten the trees and the women would plead the tree's defense, all to encourage them to produce apples in the coming year.
We have a little purse
Made of ratching leather skin;
We want some of your small change
To line it well within.”
It was called “An Apple Howling” or a “Luck Visit”. In Devonshire, standing under each tree, the farmers would sing “Stand fast, root! Bear well, top! Pray God send us a good howling crop: Every twig, apples big; Every bough, apples now! Hats full! caps full! Bushel-bushel-sacks full, And my pockets full, too, huzzah!” The cakes were placed in the forks of the trunk, baked apple splices were tossed into the crown, and cider splashed on the bark. It seems as if the farmers were trying to give the trees the idea of what they were supposed to produce come spring.
“Bring us out a table
And spread it with a cloth;
Bring us out a cheese,
And of your Christmas loaf.”
And then midway through the 5th century the Anglo-Saxons defeated the native Celts at the battle of Crayford, and over the next 600 years these invaders squeezed the Celts back into the Welsh highlands and the far west counties, which, by chance, included the apple growing regions. So, wassailing in Wales and Devon became associated more with cider, while in Anglo-Saxon England, beer and ale were what filled the wassail bowls, and the post- solstice celebration morphed into a fund raising venue. Originally, the English village leaders went house to house, singing a Wassail song at each door and offering the residents a drink from their Wassail bowl. In response, the residents were expected to make a donation to the poor. Eventually, the leadership lost interest in the process and the poor themselves stepped in to fill the vacuum. You can imagine how happy the wealthy were to share their money with a bunch of dirty, young “urban types”, who came begging at their front door, something forbidden the rest of the year. Wassailing door-to-door became frowned upon, mostly by those best able to donate.
“God bless the master of this house,
Likewise the mistress too;
And all the little children
That round the table go.”
In 1066, King Henry and his Normans conquered Anglo-Saxon England. The Normans not only brought the French words to the island, but they also brought a militant brand of Christianity. And that religion would prove to be wassailing's most determined foe. We know wassailing was still popular in 17th Century London, because just after New Years in 1625 the anal retentive Sir John Francklyn made a notation in his account book of the one pound 6 pence he paid for “the cup”
“Love and joy come to you,
And to you your wassail, too,
And God bless you, and send you
A Happy New Year,
And God send you a Happy New Year.”
But after the Puritans chopped off the head of Charles I in 1649, they began to remake Britain in the their image of God. And it was a dull, dull God they envisioned. The Puritans were suspicious of wassailing, of all that drinking and dancing in the dark, and they disapproved of peasants directly asking their “betters” for money. So laws were passed, and punishments metered out. Some who celebrated the pagan days were even burned at the stake. The impact of their moral divide survived even until the end of the 20th century, as evidenced by the laws allowing advertising of wine and beer on television, but restricting the same for the sacrilegious “hard” liquors.  So if, at your next Christmas party you should find a wassail bowl bubbling away on the stove, dip a cup, and enjoy. It is a tiny taste of our shared pagan past, a harmless reminder that before Christianity, there was a god in every tree and apple, as well as every soul.
"Wassail, wassail, out of the milk pail
Wassail, wassail as white as my finger nail
Wassail, wassail in snow, frost, and hail,
Wassail, wassail that never will fail.”
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Saturday, December 07, 2019

THEY MISSED. Pearl Harbor and Great Expectations

At 7:40 am the first wave of 183 warplanes spotted the white water breakers at Kahuka Point (above). As they banked south at 6,000 feet, 39 year old Commander Mitsuo Fuchida slid back the center canopy of his torpedo bomber. And as they passed seaward of Waimea Bay, he raised his binoculars.
Twenty miles up the central valley of Oahu he could see the Army air base at Wheeler airfield. Thirty-five miles beyond were the three lobes of the naval base at Pearl Harbor. No American planes moved in the sky. The Pacific Fleet remained chained to its anchors. 
Ten minutes later the long anticipated war between the United States and Japan, began. But what screwed up 40 years of careful planning on both sides was a bunch of irrational human beings. And you can't plan for that.
In 1901 the rational Rear Admiral Raymond Perry Rodgers  (above) drew up plans for an American war with Japan. Labeled War Plan Orange, it called for the American Pacific Fleet to sail west to relieve the U.S. colony in the Philippines, and then turn north to fight a decisive battle with the dreadnoughts of the Imperial Japanese Navy. With minor modifications that remained the basic war plan until 1941, and was mirrored by Japanese planning. 
Entering the 20th century, the Japanese elite were desperate to keep the Americans from scavenging their nation as the Europeans had devoured China.  In 1910 Japan annexed Korea, so it's rice fields could feed the growing Japanese population. 
They conquered Manchuria in 1931, to gain coal, iron, zinc and copper for Japanese industry.
And they invaded China in 1937, seeking even more resources to stabilize their own Imperial system. The one natural resource which kept Japan from total independence was oil, 90% of which they had to buy from the United States. As a hedge, the Imperial government had carefully amassed a 2 year stockpile.
By April of 1940,  Prime Minster, 50 year old Prince Fumimaro Konoye (above, front), started looking for an escape hatch from the morass of the China war he had sought. He opened talks with the American government. But from within his own cabinet a war hawk emerged, 52 year old General Hideki Tojo (second row, second from the left) 
The General (above)  argued that, “... If we yield to America's demands, it will destroy the fruits of the China incident. Manchukuo (Japanese Manchuria) will be endangered and our control of Korea undermined.” As the most elite of the elite, Emperor Hirohito was sympathetic to Tojo.
Then, early in July of 1941 the Japanese occupied the rubber plantations in French Indochina. Outraged, President Franklin Roosevelt froze all Japanese funds in American banks. The President and his senior advisers then secretly slipped off to Newfoundland to meet with Winston Churchill to talk about the war raging in Europe. 
So everybody above Assistant Secretary of State Dean Acheson (above), was abruptly out of the loop. Because of this brief and sudden power vacuum, the 38 year old antifascist autocratic who headed the little known Foreign Funds Control Committee, found his hand wrapped around the Japanese throat.
Late in July Acheson squeezed. His committee ruled that Japan could not use frozen funds to pay for the $50 million of petroleum they had contracted to buy, enough oil to keep them independent into 1943. The American oil companies screamed at the lost revenue, but after returning from the Atlantic Conference the Roosevelt administration feared rescinding the order would “send the wrong message” to Japan. 
Acheson himself had no concerns about backing Japan into a corner because, as he wrote later, “ rational Japanese could believe that an attack on us could result in anything but disaster for his country." 
The power Acheson had such faith in was the American Pacific fleet, 9 battleships (above the USS Arizona) , 3 aircraft carriers, 20 cruisers, 50 destroyers and 33 submarines. In May of 1940, this powerful force had been transferred to Pearl Harbor, Oahu, Hawaii, to send a message.
The lagoon's original name was “Wai Momi”, meaning Waters of Pearl. Over the previous half century the U.S. Navy had dredged it to an average depth of 30 feet, built piers, dry docks, maintenance yards, barracks, warehouses and air fields. 
In 1924 construction began on what would become 60 large above ground oil tanks (above), which could hold 4.5 million barrels of fuel for the Pacific Fleet. 
In addition there were some 30,000 U.S. Army troops stationed at Henderson Barracks, and Army fighters and bombers at Hickham Field in the center of Oahu.
Oddly, the individual who objected the most to basing the fleet at Pearl Harbor was the Commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, 64 year old Admiral James Otto Richardson (above, center). 
What worried Richardson was the vulnerability of the fleet, in particular those above ground oil tanks. A single strafing run,  firing incendiary shells, could set afire the entire 4 million barrels, leaving the fleet stranded and easy prey to Japanese battleships and submarines.
Richardson (above) had spent most of 1940 convincing Congress to put the fleet's vulnerable Oahu oil stockpile 100 feet safely below the volcanic rocks of the Red Hills, 3 1/2 miles east of the harbor. But the crews did not start drilling into the basalt until late December of 1940. Even working around the clock the 250 million gallons of oil would not start filling the 20 steel lined underground tanks for another three years. Until then, Richardson wanted the fleet to return to San Diego. The Roosevelt Administration felt that would be an open invitation to Japanese aggression, and decided to fire Richardson.
About the same time Richardson's head hit the chopping block, 57 year old commander of the Japanese Combined Fleet, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto (above), began planning a preemptive attack on Pearl Harbor. He did this own his own, and the first time he presented his proposal to the Naval General Staff , they rejected it. 
Typical was the opposition of 57 year old arthritic Vice Admiral Chūichi Nagumo. Even though he had no experience in aviation, he had just been just been promoted to command Japan's Kido Butai (mobile strike force), their aircraft carriers. Nagumo insisted he had the “utmost respect” for Yamamoto, but cautioned, “...the most brilliant man can occasionally make a mistake.”
On 1 February, 1941, 58 year old Admiral Husband Edward Kimmel was named the new Chief in Command of the U.S. Pacific Fleet. He shared many of Richardson's concerns about the fleet's new base. But remembering the fate of his predecessor, Kimmel subdued his warnings, and 2 weeks after assuming command, he assured his bosses, “I feel that a surprise attack (submarine, air, or combined) on Pearl Harbor is a possibility, and we are taking immediate practical steps to minimize the damage inflicted and to ensure that the attacking force will pay.”
But Kimmel's only effective warning of such an attack would come from Consolidated PBY Catalina patrol planes, which could search up to 800 miles out of Pearl. However the strain of long flights on aircraft and crews, and the limited number of planes at hand meant Kimmel could only search the most probable approaches. 
U.S. Army Air Force had been promised B-17 heavy bombers (above), which could match the Catalina for search range. However, on the eve of every delivery, the numbers were reduced or completely diverted to other demands. As of May, there were only 17 B-17's in Hawaii. Several of those were soon transferred to Manila, in the Philippines, and none were assigned search duties.
In August of 1941, after the American embargo had begun, Yamamoto (above) submitted a revised plan, using almost 500 planes on six aircraft carriers – almost half of the 15 carriers Japan had built. The General Staff rejected it again.  To be clear, Yamamoto did not expect a surprise attack to yield direct victory. as he warned a friend and political ally. He wrote, "Should hostilities once break out between Japan and the United States, it is not enough that we take Guam and the Philippines, nor even Hawaii and San Francisco. To make victory certain, we would have to march into Washington and dictate the terms of peace in the White House." 
But because of the embargo and the China war, the Japanese navy was down to a six months supply of oil. Yamamoto argued that Nagumo had to either use his carriers or lose them, So on 25 September the nervous Nagumo began training his pilots for the attack. The naval critics were pacified that at least the precious carriers were under the direct command of the cautious Nagomo. Surely he would prevent the Yamamoto from unduly risking them. On 16 October, 1941, the Emperor asked General Hideki Tojo to serve as Prime Minister, and he formed a war cabinet.
On Saturday, 1 November, the Japanese Combined Fleet changed their radio codes. At the same time all ships in the Kido Butai - 6 aircraft carriers, 2 battleships, 2 Cruisers, 11 destroyers, one fleet oiler and 7 supply ships - went silent, and were replaced by simulated broadcasts, which convinced the listening Americans the Japanese carriers remained at anchor in Hiroshima and Saeki bays. Then at dawn on Sunday, 16 November, and under strict radio silence, the Kido Butai set sail for the Kuriles Islands, 1,000 miles to the north. On that same day 20 full sized and 6 midget submarines left Kwajalein atoll, also bound for Hawaiian waters.
On Friday, 21 November, , the strike force dropped anchor in the lonely volcano lined Hitokappu Bay, Iturup Island. That same day Emperor Hirohito gave his final approval for the attack. Only if the Americans lifted the oil embargo and gave Japan a free hand in Asia, could a war now be averted. The Americans still expected Japan to react to their economic pressure short of war. As one historian has put it, they had underestimated “...the incredibly high risks...” the Japanese elite would take to dominate Asia. “It was a matter of life and death for them.”
On Sunday, 23 November, Vice Admiral Nagumo was ordered to “....proceed to the Hawaiian Area with utmost secrecy and, at the outset of the war...launch a resolute surprise attack on and deal a fatal blow to the enemy fleet in the Hawaiian Area...the Task Force will (then) immediately withdraw...” 
As the Fleet steamed east toward war through stormy seas at 14 knots, Vice Admiral Nagumo mused to his Chief of Staff, “ If I had only been more firm and refused. Now we've left home waters...” But it was too late for second thoughts.
On Saturday, 6 December, 1941, Nagumo ordered the attack fleet to changed course to 180 degrees and increase speed to 20 knots.  After a voyage of almost 2,500 miles, dawn on Sunday, 7 December, 1941, found the Kido Butai just 230 miles northwest of Oahu Island. 
At 6:10 am local time, they launched the first wave of attack aircraft.
The first bombs and torpedoes fell on Pearl Harbor, Wheeler Field and Schofield barracks at 7:55 am, local time. 
At 9:45 am the second wave of Japanese planes turned for home. 
In those 110 minutes 2,043 U.S. military personnel were killed – half when the USS Arizona's magazine exploded – and 1,143 were wounded. 
Five battleships were sunk or run aground. Another 13 cruisers, destroyers and service ships were damaged to varying degrees. 
Out of 402 American aircraft on Oahu,188 were destroyed and 159 damaged. 
The cost to the Japanese attack force of 414 planes was 29 aircraft shot down, 9 in the first wave and 20 in the second, or 8% of the attacking force. 
Another 111 planes were damage but returned to their carrier. A total of 20 of those planes never flew again.
Commander Mitsuo Fuchida returned to the Kido Butai flagship, the aircraft carrier Akagi, just before noon, local time. He was one of the last to land, having circled over Pearl Harbor to observe the entire assault. Immediately upon landing, presumably after relieving his bladder in the head, he reported to Vice Admiral Nagumo on the bridge. He detailed the damage he had seen to the American ships, and then began to suggest further attacks for a third wave, including the vulnerable oil storage tanks and the dry dock repair facilities. Despite some accounts which suggest a confrontation, there is no persuasive evidence such a discussion took place. Even before Fuchida had landed, Nagumo and his staff had decided to turn the carriers back north and "....immediately withdraw...”.
There were good reasons for Nagumo's decision, None of the Kido Butai were equipped with radar, meaning at any moment American aircraft might appear without warning. Intercepted radio traffic hinted that perhaps 50 American land based bombers were still operational. Also, the ocean might be filled with American submarines. 
Did the carriers even have the weaponry capable of damaging the concrete dry docks? The fuel tanks were easy targets, but the Kido Butai could only put 150 aircraft into a third strike. And losses had doubled between the first and second wave attacks. If they doubled again a third wave could expect to lose between 30 and 40 aircraft. And a third wave would have to land on the carriers after dark, something Japanese pilots were not trained for.
And finally there was also this - Nagumo had never believed in the attack. Having avoided his greatest fears, and turning back before achieving Yamamoto's greatest hopes, Nagumo had at least preserved six of Japan's fragile aircraft carriers. But it would prove to be a Pyrrhic victory. 
Expanding a war because of oil, the Japanese had left 4 ½ million barrels on Oahu. That fuel would power the U.S. Navy through the launching of Doolittle Raid on Tokyo, and the battle at Midway, where 4 Japanese carriers would be sunk. Refusal to knock out those vulnerable above ground tanks proved that although the Japanese had started the war because of oil, they never recognized its strategic role in the war.
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