Today, we remember those who died at Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941.
Let's also remember that many of them died because peacetime military officers moved with such bureaucratic torpor and lack of urgency that they failed to learn readily available lessons. The US Naval Institute took a long look at that a year ago.
On the night of 11 November 1940, Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm (FAA) aircraft attacked Italian battleships at anchor in the port of Taranto, Italy. On the morning of 7 December 1941, aircraft of the Imperial Japanese Navy’s carrier strike force attacked the battleships and other assets of the U.S. Navy at anchor in Pearl Harbor. Is there a connection between the two attacks? If so, should the Navy have discovered it before 7 December?
It is not obvious that there should be any connection, for the two attacks were very different ... Still, the fundamental lesson of each operation was the same: The development of naval aviation meant ships no longer were safe in their home ports.
. . .
One man was almost certainly the first down the gangplank once the Illustrious had docked: Lieutenant Commander Opie. Though his official title was assistant naval attaché, London, Opie had come aboard the Illustrious on 22 August, when she departed Britain bound for Alexandria. During the intervening months, he had sailed on board a number of Royal Navy ships on combat operations. He was in the heavy cruiser HMS Kent when she was torpedoed, and he would spend time on board the battleship Warspite, destroyer Jervis, and light cruiser Sydney. He sent back numerous reports to the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI), reporting on his own observations and also forwarding almost any Royal Navy document he could get his hands on.
On 14 November, he quickly made his way to the American Legation in Cairo and wrote a four-page report on the Taranto attack. He had obtained a copy of the report by the commanding officer of the Illustrious and added his own observations to “supplement the enclosed report.” Under the heading, “Lessons,” Opie wrote:
. . .
- AA fire is not effective.
- Low flying planes attacking ships limit shipboard gunnery for fear of hitting friendly ships.
- Strain on pilots was intense, doubt that they could have made a second attack.
- Some believe that ships should put to sea on moonlit nights, rather than try to defend in harbor.
- RN has given up on high level bombing, and prefers torpedo attack to dive bombing.
Officers out with the fleet were aware that successful aerial torpedo attacks were being made in Europe. Officers serving as neutral observers with the Royal Navy were getting and forwarding the facts about these successes. But officers serving in staff jobs at the Navy Department failed to connect the two groups. This was not a case of deliberately withholding intelligence needed by the fleet commanders but rather an ordinary bureaucratic failure to overcome preconceived notions, to send clear messages without adding “on the other hand” comments, and to keep up with changing technology. A failure nevertheless, and, indeed, a catastrophic one.
There's more at the link.
The Japanese did more to profit from the lessons of Taranto. As Wikipedia summarizes:
It is likely the Imperial Japanese Navy's staff carefully studied the Taranto raid during planning for the attack on Pearl Harbor because of the issues with a shallow harbour. Japanese Lieutenant Commander Takeshi Naito, the assistant naval attaché to Berlin, flew to Taranto to investigate the attack firsthand and probably wrote a report, but no copy of such a report has ever been found. Naito subsequently had a lengthy conversation with Commander Mitsuo Fuchida about his observations in October 1941. Fuchida led the Japanese attack on 7 December 1941. More significant, perhaps, was a Japanese military mission to Italy in May 1941. Japanese Navy officers visited Taranto and had lengthy discussions with their Italian Navy opposite numbers.
I wonder how many modern military lessons are not being learned due to similar issues?