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Senate Votes to Clear 2 Officers at Helm During Pearl Harbor Attack

May 26, 1999|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Senate voted Tuesday to exonerate two American military commanders accused of dereliction of duty in the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The vote followed a heated debate that divided the chamber's small band of World War II veterans.

By 52 to 47, the Senate approved an effort by Sen. William V. Roth Jr. (R-Del.) to restore the reputations of Adm. Husband Kimmel and Gen. Walter Short, the two senior commanders of U.S. military forces in the Pacific at the time of the Dec. 7, 1941, attack.

The new debate on an old military controversy came as the Senate worked on a $288.8-billion defense spending bill for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.

The issue was raised in a minor amendment to the defense bill. But it led to a two-day, emotional debate revisiting one of the nation's worst military disasters.

Roth, 77, said Kimmel and Short had become the Pentagon's scapegoats for the surprise attack.

Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.) called Kimmel and Short "the two final victims of Pearl Harbor."

But Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.) strongly opposed the move, suggesting his fellow World War II veterans and members of the generation that followed were trying to rewrite history.

"There's no new evidence before the Senate," said Warner, noting that the dispute had been the subject of nine separate inquiries over the last five decades, and that none of them had cleared the two officers.

Kimmel, commander in chief of the Pacific Fleet, and Short, commander of the Hawaiian Department of the U.S. Army, were accused by a panel appointed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt of dereliction of duty in not anticipating the Japanese attack.

Their wartime ranks were reduced and both men, who are now deceased, retired.

The Senate move to restore these ranks will go to the House as part of the big defense bill.

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