The Argentine cruiser General Belgrano sinks in the South Atlantic on May 2, 1982, after being torpedoed by the Royal Navy submarine Conqueror.

September 2019 Readers’ Letters

By HistoryNet Staff
September 2019 • Military History

Falklands Lessons
I enjoyed the March 2019 article about the sinking of the Argentine cruiser [“Sink the Belgrano!” by Patrick S. Baker]. The description of the movements of the Royal Navy vessels was thorough, but there are some features that were not described and may be of interest.

Certainly all the Argentine naval vessels withdrew from the scene, but planes with Exocet missiles were still a real threat. After the British troops landed on the island, which was quickly and efficiently done, cargo ships entered the harbor to unload their war materiel. Unhappily, the ship carrying helicopters that were going to be used as air support for the ground troops who had to cross the island to capture Stanley, the capital, was sunk by airdropped Exocets, and only one helo was off-loaded.

Admiral Sandy Woodward was aware of the threat posed by the missiles and, as you reported, withdrew many miles to the east and by doing so protected his fleet, but that made support of the ground troops almost nonexistent, as the time to fly to and from the targets was long, and the actual time over the island very short.

There is a lesson here to be heeded: Carriers are very vulnerable. Perhaps the days of their glory are over—just like that of battleships

Surgeon-Lieutenant Douglas Gebbie,
Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (Ret.)
Naples, Fla.

Internment
Your article [“Taking Liberties,” July 2018] about the World War II detention camps for Americans of Japanese descent included the usual information. However, there is more that would have been useful to include. I am a frequent lecturer on the Pacific War, and my most popular lecture is “The Other Reasons Japan Lost the War,” which gets into the nitty-gritty on how Japan needlessly shot itself in the foot. My father, U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Cliff Graham, spoke Japanese and was a wartime code breaker/translator. Some of the following information comes directly from him and from my own research of some 40 years.

Though the Japanese Purple Code was broken in the months leading up to the Pearl Harbor attack, there were simply too many messages to deal with, and what appeared to be lower priority ones were stacked along a wall at Station HYPO [the U.S. Navy cryptographic unit in Hawaii]. Once there were sufficient bodies to man HYPO, messages from the Japanese Foreign Office to its consulates and embassy in the U.S. were discovered, some of which included instructions to set up fifth column rings among those deemed loyal to Japan, primarily on the U.S. West Coast, to sabotage defense plants. This was actually the proximate cause of [President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s] Executive Order 9066. In the urgency of the moment there simply wasn’t the luxury of interviewing all 110,000 Nisei and Isei to determine loyalty, and there certainly wasn’t the luxury of finding out the hard way how successful the [fifth column] effort had been. There was also extreme concern the Japanese might figure out we were reading their codes—a reason that could not be made public. Nisei I have known over the years were familiar with these efforts.

While there were no incidents of sabotage or overt disloyalty when the camps were first set up, there were certain internees who were clearly rooting for Japan—generally those either educated in Japan or recently arrived in the United States. About 5,000 of the 110,000 in all the camps were deemed “troublemakers” and put in a special high-security section in the camp at Tule Lake. The patriotism of the vast majority of the detainees led them to point out to authorities those whose loyalty was suspect.

There is no question the rounding up of the Japanese was handled poorly. At the very least the government could/should have picked up the mortgages or leases on the detainees’ properties for the duration. But war is hell, and bad stuff happens. The attitude of most of the internees, that detention was their contribution to the war effort, is extremely poignant to me. Poignant beyond words are the exploits of the 442nd RCT and 100th Infantry Division.

Dana Graham
Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif.

 

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