Billy Mitchell Predicts Pearl Harbor Attack in 1924

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“This officer is an exceptionally able one, enthusiastic, energetic and full of initiative (but) he is fond of publicity, more or less indiscreet as to speech, and rather difficult to control as a subordinate.”

From General John J. Pershing’s 1923 efficiency report on General William Mitchell

Brigadier General William “Billy” Mitchell did not suffer fools gladly.  Dismayed that his demands for the development of air power were ignored in the post World War I era, he became increasingly caustic in his comments against his superiors.  After the deaths of several airmen in 1925 flying obsolete equipment, he castigated the heads of the Army and Navy for an almost treasonable administration of the national defense.  Court-martialed, he was found guilty and suspended from the Army without pay for five years.  President Calvin Coolidge amended the judgment so that Mitchell would receive half pay.  Mitchell left the Army, his military career at an end.

In 1924 General Pershing, perhaps to keep Mitchell out of harm’s way, sent him out on an inspection tour of the Pacific.  In his notes of that tour, later reduced to a 323 page report, Mitchell took a look at the weakness of the US in the Pacific and the rising power of Japan.  He predicted war between Japan and the US, and a Japanese strike on Pearl Harbor and Clark Field in the Philippines:

“Japan knows full well that the United States will probably enter the next war with the methods and weapons of the former war…It also knows full well that the defense of the Hawaiian group is based on the island of Oahu and not on the defense of the whole group.”


“The Japanese bombardment, (would be) 100 (air) ships organized into four squadrons of 25 (air) ships each.  The objectives for attack are:

  1. Ford Island, airdrome, hangers, storehouses and ammunition dumps;

  2. Navy fuel oil tanks;

  3. Water supply of Honolulu;

  4. Water supply of Schofield;

  5. Schofield Barracks airdrome and troop establishments;

  6. Naval submarine station;

  7. City and wharves of Honolulu.”

“Attack will be launched as follows:  bombardment, attack to be made on Ford Island at 7:30 a.m.


“Attack to be made on Clark Field (Philippine Islands) at 10:40 a.m.”

“Japanese pursuit aviation will meet bombardment over Clark Field, proceeding by squadrons, one at 3000 feet to Clark Field from the southeast and with the sun at their back, one at 5000 feet from the north and one at 10,000 feet from the west.  Should U.S. pursuit e destroyed or fail to appear, airdrome would be attacked with machineguns.”


“The (Japanese) air force would then carry out a systematic siege against Corregidor.”

In his hypothetical attack times Mitchell was only 25 minutes off in regard to Pearl Harbor and two hours in regard to Clark Field.  Ironically these predictions were used in his court-martial by the prosecution in an attempt to show that Mitchell was an unstable publicity hound.  Mitchell died in 1936 and thus did not live to see his unheeded predictions turn into grim prophecy.

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  1. Along with Douglas MacArthur, my father (Lt. Col, US Army, 6th Army, Artillery, inducted in 1940, served 20 years) also ‘worshipped’ Billy Mitchell, and said of Mitchell, quietly however, that the Army worked hard to rehabilitate and reverse itself in the war years 41-45 and the post-war era to incorporate nearly all his truly visionary observations.
    The greatest “war-mongerers” are the demagogue military-types, the ones (think of now -forgotten Wesley Clark, or Colin Powell, or the scores who signed a puff-piece attack on Trump during the election cycle—and those who worked hard to court-martial the sharp-tongued Mitchell) who really missed their vocation to be a full-blown left-wing politician.
    They are indeed—as they have shown during the past 8 years of this disastrous administration— the greatest threat to our peace. I hope Trump retires them all.

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