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Short, Walter Campbell (1880-1949)


Photograph of Walter C. Short

National Archives

Walter Short was born in Illinois and graduated from the University of Illinois before receiving his commission in 1902. He participated in the Pershing Expedition and served in staff and training posts in France during the First World War. He published a textbook, Employment of Machine Guns, in 1922, and graduated from the Army War College in 1925. Early in 1941 he was breveted to lieutenant general and given command of the Hawaiian Department.

Short's career came to an abrupt end in the aftermath of the Pearl Harbor attack. Though characterized by some historians as a scapegoat, the facts show that Short was unimaginative in his preparations, contemptuous of Japanese capabilities, ignorant of the potential of air power, and obsessed with the threat of fifth column sabotage. In fairness, the fear of sabotage pervaded the U.S. high command, driven by very real fifth column activities by German agents in Europe. Short also seems to have regarded his posting to Hawaii as a negative reflection on his ability, since (together with the rest of the U.S. Army) he considered Europe the more important theater. However, he established an excellent personal working relationship with Kimmel.

Short's background contained an unusually high number of training assignments, and there are clear indications he never really understood his mission in Hawaii. His prime responsibility was to protect the Pacific Fleet at its base, but he seemed to think that the Fleet was there to help him hold Hawaii. In contingency planning, he seemed almost to welcome scenarios in which the destruction of his air force would free the ground personnel for infantry duty.

On 24 January 1942, a Board of Inquiry found Short guilty of dereliction of duty, and he was forced to retire from the Army. He worked with the Ford Motor Company until 1946, when he was forced to resign due to ill health. Claiming (with some basis) that he had not received the intelligence or resources needed to defend Oahu, he demanded but never received a court-martial to attempt to clear his name.

Service record

1880-3-30     

Born at Fillmore, Illinois
1901

Graduates from University of Illinois
1902-2-2
Second lieutenant     
Commissioned in the infantry
1912-2

Secretary, School of Musketry, Fort Sill, Oklahoma
1916-3

16 Regiment, Punitive Expedition, Mexico
1917-6
Captain
I Corps, France
1919

Assistant Chief of Staff for Training, 3 Army, Germany
1920
Major
School of the Line (Command and General Staff School)
1921-6

General Staff
1924

Army War College
1925

Service in Puerto Rico
1928

Staff, Command and General Staff School
1930-9

Bureau of Insular Affairs
1936
Brigadier general

1939-10

Commander, 1 Infantry Division
1940-11
Major general
Commander, I Corps
1941-2-8
Lieutenant general     
Commander, Hawaiian Department
1941-12-17     

Relieved
1942-2

Retires
1949

Dies


References

Boatner (1996)

Dupuy et al. (1992)

Prange (1981)



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