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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, June 2, 2001

Pioneers of naval intelligence honored

By William Cole
Advertiser Staff Writer

There was little organized military intelligence-gathering in the Pacific before the United States entered World War II.

Retired Rear Adm. Donald Showers, left, and Adm. Thomas Fargo, Pacific Fleet commander, examine one of the intelligence-gathering displays at fleet headquarters.

Richard Ambo • The Honolulu Advertiser

With the bombs that fell on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, that all changed. From then on, a Navy intelligence team at Station HYPO, working in cramped quarters in the basement of a Pearl Harbor Navy Yard building, labored to break JN25, the Japanese navy's main radio code.

The knowledge gained led to a decisive victory over the Japanese in June 1942 at Midway Island.

Both victories were celebrated at Pacific Fleet headquarters yesterday, with the dedication of a permanent display of the fleet's intelligence-gathering efforts through World War II.

"There were no schools, no curriculum, no criteria for (decryption). We designed it and did it," said retired Rear Adm. Donald M. "Mac" Showers, who served in naval, defense and national intelligence efforts between 1941 and 1983.

Intelligence analysts monitored radio intercepts, plotted Japanese actions and forwarded the information to operating forces — a concept called OPINTEL. No such system existed in the Navy before 1941.

"The basic culture of naval intelligence as we know it today was born at that time," Showers said.

The Japanese planned to use Midway as a stepping stone to a Hawai'i invasion. But with the code broken, the United States was aware of the plan and attacked north of Midway, sinking four Japanese aircraft carriers and seriously damaging Japan's naval forces.

Adm. Thomas Fargo, Pacific Fleet commander in chief, called it an "honor" to stand before the assembled group of intelligence veterans who turned out for the dedication and visit to the former Station HYPO quarters, including about a half-dozen veterans of the original 30- to 40-member group.