Walter Short

Name Walter Short
Born March 30 1880
Died September 3 1949
Birth Location Fillmore, Illinois

As commander of the United States Army's Hawaiian Department, Walter Short was held responsible for the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor; he and Husband Kimmel , commander-in-chief of the U.S. fleet were soon removed from command and blamed for America's unpreparedness. [1]

Short was born in Fillmore, Illinois, on March 30, 1880, and in 1901 graduated from the University of Illinois. He taught mathematics at Western Military Academy before joining the army in March 1902. Short was first stationed at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, and later the Presidio in San Francisco before serving in other areas such as Oklahoma, Texas, the Philippines, and Mexico. During World War I, Short served in France on the general staff of the 1st Division and was an assistant chief of staff for the 3rd Army. Short continued to rise in the army hierarchy gaining experience as a troop commander and as a training and staff officer, and in February 1941, Short was appointed to command the army's Hawaiian Department. In this capacity, Short was promoted to the temporary rank of lieutenant general and was responsible for Hawai'i's aerial and ground defense.

Immediately after the Pearl Harbor attack , President Franklin D. Roosevelt initiated an investigation and subsequently both Short and Kimmel were relieved of their commands. The commission's report, issued in January 1942, cited both Short and Kimmel for mistakes. Short was reduced to the rank of major general and retired in early 1942. In later testimonies, Short argued he had made the right decisions considering the information and level of support he had received from Washington. Most recently in 1995, Senator Strom Thurmond with the support of Kimmel's and Short's families, formally requested a defense department inquiry that resulted in the Dorn report which found that "while Kimmel and Short were guilty of errors of judgment, they were not solely responsible for the catastrophe at Pearl Harbor, and others in Washington and on their staffs in Hawai'i should share some of the blame." Yet, both Short and Kimmel have yet to be fully exonerated.

After his retirement, Short worked at the Ford Motor Company in Dallas, Texas and passed away in 1949 survived by his wife, Isabel Dean Short and their son Walter Dean Short.

Authored by Kelli Y. Nakamura , University of Hawai'i

For More Information

Anderson, Charles Robert. Day of Lightning, Years of Scorn: Walter C. Short and the Attack on Pearl Harbor . Annapolis, Mayland: Naval Institute Press, 2005.

Beach, Edward L. Scapegoats: A Defense of Kimmel and Short at Pearl Harbor . Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press, 1995.

Biography, United States Army website, Borch, Fred and Daniel Martinez. Kimmel, Short, and Pearl Harbor: The Final Report Revealed . Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 2005.

Lambert, John W. and Norman Polmar. Defenseless: Command Failure at Pearl Harbor . St. Paul, Minnesota: MBI, 2003.

Worth, Roland H. Pearl Harbor: Selected Testimonies, Fully Indexed, from the Congressional Hearings (1945-1946) and Prior Investigations of the Events Leading up to the Attack . Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Co., 1993.


  1. Research for this article was supported by a grant from the Hawai‘i Council for the Humanities .

Last updated Jan. 16, 2024, 12:54 a.m..