- Spies for Nimitz: Joint Military Intelligence in the Pacific War
It seems like yesterday but it is now more than a decade since I pored over the weekly issues of the bulletin put out by the Joint Intelligence Center Pacific Ocean Areas (JICPOA) while researching my study of U.S. intelligence and the Japanese Navy in World War II. The JICPOA bulletins were replete with surveys of Japanese defenses on various islands, articles on the characteristics of land weapons, ships, and aircraft, translations of documents, and more. I remember thinking how wonderful it would be to do a book just on this material, how it provided ample scope for an examination of intelligence performance prior to several campaigns of the Pacific war. [End Page 1006] Now Jeffrey Moore has done exactly that in his work Spies for Nimitz. Truth to tell I was more excited when picking up this book to read than I have been with any Pacific war history of recent years.
In a Saigon bar in 1996, Moore, who was in Vietnam teaching English, heard a story of scout recruiting of agents on Pacific islands from a former U.S. Army officer. That piqued his curiosity. The author's background is somewhat shadowy in the jacket notes here, which list various consultancies, but from the internal evidence is clearly related to the Marine Corps and to intelligence. He studied with naval historian Michael A. Palmer and has come away with the tools necessary to organize and arrange the material. Spies for Nimitz is the result.
The book opens with a chapter on JICPOA's organization and evolution and then swings into a series of case studies. The campaigns Moore selects are the Marshalls, Marianas, Peleliu, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa, and the intelligence preparations for the invasion of Japan. He ends with a chapter of conclusions and lessons learned, using that specific terminology. Moore uses a particular methodology. He begins with a description of the strategic background and U.S. decision to undertake the campaign, details the JICPOA survey reporting on the subject, compares this to what was discovered in the course of actual operations (basing himself on official histories and some documents), and draws preliminary conclusions. The best feature of the book is undoubtedly the appearance of map and illustrative material from the JICPOA bulletins alongside the maps of Japanese defenses drawn up for official histories, which permit a host of interesting observations.
Moore writes in his preface that "no historian has thoroughly examined the history of JICPOA" (p. xiv). Unfortunately, that statement remains true. The book reads too much like a dissertation. Moore's account of JICPOA goes very little beyond bare bones and in fact follows closely the postwar internal history Nimitz's intelligence center itself prepared. The author does not deal with the intelligence relationship between Nimitz and MacArthur, provides little in the way of a narrative history of JICPOA, and aside from his administrative description in the opening chapter, deals almost exclusively with the output of just one JICPOA element, Group Four, which produced the bulletins. There is no coverage of such crucial items as the Japanese order of battle (except in the limited context of the specific islands in his case studies), Japanese air or naval operations, technology exploitation, prisoner interrogations, and so on. There is little on agent operations in support of U.S. intelligence. There are only a few instances where the author goes beyond the raw reporting in the bulletins. The most important is his very interesting observations in connection with Iwo Jima and Okinawa, about the impact of Nimitz's creation of an advanced headquarters (and intelligence center) on Guam, which left JICPOA with insufficient and inexperienced photo interpreters who underestimated the enemy garrisons. But here Moore falls victim to his sparse administrative history of JICPOA, making it impossible to see the 1945 developments in their full context. There is also no effort to deal with JICPOA surveys...