Roberta Wohlstetter, 94, Military Policy Analyst, Dies

Historians in the News

Roberta Wohlstetter, a military and foreign policy analyst whose work on the intelligence failures before the attack on Pearl Harbor was cited by the 9/11 commission, died on Saturday in Manhattan. She was 94.

The cause was pneumonia, said her daughter, Joan Wohlstetter-Hall.

“What does Pearl Harbor tell us about the possibility of a surprise attack today, with possible consequences of an even greater and perhaps more fatal magnitude?” Mrs. Wohlstetter asked 45 years ago in her book “Pearl Harbor: Warning and Decision” (Stanford University Press).

The question became relevant again as the Sept. 11 commission began investigating the missed opportunities that left the United States vulnerable to the attacks by Al Qaeda. The panel’s report found major intelligence failures and analyzed the difficulties in gathering data.

Referring to hindsight, the report quoted Mrs. Wohlstetter’s book: “After the event, of course, a signal is always crystal clear; we can now see what disaster it was signaling since the disaster has occurred. Before the event, it is obscure and pregnant with conflicting meanings.”...
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