Roberta Wohlstetter

Roberta Morgan Wohlstetter died at the age of 94 on 6 January 2007. Her work Pearl Harbor: Warning and Decision (1962) is a genuine classic in the fields of militray history and intelligence analysis. See Patricia Sullivan, "Roberta M. Wohlstetter; Military Intelligence Expert," Washington Post, 10 Jan. 2007, B7.

Wohlstetter, Roberta. Cuba and Pearl Harbor: Hindsight and Foresight. Santa Monica, CA: Rand, 1965.

Clark comment: This work takes Wohlstetter's "signals" vs. "noise" analysis, developed initially in relation to the Pearl Harbor disaster, and applies it to the Cuban Missile Crisis. Constantinides notes that the study is based on open sources, a circumstance that may limit its usefulness. See also, Wohlstetter's article, "Cuba and Pearl Harbor: Hindsight and Foresight," Foreign Affairs 43 (Jul. 1965), 691-707.

[GenPostwar/60s/MissileCrisis; WWII/PearlHarbor/Gen]

Wohlstetter, Roberta. Pearl Harbor: Warning and Decision. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1962. D76792W6

Clark comment: Wohlstetter is a superb beginning point for any discussion of the problems faced by intelligence analysts in their relations with policymakers, specifically the "signal to noise" problem.

Pforzheimer says that the continuing value of Wohlstetter's work "lies not only in the intelligence background of the Pearl Harbor attack, but also on vital questions of intelligence estimates, alerts, and indications and warning systems which the author presents in depth." Constantinides calls the book "an outstanding analysis," but also recognizes that some critics argue that Wohlstetter's model works only when deception is not involved. Kirkpatrick, Studies 7.3 (Summer 1963), calls Wohlstetter's a "magnificent analysis."


Wohlstetter, Roberta. "Sunday, December 7, 1941, and the Monday Morning Quarterbacks." Air Force Magazine, Dec. 1966, 82-86.

To Sexton, this is an "authoritative review of the background of the Pearl Harbor disaster." Wohlstetter finds nothing in the evidence that would have given a pointed warning of the impending attack. She sees "conspiracy theorists and amateur evaluators of Comint ... finding cause and effect relationships where none exist."


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