East Wind, Rain

Title:                      East Wind, Rain

Author:                 Elliott R. Thorpe

Thorpe, Elliott R. (1969). East Wind, Rain; The Intimate Account of an Intelligence Officer in the Pacific, 1939-49. Boston, MA: Gambit

LCCN:    69012586

D767 .T5


Date Updated:  February 24, 2016

Reviewed by George C. Constantinides[1]

General Thorpe began his career as a U.S. military intelligence officer in 1939; he served as General Douglas MacArthur’s head of counterintelligence and civil intelligence. This was a result of a strange split in that command’s intelligence whereby General Willoughby was in charge of combat intelligence. Both sections were combined under the latter in June 1945. Despite the positions he occupied, Thorpe has relatively little of intelligence interest to tell in this personal narrative. The title of the book is the text of the Japanese message that is at the heart of the author’s most significant and controversial revelation. He claims “east wind rain” was the Japanese signal of their upcoming attack in 1941 and that it was intercepted by the Dutch in Japan in early December and deciphered. He further insists he forwarded this intelligence to Washington and was ordered by the latter to send no more on the subject. We know “east wind rain” was a Japanese Foreign Office message to designate a crisis in relations with the United States and to warn Japanese diplomatic and consular offices to destroy codes and secret files. It was not the go signal for a Japanese attack in the Pacific including Hawaii, as Thorpe pictures it. Further, Holmes in Double-Edged Secrets[2] states no actual “winds” message was ever intercepted by the United States, and Kahn’s Codebreakers[3] supports this contention. There are a few snippets on the attitude of MacArthur and other senior officers of his command toward counterintelligence work. Thorpe was no admirer of Willoughby; according to Powe and Wilson in The Evolution of American Military Intelligence[4], Thorpe was critical of his work as G-2. Willoughby’s criticism of Thorpe’s testimony on Owen Lattimore is to be found in Willoughby’s Sorge: Soviet Master Spy[5]. One review thought Thorpe did not even leak open secrets. For a fuller discussion of the debate on whether the “winds execute” message was ever received, including the opinions of Roberta Wohlstetter and William Friedman, the reader is referred to Clark’s The Man Who Broke Purple[6].

Reviewed by Paul W. Blackstock and Frank L. Schaf[7]

The autobiography of an experienced military intelligence officer. His career began in Hawaii before Pearl Harbor and continued through the Dutch East Indies, Malaya, Australia, the Philippines, Japan, and postwar Thailand. General Thorpe was MacArthur’s chief of counterintelligence during World War II, his chief of civil intelligence in occupied Japan, and military attaché to Thailand from 1948 to 1949. This book gives impressive insights into interrogation, escape and evasion, and censorship techniques, but also provides candid commentary on the utilization of intelligence and on the controversial policy issues in the Pacific theater of operations. The title comes from the “winds message” which was broadcast on Japanese weather stations to signal the launching of surprise attacks.

[1] Constantinides, George C. (1983). Intelligence and Espionage: An Analytical Bibliography. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, pp.

[2] Holmes, W. J. (1979, 1998). Double-Edged Secrets: U.S. Naval Intelligence Operations In The Pacific During World War II. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press

[3] Kahn, David (1967). The Codebreakers: The Story of Secret Writing. New York: Macmillan

[4] Powe, Marc B. (1973) and Edward E. Wilson. The Evolution of American Military Intelligence. Fort Huachuca, Ariz.: U.S. Army Intelligence Center and School

[5] Willoughby, Charles A. (1952). Sorge: Soviet Master Spy. London: William Kimber

[6] Clark, Ronald W. (1977). Man Who Broke ‘Purple’: The Life of Colonel William F. Friedman, Who Deciphered the Japanese Code in World War II. Boston: Little, Brown

[7] Blackstock, Paul W. (1978) and Frank L. Schaf, Jr. Intelligence, Espionage, Counterespionage, And Covert Operations: A Guide to Information Sources. Detroit: Gale Research Co., pp. 68-69


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