Frederick Martin arrived at Pearl Harbor 2 November 1940, thirteen months before December 7th. He was described as “a tall gentleman with wavy gray hair and thick brows shadowing pleasant eyes. His thin face with its oblong jaw, big nose, high forehead, and large ears looked more scholarly than military."
Martin was 58 years old and suffered from a chronic ulcer condition. He had undergone surgery, and as a result he was not in the best physical health. He may have thought the warm tropical climate of Hawaii would help him feel better, but that was not to be.
Martin soon found that the air, naval and land commands in Hawaii, although they were all US control, were at a difference of opinion concerning operations. Always the peacemaker, Martin worked with the various commands to solve mutual problems.
His role at Pearl was described thusly: “His assignment placed him in an ambiguous position. As commander of the Hawaiian Air Force, he had direct access to Major General H.H. 'Hap' Arnold, chief of the Army Air Corps, but he remained under the command of [Lt. General Walter] Short, a foot soldier to the soles of his boots. The situation could not have been more delicate, and indeed, Martin had received specific instructions from Arnold to end die undeclared civil war which had raged on Oahu between the Army, its Air Corps, and the Navy…”
One of the changes Martin wanted implement in the Air Corps base was to move the planes away from each other. When he arrived he found that the planes were huddled together to prevent sabotage from the ground, but they were "easy pickings" if the enemy "swooped down" on them. Orders from above Martin's command decided the best way to guard the planes were to keep them together. Admiral Husband Kimmel commander in chief, US Pacific Fleet admitted that by keeping the planes together did not alarm the public by taking defensive positions.
On March 31, 1941 Frederick Martin and Navy Rear Admiral Patrick N.L. Bellinger issued the Martin-Bellinger Report. . It predicted the impending attack on Pearl Harbor by Japan and delivered a detailed insight as to how the attack would happen. Martin and Bellinger pointed out that the relationship between the US and Japan was "strained, uncertain and varying". History showed that Japan did not make a declaration of war prior to attack. A declaration of war might be preceded by: a surprise submarine attack on ships in the area, a surprise attack on Oahu and all military installations and vessels and or a combination of the two. An attack at dawn would deliver the biggest surprise and create the most damage. The most dangerous form of attack would be an aerial assault launched from carriers that would probably approach inside of three hundred miles.
At 7:55 A.M. Sunday December 7th 1941, General Martin was preparing breakfast at his base home when he heard the first explosions. The attack was taking place less than a mile from his home.
It was Japanese. He grabbed his telephone and began giving orders. He then rushed to headquarters. He was described as "ashen faced with a grim express that showed how deeply the attack had shocked him." He was described as "looking like a walking corpse".
Calling Bellinger in hopes of "getting" the Japanese carriers, the bombardment was so heavy that the two men could hardly hear one another. Bellinger informed Martin that the attack was so sudden, he had no idea where the carriers could be.
On December 16, 1941, Short, Kimmel, and Martin were relieved of their commands. Subsequent reports placed heavy blame on Kimmel and Short, although there are continued efforts to clear their records. No blame was placed on Martin.