Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Seventy-Five Years Ago

Gorou saw the streaks of anti-aircraft tracer loft lazily past the nose of his Aichi D3A. His bomb had come away cleanly but he wasn't sure if he had hit anything with it.

"Hey Haruki-san," he yelled to his gunner through the voice tube, "did you see our bomb hit?"

"Hai Gorou-san! It hit just off the bow of, I think, the West Virginia. It was a good..."

Just then the aircraft shuddered and pitched up. Gorou quickly regained control, but his rudder pedals felt sloppy. Gently he nudged the nose of the aircraft towards the horizon, out there was the Shokaku. If he had any hope of returning home to Japan, he'd need to be very careful.

"Haruki-san, what happened?" Not receiving an answer, Gorou started to turn in his seat to try and get a glimpse of his gunner. Just then something hit the wing of the aircraft. Hard.


(Source)
As Gorou looked to his right, he saw that the wing of his aircraft was engulfed in flame.


Seaman Bill Jackson was running to take cover when he heard the sound of an aircraft, very low. As he turned to look, his curiosity momentarily overriding his survival instincts, he saw a Japanese aircraft, it's wing on fire, trailing smoke, dipping towards the waters of Pearl Harbor. Before he continued to run, he saw the plane nose over and hit the water. Hard.

Slowly and painfully, the American forces were starting to respond to the attack. Men were moving now with grim purpose. Pulling undamaged equipment away from the flames. Tracer fire was starting to reach skyward for the aircraft painted with the rising sun.

As the first wave flew away, the sounds were deafening, explosions, the crackle of flames, the screams of the wounded and the dying. But slowly, surely, the officers and non-coms were getting control of the situation. The wounded were being treated, weapons lockers were opened, ammunition was being issued. Just in case. Most though, hoped, no prayed, that it was over.

Then the second wave arrived. The bombs fell, the torpedoes dropped, but this time the tracer fire from the ground was heavier. The blossoms of exploding anti-aircraft shells were starting to appear amongst the attackers. Japanese planes were being hit, now it was not only Americans who were dying but Japanese as well.



Seventy-five years ago today, on a quiet Sunday morning, on the island of Oahu, the morning calm was shattered by the drone of 183 aircraft of the Japanese Imperial Navy. Within minutes, the bombs fell, the torpedoes dropped and men began to die.

The United States of America was at war.

We often think of the American lives lost, the ships sunk or damaged. Some tend to think that Americans were victims, victims of a ferocious attack by a relentless foreign empire determined on a path of conquest. But those men at Pearl and the other bases under attack didn't think of themselves as victims. Almost immediately they began to fight back. Certainly though, at first their efforts were weak and uncoordinated.

The first wave of Japanese attackers only lost nine aircraft. As the battleships burned, that seemed scant payback for the damage inflicted.

Then a second wave of 167 aircraft arrived over the island. The defenders were better prepared this time. Twenty of those aircraft never returned to their carriers. Their aircrew never returned to Japan.

The ferocity of the defense may have deterred a third wave. Commander Fuchida Mitsuo, leader of the first attack wave and one of the planners of the attack, and Captain Genda Minoru, a key planner, both urged the commander of the carrier task force, Admiral Nagumo Chuichi, to launch a third wave. There were still ample targets of value: fuel and torpedo storage areas, maintenance facilities and dry docks. However Nagumo, because of the increased losses in the second wave, and the fact that his force was at the very limits of his logistical support, decided against it. Fuchida and Genda were furious. Nagumo commanded, his was the responsibility.

Some sources indicate that a third wave had not been planned. Getting the aircraft of the first two waves recovered, refueled, repaired, and re-armed would take time. To launch a third wave would probably require recovering the aircraft returning from the strike after dark. The flight deck and air crews had not trained for that.

One other thing that all the reports had mentioned was that the American carriers were not in port. Their empty berths at Pearl were somewhat ominous. Nagumo must have been uneasy, wondering where were Enterprise, Lexington, and Saratoga? Were they even now stalking his force? Which was oh so far from home. So the decision was made, set course for Japan.

As the six Japanese carriers and their escorts turned their bows to the West, they left eight American battleships, one target/training ship, three cruisers, three destroyers, and three auxiliary ships destroyed or damaged. 188 aircraft were destroyed on the ground, 159 aircraft were damaged. The palls of smoke hung heavy over the beauty of Oahu.

Under that smoke lay 2,403 dead American sailors, soldiers, airmen, Marines, and civilians, 1,178 more lay wounded. A pall of sorrow and disaster hung over the country for days. But Americans were not quitters in those days, they didn't weep, or wail to the skies over why this had happened.

They buried their dead. They repaired what could be repaired, built new equipment to replace that which was lost. More men and women trained. In essence, America rolled up her sleeves and pitched into the fight. The Japanese would live to regret the 7th of December 1941.

(Source)
Three years, eight months and twenty-six days after the attack on Pearl Harbor, representatives of the Empire of Japan signed the instrument of surrender aboard the mighty USS Missouri, anchored in Tokyo Bay, surrounded by her consorts as hundreds of Allied aircraft droned overhead. Not attacking, but as a symbol of the might and power which Japan drew down upon herself on that December morning in 1941.

That very ship is now tied up alongside Ford Island, on Battleship Row. The very same place where her older sisters were attacked, destroyed, and damaged 75 years ago. Not far from her bow lie the remains of the mighty USS Arizona and much of her crew, destroyed in that attack. On the 7th of December, 1941.

We might forgive, but we do not forget.

Sow the wind and verily, ye shall reap the whirlwind.

(Source)




28 comments:

  1. We shall always remember. All enemies, foreign and domestic, tremble in fear; we shall always remember who are our friends and who are our enemies. And act accordingly.

    Paul L. Quandt

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  2. I like that last picture, and the fact that the Missouri was moved to Pearl Harbor and made part of the exhibit. Nothing like it to say "You won the battle, but lost the war!"

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    1. I also like it because you can see my old office in it. Draw a line from the right base of the top center 16" to the left side of the top right muzzle and extend the line to the hills. That large White Blob was where my office was.

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    2. That must have been an awesome view.

      Paul

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    3. Yes it was. While seated at my desk, if I leaned forward and looked left, I could see Diamond Head. Looking Right, I could see Barber's Point. Only the Admiral had a better view. Course, I had to be careful where I put my feet as the "deck" was termite ridden and one could fall through.

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    4. I've always thought it poetic that Arizona and Missouri share that space.

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    5. Oh yeah, and what Paul said regarding the view.

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  3. Great post. I commanded a ship homeported in Pearl (though we spent most of the time in the "Western Pacific") ;-). We certainly rendered honors when passing Arizona, and were usually berthed at "Hotel" (fuel) piers directly across from her. One tiny niggle: You picture a US Rifle ("Springfield")model 1903A3 as what the troops were shooting a Pearl Harbor. That rifle did not come along until later--the troops were shooting 1903A or A1 rifles--and maybe US Rifle model 1917 ("Enfield").

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    1. Thanks Cap'n.

      My bad as to the Springfield. I was looking for a free image and didn't dig deeper oncew I found one. I beg to be forgiven on the grounds of poetic license. (And cheapness, er, I mean frugalness.)

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  4. I worked with a man who was a four year old dependent. He remembers being in his yard and seeing a Japanese plane pass over. Said someone from the plane waved to him.

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    1. Not surprising, contrary to wartime propaganda, most Japanese are not monsters. And they like kids as much as the next fellow.

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  5. I've had the privilege of visiting Pearl three times, and will go back again next May. First visit, I got to shake hands with two survivors. I also worked several years for a fellow who watched the attack, as a boy, from his living room.

    Those two survivors (one from Ft. Shafter, one from the Arizona) thanked me for remembering them. It made me cry, and still does.

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    1. I have trouble understanding how people can forget the history of the nation they live in. Then I realize, it's not taught like it was in the "old days."

      Sad that.

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  6. Okay, Blogger!
    What are you doing to me?
    I left a comment here hours ago.

    I was at PH on December 7, 1962 (a Friday).
    That was spooky, knowing the history.
    It wasn't a Sunday and the memorial was still just a dream.
    The Navy tour of the site back then was always booked.
    Any Sunday was kinda eerie.

    The termites on the hill were something else.
    The red dirt did wonders for whites.

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    1. Being at Pearl on that day would send shivers down my spine. Methinks I would spend a lot of time looking to the sky, or watching the oil bubbling up from Arizona.

      Red dirt and whites? I can see that being a problem.

      (I think when Blogger gets hungry it eats comments. Just a theory.)

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  7. I remember going to the Arizona Memorial when I was 8, in 1971. Middle of the summer, Honolulu was hot, but when we got to the Memorial it was cold and so windy. I tried to read every name, every word on the stark walls. I swear I remember voices whispering in my ears. So beautiful, so horrible, so haunted.

    I have never forgotten that visit. I still dream of it sometimes. And I never forget this day. And I miss my dad (he hugged me made me feel safe and answered every question I had that day.)

    But the lesson that day wasn't one of hate. It was of remembrance, commitment and forgiveness. One may forgive, one may never forget.

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    1. We are supposed to forgive, no requirement to forget though. And I won't, not ever.

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  8. And she faces the USS ARIZONA's resting place, always on guard.

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  9. Excellent Pic with the U.S.S Missouri in front of the U.S.S Arizona with her shipmates on eternal watch. It is on my bocket list to go to Pearl Harbor and check out the memorial and spend some time there exploring the sights and sounds. YOu are correct, they don't teach history like they used to, they might "offend" somebody. The funny thing is that if you forget your history, you will repeat it. The youngsters are not taught like we were. My son knows because I tell him and I have a large selection of books for him to peruse.

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    1. My kids learned their history from some good teachers in DoD schools. Any errors conveyed to them, I corrected.

      Santayana was right.

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  10. Excellent post, Sarge. I was a sailor. You can safely bet we remember.
    I'd like to thank you for properly rendering the Japanese names (i.e., patronymic first). It's a small thing, to us Americans at least, but I wonder how long it would take to get on our nerves if we constantly read of Admirals Halsey William and Nimitz Chester.
    I was unaware the Mighty Mo was where she is, but then, I was a 2nd and 6th Fleet sailor. Her berth is fitting, I think: even in her retirement, she keeps watch over the grave of a sister. A half-sister, anyway (different class, still a BB).
    God bless the survivors, and His peace to the dead.
    --Tennessee Budd

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    1. Well, as The Missus Herself hales from Korea, and they write their names the same way, I'd be remiss to do it any other way.

      I was an airman (at heart I still am), but I won't ever forget those who died there in the cause of freedom.

      Amen to your thoughts. Amen.

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  11. Another event that day: the Chief of Naval Operations authorized unrestricted submarine warfare against Japan.

    This was an unplanned role for our subs. U.S. doctrine saw subs as scouts for the fleet, plus a way to attrit any enemy fleet before it met ours in a huge, climactic mid-ocean naval battle. But with most of our battleships out of action and our carriers short both on experience and escort protection, subs were only offensive force available.

    American subs sank more than 2000 freighters, tankers, and liners, plus 600 Japanese Navy ships. They sank eight aircraft carriers of various sizes, including Shinano, a converted Yamato-class battleship hull. In many ways, this was the only Pacific campaign that mattered. By the time our ground and surface naval forces were ready to attack Japan, the Japanese merchant fleet had been ripped to shreds by American subs. Ships taking to sea were more likely to be sunk than reach their destinations. There were food shortages. By the end of 1944 the economy was collapsing due to lack of fuel and raw materials.

    Early in the war, our subs were plagued by problems, from torpedoes that failed more often than not (a problem that took almost two years to correct), skippers who wouldn't fight (a problem the Navy never solved during the war), and a lack of command vision as to how to conduct the war. Nevertheless, those skippers who WOULD fight got enough torpedoes to explode to impact the war, eventually executing the only successful submarine anti-shipping campaign in history.

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    1. Good points Bruce.

      The submarine force strangled Japan.

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    2. Another thing: Germany's unrestricted U-boat campaign had been the reason we entered WWI. After the war unrestricted sub warfare was technically illegal under the terms of 1930's London Naval Treaty, which we had signed. Our sub crews could have been tried for piracy and executed (of course, considering Japan's treatment of POWs that wasn't much of a difference).

      Adm. Stark's order to enter into this type of warfare amounted to a naval officer unilaterally changing U.S. national policy, unless Roosevelt had approved it. So far as I know, he hadn't.

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    3. I guess you'd call that playing to win.

      I'm sure Roosevelt knew about it, probably remained aloof for reasons of plausible deniability. I can't say for certain though.

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Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)