"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.
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.
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.