Saturday, December 7, 2013

Air Raid Pearl Harbor, This Is No Drill

Diamond Head, Oahu

It's a beautiful place today.

It was a beautiful place 72 years ago as the sailors, soldiers, Marines, airmen and Coast Guardsmen began another Sunday on Oahu. Another routine Sunday is what the men expected...

At Pearl Harbor.

At Hickam.

At Wheeler.

On Ford Island.

But soon this beautiful day in paradise would be ripped asunder. Many would die, a Nation would change. A sleeping giant would awaken.

USS Arizona, BB-39
On board the USS Arizona, no one had any idea that this proud ship would never leave her mooring again. No one had any idea that the majority of her crew would stay with their ship for eternity.

No one knew.

Then, it began...

Winging in out of a sky so beautiful it took your breath away, aircraft from four Japanese carriers began their attack. Wreaking death and destruction on this idyllic scene.

USS Shaw Explodes

Ford Island

Wheeler Field

Hickam Field

Battleship Row

USS Arizona, BB-39

Hell had come to paradise. When it was over 2,402 Americans lay dead and another 1,247 had been wounded.
  • 4 battleships sunk
  • 3 battleships damaged
  • 1 battleship grounded
  • 2 other ships sunk
  • 3 cruisers damaged
  • 3 destroyers damaged
  • 3 other ships damaged
  • 188 aircraft destroyed
  • 159 aircraft damaged
When Arizona exploded and sank, 1,177 of her officers and crewmen were killed. Many still lie entombed within the shattered hull of their ship. Ever faithful to their shipmates and their country, they gave their lives that day.

Those that survived still remember those who perished. Their friends, their shipmates, their fellow Americans.

There are not enough tears to erase the pain of that fateful day. But still...

We remember them.

Their numbers grow fewer with every passing year.

Once they were young and strong. Those who survived went on to defeat our enemies.

Many survivors lived long and fulfilling lives, raising families and spoiling their grandchildren. Many, in the fullness of time, remembering a day, long, long ago, decided that they wished to spend eternity with their shipmates. Those who did not survive.

And so their ashes are scattered upon the waves above their old ship.

Let us not forget these men, men who gave their lives for their country. For us.

May we always have such men (and yes, women too).

There are those who deny American exceptionalism. Those who would belittle the American spirit. Those who do, dishonor the memory of these honored dead. Those who do, deserve not the freedom these men died to preserve.

I will remember them and honor their memory. Their service. Their sacrifice.

And always will...


  1. I had the privilege of attending a memorial ceremony on Arizona while stationed at Camp Smith. Not a dry eye in the house.
    I'm glad they finally got Missouri moored there brings a feeling of satisfaction to the area. It wasn't there when I was and I always felt that the memorial was incomplete. Went back on vacation a couple of years ago and toured both ships. I liked the feeling much better. It was much more "We will remember our fallen, but you should also remember that what you started didn't end well for you".

    1. I too am glad the Mighty Mo is there now. Marks the beginning and the end. And, like you say, is a reminder to those who would be our enemies.

  2. Finished my private pilots license after doing countless touch & gos on Ford Field back in 1979. Amazing sense of history all around.

    Don't forget that P-40's were based on the north shore at three Fields, including Mokulēʻia Airfield, which later became Dillingham Airfield. Several aircraft from these Fields actually made it into the air and scored some hits.

    Dillingham is still active today and used as for general aviation. Gliders are very popular due to the location at the base of Waianae mountain range.

    1. Two airmen in particular made names for themselves that day, Lieutenants Taylor and Welch. They made the Friday Flyby back in July, here

  3. You must have spent quite a bit o' time searching for the photos. That was time well-spent and I thank you.

    There are still some buildings on Hickam with unrepaired bullet holes in their sides... small little memories that will always be there just to remind us.

    1. Thanks Buck.

      Hopefully no one ever gets it into their head to "repair" that damage. That would be an insult to history and those who died there.

  4. I did an exercise once in Hawaii where we camped out on Ford Island; first at the sea plane ramp and then at the ball field. We were playing port security/harbor defense for USS ALABAMA during a SCOOPEX. We flew in and out of Hickham from Travis. It was an amazing first visit to Hawaii and the memories that are steeped there. As poignant as the Arizona memorial is the one right across the water at the boat landing for the memorial. The Submarine Memorial with its silent testimony to the men and boats on eternal patrol in that war in the Pacific.

    1. The Silent Service. Yes, we must remember them as well.

      They took the fight to the enemy first!

  5. A good friend of mine is a PH Survivor- 93 year old AOC Vic Miranda USN Ret. He goes back every year. I hope he has many more visits ahead of him. By the way, I really enjoy the film in the theater before boarding the launch over to the Memorial- Stockard Channing's narration is almost haunting, and it always brings a tear to my eye.

    1. Anything about that day brings a tear to my eye. I can't tell you how hard it was to write this post.

      I stand in awe of those men.

    2. Speaking of tears- this is Vic:


  6. My first visit to Pearl was in 1960, when the Navy ran tours and took visitors all around Ford Island and out toward Nevada Point (where the USS Nevada ran aground). The sailors who explained the sights were extremely well versed.
    I've been back twice as a tourist and once involuntarily for about ten months, while my ship was undergoing Fleet Remodeling & Modernization.
    The facilities upgrades to the memorial are truly remarkable.

    1. I look forward to going back there. I spent 3 days at Hickam in the way back, on duty. No time to tour.

      I should have made the time.

  7. Sarge, thanks for an excellent reminder of that "Day of infamy." My father was there as Gunnery Officer aboard USS DETROIT (on the panoramic photo of Ford Island DETROIT is the ship on the far left partially out of the frame and almost opposite ARIZONA). In fact, I was almost there. When Roosevelt ordered the fleet to be forward based from the west coast in 1940 my mother was pregnant. Navy regulations would not allow pregnant women, or children less than on year of age, aboard transports. So we (mother, sister, and I) were scheduled to sail from San Francisco on 16 December 1941. My father survived the attack, in fact DETROIT was one of the few ships present that terrible day that was able to get underway and clear the harbor.

    1. I'm glad you liked it Dave.

      From Wikipedia:

      USS Detroit (CL-8) In service from 1923 to 1946.

      "In 1941, Detroit's home port became Pearl Harbor. She was moored at her base with Raleigh and Utah when the Japanese attacked on 7 December. The other two ships bore the brunt of an attack by six torpedo planes, and despite several strafing passes Detroit, was able to get underway safely and set up an Anti-aircraft fire which accounted for several planes. She was ordered to sail at once to investigate the west coast of Oahu for any indications of a landing by the Japanese, then to join the search for the retiring Japanese force."


Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)
Can't be nice, go somewhere else...

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