Saturday, December 7, 2019

Pearl

Pearl Harbor on October 30, 1941, looking southwest.
I had the privilege to visit the National Museum of the U.S. Navy in our nation's capital a couple of years ago, it's a superb museum and I think I snapped 200 photos in the short time we were there. At the time they had an excellent display for the attack on Pearl Harbor. While going through those photos to write this post, I found inspiration in the tales of six Americans who were there on that "date which will live in infamy..."


Tales of valor, tales of extraordinary devotion to their nation and their shipmates.

Captain Ruth Alice Erickson, USN
Born 20 June 1913 in Virginia, Minnesota, died 25 November 2008 (aged 95) in Rochester, Minnesota

Please read this.
Messman Third Class Doris "Dorie" Miller, USN
Born 12 October 1919 in Waco, Texas, killed in action 24 November 1943 (aged 24) aboard USS Liscome Bay
at the Battle of Makin off the Gilbert Islands.

Please read this.

For distinguished devotion to duty, extraordinary courage and disregard for his own personal safety during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, by Japanese forces on December 7, 1941. While at the side of his Captain on the bridge, Miller, despite enemy strafing and bombing and in the face of a serious fire, assisted in moving his Captain, who had been mortally wounded, to a place of greater safety, and later manned and operated a machine gun directed at enemy Japanese attacking aircraft until ordered to leave the bridge.

Ensign Theodore W. Marshall, A-V(N), USNR
Please read this.
The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star Medal (Army Award) to Theodore W. Marshall, Lieutenant, U.S. Navy (Reserve), for gallantry in action while serving with the Patrol Squadron TWENTY-ONE (VP-21), during the Japanese aerial attack on Oahu, Territory of Hawaii, on 7 December 1941. Lieutenant Marshall commandeered a truck and ferried personnel to battle stations. Later, he pursued a torpedo bomber and attacked the enemy craft for 150 miles.

Chief Boatswain's Mate Frank M. Ruby, USN
Please read this.
Captain Cassin Young, USN
Born 6 March 6 1894 Washington, D.C., killed in action 13 November 1942 (aged 48) off Guadalcanal in
the Solomon Islands.
Please read this.

For distinguished conduct in action, outstanding heroism and utter disregard of his own safety, above and beyond the call of duty, as Commanding Officer of the U.S.S. Vestal, during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, by enemy Japanese forces on December 7, 1941. Commander Young proceeded to the bridge and later took personal command of the 3-inch antiaircraft gun. When blown overboard by the blast of the forward magazine explosion of the U.S.S. Arizona, to which the U.S.S. Vestal was moored, he swam back to his ship. The entire forward part of the U.S.S. Arizona was a blazing inferno with oil afire on the water between the two ships; as a result of several bomb hits, the U.S.S. Vestal was afire in several places, was settling and taking on a list. Despite severe enemy bombing and strafing at the time, and his shocking experience of having been blown overboard, Commander Young, with extreme coolness and calmness, moved his ship to an anchorage distant from the U.S.S. Arizona, and subsequently beached the U.S.S. Vestal upon determining that such action was required to save his ship.

Chief Watertender Peter Tomich, USN
Born 3 June 1893 in Prolog, Ljubuški, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Austria-Hungary, killed in action 7 December 1941 (aged 48) at Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii.
Please read this.

For distinguished conduct in the line of his profession, and extraordinary courage and disregard of his own safety, during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor by the Japanese forces on 7 December 1941. Although realizing that the ship was capsizing, as a result of enemy bombing and torpedoing, Tomich remained at his post in the engineering plant of the U.S.S. Utah, until he saw that all boilers were secured and all fireroom personnel had left their stations, and by so doing lost his own life.

In a time of great peril, they persevered, they did their jobs. Let us ever remember them, and the many like them who have served this nation in time of war since 1775. We owe our freedom to them. Remember them, always.




This and the previous three photos were taken at the National Museum of the U.S. Navy
Forgive we should, forget we should not.

To their memories...



Previous posts on 7 December 1941:
Yes, I've been known to reuse post titles, I try not to, but it happens. The 2012 and 2014 posts are indeed different.

50 comments:

  1. Hey AFSarge;

    Excellent Post with excellent pictures. The new generation have no idea what Pearl Harbor did to the American Psyche. (9-11 was close) The surprise attack before War was declared enraged the Americans, violated our sense of "fair Play". The Pacific War was unusually savage, no quarters given by either side.

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    1. It was a vicious war, like you say, unusually savage.

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    2. In some respects, fighting the Japanese was like fighting Space Aliens. What we thought was 'civilized' and 'the laws of war' were not what they thought. So hard learned lessons ensued.

      Then we forgot, and relearned in Korea.

      And forgot again, and were schooled by master Space Aliens in Vietnam.

      And forgot yet again, only to discover Space Aliens from a completely different dimension in the Middle East. In comparison, the Japanese were just neighborfolk from down the street.

      Having lived on ground wrested from Japanese hands, the amount of ordnance and ammunition to take 1 square foot of land seems far higher than the ETO. Only some places, like Mount Casino, saw the concentrated tonnage of explosives that many of the islands received.

      Bitter and savage war indeed.

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    3. Given the shock we experienced in 2001, I thought at the time, just think what a surprise Pearl must have been, because with 9/11, we knew in the back of our minds that this sort of thing had happened before, at Pearl. But they had no such history. It must have been devastating. My Mom, who was eight at the time, said it was. I can only imagine what my Great Uncle Larry, who was an Ensign on a DD at Pearl must have felt. He lived in Seattle, so I never got to meet him. I would have liked to.

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  2. Dont know how I missed that museum while stationed there(but I did). Have to add it to my list. That opening picture isn’t all that different from the view at Camp Smith. Always sobering, as are the bullet holes in the PACAF HQ building. Then, of course, Arizona and Utah.

    Great post.

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    1. The museum is on the Navy Yard, I had no idea it existed until The Nuke took us there. She knew about it as she works on the Yard.

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  3. Great post Sarge. I've flown the skies over Pearl Harbor as we used Ford Island for touch and goes back in the 70's. I understand (from a friend who runs the submarine museum at Pearl) that Ford Island no longer has a runway. I attended a security school on the island in '77 where I had to ride a gig from Ewa Beach every morning and afternoon. So much history and remembrance there for those who didn't survive WWII, may their souls be forever blessed.

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    1. If you go to Google Maps (or Earth) the overhead satellite view shows that there is indeed NO runway. Looks like grass.

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    2. Yeah, they built a housing area over there. They've needed more base housing at JB Hickam (or Pearl, not sure what it's called) for forever.

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    3. Not sure how recent the overhead view of Ford was, the one I saw was just grass where the airstrip used to be.

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    4. i suppose they don't need the PBY/PBM parking that they used to. Pity, it's a part of history that should have been saved.

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  4. In the photo just above there are four ships moored to the West (left side) of Ford Island. The top most ship is USS DETROIT,a light cruiser. The ship astern of DETROIT is USS RALEIGH, another cruiser. My father was the Gunnery Officer aboard DETROIT. That morning he was the command duty officer and managed to get DETROIT out of the harbor with minimal casualties. Much of that was skill and professionalism. Some was pure luck. A Japanese torpedo passed between DETROIT and RALEIGH and struck For Island.

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    1. Well done, Dave's Dad! Took me a while to figure out which set of ships you were talking about, but I'm assuming that the ship behind RALEIGH was UTAH. Is that correct? Or were you talking about the four ships moored further out from the Island?

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    2. Dave, your Dad was a hero. Bravo Zulu! I'd like to write a post about him, of you'd like send me his story via email. If you'd rather not, that's cool too. We like recognizing guys like your Dad around here.

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    3. juvat - In the last photo, to the left of the island, from top to bottom, are USS Detroit, USS Raleigh, USS Utah, and USS Tangier. This website has a nice map showing the positions of all the ships at Pearl at the time of the attack.

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  5. While touring Pearl Harbor back in '71 or '72, my dad took us to a friend's house. He was the Navy Salvage Commander of Pearl Harbor (and he also came out to Kwajalein to help recover especially stubborn reentry vehicles (that looked suspiciously like dummy nuclear warheads, hmmmm....) His house was on one of the hills overlooking Pearl. And his basement had a storm shelter in it. Right above the bar was a Japanese bomb that had smashed into the house and penetrated almost into the basement, but did not go off. Apparently, the owner of the house at the time (dunno if it was another naval officer or civilian) just had the EOD team steam out the explosive filler and kept it in place, along with the cosmetic damage (filling and patching behind the bomb.)

    And, yes, even in '71 or '72, they were still plucking up or dealing with unexploded explosives in Pearl Harbor, and still finding and removing pieces-parts of ships and other debris. Makes me wonder if they are still to this day finding stuff. Since the Japanese dropped a huge amount of ordnance in such a small space.



    I don't forget this day. To forget would be to betray the men and women who died that day. To betray those under the Arizona Memorial, which still haunts me oh these many years later. First time I was ever struck silent and cold on a hot day was the day I toured her. She's still there, slowly dying. You could feel it, feel her pain from above the water. Haunting.

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    1. While stationed at Camp Smith, my office mate and I would run in the mountains above it. There was the wreck of a Zero up there that we found. While exploring it, I slipped and fell cutting the back of my upper arm. Several stitches later. I was back in business. Okinawa was much worse. Running there it was nothing to see 50 cal rounds on the side of the road. Had a heart stopping moment when Little Juvat, about 5 then, showed me an 81mm mortar round he’d discovered while outside playing (fortunately he’d heeded my lecture about not touching). So yeah, there is still a lot of stuff out still out there.

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    2. Beans - Walking the old battlefields is always a haunting experience for me. There are lots and lots of pieces of war (some still dangerous) lying around the planet. The bomb in the the house is rather odd, not sure I'd want that...

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    3. juvat - It would be interesting to know the story of that Zero.

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    4. Snorkeling around one of the islands north of Kwajalein, I discovered a box of Japanese hand grenades. Yeah, swam away, notified parents, parents notified the Army (Kwajalein was/is an Army Base, go figure) and they got their EOD guys out and blew a chunk of reef away. Japanese explosives from WWII got more volatile when exposed to salt water. These had been marinating for 37 years.

      Not to mention the wreck in the lagoon just off of Kwaj that carried a load of battleship and cruiser rounds. Definitely off limits to diving.

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    5. Just like areas of France which are still no go zones due to the vast amounts of unexploded stuff from World War I still lying around.

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    6. Well...apparently, it wasn't a Zero (as the legend I was told reported) it was an Aichi Type 99 Dive Bomber. All that we found was a portion of the wing. It was slippery and wet, and I took a dive. Aircraft ID took a second place in priority of actions at that point.

      Camp Smith is near Aiea, so that's the most likely crash site, the macadamia nut grove. Which, very shortly after my episode was put off limits to military personnel.

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    7. Most folks only know one Japanese aircraft type, the Zero. So that's understandable.

      Great website by the way!

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    8. (Don McCollor)(from pictures)...and the light sheen on the water as she still bleeds fuel oil from her tanks below after all these years...

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    9. She weeps and bleeds still.

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    10. She does, perhaps she always will.

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    11. Alas, there are people who want her fuel tanks pumped out, to prevent oil spills. My fear is that may cause structural damage, causing the ship to collapse. I know she will eventually, but why rush the process?

      The Navy has pumped some of the tanks, but they must have stopped for a reason. Just leave the grave alone. When she does collapse. we know where she is, and where the tanks are located, so cleanup will not be that hard. i doubt there is much alive in the harbor, anyway. Too much winding up in the water in the past 100 years.

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    12. I have read that hikers, deep in the Huertgen Forest, still occasionally find firefights that both sides lost.

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  6. One things jumps to my mind, despite multiple carrier exercises showing vulnerability of the base, despite Taranto raid success in 1940, no one took direct IJN threat seriously, as opposed to local american-japanese sabotage which never materialised. Extent of western underestimation of IJN capabilties, from Cambined Carrier Force to Zero fighter, to long lance torps, is staggering, as is overestimation of some own capabilities like B-17 antiship role and ridiculously unreliable torps. Lessons to be learned? Dont we paint Chinese nowadays as poor imiters of US tech too?

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    1. It seems a common human trait to underestimate potential enemies based on race, because that's exactly what it is.

      As far as the Chinese go, even if they're stuff is a poor imitation of western tech, quantity has a quality all its own. They do churn out a lot of stuff.

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    2. We definitely underestimated the IJN.

      Then, the IJN definitely underestimated us. Like, later in the war, they kept wondering how their ships were being torpedoed when no planes were doing low level torpedo runs. Seems we discovered how to drop aerial torpedoes from as high up as 2,000 feet.

      And both the IJN and the USN used plywood, they used it on the fins to keep the torpedoes from diving too deep, we packed ours in a box and the box absorbed the blow of entry.

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    3. Ours is a clever species. Scary at times just how clever we can be.

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    4. USN took adaptative course and went from early war problems to late war strngths, radar, initially source of as much troubles as advantages (see Guadalcanal) eventually turned IJN night advantage to reverse. VT fuse, Tiny Tim rockets, first guided bombs (BAT), radar on subs for nighttime attacks...

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  7. Second thing that jumps to my mind is grave potential for both sides of geoplitical game to musunderstand the mindset of the opponent. US thought economic sanctions will force Japanese to fold their colonial expansion, but they instead doubled up the ante and called. Japanese thought US would fold after PH and fall of Phillipines, but US tripled and quadrupled the ante, and called. US had stronger hand, in resources, tech, population and industry. Rest is history. Now think, would Iranian leadership fold or double up and call? They might as well count on external war to quell domestic unrest as did Argentinians once....

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    1. No better way to refocus an upset population than to direct that frustration outwards. History is replete with such things.

      A couple of very good comments Paweł, you've obviously given this a lot of thought.

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  8. The bigger question, Pawel, is this: Does the United States have the same will and stomach to reply to Iran, should they do the unthinkably stupid? Are we willing to triple or quadruple the ante this time?

    That is what concerns me.

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    1. It seems more and more people will just shrug and let the Middle East burn.
      More significantly, from both sides of political rift...

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  9. Great post Sarge. It's good to be reminded of heroes.

    Here's a little thing I did back in 2011. Tomich's family didn't receive his medal until 2006, because they couldn't be located at the time of the award, not being "from around here." After 64 years in storage it finally found them. Also an interesting story regarding the USS Shaw, the explosion of which was captured in perhaps the most spectacular and iconic photograph made on December 7.

    https://prairieadventure.blogspot.com/2011/12/broken-noses-heroes-pearl-harbor.html

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  10. (Don McCollor) Somehow memories were forgotten in the 1920's and 1930's. Japan was unique in Asia. They were the only nation not colonized, but modernized at an astonishing rate adapting the best of European and Western technology. They fought as equals alongside American and European forces in the relief of the siege of Peking, praised for their fighting skill and bravery. The Japanese successes against Russia in China and the destruction of the Russian fleet in 1904 elevated them to a world power with praise for their naval skills ["Russia and Japan and the Great War in the Far East" Frederic Unger, 1904]. Japan was also an ally on equal terms in WW1 against Germany. But Japan was still a militaristic society, and the later 5:5:3 naval treaty was a humiliation to them. Japan needed oil and raw materials, and the obvious was seen to obtain them by conquest (first in China and Manchuria). Japanese manufacturing after the war at first exported "cheap" goods that gave the impression of shoddy workmanship that seemed to have colored the judgement of their capability. Reports came out of China before Pearl Harbor of the capability of Japanese aircraft like the Zero (I believe in "The Ragged Rugged Warriors" Martin Caidin told that Paul Mantz? [killed in a plane crash during filming "Flight of the Phoenix"] survived a dogfight with Japanese zeros while flying a biplane...somehow the word never got back or was ignored...

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    1. The United States, as a nation, looked down on the Asians. They were considered to not be our equals in anything.

      Of course, that was pure nonsense.

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    2. (Don McCollor)...we did not truly understand their culture or they ours...

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    3. Truer words were never spoken Don.

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    4. It is at Midway that IJN first realised USN crews were no spoiled children of decadent civilisation... "Those pilots fight like samurai!"

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    5. That must have stunned them as much as we were stunned by the maneuverability of the Zero.

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  11. We said we'd never be attacked again like we were at Pearl Harbor, then 9-11 happened. Yesterday, we were attacked by men we thought were our friends, or at least a strange ally. They were not allies in the least. And by strange, I guess that now means dangerous as hell. I think that should end all Saudis learning to fly in this country. It already bit us on 9-11, and yet we're still training them in Pensa-freaking-cola! I'm angry as hell and we better not take it anymore.

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    1. I too am angry. We are letting the pursuit of filthy lucre obscure our basic principles.

      One shouldn't be training the enemy.

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