Pearl Harbor – We still remember

REPOSTED.

On December 7, 1941, an event occurred which was horrific in itself, but one that also sealed the fate of the United States to war with Japan.

That sleepy Sunday morning, the attack began as Hawaiians and U.S. military personnel were waking, or were jolted from sleep. The air attack began at 7:48 a.m. Hawaiian Time.  As Wikipedia reports it,

Men aboard U.S. ships awoke to the sounds of alarms, bombs exploding, and gunfire, prompting bleary-eyed men to dress as they ran to General Quarters stations. (The famous message, “Air raid Pearl Harbor. This is not drill.”, was sent from the headquarters of Patrol Wing Two, the first senior Hawaiian command to respond.)

The defenders were very unprepared. Ammunition lockers were locked, aircraft parked wingtip to wingtip in the open to prevent sabotage, guns unmanned (none of the Navy’s 5″/38s, only a quarter of its machine guns, and only four of 31 Army batteries got in action).

Despite this low alert status, many American military personnel responded effectively during the attack. Ensign Joe Taussig Jr., aboard Nevada, commanded the ship’s antiaircraft guns and was severely wounded, but continued to be on post.  Lt. Commander F. J. Thomas commanded Nevada in the captain’s absence and got her under way until the ship was grounded at 9:10 a.m.

One of the destroyers, USS Aylwin, got underway with only four officers aboard, all ensigns, none with more than a year’s sea duty; she operated at sea for 36 hours before her commanding officer managed to get back aboard.

Captain Mervyn Bennion, commanding West Virginia, led his men until he was cut down by fragments from a bomb which hit Tennessee, moored alongside.

Oahu Attack Plan copyThe attack lasted 90 minutes.  Two waves of Japanese aircraft – 353 in all – did their deadly work in such a short time.

2,008 sailors were killed and 710 others wounded; 218 soldiers and airmen (who were part of the Army until the independent U.S. Air Force was formed in 1947) were killed and 364 wounded; 109 marines were killed and 69 wounded; and 68 civilians were killed and 35 wounded. In total, 2,403 Americans died and 1,178 were wounded. Eighteen ships were sunk or run aground, including five battleships.  All of the Americans killed or wounded during the attack were non-combatants, given the fact there was no state of war when the attack occurred.

It is said that a third wave of aircraft were ready to mount another attack, but Admiral Nagumo decided against it because he felt that enough damage had been done, and did not want to risk loss of any more Japanese aircraft.  If that third wave had been mounted – primarily to destroy fuel depots – the Pacific Fleet would have been much more seriously damaged, both from direct loss of additional craft, and horrific fire and explosions of fuel repositories.

Aftermath of the attack:

BATTLESHIPS

Arizona (Kidd’s flagship): hit by four armor-piercing bombs, exploded; total loss. 1,177 dead.
Oklahoma: hit by five torpedoes, capsized; total loss. 429 dead. Refloated November 1943; capsized and lost while under tow to the mainland May 1947.
West Virginia: hit by two bombs, seven torpedoes, sunk; returned to service July 1944. 106 dead.
California: hit by two bombs, two torpedoes, sunk; returned to service January 1944. 100 dead.
Nevada: hit by six bombs, one torpedo, beached; returned to service October 1942. 60 dead.
Tennessee: hit by two bombs; returned to service February 1942. 5 dead.
Maryland: hit by two bombs; returned to service February 1942. 4 dead (including floatplane pilot shot down).
Pennsylvania (Kimmel’s flagship):[111] in dry dock with Cassin and Downes, hit by one bomb, debris from USS Cassin; remained in service. 9 dead.

EX-BATTLESHIP  (target/AA training ship)

Utah: hit by two torpedoes, capsized; total loss. 64 dead.

CRUISERS

Helena: hit by one torpedo; returned to service January 1942. 20 dead.
Raleigh: hit by one torpedo; returned to service February 1942.
Honolulu: Near miss, light damage; remained in service.

DESTROYERS

Cassin: in drydock with Downes and Pennsylvania, hit by one bomb, burned; returned to service February 1944.
Downes: in drydock with Cassin and Pennsylvania, caught fire from Cassin, burned; returned to service November 1943.
Shaw: hit by three bombs; returned to service June 1942.

AUXILIARIES

Oglala (minelayer): Damaged by torpedo hit on Helena, capsized; returned to service (as engine-repair ship) February 1944.
Vestal (repair ship): hit by two bombs, blast and fire from Arizona, beached; returned to service by August 1942.
Curtiss (seaplane tender): hit by one bomb, one crashed Japanese aircraft; returned to service January 1942. 19 dead.

Pearl Harbor Map copy

In the wake of the attack, 15 Medals of Honor, 51 Navy Crosses, 53 Silver Stars, four Navy and Marine Corps Medals, one Distinguished Flying Cross, four Distinguished Service Crosses, one Distinguished Service Medal, and three Bronze Star Medals were awarded to the American servicemen who distinguished themselves in combat at Pearl Harbor. Additionally, a special military award, the Pearl Harbor Commemorative Medal, was later authorized for all military veterans of the attack.

The day after the attack, Roosevelt delivered his famous Infamy Speech to a Joint Session of Congress, calling for a formal declaration of war on the Empire of Japan. Congress obliged his request less than an hour later. On December 11, Germany and Italy, honoring their commitments under the Tripartite Pact, declared war on the United States. The pact was an earlier agreement between Germany, Italy and Japan which had the principal objective of limiting U.S. intervention in any conflicts involving the three nations. Congress issued a declaration of war against Germany and Italy later that same day. The UK actually declared war on Japan nine hours before the U.S. did, partially due to Japanese attacks on Malaya, Singapore and Hong Kong, and partially due to Winston Churchill’s promise to declare war “within the hour” of a Japanese attack on the United States.

USS Arizona Memorial

USS Arizona Memorial

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15 Responses to Pearl Harbor – We still remember

  1. Gary says:

    Inconceivable.

    Like

  2. czarowniczy says:

    Interesting thing is that the Japanese centered on using torpedoes, they thought them to be the most efficient method of sinking ships but the Arizona not had its armor at the waterline upgraded (a special blend of steel) to 13.5 inches thick and special anti torpedo bulkheads installed and a double hull of a special design to protect from direct hits or hits from torpedoes designed to explode under the ship’s keel and break its ‘back’.

    Its deck armor was only about 3 inches thick though and the Japanese Navy knew that, seeing it as a weak point. Problem was that they didn’t have armor-piercing bombs and regular bombs would have minimal impact even with a direct hit. Solution? They took armor-piercing naval gun shells and put fins on them, they could be dropped and easily pierce the 3″ armor plate. In the Arizona’s case a ‘lucky’ hit thru the deck ignited the forward magazines and caused catastrophic damage. We were told for years that the bomb went down her smokestack and it wasn’t until a good while later close investigation of the ship going up cleared how she went down.

    Japanese made crucial miscalculations when they didn’t bomb the fuel supplies, the maintenance/repair facilities. They were unlucky in not hitting our carriers but their most worsest mistake was not bombing the submarines. The sea war had changed by 1941 and battleships had a function but the submarine had eclipsed it and would count for far more sunk tonnage than the battleships.

    Liked by 2 people

    • glendl says:

      Thank you for the addition to the Stella’s narrative.

      Liked by 1 person

    • jeans2nd says:

      Read a book a long while ago about a couple of Japanese 2-man mini-subs that were tasked with torpedoing ships at Pearl.
      Mind you, these mini-subs were so small they could only carry a torpedo or two.
      The Japanese actually thought these mini-subs could go in and get out of Pearl without being detected.
      Cannot remember all the details, but things did not go well for the guys in the mini-subs.

      Liked by 2 people

      • czarowniczy says:

        There were 5 and they all failed. It’s generally accepted that the first shot of WW2 was fired by the Japanese when they attacked Pearl Harbor but technically it was fired by a US navy ship who fired at one of those minisubs.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. glendl says:

    Thank you for the great narrative on Pearl Harbor.
    You mentioned the mistake in not bombing the fuel tankers & subs, but they were not as large as the miscalculation in America’s industrial capacity. We recovered from the attack and we produced armaments for the Allies.

    May God Rest Their Souls.

    Liked by 2 people

    • jeans2nd says:

      Little recognized, but true – Roosevelt, by utilizing the Lend-Lease Act, had already ramped up industrial war production and was supplying Britain and the Soviets. It is what really brought us out of the Great Depression.
      Unfortunately, it was the beginning of gubmint selecting which Big Guys would get bigger and thrive, and which small bizs would shrink and die.
      Socialism. We never looked back.

      Liked by 2 people

      • stella says:

        A book on the subject, and how private industry drove the production of war machines, is an interesting read:

        Freedom’s Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in World War II (Random House)

        I did a post about it several years ago:

        https://stellasplace1.com/2016/01/12/the-arsenal-of-democracy-where-are-we-now/

        Liked by 1 person

      • glendl says:

        Well, Roosevelt was a Socialist, he delayed the Recovery so he could implement his programs. He took over the Agricultural sector of our economy.

        Liked by 1 person

        • jeans2nd says:

          That’s right, forgot about him taking over agriculture. The Dust Bowl – never let a crisis go to waste. They learned their lessons early.

          Liked by 1 person

          • glendl says:

            “None Dare Call It Treason” – John Stormer, member of House of Representatives at one time, I am not sure if he was a member when he wrote this book. Copyrights in the early 1960s.
            Stormer states that Roosevelt delayed the recovery so he could implement his programs. He also stated that the govt would use a future crisis to take over banking & finance. I have heard many complaints about FDR, but this was a new one. I made a mental not to check on it.
            I remember the book at the time it was published, it had a nice catchy title. I was too young to read it. I did read it in the fall of 2008. The TV was on for the Sunday morning talk shows. I don’t know why, I never watched them. There was a guest that had written a new book about FDR. The host starts out with, “I understand you have found some new info on FDR”. She goes onto tell us about him delaying the recovery. WTF is going on here.
            The author was a member of the Council of Foreign Relations (CFR). The Council has people of both parties or no party and their job is to remove programs through the Rep or Dem administrations. A Bad News Bunch.
            Stormer had also said that the govt would use another crisis to take control of the banking and finance industry. That was happening at the time.

            Liked by 1 person

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