Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Pearl Harbor

Pearl Harbor from the air in October 1941
  The attack on Pearl Harbor began at 0755 on the morning of December 7, 1941. There would be two waves consisting of 353 fighters, torpedo planes and dive bombers launched from six Japanese carriers. All eight U.S. Navy battleships were damaged, with four being sunk. Two of these were later raised, and with the remaining four repaired, six battleships returned to service later in the war. The USS Arizona was sunk with a loss of over 1,000 sailors. The USS Oklahoma was torpedoed and turned upside down trapping hundreds of sailors. The Japanese also sank or damaged three cruisers, three destroyers, an anti-aircraft training ship, and one mine layer. One hundred and eighty-eight U.S. aircraft were destroyed; 2,402 Americans were killed and 1,282 wounded. Only September 11, 2001 saw more Americans killed in one day than Pearl Harbor. Important base installations such as the power station, shipyard, maintenance, and fuel and torpedo storage facilities, as well as the submarine piers and headquarters building (also home of the intelligence section) were not attacked. Japanese losses were light: 29 aircraft and five midget submarines lost, and 65 servicemen killed or wounded. One Japanese sailor was captured. 

  The attack was intended as a preventive action in order to keep the U.S. Pacific Fleet from interfering with military actions the Empire of Japan was planning in Southeast Asia against overseas territories of the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and the United States. There were simultaneous Japanese attacks on the US-held Philippines and on the British Empire in Malaya, Singapore, and Hong Kong. This attack brought about America's entry into World War II. America declared war on Japan the next day December 8, 1941. The Japanese also bombed and strafed American airfields on Oahu such as Hickam AFB, Wheeler Field, and the army base at Schofield Barracks among others. In 1993 my Air National Guard unit was sent to Hickam AFB for annual training. While there I was able to visit Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial. Hickam AFB is one of the most beautiful bases that I have ever been on. At Hickam you can still see bullet holes in the hangars which were there during the attack. There was a huge building that is now the headquarters building for PACAF or Pacific Air Force Command. During the attack it was a barracks where 60 Airmen were killed, and many of these casualties were killed in the chow hall. The building is still saturated with bullet holes. Over 100 were killed on the base. At Pearl Harbor you can still see the oil coming up from the Arizona and it is a solemn moment as you read the names of the over 1000 men whose remains are still in the ship below you. I spent one day on duty at a radar site fairly near the spot on the north shore of Oahu where the attack was spotted by two Army radar operators but was ignored by their superiors who thought the radar images was a flight of American B-17's coming in from the mainland.

  The attack was a foolish act on the part of the Japanese. Most Americans were against going to war with anybody on December 6, 1941. This attack in the words of Japanese Admiral Yamamoto awakened a sleeping giant. America's potential as an industrial giant, and military power was vastly superior to that of Japan. For those conspiracy buffs who believed that Roosevelt allowed Pearl Harbor to happen in order to draw America into a war with Hitler makes no sense. Roosevelt wanted a war with Hitler, not Japan. Hitler committed a blunder as foolish as the Japanese did four days later when he declared war on the United States. The American people had no quarrel with Hitler. They were furious with the Japanese. Hitler was good at making mistakes. On June 22, 1941 he launched Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union. Hitler got almost to Moscow as the Russian winter set in but Soviet resistance and winter weather stopped him in his tracks. Although Japan Germany and Italy had signed the Tripartate Pact, Hitler was not obligated by treaty to declare war on the United States. He would have if the United States had attacked Japan but the Japanese were the attacking party. Hitler declared war in the hope that Japan would attack Russia placing the Soviet army between the pincers of the Japanese and German army. Instead Japan chose to go into Malaysia, and the South Pacific in order to acquire the needed raw materials of rubber and oil. Japan depended on US oil before the war but the US had imposed an oil embargo after they had invaded Indochina. As a result Japan only had enough oil to run their Navy for about 18 months.

  Hitler's declaration solved a dilemma for Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. Both men realized that Hitler posed a greater threat to the world. England was fighting for it's very survival. Roosevelt knew that sooner or later Hitler would have to be dealt with but he couldn't get the American people to realize the threat that Hitler posed to the world. England had won the Battle of Britain and preserved it's army at Dunkirk but it was not able to go on the offensive without the help of the US. Much like after September 11, 2001 when Americans wanted to punish Osama Bin Laden but they weren't very fond of going after Saddam Hussein. People believed that Bush allowed September 11th in order to justify a war with Saddam Hussein his supposed real target. I am sorry, I am just not so cynical yet that I could believe an American president is willing to allow the deaths of thousands of Americans in order to start a war. In Obama's case I would at least have to give the idea serious thought. But even with him I would be doubtful. Roosevelt and Bush simply missed all the danger signs. As the 9-11 committee stated America suffered from a lack of imagination. That could be applied to both situations. Roosevelt's intelligence staff knew that an attack was coming at 1:00 PM Washington time on Sunday December 7th 1941. Intelligence had broken the Japanese diplomatic code. They just didn't know where. America did not believe that the Japanese had the logistical capability to reach Pearl Harbor. A warning was sent out to all military installations except Pearl Harbor. There were problems with the ionosphere that day causing radio transmission problems. Some idiot in the War Department decided to send the warning by Western Union and it arrived one hour after the attack had begun. If Hitler had not declared war on us, and we had gone to war against him anyway, Roosevelt would have had a very difficult time prosecuting a war against Germany. Hitler's stupidity changed everything.



Burning USSArizona

USS West Virginia and USS Tennessee

Battleship Row

Explosion of USS Shaw

USS California

Hickam AFB

Barracks where 60 Airmen were killed

Modern picture from the same angle as the picture above. This is now Headquarters PACAF

March 1993

March 1993
December 7, 1941

March 1993

March 1993
Firefighters fighting the barracks fire December 7, 1941
December 7, 1941
Damage inside the barracks

Me at the Keana Point radar station not far from Opana Point which is where the American radar operators detected the oncoming Japanese attack and their superiors mistook it for a flight of B-17's coming in from California. 
The Opana mobile radar site, along Oahu’s north shore, is near Kawela Bay, off today’s Kamehameha Highway. Surfers are allowed to ride the waves south of the area, but they are not allowed to surf near Opana Radar. Opana Radar Site is a National Historic Landmark. 


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