Japanese Dive Bombers at Pearl Harbor Were Not Kamikaze Attacks

Japanese Dive Bombers at Pearl Harbor Were Not Kamikaze Attacks



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On the infamous morning of December 7, 1941, Japanese fighter pilots made final arrangements for their deaths. The aviators penned farewell letters and slipped them into envelopes along with locks of hair and clipped fingernails that their loved ones could use for their funerals. After a moment of prayer at makeshift Shinto shrines, the airmen shattered the silence with two sharp handclaps before downing ritual sake shots.

The Japanese pilots prepared as if their sneak attack on Pearl Harbor would be their final times in the cockpit. But they were not on a suicide mission. Fate would determine whether they lived or died.


















Should death become his destiny, though, First Lieutenant Fusata Iida vowed to end the lives of as many of the enemy as he could. According to Gordon W. Prange’s authoritative account, At Dawn We Slept: The Untold Story of Pearl Harbor, the Japanese pilot told his fellow airmen, “In case of trouble I will fly straight to my objective and make a crash dive into an enemy target rather than make an emergency landing.”

Hours later, Iida was strafing the Naval Air Station Kaneohe with gunfire when he suddenly smelled gasoline. A glance at the gauges of his Mitsubishi Zero confirmed his fears. Enemy fire had pierced his fuel tank.

Using hand signals, the doomed pilot informed his comrades of his plight before waving good-bye. With his Zero hemorrhaging fuel over the American naval air station, Iida banked sharply and circled back toward its hangar, perhaps to implement the emergency plan he had discussed earlier. With no intention of being captured and no hope of a safe return to his aircraft carrier, the aviator might have been trying to inflict as much damage as possible upon the enemy by divebombing into the hangar. If that was the case, Iida overshot his mark and fatally crashed into a hillside.

Japanese dive-bombers at Pearl Harbor were not kamikazes.

During the air raid, another crippled Japanese plane crashed onto the deck of the USS Curtiss. Although the Japanese pilots might have deliberately aimed for enemy targets after sustaining catastrophic damage, that was not the intention of their mission.

“The Imperial Japanese Navy fighter pilots were perfectly willing to sacrifice themselves if there was no way out other than capture, but that is different than deliberate suicide,” says Burl Burlingame, an historian at the Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor. “The term kamikaze has entered the English language and has come to mean any one-way, deliberate act of self-sacrifice. As such, it has been used and misconstrued by pop-history writers. At the time of Pearl Harbor, the official, sanctioned use of deliberate suicide missions was a few years in the future.”

Burlingame says that Iida, although he aimed for an American target with his plane, was not a kamikaze pilot. “If he had had a shot of making it back to the carrier, he would have done so.”

Japan used kamikazes as a last-ditch effort.

By the summer of 1944, the Japanese air force had grown short of skilled pilots, modern aircraft and fuel while American forces continued to press westward as they leapfrogged across the islands of the Pacific Ocean. The situation grew even more dire after the United States captured Saipan in July 1944, bringing the home islands of Japan within range of America’s new long-range B-29 bombers.

With World War II slipping away and conventional attacks failing to stop the American offensive, the Japanese military decided to turn their airmen into suicide bombers. “In our present situation I firmly believe that the only way to swing the war in our favor is to resort to crash-dive attacks with our planes. There is no other way,” declared Japanese naval Captain Motoharu Okamura. The Japanese would fight like bees, he said. “They sting, they die.”

M.G. Sheftall, author of Blossoms in the Wind: Human Legacies of the Kamikaze, says the use of suicide pilots was “embraced as a last shred of hope by a Japanese populace cowering in terror in the face of looming defeat under bombs from American B-29s.” Sheftall says the Japanese high command was driven by “a combination of pragmatic military objectives,” including the need for a decisive weapon to use against an enemy who had near-total air superiority and “specific Japanese sociocultural compulsions, such as face-saving and symbolic gestures of contrition regarding failure.”

Kamikazes appeared nearly three years after Pearl Harbor.

The new terror descended from the sky during the October 1944 Battle of Leyte Gulf. In this battle, kamikaze pilots, named for the legendary “divine wind” that twice saved Japan from 13th-century Mongol naval invasions launched by Kublai Khan, deliberately flew their jury-rigged Zeros into American warships. Beginning in the spring of 1945, the Japanese military also deployed specially designed rocket-powered planes called ohka (Japanese for “cherry blossom”) that were launched from bombers and directed toward enemy targets by kamikaze pilots.

“There will be more than enough volunteers for this chance to save our country,” Okamura predicted. However, Sheftall says far more suicide pilots were compelled to become kamikazes than were willing participants. “The vast majority were not elite military academy ideological descendants or inheritors of the samurai worldview, penning farewell poems in rock gardens while cherry petals fell around them. They were, overwhelmingly, barely educated farm boys in their teens and/or college students whose military deferments had been cancelled by the worsening war situation in 1943 and who had opted for air service instead of the muddy, bloody infantry. From the perspective of Japanese academy-graduate military culture, they were considered to be—and used as—cannon fodder.”

The use of kamikazes peaked during the bloody Battle of Okinawa, when suicide pilots swarmed American vessels. In one 80-minute span alone, more than 20 kamikazes targeted the destroyer USS Laffey, which managed to survive the assault. No divine wind, however, would save Japan from defeat in World War II. In August 1945, the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and Soviet forces invaded Japanese-occupied Manchuria. Emperor Hirohito announced Japan’s unconditional surrender on August 15, bringing World War II to a close.


Japan's Big World War II Mistake: Not Doing More Damage at Pearl Harbor?

Could another round of Japenese strikes have hobbled America's Pacific Fleet and given Japan an edge in the early stages of World War II?

Here's What You Need to Remember: The most prudent course for Imperial Japan would have been to avoid war with the United States entirely, as Admiral Yamamoto had originally counseled the Japanese government. The U.S.’s much larger industrial base meant it would eventually have made up the difference had an even more destructive attack on Pearl Harbor been executed.

At 7:45 AM on the morning of December 7, 1941, Commander Mitsuo Fuchida gazed exultantly from the rear seat of his B5N bomber at the serene vision of Pearl Harbor below him, its defenses unprepared for the onslaught about to befall them. He then rolled back his bomber’s canopy and fired off a dark blue “black dragon” flare, signaling for the 182 combat aircraft behind him to press the attack. Minutes later he exuberantly radioed the message “Tora! Tora! Tora!”

Over the next two hours, Mitsuo circled overhead the devastated naval base as the first wave was followed by a second wave of 171 aircraft. He witnessed the strike’s unprecedented success: sinking four battleships and destroying over 100 warplanes on the ground.

Upon returning safely to the deck of the carrier Akagi, he and classmate Commander Minoru Genda—the raid’s mastermind—then urged Admiral Chuichi Nagumo to authorize a third wave to finish off the already crippled defenses. Genda had originally planned for such a third attack.

Fuchida described the moment his article “I Led the Air Attack on Pearl Harbor” published in Proceedings in 1952:

“Discussion next centered upon the extent of damage inflicted at airfields and air bases, and I expressed my views saying, "All things considered we have achieved a great amount of destruction, but it would be unwise to assume that we have destroyed everything. There are still many targets remaining which should be hit. Therefore I recommend that another attack be launched."

But Nagumo insisted on sticking to plan, and Pearl Harbor was spared even greater destruction.

There’s a little problem with Fuchida’s account, though. Genda denied such a debate ever occurred—and Fuchida himself has a track record of tall-tales or apparent dishonesty. However, it does seem that several of the Japanese carrier commanders did have contingency plans ready for a third strike if it was ordered—even though a third wave was never in the original plan.

Regardless of the accuracy of Genda’s account, it raises an unavoidable historical “why’ and “what-if” question? Why didn’t Nagumo press his advantage with a third strike? Would such a strike have changed the course of the Pacific War?

A third wave could have hit the vulnerable fuel tank farms and repair facilities of the U.S. Pacific Fleet. Had those been put of action, then the U.S. Navy would have had a much harder time recovering from the powerful blow dealt it on December 7.

Admiral Chester Nimitz, commander of the Pacific fleet throughout most of World War II, claimed that doing so would have delayed an American counteroffensive by an entire year, and prolonged the war by two years.

As it was by June 1942, the U.S. Navy was ready to go on the offensive. It lured Japanese carriers into at the Battle of Midway, sinking four Japanese carriers, including the Akagi, for the loss of one.

Two months later, Marines on the Japanese-held Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands. From then on, there was nothing but non-stop defeats for the beleaguered Imperial Japanese Navy.

Nagumo’s Choice

But Nagumo had several factors to balance on the morning of December 7. Organizing a third strike would have taken additional hours to refuel and reload his warplanes, and they might well even have to somehow land at dusk. Already, U.S. defenses had shot down more than twice as many aircraft of the second wave than the first—and would likely be better prepared for a third.

Meanwhile, the six carriers deployed to the raid might be located and attacked by U.S. bombers. Most worrisomely, Nagumo knew that the U.S. carriers that he had hoped to attack were not present at the Harbor, meaning they were roving the seas and presented a deadly potential threat to his force. Indeed, the USS Enterprise lay only 200 miles away from Pearl Harbor when the attack struck, and her dive bombers dueled Japanese warplanes involved in the strike.

To top it off, Nagumo’s task force was already operating at the very edge of its fuel supply in executing the Pearl Harbor strike and lacked the logistics to tarry much longer so deep in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, far from reinforcements.

The Japanese had thought that the Pearl Harbor raid might easily cost them two aircraft carriers. Having escaped nearly unscathed, Nagumo probably figured he should quit while he was ahead. Admiral Yamamoto supported Nagumo’s decision on December 8 but later admitted it was the wrong call.

With hindsight, we know that only one U.S. aircraft carrier was close enough to attack—and would likely not have come out ahead in a six-on-one duel with Nagumo’s taskforce. We know that the bomber squadrons on Oahu had suffered catastrophic losses and probably lacked the firepower to seriously damage the Japanese fleet.

We know that U.S. Pacific Fleet would rebuild its combat power with impressive speed and that many of the battleships sunk into the harbor were restored into operational condition.

We know that Japan’s expectation that the U.S. would be discouraged by the stinging defeat and lack the will to launch a counteroffensive in the first place was badly misjudged. The IJN probably needed to strike the American threat harder to buy the Army more time to solidify its hold on Tokyo’s real objective: oil production facilities in the Netherland East Indies.

But Nagumo couldn’t know all of these things. He acted reasonably and prudently to avoid assuming additional risks by exceeding his mission. But in this case, the reasonable choices happened to be wrong the call.

Of course, the most prudent course for Imperial Japan would have been to avoid war with the United States entirely, as Admiral Yamamoto had originally counseled the Japanese government. The U.S.’s much larger industrial base meant it would eventually have made up the difference had an even more destructive attack on Pearl Harbor been executed.

The resulting conflict might just wall have resulted in even greater destruction and loss of life than the version of World War II recorded in our history books.

Sébastien Roblin holds a Master’s Degree in Conflict Resolution from Georgetown University and served as a university instructor for the Peace Corps in China. He has also worked in education, editing, and refugee resettlement in France and the United States. He currently writes on security and military history for War Is Boring. This article first appeared earlier this year.


Contents

Kamikaze ( 神風 , literally: "God wind" common translation: "Divine wind") [kamikaꜜze] ( listen ) , official name: Tokubetsu Kōgekitai ( 特別攻撃隊 ) , Tokkō Tai ( 特攻隊 ) or Tokkō ( 特攻 ) were suicide attacks by military aviators from the Empire of Japan against Allied naval vessels in the closing stages of the Pacific campaign of World War II, designed to destroy warships more effectively than was possible with conventional attacks. Numbers quoted vary, but at least 47 Allied vessels, from PT boats to escort carriers, were sunk by kamikaze attacks, and about 300 damaged. During World War II, nearly 3,000 kamikaze pilots were sacrificed. [3] About 14% of kamikaze attacks managed to hit a ship. The Japanese high command exaggerated the effectiveness of the tokko attacks, claiming six aircraft carriers, one escort aircraft carrier and ten battleships had been sunk. [3]

Standard IJN and IJA aircraft Edit

Almost every make and model of aircraft were used as kamikazes. [3] The most often seen were the Mitsubishi A6M ("Zero," allied code name "Zeke"), Aichi D3A (Allied code name "Val"), Mitsubishi G4M (Allied code name "Betty"), Nakajima B5N (Allied code name "Kate"), Yokosuka P1Y (Allied code name "Francis"), although in the final months of the war, every flyable aircraft was used. The Army used the Kawasaki Ki-61 (Allied code name "Tony"), Mitsubishi Ki-46 (Allied code name "Dinah"), although like the Navy, all available aircraft were to be used as the threat to Japan increased after Iwo Jima fell. [4]

Ohka Edit

The Yokosuka MXY-7 Ohka (also spelled Oka) (櫻花 Shinjitai: 桜花 "cherry blossom" Hebon-shiki transcription Ōka) was a purpose-built kamikaze aircraft employed by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service in the last months of World War II. [3] US forces gave the aircraft the Japanese name Baka which loosely translates as "idiot" or "fool" in English.

Ohka was a small flying bomb that was carried underneath a Mitsubishi G4M "Betty", Yokosuka P1Y Ginga "Frances" or the planned Heavy Nakajima G8N Renzan (Allied code name "Rita") transport type 43A/B and heavy bomber to within range of its target on release, the pilot would first glide towards the target and, when close enough, he would fire the Ohka ' s engine(s) and dive into the ship to destroy it. [5] That final approach was almost unstoppable (especially for the rocket-powered Ohka Type 11) because the aircraft was capable of attaining tremendous speed. Later versions were designed to be launched from coastal air bases and caves, and even from submarines equipped with aircraft catapults, although the war ended before they were used this way.

Tsurugi Edit

The Nakajima Ki-115 Tsurugi (剣 "Sabre") was a one-man purpose-built kamikaze aircraft developed by the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force in the closing stages of World War II in late 1945. [6] More than 100 Ki-115s were completed.

Toka Edit

The Toka (藤花, "Wisteria Blossom") was the IJN version of the Nakajima Ki-115 Ko. Showa was to build the Toka for the IJN. [7]

Shusui Edit

The Mitsubishi J8M Shūsui (Japanese: 三菱 J8M 秋水, literally "Autumn Water", used as a poetic term meaning "Sharp Sword" deriving from the swishing sound swords make) used by the Navy and Ki-200 for the Army. The Shusui ("Sword Stroke") was a rocket powered interceptor. It was the Japanese copy of the German Me 163 rocket powered interceptor fighter that was specially designed for use against high flying B-29 bombers. The prototype flew on 7 July 45. The War ended before production.

Hiryu To-Go Edit

The Hiryu To-Go, also known as the Ki-167 "Sakura-dan", was a Mitsubishi Ki-67 Kai (Allied code name "Peggy") twin-engine bomber with guns removed and faired over, crew reduced to four men. This flying bomb was built with 3 ton thermite shaped-charge bomb behind the cockpit, pointed forward and angled slightly down, and a blast radius of 1 km. Two of these aircraft were known to have been built. One sortied 17 April 1945 and did not return.

Shinryu Edit

The Mizuno Shinryu ("Divine Dragon") was a proposed rocket-powered kamikaze aircraft designed for the Imperial Japanese Navy towards the end of World War II. It never reached production.

Maru-Ten Edit

The Maru-Ten was Nakajima's designation for the 'Kōkoku Nigō Heiki ( 皇国二号兵器 , "Imperial Weapon No.2" ) . This was a suicide weapon with no landing gear, was catapult launched using Rocket Assisted Take Off (RATO), used Ne-12B engines, and carried a single bomb. It was never built, as it evolved into the Nakajima Kikka ( 中島 橘花 , "Orange Blossom" ) .

Baika Edit

The Kawanishi Baika (梅花, "Ume Blossom") was a pulsejet-powered kamikaze aircraft under development for the Imperial Japanese Navy towards the end of World War II. The war ended before any were built. The design was greatly inspired by the manned version of the German V1 flying bomb, the Fieseler Fi 103R "Reichenberg".

Shin'yō Edit

The Shin'yō (Japanese: 震洋, "Sea Quake") were Japanese suicide boats developed during World War II. [8] They were part of the wider Special Attack Units program. These fast motorboats were driven by one man, to speeds of around 30 kn (56 km/h 35 mph). They were typically equipped with 250 kg (551 lb) of explosives packed in the bow with several impact fuses. The Shinyo units were known as Shimpu Tokubetsu-Kogekitai. About 6,200 Shinyo were produced for the Imperial Japanese Navy.

Maru-Ni Edit

An additional 3,000 of the Shinyo were produced for the Imperial Japanese Army as Maru-Ni. The Maru-Ni units were known as Shimbu Tokubetsu-Kogekitai. About 400 of these boats were sent to Okinawa and Formosa, the rest were stored on the coast of Japan for the ultimate defense against the invasion of the Home islands. The Mary-Ni attacked by dropping one or two shallow-set depth charges as close to the target ship as possible, with the intention of turning away as the depth charges were released off the stern.

Ko-hyoteki Edit

The Type A Ko-hyoteki ( 甲標的甲型 , Kō-hyōteki kō-gata, Target 'A', Type 'A') class was a class of Japanese midget submarines (Ko-hyoteki) was manufactured in three Types:

    midget submarines were used in the 1942 Attack on Sydney Harbour, Attack on Diego Suarez Harbor and the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. [9]
  • Type B Midget Ha 45 prototype built 1942 to test Type A improvements. [10]
  • Type C Midget Ha 62–76 similar to Type A with crew of 3 and radius increased to 350 nautical miles (650 km) at 6 knots (11 km/h) surfaced or 120 nautical miles (220 km) at 4 knots (7.4 km/h) submerged. [10]
  • Type D Koryu (115 completed) improved Type C with crew of 5 and radius increased to 1000 miles at 8 knots surfaced and 320 miles at 16 knots submerged. [11][12]

Kaiten Edit

The Kaiten (Japanese: 回天 , literal translation: "Return to the sky", commonly rendered as: "The turn toward heaven", "The Heaven Shaker" or "Change the World" [13] ) was a torpedo modified as a suicide weapon, and used by the Imperial Japanese Navy in the final stages of World War II. [8]

Early designs allowed for the pilot to escape after the final acceleration towards the target, although whether this could have been done successfully is doubtful. There is no record of any pilot attempting to escape or intending to do so, and this provision was dropped from later production kaitens. The inventor of the Kaiten, Lt. Hiroshi Kuroki was lost during one of the first training missions. When the sub was raised a note was found with a note written during his final minutes before death, sending his respects to his family and detailing the cause of the accident and how to repair the defect.

Kairyu Edit

The Kairyu ( 海龍 , Kairyū, "Sea Dragon") was a Small, 2-man, midget submarine of the Imperial Japanese Navy of 20 ton that was based on the Type A midget submarine that was used in the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. [12] All five of the Type A midget submarines used were captured (1) or destroyed (4). Midgets also attacked in Sydney (all four lost) and Madagascar in June 1942. The Kairyu mini-submarines were meant to meet the invading American Naval forces upon their anticipated approach of Tokyo. Although not intended only as a suicide weapon, crew survival was possible, but the odds of survival were not high. These mini-submarines were built so that they could be equipped with either two torpedoes or a 1,000 pound warhead in the bow, for crashing into ships as the kaiten did. Over 760 of these submarines were planned, and by August 1945, 200 had been manufactured, most of them at the Yokosuka shipyard, but of the 200, only 115 were ready for use at the time of surrender.

Fukuryu (Japanese:伏龍, Fukuryu "Crouching dragons") suicide divers were a part of the Special Attack Units prepared to resist the invasion of the Home islands by Allied forces. [14] They were equipped with a diving jacket and trousers, diving shoes, and a diving helmet fixed by four bolts. They were typically weighed down with 9 kg (20 lb) of lead, and had two bottles of compressed air at 150 bars. They were expected to be able to walk at a depth of 5 to 7 m (16 to 23 ft), for about six hours. The Fukuryu were armed with a 15 kg (33 lb) mine fired with a contact fuse, fitted onto the end of a 5 m (16 ft) bamboo pole. To attack, they would swim under a ship and slam the mine onto the ship's hull, destroying themselves in the process. This new weapon is only known to have been used a few times operationally:

  • January 8, 1945: Infantry landing craft (gunboat) LCI(G)-404 damaged by suicide divers in Yoo Passage, Palaus.
  • February 10, 1945: Attempted attack on surveying ship USS Hydrographer (AGS-2) by suicide divers in Schonian Harbor, Palaus.

Nikaku Edit

Although the Nikaku were not specifically designated as anti-ship weapons, the mental conditioning and training they received prepared them to pilot a Maru Ni, should the need arise. Nikaku were IJA soldiers with explosives strapped to their bodies, acting as human anti-tank mines. The method used in the attack was very simple: the soldier would crawl between the tank treads or allow the tank to drive over him, then explode the charge. The army pioneered this technique in the Philippines and on Okinawa. Other methods used were where the weapon was a shaped-charge on a spike or a simple hand grenade.

Giretsu Kūteitai Edit

Giretsu ( 義烈空挺隊 , Giretsu Kūteitai ) was an airlifted special forces unit of the Imperial Japanese Army formed from Army paratroopers, in November 1944 as a last-ditch attempt to reduce and delay Allied bombing raids on the Japanese home islands. These forces were airlifted and crash landed onto Allied Army or Marine air strips, with the intention of destroying as many aircraft as possible before being killed. On 24 May 1945, a Giretsu force of five Mitsubishi Ki-21 bombers, commanded by Captain Chuichi Suwabe, attacked Yontan airfield, in northern Okinawa. The planes crash-landed on the airfield, where the suicide commandos destroyed nine aircraft, damaged 29 others [15] and set on fire 70,000 gallons of fuel. All the Japanese paratroopers were slain save one, who managed to reach the Japanese lines. Two US servicemen were killed in action.

This table lists every known ship that was attacked and damaged by a Japanese special weapon. Not included are ships that were not damaged from a near miss, or were damaged when debris from another ship that was attacked and hit fell or flew on or into it.


6 Severely wounded WWII Aircraft Carriers in the Pacific that stayed afloat and were repaired

During the Pacific campaign in WWII aircraft carriers were the prime targets in the fleet engagements fought between the USA (and later Britain) and Japan. At first massive carrier engagements took place where the carriers were damaged and sometimes sunk by torpedoes and bombs. Later in the war as the Japanese turned to ever desperate measures, the aircraft carriers were the target of Kamikaze airplanes.

What follows is a list of 6 fleet carriers that survived kamikaze attacks and were later repaired in put back into service. Many more escort carriers were hit and survived but fall outside the scope of this article.

USS Saratoga (CV-3)

Saratoga hit by a kamikaze, 21 February 1945 via Wikipedia

On February 21st, 1945, taking advantage of low cloud cover and Saratoga‍ ’​s weak escort, six Japanese planes scored five bomb hits on the carrier in three minutes three of the aircraft also struck the carrier. Saratoga‍ ’​s flight deck forward was wrecked, her starboard side was holed twice and large fires were started in her hangar deck she lost 123 of her crew dead or missing as well as 192 wounded.

“Bomb hole in flight deck, port side fr.45. (Photo CV3 3703 Feb 22 1945)” via Navsource

Thirty-six of her aircraft were destroyed. Another attack two hours later further damaged her flight deck. Slightly over an hour later, the fires were under control, and Saratoga was able to recover six fighters she arrived at Bremerton on 16 March for permanent repairs.

USS Franklin (CV-13)

The burning Franklin with USS Santa Fe (CL-60) alongside, via Wikipedia

Before dawn on 19 March 1945, Franklin, which had maneuvered to within 50 miles of the Japanese mainland, closer than any other U.S. carrier during the war, launched a fighter sweep against Honshū and later a strike against shipping in Kobe Harbor.

Suddenly, a single aircraft pierced the cloud cover and made a low level run on the ship to drop two semi-armor-piercing bombs. The damage analysis came to the conclusion that the bombs were 550 pounds (250 kg). One bomb struck the flight deck centerline, penetrating to the hangar deck, effecting destruction and igniting fires through the second and third decks, and knocking out the Combat Information Center and air plot. The second hit aft, tearing through two decks.

Franklin lay dead in the water, took a 13° starboard list, lost all radio communications, and broiled under the heat from enveloping fires. Many of the crew were blown overboard, driven off by fire, killed or wounded, but hundreds of officers and enlisted who voluntarily remained saved their ship. A recent count brings the total 19 March 1945 casualty figures to 807 killed and more than 487 wounded.

Franklin listing, with crew on deck, 19 March 1945 via Wikipedia

Franklin was taken in tow by the heavy cruiser Pittsburgh until she was able to raise enough steam to reach a speed of 14 kts, and then she proceeded to Ulithi Atoll under her own power for emergency repairs. Next, she steamed to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, where repairs permitted her to steam to the Brooklyn Navy Yard, New York, via the Panama Canal, where she arrived on 28 April 1945.

USS Bunker Hill (CV-17)

USS BUNKER HILL hit by two Kamikazes in 30 seconds on 11 May 1945 off Kyushu via Wikipedia

On the morning of 11 May 1945, while supporting the invasion of Okinawa, Bunker Hill was struck and severely damaged by two Japanese kamikaze planes. An A6M Zero fighter plane piloted by Lieutenant Junior Grade Seizō Yasunori emerged from low cloud cover, dove toward the flight deck and dropped a 550-pound bomb that penetrated the flight deck and exited from the side of the ship at gallery deck level before exploding in the ocean.

The Zero next crashed onto the carrier’s flight deck, destroying parked warplanes full of aviation fuel and ammunition, causing a large fire. The remains of the Zero went over the deck and dropped into the sea. Then, a short 30 seconds later, a second Zero, piloted by Ensign Kiyoshi Ogawa, plunged into its suicide dive. The Zero went through the antiaircraft fire, dropped a 550-pound bomb, and then crashed into the flight deck near the carrier’s “island”, as kamikazes were trained to aim for the island superstructure.

The bomb penetrated the flight deck and exploded. Gasoline fires flamed up and several explosions took place. Bunker Hill lost a total of 346 sailors and airmen killed, 43 more missing (and never found), and 264 wounded. She was heavily damaged and was sent to the Bremerton Naval Shipyard for repairs. She was still in the shipyard when the war ended in mid-August 1945.

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USS Enterprise (CV-6)

A photo taken from the battleship Washington shows an explosion on Enterprise from a bomb laden kamikaze. The ship’s forward elevator was blown approximately 400 feet into the air from the force of the explosion six decks below. Via Wikipedia

11 April 1945 – Hit by a Yokosuka D4Y3 Suisei “Judy” right aft, with its 500 kg bomb exploding at the turn of the bilge near the after machinery spaces, causing severe shock damage. An hour later, another D4Y3 kamikaze near-missed near her starboard bow and its bomb went off close aboard, causing some additional underwater damage. Five men were wounded from these attacks and one man was blown overboard, but later rescued. Enterprise continued with her flight duties, launching strikes on Okinawa and islands in the Amami group for three more days before being detached. She was repaired at Ulithi for sixteen days and was off Okinawa once more on 6 May.

14 May 1945: The “Big E” suffered her last wound of World War II when a bomb-laden Mitsubishi A6M Zero “Zeke” fighter flown by Chief Pilot Tomi Zai destroyed her forward elevator, killing 14 and wounding 34 men. The bomb penetrated to the third deck where it detonated in a rag storeroom. A large fire was started in the elevator pit and among the deck park aircraft. The carrier sailed for repairs at Puget Sound Navy Yard, arriving 7 June 1945. Repairs were slowed by the end of the war but completed on 13 September 1945 at which time she was “restored to peak condition” according to her DANFS entry. She never operated aircraft again but took part in “Operation Magic Carpet” before she was decommissioned on 17 February 1947.

HMS Formidable (67)

Formidable on fire after the kamikaze hit on 4 May via Wikipedia

On May 4th the HMS Formidable had just launched two Corsairs for bombardment-spotting duties and the deck park of eleven Avengers was being moved forward to allow aircraft to land when an undetected Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighter attacked at 11:31. The Zero first strafed the flight deck before any of Formidable‍ ’​s guns could open fire and then turned sharply to dive into the forward flight deck despite the ship’s hard turn to starboard. The fighter released a bomb shortly before it would have impacted the deck and was destroyed by the bomb’s blast, although the remnants of the Zero struck Formidable.

The detonation of the bomb blew a 2-by-2-foot hole in the flight deck. It killed 2 officers and 6 enlisted men, wounding 55 other crewmen.A fragment from the flight deck armour penetrated the hangar deck armour and passed through the centre boiler uptakes, the centre boiler room itself, and an oil tank before it came to rest in the inner bottom. The fragment severed the steam pipes in the centre boiler room and forced its evacuation, cutting the ship’s speed to 14 knots.

Aircraft wreckage after the kamikaze hit off Okinawa on 4 May 1945 via Wikipedia

The blast on the flight deck blew the Avenger closest to it over the side and set another one on fire. Shrapnel from the blast peppered the island, causing the bulk of the casualties, and severed many electrical cables, including those for most of the ship’s radars. The fires on the flight deck and in the hangar were extinguished by 11:55, and seven Avengers and a Corsair which were damaged beyond repair were dumped over the side. The bomb struck at the intersection of three armour plates and dented the plates over an area 20 by 24 feet. The dent was filled by wood and concrete and covered by thin steel plates tack-welded to the deck so that she was able to operate aircraft by 17:00 and steam at a speed of 24 knots.

Thirteen of her Corsairs had been airborne at the time of the attack and they operated from the other carriers for a time. The damage to the boiler room and its steam

USS Ticonderoga (CV-14)

Ticonderoga listing after kamikaze attacks, 21 January 1945, via Wikipedia

Just after noon on January 21st 1945, a single-engine Japanese plane scored a hit on Langley with a glide-bombing attack. Seconds later, a kamikaze swooped out of the clouds and plunged toward Ticonderoga. He crashed through her flight deck abreast of the No. 2 5inch mount, and his bomb exploded just above her hangar deck. Several planes stowed nearby erupted into flames. Death and destruction abounded, but the ship’s company fought valiantly to save the threatened carrier.

Captain Kiefer conned his ship smartly. First, he changed course to keep the wind from fanning the blaze. Then, he ordered magazines and other compartments flooded to prevent further explosions and to correct a 10° starboard list. Finally, he instructed the damage control party to continue flooding compartments on Ticonderoga‍ ’​s port side. That operation induced a 10° port list which neatly dumped the burning planes overboard. Firefighters and plane handlers completed the job by dousing the flames and jettisoning burning aircraft.

The other kamikaze then pounced on the carrier. Her antiaircraft gunners struck back with ferocity and quickly shot three down into the sea. A fourth plane slipped through her barrage and smashed into the carrier’s starboard side near the island. His bomb set more planes on fire, riddled her flight deck, and injured or killed another 100 sailors, with Captain Kiefer one of the wounded. Yet Ticonderoga‍ ’​s crew refused to submit. Spared further attacks, they brought her fires completely under control not long after 1400 and Ticonderoga retired.


These American Dive-Bombers Arrived At Pearl Harbor—At Exactly the Same Time As the Japanese

Scout Squadron 6 departed from the aircraft carrier Enterprise that arrived over Pearl Harbor simultaneously with the Japanese.

Many people have heard of the six American Curtiss P-40 Tomahawk fighters that actually got off the ground and contested the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. Some know about the 11 Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress bombers winging toward Pearl Harbor from California unarmed and out of gas. A few are aware of the six obsolete Curtiss P-36 Hawk that were able to take off. However, almost no one knows the story of 18 Douglas SBD Dauntless dive-bombers from the aircraft carrier Enterprise that arrived over Pearl Harbor simultaneously with the Japanese. These were the planes of Scouting Squadron Six.

Three U.S. aircraft carriers were operating in the Pacific that day. The Saratoga (CV3) was being overhauled in San Diego. The Lexington (CV2) had just left Pearl Harbor to deliver 18 Vought SB2U Vindicator dive bombers to Midway. The Enterprise (CV6) was just returning from a similar delivery of 12 Grumman F4F Wildcats to Wake Island. She was due back at Pearl on December 6. Fortunately, a storm loomed, so Halsey reduced speed and the ship did not actually reach port until the 8th.

Halsey knew war was imminent. Drills had been conducted regularly over the past few months, the most recent on November 27. When Halsey was given his orders to reinforce Wake, he had deliberately asked, “How far do you want me to go?”

Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, replied, “Use your own common sense.”

That was all Halsey needed to hear. In his famous “Battle Order Number One,” the first item read, “The Enterprise is now operating under war conditions.” When his operations officer challenged this order, Halsey replied, “I’ll take [responsibility]. If anything gets in the way, we’ll shoot first and argue afterwards.” He intended to bomb anything on the sea and shoot down anything in the sky.

It was ironic. Unlike the rest of the Navy on December 7, the Enterprise fliers saw the enemy first. Their guns were loaded. Their crews were trained. But still, like everyone else, they did not quite expect an attack at home. They were looking for submarines. When they arrived, they thought the smoke was from burning sugar cane fields. They thought the shell fire was just a drill. They thought the stacks of green aircraft belonged to the Army. Only when they saw the antiaircraft blossoms over Pearl did they realize the truth.

Both the Japanese and American forces had launched aircraft at first light. At 0615 on December 7, the Japanese carriers sent their first attack wave aloft 250 miles north-northwest of Oahu. At exactly the same moment, the Enterprise launched what was thought to be a routine patrol directly in front of the ship’s advance. As usual, the patrol would search a hemisphere of 180 degrees directly ahead of the task force. The flight consisted of nine pairs of SBD-2 Dauntless dive-bombers, mostly from Scout Squadron Six, but including a few planes from Bomb Squadron Six. Each pair of aircraft would conduct a zigzag search in an arc 150 miles long and approximately 10 degrees wide. Instead of returning to the ship, they would then continue on to land at Ford Island, thus getting a jump on shore leave.

At 0645, the destroyer USS Ward fired on and sank a Japanese midget submarine operating within the defensive perimeter of Pearl Harbor. Seventeen minutes later, the Army radar station at Opana Point picked up the first wave of Japanese attackers. Thirteen minutes later, the second Japanese wave was launched. At 0748, Kaneohe Airfield was strafed and bombed. At 0752, Lt. Cmdr. Mitsuo Fuchida, tactical commander of the first wave, sent the message, “Tora, Tora, Tora,” meaning that surprise had been achieved. At the same time Scouting Six planes began to arrive over Oahu.

To maintain radio silence, Halsey had not informed Pearl Harbor his location or of his reconnaissance patrol. When news of the attack reached him, his first thought was, “My God, they’re shooting at my own boys!”

One of the first two-plane sections to arrive was aircraft 6-S-16, piloted by Frank A. Patriarca with a gunner named DeLuca, and 6-S-15, piloted by Ensign W.M. Willis with gunner Fred J. Ducolon. They almost made it to Ford Island. The two had passed Barbers Point, rounded Ewa Field, and were actually lining up on their landing approach when the attack began. They noticed the antiaircraft fire, but it was not until a Japanese Aichi “Val” dive-bomber winged over and flashed the rising sun insignia that Patriarca knew something was very wrong. At the same instant, tracers began whizzing past his plane.

Immediately, Patriarca opened throttle, diving back toward the coast. He had decided to try and make it all the way back to the Enterprise when he realized he was alone. After searching for 6-S-15, his fuel was low, so he landed at Burns Field on Kauai. Willis and Ducolon were never found, although Mitsubishi Zero fighters led by Lieutenant Masaji Suganami from the carrier Soryu would later claim three SBDs.

After Sending His Final Message, “Do not fire. We are American Aircraft” No Trace of Gonzalez was Ever Found

At about the same time, S-B-3 and S-B-12 approached Pearl Harbor. Ensign Manuel Gonzalez and gunner Leonard J. Kozelek were in S-B-3, and S-B-12 was piloted by Ensign Frank T. Weber with a gunner by the name of Keany. Their segment of the search had finished 20 miles north of Kauai, whereupon they turned and headed toward Oahu and Pearl Harbor. No one knows exactly what happened to Gonzalez that day, but when the two planes were about 25 miles off Oahu, Weber noticed a group of 40 to 50 planes he thought belonged to the Army circling at about 3,500 feet. Although he had been flying just 500 feet above and behind S-B-3, when Weber looked back Gonzalez was gone.

Gonzalez’s last message, which several other aircraft heard, was something like, “Do not fire. We are American aircraft,” or words to that effect. Moments later, Gonzales was calling to his gunner to break out the rubber raft. Nothing else was heard from them, and no trace was ever found.

It seems incredible that an aircraft could have shot down Gonzalez and missed Weber, but such may well have been the case, since Weber innocently began a search of the area and performed four or five slow “S” turns looking for his comrade. It was just Weber’s bad luck that he had told his radioman to change frequencies and get some homing practice on the approach into Pearl, thus missing Gonzalez’s last message.

Still unaware of the attack and unable to spot S-B-3, Weber continued on toward Pearl until he noticed an aircraft about 2,000 feet directly ahead of him. Thinking it was Gonzalez at last, he increased speed and attempted to form up on him when the unknown plane suddenly turned 180 degrees and approached. Weber performed a slow, wide turn to help close on the approaching aircraft. Only when it was close off his starboard bow and finally made a flipper turn was Weber able to see the red circles that identified it as Japanese. He immediately increased speed and dove to an altitude of 25 feet.

The Japanese pilot did not follow, and Weber flew on to Barbers Point where he formed up on 6-S-10, piloted by Lieutenant W.E. Gallaher, and began circling a few miles off the coast as other Enterprise planes were arriving.

Weber described the Japanese plane as resembling a German Junkers Ju-87 Stuka type dive-bomber. Such a description would seem to describe the Japanese Val dive-bombers operating over Pearl Harbor. A Japanese report confirms that Vals from the aircraft carrier Shokaku were returning to sea after bombing Hickam Field and were 20 miles off Keana Point when they shot down an SBD.

At about 0820, 6-S-14, piloted by E.T. Deacon with gunner Audrey G. Coslett, and 6-S-9 flown by W.E. Roberts with gunner D.H. Jones, arrived off Kaena Point. There they noticed about 30 aircraft in a long column at an altitude of 100 feet and only 400 feet away. Roberts saw their green camouflage and assumed they were U.S. Army aircraft. One plane came so close that the Japanese pilot even waggled his wings as he flew by. “The significance of the red circles on the wings did not occur to me until later,” said Roberts.

The column of planes did not attack, and neither did the Dauntlesses. At the same time, the Dauntless pilots noticed the large amount of smoke and geysers of water produced by coastal antiaircraft guns. Dauntlesses 6-S-14 and 6-B-9 kept flying toward Ford Island until they heard the “Don’t shoot” call of Ensign Gonzalez. Then they charged their guns and climbed to 1,000 feet, observing about 20 Japanese fighters over Pearl Harbor. Worse, coming straight toward them were 25 dive-bombers that had just completed their dives. Both Deacon and Roberts dove to the water and headed for Hickam Field, flying directly over Fort Weaver.

When the American pilots were just overhead at an altitude of 200 feet, Army gunners opened fire on them with 20mm cannon and .50-caliber machine guns. Beginning to sputter and trail smoke, 6S-14 turned back toward the water. Two hundred yards past the beach, Deacon splashed down in two feet of water. The fliers were still under rifle and machine gun fire when Coslett was hit in the right arm and neck. Deacon was nicked in the thigh,and another shot cut through his parachute harness. Stumbling out of the swamped Navy plane, he used a radio cord to tie off Coslett’s wound and broke out the life raft to escape. After paddling about 100 yards from their plane, the two were picked up by a rescue boat.

Meanwhile, aboard 6-S-9, Roberts and Jones had also noticed the tracers streaming upward but were able to land at Hickam even though their left wing was streaming gasoline. They stayed there until the second wave of Japanese attackers arrived. Jones fired his rear-mounted guns until all his ammunition was expended.

Young Remembered That the Cascade of Bullets was Instantaneous with His Realization that Pearl was Under Attack

Lieutenant Commander Howard L. “Brigham” Young, commander of the Enterprise air group, was flying with Lt. Cmdr. Bromfield B. Nichols, one of Halsey’s tactical officers, in the gunner’s seat. Young’s wingman was 6-S-2 piloted by Ensign P. L. Teaff with a gunner by the name of Jinks. When they neared Barbers Point, they too saw a large column of “Army” planes and gave them a wide berth, continuing toward Ford Island.

Teaff was above and behind Young, watching attentively as one of the Japanese planes winged over and attacked. Although he saw the fighters approaching from behind, he made no effort to maneuver. At a range of 75 yards, one of them opened fire. Teaff pulled to the right, allowing Jinks to get off a short burst as the plane passed them by and concentrated on Young. Neither Teaff nor Jinks was hit, but their plane was “liberally sprinkled” with slugs. Teaff even noted that a few were shot at such an angle that some of them glanced off his wings.

Closing on Young, the Japanese pilot opened fire at close range. Young remembered that the cascade of bullets was instantaneous with his realization that Pearl was under attack. He immediately dove away and zigzagged. Again there was no damage. Two American dive-bombers flying straight and slow had been attacked at close range by a veteran Zero fighter pilot who missed.

Young and Teaff remained together. Since it was obvious they would be fired on no matter what direction they went, they continued toward Ford Island. At about 0835, both planes landed safely. Even though they had their wheels down and flashed recognition signals, they endured heavy antiaircraft fire all the way. Young recalled, “I was under fire until my wheels touched the ground on Ford Island—some of the guns being not more than 50 yards distance from me.”

Even more incredibly, no one was injured, nor was either plane seriously damaged, though Teaff’s took a few .50-caliber slugs in the tail and the hydraulic system was hit. Since the Enterprise was still under radio silence when the men hopped out of their aircraft, the commander of Ford Island, Captain George Shoemaker, rushed to the pilots and shouted, “What the hell goes on here?” Only then was Young able to disclose the location of the Enterprise, the presence of the 18 SBDs, and their mission.

The next planes to make contact apparently were 6-S-4, piloted by Lieutenant Clarence E. Dickinson with gunner William C. Miller, and 6-S-9, piloted by Ensign John R. “Bud” McCarthy with gunner Mitchell Cohn. At about 0825, they were approaching Barbers Point when they saw thick smoke from what turned out to be the stricken battleship USS Arizona. Then they saw splashes in the water. Like the others, Dickinson thought the smoke was from burning cane fields and the splashes were just an Army gunnery drill. The firing was so wild that he thought, “Just wait. Tomorrow the Army will certainly catch hell for it.” Finally, he realized the harbor was covered with antiaircraft blossoms.

Dickinson immediately ordered his wingman to close formation and climb to 4,000 feet, where McCarthy was attacked by two fighters. Together, the SBDs dove back down to 1,000 feet where four more fighters attacked. Looking aft, Dickinson saw McCarthy’s plane catch fire “from the right side of the engine and the right main tank. It lost speed and dropped about 50 yards astern and to the left. I could see it still attempting to fight as it slowly circled to the left losing altitude.”

The plane lost speed and crashed. Dickinson saw only one parachute. McCarthy had managed to get out, although he broke his leg, presumably after hitting the rear stabilizer on the way out. Cohn did not make it.

Meanwhile, Dickinson was still under attack by as many as five Zeroes. As he dove, his gunner returned fire and said, “Mr. Dickinson, I have been hit once, but I think I have got one of those sons of bitches.” When Dickinson glanced rearward, he saw a Japanese plane on fire losing altitude and speed. It was the first Navy aerial victory of the war. A few minutes later, Miller reported that all six cans of his ammunition were gone … and then he screamed.

As the attacking fighter sped past, Dickinson was able to get in two short bursts from his forward guns, but they had little effect. The attacks continued, and he could only watch helplessly as holes began appearing in his wings. Amazingly, he was not hurt, but his ankle was nicked and there were horizontal cuts in his sock. Soon, his left fuel tank was on fire, he lost all control of his plane, and it began to slip to the right. As it started to spin, Dickinson called for Miller to bail out and then jumped at an altitude of 800 feet. He landed alone and unhurt near Ewa Field.

On the ground, Dickinson was able to catch a ride with an elderly couple in a blue sedan who had not quite realized what was going on. They were going to a picnic and did not want to be late. How unfortunate that the military was causing all this fuss. They finally figured things out when a van just ahead of them was rocked by machine-gun and cannon fire. Moments later, it careened off the road on flat tires, Coming to rest covered in dust and peppered with holes.

Confusion, Panic, and Friendly Fire

The couple dropped Dickinson off at Ewa Field where the sentries told him that some Japanese planes were so low they had thumbed their noses at them as they flew by. Another had clasped his hands together over his head in a victory salute. Be that as it may, Dickinson kept going until he got to Pearl Harbor just in time to see the destroyer USS Shaw go up in a ball of flame. A bomb had penetrated the forward magazine and blown off the ship’s bow.

Lieutenant Commander Halstead L. Hopping was piloting 6-S-1 with a gunner named Thomas, while 6-S-3 was piloted by Ensign J.H.L. Vogt with Sidney Pierce as gunner. While on their patrol, Hopping spotted a ship and left Vogt’s company to investigate. When he returned, he was unable to locate 6-S-3 and continued alone. Landing at Ford Island during the dive-bombing attack, 6-S-1 endured heavy friendly antiaircraft fire. Miraculously, his aircraft was only hit once, a bullet in a battery that did not have any effect.

Vogt, having been left by Hopping, continued alone and ran into a flight of Zeros probably led by Lieutenant Yoshio Shiga from the aircraft carrier Kaga. Eyewitnesses near Ewa Field stated that Vogt’s SBD attacked and clung tenaciously to the tail of a Zero, firing constantly until it pulled up and stalled, causing Vogt to slam into it. The two planes fell entangled to the earth. Some say the action was a simple collision, but others remember it as a twisting dogfight. This is a particularly interesting version of a combat sequence, given the mismatch of the relatively slow SBD and the highly maneuverable Zero.

Ensign Carlton T. “Misty” Fogg was piloting 6-S-11 with a gunner named Dennis, and 6-S-8 was piloted by Ensign E.J. Dobson with a gunner by the name of Hoss. They tried to land at Ford Island, but realizing it was under attack, they returned to Barbers Point and joined up with the other circling Enterprise planes for about 45 minutes. At that time, they all tried to land at Ford but were met with such heavy antiaircraft fire that the formation scattered. Fogg turned back, while Dobson actually made it in. Having landed at Ewa, Fogg kept watch with a field phone from inside the metal scoop of a steam shovel during the second attack wave.

Dauntless 6-S-7, piloted by H.D. Hilton with a gunner named Leaming, and 6-B-5, piloted by Ensign E.J. Kroeger with a gunner by the name of Chapman, arrived off Barbers Point at about 0845. They could not see the attack at Pearl but did notice two large groups of aircraft. They circled with the others for a while and then tried to land at Ewa Field where “definite evidence of the attack was first noted.” They were immediately waved off for fear they would draw strafing Japanese planes, and the SBDs headed for Ford where they met heavy antiaircraft fire. Both planes broke off and returned to Ewa where they were refueled and loaded with 500-pound bombs.

Dauntlesses 6-S-10, piloted by Lieutenant Gallaher with a gunner named Merritt, and 6-S-5, piloted by Ensign W.P. West with a gunner named Hansen, also passed over Kauai as they approached Oahu from the northwest. Ensign West noticed approximately 10 monoplanes marked in bright colors but mistook them for Army observation planes. These Dauntlesses also continued along until they reached Barbers Point and saw what they thought were burning cane fields. Only when they got closer to Pearl did they realize the truth. With the others, they landed at Ewa and then left immediately for Ford Island.

“You Could Read a Newspaper by the Light of the Tracers.”

Enemy planes circled above Barbers Point at 3,000 to 4,000 feet. About 10 miles further out to sea, even more Japanese planes formed up and waited. In all, seven of the Enterprise planes gathered and eventually tried to land at Ewa but were waved off by the ground crew and flew on to Ford Island. The formation which included Gallaher, West, and Dobson actually managed to land, while the others broke off and returned to Ewa where this time they were refueled and rearmed.

By now, the Japanese had retired completely, and at 1030 Hopping took off alone from Ford Island to investigate a report of two Japanese carriers 25 to 40 miles west or southwest of Barbers Point. He returned at 1145. He met with light antiaircraft fire both on takeoff and landing.

At 1115, Hilton, Kroeger, and Weber were ordered to accompany an attack flight of Army bombers from Hickam Field. After receiving some antiaircraft fire at takeoff, the three approached Hickam and found no Army bombers to join with, so they returned to Ford Island.

Other sightings abounded. Both the heavy cruisers Minneapolis and Indianapolis, operating separately, were identified as Japanese carriers. Even the Enterprise herself was rightly identified as a carrier, but wrongly attacked. Army Captain Brooke E. Allen, having saved his B-17 from destruction by taxiing it away from the flight line at Hickam, rose alone into the afternoon sky with orders to search to the southwest. There he found “this beautiful carrier” that opened fire on him. Accordingly, he began a bombing run but, “God had a hand on me, because I knew this was not a Jap carrier.”

Thirteen Enterprise planes were launched from their new land base at 1210: nine planes in three flights to search to the north and four planes to search south. The northern search consisted of Hopping, Teaff, and Kroeger Gallaher, West, and Dobson Dickinson, Hilton, and Weber searching an area from 330 to 030 degrees and extending 200 miles north of Oahu. No contacts were made, and the flight returned at 1545.

A search patrol from the Enterprise to the south included Ensign C.R. “Bucky” Walters and Ensign Ben Troemel of Bomb Squadron Six. Walters made contact with what he described as a Soryu-class Japanese carrier. As he investigated the ship, he “found an enemy plane closing on my starboard quarter. The plane was a silver twin-engine monoplane carrying two vertical stabilizers. Attack was evaded by applying full throttle and diving to within 25 feet of the water.” He then spotted a Japanese cruiser of the Jintsu class, which he followed for some time until ordered to return. No Japanese ships or aircraft were in that area, and what he actually saw is unknown.

The two of them were unable to return to the ship and headed for Kauai and then on to Oahu to land at Kaneohe Naval Air Station after dark. The field had been badly shot up in the morning and was now blacked out. Walters and Troemel managed to land successfully but had to maneuver violently to avoid hitting all the vehicles that had been deliberately parked on the runway. Troemel came to rest directly beneath a boom crane, while Walters almost ran into a cement mixer. The base commander explained that he had put the vehicles there to prevent the Japanese from landing and was a little upset that the two SBDs had managed to do so.

It was not until 1700 that a viable attack force was organized by the Enterprise. Eighteen Douglas TBD Devastator torpedo bombers the remaining six Dauntlesses of Bombing Six, which were fitted with smoke generators to mask the torpedo planes and an escort of six Wildcats were launched to attack a force supposedly 100 miles southeast of the Enterprise and her escort vessels, which were still west of Hawaii. Nothing was located, and the Devastators and SBDs returned to the Enterprise.

By this time it was dark, and the Enterprise did not turn on landing lights. Instead, the Wildcats were ordered to land at Pearl Harbor. Although both the Army and Navy had been informed several times about the six approaching Wildcats, the night sky tragically filled with tracers.

One sailor noted, “ Everything in Pearl Harbor opened up on them. They didn’t have a ghost of a chance” Another witness stated, “You could read a newspaper by the light of the tracers.”

When the guns opened up, one of the Wildcats radioed, “What the hell is going on down there?” To which the tower replied succinctly, “Turn off your lights and beat it.”

Wildcat pilot Ensign James Daniels tried a novel defense when the firing started. Upon seeing the tracers, he headed his plane directly toward the antiaircraft gunners, hoping that the glare of his landing lights would momentarily blind them. It worked. The firing became erratic, and Daniels was able to circle around, turn off his lights, and land on Ford Island in the dark. However, Ensign Gayle Herman took a 5-inch round in his engine. Miraculously unhurt, he bailed out over a golf course. Ensign David Flynn kept out of range until his plane ran out of gas and then parachuted into a cane field. Ensign Herbert Menges, Lieutenant Francis Hebel, and Lieutenant Eric Allen, Jr., all died. Allen was shot out of his parachute.

As December 7, 1941, passed into history, the consequences and mistakes of the day would be evaluated many times, but the men of Scouting and Bombing Squadron Six had reason to be proud of their role in the days’ events. They reacted well to a confusing situation, fought hard, and then persevered under heavy fire, most of it friendly.

Richard L. Hayes is a freelance writer from Chicago. He has been published in numerous military history magazines.

This article by Richard L. Hayes first appeared in the Warfare History Network on December 7, 2017.


How Scout Squadron Six Took the Fight To Japan at Pearl Harbor

The men of Scouting and Bombing Squadron Six had reason to be proud of their actions on December 7, 1941.

Here's What You Need to Know: Scout Squadron 6 departed from the aircraft carrier Enterprise that arrived over Pearl Harbor simultaneously with the Japanese.

Many people have heard of the six American Curtiss P-40 Tomahawk fighters that actually got off the ground and contested the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. Some know about the 11 Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress bombers winging toward Pearl Harbor from California unarmed and out of gas. A few are aware of the six obsolete Curtiss P-36 Hawk that were able to take off. However, almost no one knows the story of 18 Douglas SBD Dauntless dive-bombers from the aircraft carrier Enterprise that arrived over Pearl Harbor simultaneously with the Japanese. These were the planes of Scouting Squadron Six.

Three U.S. aircraft carriers were operating in the Pacific that day. The Saratoga (CV3) was being overhauled in San Diego. The Lexington (CV2) had just left Pearl Harbor to deliver 18 Vought SB2U Vindicator dive bombers to Midway. The Enterprise (CV6) was just returning from a similar delivery of 12 Grumman F4F Wildcats to Wake Island. She was due back at Pearl on December 6. Fortunately, a storm loomed, so Halsey reduced speed and the ship did not actually reach port until the 8th.

Halsey knew war was imminent. Drills had been conducted regularly over the past few months, the most recent on November 27. When Halsey was given his orders to reinforce Wake, he had deliberately asked, “How far do you want me to go?”

Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, replied, “Use your own common sense.”

That was all Halsey needed to hear. In his famous “Battle Order Number One,” the first item read, “The Enterprise is now operating under war conditions.” When his operations officer challenged this order, Halsey replied, “I’ll take [responsibility]. If anything gets in the way, we’ll shoot first and argue afterwards.” He intended to bomb anything on the sea and shoot down anything in the sky.

It was ironic. Unlike the rest of the Navy on December 7, the Enterprise fliers saw the enemy first. Their guns were loaded. Their crews were trained. But still, like everyone else, they did not quite expect an attack at home. They were looking for submarines. When they arrived, they thought the smoke was from burning sugar cane fields. They thought the shell fire was just a drill. They thought the stacks of green aircraft belonged to the Army. Only when they saw the antiaircraft blossoms over Pearl did they realize the truth.

Both the Japanese and American forces had launched aircraft at first light. At 0615 on December 7, the Japanese carriers sent their first attack wave aloft 250 miles north-northwest of Oahu. At exactly the same moment, the Enterprise launched what was thought to be a routine patrol directly in front of the ship’s advance. As usual, the patrol would search a hemisphere of 180 degrees directly ahead of the task force. The flight consisted of nine pairs of SBD-2 Dauntless dive-bombers, mostly from Scout Squadron Six, but including a few planes from Bomb Squadron Six. Each pair of aircraft would conduct a zigzag search in an arc 150 miles long and approximately 10 degrees wide. Instead of returning to the ship, they would then continue on to land at Ford Island, thus getting a jump on shore leave.

At 0645, the destroyer USS Ward fired on and sank a Japanese midget submarine operating within the defensive perimeter of Pearl Harbor. Seventeen minutes later, the Army radar station at Opana Point picked up the first wave of Japanese attackers. Thirteen minutes later, the second Japanese wave was launched. At 0748, Kaneohe Airfield was strafed and bombed. At 0752, Lt. Cmdr. Mitsuo Fuchida, tactical commander of the first wave, sent the message, “Tora, Tora, Tora,” meaning that surprise had been achieved. At the same time Scouting Six planes began to arrive over Oahu.

To maintain radio silence, Halsey had not informed Pearl Harbor his location or of his reconnaissance patrol. When news of the attack reached him, his first thought was, “My God, they’re shooting at my own boys!”

One of the first two-plane sections to arrive was aircraft 6-S-16, piloted by Frank A. Patriarca with a gunner named DeLuca, and 6-S-15, piloted by Ensign W.M. Willis with gunner Fred J. Ducolon. They almost made it to Ford Island. The two had passed Barbers Point, rounded Ewa Field, and were actually lining up on their landing approach when the attack began. They noticed the antiaircraft fire, but it was not until a Japanese Aichi “Val” dive-bomber winged over and flashed the rising sun insignia that Patriarca knew something was very wrong. At the same instant, tracers began whizzing past his plane.

Immediately, Patriarca opened throttle, diving back toward the coast. He had decided to try and make it all the way back to the Enterprise when he realized he was alone. After searching for 6-S-15, his fuel was low, so he landed at Burns Field on Kauai. Willis and Ducolon were never found, although Mitsubishi Zero fighters led by Lieutenant Masaji Suganami from the carrier Soryu would later claim three SBDs.

After Sending His Final Message, “Do not fire. We are American Aircraft” No Trace of Gonzalez was Ever Found

At about the same time, S-B-3 and S-B-12 approached Pearl Harbor. Ensign Manuel Gonzalez and gunner Leonard J. Kozelek were in S-B-3, and S-B-12 was piloted by Ensign Frank T. Weber with a gunner by the name of Keany. Their segment of the search had finished 20 miles north of Kauai, whereupon they turned and headed toward Oahu and Pearl Harbor. No one knows exactly what happened to Gonzalez that day, but when the two planes were about 25 miles off Oahu, Weber noticed a group of 40 to 50 planes he thought belonged to the Army circling at about 3,500 feet. Although he had been flying just 500 feet above and behind S-B-3, when Weber looked back Gonzalez was gone.

Gonzalez’s last message, which several other aircraft heard, was something like, “Do not fire. We are American aircraft,” or words to that effect. Moments later, Gonzales was calling to his gunner to break out the rubber raft. Nothing else was heard from them, and no trace was ever found.

It seems incredible that an aircraft could have shot down Gonzalez and missed Weber, but such may well have been the case, since Weber innocently began a search of the area and performed four or five slow “S” turns looking for his comrade. It was just Weber’s bad luck that he had told his radioman to change frequencies and get some homing practice on the approach into Pearl, thus missing Gonzalez’s last message.

Still unaware of the attack and unable to spot S-B-3, Weber continued on toward Pearl until he noticed an aircraft about 2,000 feet directly ahead of him. Thinking it was Gonzalez at last, he increased speed and attempted to form up on him when the unknown plane suddenly turned 180 degrees and approached. Weber performed a slow, wide turn to help close on the approaching aircraft. Only when it was close off his starboard bow and finally made a flipper turn was Weber able to see the red circles that identified it as Japanese. He immediately increased speed and dove to an altitude of 25 feet.

The Japanese pilot did not follow, and Weber flew on to Barbers Point where he formed up on 6-S-10, piloted by Lieutenant W.E. Gallaher, and began circling a few miles off the coast as other Enterprise planes were arriving.

Weber described the Japanese plane as resembling a German Junkers Ju-87 Stuka type dive-bomber. Such a description would seem to describe the Japanese Val dive-bombers operating over Pearl Harbor. A Japanese report confirms that Vals from the aircraft carrier Shokaku were returning to sea after bombing Hickam Field and were 20 miles off Keana Point when they shot down an SBD.

At about 0820, 6-S-14, piloted by E.T. Deacon with gunner Audrey G. Coslett, and 6-S-9 flown by W.E. Roberts with gunner D.H. Jones, arrived off Kaena Point. There they noticed about 30 aircraft in a long column at an altitude of 100 feet and only 400 feet away. Roberts saw their green camouflage and assumed they were U.S. Army aircraft. One plane came so close that the Japanese pilot even waggled his wings as he flew by. “The significance of the red circles on the wings did not occur to me until later,” said Roberts.

The column of planes did not attack, and neither did the Dauntlesses. At the same time, the Dauntless pilots noticed the large amount of smoke and geysers of water produced by coastal antiaircraft guns. Dauntlesses 6-S-14 and 6-B-9 kept flying toward Ford Island until they heard the “Don’t shoot” call of Ensign Gonzalez. Then they charged their guns and climbed to 1,000 feet, observing about 20 Japanese fighters over Pearl Harbor. Worse, coming straight toward them were 25 dive-bombers that had just completed their dives. Both Deacon and Roberts dove to the water and headed for Hickam Field, flying directly over Fort Weaver.


Why no fuel?

Why did the Japanese have a shortage of fuel? They succeeded in March 1942 conquering the oil fields of the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia). They had plenty of capacity in Japan to refine fuel. But they were losing it in transit to an increasingly effective American anti-shipping effort. Despite being an island nation and able to watch and learn from British experience in WW1 and WW2, their anti-submarine equipment and tactics were very poor. They never employed a convoy system. The situation became so desperate they resorted to using small cargo ships and tankers hugging coastlines in the hopes of avoiding Allied submarines and aircraft.

This entirely predictable situation could have been mitigated before WW2 even began. Prior to the war, the US oil embargo was a major threat. Capturing the Dutch East Indies was a vital strategic necessity. Even as the Japanese were planning to launch the Pacific War to get oil, they were watching Germany attempting to strangle Britain with submarines and commerce raiders as they had done before during WW1. To kick off a war to get oil without a plan to protect it while it gets to where its needed was negligent.


Pearl Harbor: Documents: The Attack

Courtesy Reuters

The beginning of the attack coincided with the hoisting of the preparatory signal for 8 o'clock colors. At this time-namely 7:55 a.m.-Japanese dive bombers appeared over Ford Island, and within the next few seconds enemy torpedo planes and dive bombers swung in from various sectors to concentrate their attack on the heavy ships moored in Pearl Harbor. It is estimated that nine planes engaged in the attack on the naval air station on Ford Island.

At the time of the attack, our planes-patrol flying boats, float planes, and scout bombers, carrier type-were lined up on the field. These planes caught fire and exploded. Machine-gun emplacements were set up hastily and manned, although the return fire from shore on Ford Island was pitifully weak. Then as suddenly as they had appeared, the Japanese planes vanished. No further attack on this air station was made during the day. However, 33 of our best planes out of a total of 70 planes of all types were destroyed or damaged.

As soon as the attack began, commander, Patrol Wing 2 broadcasted from Ford Island the warning: "Air raid, Pearl Harbor-This is not a drill." This warning was followed a few minutes later by a similar message from the commander in chief, United States Fleet.

At approximately the same time that the Japanese dive bombers appeared over Ford Island, other low-flying planes struck at Kaneohe Naval Air Station on the other side of the island. The attack was well executed, with the planes coming down in shallow dives and inflicting severe casualties on the seaplanes moored in the water. Machine guns and rifles were brought out, and men dispersed to fire at will at the low-flying planes. After a period of 10 to 15 minutes, the attacking planes drew off to the north at a low altitude and disappeared from sight.

About 25 minutes after the first attack, another squadron of planes similar to one of our light bomber types, appeared over Kaneohe and commenced bombing and strafing. Number 3 hangar received a direct hit during this attack and four planes in the hangar were destroyed. The majority of the casualties suffered at Kaneohe resulted from this attack. Most of the injured personnel were in the squadrons attempting either to launch their planes or to save those planes not as yet damaged. When the enemy withdrew, some 10 to 15 minutes later, salvage operations were commenced, but it was too late to save No. 1 hangar, which burned until only its steel structural work was left. Only 9 out of the 35 planes at Kaneohe escaped destruction in this attack. Six of these were damaged and three were in the air on patrol south of Oahu as previously described.

Meanwhile, the Marine air base at Ewa was undergoing similar attack. Apparently the attack on Ewa preceded that at Pearl Harbor by about 2 minutes. It was delivered by two squadrons of 18 to 24 single-seater fighter planes using machine-gun strafing tactics, which came in from the northwest at an altitude of approximately 1,000 feet. These enemy planes would descend to within 20 to 25 feet of the ground, attacking single planes with short bursts of gunfire. Then they would pull over the tree tops, reverse their course, and attack from the opposite direction. Within less than 15 minutes, all the Marine tactical aircraft had been shot up or set on fire. Then the guns of the enemy fighters were turned upon our utility aircraft, upon planes that had been disassembled for repair, and upon the Marines themselves.

Effective defense measures were impossible until after the first raid had subsided. Pilots, aching to strike at the enemy in the air, viewed the wreckage which until a few minutes before had been a strong air group of Marine fighters and bombers. All together 33 out of the 49 planes at Ewa had gone up in smoke. Some marines, unable to find anything more effective, had tried to oppose fighter planes with pistols, since the remaining 16 planes were too badly damaged to fly.

Although in phase I of the attack on the ships at Pearl Harbor Japanese dive bombers were effective, the torpedo planes did the most damage. They adhered strictly to a carefully laid plan and directed their attacks from those sectors which afforded the best avenues of approach for torpedo attack against selected heavy ship objectives. Thus they indicated accurate knowledge of harbor and channel depths and the berths ordinarily occupied by the major combatant units of our fleet. At least in the great majority of cases, the depth of water in Pearl Harbor did not prevent the successful execution of this form of attack. Shallow dives of the torpedoes upon launching were assured by the use of specially constructed wooden fins, remnants of which were discovered on enemy torpedoes salvaged after the attack.

Four separate torpedo-plane attacks were made during phase I. The major attack was made by 12 planes which swung in generally from the southeast over the tank farm and the vicinity of Merry Point. After splitting, they launched their torpedoes at very low altitudes (within 50 to 100 feet of the water), and from very short distances, aiming for the battle ships berthed on the southeast side of Ford Island. All the outboard battleships, namely, the Nevada, Arizona, West Virginia, Oklahoma, and California, were effectively hit by one or more torpedoes. Strafing was simultaneously conducted from the rear cockpits. A recovered unexploded torpedo carried an explosive charge of 1,000 pounds.

During the second of these attacks, the Oklahoma was struck by three torpedoes on the port side and heeled rapidly to port, impeding the efforts of her defenders to beat off the attackers.

The third attack was made by one torpedo plane which appeared from the west and was directed against the light cruiser Helena and the minelayer Oglala, both of which were temporarily occupying the berth previously assigned to the battleship Pennsylvania, flagship of the Pacific Fleet. One torpedo passed under the Oglala and exploded against the side of the Helena. The blast stove in the side plates of the Oglala. Submersible pumps for the Oglala were obtained from the Helena, but could not be used since no power was available because of damage to the ship's engineering plant.

The fourth wave of five planes came in from the northwest and attacked the seaplane tender Tangier, the target ship Utah, and the light cruisers Raleigh and Detroit. The Raleigh was struck by one torpedo, and the Utah received two hits in succession, capsizing at 8:13 a.m. At first it was feared that the Raleigh would capsize. Orders were, therefore, given for all men not at the guns to jettison all topside weights and put both airplanes in the water. Extra manila and wire lines were also run to the quays to help keep the ship from capsizing.

The Utah, an old battleship converted to a target ship, had recently returned from serving as a target for practice aerial bombardment. As soon as she received her torpedo hits, she began listing rapidly to port. After she had listed to about 40 degrees, the order was given to abandon ship. This order was executed with some difficulty as the attacking planes strafed the crew as they went over the side. Remnants of the crew had reached Ford Island safely. Later knocking was heard within the hull of the Utah. With cutting tools obtained from the Raleigh, a volunteer crew succeeded in cutting through the hull and rescuing a fireman second class who had been entrapped in the void scape underneath the dynamo room.

In the eight dive-bomber attacks occurring during phase I, three types of bombs were employed-light, medium, and incendiary.

During the second of these attacks, a bomb hit exploded the forward 14-inch powder magazine on the battleship Arizona and caused a ravaging oil fire, which sent up a great cloud of smoke, thereby interfering with antiaircraft fire. The battleship Tennessee in the adjacent berth was endangered seriously by the oil fire.

The West Virginia was hit during the third of these attacks by two heavy bombs as well as by torpedoes. Like the California, she had to be abandoned after a large fire broke out amidships. Her executive officer, the senior survivor, dove overboard and swam to the Tennessee, where he organized a party of West Virginia survivors to help extinguish the fire in the rubbish, trash, and oil which covered the water between the Tennessee and Ford Island.

The total number of dive bombers engaged in this phase is estimated at 30. Most of the torpedo damage to the fleet had occurred by 8:25 a.m. All the outboard battleships had been hit by one or more torpedoes all the battleships had been hit by one or more bombs with the exception of the Oklahoma, which took four torpedoes before it capsized, and the Pennsylvania, which received a bomb hit later. By the end of the first phase, the West Virginia was in a sinking condition the California was down by the stern the Arizona was a flaming ruin the other battleships were all damaged to a greater or lesser degree.

Although the initial attack of the Japanese came as a surprise, defensive action on the part of the fleet was prompt. All ships immediately went to general quarters. Battleship ready machine guns likewise opened fire at once, and within an estimated average time of less than 5 minutes practically all battleships and anti-aircraft batteries were firing.

The cruisers were firing all antiaircraft batteries within an average time of about 4 minutes. The destroyers, although opening up with machine guns almost immediately, averaged 7 minutes in bringing all antiaircraft guns into action.

During this phase of the battle there was no movement of ships within the harbor proper. The destroyer Helm, which had gotten under way just prior to the attack, was outside the harbor entrance when at 8:17 a submarine conning tower was sighted to the right of the entrance channel and northward of buoy No. 1. The submarine immediately submerged. The Helm opened fire at 8:19 a.m. when the submarine again surfaced temporarily. No hits were observed.

Phase II-8:25-8:40 a.m.-is described as a lull only by way of comparison. Air activity continued during this phase although somewhat abated, with sporadic attacks by dive and horizontal bombers. During this phase an estimated total of 15 dive bombers participated in 5 attacks upon the ships in the navy yard, the battleships Maryland, Oklahoma, Nevada, and Pennsylvania, and various light cruisers and destroyers.

Although three attacks by horizontal bombers occurred during the lull, these appear to have overlapped into phase III and are considered under that heading.

At 8:32 a.m. the battleship Oklahoma took a heavy list to starboard and capsized.

During phase II, there was still relatively little ship movement within the harbor. The ready-duty destroyer Monaghan had received orders at 7:51 a.m. (Pearl Harbor time) to "proceed immediately and contact Ward in defensive sea area." At about 8:37, observing an enemy submarine just west of Ford Island under fire from both the Curtiss and Tangier, the Monaghan proceeded at high speed and at about 8:43 rammed the submarine. As the enemy vessel had submerged, the shock was slight. The Monaghan thereupon reversed engines and dropped two depth charges.

The Curtiss had previously scored two direct hits on the conning tower. This submarine was later salvaged for inspection and disposal. The Monaghan then proceeded down the channel and continued her sortie. At the same time that the Monaghan got underway, the destroyer Henley slipped her chain from buoy X-11 and sortied, following the Monaghan down the channel.

The so-called lull in the air raid was terminated by the appearance over the fleet of eight groups of high-altitude horizontal bombers which crossed and recrossed their targets from various directions, inflicting serious damage. Some of the bombs dropped were converted 15- or 16-inch shells of somewhat less explosive quality, marked by very little flame. According to some observers, many bombs dropped by the high-altitude horizontal bombers either failed to explode or landed outside the harbor area.

During the second attack (at 9:06 a.m.) the Pennsylvania was hit by a heavy bomb which passed through the main deck amidships and detonated, causing a fire, which was extinguished with some difficulty.

The third group of planes followed very closely the line of battleship moorings. It was probably one of these planes that hit the California with what is believed to have been a 15-inch projectile equipped with tail vanes which penetrated to the second deck and exploded. As a result of the explosion, the armored hatch to the machine shop was badly sprung and could not be closed, resulting in the spreading of a serious fire.

Altogether, 30 horizontal bombers, including 9 planes which had participated in earlier attacks, are estimated to have engaged in phase III. Once more it was the heavy combatant ships, the battleships and cruisers, which bore the brunt of these attacks.

Although phase III was largely devoted to horizontal bombing, approximately 18 dive bombers organized in 5 groups also participated.

It was probably the second of these groups which did considerable damage to the Nevada, then proceeding down the South Channel, and also to the Shaw, Cassin, and Downes, all three of which were set afire.

During the fifth attack, a Japanese dive bomber succeeded in dropping one bomb on the seaplane tender Curtiss which detonated on the main-deck level, killing 20 men, wounding 58, and leaving one other unaccounted for.

During this same phase, the Curtiss took under fire one of these bombers, which was pulling out of a dive over the naval air station. Hit squarely by the Curtiss' accurate gunfire, the plane crashed on the ship, spattering burning gasoline and starting fires so menacing that one of the guns had to be temporarily abandoned.

Considerable ship movement took place during phase III. At 8:40 a.m. the Nevada cleared berth F-8 without assistance and proceeded down the South Channel. As soon as the Japanese became aware that a battleship was trying to reach open water, they sent dive bomber after dive bomber down after her and registered several hits. In spite of the damage she had sustained in the vicinity of floating drydock No. 2, and although her bridge and forestructure were ablaze, the ship continued to fight effectively. At 9:10, however, while she was attempting to make a turn in the channel, the Nevada ran aground in the vicinity of buoy No. 19.

Meanwhile the repair ship Vestal, also without assistance, had gotten underway at about 8:40, had cleared the burning Arizona, and at about 9:10 anchored well clear northeast of Ford Island.

Soon after the Nevada and Vestal had cleared their berths, tugs began to move the Oglala to a position astern of the Helena at "Ten-ten" Dock. The Oglala was finally secured in her berth at about 9:00, but shortly thereafter she capsized.

At 8:42, the oiler Neosho cleared berth F-4 unaided and stood toward Merry Point in order to reduce fire hazard to her cargo and to clear the way for a possible sortie by the battleship Maryland.

By 9:45 all enemy planes had retired. Evading our aerial searches, both shore-based and from carriers at sea, the Japanese striking force retired to its home waters without being contacted by any of our units.

2 The following are excerpts from hearings conducted in November 1945 by a Joint Congressional Committee investigating the Pearl Harbor attack.


Keeping Up the Fight

After they took off, they headed towards Barber’s Point at the southwest tip of Oahu, and initially saw an unarmed group of American B-17 Flying Fortress bombers arriving from the mainland United States. They soon arrived at Ewa Mooring Mast Field, which was being strafed by at least 12 Aichi D3A “Val” dive bombers of the second Japanese attack wave after expending their bomb ordinance at Pearl Harbor.

Although the two pilots were outnumbered six-to-one, they immediately began firing on the dive bombers. Taylor shot down two dive bombers and was able to damage another (the third damaged aircraft was considered Taylor’s first probable kill).

The two men continued to circle the skies fighting what targets presented themselves until they needed to return to base for more ammunition and fuel. Returning to Wheeler under the threat of friendly anti-aircraft fire, they sought to refuel and load up with the more potent .50 caliber ammunition for the nose-mount synchronized machine guns too.

When they returned to Wheeler, the .50 caliber ammunition was, unfortunately, residing in a burning hanger. Yet, two brave mechanics headed into the inferno in order to save the ammunition.

USS SHAW exploding Pearl_Harbor

With extra firepower, Welch and Taylor took to the skies again to take on the second wave of fighters and bombers. Taylor headed for a group of Japanese aircraft, and due to a combination of clouds and smoke, he unintentionally entered the middle of the formation of seven or eight A6M Zeros.

A Japanese rear-gunner from a dive bomber fired at Taylor’s aircraft and one of the bullets came within an inch of Taylor’s head and exploded in the cockpit. One piece went through his left arm and shrapnel entered his leg. Welch shot down the dive bomber aircraft that had injured Taylor, and Taylor damaged another aircraft (his second probable kill) before pulling away to assist Welch with a pursuing A6M Zero fighter.

The Zero and the rest of its formation soon broke off the pursuit and left to return to their carriers as Taylor neared Welch. Taylor continued to fire on several Japanese aircraft until he ran out of ammunition. Both pilots headed back to Haleiwa.

The attack was over and when it was done four planes would be claimed shot down by these two young Lieutenants with others damaged. With the overwhelming odds they faced, each man could have easily claimed after the first sortie that they had done all they could.

Yet, each man insisted on returning to the sky for additional runs. They did so without orders from their superiors and in fact, some accounts have them denying the request of a higher officer to remain on the ground. For their actions that day, each man was nominated for the Medal of Honor but were only awarded the Distinguished Serve Cross instead.


These Were the Japanese Spies Who Helped Plan Pearl Harbor

Key point: The Imperial Japanese needed inside knowledge of America's naval base.

“You are probably the nearest to war that you’ll ever be without actually being in it,” said Commander Harold M. “Beauty” Martin as he addressed his men on the morning of December 6, 1941, at Kaneohe Naval Air Station on Mokapu Peninsula, located less than 15 miles east-northeast of Pearl Harbor. “Keep your eyes and ears open and be on the alert to every moment,” said the well-respected commander.

One fellow who was keeping his eyes wide open that day was Japanese spy Takeo Yoshikawa. He closely observed the Pacific Fleet at anchor in Pearl Harbor on the south side of Oahu late in the afternoon from vantage points at Aiea Heights and the Pearl City Landing. Later the same day he sent a coded report to Tokyo noting that the U.S. Army had ordered equipment for barrage defense balloons, but none was yet on scene, and he opined that torpedo nets probably were not in place to protect the battleships at anchor in Pearl Harbor. “I imagine that there is considerable opportunity left … for a surprise attack,” he added, as the clock continued ticking.

Meanwhile, Commander Martin’s somber, cautionary message earlier in the day was being widely debated by the American sailors, a number of whom belittled the racial and intellectual capabilities of the Japanese, especially their ability to handle fast-moving aircraft. Some even argued that any aggressive Japanese actions against the United States would be quashed within two weeks.

But within 24 hours those men and their American compatriots at Pearl Harbor would be in the fight of their lives against two waves of incoming Japanese bombers and fighters. Within 90 minutes of the first attack early on December 7, the Japanese had sunk four battleships and damaged another four of the large ships, three cruisers, and three destroyers and consigned nearly 200 American aircraft to the scrapyard. Worse yet, more than 2,400 Americans were killed and more than 1,175 wounded in the surprise attack.

Raid on Kaneohe Naval Air Station

Those at the Kaneohe Naval Air Station were among the first to face the enemy onslaught that Sunday morning. The nimble Mitsubishi A6M Zeros came in at 7:48 am, strafing a small utility plane and fanning out over the station and firing promiscuously. The officer on duty called nearby Bellows Field requesting help, but his message was treated as a joke. Kaneohe contractor Sam Aweau called both Bellows and Hickam airfields, but his warnings also were met with disbelief.

Commander Martin, for his part, was gulping a cup of coffee in his quarters and preparing hot chocolate for his 13-year-old son when the youth reported seeing the Japanese planes maneuvering above. Once Martin spotted the Rising Sun emblem for himself, he quickly tossed his uniform on over his blue silk pajamas and dashed for the car. Screeching through the still-quiet residential neighborhood at upward of 50 miles per hour, Martin managed to park near his command post and run toward it amid a hail of bullets.

The first parked plane was already in flames when Martin arrived at Kaneohe, and soon the Japanese bombers joined the fray. He was proud of how his men responded, many of whom were newcomers to the service. “There was no panic,” he said. “Everyone went right to work battling back and doing his job.”

Unfortunately, Kaneohe had no antiaircraft guns. Sailors and marines fired their pistols and rifles at the low-flying aircraft without success. Once the first wave of attackers disappeared, the men dashed to the hangars and planes. The ordnance staffers began issuing rifles and machine guns and disbursing ammunition from locked storage areas.

Aviation Chief Ordnanceman John W. Finn positioned both a .30-caliber and a .50-caliber machine gun on the parking ramp for the Consolidated PBY Catalinas (PBY) and began dueling with the Japanese Zeros as they strafed Kaneohe. Finn moved back and forth between the two weapons, but he spent most of his time at the .50 caliber. As he fired, he was assisted by sailors who replenished his ammunition. Finn’s steady firing damaged several Zeros. No one knows for sure whether it was Finn or someone else, perhaps an ordnanceman named Sands, who fired the rounds that struck flight leader Lieutenant Fusata Iida’s aircraft.

The nine Zeros led by Iida were beginning to reassemble to head back to the carrier fleet when Iida motioned to his wingman that he had sustained damage to his fuel tanks and would not be able to make the return flight. He therefore decided to make a kamikaze run on Kaneohe’s armory. As he lined up and flew toward the armory, more ground fire struck his aircraft. The plane missed the armory and crashed into the ground.

By the time the fighting was finished at Kaneohe, the Japanese had destroyed or damaged 33 PBYs, killed 19 servicemen, and caused major damage to the installation. Despite the great risk they took, the Japanese suffered few losses in the audacious attack against the home of the U.S. Pacific Fleet.

Takeo Yoshikawa: Japanese Spy at Pearl Harbor

Much of the credit goes to spies like Yoshikawa, a youngish looking naval reserve ensign who had only arrived in Hawaii nine months earlier. He was employed as a cover by the Japanese foreign ministry using an alias while actually working for the Imperial Japanese Navy. He had been providing continuous and rather thorough updates on U.S. Navy deployments, arrivals and departures from Pearl Harbor, centerpiece of U.S. naval operations in the Pacific. Yoshikawa was scrupulously careful, carrying no camera, maps, or documents with him and never jotting down notes on what he observed on his outings around Hawaii.

In many ways, Yoshikawa was the perfect man for the mission. He had a solid naval background, having graduated in 1933 from the Japanese Naval College as well as from torpedo, gunnery, and aviation programs in the Imperial Japanese Navy. He also had served as a code officer aboard a cruiser. He then had worked three years in Tokyo with the Imperial Japanese Navy’s British affairs section before expressing an interest in working abroad as an agent. That led to his assignment in Hawaii working for Japan’s foreign ministry as a cover.

Yoshikawa did not have diplomatic immunity, and he was not officially linked to the Imperial Japanese Navy when he arrived in Hawaii. Otherwise, he would have been known to the American counterintelligence officials nearly immediately. Only Nagao Kita, the new consul in Hawaii, and Vice Consul Okuda, who had done some prior spying in Hawaii, were aware of Yoshikawa’s true role in providing Japan with updates on the U.S. Navy.

Yeoman First Class Harry T. Thompson

American security had tightened before Yoshikawa’s arrival, in part due to deteriorating relations between the two countries. The deteriorating relations were a result of Japan’s continued aggression in China and concerns about future potential moves against such Western interests as Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, and the oil-rich Dutch East Indies.

Two Japanese spying incidents on the American mainland in the 1930s had put the United States on alert. One involved former Navy Yeoman First Class Harry T. Thompson who had been discharged from service for problems relating to alcohol, overspending, and “an appetite for attractive young men,” according to one source. His services were retained by the Japanese, and he used a chief yeoman’s dress uniform, purchased at a tailor shop near a base, to gain entry to American bases and ships, thanks to his uniform, lax security, and fast talking. He managed to obtain gunnery manuals and reports on the 8-inch guns carried by the USS Pensacola, the first of a new class of cruisers capable of 32 knots and costing Japan its previous technical advantages in the cruiser category.

Toward the end of 1934 Thompson was able to board a number of ships stateside where he obtained important quarterly schedules of employment for battleships and cruisers, as well as information on main batteries, torpedoes, and related intelligence. He boarded the USS Mississippi in December and managed to abscond with a 230-page U.S. Navy gunnery school publication from a confidential file. He reboarded the ship the next month and purloined reports on the main gun batteries and torpedoes.

His former live-in boyfriend exposed Thompson’s homosexuality to Navy officials. Officials followed Thompson for a while, gathered additional evidence, and questioned him about his suspicious activities. At that point, Thompson confessed to working as a spy for the Japanese. When efforts by the Office of Naval Intelligence to have Thompson cooperate as a counterspy failed, he fled using funds supplied by the Japanese. He was apprehended and in mid-1936 was found guilty of espionage and sentenced to 15 years in federal prison.