SUN 7 DEC 1941
TU 4.1.2 (Commander Fred D. Kirtland), accompanied by salvage vessel Redwing (ARS-4) and oiler Sapelo (AO-11), while escorting convoy HX 162, reaches the MOMP; 21 of the 35 merchantmen scattered by the storm encountered on 1 December have rejoined by this time.
Unarmed U.S. Army-chartered steam schooner Cynthia Olson is shelled and sunk by Japanese submarine I 26 about 1,000 miles northwest of Diamond Head, Honolulu, T.H., 33°42'N, 145°29'W. She is the first U.S. merchantman to be sunk by a Japanese submarine in World War II. There are no survivors from the 33-man crew or the two Army passengers.
Japanese Type A midget submarine attempts to follow general stores issue ship Antares (AKS-3) into the entrance channel to Pearl Harbor; summoned to the scene by the auxiliary vessel, destroyer Ward (DD-139), on channel entrance patrol, with an assist from a PBY (VP 14), sinks the intruder with gunfire and depth charges. Word of the incident, however, works its way with almost glacial slowness up the chain of command.
Army radar station at Opana Point, Oahu, soon thereafter detects an unusually large "blip" approaching from the north, but the operator reporting the contact is told not to concern himself with the matter since a formation of USAAF B-17s is expected from the west coast of the United States. The army watch officer dismisses the report as "nothing unusual." The "blip" is the first wave of the incoming enemy strike.
Consequently, "like a thunderclap from a clear sky" Japanese carrier attack planes (in both torpedo and high-level bombing roles) and bombers, supported by fighters, totaling 353 planes from naval striking force (Vice Admiral Nagumo Chuichi) attack in two waves, targeting ships of the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, and nearby military airfields and installations. Japanese planes torpedo and sink battleships Oklahoma (BB-37) and West Virginia (BB-48), and auxiliary (gunnery training/target ship) Utah (AG-16). On board Oklahoma, Ensign Francis G. Flaherty, USNR, and Seaman First Class James R. Ward, as the ship is abandoned, hold flashlights to allow their shipmates to escape; on board West Virginia, her commanding officer, Captain Mervyn Bennion, directs his ship's defense until struck down and mortally wounded by a fragment from a bomb that hits battleship Tennessee (BB-43) moored inboard; on board Utah, Austrian-born Chief Watertender Peter Tomich remains at his post as the ship capsizes, securing the boilers and making sure his shipmates have escaped from the fireroom. Flaherty, Ward, Bennion, Tomich and Bennion's falling in action sets in motion a chain of events that will result in Mess Attendant First Class Doris Miller becoming the first African-American to be awarded the Navy Cross. Miller, a brawny, broad-shouldered former high school football player, is recruited to carry the mortally wounded captain from the bridge. Their egress temporarily blocked by fires, however, the men are compelled to remain on the bridge. Miller mans a .50-caliber machine gun and later tells interviewers modestly that he believes he may have damaged two low-flying Japanese planes. Sadly, Miller will not survive the war; he will perish with escort carrier Liscome Bay (CVE-56) on 24 November 1943 off the Gilberts.
Japanese bombs also sink battleship Arizona (BB-39); the cataclysmic explosion of her forward magazine causes heavy casualties, among them Rear Admiral Isaac C. Kidd, Commander Battleship Division 1, who thus becomes the first U.S. Navy flag officer to die in combat in World War II. Both he and Arizona's commanding officer, Captain Franklin van Valkenburgh, are awarded Medals of Honor, posthumously. In addition, the ship's senior surviving officer on board, Lieutenant Commander Samuel G. Fuqua, directs efforts to fight the raging fires and sees to the evacuation of casualties from the ship; he ultimately directs the abandonment of the doomed battleship and leaves in the last boat. He is awarded the Medal of Honor.
When Arizona explodes, she is moored inboard of repair ship Vestal (AR-4); the blast causes damage to the repair ship, which has already been hit by a bomb. Vestal's captain, Commander Cassin Young earns the Medal of Honor by swimming back to his ship after being blown overboard by the explosion of Arizona's magazines, and directing her beaching on Aiea shoal to prevent further damage in the fires consuming Arizona.
Battleship California (BB-44) is hit by both bombs and torpedoes and sinks at her berth alongside Ford Island; during the battle, Ensign Herbert C. Jones, USNR, organizes and leads a party to provide ammunition to the ship's 5-inch antiaircraft battery; he is mortally wounded by a bomb explosion. Gunner Jackson C. Pharris, leading an ordnance repair party, is stunned by concussion of a torpedo explosion early in the action but recovers to set up an ammunition supply train, by hand; he later enters flooding compartments to save shipmates. Chief Radioman Thomas J. Reeves assists in maintaining an ammunition supply party until overcomes by smoke inhalation and fires; Machinist's Mate Robert R. Scott, although his station at an air compressor is flooding, remains at his post, declaring "This is my station and I will stay and give them [the antiaircraft gun crews] air as long as the guns are going." Jones, Pharris, Reeves and Scott all receive the Medal of Honor (Jones, Reeves and Scott posthumously).
Japanese bombs damage destroyers Cassin (DD-372) and Downes (DD-375), which are lying immobile in Drydock No. 1.
Minelayer Oglala (CM-4) is damaged by concussion from torpedo exploding in light cruiser Helena (CL-50) moored alongside, and capsizes at her berth; harbor tug Sotoyomo (YT-9) is sunk in floating drydock YFD-2. Contrary to some secondary accounts, Utah (a converted battleship) is not attacked because she resembled an aircraft carrier, she is attacked because, in the excitement of the moment, she looked sufficiently like the capital ship she once had been. Of the other sunken ships, California, West Virginia, Oglala, and Sotoyomo are raised and repaired; Cassin and Downes are rebuilt around their surviving machinery; all are returned to service. Oklahoma, although raised after monumental effort, is never repaired, and ultimately sinks while under tow to the west coast to be broken up for scrap. The hulks of Arizona and Utah remain at Pearl as memorials.
Battleship Nevada (BB-36), the only capital ship to get underway during the attack, is damaged by bombs and a torpedo before she is beached. Two of her men are later awarded the Medal of Honor: Machinist Donald K. Ross for his service in the forward and after dynamo rooms and Chief Boatswain Edwin J. Hill (posthumously) for his work in enabling the ship to get underway and, later, in attempting to release the anchors during the attempt to beach the ship.
Battleships Pennsylvania (BB-38), Tennessee (BB-43), and Maryland (BB-46), light cruiser Honolulu (CL-48), and floating drydock YFD-2 are damaged by bombs; light cruisers Raleigh (CL-7) and Helena (CL-50) are damaged by torpedoes; destroyer Shaw (DD-373), by bombs, in floating drydock YFD-2; heavy cruiser New Orleans (CA-32), destroyers Helm (DD-388) and Hull (DD-350), destroyer tender Dobbin (AD-3), repair ship Rigel (AR-11), and seaplane tender Tangier (AV-8)*, are damaged by near-misses of bombs; seaplane tender Curtiss (AV-4) is damaged by crashing carrier bomber; garbage lighter YG-17 (alongside Nevada at the outset) is damaged by strafing and/or concussion of bombs.
Destroyer Monaghan (DD-354) rams, depth-charges, and sinks Type A midget submarine inside Pearl Harbor proper, during the attack. This particular Type A may have been the one whose periscope harbor tug YT-153 attempts to ram early in the attack.
Light minelayer Gamble (DM-15) mistakenly fires upon submarine Thresher (SS-200) off Oahu, 21°15'N, 159°01'W.
Thresher mistakes Gamble for destroyer Litchfield (DD-336) (the latter ship assigned to work with submarines in the Hawaiian operating area), the ship with which she is to rendezvous. Gamble, converted from a flush-deck, four-pipe destroyer, resembles Litchfield. Sadly, the delay occasioned by the mistaken identity proves fatal to a seriously injured sailor on board the submarine, who dies four hours before the boat finally reaches port on the 8th, of multiple injuries suffered on 6 December 1941 when heavy seas wash him against the signal deck rail.
Carrier Enterprise (CV-6) Air Group (CEAG, VB 6 and VS 6) search flight (Commander Howard L. Young, CEAG), in two-plane sections of SBDs, begins arriving off Oahu as the Japanese attack unfolds; some SBDs meet their doom at the hands of Japanese planes; one (VS 6) is shot down by friendly fire. Another SBD ends up on Kauai where its radio-gunner is drafted into the local Army defense force with his single .30-caliber machine gun. Almost all of the surviving planes, together with what observation and scouting planes from battleship (VO) and cruiser (VCS) detachments, as well as flying boats (VP) and utility aircraft (VJ) that survive the attack, take part in the desperate, hastily organized searches flown out of Ford Island to look for the Japanese carriers whence the surprise attack had come.
Navy Yard and Naval Station, Pearl Harbor; Naval Air Stations at Ford Island and Kaneohe Bay; Ewa Mooring Mast Field (Marine Corps air facility); Army airfields at Hickam, Wheeler, and Bellows; and Schofield Barracks suffer varying degrees of bomb and fragment damage. Japanese bombs and strafing destroy 188 Navy, Marine Corps, and USAAF planes. At NAS Kaneohe Bay, Aviation Chief Ordnanceman John W. Finn mounts a machine gun on an instruction stand and returns the fire of strafing planes although wounded many times. Although ordered to leave his post to have his wounds treated, he returns to the squadron areas where, although in great pain, he oversees the rearming of returning PBYs. For his heroism, Finn is awarded the Medal of Honor.
Casualties amount to: killed or missing: Navy, 2,008; Marine Corps, 109; Army, 218; Civilian, 68; Wounded: Navy, 710; Marine Corps, 69; Army, 364; Civilian, 35. One particular family tragedy prompts concern in the Bureau of Navigation (later Bureau of Naval Personnel) on the matter of brothers serving in the same ship, a common peacetime practice in the U.S. Navy. Firemen First Class Malcolm J. Barber and LeRoy K. Barber, and Fireman Second Class Randolph H. Barber, are all lost when battleship Oklahoma (BB-37) capsizes. The Bureau considers it in the "individual family interest that brothers not be put on the same ship in war time, as the loss of such a ship may result in the loss of two or more members of the family, which might be avoided if brothers are separated." The Bureau, however, stops short of specifically forbidding the practice. On 3 February 1942, it issues instructions concerning the impracticality of authorizing transfers of men directly from recruit training to ships in which relatives are serving, and urges that brothers then serving together be advised of the undesirability of their continuing to do so. Authorizing commanding officers to approve requests for transfers to facilitate separation, the Bureau directs in July 1942 that commanding officers of ships not forward requests for brothers to serve in the same ship or station. This is too late, however, to prevent the five Sullivan brothers from serving in light cruiser Juneau (CL-52) (see 13 November 1942). Acts of heroism by sailors, marines, soldiers and civilians (from telephone exchange operator to yard shop worker), in addition to those enumerated above, abound. Among the civilians who distinguish themselves this day is Tai Sing Loo, the yard photographer, who has a scheduled appointment to take a picture of the marine Main Gate guards. During the attack, he helps the marines of the Navy Yard fire department fight fires in dry dock number one and later, in the wake of the morning's devastation, delivers food to famished leathernecks.
Japanese losses amount to fewer than 100 men, 29 planes of various types and four Type A midget submarines. A fifth Type A washes ashore off Bellows Field and is recovered; its commander (Ensign Sakamaki Kazuo) is captured, becoming U.S. prisoner of war number one.
Japanese Naval Aviation Pilot First Class Nishikaichi Shigenori, from the carrier Hiryu, crash-lands his Mitsubishi A6M2 Type 0 carrier fighter (ZERO) on the island of Niihau, T.H. He surrenders to the islanders who disarm him and confiscate his papers but, isolated as they are, know nothing of the attack on Pearl Harbor. "Peaceful and friendly," Nishikaichi is not kept in custody but is allowed to roam the island unguarded (see 9, 12-14 December).
First night recovery of planes in World War II by the U.S. Navy occurs when Enterprise turns on searchlights to aid returning SBDs (VB 6 and VS 6) and TBDs (VT 6) that had been launched at dusk in an attempt to find Japanese ships reported off Oahu. Friendly fire, however, downs four of Enterprise's six F4Fs (VF 6) (the strike group escort) that are directed to land at Ford Island. Other Enterprise SBDs make a night landing at Kaneohe Bay, miraculously avoiding automobiles and construction equipment parked on the ramp to prevent just such an occurrence.
Damage to the battle line proves extensive, but carriers Enterprise and Lexington (CV-2) are, providentially, not in port, having been deployed at the eleventh hour to reinforce advanced bases at Wake and Midway. Saratoga (CV-3) is at San Diego on this day, preparing to return to Oahu. The carriers will prove crucial in the coming months (see Chapter VI, February-May 1942). Convinced that he has proved fortunate to have suffered as trifling losses as he has, Vice Admiral Nagumo opts to set course for home, thus inadvertantly sparing fuel tank farms, ship repair facilities, and the submarine base that will prove invaluable to support the U.S. Pacific Fleet as it rebuilds in the wake of the Pearl Harbor disaster.
Midway Island is bombarded by Japanese Midway Neutralization Unit (Captain Kaname Konishi) consisting of destroyers Ushio and Sazanami; Marine shore batteries (6th Defense Battalion) return the fire, claiming damage to both ships. One of the submarines deployed on simulated war patrols off Midway, Trout (SS-202), makes no contact with the enemy ships; the other, Argonaut (SS-166), is unable to make a successful approach, and Ushio and Sazanami retire from the area. Subsequent bad weather will save Midway from a pounding by planes from the Pearl Harbor Attack Force as it returns to Japanese waters.
Damage control hulk DCH 1 (IX-44), formerly destroyer Walker (DD-163), being towed from San Diego, California, to Pearl Harbor, by oiler Neches (AO-5), is cast adrift and scuttled by gunfire from Neches at 26°35'N, 143°49'W.
Japanese declaration of war [N.B.: the so-called "Fourteen Point message" is not a declaration of war; it merely declares an impasse in the ongoing diplomatic negotiations. The Imperial Rescript declaring a state of war between the Japanese Empire and the United States is not issued until the next day, in Tokyo. pwc] reaches Washington, D.C., after word of the attack on Pearl Harbor has already been received in the nation's capital.
President orders mobilization.
*One more reminder that this reporter's father was a gunner's mate aboard the Tangier & returning fire in his skivvies.