Saturday, December 7, 2013

DECEMBER 7 = Pearl Harbor; 9/11 for a Past Generation

Above: the U.S.S. Arizona explodes from a direct hit by a Japanese bomb.

Radar at Opana Point and the Japanese Attack

"Army Sgt. Joe Lockhard glanced first at the calender. December 7, 1941, only 17 more shopping days to Christmas......a blip appeared on the radar (the Sgt. was watching the radar at the radar station on Opana Point). Odd. There shouldn't be anything out there, nor should anything be approaching Oahu from the bleak wastes of the North Pacific which was far off normal steamer lanes. Lt. Kermit A. Taylor was the lone officer on duty.....he listened patiently to Sgt. Lockhard's report, and saw no reason for concern. It must be a squadron of Hickam Field bombers...or possibly the B-17's due from the coast."
- Dale Brix.

"Major Alan Shapley, the commander of (the U.S.S.)Arizona's Marine detachment, was enjoying his breakfast when he felt a terrific jar..... he ran topside investigate. He vividly recalled some sailors standing at Arizona's rail watching a flight of planes flash across the harbor. he heard one of the men remark, 'This is the best goddamn drill the Army Air Force has ever put on!' Lt. Commander Samuel G. Fuqua reached the deck about the same time. Fuqua directed Ensign H.D. Davidson to sound General Quarters. About that time the ship took a bomb hit on the starboard side of the quarterdeck....."
- Gordon W. Prange

This was the scene early on the morning of this date, December 7
1941 at the United States
naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The battleship U.S.S.  Ari- zona  was one of several U.S. battleships which found themselves the subject of the attack by Japanese naval aircraft that Sunday morning. This surprise attack by the Japanese Empire shocked every American who was alive at the time, and for generations after would remain the most important and shattering experience in our nations history. Not until the events of September 11, 2001 would more Americans die in one event. Not until 9/11 would America feel the sting of a sneak attack by a hostile foreign power. And not until 9/11 would there be that single event, wherein everyone remembered where they were and what they were doing when they heard about it.  My father remembers being in a car going across Knowlton's Corner in Cincinnati with his brother Hank when the news came over the car's radio.  Perhaps some of your relatives have similar memories.

Admiral Kimmel Also Witnesses the Destruction

The Commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, Admiral Husband E. Kimmel also had the unenviable experience of witnessing the attack upon his base described above. He had been at his home on the phone with his duty officer, Commander Vincent Murphy, who first heard of the attack during the call, and passed the news along to the shocked Kimmel:

"The Admiral slammed down the receiver and dashed outside, buttoning his white uniform jacket as he ran. Next door to Kimmel, (his neighbors)the Earles' new home commanded a clear view of Battleship Row across the harbor. Kimmel and Mrs. Earle stood transfixed as the planes flew over "circling in figure 8's then bombing the ships, turning and dropping more bombs." They "could plainly see the rising suns on the wings and would have seen the pilot's faces had they leaned out." Mrs. Earle's sympathetic heart spilled over in grief and pity for the Admiral as he watched 'in utter disbelief and completely stunned,' his stricken face 'as white as the uniform he wore.' "

Kimmel and Short Are Made Scapegoats

Admiral Kimmel and Pearl Harbor's Army base commander, Lt. General Walter C. Short (pictured above) would be saddled with the brunt of the blame for the Pearl Harbor disaster in subsequent inquiries. Kimmel had been a very tough and disciplined naval officer. He was known to eschew many of the social functions which went with his job. "Admiral Kimmel was no party animal...Hard, sharp and utterly frank, he worked himself to the bone." in the words of Walter Lord. But he and Short found themselves on the receiving end of all of the blame. The two argued that much key information had been kept from them, thus preventing them from taking the kind of precautionary measures that were needed. Clearly, both Kimmel and Short made mistakes in the weeks leading up to the devastating attack. But this writer can only look upon it a serious mis-carriage of justice for these men to have been saddled with the whole blame. It is regrettable, but they wound up being scapegoats. Nevertheless, historians still argue the matter to this day.

FDR and the "Day of Infamy".

On Dec. 8, President Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke to the U.S. Congress to request a Declaration of War against Japan. He labeled Dec. 7 "a date which will live in infamy." Speaking to the American people that evening he said:

"We are now in this war. We are in it -- all the way. Every single man, woman and child is a partner in the most tremendous undertaking of our American history. We must share together the bad news and the good news, the defeats and victories -- the changing fortunes of war. We are going to win this war, and the peace that follows."

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"At Dawn We Slept - the Untold Story of Pearl Harbor" by Gordon W. Prange, Penguin Books, New York, 1981.

"Day of Infamy" by Walter Lord, Holt, & Co., New York, 1957

"Pearl Harbor and the Day of Infamy" - Dale Brix, UPI from the Dec. 4, 1966 issue of the Cincinnati Enquirer.


USS Arizona =

USS Shaw =

Adm. Kimmel & Gen. Short =

FDR = gallery3/index.php/wwii1412

+ 136.
+ 82.

1 comment:

  1. A comment that was posted on 12/9/09, after the original posting of this account of the Pearl Harbor attack:

    On December 7, 1941 the President of the United States was asked: “How did the Japanese catch us with our pants down?” The Congress of the United States later asked: “one enigmatical and paramount question . . . . [w]hy was it possible for a Pearl Harbor to occur?” On December 11, 1941, the Director of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover, thought he had the answer and sent it to the President immediately: Army and Navy Intelligence in Washington, DC had learned the entire Japanese attack plan days before the attack, and sent it to Admiral Kimmel, the Commander-in-Chief of the Pacific Fleet in Hawaii, who did nothing about it.

    Supreme Court Associate Justice Owen Roberts, Chairman of the Roberts Commission, the tribunal immediately appointed to investigate the Pearl Harbor disaster, tried but could not prove that Kimmel had this information and failed to act on it. But then Roberts put blinders on and failed to follow Mr. Hoover’s logically suggested written investigative leads in Washington, D.C., as to whether this information was available in Washington and simply not sent to Hawaii. And then later, Roberts inexplicably lied to Congress about where he got the original allegation against Kimmel.