Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Pearl Harbor Pt 3.

The United States Army and Army Air Force

Led by Lt General Walter Short the Army and Army Air Force were responsible for many shore installations and the like including the large number of P-40 Warhawks and for December 7th, incoming B-17 Bombers transferring in from the West Coast. Another factor was that the Army was running a brand new Radar Station that had just been installed. This station actually picked up the incoming air planes and did all they were supposed to, and relayed this information as was their duty.
One flaw however was the placement of aircraft, the decision was taken to put the airplanes as closely as possible, instead of either dispersing them to various fields or placing them at the edges of the runway. The quality of pilots was unquestionable however and their primary aircraft, the P-40 Warhawk was a decent enough aircraft, inferior to the Zero, but was having success enough in China. On the other hand, a few brave men managed to get aircraft off the ground, including a P-36 Hawk, which was beyond obsolete. If asked I will give the names over, but one thing is certain, all did the outstanding work of the day in the air and all went on to have brilliant service records like so many others in the war. It is a little more difficult to leave iconic photographs here, but it is clear that like the Navy, the men of the US Army/Army Air Force did their best during the attack.

The Day of the Attack

Of course the attack came on the potentially most lax day possible. For one it was December, I expect officers and sailors and airmen were preparing for Christmas in addition to the fact it was Sunday. The primary duties of a Sunday were Church, cleaning the ships and getting back to the ship after a Saturday night ashore doing what most sailors do well, all of this meant that it was very easy to guess why Pearl Harbor was surprised by almost 200 Japanese planes attacking the naval and army/air-force installations. The attack was immediate as it was brutal, the aircraft soared into the harbor to hit various targets. One of the first ships to go was Oklahoma, which capsized with multiple torpedo hits, many of her crew would be trapped in her hull, and only a few would be saved by the efforts of their fellow sailors. Maryland, which was inboard of Oklahoma only suffered minor damage and was like Tennessee capable of sailing under her own power later and actually was the first ship returned to service in June 1942. Other ships began to suffer damage, West Virginia took 7 torpedo hits and sank quickly, with her Captain being mortally wounded by flying debris from Tennessee which only took two bomb hits but was trapped for ten days being inboard of West Virginia in the area known as Battleship Row. Arizona, which is the saddest story of all, was hit by a bomb penetrating into the forward magazines and causing a cataclysmic detonation which left the forward half of the ship a shattered wreck and over 1100 crew dead in an instant, a most horrific sacrifice of the men of the United States Navy. The explosion was felt all over Pearl Harbor, and knocked men from their posts and off ships and blew out windows, planes in the air did feel the shock wave as well. The only other battleship in Pearl on active service, was Pennsylvania, which was fortunately in dry dock and suffered light damage as well, it was the second Battleship to return to service after Maryland. The USS Utah, a long since decommissioned WW1 Veteran, was torpedoed and also capsized, she and Arizona are the only two remaining warships left in Pearl Harbor from that day today.

The attacks on the airfields were just as catastrophic, while 8 pilots did manage to get airborne, 300 plus planes were destroyed or damaged, which severely curtailed the Army Air Force. On the other hand, various other installations were left untouched by the fact that the Japanese did not focus on those targets and only launched two waves. Thereby leaving the fleet and army fuel supplies untouched, the Submarine pens were left untouched and various other facilities vital to the future war effort were also untouched. The loss of life was still substantial, 2,403 Military Personnel, 68 Civilians were killed, 1,178 personnel were wounded, and 35 civilians were wounded. It is then fitting that the comment to end this section comes from Admiral Kimmel himself, he was watching the horror of the attack unfold, when a spent fifty caliber bullet crashed through a window and hit his uniform, he stated, "It would have been merciful if it had killed me." Kimmel would be demoted to Rear Admiral just ten short days after the attack, his career and life in tatters like so many on that day. Lt General Walter Short was also demoted to Major General and retired as well. Both officers have not been reinstated to their ranks and the expectation of this happening is low. The entire day really will go down for ever in infamy and it is to the credit of this nation, that for four years afterwards, we did remarkable deeds to both win WW2 and avenge the fallen there at Pearl Harbor. It is with nothing short of astonished pride I have met in my life time any WW2 veteran, to meet any of those that ever survived Pearl and went on to serve further, should count among American citizens the highest honor possible. FDR rallied us the very next day and the rest as they say is history.

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