Pearl Harbor Day
A day to remember -
75 years ago
"a day that will live in infamy"
USS Tennessee ~ USS West Virginia
USS California - Abandoning Ship
Wheeler Army Air Corp Field
The attack on Pearl Harbor was a sneak attack that shocked the United States. On the morning of December 7, 1941, planes
and midget submarines of the Imperial Japanese Navy began a surprise attack on the U.S. under the command of Admiral Isoroku
Yamamoto. At 0609 hrs. on December 7, 1941, the six Japanese carriers launched a first wave of 181 planes composed mainly
of torpedo bombers, dive-bombers, horizontal bombers, and fighters. The Japanese hit American ships and military installations
at 0755 hrs. They attacked military airfields and at the same time they hit the fleet anchored in Pearl Harbor. The battleship
"USS Arizona" was hit with an armor-piercing bomb, which penetrated the forward ammunition compartment, blowing the ship apart.
Overall, twenty-one ships of the U.S. Pacific fleet were damaged and the death toll reached 2, 388, along with 68 civilians
and 1,178 injured. Of the military personnel lost at Pearl Harbor, 1,177 were from the Arizona. President Franklin Delano
Roosevelt declared December 7, 1941, "a date which will live in infamy.
The attack wrecked two U.S. Navy battleships, one minelayer, and two destroyers beyond repair, and destroyed 188 aircraft;
personnel losses were 2,388 killed and 1,178 wounded. Damaged warships included three cruisers, a destroyer, and six battleships
(one deliberately grounded, later re-floated and repaired; two sunk at their berths, later raised, repaired, and restored
to Fleet service late in the war). Vital fuel storage, shipyards, and submarine facilities were not hit. Japanese losses
were minimal, at 29 aircraft and five midget submarines, with 65 servicemen killed or wounded.
Men aboard U.S. ships awoke to the sounds of alarms, bombs exploding, and gunfire prompting bleary eyed men into dressing
as they ran to General Quarters stations. The famous message, "Air raid Pearl Harbor. This is not drill.", was sent from
the headquarters of Patrol Wing Two, the first senior Hawaiian command to respond. Despite a lack of readiness, many American
military personnel served with distinction during the battle. Rear Admiral Isaac C. Kidd and Captain Franklin Van Valkenburgh
(her skipper) both rushed to the bridge of USS Arizona to direct her defense, until they were killed by an explosion in the
forward magazine, resulting from an armor piercing bomb hit next to turret two. Both were posthumously awarded the Medal
of Honor. Ensign Joe Taussig got his ship, USS Nevada, under way from a dead cold start during the attack. One of the destroyers,
USS Aylwin, got under way with only four officers aboard, all Ensigns, none with more than a year's sea duty. That ship operated
at sea for four days before her commanding officer managed to get aboard. Captain Mervyn Bennion, commanding USS West Virginia
(Admiral Kimmel's flagship), led his men until he was cut down by fragments from a bomb hit to USS Tennessee, moored alongside.
Gallantry was widespread. In all, 14 officers and sailors were awarded the Medal of Honor. A special military award, the
Pearl Harbor Commemorative Medal, was later authorized for all military veterans of the attack.
Although the Japanese concentrated on battleships (the largest vessels present), they did not ignore other targets. The light
cruiser USS Helena was torpedoed, and the concussion from the blast capsized the neighboring minelayer USS Oglala. Two destroyers
in dry dock were destroyed when bombs penetrated their fuel bunkers. The leaking fuel caught fire; flooding the dry dock
in an effort to fight fire made the burning oil rise, and so the ships were burned out. The light cruiser USS Raleigh was
holed by a torpedo. The light cruiser USS Honolulu was damaged but remained in service. The destroyer USS Cassin capsized,
and destroyer USS Downes was heavily damaged. The repair vessel USS Vestal, moored alongside Arizona, was heavily damaged
and beached. The seaplane tender USS Curtiss was also damaged. USS Shaw was badly damaged when two bombs penetrated her
Almost all of the 188 American aircraft in Hawaii were destroyed or damaged, 155 of those on the ground. Almost none were
actually ready to take-off to defend the base, having been parked wingtip-to-wingtip as a sabotage protection measure. Of
33 PBYs in Hawaii, 24 were destroyed, and six others damaged beyond repair. The three on patrol returned undamaged. Attacks
on barracks killed additional personnel. Friendly fire brought down several U.S. planes, including some from an inbound flight
from USS Enterprise.
Fifty-five Japanese airmen and nine submariners were killed in the action. Of Japan's 414 available planes (361 took part
in the attack), 29 were lost during the battle (nine in the first attack wave, 20 in the second) with another 74 damaged by
antiaircraft fire from the ground.
USS West Virginia took two aerial bombs (one dud) and seven torpedo hits; of the seven at least five were from aircraft and
one from a midget submarine.