On War And Warfare

Pacific War Encyclopedia, Pearl Harbor Outtakes
compiled by Albert A. Nofi

The Pacific War Encyclopedia

Note: In the description of individual ships, the formula (1920-1925-1927) indicates the year of laying down, the year of launch, and the year of commissioning.

Attack on Pearl Harbor

Japan opened the war with three major attacks and several minor ones. The first strike (by a number of hours) was at Pearl Harbor. The objective was to cripple the only force (the U.S. Pacific fleet, and particularly its battleships) in the Pacific that could interfere with the other two Japanese attacks (on the Philippines and Malaya ). Surprise was essential in the Pearl Harbor attack. This was so not just because surprise put the defender at a disadvantage, but also because attacking a major naval base with carrier aircraft in broad daylight was had never been done before and no one was sure how successful it would be. On paper it appeared it would work, and the British had been rather successful in a nighttime air raid on the Italian fleet in Taranto Harbor on 11-12 November 1940. The experienced and history savvy officers of the Japanese fleet knew that the first time anything is tried, particularly something risky, the unexpected can be expected.

The Pearl Harbor operation was the brain child of Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto . He first suggested the idea in a conversation with another admiral in February 1941. That Spring he ordered his staff to gather information about the proposal. Formal planning began in the summer, and was completed in November of 1941. The basic concept was to injure American military power in the Pacific to such an extent that Japan would be able to overrun so vast a territory that the U.S. would ultimately decide on a negotiated peace rather than a protracted war. Japan could not grab a lot of territory in the Pacific if a large enemy fleet were in the same waters. America had the only other large fleet, and most of it was based at Pearl Harbor in the Hawaiian Islands. Cripple that fleet, and Japan could do whatever it could get away with in the Pacific.

The Pearl Harbor Striking Force (six carriers, two fast battleships, two heavy cruisers, a light cruiser, nine destroyers, and three submarines , supported by eight tankers and supply ships,) was concentrated in great secrecy Tankan Bay , a secure anchorage in the Kurile Islands north of Japan. As part of the undertaking, another group of submarines was assigned to ferry two man midget subs tasked with penetrating Pearl Harbor from the sea at the same time the airmen attacked.

On 26 November 1941, the Strike Force sailed, under the command of VAdm Chuichi Nagumo . Maintaining total radio silence, the Strike Force took a route through the North Pacific, which had proven wholly devoid of shipping under normal circumstances. The progress of the Strike Force across the Pacific was relatively fast, despite the necessity of having to refuel by the inefficient tow method.

Although American and Allied intelligence were aware that war was increasingly imminent, the much less secretive concentration of Japanese forces for their offensive southwards into the "Southern Resources Area" (Malaya, the Netherlands East Indies, the Philippines, and so on) attracted their attention. War warnings to Pacific Theater commanders only confirmed their expectations that something would soon happen in that quarter.

In December of 1941 the naval and air base at Pearl Harbor and other installations on Oahu, in the central Hawaiian Islands, represented the greatest concentration of American military power in the world. In normal circumstances the island was the home of nine or ten battleships, three carriers (with over 250 aircraft), a score or more cruisers, and literally dozens of destroyers, submarines , mine warfare vessels, and support ships, plus about 500 land-based aircraft and two under strength infantry divisions. On the morning of 7 December 1941, there were eight battleships, two heavy cruisers, six light cruisers, 29 destroyers, five submarines , one gunboat, nine minelayers and ten minesweepers, and 24 auxiliaries plus several ancient hulks being used for various purposes (including a cruiser so old she had fought at Manila Bay in 1898). In addition to combat forces, Oahu had elaborate maintenance and repair facilities, extensive warehouses, and a large fuel dump. Command of these forces was divided between Admiral Husband Kimmel and LG Walter C. Short. Typical of the haphazard command structure that prevailed in the U.S. Armed Forces before (and to some extent during) World War II, neither officer was in overall command. Short was responsible for the defense of Hawaii from attack, including air attack and the protection of the fleet when in port. Kimmel was responsible for all naval forces and for the direction of naval operations. Although the two socialized occasionally, and even played golf together, there was little professional liaison between them, and they did not consult with each other very often on matters respecting their commands and missions, nor had they arranged for the development of a cooperative defense plan should the islands be attacked..

As early as February of 1941, Short had dismissed the possibility of a carrier air raid on the place, despite the fact that the Navy had several times practiced such a strike against the Panama Canal , San Diego , and Pearl Harbor itself. These practice raids had demonstrated that such operations were not all that difficult. Although air raid drills were held periodically --there was one at 0200 on 6 December-- Short's principal concern was the perceived threat of sabotage by members of Hawaii's large resident Japanese and Japanese-American population.

The Japanese Strike Force arrived at a point some 275 miles north of Pearl Harbor late on 6 December. At 0600 the next morning admiral Nagumo launched his first strike, of 49 high level bombers, 40 torpedo bombers, and 51 dive bombers, escorted by 51 fighters. As these flew southwards, they split up into different sections, each with its particular objective.

Two U.S. Army enlisted men manning an experimental radar system spotted the incoming aircraft and called air defense headquarters twice. However, the duty officer at air defense headquarters --a very junior lieutenant without much military experience-- twice dismissed the bogie, suggesting that it was a flight of B-17s due in from California.

At about the same time, the destroyer Ward, on patrol outside the harbor entrance, spotted a submarine periscope, made a vigorous attack, and confirmed a kill (getting one of the five Japanese midget subs which were trying to enter the harbor), but no one took the destroyer's skipper's frantic messages seriously. As a result, the air raid achieved complete surprise, the first bombs falling at 0755. Airbases were hit first, to insure no interference from American aircraft. Then the bombers went after the fleet, anchored neatly in the shallow and narrow waters of Pearl Harbor. Although it was a Sunday morning, and many of the ships' companies were under strength, having sent men ashore on weekend passes, fleet anti-aircraft guns came into action quite quickly. The first strike worked the ships over heavily. The principal objective was the battleships, of which seven were tied up along "Battleship Row" and an eighth was in dry-dock. These took an enormous pounding, notably the ships moored outboard of Ford Island. Within a half-hour, all eight battleships were damaged or sunk, as were ten other warships. The strike ended at 0825. A second strike almost as strong as the first (50 high level bombers, 80 dive bombers, and 40 fighters) came over at 0840, Nagumo having launched it at 0645. Hampered by dense smoke from the damage inflicted by the first strike, and by an increasingly voluminous anti-aircraft fire, the second strike inflicted relatively little damage. It flew home at 0945.

Even as the second strike flew back to their carriers, a critical argument was going on aboard the Japanese flagship. Impressed by the success of their first strike, air minded officers like Minorou Genda and Mitsuo Fuchida tried to convince Nagumo to undertake a third strike, this time against the harbor installations, warehouses, and fuel dumps. Nagumo demurred, concerned over the location of the American carriers, which had not yet been located. As a result, as soon as the second strike had been recovered, the

The Strike Force turned back for Japan. No Japanese naval task force ever again penetrated so far eastwards.

Pearl Harbor was a devastating defeat for the United States. A total of 18 warships were sunk or heavily damaged, including two battleships which were total losses, Arizona and Oklahoma. In addition, nearly 200 aircraft had been destroyed, virtually all on the ground. Casualties were 2,402 killed and 1,382 wounded

Army 222360
Note that the casualty figures are found with minor variations in different official sources.

Japanese losses were five midget submarines and about 28 aircraft, for a total of less than 50 men. Arguably, the defeat could have been worse. The three Pacific Fleet carriers escaped the debacle (Saratoga was undergoing a refit at San Diego , while Lexington and Enterprise were at sea, returning from delivering aircraft to Wake and other island garrisons).

A case can be made that Nagumo's decision not to undertake a third strike was in error, for it would have destroyed the fuel dumps, thereby crippling the remnants of the fleet, and so seriously damaged the harbor facilities that not even minor repairs would be practical, thereby, in effect, forcing the U.S. back to the West Coast. While such a possibility existed, it is important to note that Nagumo's second strike had been relatively ineffective (in fact, most of the Japanese aircraft losses occurred during the second strike). Moreover, since his own pilots had just demonstrated the devastating effectiveness of carrier aviation, his concern over the location of the U.S. carriers was by no means unreasonable.


Akagi, Japanese Aircraft Carrier

Japan’s first large carrier, Akagi (1920-1925-1927) had been laid down as a 41,000 ton battle cruiser. She was converted to a carrier under the terms of the Naval Disarmament Treaty of 1922. She was fast and rather well protected for a carrier, but could only operate about two-thirds of the aircraft that she was capable of storing. With Kaga she formed Carrier Division One. Akagi saw action in the Sino-Japanese War, and she as flagship of the First Air Fleet she served from Pearl Harbor to Midway , where she had to be scuttled after U.S. dive bombers turned her into a burning wreck.


Bywater, Hector (1884-1940)

A British journalist whose novel The Great Pacific War (1925) allegedly predicted the principal events of the Second World War in the Pacific, from the attack on Pearl Harbor in conjunction with simultaneous assaults on other places across the Pacific, to the U.S. counteroffensive through the Central Pacific.

Actually, Bywater's novel was not as prescient as is often claimed, nor was it adopted as a textbook by the Japanese Naval War College, though apparently some instructors and students did read it.

The broad outline of the probable course of a naval war between the U.S. and Japan had been discussed in the professional literature for many years, and was readily accessible to Bywater, who specialized in military reporting. In fact, Bywater had actually written a "serious" book on the subject, Sea Power in the Pacific: A Study of the American-Japanese Naval Problem (London: 1921).

The novel was not very accurate. It did include a "surprise attack," but on a portion of the fleet whilst at sea in the Western Pacific, rather than while it was in port at Pearl Harbor, and the attack was conducted by combined air and sea forces. Bywater almost entirely missed the dominant role that air power would have in the war, so that all the naval battles are decided largely by surface gunnery duels. He wholly underestimated the requirements for amphibious operations, missed entirely Japan's vulnerability to the submarine, and assumed that there would be only one line of advance against the Japanese, rather than the multiple offensives (major ones in the Central and Southwest Pacific, and smaller ones in Southeast Asia, China, and, if only as a threat, in the Aleutians).


California and Tennessee, U.S. Battleships

Like all the older U.S. battleships, California, nicknamed the "Prune Barge", and her sister was rather slow, but were powerful, well protected vessels. In practical terms they were half-sisters to the New Mexico Class and the Maryland Class , which they greatly resembled.

California, BB-45 (1916-1919-1921), the largest American warship ever built on the West Coast (and with the old Oregon of 1896, one of only two major American capital ships ever built there), was “unbuttoned” on the morning of 7 December 1941, with her watertight doors opened in anticipation of an inspection. She took two torpedoes and one bomb, which set off a magazine explosion. A fast thinking young ensign instituted counter flooding measures, which prevented here from capsizing, and she sank on an even keel. Raised, she required major reconstruction, which included widening her to 114 feet and making even more closely like West Virginia, of the Maryland Class. She rejoined the fleet in mid-1944 and served in support of amphibious landings to the end of the war. With Tennessee and West Virginia, she played a major role in the night battleship action off Surigao Strait in October of 1944, when, with West Virginia, they collectively fired 225 14 ­inch and 16-inch rounds at the Japanese fleet. Scrapped in the early 1960s.

Tennessee, BB-43 (1917-1919-1920) was tied up between West Virginia and Ford Island on 7 December 1941, and was only light damaged, by two Japanese bombs and by a great deal of debris when Arizona, tied up astern, exploded. She was back in service within weeks, operating with the remnants of the battlefleet until late 1942. Modernized, though not as much as California, she emerged in mid-1943 in time to support the Kiska landings. She went on to support operations through to the end of the war. Scrapped in the early 1960s.


Enterprise, U.S. Aircraft Carrier

Enterprise was a unit of the Yorktown Class, along with Yorktown and Hornet. Arguably the most successful class of warship ever built, and certainly one of the most decorated, the Yorktowns were the model for all future U.S. carrier designs. Relatively large, fast, very sea worthy vessels with excellent protection and large aircraft complements, they played an enormous part in the Pacific War, garnering great distinction in the process.

Enterprise, CV-6 (1934-1936-1938) was flagship of the Halsey Task Force at the time of Pearl Harbor, delivering reinforcements to Wake Island. She took part in the early raids on Japanese islands, escorted Hornet on the Doolittle Raid, fought at Midway, Eastern Solomons , and the Santa Cruz Islands, covered numerous landings throughout 1942-1944, and fought on through to the end of the war, suffering frequent damage in action. By the end of the war she was the most decorated ship in American history. Despite a campaign to preserve her as a war memorial, “The Big E” was scrapped in 1958.

Yorktown CV-5 (1934-1936-1937) was in the Atlantic when Pearl Harbor was bombed; she fought at the Coral Sea and Midway, where she was lost.]

Hornet, CV-8 (1939-1940-1941) was shaking down in the Atlantic when the war began, she shortly passed into the Pacific, carried Jimmy Doolittle's B-25s to within bombing range of Japan, fought at Midway, the Eastern Solomons, and the Santa Cruz Islands, she sank, after taking an enormous amount of punishment.]


Fuchida, Mitsuo (1902-1976)

A Japanese Navy pilot , Fuchida helped plan the Pearl Harbor attack and was the tactical commander of the air strike. It was he who sent the famous message “Tora! Tora! Tora! --Tiger! Tiger! Tiger!” as the airstrike arrived over the fleet, to signal that complete surprise had been achieved. Upon his return to the flagship Akagi, he pressed Admiral Chuichi Nagumo to launch a third strike, which the latter overruled. Ill, and unable to fly at Midway , he was wounded when Akagi was attacked. He later served on Admiral Koga’s staff.. After the war, and after being cleared of any war crimes by the Allied War Crimes Commission, Fuchida read a pamphlet written by Jacob Deshazer, an American bombardier who had taken part in Doolittle's Tokyo Raid in 1942. Deshazer, who had been shot down, captured, and tortured by the Japanese, returned to Japan after the war as a Methodist missionary, and his pamphlet, on his cruel days as a prisoner and his subsequent forgiveness of the Japanese, inspired Fuchida, a Buddhist, to purchase a Bible. He read it and not only converted to Christianity in 1950 but also became a minister. Fuchida later moved to the United States and eventually became an American citizen.


Genda, Minoru (1904-1989)

A Japanese naval aviation officer, Genda was a tactical innovator and excellent planner. His analysis of the British air attack on the Italian Fleet at Taranto on 11-12 November 1940 was a factor in the evolution of Isoroku Yamamoto’s scheme to attack Pearl Harbor , an operation which Genda helped to plan. He took part in the Pearl Harbor operation with the First Air Fleet, and was present at Midway, which, like Fuchida , he survived by mere chance (both men were ill during the battle, but had gone AWOL from sick bay on Akagi to observe the attack of Torpedo Squadron 8, and thus were on deck when the US dive bombers arrived overhead). He spent most of the rest of the war as a staff officer in Japan or other rear areas. After the war he joined the Japanese Self Defense Forces, and eventually rose to be the seniormost officer on active duty.


Halsey, William F. (1882-1959)

"Bill" (never "Bull" except in the headlines) Halsey (1882-1959), a Navy brat, graduated from Annapolis in 1904, and shortly was assigned to various battleships, sailing with "Great White Fleet." He alternated command of several destroyers with a tour on the staff of the Naval Academy from 1911 through 1921, winning a Navy Cross during World War I for action in the North Atlantic. In 1921 he was posted to the Office of Naval Intelligence, serving as a naval attaché in Germany and several other European countries until 1924. He returned to sea duty, commanding various destroyers and serving on battleships until 1927. He then had a round of academic posts and school assignments, emerging in 1935 as a 52 ­year old naval aviator. Over the next few years he commanded the carrier Saratoga, the Pensacola Naval Air Station, Carrier Division 2, Carrier Division 1, all air units of the Pacific Battle Force, and Carrier Division 2 again. Shortly before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor Halsey was sent to ferry aircraft to Wake Island, and upon departing Hawaii he placed his division on full war alert, one of several officers who understood the meaning of "this is to be considered a war warning". In the war he had an active, varied, and distinguished career, retiring as a Fleet Admiral.


Hiryu, Japanese Aircraft Carrier

Although sometimes inaccurately called a sister of Soryu , Hiryu (1936-1937-1939) was somewhat larger, had different dimensions, and a greater operating range, with marginally more aircraft operating capacity. Paired with Soryu in Carrier Division Two, she served during the China Incident and with the First Air Fleet from Pearl Harbor to Midway , where she took four bombs from U.S. dive bombers which caused extensive fires and forced her to be scuttled. She was the last of the four Japanese carriers to be fatally stricken during the battle, and before she sank her air group accounted for the USS Yorktown .


Kaga, Japanese Aircraft Carrier

Kaga (1920-1921-1928) was originally designed as a battleship, and was scheduled to be scrapped on the ways under the Washington Naval Disarmament Treaty. She was reprieved and converted to a carrier when Akagi's sister ship was wrecked abuilding by the great Tokyo earthquake of 1923. More or less a half-sister of Akagi, she was rather slower. Like all older carriers, she was modernized during the 1930s. Kaga took part in operations against China 1932-1939, and with Akagi, she formed Carrier Division One, and roamed the Pacific from Pearl Harbor to Midway , where U.S. dive bombers put four bombs into her, starting fires which caused her to blow up and sink eight hours later.


Kimmel, Husband E. (1882-1968)

The son of a Confederate officer (who had not resigned from the U.S. Army until after fighting against the Confederacy at Bull Run!), Husband E. Kimmel graduated from the Naval Academy in 1904. Before World War I he served in various battleships, took part in the Great White Fleet's world cruise, and was wounded during the occupation of Vera Cruz in 1914. The following year he served as an aide-­de-camp to Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt , an assignment which would have a positive effect on his career. During World War I Kimmel served as a gunnery officer in the 6th Battle Squadron, the American reinforcement to Britain’s Grand Fleet, and as a technical advisor to the Royal Navy . He rose rapidly during the years of peace, and in early 1941 F.D.R. jumped him over the heads of numerous other officers to command the entire U.S. Fleet. Making his headquarters with the Pacific Fleet, Kimmel was at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked, and was sacked ten days later. Beached, he held no further commands until retirement. Although several congressional investigations concluded that Kimmel, and his army counterpart LTG Walter C. Short, were guilty of dereliction of duty and had committed errors of judgment, a post-war inquiry reduced the conclusions to errors of judgment, a more accurate assessment.

Kimmel was a good officer, and his actions after the Japanese attack were commendable. He organized a carrier sortie which might have caught two Japanese carriers unawares off Wake, he dispatched his submarines on aggressive war patrols, and reorganized what surface and air forces as remained. But all of this was after the fact. Other senior officers in the Pacific (for example, Hart of the Asiatic Fleet, as well as Kimmel’s subordinates Wilson Brown and Halsey) perceived that war was imminent on the basis of existing communications from the Navy Department. Kimmel lacked aviation credentials and had not attended the war college. He does not seem to have an effective grasp of the complexities of modern warfare; for example, in the event of war he intended to command the fleet from the bridge of the battleship Pennsylvania. Although he was definitely aware of the vulnerability of Pearl Harbor to surprise air attack - there are documents which confirm this - he appears to have been lulled into complacency by the strength of his forces, the apparent impregnability of the Hawaiian Islands, and his own contempt for the Japanese.

The argument as to the extent of Kimmel's responsibility for the disaster at Pearl Harbor is never ending (albeit that Halsey appears to have thought he had been lax). Kimmel made things worse by demanding a court martial (which he could not be given, since it would reveal that the Japanese Purple Code had been broken, albeit that knowing this would not have strengthened his case, since it involved diplomatic communications) and by hurling accusations in all directions, particularly that his former patron President Roosevelt and other high officials had “denied” him information that they had which would have caused him to place his forces on alert. Arguably a case can be made that he did not receive certain information, although how much more warning he could have needed than that which he had already received, the Marshall-Stark message of 27 November 1941, which stated "This is to be considered a war warning," and ended with the line “Execute appropriate defense deployment preparatory to carrying out the task assigned in WPL 46X,” the latter a raid against the Marshal Islands that had been proposed by Kimmel himself in the event of war, and that the next day he was informed “Hostile action is possible at any moment.…"

In a highly partisan vote, in 1999 Congress enacted a resolution exonerating Kimmel and Short of responsibility for the disaster, and not-so-subtly implying that President Roosevelt was at fault.

Kimmel was the brother-in-law of Admiral Thomas Kincaid , after whom he named his second son. The two older of his three sons were naval academy graduates and submariners. The elder, Manning E. Kimmel, Annapolis 1935, survived the sinking of his boat, USS Rebalo (SS-273) on 26 July 1944, and made it ashore on Palawan wan in the Philippines with some of his crew, only to be captured by Japanese troops, and later burned to death. When word of this reached Nimitz , Kimmel’s replacement, ordered the admiral’s second son, Thomas Kinkaid Kimmel to shore duty.


Kirishima and Hiei, Japanese Battleships

Units of the Kongo-Class, unlike the lead ship, HIJMS Kongo, which was built in a British shipyard, Kirishima, Kiei, and their sister Haruna were built in Japanese yards, to the same design. They were the last Japanese warships to be designed by foreign naval architects. Originally built as battlecruisers (at 27.5 knots fast for their day), during the 1930s they were extensively reconstructed. They were given additional armor, while their engines were replaced with more modern ones, bringing their speed up to about 30 knots. These upgrades permitting them to be reclassed as "fast battleships" and they accompanied carrier task forces in the early part of the war. As a result, units of this class saw much more action than all other Japanese battleships taken together, and Kirishima and Hiei formed part of the First Air Fleet for the raid on Pearl Harbor.

Hiei (1911-1912-1914)was disarmed in 1930 under the terms of the naval disarmament treaties of 1922 and 1930, and served as a training ship during the 1930s. In the late ‘30s she was secretly modernized and rearmed, and joined the fleet in time to help escort the First Air Fleet in its operations from Pearl Harbor to the Indian Ocean. She then served in the Solomons , where she became the first Japanese battleship to be lost in the war, when she was turned into a burning wreck by about 50 shells of 5-inch to 8-inch caliber off Guadalcanal on November 12-13, 1942, her shattered hulk being sunk that morning by U.S. aircraft.

Kirishima (1912-1913-1915)served on routine fleet duties from her completion until the outbreak of World War II. Paired with Hiei for much of the war, she served with the First Air Fleet at Pearl Harbor and in the Indian Ocean. She took part in both major night actions off Guadalcanal on 12-13 and 14-15 November 1942, during the second of which she absorbed nine 16" and about 40-50 5-inch shells, which turned her into a burning wreck, causing her to be scuttled.


Lexington and Saratoga, U.S. Aircraft Carriers

Laid down as battlecruisers, Lexington and her sister Saratoga were converted to carriers under the terms of the naval Disarmament Treaties . The largest, most impressive looking carriers in the U.S. Navy during the war, they had the most powerful engines in the fleet until the advent of the Iowa Class battleships, and the longest flight decks (888-feet) until the Midway Class entered service. They used a very successful, but very expensive electric turbine drive, so powerful that Lexington was once able to jump-start a municipal power plant after a blackout. The two ships were central to the development of American naval air power doctrine, serving as test beds for numerous experiments in strategy , tactics, and even logistics. Initially operating only about 65 aircraft, it was eventually realized that they could comfortably function with over 100.

Lexington, CV-2 (1921-1925-1927) was one of the most beloved ships ever to wear the American flag. At sea when Pearl Harbor was attacked, she took part in all the early carrier operations, from the abortive relief mission to Wake Island , to the Mandates raids, and Wilson Brown’s strike across the Own Stanley Mountains in Papua, before fighting in the Battle of the Coral Sea . On 8 May 1942 she was damaged by two torpedoes and two bombs, which caused a list and some fires. Her damage control parties appeared to have had everything under control when two severe internal explosions wracked the ship, caused by the accumulation of fumes from avgas. The ship had to be abandoned and sunk by torpedoes the USS Phelps (DD-360). Adjustments were made to all other carriers to limit future incidents of the same sort.

Saratoga, CV-3 (1920-1925-1927) was at San Diego when Pearl Harbor was attacked. She took part in the abortive Wake Island relief mission, was torpedoed on 11 Jan 1942 south of Hawaii , took part in the raids on the Mandates in the Spring of 1942, helped cover the Guadalcanal landings, took another torpedo 31 August 1942 off Guadalcanal , fought in the Battle of the Eastern Solomons , supported landings all cross the Pacific, served with the Royal Navy in the Indian Ocean for a time in 1944, then returned to the Pacific in time to take a Kamikaze off Iwo Jima . Although repaired, she saw no further combat service in the war, and was expended as a target at Bikini.


Maryland, Colorado, and West Virginia, U.S. Battleships

Although designed during World War I, the completion of these ships, indeed the laying down of two of them, was delayed in order to incorporate lessons learned during the war. Virtually identical to the Californias , save for their main armament (eight 16-inch guns rather than twelve 14­inchers), the Marylands were the most powerful of the prewar American battleships, and formed the core of the battlefleet in the Pacific.

Colorado, BB-45 (1919-1921-1923) was refitting at San Diego when Pearl Harbor was attacked, and thus was the least modernized of the three sisters. She served with the battle force that was scrapped together to backstop the carriers during the Midway Campaign, and then went on to support landings throughout the Pacific. Scrapped in 1959.

Maryland, BB- 46 (1917-1920-1921) was lightly injured at Pearl Harbor , and returned to the fleet rather quickly. She served to support amphibious operations to the end of the war, taking a torpedo off Saipan in June 1944, getting off 48 16-inch rounds at Surigao Strait , shortly after which she took a Kamikaze . Scrapped, 1959.

West Virginia, BB-45 (1920-1921-1923) was heavily damaged at Pearl Harbor, and so extensively rebuilt as to be more a sister of the Californias than the Marylands, with a 114-foot beam, which prevented her from passing through the Panama Canal . She did not return to the fleet until September of 1944. She played a critical role at Surigao Strait , getting off numerous salvoes, and supported amphibious operations through Okinawa . Scrapped 1959.


Miller, Dorie (1919-1943)

A native of Waco, Texas, Dorie (actually Doris, sometimes rendered Dory) Miller enlisted in the Navy in 1939, and was a Mess Attendant (Steward’s Mate) 2nd Class aboard the battleship West Virginia on 7 December 1941. When the Japanese attacked, Miller first rendered assistance to the ship’s captain, Mervyn S. Bennion, who was mortally wounded. After carrying Bennion to a place of relative safety, Miller manned a machine gun through the balance of the attack, being officially credited with downing two Japanese aircraft (and unofficially with six, albeit that accepting all the unofficial claims would presuppose that few of the Japanese got away). For his heroism under fire, Miller was promoted Mess Attendant 1st Class and decorated with the Navy Cross by Chester W. Nimitz .

Returning to duty, Miller was serving aboard the escort carrier Liscome Bay when the Japanese submarine I-175 torpedoed her in the Gilberts on 24 November 1943. The ship sank with great loss of life, 644 of her 840 crewmen perishing, among them Miller.

Over the years there have been occasional proposals to upgrade Miller’s Navy Cross to a Medal of Honor , on the grounds that he was denied one because of his race. While it is true that several black soldiers during World War II probably deserved the Medal of Honor, Miller’s deeds --for which he achieved nationwide fame-- were certainly in keeping with the traditional criteria for the Navy Cross. On the other hand, a number of awards of the Medal of Honor were made primarily for political reasons, such as that to Douglas MacArthur .

Miller’s job, Mess Attendant or Steward’s Mate, was the most common one assigned to Black Americans by the U.S. Navy until well after the war, even black submariners. Although the Navy was desegregated in the early 1950s, black sailors for higher skilled rates were slow to show up on many ships. In some cases, especially on smaller ships like destroyers, a newly assigned black specialist, like a radioman, might be the only black sailor on the vessel aside from the messmen. Some captains, wanting to avoid any racial tensions among an otherwise lily white crew, would give the black radioman the option of bunking with the messmen rather than in the other bunk areas where the rest of the sailors lived. More than one black sailor, realizing that the separate messmen bunking area was rather more comfortable, albeit segregated, than the rest of the crew quarters, opted for the "separate but unequal" accommodations. Since the messmen took care of the food for the officers, this also meant they had access to better chow than the rest of the crew. This, in addition to the better quarters, passed into history in 1970, when the messman rating was abolished.


Nagumo, Chuichi (1886-1944)

Chuichi Nagumo graduated from the naval academy in 1908, becoming a destroyerman and expert in torpedo warfare. During the 1920s he traveled in Europe and America, before returning to Japan to commence a series of increasingly important ship and squadron commands. Early in 1941 he was given the First Air Fleet, which he commanded in the attack on Pearl Harbor . Although Japan's premier carrier admiral, Nagumo was not an able tactician or a bold leader. At Pearl Harbor his conservative nature caused him to refuse his staff's urging that a third strike be launched to hit the American fuel supplies and other targets at the now devastated base. However, in the following six months he added to his reputation by leading strikes against Allied bases in Australia and the Indian Ocean. His shortcomings didn't catch up with him until Midway, where his indecisiveness contributed to the loss of four Japanese carriers. He survived this debacle and continued to command carrier forces during 1942 as the Japanese attempted to retake Guadalcanal . In these battles he demonstrated again a lack of drive and by the end of 1942 had been relegated to the command of the Saesbo Naval Base. In 1944, he was given command of the forces defending Saipan . On 7 July 1944, he committed suicide as invading American forces completed their conquest of Saipan.


Nevada and Oklahoma, U.S. Battleships

Old battleships, but well designed and a significant advance on the previous New York Class , they introduced a new armoring scheme, the “Nevada Plan,” in which protection was on an “all or nothing” basis: absolutely vital areas of the ship were given extremely heavy protection (13.5-inch side armor with 18-inches on the turret faces), while everything else was ignored. Both served with the Royal Navy during World War I, although they saw no action. Between the wars they were extensively rebuilt.

Nevada, BB-36 (1912-1914-1916). The only battleship to get underway during the Pearl Harbor attack, incurred heavy damage and was beached rather than risk having her sink in the narrow harbor entrance. Raised, she was extensively rebuilt and emerged as a very successful ship, in appearance surprisingly similar to the South Dakota Class. She saw action at Attu , then operated in the European Theater, helping support the Normandy invasion, returned to the Pacific, where she continued to support amphibious operations. She took a Kamikaze off Okinawa . After the war she was used as a target in the Bikini nuclear weapons tests, and finally sunk in weapons trials in 1948.

Oklahoma, BB-37 (1912-1914-1916), was struck hard below the waterline at Pearl Harbor and capsized. Hundreds of men trapped below were rescued through holes hastily cut in her bottom, but others could not be reached and died there. She became the object of one of the largest salvage operations in history, and after her hull was sealed while still under water, on 16 June 1943 she righted by a series of 21 bents, massive cranes mounted on the hull. It was determined that she was not worth repairing and was sold for scrap. Shortly after the war she was being towed to the US when she broke loose in a storm about 500 miles northwest of Hawaii, and was never seen again.


Pearl Harbor Chronology


The Pacific War began before the bombs fell on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941. For China the war began in 1931, when the Japanese seized Manchuria, or perhaps in 1932, when the Japanese briefly seized Shanghai, or maybe 1933, when they grabbed Jehol Province. Certainly for China the war definitely began in 1937, when the Japanese began a sustained campaign to conquer the entire country, the “China Incident ”. But, however much many of them may have sympathized with the sufferings of the Chinese people, Americans did not think of China’s war as their war. For Americans the war began at Pearl Harbor. But even that date is erroneous.

Military Operations of the Pearl Harbor Campaign

26 November 1941, the Japanese First Air Fleet sorties from Tankan Bay in the Kurile Islands at a cruising speed suitable for a long voyage: Destination, Pearl Harbor.

27 November 1941. An official communiqué from U.S. Army Chief-of-Staff Gen. George C. Marshall, issued with the concurrence of the Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Harold R. Stark, and the two service secretaries, is sent to all major U.S. headquarters in the Pacific, “This dispatch is to be considered a war warning. Negotiations with Japan looking toward stabilization of conditions in the Pacific have ceased and an aggressive move by Japan is expected within the next few days. . . . Execute appropriate defense deployment preparatory to carrying out the task assigned in WPL 46X [an attack on the Marshall Islands]."

28 November 1941. The Chief of Naval Operations signals Adm. Husband Kimmel at Pearl Harbor, "Hostile action is possible at any moment...." Kimmel does not take the message seriously, not does Lt. Gen. Walter Short, commanding Army forces on Hawaii. That same day carrier Enterprise sails from Pearl Harbor with aircraft for Wake; Once at sea, Rear Adm. William Halsey, the task force commander, orders the crew to full wartime alert, a measure also adopted by Adm. Thomas Hart, commanding the Asiatic Fleet, and Lt. Gen John L. DeWitt, commanding US Army forces on the West Coast, while the Commander, Submarines, Pacific Fleet, orders his boats to take up defensive positions off Wake and Midway Islands.

29 November 1941. Gen. Hideki Tojo, Prime Minister of Japan, announces that “Nothing can be allowed to interfere in Japan’s sphere of influence in the Pacific, because it has been decreed by Divine Providence.”

2 December 1941. President Roosevelt asks Japan to clarify its intentions with regard to French Indochina where the Japanese show signs of taking over the entire region. That same day the British declare a state of emergency in Malaya, where "Force Z" (battleship Prince of Wales, battlecruiser Repulse, and four destroyers) has just arrived at Singapore. Reconnaissance aircraft on Hawaii are ordered to search out as far as 400 miles, in an arc from the northwest to the south. At 43 North, 158 30' East, about 3,200 miles northwest of Pearl Harbor, the Japanese First Air Fleet alters course due east. To thunderous cheers, the officers and crewmen of the First Air Fleet are informed that their objective is Pearl Harbor.

3 December 1941. Reconnaissance aircraft on Hawaii are ordered to search out to 400 miles in an arc from the northwest to the south. The First Air Fleet refuels, at 45 N, 170 E, about 2,400 miles northwest of Pearl Harbor. Upon completion of the refueling, the tankers return to Japan and the fleet resumes its eastward course, increasing speed. It crosses the International Date Line during the night, so the next day for the First Air Fleet is the 5th. The Japanese carrier fleet is now committed to the attack, no matter what.

4 December 1041. Heavily escorted Japanese invasion forces began to sail for their objectives in Southeast Asia. U.S. carrier Enterprise flies-off reinforcements for Wake Island, and shapes course for Pearl Harbor. Reconnaissance aircraft on Hawaii are ordered to search up to 400 miles from the northwestward to the south.

5 December 1941. Additional Japanese invasion forces sail southwards from Camrahn Bay and Saigon Carrier Lexington steams from Pearl Harbor to deliver aircraft to Midway. At 45 North 178 West, about 1200 miles northwest of Pearl Harbor, the Japanese First Air Fleet alters course from due east to southeast.

6 December 1941. President Roosevelt makes a personal appeal to Emperor Hirohito asking him to use his influence to help preserve peace in the Pacific. Reconnaissance aircraft on Hawaii are ordered to concentrate their efforts to the west and south. At 2100 hours the Japanese First Air Fleet arrives at 31 N, 158 E, about 500 miles north of Pearl Harbor.

7 December 1941. The First Air Fleet attacks U.S. bases on Oahu, Hawaii, inflicting heavy damage to the fleet and to army installations, at little loss to itself. Japanese destroyers shell Midway island. That same day, west of the International Date Line, and therefore officially the 8th, Japanese aircraft destroy U.S. air power in the Philippines in a massive raid on Clark and Iba airfields on Luzon. Japanese destroyers attack Wake. Japanese troops begin landing in Malaya , attack Hong Kong , occupy the International Settlement in Shanghai , invade Siam. The U.S. and Britain declare war on Japan. British "Force Z" sails from Singapore . An Australian independent infantry company lands on western Timor , in the Netherlands East Indies . A Dutch submarine sinks the Japanese destroyer Isonami off Celebes, the first Japanese warship to be sunk in the war. Japanese troops land on Guam .


Pearl Harbor Medal of Honor Awards

Fourteen men were awarded the Medal of Honor for heroism on Pearl Harbor Day.


Rank and organization: Captain, U.S. Navy. Born: 5 May 1887, Vernon, Utah. Appointed from: Utah. Citation: For conspicuous devotion to duty, extraordinary courage, and complete disregard of his own life, above and beyond the call of duty, during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor, by Japanese forces on 7 December 1941. As Commanding Officer of the U.S.S. West Virginia, after being mortally wounded, Capt. Bennion evidenced apparent concern only in fighting and saving his ship, and strongly protested against being carried from the bridge.


Rank and organization: Ensign, U.S. Naval Reserve. Born: 15 March 1919, Charlotte, Mich. Accredited to: Michigan. Citation: For conspicuous devotion to duty and extraordinary courage and complete disregard of his own life, above and beyond the call of duty, during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor, by Japanese forces on 7 December 1941. When it was seen that the U.S.S. Oklahoma was going to capsize and the order was given to abandon ship, Ens. Flaherty remained in a turret, holding a flashlight so the remainder of the turret crew could see to escape, thereby sacrificing his own life.


Rank and organization: Captain, U.S. Navy, U.S.S. Arizona. Place and date: Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, 7 December 1941. Entered service at: Laddonia, Mo. Born: 15 October 1899, Laddonia Mo. Citation: For distinguished conduct in action, outstanding heroism, and utter disregard of his own safety above and beyond the call of duty during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor, by Japanese forces on 7 December 1941. Upon the commencement of the attack, Lt. Comdr. Fuqua rushed to the quarterdeck of the U.S.S. Arizona to which he was attached where he was stunned and knocked down by the explosion of a large bomb which hit the quarterdeck, penetrated several decks, and started a severe fire. Upon regaining consciousness, he began to direct the fighting of the fire and the rescue of wounded and injured personnel. Almost immediately there was a tremendous explosion forward, which made the ship appear to rise out of the water, shudder, and settle down by the bow rapidly. The whole forward part of the ship was enveloped in flames which were spreading rapidly, and wounded and burned men were pouring out of the ship to the quarterdeck. Despite these conditions, his harrowing experience, and severe enemy bombing and strafing, at the time, Lt. Comdr. Fuqua continued to direct the fighting of fires in order to check them while the wounded and burned could be taken from the ship and supervised the rescue of these men in such an amazingly calm and cool manner and with such excellent judgment that it inspired everyone who saw him and undoubtedly resulted in the saving of many lives. After realizing the ship could not be saved and that he was the senior surviving officer aboard, he directed it to be abandoned, but continued to remain on the quarterdeck and directed abandoning ship and rescue of personnel until satisfied that all personnel that could be had been saved, after which he left his ship with the boatload. The conduct of Lt. Comdr. Fuqua was not only in keeping with the highest traditions of the naval service but characterizes him as an outstanding leader of men.


Rank and organization: Chief Boatswain, U.S. Navy. Born: 4 October 1894, Philadelphia, Pa. Accredited to: Pennsylvania. Citation: For distinguished conduct in the line of his profession, extraordinary courage, and disregard of his own safety during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor, by Japanese forces on 7 December 1941. During the height of the strafing and bombing, Chief Boatswain Hill led his men of the line handling details of the U.S.S. Nevada to the quays, cast off the lines and swam back to his ship. Later, while on the forecastle, attempting to let go the anchors, he was blown overboard and killed by the explosion of several bombs.


Rank and organization: Ensign, U.S. Naval Reserve. Born: 1 December 1918, Los Angeles, Calif. Accredited to: California. Citation: For conspicuous devotion to duty, extraordinary courage, and complete disregard of his own life, above and beyond the call of duty, during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor, by Japanese forces on 7 December 1941. Ens. Jones organized and led a party, which was supplying ammunition to the antiaircraft battery of the U.S.S. California after the mechanical hoists were put out of action when he was fatally wounded by a bomb explosion. When 2 men attempted to take him from the area which was on fire, he refused to let them do so, saying in words to the effect, "Leave me alone! I am done for. Get out of here before the magazines go off."


Rank and organization: Rear Admiral, U.S. Navy. Born: 26 March 1884, Cleveland, Ohio. Appointed from: Ohio. Citation: For conspicuous devotion to duty, extraordinary courage and complete disregard of his own life, during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor, by Japanese forces on 7 December 1941. Rear Adm. Kidd immediately went to the bridge and, as Commander Battleship Division One, courageously discharged his duties as Senior Officer Present Afloat until the U.S.S. Arizona, his Flagship, blew up from magazine explosions and a direct bomb hit on the bridge which resulted in the loss of his life.


Rank and organization: Lieutenant, U.S. Navy, U.S.S. California. Place and date: Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, 7 December 1941. Entered service at: California. Born: 26 June 1912, Columbus, Ga. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while attached to the U.S.S. California during the surprise enemy Japanese aerial attack on Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, 7 December 1941. In charge of the ordnance repair party on the third deck when the first Japanese torpedo struck almost directly under his station, Lt. (then Gunner) Pharris was stunned and severely injured by the concussion which hurled him to the overhead and back to the deck. Quickly recovering, he acted on his own initiative to set up a hand-supply ammunition train for the antiaircraft guns. With water and oil rushing in where the port bulkhead had been torn up from the deck, with many of the remaining crewmembers overcome by oil fumes, and the ship without power and listing heavily to port as a result of a second torpedo hit, Lt. Pharris ordered the shipfitters to counterflood. Twice rendered unconscious by the nauseous fumes and handicapped by his painful injuries, he persisted in his desperate efforts to speed up the supply of ammunition and at the same time repeatedly risked his life to enter flooding compartments and drag to safety unconscious shipmates who were gradually being submerged in oil. By his inspiring leadership, his valiant efforts and his extreme loyalty to his ship and her crew, he saved many of his shipmates from death and was largely responsible for keeping the California in action during the attack. His heroic conduct throughout this first eventful engagement of World War 11 reflects the highest credit upon Lt. Pharris and enhances the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.


Rank and organization: Radio Electrician (Warrant Officer) U.S. Navy. Born: 9 December 1895, Thomaston, Conn. Accredited to: Connecticut. Citation: For distinguished conduct in the line of his profession, extraordinary courage and disregard of his own safety during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor, by Japanese forces on 7 December 1941. After the mechanized ammunition hoists were put out of action in the U.S.S. California, Reeves, on his own initiative, in a burning passageway, assisted in the maintenance of an ammunition supply by hand to the antiaircraft guns until he was overcome by smoke and fire, which resulted in his death.


Rank and organization: Machinist, U.S. Navy, U.S.S. Nevada. Place and date: Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, 7 December 1941. Entered service at: Denver, Colo. Born: 8 December 1910, Beverly, Kans. Citation: For distinguished conduct in the line of his profession, extraordinary courage and disregard of his own life during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, by Japanese forces on 7 December 1941. When his station in the forward dynamo room of the U.S.S. Nevada became almost untenable due to smoke, steam, and heat, Machinist Ross forced his men to leave that station and performed all the duties himself until blinded and unconscious. Upon being rescued and resuscitated, he returned and secured the forward dynamo room and proceeded to the after dynamo room where he was later again rendered unconscious by exhaustion. Again recovering consciousness he returned to his station where he remained until directed to abandon it.


Rank and organization: Machinist's Mate First Class, U.S. Navy. Born: 13 July 1915, Massillon, Ohio. Accredited to Ohio. Citation: For conspicuous devotion to duty, extraordinary courage and complete disregard of his own life, above and beyond the call of duty, during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor by Japanese forces on 7 December 1941. The compartment, in the U.S.S. California, in which the air compressor, to which Scott was assigned as his battle station, was flooded as the result of a torpedo hit. The remainder of the personnel evacuated that compartment but Scott refused to leave, saying words to the effect "This is my station and I will stay and give them air as long as the guns are going.''


Rank and organization: Chief Watertender, U.S. Navy. Born: 3 June 1893, Prolog, Austria. Accredited to: New Jersey. Citation: For distinguished conduct in the line of his profession, and extraordinary courage and disregard of his own safety, during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor by the Japanese forces on 7 December 1941. Although realizing that the ship was capsizing, as a result of enemy bombing and torpedoing, Tomich remained at his post in the engineering plant of the U.S.S. Utah, until he saw that all boilers were secured and all fireroom personnel had left their stations, and by so doing lost his own life . Tomich’s Medal of Honor is held in the State Capital in Utah, as he had no known relatives.


Rank and organization: Captain, U.S. Navy. Born: 5 April 1888, Minneapolis, Minn. Appointed from: Wisconsin. Citation: For conspicuous devotion to duty, extraordinary courage and complete disregard of his own life, during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor T.H., by Japanese forces on 7 December 1941. As commanding officer of the U.S.S. Arizona, Capt. Van Valkenburgh gallantly fought his ship until the U.S.S. Arizona blew up from magazine explosions and a direct bomb hit on the bridge which resulted in the loss of his life.


Rank and organization: Seaman First Class, U.S. Navy. Born: 10 September 1921, Springfield, Ohio. Entered service at: Springfield, Ohio. Citation: For conspicuous devotion to duty, extraordinary courage and complete disregard of his life, above and beyond the call of duty, during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor by Japanese forces on 7 December 1941. When it was seen that the U.S.S. Oklahoma was going to capsize and the order was given to abandon ship, Ward remained in a turret holding a flashlight so the remainder of the turret crew could see to escape, thereby sacrificing his own life.


Rank and organization: Commander, U.S. Navy. Born: 6 March 1894, Washington, D.C. Appointed from: Wisconsin. Other Navy award: Navy Cross. Citation: For distinguished conduct in action, outstanding heroism and utter disregard of his own safety, above and beyond the call of duty, as commanding officer of the U.S.S. Vestal, during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, by enemy Japanese forces on 7 December 1941. Comdr. Young proceeded to the bridge and later took personal command of the 3-inch antiaircraft gun. When blown overboard by the blast of the forward magazine explosion of the U.S.S. Arizona, to which the U.S.S. Vestal was moored, he swam back to his ship. The entire forward part of the U.S.S. Arizona was a blazing inferno with oil afire on the water between the 2 ships; as a result of several bomb hits, the U.S.S. Vestal was afire in several places, was settling and taking on a list. Despite severe enemy bombing and strafing at the time, and his shocking experience of having been blown overboard, Comdr. Young, with extreme coolness and calmness, moved his ship to an anchorage distant from the U.S.S. Arizona, and subsequently beached the U.S.S. Vestal upon determining that such action was required to save his ship.


Pearl Harbor, the Doomed Survivors

In the aftermath of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, much was made of the heroic efforts to release men trapped in the hulls of the sunken ships. Nothing was said at the time, nor for some twenty-five years afterwards, about the men who survived for days, and in some cases even weeks, trapped deep in the bowels of capsized battlewagons, beyond hope of rescue, who died of their injuries or slowly suffocated to death. In virtually every case the identities of these men are known, but have never been revealed, out of consideration for their families. Similarly, the Navy has never revealed the number of Pearl Harbor survivors who were eventually classified as psychological casualties , some of whom remained in institutions for the rest of their lives.


Pearl Harbor, Oahu, Hawaii.

The principal American naval and naval air base in the Pacific, with extensive repair and maintenance facilities, including large dry docks, enormous workshops, great ammunition magazines, and a very large oil tank farm, not to mention vast air fields. But with a cramped harbor (barely three square miles of surface area) having only a very narrow, and not easily navigated entrance. The biggest problem, in 1941, was that its defense was based on an assumption of Army-Navy cooperation, which was not always forthcoming.

Despite the devastating Japanese attack of 7 December 1941, the base facilities at Pearl Harbor were little harmed, and it almost immediately resumed its role as the main fleet base in the Pacific, a role which it never lost.


Pearl Harbor, the Plot

The most enduring World War II conspiracy theory contends that President Roosevelt and sundry other national political and military leaders "knew" that the Japanese were about to attack Pearl Harbor, and, indeed, even provoked the attack. There are numerous variations on the theme. For example, one suggests that Winston Churchill "knew," but refused to tell, so that the U.S. would be able to come to Britain's rescue against Germany. These theories are all based on "evidence," often "new" evidence which has "just come to light." Unfortunately, when all this evidence is examined, including the "new" evidence (which always turns out to be information of little value or relevance long available to the public if it cared to inquire), the most charitable thing that can be said is "not proven."

Consider, for example, the statement of U.S. Ambassador to Japan Joseph C. Grew. Grew claimed that in January 1941 he forwarded to the State Department information from a “reliable source” to the effect that the Japanese were planning an attack on Pearl Harbor. There are two things wrong with this statement. To begin with, Grew was constantly forwarding rumors and tips from allegedly reliable sources. More importantly, however, in January 1941 there was no Japanese plan to attack Pearl Harbor, as it was not until February of that year that Yamamoto came up with the idea, having digested Minoru Genda's report about the British attack on the Italian Fleet in Taranto Harbor on 11 November 1940, and serious planning did not begin until the summer.

Some of the "theories" about the attack rank right up there with Elvis sightings, including one contention that the attack was actually carried out by British aircraft based on one of the outlying islands of the Hawaiian group!

In fact, the disaster at Pearl Harbor was the result of a lot of audacity and luck on the part of the Japanese and numerous blunders by many American political and military leaders, with no particular person being criminally responsible. As historian Gordon Prange said, "There's enough blame for everyone."


Pearl Harbor, Recruiting, Effect on

The United States had begun to expand its armed forces long before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, having inducted the National Guard and adopted conscription in mid-1940. But the events of December 7, 1941, resulted in a significant increase in volunteer enlistments, which was followed shortly by an increase in draft calls as well.
Military Accessions
November 1941-March 1942
Nov ’416323400.6:1
Dec ‘418458262.2:1
Jan ‘4216991781.2:1
Feb ‘42182381440.3:1
Mar ‘42232541780.3:1
Apr ‘42239411980.2:1
May ‘42 198301680.2:1
Figures are in thousands. V-to-D is the ratio of volunteers to draftees.

The voluntary enlistment rate during November of 1941 was about 5,400 men a week. Assuming that this was the rate for the first week of December as well, the adjusted increase in volunteerism was something like 280-percent. For January the rate increased again by nearly 70-percent. Thereafter the rate declined each month, until by May it was only about 30-percent more than that for November. This does not necessarily indicate a precipitous drop in enthusiasm, however. In fact, it’s hard to tell how many men attempted to enlist and were turned away. The armed forces were short of training facilities and by March of 1942 were finding it hard to accommodate the number of men being taken in; note the drop in draftees for May of ’42.

Pennsylvania and Arizona, US Battleships

A good design, the Pennsylvanias were a derivative of the preceding Nevada Class . They were among the strongest battleships in World War I, and both saw service with the Royal Navy , although they were never in combat. Extensively reconstructed during the 1930s, they emerged with improved underwater protection and modernized engines, while modifications to their 14-inch turrets made for improvements in gunnery range.

Pennsylvania, BB-38 (1913-1915-1916), was flagship of the Pacific Fleet at the time of Pearl Harbor . In dry-dock during the attack, she was only lightly damaged and returned to service within a few days. With the transfer of the New Mexico Class ships from the Atlantic in early 1942, she was sent to the West Coast for some modernization, but this was less than the extensive rebuilding the more heavily damaged battlewagons received. Back in service in August 1942, she served to the end of the war, providing fire support for amphibious landings. Present at Surigao Strait , she did not fire. One of the first American warships to be damaged by enemy action in the war, she was also the last, taking a Japanese aerial torpedo on 12 August 1945 while lying off Okinawa. Since the war was at an end, she was not fully repaired. Pennsylvania was in the target fleet at the Bikini atomic bomb tests , and was finally sunk in the course of naval gunnery tests in 1948.

Arizona, BB-39 (1914-1915-1916) was the most seriously hit ship at Pearl Harbor , blowing up apparently as a result of a magazine explosion caused by a Japanese bomb. Over a thousand men went down with her. Her wreck is preserved as a war memorial.


Shokaku and Zuikaku, Japanese Aircraft Carriers

The Shokakus were Japan’s best pre-war carriers, and the first Japanese carriers to be sisterships, all eight previous ones having been single-ship designs. Shokaku and Zuikaku entered service only a few months before Pearl Harbor (August and September 1941, respectively), and, indeed, the details of the attack were planned so that they could complete training. Much larger versions of Hiryu , they were better protected and had greater a avgas capacity, but could only operate about the same number of aircraft. They formed Carrier Division Five and were at Pearl Harbor, helped support Japanese operations in New Guinea in January 1942, then accompanied the First Air Fleet into the Indian Ocean. They went on to fight at Coral Sea , where damage to Shokaku and losses among their airgroups resulted in their missing Midway . They were also together at Eastern Solomons , Santa Cruz , and the Philippine Sea .

Shokaku (1937-1939-1941) was so seriously damaged at the Coral Sea that she almost sank on the return voyage to Japan, but her aircraft had mortally wounded Lexington . She took two bombs in the Battle of the Eastern Solomon's and survived six during the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands. She was sunk by three torpedoes from the submarine Cavalla (SS-244) on 19 June 1944 during the Battle of the Philippine Sea.

Zuikaku (1938-1939-1941) led a charmed life, apparently taking no injury despite being in numerous actions until the Battle of the Philippine Sea, when she was heavily damaged. She returned to service in time for the Battle of Leyte Gulf , October 1944, in which she took seven torpedoes and six or seven bombs from U.S. naval aircraft before sinking off Cape Engano. As the ship was going down, her crew stood to attention on her increasingly sloping flight deck to give several cries of “Banzai !” for the glory of the Emperor. She was the last of the carriers that attacked Pearl Harbor to be sunk.


Short, Walter C. (1880-1949)

Short graduated from the University of Illinois in 1901 and accepted a direct commission in the U.S. Army in 1902. He served in various garrisons, in the Philippines, and on the Pershing Expedition, before going to France in 1917. During World War I his service was entirely in staff and training posts, and he ended the war as chief-of-staff of the Third Army, on occupation duty in the Rhineland. From 1920 to 1940 he held various staff and line positions, attended several army schools, and rose to brigadier general. Short commanded a corps in the maneuvers of 1940, and was promoted major general. Early in 1941 he was given command of the Hawaiian Department and promoted to temporary lieutenant general. He was in command at the time of the Pearl Harbor attack. Relieved about two weeks after the attack, Short was soon forcibly retired in his permanent rank of major general. He began hurling accusations as to the responsibility for the attack. A congressional investigation in 1942 concluded that he --and his naval counterpart, Admiral Husband Kimmel -- had been derelict in his duty, and had committed errors of judgment. A second investigation, in 1946, cleared him of charges of dereliction of duty, but confirmed that he had committed errors of judgment. He spent the rest of his life attempting to clear his name.

While some controversy still clings to the investigative conclusions concerning Short’s responsibility (much of it motivated by anti-Roosevelt elements), in fact in the very least he had committed serious errors of judgment. Like most Army officers he believed that the main event in any future war would be with Germany, and viewed his posting to Hawaii as likely to keep him out of it, ending his chances for further advancement. He seems to have had little understanding of the capabilities of air power. In a memorandum available at the National Archives, dated in February of 1941, shortly after he assumed command in Hawaii , he dismissed the possibility of a serious Japanese carrier raid on the islands. Upon receiving the famous 27 November 1941 message from General Marshall that concluded with the line “This is to be considered a war warning,” Short’s initial reaction was to make preparations to cope with possible sabotage by Japanese-Americans , and instituted few changes in the daily routine or procedures of the troops under his command.

In 1999, in a largely partisan vote, Congress enacted a resolution exonerrating Short and Kimmel of any particularly responsibility for the disaster at Pearl Harbor.


Soryu, Japanese Aircraft Carrier

Soryu (1934-1935-1937) was a well-designed ship, lightly built and fast, with an aircraft operational capacity equal to that of Akagi or Kaga , both of which were about twice her displacement. She took part in operations against China, 1937-1939, and then, paired with Hiryu , which was sometimes classed as her sister, Soryu formed Carrier Division Two, and served with the First Air Fleet from Pearl Harbor to Midway , where she took three bombs, burst into flames, and blew up.


Ward, U.S. Destroyer

On January 15, 1941, the old "four pipe" destroyer U.S.S. Ward (DD-139) was put into commission at San Diego, with a crew consisting partially of men from the Minnesota Naval Militia. Upon completing training, Ward was assigned to a squadron that was sent to strengthen the Pacific Fleet. On the morning of December 7, 1941, under Lt. William W. Outerbridge, who had been in command less than 48 hours, Ward was on patrol off the entrance to Pearl Harbor. What happened next is told in The Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.

At 0408 on 7 December, the old destroyer went to general quarters to search for a suspected submarine detected by Condor (AMC-14), but came up with nothing. Meanwhile, Antares (AKS-14), flagship of Training Squadron 8, plodded back from Palmyra Island with a target raft in tow. She anchored off the harbor entrance to await a favorable tide and the opening of the boom-net defenses. Exchanging calls with Antares as she subsequently headed for the channel, at 0506, Ward continued her early morning vigil until lookouts on the destroyer's bridge noticed a small feather wake astern of the auxiliary, between Antares and the raft.

Within moments, Ward was a ship alive the general quarters alarm routed the men from their bunks and sent them on the double to their action stations. Outerbridge, who had retired to a makeshift bunk rigged up in the charthouse, was on the bridge in seconds, pulling a life jacket on over a kimono and pajamas, and a World War I style "tin helmet" on his head.

Ward charged at the submarine like a terrier; and, for a moment, Outerbridge thought it looked like his ship was going to run down the little intruder. Number one four-inch mount trained around, and her gunners tried to draw a bead on the elusive target. The first shot of the Pacific war barked from Ward's gun at 0645 and splashed harmlessly beyond the small conning tower. As Ward pounded past at 25 knots, number three gun atop the galley deckhouse amidships commenced fire its round passed squarely through the submersible's conning tower. As the Japanese midget wallowed lower in the water and started to sink, the destroyer swiftly dropped four depth charges signaled by four blasts on the ship's whistle. Black water gushed upwards in the ship's boiling wake as the bombs went off sealing the submarine's doom.

Outerbridge radioed a terse action report to Commandant, 14th Naval District headquarters, and to distinguish this attack from the numerous sightings that had plagued local patrol forces, added that he had sighted and fired upon an unidentified submarine in the defensive sea area.

Ward had just sunk one of the five midget submarines that were supposed to take part in the Imperial Japanese Navy's surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. It was a signal achievement on an otherwise disastrous day, and one for which credit must be given not only to Lt. Outerbridge, but also to the Naval Militia; Ward's Number 3 gun, the one that had struck the submarine's conning tower, was manned by a crew from the Minnesota Naval Militia


Yamaguchi, Tamon (1892-1942)

One of Japan's most talented carrier admirals, Tamon Yamaguchi graduated from the naval academy in 1912. Over the years he held various posts, studied at Princeton (1921-1923), served on the Naval General Staff, was a delegate to the London disarmament conference, and naval attaché in Washington (1934-1937). Although a non-flyer, in 1940 he was promoted RAdm and given the 2nd Carrier Division, Hiryu and Soryu . With his command he participated in the Pearl Harbor operation, the subsequent operations in the Dutch East Indies and, finally, Midway . There he committed suicide by going down with his flagship, Hiryu . Yamaguchi was known to criticize his superiors for their narrow minded handling of carriers. He would have been a formidable opponent had he had survived Midway.


Yamamoto, Isoroku (1884-1943)

Isoroku (or Isoruku) Yamamoto --born Takano-- was among the outstanding admirals of World War II. He graduated from the Japanese Naval Academy in 1904, and saw action during the Russo-Japanese War, losing several fingers while commanding a torpedo boat in the Battle of Tsu-Shima in 1905 (his principal opponent in the Pacific War, Chester W. Nimitz was also missing a finger). During World War I he served as a staff lieutenant commander, but saw no action. He later attended Yale as a graduate student in the 1920s, where he became well acquainted with the military and industrial potential of the United States. It was this experience which caused him to constantly counsel against war with America. The commander of the Japanese Combined Fleet since 1939, Yamamoto was recognized by Americans and Japanese alike as the most capable commander the Japanese had, architect of the spectacular success which had attended Japanese efforts early in 1942. Yamamoto's undoing was the American success at breaking the Japanese naval codes. Yamamoto's staff suspected that their secret communications codes had been broken, but Yamamoto never believed it to be the case, at least he didn't believe it sufficiently to do much about it. As a result, American P-38 fighters ambushed Yamamoto's aircraft and its seven escorts on 18 April 1943, killing Yamamoto in the process. Beyond being an excellent leader and combat admiral, Yamamoto spoke English, having studied for two years at Harvard shortly after World War I. For a Japanese, he was quite an independent thinker and, by Japanese standards, something of an eccentric. For example, Yamamoto had a Bible with him wherever he traveled and regularly consulted it, even though he was not a Christian. What made Yamamoto dangerous to America was his pragmatism. He knew that Japan could not defeat America, but he had the skill and rank to cause maximum casualties to American troops. The Midway operation was a workable plan, if only Yamamoto had known that his codes were compromised and been able to change the codes (thus keeping the enemy in the dark for at least a few months). The Pearl Harbor attack was his doing, and he had many other bold plans to make the American advance across the Pacific as costly as possible. The other obstacle Yamamoto faced was the Japanese Army, which saw him as a dangerous free thinker. If Yamamoto had had his way, Japan would never have gotten involved in World War II in the first place. As early as 1940 he had told senior Japanese officials that war with American would be futile, and disastrous for Japan. But Yamamoto was still very Japanese. He allowed himself to be adopted into the Yamamoto clan when he was 32 years old and already a distinguished naval officer because the higher status Yamamotos would help him overcome the stigma of his original family's lower social status (and because the Yamamotos wanted someone already famous like Isoroku Takano to be the leader of their clan). This was a typically Japanese maneuver. Yamamoto also believed in the Emperor, whom he was obliged to serve as a sailor unto death. Yamamoto was typical of the many (but not nearly all) Japanese admirals who saw the army's policy in China (and eventual takeover of the government) as not in Japan's best interest. But because the army managed to get the Emperor to agree (or at least remain silent) about their plans, there was nothing other Japanese could do but follow "the Emperor's wishes."


FDR's "Day of Infamy" Speech

Address of the President before a joint session of the Senate and House of Representatives asking for the declaration of the existence of a state of war with the Japanese Empire, the Capitol, December 8, 1941

To the Congress of the United States:

Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 -- a date which will live in infamy -- the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its Government and its Emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific. Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in Oahu, the Japanese Ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to the Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. While this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or armed attack

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time the Japanese Government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.

The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian Islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. Very many American lives have been lost. In addition American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

Yesterday the Japanese Government also launched an attack against Malaya.

Last night Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.

Last night Japanese forces attacked Guam.

Last night Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.

Last night the Japanese attacked Wake Island.

This morning the Japanese attacked Midway Island.

Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our Nation.

As Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense.

Always will we remember the character of the onslaught against us.

No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people, in their righteous might, will win through to absolute victory.

I believe I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost but will make very certain that this form of treachery shall never endanger us again.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory, and our interests are in grave danger.

With confidence in our armed forces-with the unbounded determination of our people-we will gain the inevitable triumph-so help us God.

I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December 7, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire.


Joint Resolution Declaring That a State of War Exists Between The Imperial Government of Japan and the Government And the People of the United States and Making Provisions To Prosecute the Same

Whereas the Imperial Government of Japan has committed unpro­voked acts of war against the Government and the people of the United States of America: Therefore be it

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the state of war between the United States and the Imperial Government of Japan which has thus been thrust upon the United States is hereby formally declared; and the President is hereby authorized and directed to employ the entire naval and military forces of the United States and the resources of the Government to carry on war against the imperial Government of Japan; and, to bring the conflict to a successful termination, all of the resources of the country are hereby pledged by the Congress of the United States.

Approved, December 8, 1941, 4:10 p.m., E. S. T.


Some Useful Documents

Despite claims that they had not been properly alerted to the dangers of a Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, both Adm Husband Kimmel and Lt. Gen. Walter Short had received repeated warnings, and had even signed off on them..

Torpedo Defense

Responding to a proposal by the Chief-of-Naval Operations that the fleet institute the use of anti-torpedo nets while in Pearl Harbor, in a letter of March 20, Rear Admiral C.C. Bloch, commanding the Hawaii Naval District, stated that the depth of water at Pearl Harbor was 45 feet and for this reason among others he did not recommend antitorpedo baffles. Admiral Kimmel was in agreement with this recommendation until such time as a light efficient net was developed.

However, in June of 1941, the Chief of Naval Operations directed a communication to the commandants of naval districts as follows:

"1. . . . Commandants were requested to consider the employment of, and to make recommendations concerning, antitorpedo baffles especially for the protection of large and valuable units of the fleet in their respective harbors and especially at the major fleet bases. In paragraph 3 were itemized certain limitations to consider in the use of A/T baffles among which the following was stated:

A minimum depth of water of 75 feet may be assumed necessary to successfully drop torpedoes from planes. About two hundred yards of torpedo run is necessary before the exploding device is armed, but this may be altered.

"2. Recent developments have shown that United States and British torpedoes may be dropped from planes at heights of as much as three hundred feet, and in some cases make initial dives of considerably less than 75 feet, and make excellent runs. Hence, it may be stated that it cannot be assumed that any capital ship or other valuable vessel is safe when at anchor from this type of attack if surrounded by water at a sufficient run to arm the torpedo.

"3. While no minimum depth of water in which naval vessels may be anchored can arbitrarily be assumed as providing safety from torpedo- plane attack, it may be assumed that depth of water will be one of the factors considered by any attacking force, and an attack launched in relatively deep water (10 fathoms or more) is much more likely.

"4. As a matter of information the torpedoes launched by the British at Taranto were, in general, in thirteen to fifteen fathoms of water, although several torpedoes may have been launched in eleven or twelve fathoms."


Portion of Jont Costal Frontier Defense Plan, March 28, 1941



28 MARCH 1941.


1. General

1. In order to coordinate Joint defensive measures for the security of the fleet and for the Pearl Harbor Naval Base for defense against hostile raids or air attacks delivered prior to a declaration of war and before a general mobilization for war, the following agreements, supplementary to the provisions of the HCF-39, (14 ND-JCD-13), are adopted. These agreements are to take effect at once and will remain effective until notice in writing by either party of their renouncement in whole or in part. Frequent revision of these agreements to incorporate lessons determined from joint exercises will probably be both desirable and necessary.

. . . .
(Signed) Walter C. Short,
Lieutenant General U. S. Army,
Commanding, Hawaiian Department.




Approved: 2 April 1941.
(Signed) C. C. Bloch
Rear Admiral, U. S. Navy,
Commandant Fourteenth Naval District.






Portion of Hawaii Air Commanders Joint Message of March 31, 1941

Joint estimate covering Joint Army and Navy air action in the event of sudden hostile action against Oahu or Fleet Units in the Hawaiian area.

I. Summary of the Situation.

(a) Relations between the United States and Orange are strained, uncertain and varying.

(b) In the past Orange has never preceded hostile actions by a declaration of war.

(c) A successful, sudden raid, against our ships and Naval installations on Oahu might prevent effective offensive action by our forces in the Western Pacific for a long period.

(d) A strong part of our fleet is now constantly at sea in the operating areas organized to take prompt offensive action against any surface or submarine force which initiates hostile action.

(e) It appears possible that Orange submarines and/or an Orange fast raiding force might arrive in Hawaiian waters with no prior warning from our intelligence service.

. . . .

III. Possible enemy action.

(a) A declaration of war might be preceded by:

1. A surprise submarine attack on-ships in the operating area.

2. A surprise attack on OAHU including ships and installations in Pearl Harbor.

3. A combination of these two.

(b) It appears that the most likely and dangerous form of attack on OAHU would be an air attack. It is believed that at present such an attack would most likely be launched from one or more carriers which would probably approach inside of three hundred miles.

(c) A single attack might or might not indicate the presence of more submarines or more planes awaiting to attack after defending aircraft have been drawn away by the original thrust.

(d) Any single submarine attack might indicate the presence of a considerable undiscovered surface force probably composed of fast ships accompanied by a carrier.

(e) In a dawn air attack there is a high probability that it could be delivered as a complete surprise in spite of any patrols we might be using and that it might find us in a condition of readiness under which pursuit would be slow to start, also it might be successful as a diversion to draw attention away from a second attacking force. The major disadvantage would be that we could have all day to find and attack the carrier. A dusk attack would have the advantage that the carrier could use the night for escape and might not be located the next day near enough for us to make a successful air attack. The disadvantage would be that it would spend the day of the attack approaching the islands and might be observed. Under the existing conditions this might not be a serious disadvantage for until an overt act has been committed we probably will take no offensive action and the only thing that would be lost would be complete surprise. Midday attacks have all the disadvantages and none of the advantages of the above. After hostilities have commenced, a night attack would offer certain advantages but as an initial crippling blow a dawn or dusk attack would probably be no more hazardous and would have a better chance for accomplishing a large success. Submarine attacks could be coordinated with any air attack. . . . .
(Signed) F. L. Martin,
Major General, U. S. Army,
Commanding Hawaiian Air Force.
(Signed) P. N. L. Bellinger,
Rear Admiral, U. S. Navy,
Commander Naval Base Defense Air Force,
(Commander Patrol Wing TWO).









Adm. Stark's November 27, 1941 Message to Adm. Kimmel and Other Senior Commanders

November 27, 1941.

This despatch is to be considered a war warning X Negotiations with Japan looking toward stabilization of conditions in the Pacific have ceased and an aggressive move by Japan is expected within the next few days X The number and equipment of Japanese troops and the organization of naval task forces indicates an amphibious expedition against either the Philippines Thai or Kra Peninsula or possibly Borneo X Execute an appropriate defensive deployment preparatory to carrying out the tasks assigned in WPL46 X Inform District and Army authorities X A similar warning is being sent by War Department X Spenavo inform British X Continental districts Guam Samoa directed take appropriate measures against sabotage.

Note: WPL46 was a raid on the Marshall Islands by the Fleet operating out of Pearl Harbor.


Adm Stark's November 28, 1941, Message to Adm Kimmel

November 28, 1941.

Refer to my 272338 X Army has sent following to commander Western Defense Command Quote negotiations with Japan appear to be terminated to all practical purposes with only the barest possibilities that the Japanese Government might come back and offer to continue X Japanese future action unpredictable but hostile action possible at any moment X If hostilities cannot repeat not be avoided the United States desires that Japan commit the first overt act X This policy should not repeat not be construed as restricting you to a course of action that might jeopardize your defense X Prior to hostile Japanese action you are directed to undertake such reconnaissance and other measures as you deem necessary but these measures should be carried out so as not repeat not to alarm civil population or disclose intent X Report measures taken X A separate message is being sent to G Two Ninth Corps Area re subversive activities in United States X Should hostilities occur you will carry out the tasks assigned in Rainbow Five so far as they pertain to Japan X Limit dissemination of this highly secret information to minimum essential officers X unquote XX WPL52 is not applicable to Pacific area and will not be placed in effect in that area except as now in force in Southeast Pacific sub area and Panama Naval Coastal Frontier X Undertake no offensive action until Japan has committed an overt act X Be prepared to carry out tasks assigned in WPL46 so far as they apply to Japan in case hostilities occur.

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