The Defense of Pearl Harbor.
The defense of the Territory of Hawaii Pearl Harbor was in the hands of the Army and Army Air Corp. The fleet responsibility is deep waters of the Pacific. The fleet returns to the security of Pearl Harbor for replenishment, maintenance and liberty. However, a war warning had been issued on 27 November and branch commanders responded in various ways. The navy ordered one third of its guns to be manned and armed while in port – that is, with ready ammunition at the guns. The Army moved its aircraft out of protective revetments into lines of aircraft which made protective observation against sabotage more effective. The Air Corp dispersed some of its fighter aircraft to auxiliary airfields. There were no doubt other preparations of the army that were unrelated to the sneak attack from naval aircraft.
The Navy and Army Air Corp had patrol aircraft, but the primary purpose of the base at Pearl Harbor was as the frontline staging and training area. A large number of PBY multi engine, reconnaissance aircraft show on the numbers, but these were of units passing through to island bases and were in Pearl for training. Training of personnel actually reduces the effectiveness of the experienced crews pulled into training duties. The effective units were sufficient in number to patrol a ?? degree arc directed towards the Japanese held island bases to the west from which a raid or invasion was most likely to occur. The sneak attack came from the north, through unpopulated and untraveled waters. AAC bombers were also in transit, in fact a group of 12 B-17 bombers on their way to the Philippeans, landed during the attack. The distance from the mainland to Hawaii exceeds the normal flight range of even our biggest bomber ; therefore, they flew without armaments to reduce weight required to achieve that distance and had no fuel with which to divert.
Radar was new and still in a training stage. The massive flight of 182 Japanese aircraft was detected. The trainees that reported the radar contact were told a flight of large American bombers was expected. They had insufficient information and confidence to question their officer’s conclusion that these were the same flight.
Naval/Marine fleet planes were ashore for maintenance and were in various stages of disassembly and no air crews were assigned,
Both of the active aircraft carriers were being used as ferries for aircraft to island outposts. Enterprise was returning from a delivery to Wake Island. The trip had been organized as a combat mission with orders to attack any warships sighted. Lexington was two days into a delivery of scout bombers to Midway Island. Because carriers were faster than battleships, the slow BBs had been left behind in both cases and this accounted for the entire battleship fleet being in port.
When the enemy attack aircraft came, and only after they had actually dropped bombs, was it recognized that defensive action was to begin, The fleet anti-aircraft guns were quickly brought to bear. While ship’s ready ammunition was being fired, additional ammunitions was brought up from onboard magazines. Fleet AA fire is credited with downing ?? aircraft. Army anti-aircraft units had to obtain 3" ammunition from the ordinance depot ; there was no ready ammunition that might have been exposed to weather and other hazards. Shipboard ready ammunition had no fear of deterioration because it was soon fired in training at sea. The land based AA crews trained at coastline firing ranges over water ; the real guns were empty and could not be loaded and brought to bear for some time. (hr-minutes?) Army AA is credited with three planes downed during the two raids : 2 Jap, 1 US.
The Japanese attack had one goal : to torpedo and bomb the capital ships of the Pacific Fleet. To support this goal, a large number of fighters and dive bombers attacked the many airfields on Oahu Island. Of 152 AAC fighter aircraft on the island, only a score were able to get into the air. The neatly lined up aircraft were easily machine gunned and bombed. Those ready to fly contained explosive gasoline; few/none had ammunition. Ready pilots and ground crew were caught in enemy machine gun fire while they raced to their planes. Of those few planes that got into the air, some, no doubt had been damaged and had to return. One pilot who was able to get an enemy plane in his sights found his guns would not fire – dummy rounds used to keep dirt out of the barrel were still in place. Various accounts identify 20 aircraft having gotten into the air in the period from towards the end of the first attack wave and into the second attack wave : six P-36 and fourteen P-40. Fewer pilots than this got into the air because some returned and took a different, fully gassed and armed, airplane up for a second sortie. The two attack waves were over before additional pilots could get to the flight lines. It was the next day before
aircraft could be determimed if flyable or not.
About five pilots got up towards the end of the first wave attack. The first American kill was made by
2nd Lt Rassmusson, the only one of his group of ten ready pilots to get off the ground, and then with only 15 minutes of fuel and only two guns armed. His wing man, for example, was killed in the cockpit while ground crew worked to get his plane ready. 2nd Lt Sanders also got in the air, he was the one with dummy rounds.
Another two pilots that got up during the first wave had rushed to their aircraft at Haleiwa auxiliary field. Still awake and in dress clothes from a Saturday night party, they raced in their private car and took off in P-40's. (The movies has some basis is fact.)
They each downed two “Val” dive bombers. They rearmed at Wheeler Field in the lull between the two Japanese waves and on a second sortie in which Welch got two more Vals and Taylor, was wounded. Other pilots raced to and flew from Haleiwa, First Lieutenant Robert J. Rogers smoked one and in turn was damaged. 2nd Lt John Dains made two sorties in P-40 and a third in a P-36 until he was downed by friendly ground fire – a side effect of excited gunners and untrained helpers manning machine guns without having had, or disregarding, aircraft recognition.
In the lull between waves, a hanger of P-36 aircraft was brought out and five got into the air during the second attack. Two enemy were downed with one US loss.
Enterprise was delayed in her return by refueling difficulties, else she would have been
in port and torpedoed. As it was, she was still 200 miles from Pearl, and as is the practice, had sent her aircraft ahead. These planes left their bombs, torpedoes and ammunition aboard ship and were unarmed expecting to undergo shore maintenance. They arrived having expended their fuel in time to mingle with attacking Japanese planes. Some were shot down by Zeros.
Friendly AA was another problem. the thinner nosed Army P-40 can be differentiated from the big air-cooled radial engines of all naval aircraft – theirs and ours. Several USN aircraft were downed by friendly fire : Two squardrons of scout bombers arrived unarmed from Enterprise during the attack with several damaged. Thirteen were sent out again on reconnaissance flights seeking the Japanese fleet with 4 of those returning that evening shot down by anti-aircraft fire.
More side effects, The Japanese did not attack the city, reports of bombs were actually falling naval 5” AA shells that caused some of the 57 civilian deaths.
Crazy U.S. newspaper accounts are not new:
Parachutists (saboteurs) landing on Oahu.
Naval Battle off shore. A third attack the next morning, Two US tankers sunk off Honolulu.
Pearl Harbor raid kills 104, 300 wounded. Japanese bombers, including four-motor "flying fortresses ... blasted at Pearl Harbor. The White House announced this morning the loss of "one old battleship". Navy hunting Jap aircraft off California. US battle fleet en route to Tokyo.
Victory seen is 3-4 months. Panama attacked. Jap plane carrier sunk. Japs routed off Golden Gate.
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