Postscript on Pearl Harbor

15 Oct

Pearl Harbor, October, 1941, showing tank farms, the submarine base, the ship yard, and a number of cruisers and destroyers moored north of Ford Island. While all were of strategic importance, all were left essentially intact after the Japanese attack on the morning of December 7, 1941. Had these been destroyed in the attack, the war would have been much more difficult, and perhaps impossible, for the Allies to win.

Before continuing on with our look at the ships convoying with Tryon in the fall of 1942, I’d like to take a final look at the Pearl Harbor attack with quotes from two books about America’s “day of infamy.” They provide interesting and thought-provoking insight into the miscues made by Japanese war planners, that day and in days to come. The first is from God’s Samurai, written by Katherine

A young Mitsuo Fuchida. He, as well as others, thought he looked like Hitler; he grew a Hitler-style mustache to increase the visual similarities.

V. Dillon, Donald M. Goldstein and Gordon W. Prange. It is about Mitsuo Fuchida, the Japanese pilot who led the aerial attack on Pearl Harbor and who after the war became a Christian and evangelist. Fuchida spent much time in the Unites States after World War II, becoming friends with author Gordon Prange, and the two spent many hours talking about Fuchida’s war-time experiences. Included in God’s Samurai is this perspective by Fuchida:

“Fuchida always believed that the Japanese navy made four major mistakes in rapid succession in the early days and weeks of the Pacific war: not finishing the job at Pearl Harbor [on Dec. 7 Fuchida had argued strongly for a third wave to further damage American ships and to destroy fuel reserves, but his pleas were rejected]; breaking up the First Air Fleet [the “cream” of Japan’s naval air arm that was assembled for the attack at Pearl Harbor]; hoarding battleships in home waters [in the early days of the war Japan’s battleships were held at anchor in Hashirajima Bay, in the Inland sea, where, according to Fuchida,

Mitsuo Fuchida, after the war, as a Christian evangelist.

they could do about as much good as America’s battleships at that point]; dispatching the major carrier force south and west instead of eastward to seek out the Americans. “Had we gone after the U.S. Pacific Fleet at once after Pearl Harbor, the course of the war in the Pacific would have been vastly different,” Fuchida lamented in retrospect. ‘Then there would have been no Battle of the Coral Sea, no Battle of Midway, no Guadalcanal, and the United States would have been in a hell of a fix.'”

The second passage comes from “The Way It Was: Pearl Harbor” by Katherine V. Dillon, Donald M. Goldstein (both of whom, you may have noticed, were also authors of God’s Samurai) and J. Michael Wenger. A pictorial with minimal text, the following was included as the epilogue:

USS Arizona burning after Japanese attack, December 7, 1941.

“Gradually the fact that matters could have been much worse on Oahu became evident. Foolishly, from their standpoint, the Japanese had left Pearl Harbor’s tank farms and machine shops intact. Repair work could begin immediately, and the seaworthy ships would not be hobbled for lack of fuel [earlier in the book the point was made that had only the tank farms and repair facilities been hit, and ships left intact, it would have insured that America would have to fight the war from the U.S. west coast – a nearly impossible task]. Almost miraculously, no ship had been sunk in the channel, so the Navy could continue to use Pearl Harbor. The waters of Pearl Harbor were so shallow that ships could be refloated that would have been a dead loss if the Japanese had caught them in the open sea or even in Lahaina Anchorage [a sheltered deep water anchorage between the four islands of Maui, Lānaʻi, Molokaʻi and Kahoʻolawe; used at times as an alternative anchorage to Pearl Harbor].

Pacific Fleet at Lahaina Roads, April 24, 1940. The Japanese had hoped to catch some of the US fleet in the deep water anchorage at Lahaina Roads, but were disappointed to find none there on December 7, 1941.

“Then, too, the aircraft carriers had escaped the raid, and most of the cruisers, destroyers, and support ships and all the submarines were untouched. As the war progressed, the Japanese appeared to have kicked the U.S. Pacific Fleet upstairs-into a swift, mobile force.

“However, such assessments took time. Meanwhile, the military establishment on Oahu buckled down to an awesome task of salvage. The Army had the easier portion, for reconstruction of buildings did not present as many problems as renovating the ships. The aircraft were another matter, and for a while all the damaged planes seemed to be beyond repair. The mechanics of the Hawaiian Air Force rose to the challenge, however, and in time 80 percent were salvaged.

The Arizona Memorial.

“The story of how sunken or damaged ships were brought back to life is a saga of skill, courage, and determination. The job took several years, but in the end the U.S. Navy had lost only three vessels~Arizona, Oklahoma, and Utah. Except for the fifty~eight valiant lives lost aboard her, Utah could be written off with few qualms. The old battleship had long outlived her usefulness for combat, and after due consideration her salvage was determined to be too costly in terms of time, labor, and funds. Some of her ordnance was removed, but she remains where she sank, a fitting tomb for her dead.

“Oklahoma, had to be righted and moved to clear her berth, although little hope was entertained of actually restoring the ship. Salvage was attempted but proved fruitless. She was decommissioned on 1 September 1944 and in December 1946 was sold for scrap. On 17 May 1947, en route under tow to the mainland, she encountered a storm and sank, to the great relief of the men who had served aboard her and loved her.

“Arizona was obviously a hopeless case; however, much effort was expended in investigating her hull and in salvaging whatever could be put to use. The decision was made to remove those portions of the battleship that remained above water and to leave the rest of her in position, to become, like Utah, a tomb for her dead. A memorial structure was erected over her hull and dedicated on Memorial
Day 1962.

Despite its serene loveliness, the Arizona Memorial is a disquieting reminder of the price a nation may be called upon to pay for smugness and unpreparedness.”

SaiLincolnard the USS Abraham Llincoln pay their respects to those that died aboard the USS Arizona as they pass the Arizona Memorial.


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