THE JAPANESE ATTACK ON PEARL HARBOR, DECEMBER 7, 1941
On the morning of December 7, 1941, Japanese aircraft temporarily disabled every battleship and most of the aircraft in the Hawaiian area. Other naval vessels, both combatant and auxiliary, were put out of action, and certain shore facilities, especially at the naval air stations, Ford Island and Kaneohe Bay, . . . facilities, especially at the Army Bases, Hickam and Wheeler Fields, and the naval air stations . . . were damaged. Most of these ships are now back with the fleet. The aircraft were all replaced within a few days, and interference with facilities was generally limited to a matter of hours.
When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, 2 surface ship task forces of the Pacific Fleet were carrying out assigned missions at sea, and 2 such task forces were at their main base following extensive operations at sea. Discounting small craft, 86 ships of the Pacific Fleet were moored at Pearl Harbor. Included in this force were 8 battleships, 7 cruisers, 28 destroyers and 5 submarines. No U. S. aircraft carriers were present.
As result of the Japanese attack five battleships, the Arizona, Oklahoma, California, Nevada, and West Virginia; three destroyers, the Shaw and Downes; the mine layer Oglala; the target ship Utah, and a large floating drydock were either sunk or damaged so severely that they would serve no military purposes for some time. In addition, three battles, the Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Tennessee, three cruisers, the Helena, Honolulu, and Raleigh, the seaplane tender Curtiss and the repair Vestal were damaged.
Of the 19 naval vessels listed above as sunk or damaged, the 26-year-old battleship Arizona will be the only one permanently and totally lost. Preparations for the righting of the Oklahoma are now in process, although final decision as to the wisdom of accomplishing this work at this time has not been made. The main and auxiliary machinery, approximately 50 percent of the value, of the Cassin and Downes were saved. The other 15 vessels either have been or will be salvaged and repaired.
The eight vessels described in the second sentence of paragraph three returned to the fleet months ago. A number of the vessels described in the first sentence of paragraph three are now in full service, but certain others, which required extensive machinery and intricate electrical overhauling as well as refloating and hull repairing, are not yet ready for battle action. Naval repair yards are taking advantage of these inherent delays to install numerous modernization features and improvements. To designate these vessels by name now would give the enemy information vital to his war plans; similar information regarding enemy ships which our forces have subsequently damaged but not destroyed is denied to us.
On December 15, 1941, only 8 days after the Japanese attack and at a time when there was an immediate possibility of the enemy's coming back, the Secretary of the Navy announced that the Arizona, Shaw, Cassin, Downes, Utah, and Oglala had been lost, that the Oklahoma had capsized and that other vessels had been damaged. Fortunately, the salvage and repair accomplishments at Pearl Harbor have exceeded the most hopeful expectations.
Eighty naval aircraft of all types were destroyed by the enemy. In addition, the Army lost 97 planes on Hickam and Wheeler Fields. Of these 23 were bombers, 66 were fighters, and 8 were other types.
The most serious American losses were in personnel. As result of the raid on December 7, 1941, 2,117 officers and enlisted men of the Navy and Marine Corps were killed, 960 are still reported as missing and 876 were wounded but survived. The Army casualties were as follows: 226 officers and enlisted men were killed or later died of wounds; 396 were wounded, most of whom have now recovered and have returned to duty.
At 7:55 a. m. on December 7, 1941, Japanese dive bombers swarmed over the Army Air Base, Hickam Field, and the naval air station on Ford Island. A few minutes earlier the Japanese had struck the naval air station at Kaneohe Bay. Bare seconds later enemy torpedo planes and dive bombers swung in from various sectors to concentrate their attack on the heavy ships at Pearl Harbor. The enemy attack, aided by the element of surprise and based on exact information, was very successful.
Torpedo planes, assisted effectively by dive bombers, constituted the major threat of the first phase of the Japanese attack, lasting approximately a half-hour. Twenty-one torpedo planes made 4 attacks, and 30 dive bombers came in in 8 waves during this period. Fifteen horizontal bombers also participated in this phase of the raid.
Although the Japanese launched their initial attack as a surprise, battleship ready machine guns opened fire at once and were progressively augmented by the remaining antiaircraft batteries as all hands promptly were called to general quarters. Machine guns brought down two and damaged others of the first wave of torpedo planes. Practically all battleship antiaircraft batteries were firing within 5 minutes; cruisers, within an average time of 4 minutes, and destroyers, opening up machine guns almost immediately, average 7 minutes in bringing all antiaircraft guns into action.
From 8:25 to 8:40 a. m. there was a
comparative lull in the raid, although air activity continued with sporadic
attack by dive and horizontal bombers. This respite was terminated by the
appearance of horizontal bombers which crossed and recrossed their targets from
various directions and caused serious damage. While the horizontal bombers were
continuing their raids, Japanese dive bombers reappeared, probably being the
same ones that had participated in earlier attacks; this phase, lasting about a
half-hour, was devoted largely to strafing.
All enemy aircraft retired by 9:45 a.m. The Japanese attack lasted 1 hour and 50 minutes.
There were a total of 273 Army planes on the Island of
Oahu on December 7, 1941. Very few of these were able to take off because of the damage
to the runways at Hickam and Wheeler Fields . . . Navy action, and the few Army pursuit
planes that were able to take off shot down more than 2O Japanese planes. . Prior to the
Japanese attack 202 U.S. naval aircraft of all types on the Island of Oahu were in flying
condition, but 150 of these were permanently or temporarily disabled by the enemy's
concentrated assault, most of them in the first few minutes of the raid. Of the 52 remaining
naval aircraft, 38 took to the air on December 7, 1941, the other 14 being
ready too late in the day or being blocked from take-off positions. Of
necessity therefore, the Navy was compelled to depend on antiaircraft fire for
its primary defensive weapon, and this condition exposed the fleet to
continuous air attack. By coincidence, 18 scout bombing planes from a U. S.
aircraft carrier en route arrived at Pearl Harbor during the raid. These are
included in the foregoing figures. Four of these scout bombers were shot
13 of the remaining 14 taking off again in search of the enemy. Seven patrol
planes were in the air when the attack started.
William C. Miller was a radioman/gunner in one of the four Douglas SBD-3 Dauntless
scout bombers shot down this day.
It is difficult to determine the total number of enemy aircraft participating in the raid, but careful analysis of all reports makes it possible to estimate the number as 21 torpedo planes, 48 dive bombers, and 36 horizontal bombers, totaling 105 of all types. Undoubtedly certain fighter planes also were present, but these are not distinguished by types and are included in the above figures.
The enemy lost 28 aircraft due to Navy action. In addition, three submarines, of 45 tons each, were accounted for.
The damage suffered by the U. S. Pacific Fleet as result of the Japanese attack on December 7, 1941, was most serious, but the repair job now is nearly completed, and thanks to the inspired and unceasing efforts of the naval and civilian personnel attached to the various repair yards, especially at Pearl Harbor itself, this initial handicap soon will be erased forever.
ADDITIONS TO NAVY DEPARTMENT PEARL HARBOR RELEASE
These corrections have been made.
Insert in 2d sentence, 1st paragraph, page 1:
. . . facilities, especially at the Army Bases, Hickam and Wheeler Fields, and the naval air stations . . .
Insert after paragraph 3, page 3:
There were a total of 273 Army planes on the Island of Oahu on December 7, 1941. Very few of these were able to take off because of the damage to the runways at Hickam and Wheeler Fields.
Insert in 1st sentence, last paragraph, page 3:
. . . Navy action, and the few Army pursuit planes that were able to take off shot down more than 2O Japanese planes.