Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Pearl Harbor: 70 Years

This Post Was Written By Cindy

Pearl Harbor was originally a shallow embankment called Wai Momi (Pearl Water) or Pu'rloa (long Hill). It was considered the home of the shark goddess, Ka'ahupahua, and her brother, Kahiuka. Tradition says that Keaunui, the legendary chief of the Ewa chiefs is the one w ho created a navigable channel near the present day Pu'uloa saltworks. The estuary known as "Pearl River" was then accessible to shipping. It was never used for large shipping because of the shallow entrance. As whaling and trading began to use the islands as a half-way point in the Pacific, by 1820 the US was looking for a major harbor. It was not until the turn of the century that Pearl Harbor began to be refitted for larger naval vessels. The naval base we know today was formally opened when the dry dock was open to flooding on August 21, 1919.

As early as February 1, 1933, the Navy staged a mock attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese. The exercise was a disaster. Even in 1933 it was known that Pearl Harbor's defenses were considered, after the mock attack by Japan, a failure. It makes the events of December 7, 1941 even more heart-wrenching. The War Department knew the attack was coming. They did not know when. They did not realize that Pearl Harbor, which was basically a sitting duck, was to be the location of the attack. It was assumed the attack would come in the Philippines.

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Photo taken by a Japanese plane shows Battleship Row at the beginning of the attack, along with the strike on the USS Oklahoma

"...Under the command of Admiral Chuichi Nagumo, the attack was devastating in loss of life and damage to the U.S. fleet. At 06:05 on December 7, the six Japanese carriers launched a first wave of 183 aircraft composed mainly of dive bombers, horizontal bombers and fighters. The Japanese hit American ships and military installations at 07:51. The first wave attacked military airfields of Ford Island. At 08:30, a second wave of 170 Japanese aircraft, mostly torpedo bombers, attacked the fleet anchored in Pearl Harbor. The battleship Arizona was hit with an armor-piercing bomb which penetrated the forward ammunition compartment, blowing the ship apart and sinking it within seconds. Overall, nine ships of the U.S. fleet were sunk and 21 ships were severely damaged. Three of the 21 would be irreparable. The overall death toll reached 2,403, including 68 civilians, and 1,178 injured. Of the military personnel lost at Pearl Harbor, 1,177 were from the Arizona. The first shots fired were from the destroyer Ward on a midget submarine that surfaced outside of Pearl Harbor; Ward sank the midget sub at approximately 06:55, about an hour before the attack on Pearl Harbor. Japan would lose 29 out of the 350 aircraft they attacked with...."

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USS Arizona

The attack on Pearl Harbor, called Hawaii Operation or Operation Al by the Japanese Imperial General Headquarters was designed to prevent the US Pacific Fleet from interfering with their military actions in Southeast Asia, against overseas territories of the United Kingdom, Netherlands, and the US. The Japanese attack was so thorough that only 29 aircraft and five midget submarines were lost. The US death toll was 2,403. Only 65 Japanese servicemen were killed or wounded. One Japanese sailor was captured.

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USS Arizona Memorial

Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam
WWII In The Pacific