"ALOHA" - On the history of Hawaii and of the attack on Pearl Harbor many people don't know what led up to its attack by Japan. In sharing what I learned while visiting Hawaii and Pearl Harbor, one can never learn enough about our history and its struggle to become the land of the free and the home of the brave.The history of Hawaii reads like a good novel with explorers, heroes, gods, villains, kings and queens, the rise of a star-covered kingdom, invasions of Eastern and Western cultures, with great migrations that led to treachery, greed and war.
Scientists believe from linguistic and archaeological research that the Polynesian people ventured to the island between 2000 and 3000 B.C. They sailed using ancient Polynesian navigational skills, guided only by the stars, wind, waves and seabirds. Their achievement launched a cultural renaissance, as evidence shows that around 850 A.D. a tidal wave swept across a coastal village burying it in just the right mixture of sand and silt to preserve into material culture.
It has come to be called "the Polynesian Pompeii" as archaeologists found the hull of an 80-foot canoe along with artifacts connecting the site to the Polynesians. Further digging revealed that the village had been a thriving community of about 200 people who engaged in ship manufacture for trade, and the families living on the land had access to every elevation for the cultivation of various crops and fishing and fought for the rights to the ocean.
Explorer Captain James Cook was the first Western to find the Hawaiian islands in 1778 and breaking centuries of isolation for the Hawaiian people. Captain Cook in his diary said knowing the rigors of ocean voyaging he could not comprehend how a race of people in canoes fostered together with coconut fiber rope and possessing no maps or navigational gear, such as a compass and a sextant, could have colonized such widely separated island groups, spreading itself over the vast ocean.
Hawaii's post is still present today and now is the 50th state of the Union since Aug. 21, 1959. Its major industry is tourism, followed by defense and agriculture. The state of Hawaii has been known to be of haven and heroes and on this Fourth of July celebration of our independence, since 1776 American have struggled through wars and against civil injustice and has kept its promise proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence "that every person enjoys a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" and to protect it. We will pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and success of liberty once quoted by the late President John F. Kennedy.
It was in Hawaii, where we were tested at Pearl Harbor, "that America," the sleeping giant of liberty came to awaking after it was attacked by Japan on Dec. 7, 1941. We found that our liberty was in jeopardy and went to war to reclaim America's promise to the world "to proclaim liberty." As President Franklin D. Roosevelt immediately declared war on Japan, calling Dec. 7, 1941 "a day that will live in infamy."
The attack on Pearl Harbor was the culmination of a decade of deteriorating relations between Japan and the U.S. over the status of China and the security of Southeast Asia. The breakdown began in 1931 when Japanese army extremists, in defiance of government policy, invaded and overran the northern-most Chinese province of Manchuria. Japan ignored American protests, and in the summer of 1937 launched a full-scale attack on the rest of China. Although alarmed by this action, neither the United States nor any other nation with interests in the Far East was willing to use military force to halt Japanese expansion.
Over the next three years, war broke out in Europe and Japan joined Nazi Germany in the Axis Alliance. The United States applied both diplomatic and economic pressures to try to resolve the Sino-Japanese conflict. The Japanese government viewed these measures, especially an embargo on oil, as threats to their nation's security. By the summer of 1941 both countries had taken positions from which they could not retreat without a serious loss of national prestige. Although both governments continued to negotiate their differences, Japan had already decided on war.
The attack on Pearl Harbor was an integral part of the Japanese grand strategy of southern expansion. The objective was to immobilize the Pacific Fleet so that the United States could not interfere with the vast invasion of Asia and the Western Pacific. The principal architect of the attack was Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto, Commander in Chief of the Japanese Combined Fleet. Though personally opposed to war with America, Yamamoto knew that Japan's only hope of success in such a war was to achieve quick and decisive victory. America's superior economic and industrial might would tip the scales in its favor during a prolonged conflict.
On Nov. 26, the Japanese attack fleet of 33 warships and auxiliary craft, including six aircraft carriers sailed from northern Japan for the Hawaiian Islands. St followed a route that took it far to the worth of the normal shipping lanes. By early morning, Dec. 7, 1941, the ships had reached their launch position, 230 miles north of Oahu at 6 a.m. some 12 miles outside the entrance to Pearl Harbor. Five midget submarines carrying two crewmen and two torpedoes each were launched from larger mother subs. Their mission: enter Pearl Harbor before the air strike, remain submerged until the attack got underway then cause as much damage as possible.
Meanwhile at Pearl Harbor, the 185 vessels of the U.S. Pacific Fleet lay calm and serene. Seven of the fleets, 8 battleships were tied up along Battleship Row on the S.E. shore of Ford Island. Naval aircraft were lined up at Ford Island and Kaneoke Naval Air Stations, and at Ewa Marine Corps Air Station. Aircraft belonging to the U.S. Army Air Corps were parked in groups as defense against possible saboteurs at Hickam, Wheeler and Bellows airfields.
At 6:40 a.m. the crew of the destroyer USS Ward spotted the conning tower of one fo the midget subs headed for the entrance to Pearl Harbor. The Ward sank the sub with depth charges and gunfire and then radioed the information to headquarters. Before 7 a.m., the Opana mobile radar station near Kahuku Point picked up a signal indicating a large flight of planes approaching from the north. These were thought to be either aircraft flying in from the carrier Enterprise and thought the military was on practice maneuvers. So no action was taken.
The attack came in four waves beginning at 7:55 a.m. in the morning. Three hundred sixty Japanese aircraft, launched from carriers as their leader Cmdr. Mitsuo Fuchida, sent the coded messages "To, To, To" and "Tora, Tora, Tora" telling the fleet that the attack had begun and that complete surprise had been achieved.
At approximately 8:06 a.m., the USS Arizona exploded having been hit by a 1,760-pound armor-piercing bomb that slammed through its deck and ignited its forward ammunition magazine. In less than nine minutes, it sank with 1,177 of its screw, a total loss. The USS Oklahoma hit by several torpedoes rolled completely over, trapping more than 400 men inside. The California and West Virginia sank at their moorings, while the Utah, converted to a training ship, capsized with more than 50 of its crew. The Maryland, Pennsylvania and Tennessee all suffered significant damage. The Nevada attempted to run out to sea but took several hits and had to be beached to avoid sinking and blocking the harbor entrance.
While the attack on Pearl Harbor intensified, hundreds of U.S. planes were destroyed on the ground as hundreds of men were killed or wounded.
After about five minutes, American anti-aircraft fire began to register hits, although many of the shells that had been improperly fused fell on Honolulu, where residents assumed them to be Japanese bombs. After a lull at about 8:40 a.m., the second wave of attacking planes focused on continuing the destruction inside the harbor, destroying the USS Shaw, Sotoyomo, the floating dry-dock YFD-2 and heavily damaging the Nevada. The Japanese continued air attacks on airfields, causing heavy losses of aircrafts and reducing American ability to retaliate. However, some Army pilots managed to get up in the air and may have shot down 12 enemy planes. Shortly before 10 a.m., the second wave attack withdrew to their carriers. The Japanese attack was over. In the wake of such a disaster, America rallied and committed to avenge Pearl Harbor. "The rest is History." "Aloha."
Until next time, Ciao, Joe D'Angelo
P.S. - The battle cry "Remember Pearl harbor" had caused 3,435 U.S. casualties, eight battleships and 10 other large ships severely damaged, and 188 planes destroyed. The Japanese lost 29 planes, 55 airmen, and five midget subs that had been trying to blockade the entrance of the harbor.
My visit to the Battleship Missouri was also an experience that took me back in time as I stood on the same spot, "the surrender deck," where the greatest military leaders of WWII gathered to sign the documents that ended WWII.
The Missouri, nicknamed, "The Mighty Mo'," was keel at the N.Y. Navy Yard on January 6, 1941, nearly 11 months before Pearl Harbor was bombed. The Last battleship ever built by the U.S. was completed three years later, in January 1944, by President Harry S. Truman. He issued the surrender on "Mighty Mo'" on September 2, 1945, on the 01 deck level of the Missouri, anchored in Tokyo Bay, near Japan.
Japan's delegation consisted of 11 men who had traveled in secrecy from Tokyo. General Douglas Macarthur signed in his capacity as Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers as Japanese Foreign Minister signed on behalf of the Emperor of Japan and the Japanese government.
When the surrender ceremony ended, 450 carrier planes and Army B-29 bombers flew over the Missouri with General Macarthur saying "Let us pray that peace be now restored to the world and that God will preserve it always." "God bless America for its liberty and justice for all."
Next Week, Part V: Luau comes to D-Town