I will be the first to say that I usually only remember the importance of today because of Facebook and because of small typed characters on my Stellar calendar that says- 'Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.' Such a important day for Americans. The day that we were attacked on our own land, military and civilians dyeing at the hands of another country while eating breakfast, battleships sunk, men drowning, airplanes shooting, screams and fire everywhere. And yet, I was about to push 'share' on a Facebook meme without really even stopping to take a moment and think about those who were effected. Such a 2020 response.
7:55AM on Sunday, December 7, 1941- Japanese Commander Mitsuo Fuchida yelled out over the radio- 'Tora! Tora! Tora!'. The Japanese Navy is now fully aware that they had caught the Americans stationed at Pearl Harbor by surprise. However, just a little over a hour before at 6:37am, the USS Ward had attacked and sank a Ko-hyoteki-class midget submarine near the entrance of the harbor. This is the official first shot fired on that day, and the first American shot in the War in the Pacific.
The attack lasted 110 minutes, two waves of Japanese planes attacked at 7:55am and 8:40am. All of the U.S. Pacific fleet was docked that day, expect for the USS Colorado. 8 battleships all lined up in 'Battleship Row', all 8 were sunk or damaged that day. All but 2 were able to be repaired (Arizona, Oklahoma, and the Utah which was a training vessel moored at Ford Island) and returned to active duty. The Arizona exploded when a bomb breached the ammunition's room, killing over 1,1000 service members or the 1,512 crew. The Oklahoma was torpedoed and listed so bad, that it eventually turned upside down. The Nevada had attempted to make its way to the harbor entrance, putting up a damn good fight on the way, but ended up having to beach itself.
The Japanese has sent out 353 planes from 6 ships.
2,343- killed (68 civilians)
19 US Naval vessels were sunk or damaged
188 aircraft were destroyed.
That in itself stopped me for a minute.
But, I want to remember. I want you to remember. So, I went a bit deeper- I want to share the stories...because we will remember stories.
In 1942, the Navy removed parts of the USS Arizona that were sticking out of the water, and between 1943 and 1944 the removed the ships guns. However, the Arizona is still considered to be a fully commissioned naval vessel. The Memorial was built in 1962. Too this day, fuel oil still leaks out of the vessel- about 2.18 liters a day, and it is believed that there is still about 2 million litters left in the fuel tank. In February of this year, one of the last living survivor of the USS Arizona died at the age of 97. He was saved with 5 other crew members when a sailor from the USS Vestal threw them a line, and the crawled hand over hand, high above the burning water to safety. Donald Stratton received burns over 70 percent of his body; however, recovered and re-enlisted and served out the remainder of the war and was discharged in December 1946. The family return to the site next year to honor Stratton and the 80 years anniversary. At this time, there are only two surviving members still alive.
Interestingly, this is the only time that a entire military band has died in action. The crew of aboard the Arizona included 21 members of the U.S. Navy Band Unit (NBU) 22. Most of the members had been on the deck preparing to play for the flag raising ceremony when the attack had begun. They had moved to man their own battle positions under the ship's gun turret, but they all perished. The night prior, they had attended the annual "Battle of Music" competition between the different military bands based in Pearl Harbor, already being qualified for the finals to be held on 20 Dec 1941. That year, NBU 22 was declared the winner unanimously and the award was renamed to the USS Arizona Band Trophy.
The USS Oklahoma was heavily damaged also, and in 1942 it was salvaged. In 1943-1944 the guns were also removed. It was sold for scrap in 1946, but while it was being towed to the mainland, it sank. It was built in 1916, and was considered to be the largest and most advanced ship in the US Navy. It took 8 torpedoes, all hitting the left side and with in 12 minutes she rolled over until her masts touched the bottom of the sea. 429 crew members were trapped, only 32 could be rescued. Here is Captain Rommel's description of the Oklahoma capsizing:
"The manhole covers on the blisters had been removed to air them out in preparation for the inspection on Monday and that was the reason the Oklahoma rolled over instead of sunk. As soon as she took the hits on the port side and started to list, as soon as the blisters got underwater, the water just poured in and there was no way the damage control station could have counter flooded the ship to keep her on an even keel. She rolled over in about 10 minutes. Looking back from in the water, it was just like a sail boat [sic] going over, slow, inexorable, nothing you could do about it. Nothing swift or rushing, it just slowly went over."
The USS Utah had served in World War I and was demilitarized and converted into a target ship. She was moored on the other side of Ford Island and was quickly torpedoed and sank. 58 members died, many of them watching over the remains of baby Nancy Lynne who's ashes were in her fathers locker as he waited for a chaplain to be assigned to the ship so that she could get a proper burial at sea. Her father, Albert Wagner survived the attack and frequently went to visit his daughters watery grave along with her mother and twin sister. Unfortunately , Albert was did not survive along enough to see a memorial for the vessel.
"There was nothing but mud then, and no indication that there are men still aboard," said Kreigh of her father's last visit in 1971."He never saw the finished monument." A concrete pier and a memorial slab were built and dedicated in 1972. A Navy detail now raises and lowers daily an American flag honoring the sailors still entombed in the Utah. Kreigh herself has been a frequent visitor to the islands, returning every Thanksgiving holiday since 1990 and taking time "to put a lei in the water and to say aloha to my twin sister." It has been a family tradition to bury relatives at sea, Kreigh said, explaining why her sister's ashes were aboard the Utah."
These are just a few stories, mostly because I have to go to work and because I am sadden by the stories that I have read. This blog for me should be done in stages. One because there are so many things to research, two because it just truly a sad day in our history. However, I invite you to hear the stories. They are published. It was once said, by some singer or song writer or writer- I cant remember- that you die twice. Once when you die, and then you truly die the last time your name is spoken. Lets not let those who died or survived Pearl Harbor be forgotten...remember their names and their stories. At least once a year.