7 DEC. 1941 --- THE PEARL HARBOR DISASTER
In 1941, contrary to popular belief, Admiral Kimmel's establishment engaged in a vigorous preparedness training schedule in the months before the Japanese attack. Every Wednesday from mid-February on, five battleships would leave the harbor so that five Others could return. There were never supposed to be more than five dreadnoughts in port at any one time. As schedules changed and new tactics were tried out, different types of task force deployments were initiated. This radically revised the five in and five out idea, but shortly the schedule for each ship had her in one week and away the next. Three American task forces kept busy on these alternating time tables. When at sea, the West Virginia formed part of Task Force 1.
On August 12, Captain Mervyn Bennion succeeded Captain Henry T. Markland in command of our leviathan. The new skipper, a native of Vernon, Utah and an acknowledged ordinance expert, was anxious to maintain the "E" reputation of his command.
In the week after Thanksgiving, two carrier groups were dispatched to ferry aircraft to Wake and Midway Islands. As that duty was deemed urgent, the slower battleships, usually along in the screen, were left behind at anchor off Ford Island in favor of speedy Cruisers. For the first time since February, they were all in port at the same time-a fact not missed by the coming foe. In the last of a series of condition reports on the US citadel Japanese agent Ensign Takeo Yoshikawa reported the Battle Force quiet, late on Dec. 6. Torpedo nets, he noted, were not spread and aerial surveillance was nil. The WEST VIRGINIA, like her sisters, was in Readiness Condition three, with a quarter of her AA batteries, their control stations prepared with gun crews and ammunition. Fuel and Victuals were aboard and the engine room on twelve hour notice. Otherwise, the situation aboard was much as it was on any other weekend in port; many men were on liberty while others played cards and napped. The new radar set, the first of the "SC" variety placed aboard any American Battleship, was not operational and few gave any thought to it.
Peering intently through binoculars, Commander Mutsuo Fuchida was pleased. The undetected take-off north of Oahu had been risky, but now, as the sun broke through thick clouds over Barbers Point and the mists cleared from the Kookau Mountains, Yoshikawa's message was proved correct. It looked as though the darling plan of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto would work. The American Battleships were all riding peacefully as the 39 year old veteran of the China campaign calmly checked them off his list. At 7:49 a.m., December 7, 1941, Fuchida gave the signal to attack and the 182 warplanes following him from the six carriers of Vice Admiral Chuichi Nagumo's First Naval Air Fleet dove on the harbor and other installations. So sure was he of his coup, the air leader quickly sent back the pre-arranged radio for surprise achieved-"Tora, Tora, Tora," Shortly thereafter, radios and loudspeakers were calling in plain English:" Air Raid Pearl Harbor-This IS No Drill."
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