OTHER PEARL HARBOR AND POST PEARL HARBOR EVENTS
The Japanese used 354 planes to torpedo, dive bomb, horizontal bomb, and strafe our ships, and air bases. All but 28 returned safely to their aircraft carriers and were available to participate in the Battle of Midway five months later. The devastating attack on Pearl Harbor lasted barely three hours.
One wave of Japanese bombers dropped fifty-four 800kg (1800 lb) bombs. 48 were aimed at Battleship row. According to Japanese records there were 11 hits and 37 misses. The West Virginia/Tennessee drew the greatest number with 23 bombs aimed at the two Battleships moored together.
The attack was led by Lt Commander Mitsuo Fuchida. He was one of a handful of Japanese Naval Officers who participated in the Pearl Harbor attack to survive the war.
After the war Fuchida, now a Navy Captain, felt deep remorse over Pearl Harbor. He began writing a book to be titled, NO MORE PEARL HARBOR. However, he was frustrated not knowing any source of moral power which would tame the primitive instincts of greed and violence in men.
One day he was summoned to General MacArthur's headquarters for consultation. As he left the Tokyo train station an American missionary handed him a tract. The tract gave the story of Jacob DeShazer. DeShazer was a crewmember of one of the planes launched from the aircraft carrier USS HORNET that took part in the raid over Japan by General Doolittle. DeShazers plane was forced to land in China short of its planned landing site and he became a prisoner of war of the Japanese.
While in the prison camp he requested and was given a New Testament by a Japanese guard. Through reading the Bible DeShazer became a Christian. After being released from prison camp at the end of the war he attended Bible School and returned to Japan as a missionary.
Fuchida was amazed. Why would this mistreated ex POW return and try to do good to his enemy?
Since DeShazer was changed after reading the Bible, Fuchida decided to get a Bible for himself. As he read it he responded to the Gospel and became a Christian.
He teamed up with an ex- Chicago police Captain who had a nation wide ministry with youth. My wife and I first met him at a Christian gathering at Honolulu. When traveling through the United States Fuchida occasionally stayed overnight in Colorado Springs.
Although his English was hard to understand, we had some conversations about the Pearl Harbor attack. My information about the purpose of the attack was confirmed.
In 1927 the Emperor of Japan approved a 100-year plan for conquering the world. It was to be in three phases. After defeating the Russians in 1905 the Japanese obtained Taiwan and Korea and were well positioned. The next phase was to occupy Manchuria and other parts of China for resources and manpower. Phase two was to capture what they called the "Southern Resources Area" for rubber tin and oil available mostly in Indonesia. With the British, French, and Dutch who controlled Malaysia, Singapore, Indo China, and Indonesia involved in Europe with, Hitler and a large segment of our fleet in the Atlantic, it seemed the opportune time to strike.
It is also true that to protest Japanese hegemony, the invasion of China , and the fortification of their islands in the Pacific, President Roosevelt imposed some restrictions on their imports from the US and the movement and cargo of their huge fleet of merchant ships, the MARUS.
In the middle of the sea lanes, hindering Japan's access to Indonesia, was the Philippines controlled by the United States. The Japanese had a 200,000 man army, supported by 800 aircraft and about 92 troop transports standing by to invade the Philippines. From their intelligence network the Japanese believed that our plan for defending he Philippines involved stationing our Battleships in strategic areas in the islands to turn their giant guns on any invader. With the knowledge that most of our Battleships were disabled, the first phase of the invasion began December 10 followed by an 80 transport landing of the Japanese Fourteenth Army on December 22, 1941.
The Japanese came to Pearl Harbor with two objectives:
1. Sink or disable the Battleships.
2. Destroy all US aircraft, which might pursue them.
The last planes to fly over Pearl Harbor on December 7th were reconnaissance planes taking pictures. When Fuchida had documented the sinking and damaging of the Battleships, he was ready to return to Japan, mission accomplished.
The Japanese could now get on with their plan to invade the Philippines and occupy and loot Indonesia.
Overwhelmed with their success at Pearl Harbor the Japanese advanced their timetable 50 years.
They hastily put a fleet together to conquer Midway Island to use it for a base to occupy the Hawaiian Islands which would in turn be used as a base to land on the West Coast and proceed to occupy the United States. Admiral Yamamato boasted he would ride a white horse down Pennsylvania Avenue and dictate the peace terms in the White House.
Their disastrous defeat at Midway caused them to revert to their old plan and fortify the Southern Resources so heavily they would be able to keep the conquered territory when peace terms were established. They intended to fight a defensive war to keep their war machine intact so they could use it in phase three, which was to conquer the western world.
What do people think about in the heat of battle when not fully engaged with their weapons? Fighting men have a fine sense as to when real danger exists and when it doesn't. In those moments in which danger does not actually exist, life is fairly normal. They often turn to humor to dispel the tension.
Japan had done a great propaganda job in concealing their real fighting potential. Anything made in Japan was synonymous with being cheap and of poor quality. We boasted that a war with them would be over in three months because of the poor quality of their equipment, training and leadership. It was our common belief that they couldn't shoot straight or hit anything.
Since our 16-inch guns were useless in an attack like Pearl Harbor and we were without electrical power. My Chief Turret Captain, "Spud" Crawford, was standing by on the boat deck to help any way he could with the anti aircraft guns. A Japanese bomber released his 1800 lb bomb over Honolulu seven miles away. We were not up on bombing and thought a bomb fell straight down instead of traveling with forward momentum.
Seeing the distant bomb, Spud said, "See they can't hit a thing."
The bomb continued toward him. Seeing it was going to hit, Spud scrambled under a life jacket locker. The converted 16-inch gun projectile came crashing down on the Tennessee to which we were moored. Fortunately the arming mechanism didn't work but the bomb broke in a thousand pieces scattering unexploded powder pellets all over the area. Spud emerged from the protection of the life jacket locker and muttered, "See, just as I said. They can't hit a thing."
We had on board a Naval Reserve Ensign on active duty named Frank White. He was about 6 feet 6 inches all, well built, a huge man, with feet to match. Behind his back he was affectionately referred to as "big foot" and or "snowshoes". When on the bridge on the four to eight o'clock morning watch he had a habit of complaining about the coffee the wardroom steward served not being hot.
One day the steward who also came on duty at four AM had a plan. He preheated the oven to 450 degrees with a heavy porcelain regulation coffee mug inside. When Ensign White asked for his coffee the steward served it in the heated cup. When White saw the steaming coffee he said. "Now that is the way I like my coffee." He put it to his lips not knowing how hot the heavy porcelain cup was. Blisters arose on both his lips and for days after the burns were very visible.
During the battle he heroically provided initiative and leadership. During a lull, my shipmate Gunner's Mate Felix Young remarked to me. I hear "big foot' has just been awarded medal for his gallantry in action. I asked how White won the medal. He responded, "For tromping out fires."
Ensign White later became Captain White and was very popular with the crew. He often attended our annual USS WEST VIRGINIA reunions in the 1980's and 1990's.
In the first few hours after the attack one of my shipmates, to whom I had witnessed about Christ, came running up to me. "Deacon" he said, "I was blown over the side when the first torpedo hit. I tried to swim ashore with my clothes on. I ran out of breath and was afraid I wasn't going to make it. I knew my shortness of breath was due to smoking. I prayed to God, "if You will just give me enough breath to make it to shore, I will never smoke another cigarette.'".
As he proudly finished his testimony my glance shifted from his eyes to his hand. In it he was holding a lighted cigarette of which he seemed to be totally unaware.
Not all battle field decisions stand the test of time.
Once the dead and wounded had been removed and the fires were out, what does one think and do?
You think of every one of your friends and ask every one you see, "Did _____ survive? You do this until you have an account of all of them. The concussion of the explosions knocked a number of people unconscious. Along with the dead their bodies were laid out on shore on Ford Island and reported as dead. We were all fortunately wearing "dog tags" so it was easy to identify everyone.
Many of those laid out eventually regained consciousness and got up and walked away. A case I recall was the Marine barber, David Secor. The person who handled his body told me that he had been killed. The next day in the food line I found myself standing behind a man who looked like David. I moved forward and looked him in the eye. It was Secor. Now I know how the Disciples of Christ felt after thinking Christ was dead and then seeing Him very much alive.
Back to the attack: After what seemed like a few minutes I realized I was hungry. During the latter part of the attack, I had given my watch to a friend aboard the TENNESSEE, Gordon (Gus) Gustafson to hold for me so it wouldn't be bathed in the spilled fuel oil which was underfoot everywhere.
I had been using a hose from the Tennessee to fight fires. I asked Gus if he knew anyone in the galley who would give me a sandwich. He took me to the galley of the practically undamaged Tennessee where I was given a sandwich. I glanced at the clock. It was 11:45 AM. I couldn't believe it. Events of the last three hours seemed like 30 minutes.
There was a Naval Receiving Station at the Pearl Harbor Naval Base. A Receiving Station is a facility for housing and feeding transient Naval Personnel transferring from one assignment to another. It had facilities for 350 men. The number of homeless sailors from sunken and damaged ships suddenly arose to 4000.
The galley crew heroically tried to feed them. The lines were so long that by feeding from early morning to late at night it was only possible to get two meals per day. Personnel from the Receiving Station acted promptly and efficiently. They collected all the clothes they could round up and distributed them. What we were wearing was soon covered with crude oil, which was floating on the water several inches deep over the entire harbor. Barrels were provided for our washable soiled clothing and returned laundry was put in barrels for us to forage in for something that fit. With clothing that did not match or fit we looked like a rag tag army
The clothing store was opened and we each helped our selves to a mattress, pillow, and blanket. The Block sports arena had just been completed outside the Pearl Harbor base for fleet athletic events. This became our temporary home as we made our beds on the seats. It quickly was renamed the "mosquito bowl" by those of us who slept there. Mosquitoes apparently moved in from all over the Island to participate in the feast.
The Receiving Station opened their store and gave out all of their toothbrushes and toilet gear on a first come, first served basis. My friend and best man at our wedding, Marvin Lokkesmoe, (Lokki), and I shared a toothbrush for several days.
Fearing a return attack, a blackout was ordered for the night. It was executed and a little ironic since the flaming Arizona was to burn like an erupting Mauna Kea volcano three days and nights with the flames visible for 50 miles.
The Pearl Harbor Naval Hospital and Amy's Tripler hospital and civilian hospitals heroically worked around the clock to care for the wounded.
The Pearl Harbor hospital set up a burn ward for the dozens of men whose oil soaked bodies had became a fiery torch. Sunday afternoon I visited one of my friends, (Claude Knuckles) from the battleship California. He was coming up the ladder from the main deck to the boat deck when a bomb exploded. It blew him up in the air and when he came down he was on the second deck. He thought he was on the main deck and rushed to the nearest exit to escape the heat and smoke. But instead of an exit, he ran into a steel bulkhead. He was further down one deck and there was no exit.
He was intensely sincere about where he was but his sincerity didn't provide an exit where there was none. I have had well-meaning people tell me that it doesn't matter what you believe as long as you are sincere. That is a fallacy. It is possible to be sincerely mistaken.
Most of the patients were in suspension and couldn't use their hands. I went through the ward asking various ones to dictate letters for me to send their parents so they would know their condition.
The Honolulu police did not have radios. They took over the two local radio stations for police communication. Like thousands of others my wife Morena spent the night of December 7th listening to the police radio during the enforced curfew and blackout.
Although the telephones were restricted to urgent and emergency calls, Lokki phoned Morena on Monday and told her to bring her military ID card and she might get on base. She did and although I was in my oil soaked uniform and without a shave, we had a joyous reunion.
I was still the Postmaster. Monday morning Lokki, who was a carpenter, got some plywood from the Submarine Base Carpenter Shop and built a sorting case for me. I set up the outdoor USS WEST VIRGINIA Post Office on the Navy Landing.
Since considerable distance and weight was involved in handling the mail, I went to the Navy Yard Supply Officer and asked if he would issue me a bicycle, which the Supply Department carried in stock. He refused saying that since the West Virginia was sunk he had no account to charge it to. I talked one of our ship officers who apparently got through to him. I got a message that a bicycle was waiting for me.
Hundreds to other ships were transferring USS WEST VIRGINIA survivors, except for a Salvage Crew. I was also given the death certificates of the 105 who had been killed. Sorting, forwarding and returning the mail occupied most of my day for the next few weeks. Tons of Christmas packages, which the mailers had wisely mailed early, had to be dealt with.
For censorship purposes I was not allowed to explain why the mail of those killed was being returned to sender. I simply stamped the returned mail, UNKNOWN. Our Captain, Mervin Bennion, was killed during the attack. After returning several Christmas packages his family had sent him, I got a letter from Mrs. Bennion explaining who he was and that he had been killed in the Pearl Harbor attack. (When we lived in Naval Housing at Pearl Harbor from 1952 to 1955 our address was 1120 Bennion Street named after our former Captain.
Mail censorship was activated soon after the war began. We were limited to one page in our letters. An upside was that free mailing privileges were extended to all active duty military personnel.
Then there came "V" mail. To cut down on the weight factor transporting mail to the mainland all armed forces overseas wrote our letters on a special form, which was microfilmed, flown to the US, and then the microfilm was developed and the letter sent to addressee.
Immediately after the attack, the Navy set up a temporary outdoor Command Post at the Receiving Station to handle routine and emergency situations. Many of the men whose ships were sunk swam ashore and took refuge in the Aeia cane fields. After spending a few dozen hours in the mosquito infested fields, they concluded Hawaii had not been occupied by the Japanese, were thirsty and hungry, and began to show up at the Command Post.
The Navy had a mechanized efficient personnel records system and within 48 hours most families had been notified of those reported dead and missing.
One such report hit close to home. One of my friends, a Christian Radioman Johnson ,was serving aboard USS ARIZONA. He sent for his wife and daughter who arrived December 6, only to be told that her husband had been transferred to Johnson Island the day before and was aboard the cruiser Indianapolis transporting him and others to that little island 600 miles from Hawaii. Her faith was tested. She felt the Lord had led her and her daughter out to Hawaii. Here she was. Her husband would be away indefinitely.
Then Tuesday, December 9th, a message was forwarded from her home telling her that her husband was missing and presumed dead. We tried to console Dorothy that he was probably still on record as being on the ARIZONA When the attack was over the INDIANAPOLIS was ordered back to Pearl Harbor. Johnson was aboard and very much alive and well. He was transferred to a Pearl Harbor communication facility and stayed there for the entire war. His wife took an important defense job and they were together for the next four years..
Other duties of the Command Post were to provide a firing squad and bugler for the mass burial of those who died in the Hospital the night before.
I overheard and witnessed the following incident:
Some stragglers from sunken ships showed up at the Command Post. The Chief Petty Officer in Charge gave then a dressing down only a veteran salty chief could administer. He called them a bunch of cowards and let them know that their families had probably been notified that they were dead or missing.
One of them said, "Chief, I didn't think it was that serious. What do you think they will do to us?"
The Chief replied, "I don't know but if I had my way they would shoot you."
At that moment a messenger whispered in the Chief's ear that the ambulances with the dead from the hospital had arrived enroute Red Hill cemetery for burial and were ready to pick up the firing squad.
The Chief gave a loud order, "Pass the word (over the loud speaker) for the Firing Squad to report to OOD's desk.
There were some pale faces and trembling sailors among the stragglers before they discovered the Firing Squad was not being summoned for them.
Monday morning December 8th, the Disbursing Officer got a crew from the Navy Yard to go out to the ship with a metal burning torch to open his safe, (it was above water and fireproof). He retrieved the several hundred thousands of dollars and put it a safe ashore.
Since many of us had lost all of our money, he quickly set up a temporary office, and took sworn statements to make new pay records on which we could get an advance.
When I went in to his desk Disbursing Officer Ensign Vance Fowler, turned pale and began to breathe heavily.
Since I did business with him daily we were good friends. In every letter from his mother, she included a Scripture verse. One day he showed me one of her letters and said, :"Deacon, here is one Bible passage I bet you $5.00 dollars you don't know." He stumbled through the identifying reference, II Chronicles 7:14.
I replied, "Does it go something like this? 'If my people which are called by my name shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways...'".
He got on his feet, slammed the letter on his desk and said, " I give up. You know every verse in the Bible."
I tried to explain that was one of the best known verses in the Old Testament and probably the only verse in II Chronicles I knew.
When we faced each other the morning of December 8th he was visibly shaken. He put his arms on my shoulders and began to run his hands up and down my arms. He said, "Deacon, am I ever glad to see you."
I replied I was glad to see him too, but we never had a ceremony like this before.
He then explained: "Do you know who walked out the door just before you came in? It was the Chaplain. HE TOLD ME HE HAD JUST BURIED YOU".
There was a Gunner's Mate striker in the fifth division with the same name as
mine. He had unfortunately been killed in the attack. It was he at whose burial
the Chaplain had officiated.
All rights reserved.
May be duplicated for entertainment or
educational purposes but not for commercial gain.
James W. Downing
2650 Stoneridge Drive
Colorado Springs, CO 80919
Ph/fax 719 598 1461
E Mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright ©2000-2020 James W. Downing and USSWestVirginia.org. All rights reserved.