Pacific senior leaders gain historic perspective
December 29, 2009
- USARPAC leaders gain historic insight from lessons learned
- A trip to Fort Kamehameha provides World War II perspective
- A Japanese spy ate here
FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii-A new USARPAC Commanding General Senior Leaders Development Program (SLDP) launched here Dec. 22, encouraging participants to study their profession through military history, and to inspire or reinforce an interest in the heritage of the U.S. Army in the Pacific.
More than 60 years after the devastating Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, USARPAC military and Department of Defense civilian personnel continued to study the lessons learned during the two-day SLDP that began with a pre-brief by U.S. Army Pacific Historian, David Hilkert, followed by a staff ride where participants boarded a bus for a tour around Oahu, which included historic sites relating to the attack on Oahu.
"This program will whet your appetite on the history of the Pacific in World War II," said Lt. Gen. Benjamin R. Mixon, commander, U.S. Army, Pacific. "The Pacific is an area that I don't think has gotten as much attention as it deserves particularly when you compare it with the attention given to events like D-Day in Europe, which are all very important events."
In the first SLDP study event entitled "The U.S. entry into World War II: The Attack on Oahu," Hilkert discussed how the U.S. War Department and the Japanese Imperial Army were organized on Dec. 7, 1941. Hilkert pointed out that the U.S. military did not work jointly as it does today, a lesson learned from the events of World War II.
"At the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. Army in Hawaii was organized under the Hawaiian Department," said Hilkert. He noted that the Hawaiian Department headquarters was originally located in a building on Palm Circle which later burned down and was replaced by the existing gazebo.
"The island of Oahu was split in half and the 24th Infantry Division had the responsibility for protecting the northern half of Oahu and the outer islands, while the 25th Infantry Division's mission was to protect the southern half of Oahu, which included Waikiki and Pearl Harbor," Hilkert said. "And on Dec. 7, 1941, the Japanese Imperial Army struck U.S. military bases on Oahu in a devastating simultaneous attack prompting the U.S. to enter World War II."
The first stop on the staff ride was Aiea Bay State Recreation Area, which was used by the Japanese spy, Takeo Yoshikawa, in 1941 to observe ship and troop movements in and out of Pearl Harbor.
Next, the group traveled to Hawkins Battery at Fort Kamehameha on Hickam Air Force Base where Dr. Randy Tucker, Deputy G3 Support, and Donald Birdseye, Deputy G3 Operations discussed how the U.S. prepared its coastal defenses.
The final stop included lunch at the Natsunoya Tea House, a favorite look-out point for Yoshikawa. From the tea houses's second floor, he spent countless days before the attack on Oahu observing and recording troop and ship activity at Pearl Harbor and reporting his findings back to Japan.
"We are not trying to turn anyone into historians," said Mixon. "What I would like to do is open the aperture for you a little in order to take a look at the war in the Pacific from a starting point of the strategic significance of World War II-to study how it was fought-as it really was a war of maneuver and strategic positioning of forces. So there are a lot of things that occurred in the Pacific during World War II that I think affect how we conduct operations today from a joint and strategic perspective."
The SLDP will continue with a series of study events slated throughout the year. "We have a number of senior leader development events planned for the future to include inviting several veterans who were involved in various battles," said Hilkert.
"Other study events will focus on the Battle of Midway, the China-Burma-India War, and we have tentatively scheduled a staff ride to Kwajalein." The program will conclude December 2010 with a closing ceremony aboard the U.S.S. Missouri.
"The attack on Pearl Harbor did not just all of a sudden happen," said Mixon. "There were a lot of things that led up to World War II. Therefore, things that are happening today have a cumulative and strategic effect. That's why it's important to study our history."