70th Anniversary: WHEELER ATTACKED!
December 2, 2011
WHEELER FIELD, Hawaii -- Shortly before 8 a.m., today, 25 Japanese dive-bombers struck from the north.
Hangars #1 and #3 where shattered with bombs and machine gun fire.
Buildings 107 and 108, used as barracks, were hit and set ablaze. Many fires continue to burn. Schofield Barracks was strafed.
Forty-two P-40s and 41 other aircraft on Wheeler's tarmac were destroyed as fire and dense black smoke continue to fill the morning sky.
The planes belonged to the Army Air Corp's 14th Pursuit Wing and the 15th and 18th Pursuit Groups. These P-40 fighter aircraft, 99 in total, are charged with the air defense of the Hawaiian islands.
At the same time, simultaneous attacks took place at Hickam Field, Bellows Field, and Kaneohe and Ewa fields.
Wheeler Field was hit again during Japan's second wave of 180 aircraft. That attack ended at 9:45 a.m.
Wheeler's destruction is shocking.
Twisted steel beams and blown-out windows are the remains of two hangars. Temporary tent areas, located between Hangars #2 and #3 to house enlisted personnel, have been reduced to ashes.
Following their successful elimination of Army, Marine and Navy aircraft this morning, Japanese fighters then attacked their prime targets, the ships on Pearl Harbor's Battleship Row.
The harbor is a scene of horror as mangled and sunken ships are obscured by fire and smoke as oil on the water remains ablaze.
Loss of American life is estimated at more than 2,400.
Cost Of Life
Thirty-seven enlisted men were killed in this morning's attack and 59 others wounded.
Burned-out wreckage of Army aircraft fill the Wheeler tarmac and the insides of destroyed hangars.
This same picture has been duplicated at Hickam, Bellows, Kaneohe and Ewa -- where U.S. fighters, bombers and sea planes were laid to destruction.
The Japanese accomplished their goal today and reigned supreme in the air over Pearl Harbor, sinking or damaging all seven U.S. battleships and rendering extensive damage to piers, submarine pens, maintenance buildings and 86 other ships in the harbor.
This is the most devastating attack ever inflicted on the U.S. Navy.
There was one glimmer of hope this morning. The U.S. aircraft carriers were not at Pearl Harbor. Not only were the U.S. carriers saved from destruction, but Oahu was also saved from an apparent third wave of Japanese aircraft.
When the first wave of Japanese planes returned to their carriers to be refueled and rearmed to become the third wave, they reported the U.S. carriers were not in the harbor. Fearful of their whereabouts, and not wanting to leave their own carriers without protective air cover, the Japanese decided to keep the aircraft there and not launch another wave. That decision saved the large, oil storage tanks surrounding Pearl Harbor, the apparent target of Japan's third wave and the source of five years of fuel for America's Navy in the Pacific.
President Roosevelt is scheduled to address Congress and the nation in the morning.
It is presumed he will ask for a declaration of war.
Brave U.S. Airmen Mount Counterattack
During the Wheeler attack, five P-40s from the 47th Pursuit Squadron, which had aircraft positioned at Haleiwa Field, were able to take off and battle the enemy fighters. Lieutenants Harry Brown, Robert Rogers, John Webster, George Welch and Kenneth Taylor drove 10 miles from Wheeler to Haleiwa at breakneck speed this morning to get their planes into the air. For the next 90 minutes, they pursued Japanese fighters over Oahu, shooting down nine planes.
Thirty-five minutes after the initial attack, six other aircraft were able to take off from Wheeler and flew 25 sorties against the Japanese.
Historical narratives and layout by Dennis Drake. Photos courtesy of Tropic Lightning Museum.