|Most of us
Vietnam vets who grew up as baby boomers remember watching war movies
about WWII and especially remember more modern movies depicting the
attack on Pearl Harbor in the Hawaiian Islands, i.e., "Tora, Tora,
Tora." This page shows just a glimpse into the devastation
caused on December 7, 1941. The Japanese are now our friends and
allies, and this page is not intended to preserve the hatred of the
40's, but to preserve the memories of the sacrifices of the World War II
veterans and especially those that were attacked on December 7th in
On Sunday, December 7th, 1941 the Japanese launched a surprise attack against the U.S. Forces stationed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. By planning his attack on a Sunday, the Japanese commander Admiral Nagumo, hoped to catch the entire fleet in port. As luck would have it, the Aircraft Carriers and one of the Battleships were not in port. (The USS Enterprise was returning from Wake Island, where it had just delivered some aircraft. The USS Lexington was ferrying aircraft to Midway, and the USS Saratoga and USS Colorado were undergoing repairs in the United States.)
In spite of the latest intelligence reports about the missing aircraft carriers (his
most important targets), Admiral Nagumo decided to continue the attack with his force of six carriers and 423 aircraft. At a range of 230 miles north of Oahu, he launched the first wave of a two-wave attack. Beginning at 0600 hours his first wave consisted of 183 fighters and torpedo bombers which struck at the fleet in Pearl Harbor and the airfields in Hickam, Kaneohe and Ewa. The second strike, launched at 0715 hours, consisted of 167 aircraft, which again struck at the same targets.
At 0753 hours the first wave consisting of 40 Nakajima B5N2 "Kate" torpedo bombers, 51 Aichi D3A1 "Val" dive bombers, 50 high altitude bombers and 43 Zeros struck airfields and Pearl Harbor. Within the next hour, the second wave arrived and continued the attack.
When it was over, the U.S. losses were:
USA: 218 KIA, 364 WIA.
USN: 2,008 KIA, 710 WIA.
USMC: 109 KIA, 69 WIA.
Civilians: 68 KIA, 35 WIA.
TOTAL: 2,403 KIA, 1,178 WIA.
USS Arizona (BB-39) - total loss when a bomb hit her magazine.
USS Oklahoma (BB-37) - Total loss when she capsized and sunk in the harbor.
USS California (BB-44) - Sunk at her berth. Later raised and repaired.
USS West Virginia (BB-48) - Sunk at her berth. Later raised and repaired.
USS Nevada - (BB-36) Beached to prevent sinking. Later repaired.
USS Pennsylvania (BB-38) - Light damage.
USS Maryland (BB-46) - Light damage.
USS Tennessee (BB-43) Light damage.
USS Utah (AG-16) - (former battleship used as a target) - Sunk.
USS New Orleans (CA-32) - Light Damage.
USS San Francisco (CA38) - Light Damage.
USS Detroit (CL-8) - Light Damage.
USS Raleigh (CL-7) - Heavily damaged but repaired.
USS Helena (CL-50) - Light Damage.
USS Honolulu (CL-48) - Light Damage.
USS Downes (DD-375) - Destroyed. Parts salvaged.
USS Cassin - (DD-372) Destroyed. Parts salvaged.
USS Shaw (DD-373) - Very heavy damage.
USS Helm (DD-388) - Light Damage.
USS Ogala (CM-4) - Sunk but later raised and repaired.
USS Curtiss (AV-4) - Severely damaged but later repaired.
USS Vestal (AR-4) - Severely damaged but later repaired.
USS Sotoyomo (YT-9) - Sunk but later raised and repaired.
188 Aircraft destroyed (92 USN and 92 U.S. Army Air Corps.)
The USS Arizona Memorial
Thanks to Phil Mohler for forwarding these photos from an
unknown source and thanks to Paul Kasper for the poster graphics and newspaper
article. Thanks also to Bill Kahn for forwarding the photo of
the Arizona Memorial. Bill reports the following: There were three generations of us at Pearl Harbor on
December 7. My grandfather was at Hickam Field, my dad was at Schofield Barracks, and my grandmother and I (age 2) were in a slit trench outside our quarters at Schofield......
This page in tribute to WWII vets and especially those who were
at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 pales in comparison to other web sites chronicling
the events of that day. For a detailed look see this National
Geographic web site and be sure to click on the attack map for an
interactive look at the major events of December 7.
To get a real feeling for what it was like, please read the
following great account by Vaughn E. Hamberlin:
“We Remember Mates”
As we glided across the blue-green water of Pearl Harbor, we were all caught up in the beauty of the “Pearl of the Pacific.” My mind quickly traveled back across the years to a Sunday morning not unlike this one.
As a young man of nineteen, I had been assigned duty aboard the battleship U.S.S. Tennessee. In two days I would complete my first year in the U.S. Navy. On this particular morning, I was waiting with my fellow softball team members for a launch that was to transport us to the Naval “Rec” field. None of the team ever boarded that launch.
The anticipation of a day of leisure at the recreation field and on the beach was broken by an excited voice on the public announcing system, “All hands man your battle stations!” As the ship’s crew hastened to their stations I thought, “Why couldn’t this drill have waited five minutes, then we would have been off the ship.” I should have known something was wrong; normally, general quarters was sounded on a boatswain’s whistle, followed by verbal instructions. The voice on the loud speaker began shouting, “This is no drill; it is the real thing!”
Before I reached my station the old wagon was shaking from stem to stern. I wasn’t sure what was going on, but the battleship
U.S.S. West Virginia which was tied to our port side had taken the first of what would be many torpedoes into her port side. World War II had begun.
From that moment on things began to happen so fast and furious it is hard to put them in sequence. The short time that followed branded my mind with memories that would last a lifetime.
The battleship U.S.S. Maryland was docked just forward of the U.S.S. Tennessee with the
U.S.S. Oklahoma alongside her. None of the ships escaped being hit by either torpedoes or bombs in the first few minutes.
At the beginning of the vicious attack, the Oklahoma was hit hard on her port side by several torpedoes – as was the West Virginia. It was standard procedure for all ships to get underway when under attack; but to everyone’s horror, when the Oklahoma’s lines were cut from the Maryland she immediately began to roll over. It only took a few minutes until she was bottom-up, trapping many of her crew below deck.
The West Virginia would have seen the same fate if an old boatswain on the Tennessee had not refused to allow her lines to be cut from us. She sank only a few feet and her keel rested the bottom, wedging the Tennessee against the quays, making it impossible for her to move; but without a doubt the boatswain’s decision had saved many lives on the West Virginia. The
U.S.S. California docked forward of the Maryland had much the same fate as the West Virginia.
Being located as they were the Tennessee and Maryland were protected from the torpedo planes. Directly aft of us was the battleship
U.S.S. Arizona and the repair ship U.S.S. Vestal was alongside her. Because of Ford Island, the Naval Air Station, the attackers could not make a water approach from our starboard side; however, we did take several heavy bomb hits and a lot of strafing.
Then the biggest blast of the day came; the Arizona blew up! Some believe a bomb went directly in her stack; others believe a torpedo went under the Vestal, hitting her below the armor plating, blowing her boilers and magazines. It seems inconceivable that what I saw could actually happen. Her forward deck seemed to roll forward, and she belched forth fire, steel, oil, and men; all coming down on the ships around her. It seemed for a time the entire line of battlewagons was on fire and that nothing could be saved. My whole world was on fire.
No one knows how, but the Vestal was able to get underway and move out of the holocaust and move away from the Arizona; but her freedom was short lived when she caught a couple of heavy bomb hits – one ripping her open from the main deck to her keel. She began to sink, and her Skipper ran her aground to prevent disaster.
Throughout the attack I was alternately fighting fire and handling the dead and wounded. My hands had never before touched a dead man. It was a horrifying experience to have the flesh of a man fall apart to my touch. I heard cries, whispered prayers of fear, and cursing in anger; but through it all, I saw no panic. I had tasted the bitters of Hell, but I did not weep.
In the days following, I was assigned to a launch as the motorman. Two others – a coxswain and a bowman, made up the launch crew. Our duty was removing bodies that were rising to the surface in the harbor. It was almost impossible to pull the bodies into the launch without tearing the flesh, so we towed them to a specially-built float at the recreation field.
After three days this work began to tell on my nerves. Each time we removed a body I was afraid to search for identification; because you see, I was afraid I would find my brother Wayne, who was assigned to the Vestal.
On the third day after the attack, I told the bowman how to operate the engine and then asked the coxswain to drop me off on the gangway to the Vestal, then lay-off and wait for me. I was surprised when the Duty Officer allowed me aboard; but when I told him why I made the request, all he asked me was if I know where my brother’s quarters were. When I said yes, he welcomed me aboard. I walked to the hatch that led down to Wayne’s quarters, and my heart almost stopped from what I saw. The hatchway was blown away, and a bomb had gone right through Wayne’s quarters. I began to shake. I tried to light a cigarette, and my hands shook so hard I couldn’t contact flame with cigarette. A man lit my cigarette for me. It was a friend of my brother whom I had met on a previous visit. He said Wayne was okay, but was on the beach in a work party. I was shaken, but did not weep.
It took ten day to remove the Tennessee from her wedge between the West Virginia and the quays. When she was freed we returned to the shipyard at Bremerton, Washington for extensive repairs and alterations.
The years that followed were spent on three ships in every corner of the globe, both in the Pacific and the Atlantic. All through the suspense, monotony, loneliness, and horror, I was proud that this farm boy had the privilege of wearing the uniform of Uncle Sam’s Navy. The songs “Anchors Aweigh,” “America the Beautiful,” and our beloved “Star Spangled Banner” still make my chest swell with pride.
As the tour craft pulled alongside the memorial that is constructed over the still visible hull of the Arizona, my thoughts returned to the present. The crowd was very quiet as we filed aboard the Memorial. The first thing we saw was the great bell that served the battleship for many years. The people were very reverent; and when anyone spoke, it was almost in a whisper. My wife and I stood for several minutes viewing the pictures of the attack and read the more than one thousand names of those still entombed in the hull only a few feet below where we were standing.
As we stood looking down on what would have been about midship, small wisps of oil would occasionally break on the surface as if those below were saying, “Hey up there; we’re still here.” I wanted to shout, “We remember mates – and thank you.” I wept.
As I stood gripping the railing with my back to the crowd so they could not see the tears rolling down my face, my thoughts raced through history and the years from 1776 to the present. There were so many that had paid the ultimate price to win and hold the freedom we enjoy. To those below and the others before and after you, “You are not forgotten.”
Vaughn E. Hamberlin
Born September 26, 1922 – Gilmer, Texas
Died April 13, 1994 – Beaumont, Texas
Mr. Hamberlin first visited the Arizona Memorial in April 1976. This article was dated May 10, 1976 and has since been published in various newspapers and magazines.
More WWII Posters
Here's a great link on the history of Pearl