Sunday 7th December 1941
Pearl Harbour, Ohau
Smoke. Fire. Death.
Smoke. Fire. Death.
Smoke. Fire. Death.
A tattered remnant of a battle pennant of battleship floats in the Hawaii air as it crackles with the sound of burning ships and the shrill wail of siren upon siren. The American flag at the centre of Hickham Field hangs by a charred thread, its vibrant red and white stripes riddled with holes, its white stars and blue field charred by smoke. Below and around it lie the wrecks of many USAAF planes, some still recognisable as a P-40 here or a Bolo-18 there. Most, however, resemble lumps of metal, canvas and wood. As far from the graceful lines of an airplane one can go. Worse still are the prone bodies, and parts of bodies strewn across the shattered aerodrome. Bodies that enjoyed a last dance, a last embrace, a last walk on the beach on Saturday evening. Bodies that met an end when the Rising Sun burst from the dawn and delivered death from above in a merciless fashion.
As one pans out to the harbour the vision of hell only increases in scope and desperation. Nevada, Oklahoma, California and Pennyslvania are no more. Three lie bottom up in the shallows of the harbour, the desperate cries from within their hulks lessening by the hour. The Oklahoma in particular is one hellish specatacle as the fires of its former ammo holds keep resuce teams away, the fire hoses losing the battle. The Penny lies gutted open as if a giant had gone through her with a tin opener.
The crusiers New Orleans and St Louis lie gutted and broken. Little remains intact of the former as it was hit by 6 aerially launched torpedoes that obliterated her. The latter lies torn in two, a 800kg bomb had pierced her deck armour and had exploded in a furnace. A second 800kg bomb and literally split the ship in two mere seconds later. Bodies in white uniforms float unceremoniously around the remains of the ships. Many are partly clothed indicating that surprise was total and these men met their fate running to their posts from their bunks.
The city also burns as divebombers had targetted military installations and hospitals with uncanny accuracy, a paranoia was beginning to grip survivors and the first incidents against Nisei Americans were being reported to an indifferent local police authority that was reeling from shock.
Wheeler Field and the Naval strip at Ford also burn. Black pyres rise skywards from bombed oil and fuel depots a fitting shroud to the death of the Hawaiian airforce lying shattered on the pulverised concrete. Small flights of fighters impotently fly CAP over the remains of Pearl Harbour. These planes escaped the hellstorm being based on satellite fields around the main base their pilots shocked into numbness as their consciousness refused to believe what their senses were telling them. A carrier strike at Pearl Harbour...impossible...Japan too far way...impossibe...
Yet below their wings the evidence was splayed all over the place. Not a single search plane was up, indeed not one Catalina remained operational across Ohau! Yet hope springs eternal. Here and there a white wreck or a green wreck permeates through the blue of the Navy and Marine planes and through the drab olive green of the Army. At least 20 Japanese fighters were downed as they strafed across the airfields at head height. Likewise several torpedo bombers were splashed in the harbour with one crash landing almost intact on Hickam.
As shock begins to turn to fury some of that ire is turned towards the Navy's carriers. 'Where the hell were they?' some shout. Accusations of cowardice begin to be directed at the Navy's air arm, however cooler heads are accutely aware of the lucky escape both the Lexington and the Enterprise have had. Japan's navy had just demonstrated to the world the unbridled power of the aircraft carrier; the Lady and the Big E would have just been large helpless targets for the Japanese bombers to practise on had they been caught in port. Indeed those cooler heads, thankfully a lot of them at CINCPAC (the irony), now regarded those two ships as the most valuable in the wide expanse of the Pacific.
1966 was a great year for English Football...Eric was born