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Pearl Harbor
Pearl Harbor
by Gregory Karpicky

Prelude
Until 1853, when Commodore Matthew C. Perry anchored in Yokahama Bay, the islands of Japan had been relatively isolated. Having a long and very proud history of self-reliance, they considered themselves a chosen race. Their Emperor was considered a god, supposedly descended from Amaterasu, or Great Spirit Illuminating the Heavens, and could trace his lineage back well over 1000 years. Added to this long national history was an equally long military history of victories against invaders and foes that had left Japan feeling invulnerable. But the isolation became clear with Perry's visit, and the Japanese quickly realized they needed to arm themselves with modern weapons if they were to deal with the outside world. They performed this task so well that by 1895 they had annexed Formosa and part of the Korean peninsula andᤠshamed the Czar's army and navy in the short Russo-Japanese war of 1904-05.⹠the early 20th century Japan was recognized as a world-class military nation. Militants in the Japanese army were moving into control of the government and were bent on conquest. The early 1930's involved Japan in a war to seize China.
Read More...
* * *
Magic
The Americans had not been idle during the build up to the Pacific conflict. As early as the twenties, American and British cryptanalysts had forged an agreement. As the British had a lead in deciphering Japanese naval codes, they would concentrate their efforts on those while the Americans would work on diplomatic codes. By 1939 the Americans had finally broken the Japanese diplomatic code that would eventually become known as "Purple". "Purple" enabled President Roosevelt and his staff to be privy to Foreign Minister Oshima's communications to Ambassador Nomura. This gave the U.S. an invaluable advantage in reading diplomatic messages. But that advantage did not translate into an advantage in naval intelligence or intentions in the Pacific. The Japanese militarists, by thisé­¥ fullyî £harge of the Japanese government, were dead set on a war with Britain and the U.S. and did not want their embassies to know. So while Foreign Minister Oshima may have known more than he let on, he certainly did not communicate that to his ambassadors.
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* * *
Tiger, Tiger, Tiger
After much argument the leaders of the army, navy and the Japanese cabinet had finally made their decision. They met with the Emperor on December 2nd and led by General Tojo, made their case for war: "At the moment our Empire stands at the threshold of glory or oblivion His Majesty reaches a decision to commence hostilities, we will all strive to repay our obligations to him, bring the Government and the military ever closer together, resolve that the nation united will go on to victory, make an all-out effort to achieve our war aims, and set His Majesty's mind at ease." At an earlier conference on September 6th, the Emperor had expressed his desire to explore all avenues of peaceful resolution. He had chastised the army for trying to drag Japan into war in the pacific when they couldn't resolve the China conflict. But by this time he had resolved himself to the fact that the Japanese military wanted war, and was prepared at any cost to pursue that goal. When the conference was finished, Hirohito merely nodded, rose and left the room. The war was to begin. By November 21st, all thirty-two ships involved in Operation Hawaii had straggled into the cold, gray harbor of Hitokappu Bay, near Iturup in the Southern Kuriles.塲 Admiral Chuichi Nagumo, in overall command of the fleet, held a last conference on board AKAGI on the evening of the 23rd. On November 25th, Combined Fleet Operations Order No. 5 was received aboard the flagship AKAGI.
Read More...
* * *
"No, sir. This is Pearl."
At 7:55 A.M. December 7th 1941, the Second World War began for the United States. The first bomb dropped by the Japanese hit the ground just off Battleship Row, exploding and throwing clods of dirt high in the air but causing no damage. Comdr. Logan Ramsey saw the plane drop the bomb and idly thought to himself "stupid pilot, not securing his bomb correctly." But when the plane banked he immediately recognized the "meatball" on the Japanese plane's wing and rushed to the nearby radio room. At 7:58, one of the most famous signals in American history went out in plain English, " AIR RAID, PEARL HARBOR, THIS IS NO DRILL!" In Washington Secretary of The Navy Frank Knox had just returned to his office when the message was delivered to him. He read it and blurted out, "My God, this can't be true, this must mean the Philippines." Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Harold Stark replied, "No, sir; this is Pearl." At that same time, Lt.s Matsumara and Nagai were leading the first six Japanese torpedo planes in an attack on the USS Utah and the USS Raleigh. The卾Utah was hit first by two torpedoes fitted with the special wooden stabilizing fins developed especially for the shallow waters of Pearl Harbor. Only minutes after the torpedo hits, the mooring lines snapped and she rolled over, trapping or killing fifty-eight seamen. The Raleigh fared better than the Utah , having only one torpedo hit to contend with. Damage-control parties soon had the torpedo damage in hand and her anti-aircraft gunners were eventually credited with five kills.
Read More...
* * *
"Totsugeskiseyo"
During the initial attack, twenty-six "Vals" and eighteen "Zeros" had separated from the main body and looped around the westward side of the island. They descended on Hickam Airfield and began bombing and strafing everything in sight. One of the first bombs scored a direct hit on a hanger and another detonated in the mess hall in a barracks, killing thirty men instantly.[1] As the Japanese planes were tearing up the airfield, a flight of B-17's being ferried from the mainland flew into the melee, unaware and unarmed. When they first spotted the fighters the pilots thought the Army had sent up an escort. But as soon as bullets began to strike home they realized they had flown straight into a war. After a long, tedious overwater flight from the mainland, the crews were tired. Also the big bombers were no match for the nimble "Zeros", especially in the hands of experienced, combat tested pilots. It was only a combination of pilot skill, aircraft toughness and just plain luck that allowed all twelve of the Boeing bombers to make it safely to the ground, although one had to land on a golf course. After finishing their work over the East End of the island, the aircraft headed back north towards the rendezvous point.
Read More...
* * *
"The resultsè¡´ are they?"
Fuchida's plane circled had the harbor area for about two hours, until 1000. He was assessing and trying to photograph the damage from both strikes. Smoke and flames from the destruction wrought by his forces made this task difficult. His plane had taken some hits and was holed and badly shot up. He then had his pilot begin the long journey north to the task force. On his way there, he reflected on his desire for a second full strike. He wanted to put the few remaining American ships out of commission. He had also noticed the tank farms, dry-docks and other shore facilities. He knew that if the Japanese could destroy Pearl Harbor's maintenance facilities, America would have a hard time projecting any strong naval presence in the Pacific.
Read More...
* * *
Copyright â°°5 Gregory Karpicky.

Written by Gregory Karpicky.  If you have questions or comments on this article, please contact Gregory Karpicky at: glkarpicky@earthlink.net.

About the author:
My literary background has mostly been in writing for various businesses I have consulted for. My father was a career Army officer who earned the Legion of Merit, and the exposure I received at various postings around the world with this gave me a lifelong interest military history.

Published online: 12/17/2005.
Suggested Reading


Kimmel, Short and Pearl Harbor


At Dawn We Slept : The Untold Story of Pearl Harbor; Revised Edition

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