Pearl Harbor - "Totsugeskiseyo!"
by Gregory Karpicky
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. 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
At the time of Fuchida's signal of "Totsugeskiseyo", that a successful attack
had been achieved, Shimazaki's second wave was some 90 nautical miles from
Oahu. By 0850 they had reached Pearl and begun their deployment, ready to
finish up the task the first wave had started. Saburo Shindo of AKAGI, who had
seen battle over China was in charge of the fighter cover for the second wave.
He had his fighters weaving cover at 6500 meters over the dive and level
bombers, each pilot's eyes peeled for any sign of what they felt were sure to
be an aroused American air force. In command of the entire second wave was Lt.
Comdr. Shigekazu Shimazaki. His bombers flew at staggered intervals beneath the
fighter cover. At 0900, the planes approached the combat area. "AA fire was so
thick in places you could almost walk on it," one Lt. Fujita declared.
"My one thought was to do a good job and hope to God I got through alive."
Fujita realized that the Japanese had total air supremacy so he concentrated on
strafing the ground installations. He led his group of Zero fighters toward
Kaneohe had no antiaircraft guns to speak of but rifles and machine guns had
been issued so the men there were putting up the best defense they could. At
least one man was observed firing a BAR, "using a squadron-mate's shoulder for
a gun rest."
As Iida's Zero swept near the Kaneohe armory, a sailor named Sands got off a
burst of fire from his machine gun, exclaiming, "…I swear I hit that yellow
bastard!" Sands grabbed a fresh BAR and emptied the clip into the fighter as it
circled to strafe him; Iida's bullet's pockmarking the wall behind Sands. Then
Iida noticed a thin stream of gasoline spraying from his wing. Possibly
remembering an exhortation to his men this morning, where he had stated he
would rather crash into an enemy target than make and emergency landing, Fujita
saw him point to himself then to the ground, indicating he was going to crash
dive. He then signaled for the group to disband. During this final dive, Iida
lost control of his Zero and his plane crashed into a road, "skidded across and
piled up against the embankment at the opposite side…" Fujita watched Iida's
plunge in horror. He later reported his friend had "crashed in the midst of a
flaming hanger on Kaneohe Air Base."
The attack on Kaneohe was a bargain for the Japanese. They lost two Zeros, and
several were observed to be "leaking gasoline." In return they had destroyed
twenty-seven PBY's and damaged another six. Only three PBY's on patrol that
morning remained intact.
Fujita intended to lead his fighters toward Wheeler field to avenge Iida's
death, but his group never got there. While on their way across the island
Fujita heard firing behind and above him. Several American fighters were
attacking. This was a handful of American pilots from Haleiwa who managed to
get aloft during the second wave. Led by Lt.'s Welch and Taylor, this group
numbered between six and nine P-40 pursuit planes. Taylor and Welch had taken
off from Haleiwa at 0820 and eventually found their way to Ewa Field. There,
Taylor shot down one Val over Ewa and another as it flew out to sea. They then
flew to Wheeler to re-arm. Meanwhile another American P-40 engaged a
Japanese Zero in a dogfight over a pineapple field at Wahiawa. The Zero was
both fast and nimble and repeatedly peppered American plane. But to the great
delight of the Americans watching on the ground, the pilot held on and downed
his Japanese opponent. When the second wave broke over Wheeler, Lt.'s Welch and
Taylor were re-arming their P-40's. The crews loading the planes promptly ran
for shelter but the pilots took off, scattering boxes of ammunition and shell
casings. From that point on "things got kind of jumbled…" Taylor admitted. They
shot down some Japanese planes over Wheeler, "one right on Lieutenant Taylor's
tail." Then they went on to Ewa Field to give the Marines there a hand. "At
that time there was a whole string of planes looking like a traffic pattern,"
Taylor recounted. The two indestructible Americans shot down at least two more
Japanese before returning to Wheeler. Re-arming they took off and returned to
Ewa, scouring the skies for forty-five minutes before realizing there would be
"no more action."
The second attack had lasted about an hour and was almost as successful as the
first had been. The major difference between the two being that the American
defenders were on the alert with guns ready and ammunition loaded when the
second wave arrived. More Japanese planes were shot down or damaged during this
second attack. The Japanese had anticipated this and so had decided to omit the
use of the slow, vulnerable torpedo planes. Even so, things did not go entirely
their way during the second wave and some of their best pilots were killed in
action. Their losses for the entire operation amounted to nine planes in the
first wave and twenty in the second.
Soon all surviving Japanese aircraft were winging their way north towards the
recovery point to meet their carriers. The Japanese fleet began recovery
operations for the first wave of aircraft at 1010. The seas had remained very
rough so landings were particularly difficult. Problems were encountered during
landings on the rolling and pitching decks and several damaged planes had to be
pushed overboard. Also, delays caused some aircraft to run very low on fuel.
Even so, the recovery operation was complete by 1047.
. At Dawn We Slept ; Gordon W. Prange, p. 521.
. Dec. 7, 1941 , by Gordon W. Prange, p.281.
. Dec. 7, 1941 , Letter from Curylo, March 3, 1964.
. Osprey Publishing ; Essential Pearl Harbor Interactive Military
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Copyright © 2006 Gregory Karpicky.
Written by Gregory Karpicky. If you have questions or comments on
this article, please contact Gregory Karpicky at:
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: 04/15/2006.