Beginning with this issue of the Midway Sentinel, excerpts from a manuscript I am writing entitled The Battle of Midway: An Historical Perspective will be presented. In this issue, we will begin with an excerpt from Chapter Six, which covers the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
The first Japanese wave of 183 planes having been launched from all six carriers north of Oahu were flying due south toward Oahu. These aircraft were under the over-all command of Commander Fuchida Mitsuo, their flight leader.
With his mission accomplished, the pilot from the Chikuma (cruiser) float plane, having surveyed Pearl Harbor, radioed back to the Kido Butai (Japanese Task Force) that there were nine battleships and six light cruisers anchored in Pearl Harbor and, shortly thereafter, the scout plane from the one (cruiser) reported back that there were no U.S. warships in the Lahaina anchorage, located on the west coast of Maui. There was no evidence of any U.S. aircraft carriers in either location.
The time was 0739, and the first wave of Japanese planes was now only twenty miles from Pearl Harbor. Fuchida's radioman gave him a message transmitted from the Kido Butai that informed Fuchida of the results obtained from the two scout planes' reconnaissance missions. When the planes arrived at the northern tip of Oahu (Kahuku Point), they turned southwest as Fuchida gave the order for the planes to deploy their attack positions.
It was at this point that a plan devised by Fuchida would be implemented. He would release one flare from his rocket pistol to signify that surprise had been achieved, or, if he released two flares at two to three second intervals, that would signal that the Kido Butai had been detected. A single flare would direct the torpedo bombers to begin their descent toward Pearl Harbor, as the fighters gained control of the air. The accompanying dive-and high-level bombers would then immediately proceed to their targets. On the other hand, if the enemy were on the alert, then the torpedo bombers would wait until the dive-and high-level bombers gained the attention of Pearl Harbor anti-aircraft fire, following which the torpedo bombers accompanied by fighters would begin their attack.
With the knowledge that surprise had been achieved, Fuchida fired off one flare indicating that the attacking planes had not been detected by the Americans. When Lieutenant Suganami, one of the of the fighter group leaders, failed to move into proper attack formation, Fuchida concluded that the fighter pilot had failed to see the first flare, so the flight leader shot off a second flare. Lieutenant Takahasi, leader of the dive bomber group, now misread the second flare to signify that surprise was not obtained, and immediately broke formation and headed toward the airfields at Ford Island and Hickam Army Air Force Base. The remainder of the first wave of Japanese aircraft continued to fly southwest toward Barbers Point, which is on the western side of the island. Still feeling comfortable about the tactical situation, Fuchida ordered his radioman to send the following message over the airwaves to naval headquarters in Tokyo:"Tora! Tora! Tora!" - the code words that the Japanese had caught the U.S. Pacific fleet unaware.
As the remaining part of the first wave flew southwest to Kaena Point, the other group of "Val" dive bomber planes and "Zero" fighters, which did not misread the second flare, veered off toward the southeast to attack Wheeler Army Air Force base. Several of the Japanese fighters went on to assault Kaneohe Naval Air Station located in the southeastern corner of the island.
When the torpedo and the level bombers reached Kaena Point, they split up into two groups with the "Kate" torpedo bombers hugging the coast on their way around to Barbers Point; and the "Kate" level bombers, though following a similar route, flew further west and south of Barbers Point as they also continued on toward Pearl Harbor. As these planes now turned east toward Pearl Harbor, six Japanese "Zero" fighters peeled off from the torpedo bomber group to strafe Ewa Marine Corps Air Station located in the southwest corner of Oahu. This action was the first taken in the Pearl Harbor attack and resulted in over seventy percent of the U.S. planes being destroyed on the ground.
Chris and I wish everyone a happy summer.