On December 7, 1941, at 0750, all of the forty torpedo bombers in the attack, which had been launched from four of the six Japanese carriers, gathered northwest of the Ewa Marine Corps Air Station. After Fuchida gave the general order for all planes to attack, the torpedo planes divided into two formations. One was a squadron of sixteen torpedo bombers that split into a group of eight planes each, as it increased its speed to approach the west side of Pearl Harbor. These planes, launched from Hiryu and Soryu, were led by Lieutenents Nagi Tsuyoshi and Matsumura Heita. The time was 0752. As one group of the torpedo planes neared the USS UTAH (a battleship commissioned in 1911), the aircraft unwittingly launched two torpedoes against this old ship. Shortly thereafter, UTAH began to capsize. The cruiser USS RALEIGH was next to be severely damaged by torpedoes from the oncoming planes. The other group of torpedo planes flew across Ford Island and unleashed a torpedo at the USS OGLALA (the flagship of the Pacific Fleet Mine Force). The torpedo went under the OGLALA and struck the USS HELENA (a light cruiser), damaging both ships in the process.
The second formation of torpedo bombers, which was northwest of Ewa Marine Corps Air Station, divided its formation into two groups of twelve planes each. These planes were launched from the Akagi and Kaga and were under the leadership of Lieutenants Murata Shigeharu and Kitajima Ichiro. The aircraft flew initially southeastward, then turned north and northwest over Hickam Field to come in a direct line with Battleship Row. Lieutenant Matsumura, having attacked the ships on the west side of Ford Island, now began his second run against Battleship Row on the east side of Ford Island. This time his torpedo struck the USS WEST VIRGINIA and inflicted significant damage. This attack was immediately followed by Lieutenant Murata releasing and striking the WEST VIRGINIA with a second torpedo.
Attention was now directed toward the USS OKLAHOMA which was outboard of the USS MARYLAND and in an exposed position. Lieutenant Goto Jinichi from the second squadron spotted the vulnerable battleship, and steered his torpedo bomber from the Akagi directly toward the OKLAHOMA. He inflicted a direct hit on the battleship. Shortly thereafter, two additional hits on the OKLAHOMA followed, one of which struck the battleship in its middle causing her to significantly list. At this time, a torpedo sped under the USS VESTAL (a repair ship) which was outboard of the USS ARIZONA, and inflicted a direct hit on the ARIZONA. The ARIZONA then sustained a direct bomb hit on the starboard side of the quarterdeck (usually located on the main deck and reserved for official functions). At 0805, the USS CALIFORNIA, which was the most southward of the ships in Battleship Row, received two torpedo hits, leaving the battleship listing in the water.
The inboard battleships were now the objective of Japan's horizontal bombers. After Commander Fuchida gave the signal for his horizontal bombers to attack the battleships, he fell back to an observation position where he could witness its effectiveness. On their first pass, air turbulence prohibited proper sighting, except for the third plane in the formation which released its bomb. The bomb was actually shaken loose by enemy fire and fell harmlessly in the water. Just then, the fuselage of Fuchida's plane sustained a number of direct hits, causing his plane to shudder, but still able to function normally.
The International Midway Memorial Foundation, together with the Pacific Aviation Museum [Chairman, Admiral Ron J. Hays, USN (Ret.)] will co-host a Battle of Midway symposium in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in June 2012. The details are being worked out and will follow in future issues of the Midway Sentinel. The Foundation is also giving consideration to co-hosting (with the Pacific Aviation Museum) a Battle of Midway symposium in 2011.
Chris and I send our best to all.