Midway Sentinal

Winter 2010 - 2011


On December 7, 1941, USS ARIZONA received a direct bomb hit on its forward magazine near the number two turret, resulting in such a massive explosion that one thousand men were killed in an instant. The bridge was on fire as the ship began to descend to the bottom of the harbor. The order was given to abandon the ship. USS VESTAL, which was on fire from two direct bomb hits from "Kate" bombers, was saved by the concussion sustained from USS ARIZONA which surprisingly put out of the fires of USS VESTAL. A total of eight bomb hits and multiple torpedo attacks made USS ARIZONA untenable at 1032. Of the 1,400 men on board, less than two hundred men survived.

At 0808, USS WEST VIRGINIA, still afloat, sustained two direct bomb hits and six torpedo hits by "Kate" bombers. Smoke and flames abruptly encompassed the battleship. USS TENNESSEE, in spite of receiving two direct bomb hits, sustained more damage from debris flying over from USS ARIZONA.

USS NEVADA, which had thus far escaped the attention of the Japanese attackers, was anchored in a northeast mooring in Battleship Row but was in an exposed position with no ship outboard of it. At 0802, a Japanese torpedo struck the port bow of the ship and flooded a number of compartments. With counter-flooding measures taking place, the ship was moved out into the narrow channel. At this point, Lt. Murata’s torpedo bombers, having released all of their torpedoes, headed north back to the carrier Kaga.

At the same time (0752) that USS UTAH was being assaulted by torpedo bombers, Kaneohe Naval Air Station, located in the northeastern part of Oahu, was attacked by eleven "Zero" fighters. The Air Station housed Naval Patrol Wing One which consisted of three squadrons of twelve PBY Catalina flying boats. Three PBYs were on patrol west of the island., four flying boats were anchored in the bay at their moorings and four PBYs were in their hangars. The remaining twenty-five planes were lined up on the ramp. When the Zeroes finished firing their guns and 20mmm cannons, they had destroyed twenty-seven PBYs and damaged six.

USS ENTERPRISE, having left Wake Island on December 5, 1941, was now 300 miles from Oahu, and ran into an unexpected gale which slowed the speed of the fleet in half. In the absence of the storm, USS ENTERPRISE would have arrived in Pearl Harbor on Saturday night and would have been vulnerable to the Japanese attack that occurred on the following morning. USS LEXINGTON (which was returning from Midway) was southeast of Midway, about 500 miles away from Pearl Harbor, and thus was spared as well.

On December 7, at 0740, USS ENTERPRISE, which was now 215 miles west of OAHU, launched eighteen SBD (VB-6 and VS-6) dive bomber aircraft to scout ahead of the task force. Earlier, the carrier had launched two SBD dive bombers, one of which was the leader of the eighteen plane group and the other was his wing-man. The pilots flew their planes directly to Ford Island Air Field. At 0820, the two aircraft arrived over Pearl Harbor, as the first wave of the Japanese attack was raging and ran into a hail of U.S. antiaircraft fire. Both planes, however, were successfully able to land on the Ford Island airstrip. Shortly thereafter, the remaining eighteen SBD planes arrived; one was shot down by U.S. antiaircraft fire and landed in the sea; however, the pilot and gunner were rescued unharmed; four SBD aircraft were downed by Japanese Zeroes; one SBD pilot parachuted to safety west of Ewa Air Field and another crashed-landed at Burns Field in Kauai. The remainder of the planes landed safely at either NAS EWA or NAS Ford Island.


The International Midway Memorial Foundation (IMMF) with the Pacific Aviation Museum will host a Battle of Midway Symposium in Pearl Harbor in June 2012 for the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Midway. Details to follow. We will let our members know in the next issue (Winter) of the Midway Sentinel whether or not the same event will be hosted for 2011.

Chris and I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Written By:

James M. Dangelo

Chairman and Founder, IMMF

Written By:

M. Christine Sims

Vice President and Chairman, IMMF

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