December 07, 2012

Day of Infamy


We interrupt this program to bring you a special news bulletin!

The Japanese have attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, by air, President Roosevelt has just announced.

The attack also was made on all naval and military activities on the principal island of Oahu.

On December 7, 1941, the Imperial Japanese Navy launched a sneak attack on the U.S. sailors, airmen and Marines stationed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, bringing Americans into a war most opposed fighting.

That opposition changed in the aftermath of the attack, and the Japanese guaranteed not victory, but their own eventual destruction. In another blunder, Hitler declared war on the U.S., ensuring that Germany would be forced to fight a war on two fronts.

As the few remaining survivors of the attack gather today to remember their fallen comrades, here is a visual record of the attack, made possible in part by the large number of Japanese pilots and crew who brought cameras with them and managed to take pictures during the attack.

The Japanese fleet steams toward the unsuspecting Americans, hiding behind stormy seas. Luck was on their side; they avoided American patrols and escaped detection.

Japanese planes on deck, waiting for the right time to begin the attack. Months of intensive training was about to pay off.

The pilots throttle up, waiting for the order to launch, their planes straining at the brakes, Mitsubishi radial engines screaming.

As one of the first torpedo bombers races down the deck, Japanese crewmen cry, "Banzai!" and lift their arms in tribute.

The planes lift off slowly, weighed down by the bombs and torpedoes destined for the American fleet, and the fuel needed to carry them to Pearl Harbor. They struggle into the air and move into formation for the journey to Hawaii.

The Japanese arrive and begin their attack. It had been a quiet Sunday morning, the Americans expecting a lazy day aboard ship, or liberty on the beach.

They target the battleships, lined up neatly, unsuspecting giants awaiting their fates. The harbor appeared remarkably similar to the model the Japanese used for practice.

Flak bursts fill the air as the American sailors begin to fight back, targetting the Japanese planes. While some were downed by the U.S. guns, far too often the planes clawed their way back into the sky for another run at the burning ships below.

Japanese bombs pierce the forward magazine of the USS Arizona, triggering an enormous explosion. Witnesses said the entire ship appeared to momentarily rise out of the water. These color images are frames taken from a 16mm motion picture of the attack.

The aftermath is devastating to behold; the Pacific Fleet in ruins, the American West Coast undefended. Fires rage and thousands of sailors remain trapped below decks in the blazing, capsized hulks.

But the Japanese have made two mistakes that will prove fatal to their dream of Empire. The admiral in charge of the attack has cancelled the third wave of planes, leaving intact the oil tanks holding the fuel the Americans will need for their fleet in its defense of the Mainland.

And they've left the American carriers -- out at sea -- untouched.

In a few short months, these carriers will launch dive bombers and torpedo bombers at the Battle of Midway, handing the Imperial Japanese Navy a devastating defeat, dooming their plans for an empire spanning the Pacific.

Dauntless dive bombers, like these pictured above, will make full use of the American torpedo bombers' sacrifice; wiped out by the Japanese as they flew low and slow, they lured the fighters down to sea level, leaving an opening for the high-flying U.S. dive bombers to hurtle down at the enemy fleet, delivering their weapons with incredible accuracy, sending the Jap carriers to the bottom.

And American aces depleted the ranks of experienced Japanese aircrews; by the end of the war, inexperienced cadets were flying their planes on one-way Kamikaze suicide missions, never having had to learn how to land their aircraft.

December 7th, 1941, a day that will live in infamy, marked the beginning. The beginning of a titanic struggle for the American people, and the beginning of the end for the Japanese.

Posted by Mike Lief at December 7, 2012 12:01 AM | TrackBack


My first father-in-law was a young sailor aboard USS Maryland, moored inboard of USS Oklahoma and, accordingly, sheltered from the worst damage. His description of watching the Oklahoma capsize was riveting. He only told the story once in front of me. Usually a garrulous sort, he barely talked of his wars. Like my own father, he kept those experiences pretty much to himself. R.I.P., Vance . . . I was glad to have known you.

Posted by: The Little Coach at December 7, 2011 09:47 AM

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