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Air Raid, Pearl Harbor!: Recollections of a Day of Infamy

1 rating: 5.0
A book released October 1981

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Tags: Books, History
Publisher: US Naval Institute Press
Date Published: October 1981
1 review about Air Raid, Pearl Harbor!: Recollections of...

An eye Opening Read (There Are Lessons Still to be Learned)!

  • Apr 15, 2006
  • by
Pros: Eye-witness accounts for both sides of the attack.

Cons: None

The Bottom Line: I would highly recommend Air Raid: Pearl Harbor; Recollections of a Day of Infamy.

On the morning of December 7, 1941, as the sun rose into the sparkling blue Hawaiian sky, and men were just waking to a new day onboard ships of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, a wave of 181 planes and 3 submarines of the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) began a surprise attack. The IJN carrier force, which comprised six aircraft carriers, under the command of Vice Admiral Chuichi Nagumo sailed in stealth North West of the Hawaiian Island chain having gotten underway in secret from the Japanese home islands.

The attack and its incredible loss of life and material brought the United States into World War II, at 6:00 a.m. on that faithful morning. The attack damaged or destroyed twelve American warships, including the U.S.S. Arizona (BB-39), U.S.S. Nevada (BB-36), and U.S.S. Oklahoma (BB- 37), destroyed 188 aircraft, and killed 2,403 American servicemen and 68 civilians. However, the Pacific Fleet's four aircraft carriers—U.S.S. Lexington (CV-2), U.S.S. Enterprise (CV-6), U.S.S. Hornet (CV-8) and U.S.S. Yorktown (CV-5)—were not in port and so were left undamaged, as were the base's vital oil tank farms, submarine pens, and machine shops. Using these resources the United States was able to rebound within a year. A fifth carrier, the U.S.S. Saratoga (CV-3) was undergoing overhaul on the west coast at the time of the attacks.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt characterized the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, as a “date which will live in infamy.” It has been that and more for more than two generations of Americans. Together with the great Depression, and the War in Vietnam, the events mark the watershed events of 20th century America. The attack on Pearl Harbor helped to shape America’s perception of the world and her place in it. It woke America up to the realities of the outside world and how her policies can and do inform how other nations react and act towards us. It is a lesson I fear has been lost on this generation of leader and citizens; hence 9/11.

My active duty naval service began on September 29, 1980 when I graduate from Great Lake Naval Station boot camp, a seaman in the world greatest Navy. My first duty station was Pearl Harbor Naval Station where I rode submarines. The naval base is steeped in history, and all of the bases that were open on that faithful day in 1941 are still open to this day. I was assigned to the Naval Security Group Detachment on Hospital Point, the very same place where the battleship US.S. Nevada (BB-36) ran aground down at the bow from a torpedo strike and numerous bomb blasts.

I visited and later worked on Ford Island, then a naval air base, but now a training facility; I used to run by the still rusting and jagged hulks of ships the navy never salvaged. And I have visited Hickam Air Force base and touched the place where the bullet holes still mark the Japanese attack. The buildings are still very much in use on the base.

I have visited too the sunken wreck of the battleship U.S.S. Arizona (BB-39); stood on the memorial hall erected over her and watched as the drops of oil leach from her hull and gleam on the surface of the harbor, knowing that here in this place rests 1,102 of the 1,177 sailors killed when she was attacked. Upon my visit to this hallowed ground I stood transfixed, staring down at the water at the rusting battleship mere feet below, and I was humbled and close to tears. And each time I would sail into Pearl Harbor on the deck of many a ship my heart beat strong with pride and reference for those who had come before me and defended this great nation with their blood, bravery, valor, and honor.

These experiences led me to seek a much richer understanding of the events that led up to, and took place during the attack on Pearl Harbor. That quest led me to Air Raid: Pearl Harbor; Recollections of a Day of Infamy. The book is compilation of first hand accounts from American and Japanese military and civilian personnel and gives a unique perspective on the attack. The first chapter, entitled I Led the Attack on Pearl Harbor is by one Captain Mitsuo Fuchida who was the commander of the air groups of the First Air Fleet, which consisted of the IJN aircraft carriers Akagi, Kaga, Soryu, Hiryu, Shokaku, and Zuikaku.

These first hand accounts are riveting and startling in their depth and detail, and for me they shed a whole new light on the events of the day. But more importantly it paints the Japanese with a very human brush, revealing a portrait of a people just as proud and fearful as any of us.

Book Excerpt (Chapter 1, I Led the Attack on Pearl Harbor, as told by Captain Mitsuo Fuchida former Imperial Japanese Navy, Page 4)

Since leaving Tankan Bay, we had maintained our eastward course in complete secrecy, thanks to the thick low hanging clouds. Moreover, on 30 November and 6 and 7 December, the sea, which we feared might be rough, was calm enough for easy fueling. The not-too-rough sea also made it easy to maintain and prepare planes and gave the men, especially the flying crews, a much-needed chance to relax.

The fleet observed strict radio silence, but concentrated on listening for broadcasts from Tokyo or Honolulu. Our predominant concern was to catch any word about the outbreak of war.

In Tokyo a liaison conference between the government and the high commend was held every day from 27 to 30 November to discuss the U.S. proposal of the twenty-sixth. It was concluded that the proposal was an ultimatum tending to subjugate Japan and making war inevitable. At the liaison conference of the thirtieth, the decision was made to go to war. This conference also concluded that a message declaring the end of negotiations be sent to the United States, but that efforts be continued to the last moment. The final decision for war was made at the Imperial Conference of 1 December.

The next day, the General Staff issued the long-awaited order, and out task force received the Combined Fleet dispatch of 5:30 p.m. which said, “X day will be 8 December.” Now the die was cast and our duty was clear. The fleet drove headlong to the east…

The above excerpt bears out what is already widely know about the attack on Pearl Harbor; that is the Japanese while negotiating with America in the waning days of 1941, had every intension of going to war; sound familiar?

Book Excerpt (Chapter 23, The Rising and Salvaging of the Nevada, as told by Vice Admiral Homer N. Wallin, U.S. Navy (Retired), Page 148)

When the Japanese attack began, the Nevada (BB-36) was moored in the berth astern of Arizona (BB-39). In accordance with fleet doctrine, she immediately prepared to get underway and was able to do so although suffering from one torpedo hit. As she steamed down the channel towards the sea entrance, she was heavily attacked by dive-bombers and suffered seven of eight bomb hits. Two of these hits in the forward areas induced serious flooding, by the time Nevada reached the entrance, she has taken of a great amount of water, and it was apparent to Lieutenant Commander Francis J. Thomas, the plucky young officer then in command, that the ship should not enter the channel because of the risk of blocking it. Accordingly, he decided the beach her and did a very successful job…

…as Nevada lay beached near the entrance channel to Pearl Harbor, she really was a sorry sight to behold. It was not a pleasant spectacle for new ships arriving to reinforce or support the Pacific Fleet. Her stern was only a few feet from the shore, while her bow was practically submerged in the deep water near the channel. The forecastle was pretty much a tangled mess of twisted steel, and the superstructure up through the bridge had been entirely gutted by fire. The inside of the ship was filled with water and fuel oil…

There are many, many such eye-witness accounts in Air Raid: Pearl Harbor; Recollections of a Day of Infamy all told 44 in all, each bring a fresh new perspective to the attack and it grueling aftermath. The book is replete with black and white photos of men and machines of war, broken and unbroken, shattered and whole. There are quite a few excellent overhead photos of Peal Harbor that show the naval base and Hickam Army Airfield (now Hickam Air Force Base) in stark relief. Shown too are photos of the Japanese players in this sad drama.

I would highly recommend Air Raid: Pearl Harbor; Recollections of a Day of Infamy. From start to finish to book covers the attack from multiple angles and after reading it I came a way with a much deeper understanding of what happened at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 and why.

Book Details:

Author/Editor: Paul Stillwell
Book Type: Hardcover; 299 pages
Publisher: Naval Institute Press
Publishing Date: October 1981
Language: English
ISBN: 0-87021-086-6

Thank you for reading this very personal review

CTT1 (SS) Vincent E. Martin
U.S. Navy (Ret.)


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