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A SUNDAY IN DECEMBER : CHAPTER 3 : Hell in the Harbor

Certainly the planes were American.

As they dived and banked to the right, a shipmate said: “Let’s go over to the port side and watch them drop the dummy torpedoes on us.” Richard Fiske, 19, a Marine on the battleship West Virginia, crossed the deck and saw at least four aircraft fly straight at the battleships. “Now,” his shipmate said, “we’re going to hear a thud.”

It turned out to be, Fiske says, “one hellacious thud.” A wall of black water rose in the harbor, then slammed down over his ship. It washed Fiske and his shipmate back across the deck. They picked themselves up. “We were covered with water and oil,” Fiske says. One thing was certain: Those torpedoes were very, very real. Fiske was stunned.

So was Joseph Kneffler Taussig Jr., 21, an ensign on the battleship Nevada. He saw a torpedo plane flying low over the water. He assumed it was American. It dropped a torpedo. Taussig thought it was a mistake--and that “we’d watch them dig that (torpedo) out of the mud all morning. As I recall, (torpedoes) cost about $12,000 in those days; and since we only made about $1,300 as ensigns that year, it was a lot of money.” The plane rolled upward and flew away. It was Japanese! Taussig was astonished. “I could see the meatballs (a characterization of the Rising Sun emblems) under the wing.” Within seconds, the torpedo struck the battleship Oklahoma. It exploded. And Joseph Taussig was dumbstruck.

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All across Pearl Harbor, the truth came slowly--and very hard. “We were very complacent,” Fiske says regretfully. One reason could have been racial disdain: The Japanese were not worth fearing. Another reason could have been a failure to read Japanese history: Nobody appreciated the Japanese tradition of surprise attacks.

But on this sunny day, Dec. 7, 1941, at 7:55 a.m., the reasons for complacency were less important than the shock itself. When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, it achieved what some naval historians call the most successful military surprise ever. Journalist Walter Lord, who questioned hundreds of survivors for his book, “Day of Infamy,” told a recent symposium on Pearl Harbor: “Navy personnel thought that some Army pilot had gone crazy; Army people thought it must be some berserk Navy pilot. And when the truth became clear, the rumor spread that imported German pilots were flying the Japanese planes.” These things happened, he said, because of “the utter incredulity of it all.”

There was, however, plenty of reason to fear a surprise--a tactic whose importance is taught every Japanese soldier. During the Russo-Japanese War, mediated by President Theodore Roosevelt only 36 years before Pearl Harbor, Adm. Heihachiro Togo delivered a stunning blow to the Russian Pacific Fleet in a surprise attack along the Asian coast. The war against China also had begun with a Japanese surprise. Indeed, Americans should have been well prepared for the possibility that Japanese Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto, like Togo before him, might consider doing the unexpected--this time against the American Pacific Fleet in Hawaii. Such an attack might not cripple the United States, Yamamoto said, but it would buy time while Hitler beat the Americans and the British into submission in Europe. Then Japan could complete its conquest of China with impunity.

Against internal opposition, Yamamoto fought hard for his proposal. Ultimately he won support from Cmdr. Minoru Genda, an advocate of air power. Genda suggested adding bombers and fighters to the torpedo planes that Yamamoto had in mind. Experts debate the influence on the Japanese of a plan for a preemptive strike devised and published by Hector Bywater, a British journalist. But it is clear the Japanese were aware of him. And by August of 1941, they were war-gaming Pearl Harbor.

In Honolulu, Takeo Yoshikawa, the Japanese spy, had stepped up his reporting. From a sugar cane field near the harbor, he plotted the positions of U.S. ships and how they anchored. The pattern, he noted, was for the fleet to go out on maneuvers during weekdays and then to return, like clockwork, for two days of shore leave every weekend.

Based on Yoshikawa’s reports, pilots were given mimeographed charts of the harbor, showing where each ship normally tied up. The pilots flew simulations of their attack virtually every day from April to November. An uninhabited island in Japanese waters doubled for Oahu. They bombed it into oblivion.

All the while, Japanese and American diplomats tried to settle differences. On Oct. 6, the Japanese army high command lost its patience. “War,” it said, “is inevitable.” Yamamoto proposed Dec. 7 as attack day against the Americans. It would be a Sunday, and their fleet was sure to be in. Japan’s attack force was ready: Six aircraft carriers. Two battleships. Three cruisers. Three submarines. Nine destroyers. Eight tankers. And 423 aircraft. Of these, 353 would make the assault. Of the rest, 30 would fly patrol and 40 would wait in reserve. Yamamoto gave at-sea command to Vice Adm. Chuichi Nagumo, who chose the carrier Akagi as his flagship. In mid-November, the ships of the Rising Sun set out in sorties from the Sea of Japan. They hid in clouds and thick fog and kept strict radio silence. On Nov. 22, they met at Etorofu in the southern Kuril Islands to take on fuel. One week later, on Dec. 1, the Japanese government approved the attack date Yamamoto had proposed. It was a week away.

On Dec. 2, the strike force neared Hawaii. From Japan, Yamamoto broadcast his final order:

Niitaka yama nobore 1208.

Climb Mt. Niitaka.

By prearrangement, it meant: “Proceed with attack.” The “1208" designated Dec. 8, the attack date on the other side of the international date line in Japan.

At 8 p.m. on Dec. 6, Vice Adm. Nagumo’s attack force reached a point 490 miles due north of Oahu. The men were assembled on deck. In the three decades since Admiral Togo had surprised the Russian fleet on the coast of Asia, the Japanese had stowed the banner he flew from his flagship, the Mikasa. Now they hoisted it to the masthead of Nagumo’s ship, the Akagi.

Air group commanders began to make impassioned speeches. “It was,” historian Samuel Eliot Morison says, “a moment of great emotion.”

Nagumo studied a newly decoded message from Tokyo. It summarized more reports from the spy, Takeo Yoshikawa:

“Dec. 6. Vessels moored in harbor; nine battleships; three Class-B cruisers; three seaplane tenders; 17 destroyers. Entering harbor are four Class-B cruisers, three destroyers. All aircraft carriers and heavy cruisers have departed harbor . . . no indication of any changes in U.S. fleet or anything unusual.”

Good news, generally.

But the carriers had gone. That was bad luck. The mimeographed charts for the pilots were changed accordingly.

As a bonus, however, all American planes had been lined up on runways. They were sitting ducks: 206 of them.

With its lights out, the attack force turned south. At 6 a.m. the ships arrived: latitude 26 degrees north; longitude 158 degrees west. They were 275 miles north of Pearl Harbor. All was quiet.

Commander Mitsuo Fuchida would lead the attack.

On the flight deck, Fuchida says, he accepted a special headband from his crew chief. Sailors shouted and waved as he climbed into his bomber, a Mitsubishi 97, and led the first flight of 189 aircraft into the air--and then south toward Oahu.

It was 6:00 a.m., Honolulu time.

The eastern sky turned blue, yellow, then burning red. “It felt like a dawn of Japan to me,” Fuchida says, “which made me feel very proud.” On his radio, he picked up a Honolulu jazz station and used it to fix his position. Helpfully, the station broadcast a weather report. It would be sunny with some clouds at 3,500 feet--but visibility would be clear. The wind would be from the north at 10 knots. “Great! I smiled. You couldn’t expect to get such appropriate information at such a right time even if you planned it.” At the west end of Oahu, he told his pilot, a Capt. Matsuzaki, to keep a sharp eye for American planes. There were none. There was no ground fire. Nothing.

With a flare, he signaled his torpedo planes to attack first. But in a mix-up, his dive bombers and his fighters stormed down as well. “I was alarmed,” Fuchida says. “But actually, of course, it made no difference.”

Through his binoculars, he saw ships, all in a row. He counted. “Total eight ships! All of the American battleships were there! I was moved to tears.”

Fuchida looked at his watch. It was 7:49 a.m., Honolulu time. Others put the start of the attack at 7:55 a.m. But no matter.

What mattered was the surprise.

“I turned around and looked at Pearl Harbor, which was covered with morning mist,” Fuchida says. “It was very quiet. The battleships looked like they were all asleep. No air fight in the sky.”

He told his communications officer, a Sgt. Mizuki, to signal Tokyo: The surprise was a success.

Mizuki’s finger was on the key.

Tora. Tora. Tora.

The words reached Tokyo without any need for a relay. Experts credit a fortuitous leap in radio waves. “But I think,” Fuchida says, “the signal, Tora, meaning tiger in Japanese, traveled far away--as a proverb says a tiger travels a thousand miles. . . .

“Japan had chosen its destiny.”

AMERICA ASLEEP

And still America slept--in Washington and in Honolulu. Several reasons to pay due attention went unheeded. In February of 1941, Adm. J. O. Richardson had warned that the Pacific Fleet was vulnerable to attack in Hawaii. President Roosevelt responded by sacking him as the fleet commander and replacing him with Adm. Husband E. Kimmel, whom FDR knew from his days in the Navy Department. Then, in September of 1941, American cryptographers cracked Japan’s diplomatic code and provided intelligence, called MAGIC, which included Tokyo’s messages to and from the Japanese spy Takeo Yoshikawa. But nobody told Kimmel about them.

By MAGIC, Roosevelt and his secretary of state, Cordell Hull, also were able to read Tokyo’s cables to and from its Washington ambassador, Kichisaburo Nomura, with whom they were negotiating to avert a war. As a result, Washington sent a series of messages during November to its military commanders in the Pacific.

The first, on the 24th, went to Kimmel. It warned of “a surprise aggressive movement (by the Japanese) in any direction.” The second, on the 27th, went to his Army counterpart, Gen. Walter Short. It said: “Japanese future action unpredictable, but hostile action possible at any moment.” Almost simultaneously, the third message also went to Gen. Short. It warned: “Japanese negotiations have come to a practical stalemate. Hostilities may ensue. Subversive activities may be expected.”

In response, Short took action against sabotage. He lined up his planes on runways, wingtip to wingtip, where they could be watched. He drained their fuel and stowed their munitions.

The fourth message, also sent on Nov. 27, went to Kimmel. It said: “This dispatch is to be considered a war warning. Negotiations with Japan . . . have ceased, and an aggressive move by Japan is expected within the next few days. Execute an appropriate defense deployment.” Historians Stetson Conn, Rose Engelman and Byron Fairchild say a final sentence in this message implied that sabotage was the worst to be expected.

Adm. Kimmel placed no extra guard on the fleet. He gave officers and men their usual weekend liberty.

On Dec. 6, Kimmel asked his fleet staff if there was anything more they should do to prepare for war. No, the staff replied. Then, in a rare exception to his personal rule not to talk with reporters, he granted an interview to Joseph C. Harsch, a correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor.

Harsch asked if he thought the Japanese would attack.

“No, young man,” Kimmel replied. “I don’t think they’d be such damned fools.”

At 9:30 p.m. on Dec. 6, a young Navy lieutenant brought a locked pouch to President Roosevelt, in his study at the White House. Inside were the latest decodings from MAGIC. The President was sitting with his aide, Harry Hopkins. Both of them began to read. It was a final dispatch from Tokyo to its Washington embassy.

The dispatch was in 14 parts. Thirteen were in the pouch. They contained instructions to Ambassador Nomura to break off diplomatic relations with the United States. The 14th part was still being transmitted. But FDR had seen enough. He said: “This means war.”

Hopkins agreed.

But how? Where? When? The President went to bed worried.

At 10:30 a.m., says Walter Millis, a military expert writing in the New York Times, the 14th part arrived. At the same moment, half a world away, Cmdr. Fuchida was accepting the special headband from his crew chief and climbing into his Mitsubishi bomber. The 14th part of Tokyo’s cable instructed Nomura to announce the end of diplomatic relations to the Americans at precisely “1 p.m. on the 7th, your time.”

Now it was 11:30 a.m. Nobody could find Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall. In the Pacific, Fuchida and his first wave of attack planes were rolling down the decks of the Japanese carriers. Gen. Marshall had gone for a Sunday morning horseback ride. Finally he reached his office. He read the 14th part of the Japanese dispatch. Then he consulted with his Navy counterpart, Adm. Harold Stark. It was nearly noon before Marshall wrote a warning message to Gen. Short in Honolulu: “Japanese are presenting at 1 p.m. Eastern Standard Time today what amounts to an ultimatum. . . . Just what significance the hour set may have we do not know, but be on the alert accordingly.” At Stark’s request, Marshall added: “Inform naval authorities.” Then George Marshall went home to lunch.

An aide took his message down the hall and gave it to a radio operator. The operator encountered atmospheric disturbances. Someone in the message center decided to send the warning by regular commercial cable. Over the Pacific, Cmdr. Fuchida was tuning in jazz and listening to the Honolulu weather forecast. Thirty minutes later, at 7:33 a.m. in Hawaii--three minutes after the fateful 1 p.m. hour in Washington, then 5 1/2 time zones away--Gen. Marshall’s message arrived at the RCA cable office in Honolulu. Already late, it found its way into a pigeonhole. By now, Cmdr. Fuchida and his attack force were 35 miles away.

Historian Gordon Prange says that Tadao Fuchikami, an RCA messenger, took Marshall’s message and a number of others out of the pigeonhole, mounted his motorcycle, and began making his routine deliveries. Marshall’s message was not marked “priority.”

BLIPS ON THE RADAR

Pearl Harbor had a radar warning system, but it had been set up only in August and still was operating only part-time for training. Two privates on station near the northern tip of Oahu had orders to turn it off at 7 a.m., when the lieutenant in charge of the control center back at Ft. Shafter would go home. But they decided to keep it on anyway--for practice. At 7:02 a.m., one of them, George Elliott, noticed a blip.

It showed a large number of aircraft, Walter Millis says, heading south. The privates telephoned the control center, but its crew had gone. When they finally located the lieutenant, he said the planes probably were B-17s due in from the mainland and not to “worry about it.”

Elliott told Newsweek that he and his colleague traced the blip to within 15 miles of Pearl Harbor. Then the blip split up, he says, and it disappeared.

Cmdr. Mitsuo Fuchida had arrived.

At that moment, Tadao Fuchikami, the RCA messenger, finally turned his motorcycle toward U.S. Army headquarters. He saw great clouds of smoke, says Walter Lord, the journalist. The messenger was too late. He dived into a ditch.

Richard Fiske, the Marine who had gotten washed across the deck of the West Virginia by the “dummy” torpedoes, watched in disbelief. “We took several hits. Machine-gun bullets bounding all around you. . . . We were all lying down on the deck to make ourselves as small as possible, with the exception of our captain, Marvyn S. Bennion. A fragment from a bomb that hit the battleship Tennessee--it was the size of a football--got him, leaving a tremendous wound in his stomach. He was still alive and continued to give orders.

“It was just unbelievable. He didn’t even let out a whimper. He just kept telling people to get this done, get that done. . . .

“He lived for about 12 or 15 minutes.”

Fiske and some others were ordered to go below. But other men were coming up. “Oil stuck to them. They were on fire. A lot of them. We had fires up forward. We had fires amidships. We had fires aft. There were so many fires it was unbelievable. Finally, we got permission to leave the ship. I went to the bow, dived in and swam to Ford Island.”

Behind him, the West Virginia heaved--and sank. So did the California, moored at the front of Battleship Row. It was hit by two torpedoes and a bomb. Pete Limon, 18, a radioman on the Swan, watched the California go down. The ship reared, he says, “like a bucking bronco.”

Limon’s ship was in dry dock. “We were high and dry, so the torpedo planes had to pass right by our fantail, at exactly eye level. . . . I looked directly into the eyes of the rear-seat men in the planes. They stared back at me with what I remember as Mona Lisa-type smiles. They made no overt hostile moves, just silently glided by.”

A second-class cook, Limon recalls, “was running around, shouting and yelling, waving his arms, exhorting us to do something.

“ ‘Defend yourselves!’ he said. ‘Fight back! Don’t let the bastards do this to us.’ ”

Limon and his shipmates took the hint. “As I ran to my station, the gunner was already loading the weapon and started to fire. He fired three rounds, and the weapon jammed. He fumbled with it but couldn’t fix it. In his frustration, he pounded the gun and started to cry.”

Jesse Pond and his shipmates on the destroyer Chew had better luck. “At 8:03 a.m., the log says, we got our first shot in the air,” he recalls. “We fired 75 rounds. And we claimed 2 1/2 planes: splashed two and damaged another.”

In the air, Fuchida noticed. “The enemy started shooting us. . . ,” he says. “I was impressed by the quick response--within three minutes after the attack.”

Fuchida’s plane was hit. It shook violently. “A shell splinter (struck) the left side. . . ,” he says, “and tore a hole in it. Two-thirds of a control cable was cut. Our plane was shaken hard--again. But a goal is close--a battleship, Nevada, anchored at the north end.”

All senior officers of the Nevada were ashore. In the fire and smoke and the explosion of bombs, junior officers took charge. Among them was Joseph Kneffler Taussig, the ensign who had thought he would be watching the Navy dig up all those mistakenly dropped torpedoes.

Taussig got the Nevada underway. By now, he had been shot through the thigh by a strafing bullet from a machine gun. It had shattered his thigh bone. A pharmacist’s mate gave him a shot of morphine, but his wound was so high a tourniquet would not hold. Taussig held his thigh closed with one hand--and with the other, he took a call from Robert Sedberry, the chief quartermaster. “I instructed him in the absence of any officers that he was to take the ship out,” Taussig says. “Sedberry had been on the ship, and on the bridge, for 17 years. (He) knew more about how to maneuver that ship than anybody alive. And he proved it--because the Nevada was in very, very close quarters.” Slowly, all anti-aircraft guns firing, the Nevada steamed out from under Cmdr. Fuchida’s bombsights and began to move out, toward the entrance of the harbor.

The toll on other ships and their men was immediate and ghastly. “Almost immediately, casualties began arriving,” says James Anderson, assigned to the Solace, a hospital ship. “Their ears were burned completely off, and their noses were badly burned, right down to their faces, burned almost completely off, and their fingers were bent like candles from the intense heat . . , and their bodies were just like a burned hot dog that had fallen in the fire.” Some of the worst, he says, were from the battleship Arizona.

In the sky, Cmdr. Fuchida had the Arizona in sight. He led his bombers into a long right turn and then came back for a second pass--to the left of the ship. “I saw a huge explosion almost reaching the sky. . . . The fire pole flared up more than 1,000 meters above sea level. The color looked dark red. The exploding sound shook our planes. (My pilot), Capt. Matsuzaki, who had been concentrating on operations, was surprised with the sound and raised his head.

“I told him, ‘Capt. Matsuzaki, look at your right-hand side. It’s a huge explosion.’

“He replied, ‘Commanding General, that must be a secondary explosion of a (powder) magazine!’ ”

“What a sight!”

Jim Bissell saw it from the deck of the Tennessee. “It looked like the entire forward part of the Arizona was going up in the air. I was pretty scared.” His shipmate, Jack Evans, saw it, too. “Chunks of metal (flew) way above us. These things were like locomotives spiraling up there. It was such an intense blast that when it hit, the foretop of the Tennessee just quivered like a dog would shake a rat.”

James Anderson saw it from the Solace. “I could see the flames and the fire coming out of that thing, and I could see two men flying through the air, screaming as they were flying out through the fire.”

On board the Arizona, Marine Pvt. Russell McCurdy scrambled down from the crow’s nest, where he was a spotter for the ship’s 5-inch guns. The ladder was scorched. Mutilated men were emerging from an unspeakable inferno. Fuchida’s pilot had been right. A 1,000-pound, armor-piercing bomb had penetrated six decks. It had exploded in a fuel-storage compartment. The fire had spread to a magazine full of black powder. In a chain reaction, the bomb, fuel and powder had gone up in a volcanic eruption. The ship split in two. Now it was sinking. McCurdy told Newsweek that he confronted “men so charred we could recognize them only by their voices.”

John D. Anderson and his twin brother, Delbert, were both on board. John Anderson helped to load the injured onto an admiral’s barge. Then he started back into the flames.

“My brother’s in there!” he shouted.

A lieutenant commander pushed him backward, aboard the barge. When he reached shore, Anderson and a friend found a motor launch and headed back out.

When they arrived, the Arizona held no human sound. “All we found,” Anderson says, “were dead bodies and flames. It was eerie. I never found my brother.”

The Arizona and sister ships got no protection from American aircraft. Lined up wing to wing and without fuel or ammunition, they could not protect even themselves. Cmdr. Fuchida and his pilots ravaged them with impunity.

‘THEY WERE JUST CUT DOWN’

Seymour Rosenthal was a private at Hickam Field. “Fellows were running out of the largest barracks in their underwear, bewildered,” he says. They “were just cut down.” A pilot, Leon Webster, and a friend were riding to Hickam in the friend’s car. They saw a plane diving at them. Both rolled out of the car. It careened ahead. The plane stitched bullets across the hood and through the windshield. The car hit a ditch and exploded in flames. “The water mains at Hickam were all bursting,” Webster remembers. “There were so many wounded in the streets that the water was running red.”

Outside the base, in nearby military billets as well as in Honolulu, a routine Sunday morning had suddenly turned to horror. From her parents’ house, Kathy Bruns Cooper, a 19-year-old bride awaiting her husband’s return from sea duty, looked out of her bedroom window. “I could see Hickam Field,” she says. “I think that was the worst shock of all. It was an absolute sheet of flames. All across Hickam, the flames looked like hell itself.”

The Japanese dropped only one bomb on Honolulu itself. The damage there was caused by antiaircraft shells from guns on the American ships. Improperly fused, they fell by the score into the palm-shaded streets and exploded, killing more than 50 civilians.

Nowhere, however, was it more frightening than in the belly of the Oklahoma. The ship took one torpedo after another, and now it was listing at 45 degrees. Below decks, A. H. Mortensen, a junior officer in the boiler division, awoke to a loudspeaker: “Air raid! Air raid! This is an actual attack, real planes and real bombs, get moving, no shit!”

Around him was absolute chaos. “Lockers had torn loose from bulkhead(s),” he says. “Bunks were dangling by their chains in midair. Mess gear and broken gear littered the decks.” And then the ship began to turn over. Water rushed in. It carried Mortensen through the door of a dispensary. Medicine bottles toppled onto him. He saw the deck rise above his head and a bulkhead with a porthole move downward--until it was under his feet. The water rose around him. He found himself trapped with four other men--with just enough air space for their heads.

“Mr. Astin, the ship’s carpenter, had his flashlight in hand,” Mortensen says, “and we got a chance to see who was present: Mr. Astin; Kellogg, fireman third-class; a mess attendant; a seaman, and myself.” They stared at each other in silence. The air began to get foul. Three of the men prayed. Mortensen said a short prayer himself, and then he tried to think of something to do. He remembered the porthole. He found it with his foot. He reached down and unscrewed the dogs.

“Kellogg and the unknown seaman had dove and were outside the ship before you could say the usual ‘Jack Robinson.’ Kellogg had been married just a few weeks previously and evidently was quite determined that he should see his wife again. The mess boy I had to prod a bit, but he finally dove and made it with no trouble. Mr. Astin, a man weighing close to 210 pounds, possibly knowing he was unable to get through a 12-inch porthole, said nothing, moved over and reached down to hold the port for me--the most noble and heroic act a man could perform, knowing full well that his minutes were few.”

Mortensen dived. He got his head and one arm through the porthole, and he opened his eyes. He could see the sun shining through the water. He wrestled the rest of the way through, kicked away from the ship and surfaced. He gasped for air and gulped in water and fuel oil.

It was 8:20 a.m, he says. “There was a deathly silence over the harbor.” The first wave of attack planes had left.

In Washington, the Japanese Embassy was empty when the 14th part of the final cable from Tokyo arrived. Minister Sadao Iguchi had sent his aide, First Secretary Katsuzo Okumura, home early, says editor Ayako Doi of the Japan Digest. Then, Doi says, Iguchi had organized a Chinese dinner for a colleague. “Iguchi returned briefly to his office,” Doi says, “but ignored the 13 (first) takes neatly stacked on his desk. Okumura, who played cards that night, didn’t come in at all.”

Not until 10 a.m. Sunday did Okumura begin typing the diplomatic note to be handed the Americans.

Ambassador Kichisaburo Nomura had requested a 1 p.m. appointment with Secretary of State Hull. This would have given the Americans a half-hour’s notice that diplomatic relations were severed before the first bombs fell. Such a notice would have fallen short of announcing war--or saying where or when it would start. But now, even such a minimal notice was no longer possible. Nomura had to ask Hull for a postponement.

At 1:48 p.m., says William Manchester, the Department of the Navy received an alert. An urgent message was coming in from Honolulu.

NPM 1516

Z0F218300F30F402F0 O

From: CINCPAC

Action: CINCLANT CINCAF OPNAV

AIR RAID ON PEARL HARBOR THIS IS NOT A DRILL

At 2:05 p.m., Ambassador Nomura and his chief negotiator, Saburo Kurusu, reached the State Department. “They were a sorry sight,” Manchester says. “For three hours they had been struggling with codes and hunting and pecking on typewriters. The(ir) message was marred by typographical errors, but they hadn’t had time for another draft.” As they entered the building, Hull’s telephone rang. It was President Roosevelt. He told his secretary of state about the Pearl Harbor message--and that there had been additional information to confirm the attack.

The Japanese envoys were ushered into Hull’s office at 2:21 p.m., Manchester says. “Nomura held out the translation and said apologetically, ‘I was instructed to hand this . . . to you at 1 p.m.’

“His voice trembling with anger, Hull said, ‘Why should it be handed to me at 1 p.m.?’

“ ‘I do not know why,’ said Nomura.

“Glancing at the translation, Hull said bitterly, '. . . In all my 50 years of public service I have never seen a document that was more crowded with infamous falsehoods and distortions--infamous falsehoods and distortions on a scale so huge that I never imagined until today that any government on this planet was capable of uttering them.’ ”

Hull dismissed the Japanese with a curt nod.

At virtually that moment, a second wave of Japanese planes hit Pearl Harbor.

“They started to attack in the midst of antiaircraft fire,” Cmdr. Fuchida recalls. There were 171 planes this time. And a large number headed straight for the Nevada, which was still trying to escape.

“Everything went at us,” says Ensign Taussig, still on the bridge. “As we passed the Arizona, the whole starboard side of the (Nevada) caught fire, and that caused a lot of casualties, first- and second-degree burns, because the men wouldn’t leave the guns. . . . We had 14 fires burning on the ship. And (of) the assigned crews to the antiaircraft batteries--90 people--we lost 57 men killed and over 100 wounded, (because) as the men got killed or wounded, other men would take their places. So we had second- or third-string gunners in there, but all the guns kept firing. And all the antiaircraft officers except one had been wounded. And of about 10 guns, all but three of the gun captains had been wounded or killed. But the ship kept firing.”

The Nevada might have escaped to sea. But Adm. Harold Train, on the battleship Maryland, saw it boiling smoke and running low in the water because of torpedo and bomb damage. "(He) thought we were sinking and ordered us to run aground,” Taussig says. “He was afraid we’d sink in the channel and block the harbor. . . .

“We ran aground on Hospital Point.”

The destroyers Blue, Helm and Monaghan made it out of the harbor.

American antiaircraft fire during the second wave was “intense,” Fuchida says. And by 10 a.m., he says, the last of the Japanese planes headed back to their carriers.

Most of the killing and destruction had been done by the first wave. Although the second wave added to the ruin and the carnage, it erred in concentrating, like the first wave, on the fleet itself. As a result, the Pearl Harbor dockyards were left untouched--as were a totally exposed oil tank farm and a submarine flotilla. Looking back, some Japanese fault Adm. Yamamoto in Tokyo for failing to order a third strike.

Nonetheless, with a loss of only 64 men, 29 planes and five midget submarines, the Japanese had killed 2,403 Americans and wounded 1,178 others; sunk or heavily damaged 18 American warships, including all eight functioning battleships of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, and destroyed 188 aircraft and damaged 159 others.

“The mistake we made,” Cmdr. Genda said later, “was in not occupying Hawaii with the army. If we had then gone on to make a surprise attack on the West Coast of the United States, we might have won.”

As it was, at noon the following day, Roosevelt addressed a joint session of Congress. He called Dec. 7, 1941, “a date which will live in infamy.” He asked for a declaration of war and said: “We will gain the inevitable triumph--so help us God!” No less than an hour later, with a single dissenting vote, Congress thrust the United States--now fully awake--into World War II.

Forty-four bloody months afterward, American atomic bombs, envisioned by scientists including Enrico Fermi, who had hidden his money under his New Jersey coal bin, devastated two of Japan’s major cities--and forced the Japanese, in fear and trembling, to surrender.

For Richard Fiske, the Marine on the West Virginia who had crossed the deck to watch the dummy torpedoes, the worst came two months after the attack.

“We heard noises, tapping,” he says. "(The West Virginia) had taken nine torpedoes and three bombs, (and) everything from the main deck down was under water. We sent some divers down. For four or five days, we could still hear the tapping, but they couldn’t get to the guys. . . . In February, we started to raise her. It seemed like the last hatch they opened up was six decks down in the center part of the ship. When they cracked that hatch open, there were three sailors. They had made marks to show how long they lived. They had lived at least to the 23rd of December. I knew one of them.”

Fiske and others also heard tapping inside the Oklahoma. He remembers rescue crews cutting a hole in the hull and pulling out 32 sailors--stunned but alive. When the Navy raised the Oklahoma two years later, it found that other men had been trapped inside, as well.

In the terrible darkness, they, too, had kept a calendar.

It ended on New Year’s Eve.

A Note on Language

For reasons of historical accuracy, the term Japs appears in this special section of World Report, even though it has long been The Times’ policy to avoid such pejorative racial terms.


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