Archive and Microfilm Research
by Louis Thoman
As a new day was born, on the island of Oahu, T.H. the moon was full. Shortly after midnight, eight miles south of the entrance to Pearl Harbor, five I-Class Japanese submarines launched their midget two man submarines. An hour later, four of the midget submarines reached the boom that guarded the mile wide mouth of the anchorage for Pacific Fleet.
At 0300, the Japanese strike force, commanded by
Vice Admiral Chuichi Nagumo, was 230 miles north of Oahu plowing
through rough seas. Aboard the six carriers, aircraft were being
fueled and armed. Pilots donned "thousand stitch" good luck belts and
left family letters enclosing ritual hair clips and fingernails for
safe keeping. Pilots were briefed as to the position of all ships
anchored at Pearl Harbor. Two cruisers scouted ahead of the task force
, the hours were tense with some fear of discovery before the attack
could be launched. The stage was set. Now, all they could do was
The Japanese Plan
At 0350, a periscope was sighted off the harbor mouth by the USS CONDOR, one of two minesweepers
patrolling the harbor boom. The USS WARD, a destroyer, joined the two minesweepers and for two hours
experienced no further contacts. NO REPORT OF THE INCIDENT WAS MADE TO CONTROL CENTER AT FORD ISLAND.
At 0637, the boom defense was opened to admit the USS ANTARES into Pearl Harbor. Simultaneously, the destroyer USS Ward surged forward to close on a small submarine. LCDR William Outerbride, aroused from his bunk, ordered a gunfire and depth charge attack and radioed by voice transmission; "We have attacked, fired upon and dropped depth charges on a sub operating in the defensive area". The duty officer at Operation center failed to confirm the action and gave the message a low priority.
At 0430, One of the five midget submarines of the special attack force crept past Keanpapuaa point in the pre-dawn gloom, found the harbor boom open to admit two minesweepers, and slipped in, under strict orders NOT to launch its two torpedoes until dawn. The commander used his periscope to carefully log the positions of the U. S. Warships.
Patrol Squadron 14
NAS Kanehoe Bay
VP-14 had the ready duty in accordance with the schedule promulgated by Commander Patrol Wing 2. At 0600, first division flying personnel were mustered as well as the starboard watch. At 0615, three aircraft (PBY-5 type) were launched to patrol assigned operating areas.
The Aircraft were:
Bureau No. 2419 (14-P-1), Bureau No. 2418 (14-P-2) and Bureau No. 2420 (14-P-3).
14-P-1 was flown by Ensign William P. Tanner and a crew of six.
They were: Ensign Robert B. Clark, Ensign Donald H. Butler,
AMM1c Oscar L. Windham, AMM3c C. W. (Duck) Mallard,
RM2c Albert L. Moore, Sea1c William M. McClintock.
14-P-2 was flown by Ensign O. F. Meyer, Jr. and a crew of six.
They were: Ensign Sylvan Green, Ensign George E. Demetz,
AMM2c John Novak Jr., Sea2c Curtis D. Wagner, ACMM L. R. Alfred,
RM3c William H. Shaw.
14-P-3 was flown by Ensign T. W. Hillis and a crew of six:
They were: Ensign George M. Pierson, Ensign John S. Kilner, Jr.,
Ensign Ralph C. Speers, AMM3c Robert E. Geer, RM1c Johnny A. Renner,
RM3c Bert R. Ness.
At 0650, Co-pilot Ensign Robert B. Clark, in 14-P-1 with Ensign Tanner, sighted a small submarine about one mile off the entrance to Pearl Harbor. Since there were no hostilities at this time, it was important to identify the vessel so that an inadvertent attack on a friendly ship would not occur. Briefings indicated no friendly submarines were in the area. Ensign Tanner circled the vessel and dropped two float lights to mark the position. The USS Ward steamed straight for the lights and fired two five inch salvos, both missing the submarine by 25 feet. Immediately after firing the two salvos, the Ward changed course to avoid a collision and from a distance of twenty feet dropped two depth charges. When the depth charges exploded, the submarine began to disappear below the surface. Ensign Tanner continued his run and dropped a depth charge where he calculated the bow of the submarine would be.
He circled the position and noted a discoloration in the water. At 0700 he sent a coded message to Comtaskforce 2 (the senior taskforce at Pearl Harbor). Receipt was acknowledge by ComPatWing 1, but not by ComTaskForce 3. About fifteen minutes later, ComTaskForce 3 requested confirmation. Confirmation was sent in a message: "Sunk one enemy submarine, one mile south of Pearl Harbor."
The action of Ensign Tanner was the first attack against the Imperial Japanese Navy by a United States aircraft. It is also the first attack by a United States Naval Vessel, the USS Ward.
At 1000, 14-P-2, still on patrol, was attacked by nine Japanese Zero type aircraft returning to the Japanese aircraft carriers of the attack force. It was assumed that because of the fuel state of the Japanese aircraft, the attack was not prolonged. 14-P-2 was slightly damaged but proceeded on the assigned search after Japanese aircraft aborted the attack.
At 0745, The VP-14 hanger area and aircraft were subjected to a low altitude severe strafing attack by Japanese aircraft. Two aircraft on the water and three on the ramp were set afire on this attack. Wreckage was cleared away, controllable fires were extinguished and the three remaining aircraft in an operable condition were prepared for launch. Another attack occurred at 0830 by low mono-wing single engine bombers. Each aircraft was observed to drop two bombs. This attack was also at low altitude. Hits were scored on the east hanger and aircraft along the full length of the parking ramp. This attack was followed immediately by another flight of about 12 Zeros. No bombs were dropped, but the strafing attack set fire to all but one of the remaining aircraft. The fire was extinguished on one aircraft, but not until it was severely damaged.
"1941 Radio Announcement of Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor" (Press Speaker button to
listen to announcement)
Immediately at the onset of the first attack, various members of the squadron set about fabricating impromptu gun mounts, belting ammunition and mounting and manning aerial machine guns taken from the armory and salvaged from burning aircraft.
During the second attack, many guns were in action returning fire with telling effect. Two (now) enemy aircraft, one fighter and one bomber were seen headed seaward and losing altitude rapidly. Several other aircraft were heavily hit and streaming fuel and smoke. One type Zero fighter was hit and crashed on the air station proper.
By nightfall, 32 machine guns had been mounted and manned throughout the squadron area. All remaining personnel for whom arms were available were assigned to defense posts with the local station defense forces.
As a result of the attack, one squadron member was killed and 11 injured. Seven PBY-5's were destroyed and three damaged. Two had minor damage and one severe damage.