In World War II, my dad, Allen Spencer was the Flight Engineer and top turret gunner on a B-17. The B-17 was an amazing plane. Strategic bombing missions actually began at the tail end of World War I, And the big world powers knew that they needed to develop bomber fleets that could handle this new kind of bombing mission, because if they did not, they would be vulnerable to the evil nations who did develop such bombers. During the month of August 1934, in anticipation of rising tensions in the Pacific, the US Army Air Corps proposed a new multi-engine bomber that would replace the outdated Martin B-10. They put out the challenge and Boeing decided to get into the competition. The plan for this bomber was to provide reinforcement to bases in Hawaii, Alaska, and Panama.
Enter the B-17 Flying Fortress. Boeing competed against both Martin and Douglas for the contract to build 200 units of such a bomber, but failed to deliver, as the first B-17 Flying Fortress crashed. Nevertheless, the Air Corps loved the design so much that they ordered 13 units for further evaluation and analysis. After a string of tests, it was introduced in 1938. The B-17 was now the prime bomber for all kinds of bombing raids. The prototype B-17 Bomber was built at the company’s own expense and was a fusion of the features of Boeing XB-15 and Boeing 247 Transport Aircraft. Initially, it could carry a payload of 4850 pounds along with 5x .30-inch machine guns. The 4x Hornet Radial Engines could produce 750 HP at 2100 meters. It was a tremendous machine. A reporter from the Seattle Times would nickname it The Flying Fortress…a name that stuck, even if he didn’t know how very accurate he was.
As World War II heated up, the attack on Pearl Harbor drew the United States into it, and the B-17 Flying Fortress became a staple, used in every single World War II combat zone and by the time production ended in 1945. Boeing along with Douglas and Vega had built 12,731 bombers. When the US 8th Airforce arrived in England in 1942, their sole mission was to destroy Germany’s ability to wage war. They would use any means necessary, from carpet bombing to precision bombing. On August 17th, 1942, eighteen B-17s launched a bombing raid over Nazi-held territory in Europe, hitting railway networks and strategic points. The Luftwaffe was unprepared and didn’t know how to best attack the new planes, but it didn’t take long to improve their tactics. The B-17s suffered losses too. On September 6th, 1943, 400 bombers were sent out to attack a ball-bearing plant, 45 didn’t return. October 4th, 60 out of 291 B-17s sent to the same location were lost. January 11th, 1944, 600 B-17s were sent to various industries. Bad weather kept all but 238 of them on base. Still, 60 were lost. These losses were quite costly when you consider that a single B-17 Flying Fortress would cost $238,329 in 1945. The Luftwaffe quickly perfected their attacks on the B-17 Flying Fortress. Head on proved more fruitful and therefore the Americans developed the term “Bandits at 12 O’clock High” for oncoming Luftwaffe fighters.
Various models of the B-17 Flying Fortress were produced, but the B-17G was the one that was most liked. Almost 9000 B-17Gs were produced, the most of any of the models, because of their superior specs. A B-17G weighed 65,000 pounds and could cruise at a speed of 150 miles per hour, peaking at 287 miles per hour. It could attain a service ceiling of 35,600 feet, and carry a 9600 pounds payload. The four Wright R-1820 Cyclone engines could produce 1200 horse power each! It was one rugged machine. One particular B-17 Bomber survived a bombing mission over Cologne, Germany, and flew back to safety with 180 flak holes and only 2 out of 4 engines in operation. The veteran never forgot, and 75 years later wrote a thank you letter to Boeing. He was thankful to be alive. My dad always felt that way too. Any amount of damage that happens to a plane can mean the difference between crashing and making it home. The B-17 was truly a flying fortress, and on of the best planes to be in. The chances of coming home were better than most.
The Swamp Ghost began its very short career on December 6, 1941, one day before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. The Swamp Ghost started out as B-17 Flying Fortress, 41-2446 (which is not a tail number, and indicated that the plane was a new purchase) and under that number it was delivered to the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF). Eleven days later, the bomber departed California for Hickam Field in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The plane and her crew were based at Wheeler Field in Wahiawa for a very short time, and flew patrol missions for the Navy until February 1942, when the Japanese Troops invaded Rabaul on New Britain and established a base. Of course, this was a threat to the rest of New Guinea and Australia. In response to the invasion, 41-2446 was ordered to Garbutt Field, Townsville, in Queensland, Australia. Swamp Ghost’s crew included Pilot Captain Frederick C. “Fred” Eaton, Co-Pilot Captain Henry M. “Hotfoot” Harlow, Navigator 1st Lieutenant George B. Munroe Jr, Bombardier Sergeant J.J. Trelia, Flight Engineer Technical Sergeant Clarence A. LeMieux, Radio Operator/Gunner Sergeant Howard A. Sorensen, Waist Gunner Sergeant William E. Schwartz, Waist Gunner Technical Sergeant Russell Crawford, and Tail Gunner Staff Sergeant John V. Hall. The only crew change would be Sergeant Richard Oliver, who replaced Bombardier Trelia after he became ill.
Because of the B-17’s long flying range, the Japanese control of Wake Island and Guam, and the Vichy government’s armistice with the Nazi government, 41-2446 island hopped nearly 5,700 detour miles to get to Townsville. They didn’t want to take a chance on running into enemy fighters, if they could help it. On February 22, 1942, nine B-17Es of the 19th Bombing Group were scheduled to take off for Rabaul. Unfortunately, this mission seemed doomed from the start, as nothing would go quite as planned. Out of the nine aircraft, four had to completely abort the mission due to mechanical problems. To further complicate matters, bad weather conditions made it difficult to see up in the air for those who were able to takeoff. Finally, poor visibility separated the five remaining in flight.
I would like to say that was all the problems they ran into, but there’s more. When 41-2446 was to drop its payload, the bomb bay malfunctioned. The crew had to go around for a second pass, where they managed a clear drop over their target. The Japanese were working hard to make this mission fail too. Japanese fire was intense and a flak round managed to punch a hole through the starboard wing of 41-2556. Fortunately for the crew, the wing didn’t detonate. While the crew hoped to make it to Fort Moresby, they were low on fuel. The dog-fight, had seen to that. They would have to land in New Guinea.
Captain Fred Eaton thought he was setting down the bomber in a wheat field, however, they actually landed wheels-up in the middle of Agaiambo swamp. The only good news in this horrific failure of a mission was that the crew was unscathed, except for one with minor cuts and scrapes. Now, they still had to get out of the swamp. It took two days of hacking their way through the razor-sharp kunai grass for the men to reach dry land. They ran into some locals who were chopping wood. The locals took them, horribly bitten by mosquitos and infected with malaria, to their village. After a night of rest, they traveled downriver in canoes, where they were handed over to an Australian magistrate, and eventually arrived at Port Moresby on April 1…thirty six days after their crash. After a week in the hospital, the men returned to combat, but their plane did not. After 41-2446’s crash, Captain Fred Eaton flew 60 more missions. Whenever these missions would take him over the crash site, he would circle it and tell his new crewmembers the story of what happened. I suppose it was therapeutic to re-live the amazing escape from the Agaiambo swamp. This was where the plane’s legend was born. After Eaton returned home, 41-2446 slipped from the public eye for nearly three decades.
Then, in 1972, some Australian soldiers happened upon the crash. After spotting the wreckage from a helicopter, they landed on the aircraft’s wing and found the plane semi-submerged, and strangely intact. The machine guns were in place, and even the coffee thermoses were intact. They nicknamed the plane, Swamp Ghost, and the name stuck. Thanks to warbird collector Charles Darby who included dozens of photographs in his book, Pacific Aircraft Wrecks, word spread in 1979 . Once the fad of recovering World War II aircraft really took off. Trekkers hiked into the site and began stripping the aircraft for keepsakes and sellable items. Despite the stripping, the aircraft structure itself remained remarkably intact, until it was removed from the swamp.
Alfred Hagen, a pilot and commercial builder from Pennsylvania, set his sights on Swamp Ghost and wanted to take it free it from the disintegration of the swamp. In November 2005, he obtained an export permit for the B-17 for $100,000. For four weeks they labored over the aircraft, dismantling it in order to ship it out of the country. The controversy over its removal halted the cargo before it could be shipped to the United States. Eventually, it was cleared for import and by February 2010 it arrived at the Pacific Aviation Museum at Pearl Harbor for display.
On this day, August 21, 1959, the United States as we know it was completed with the addition of the 50th State… Hawaii. It is the only state that is completely comprised of islands…volcanic islands. Hawaii has another unique feature besides being an island state. That unique feature is that it is the only state that is naturally increasing in size. Most of us immediately think of the current eruptions of Kilauea, and that is a big part of the grown of Hawaii, but it is not the only cause of the growth.
Not every addition to the Big Island involves an eruption that puts people at risk and engulfs their communities. For decades, Kilauea has experienced continuous lava flows through a vent called Pu?u ???? in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, incrementally adding land to the southeast portion of the island. This continuous flow has added 570 acres of land to Hawaii’s Big Island since 1983, according to the U.S. Geological Survey’s most recent update. Unfortunately, the lava has also buried over 40 square miles of rain forest, communities, and historical sites. Hawaii is an ever-changing place, and the lava doesn’t care about such things as rain forests, communities, and historical sites.
The current stories of the eruption of Kilauea has continued to shock the world, but in reality, Kilauea has been continuously erupting since 1983. Still, on May 3, 2018, the volcano erupted dramatically. The eruption occurred several hours after a magnitude-5.0 quake struck the Big Island. With the eruption came lava flows into residential subdivisions in the Puna district of the Big Island. This prompted mandatory evacuations of the Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens subdivisions. Scientists have two theories about the formation of the Hawaiian Islands. Unlike most volcanoes, the Hawaiian chain sits squarely in the middle of the Pacific plate rather than on a tectonic boundary.
In 1963, J Tuzo Wilson proposed the “hotspot theory” to explain this unusual placement. Wilson proposed that the linear geography of the Hawaiian Islands is due to the movement of the Pacific plate over a stationary point of great heat from deep within the Earth. I have to wonder if that movement is exactly what is causing the current continuing flow of lava from Kilauea. I seems to me that it would be difficult for the lava flow to seal itself when the fault keeps breaking the seal. I could be totally wrong, or I could just be looking at this in a far too simplistic manner. Nevertheless, it seems logical to me. Or maybe that is exactly what Wilson was saying.
These days, at least in Wyoming, the news is often full of new eruption stories pertaining to Steamboat Geyser in Yellowstone National Park. Steamboat Geyser was dormant from 1911 to 1961. Eleven eruptions were noted between June 4, 1990 and September 23, 2014. Then beginning on March 15, 2018, we have seen a sudden increase in eruptions. Beginning on March 15th, there have been ten eruptions to date…just over three months. That is unheard of for this geyser in recorded history. In reality, it can do what Kilauea has done on Hawaii’s Big Island, only much bigger, because the geyser field in Yellowstone National Park lies on top of an active volcano, with multiple chambers of magma from deep beneath the earth. The same energy that causes geysers to blow could spew an ash cloud as far as Chicago and Los Angeles.
It’s strange to think about the fact that Yellowstone National Park lies on such a huge volcano, and yet three extremely large explosive eruptions have occurred at Yellowstone in the past 2.1 million years with a recurrence interval of about 600,000 to 800,000 years. More frequent eruptions of basalt and rhyolite lava flows have occurred before and after the large caldera-forming events. It is said that if the Yellowstone volcano erupted again, it it would be catastrophic, but with the chances of a supervolcanic paroxysm being currently around one-in-730,000, it is less likely than a catastrophic asteroid impact. I guess Wyomingites can breathe a little easier. Nevertheless, scientists do want to know what’s behind the most recent activity at Steamboat Geyser. “We see gas emissions. We see all kinds of thermal activity. That’s what Yellowstone does. That’s what it’s supposed to do. It’s one of the most dynamic places on earth,” said Mike Poland, the scientist in charge of the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory.
Steamboat Geyser is the least predictable geyser in all of Yellowstone National Park. It could erupt in five minutes, five years, or even 50 years from now. Yet no one visiting Yellowstone wants to turn away from the sight. “That would be the chance of a lifetime,” one visitor said. “I would be amazed.” Steamboat Geyser,is the world’s tallest and far more powerful than Old Faithful, and right now, it’s roaring back to life. Still, timing is everything, and only a few people get to see it. Poland’s team of volcanologists are using thermal-imaging equipment to track the temperature of the 50-mile-wide magma field. They also monitor 28 seismographs since a super volcano would include major earthquake activity. So far,there is no indication that this is anything other than an unusual series of eruptions, and not indication of increased volcanic activity, which puts many people’s minds at ease. The geyser is welcome to continue erupting, but I say, “Just leave that volcano alone.”
These days, scientist and inventors have collaborated to develop early warning systems for just about any possible disaster, and when everything works as it should, and people heed the warnings, loss of life can often be avoided. Having the technology is great, but technology can’t make human beings do the right things…unfortunately. On May 22, 1960, twelve years after tsunami warnings were developed, and with the warning system in good working order, a massive 9.5 earthquake struck off the coast of Chili. It was the largest earthquake ever recorded. Unfortunately, we don’t really have an earthquake warning, and so without warning, 1655 people lost their lives in Chili and 3,000 injured in the quake. Two million people were made homeless, and damage was estimated at $550 million. The earthquake, involving a severe plate shift, caused a large displacement of water off the coast of southern Chile at 3:11pm. Traveling at speeds in excess of 400 miles per hour, the tsunami moved west and north. On the west coast of the United States, the waves caused an estimated $1 million in damages, but were not deadly. Everyone assumed that the worst was over.
Nevertheless, warnings were sent to the Hawaiian islands. The Pacific Tsunami Warning System properly and warnings were issued to Hawaiians six hours before the wave’s expected arrival. The response of some people, however, was reckless and irresponsible. Some people ignored the warnings, and others actually headed to the coast in order to view the wave. Arriving 15 hours after the quake, only a minute after predicted, the tsunami destroyed Hilo Bay, on the island of Hawaii. Thirty five foot waves bent parking meters to the ground and wiped away most buildings, destroying or damaging more than 500 homes and businesses. A 10 ton tractor was swept out to sea. Reports indicate that the 20 ton boulders making up the sea wall were moved 500 feet. Sixty-one people died in Hilo, the worst-hit area of the island chain. Damage was estimated at $75 million. This tsunami caused little damage elsewhere in the islands, where wave heights were in the 3-17 foot range. The tsunami continued to race further west across the Pacific. Ten thousand miles away from the earthquake’s epicenter. Japan, received warning, but wasn’t able to warn the people in harm’s way. At about 6pm, more than a day after the quake, the tsunami hit the Japanese islands of Honshu and Hokkaido. The crushing wave killed 180 people, left 50,000 more homeless and caused $400 million in damages. The Philippines, also hit, saw 32 people dead or missing.
Tsunami warnings definitely save lives, but only if people will heed the warnings. As long as people decide that the warning doesn’t apply to them, and give in to their curiosity to go have a look, there will continue to be deaths. It seems a great shame that inventors and scientist work so hard to make a warning to save lives, and then some people refuse to do what is necessary to be safe after they have been warned. I simply don’t understand how people can ignore these warnings and take a chance with their lives.
It doesn’t matter how many years have gone by since that horrible December day 76 years ago today, I don’t think that anyone who knows anything about the attack on Pearl Harbor can forget just how horrific it was. I suppose they should have known that an attack was imminent, or at the very least suspected it. Diplomatic negotiations with Japan had broken down, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his advisers knew that an imminent Japanese attack was probable. Still, nothing had been done to increase security at the important naval base at Pearl Harbor. It was critical mistake that would cost a total of 2,400 Americans their lives. In addition, 1,200 were wounded, many while valiantly attempting to defend Pearl Harbor from the attack.
It was Sunday morning, and many military personnel had been given passes to attend religious services off base. It should have been a quiet, peaceful, relaxing day. At 7:02am, two radar operators spotted large groups of aircraft in flight toward the island from the north. With a flight of B-17s expected from the United States at the time, they were told to sound no alarm. They were told wrong. At 7:55am Hawaii time, the peaceful day was shattered when, a Japanese dive bomber bearing the red symbol of the Rising Sun of Japan on its wings appeared out of the clouds above the island of Oahu. A swarm of 360 Japanese warplanes followed, descending on the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor. It was a ferocious assault. The surprise attack struck a critical blow against the United States Pacific fleet and drew the United States into World War II…like it or not. The Japanese air assault came as a devastating surprise to the naval base. Much of the Pacific fleet was rendered useless. There was simply no time to act. The window of opportunity for them to act was missed when no warning was given. Five of eight battleships, three destroyers, and seven other ships were sunk or severely damaged, and more than 200 aircraft were destroyed. Japan’s losses were some 30 planes, five midget submarines, and fewer than 100 men, and many of these were intentional suicide bombers. Fortunately for the United States, all three Pacific fleet carriers were out at sea on training maneuvers. These giant aircraft carriers would have their revenge against Japan six months later at the Battle of Midway, in a battle that would reverse the tide against the previously invincible Japanese navy in a spectacular victory.
The day after Pearl Harbor was bombed, President Roosevelt appeared before a joint session of Congress and declared, “Yesterday, December 7, 1941…a date which will live in infamy…the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.” After a brief and forceful speech, he asked Congress to approve a resolution recognizing the state of war between the United States and Japan. Finally, the president had taken action. The Senate voted for war against Japan by 82 to 0, and the House of Representatives approved the resolution by a vote of 388 to 1. The sole dissenter was Representative Jeannette Rankin of Montana, a devout pacifist who had also cast a dissenting vote against the United States entrance into World War I. Three days later, Germany and Italy declared war against the United States, and the United States government responded in kind. The American contribution to the successful Allied war effort spanned four long years and cost more than 400,000 American lives. The attack on Pearl Harbor was a vicious attack that shows us that in a war, neutrality is not a guarantee of safety, but is rather viewed as a sign of weakness.
I originally met my husband’s uncle, Andrew “Butch” Schulenberg at a family reunion about 1980, but really began to feel close to him and Aunt Charlys after my father-in-law, Walt Schulenberg, Butch’s half brother, passed away in 2013. Since that time, my husband, Bob and I have gone to Forsyth to spend time with them and kept in touch on Facebook. In those five years, I can honestly say that he has become a favorite uncle to me. He is very sweet man, and his kind, thoughtful ways have endeared him to me more than he could possibly know. I am so blessed that he is a part of my life.
Uncle Butch is the youngest child of his dad, Andrew Schulenberg, who was the sheriff of Rosebud County, Montana from 1955 to 1972. Growing up as the son of the County Sheriff, you would expect that Butch would be an expert in guns, and you would be right, but not for the reason you might think. You see, Butch’s dad was known as the sheriff without a gun. Nevertheless, that didn’t stop Butch from becoming an expert marksman. Butch graduated from high school in Forsyth, Montana, and then attended Northern Montana College in Havre, Montana before joining the Army on September 13, 1963. Part of his time in the Army was spent stationed at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, as a rifleman in Company A, 1st Battalion of the Division’s 35th Infantry. While there he took part in Exercise West Wind as a part of the assault team in a joint Army-Navy-Marine Corps amphibious operation on the Hawaiian Island of Molokai from April 15, 1964 to April 24, 1964. During his time in the Army, Butch became an Expert (Rifle M-14) and Marksman (Rifle).
Butch had learned to respect the dangers of guns early in his life, a result of the fact that his dad lost his left leg as a result of a hunting accident at the tender age of 14. I don’t believe that Grandpa Andy Schulenberg was afraid of guns, else how could he possibly be the Sheriff of Rosebud County for so many years, but I do believe that he was well aware of what can happen with guns and that he made sure that his children knew that they were not a toy. Nevertheless, he didn’t teach his children to fear guns either. While Butch was an excellent marksman, he was also a great driver, and that caught the attention of his superior officer who chose him to be his driver for much of his time in the service. Butch received an honorable discharge on August 23, 1965. I am very proud of Uncle Butch’s service to his country, and his abilities. Today is Uncle Butch’s 77th birthday. Happy birthday Uncle Butch!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
When most of us think about April Fool’s Day, we think of playing some funny prank on our family or friends, but on April Fool’s Day 1946, the Earth played a prank, if it could be called that, on Hawaii. It was a prank that wasn’t funny, and it would claim the lives of 159 people. Early in the morning of that April Fool’s Day, a 7.4 magnitude earthquake struck in the North Pacific, 13,000 feet beneath the ocean surface, and off Unimak Island in the Aleutian chain, that makes up the tail of Alaska. The quake triggered devastating tidal waves throughout the Pacific, and particularly aimed at Hawaii. The first tidal wave hit Unimak Island shortly after the quake struck. The wave was estimated to be almost 100 feet, and it crashed into a lighthouse 30 feet above sea level. Five people lived in the lighthouse. It was smashed to pieces, and all five were killed instantly. The wave then headed toward the Southern Pacific at 500 miles per hour. The situation was like a freight train carrying an atomic bomb.
Hawaii was 2,400 miles south of the quake’s epicenter, and Captain Wickland of the United States Navy was the first person to spot the coming wave at about 7:00am, four and a half hours after the quake struck in the Aleutian Islands. His position on the bridge of a ship, 46 feet above sea level, put him at eye level with a “monster wave” that he described as two miles long. The first wave came in and receded, then the water in Hilo Bay seemed to disappear. The boats that were docked there, settled on the sea floor, surrounded by flopping fish. Then…the second wave hit…and it was massive!! The city of Hilo was hit by a 32 foot wave that devastated the town. Nearly a third of the city was completely destroyed. The bridge that crossed the Wailuku River was picked up by the wave, and pushed 300 feet away. In Hilo, 96 people lost their lives in the tsunami. Other parts of Hawaii were hit even worse. In some places, the waves reached heights of 60 feet. A schoolhouse in Laupahoehoe was crushed by the tsunami, killing the teacher and 25 students inside.
The massive wave was seen as far away as Chile, where, 18 hours after the quake near Alaska, unusually large waves crashed ashore, but there were no casualties. This tsunami prompted the United States to establish the Seismic SeaWave Warning System two years later, which is now known as the Pacific Tsunami Warning System. It uses undersea buoys throughout the ocean, in combination with seismic-activity detectors, to find possible killer waves. The warning system was used for the first time on November 4, 1952. That day, an evacuation was successfully carried out, but the expected wave never materialized. Still, like the fire drills we all know about from school, maybe Tsunami Drills wouldn’t be a bad thing either, especially if it would prevent the kind of loss of life that Hawaii experienced on that awful April Fool’s Day in 1946.
Recently, I found out that President Dwight D Eisenhower is my sixth cousin six times removed. We are connected on my mother’s side through her Pattan roots, which is her mother’s side. Eisenhower was the 34th president of the Unites States, serving from January 20, 1953 to January 20, 1961. He was also a five-star general in the United States Army during World War II and served as Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces in Europe. Eisenhower was responsible for planning and supervising the invasion of North Africa in Operation Torch in 1942 – 1943 and the successful invasion of France and Germany in 1944 – 1945 from the Western Front. In 1951, he became the first Supreme Commander of NATO.
With everything else that he did, it seems odd, I suppose, to mention the fact that on March 18, 1959, he signed the Admission Act. Basically, the act dissolved the Territory of Hawaii and established the State of Hawaii as the 50th state to be admitted into the Union. Statehood became effective on August 21, 1959…the last state to join the United States. Eisenhower, in fact, was the president who signed the last two states into the United States. To me that must have been such an awe inspiring thing to get to do. My guess is that Eisenhower really had no idea that Hawaii would forever be the last state in the United States, and I suppose that it is still possible that another may join, but it has been almost 58 years, so it seems highly unlikely that there will be another. I wonder if, as his life was drawing to a close, Eisenhower gave any thought to the fact that he got to do that…to bring in the final two states in the United States. I also wonder if anyone thought there would ever be more states after Arizona and New Mexico were added in 1912, almost 47 years earlier. Maybe, adding another state to our country didn’t seem like such an important thing for a president to do, but I think it is. And to be the president to add the last two states…well, I just think that is very cool.
Whether people remember the date or not, I think that most people know that the attack on Pearl Harbor was what took the United States into World War II. Negotiations with Japan had broken down, and President Franklin Roosevelt and his advisors knew that in all probability, the Japanese would attack the United States. Still, nothing was done to increase security at key points, like the naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. This was especially an important base, because of it’s location. It was a place that early warning could have been given to the mainland, or where an attack could have been thwarted, but as often happens in government, the leaders don’t want to scare the nation, so they try to keep things from them…a plan the is fraught with folly. The best weapon a nation can possibly have is preparedness.
December 7, 1941 was a beautiful Sunday in Hawaii, 75 years ago today, and many military personnel had been given passes to attend church services off base. At 7:02am, two radar operators spotted large groups of aircraft in flight toward the island from the north, but with a flight of B-17s expected from the United States at the time, they were told not to sound an alarm. At 7:55am Hawaii time, a Japanese dive bomber bearing the red symbol of the Rising Sun of Japan on its wings appeared out of the clouds above the island of Oahu. Behind it came a swarm of 360 Japanese warplanes, descending on the US naval base at Pearl Harbor in a ferocious attack. The United States was unprepared, and the surprise attack struck a critical blow against the US Pacific fleet drawing the United States irrevocably into World War II.
In an attack that lasted just under two hours, the Japanese rendered much of the Pacific fleet useless, including five of eight battleships, three destroyers, and seven other ships that were sunk or severely damaged, and more than 200 aircraft that were destroyed. A total of 2,400 Americans were killed and 1,200 were wounded, many while scrambling in a valiant attempt to repulse the attack. Japan’s losses were some 30 planes, five midget submarines, and fewer than 100 men. Fortunately for the United States, all three Pacific fleet carriers were out at sea on training maneuvers. These giant aircraft carriers would exact their revenge against Japan six months later at the Battle of Midway, reversing the tide against the previously invincible Japanese navy in a spectacular victory…a beating that Japan would not forget.
The day after Pearl Harbor was bombed, President Roosevelt appeared before a joint session of Congress and declared, “Yesterday, December 7, 1941…a date which will live in infamy…the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.” After a brief and forceful speech, he asked Congress to approve a resolution recognizing the state of war between the United States and Japan. The Senate voted for war against Japan by 82 to 0, and the House of Representatives approved the resolution by a vote of 388 to 1. The sole dissenter was Representative Jeannette Rankin of Montana, a devout pacifist, who had also cast a dissenting vote against the United States entrance into World War I. Three days later, Germany and Italy declared war against the United States, and the United States government responded in kind. The American contribution to the successful Allied war effort spanned four long years and cost more than 400,000 American lives.
I have never personally been to Pearl Harbor, but I am told that the Arizona Memorial, that stands above the sunken ship, that is grave to the brave men who died inside, displays a feeling of sadness, and of being on hallowed ground. It is a feeling I felt when I walked through the cemetery at Gettysburg. The men who died there…who bravely gave the ultimate sacrifice deserve the respect of those who would come to visit. I do not believe in ghosts, but I do believe that God gives cemeteries, in general, and military cemeteries especially an air of quiet honor reserved for the dead. Let us never forget that our greatest weapon in all areas of life is preparedness.