Could a Modern Day Pearl Harbor Hit America Again? Part I

Modern Day Parallel To Pearl Harbor Anniversary Part I

December 7th 1941, the era of the greatest American generation is forced into proving itself in the wake of the Great Depression of the 1930's. Even though Europe is under Nazi domination and Japan has been invading Manchuria and butchering the Chinese since 1932 America has remained in isolation. Despite resistance from Congress on Capitol Hill and the American people who do not want to be embroiled in another war plans are being made by the Japanese Imperial leadership.

Preparation the worst

President Franklin Roosevelt has made Lend Lease agreements with embattled Allied forces and has had the US military developing new specifications for high performance military aircraft. Yet, American Merchant Marine ships are being torpedoed by German U-Boats in the Atlantic Ocean on their way to deliver much needed aid to the British. A much dreaded war looms inevitably as US servicemen all over the world nervously await an outcome that will test their lack of preparedness.

A cunning enemy

US Naval Code breakers work feverishly trying to decipher Japanese encrypted radio traffic across the vast Pacific in an attempt to anticipate where the Imperial Navy is likely to strike. Japanese ambassadorial staff in Washington DC and on Oahu are instructed by their leaders to stall the Americans in drawn out peace talks while Admiral Yamamoto becomes the architect to a daring strategy that will forever change the history of warfare and plunge the US into world war. In a matter of weeks Yamamoto devises an effective assault plan that will neutralize the advantages of a shallow harbor that would make conventional torpedo attacks ineffective and plans the voyage of a huge task force that will outwit US naval reconnaissance.

Unable to connect the dots

Meanwhile Admiral Kimmel receives a number of confusing intelligence reports that leave him with no definitive course of action and the false assurances that sabotage is his primary threat to guard against. As a result Army General Short decides to locate all P-40 Warhawks on the runways to be closely positioned so as to be more easily guarded by sentries while ammunition and ordinance is locked away rather than being loaded in aircraft and within the anti-aircraft artillery aboard ships and sandbagged machine gun emplacements. This strategy ensures that it will take much longer to respond to a surprise attack if it succeeds, and it will.

A sinister day unfolds

Early in the morning of 7th December, 1941 a sleepy Hawaii is awaking to another beautiful Pacific morning. A flag raising ceremony aboard the Arizona is underway as all white uniformed officers are on deck. Maintenance crews routinely paint the hulls of a number of ships, and off duty personnel sleep in or go about casual activities. Little do they know that the launch of a massive Japanese air armada is being deployed North of Oahu still undiscovered by naval PBY search planes who have been scouring the pacific for days now. From six Japanese Aircraft carriers the first wave of 183 Japanese warplanes are on a course for Pearl Harbor's battleship row. A second wave of fighters, dive bombers, and torpedo planes will soon follow as they are readied by Japanese launch crews.

Defeat assured

With anti-aircraft shells locked away, 50 caliber machine gun ammunition secured under lock and key, and US fighter aircraft parked wing tip to wing tip, a horrible scenario is about to emerge and another lesson in the history of warfare is about to stain the waters of Pearl Harbor with the blood of unsuspecting American servicemen. The early morning serenity of the Hawaiian paradise is shattered when Japanese Zero Fighters, Val dive bombers, and Kate torpedo planes begin their runs undetected and unopposed by any resistance. Even after the sinking of one reported Japanese miniature submarine just outside of Pearl Harbor's entrance more than  an hour earlier no alert has been sounded.

Missed opportunities

With an expected arrival of a large B-17 formation from the mainland early detection radar has failed to report an incoming wave of Japanese Imperial Fleet aircraft intent upon the destruction of CINCPAC. The fate of thousands of young men is in the hands of events they cannot possibly perceive is perilously close now. The formidable hand of destruction is on the way and there is nothing anyone can do about it. The terrible arrival of destiny is assured. The rattling of Japanese machine guns and 20 millimeter cannon begins upon the runways and ship decks of the US Navy as Jap Zero fighters begin their strafing runs. Splashes of Japanese specially adapted torpedoes begin to leave traces within the shallow harbor waters on their way to US warships moored along the docks.

Too late now!

Civilians have glanced up in the skies to see the faces of aircraft carrier pilots headed for the US Naval and Army bases. Children playing baseball have wondered at the Orange Sun insignias on the wings of these aircraft foreign  to the appearance of the routine US Navy planes. American servicemen wonder just what weird practice exercise could possibly have been planned on a lazy Sunday morning with all the talk of a distant war in Europe that has yet to pull America into its insatiable vacuum. Yet, they are shaken by the first blasts as oily smoke soon fills the air and death begins its terrible presence within the waters of Pearl Harbor.

The devastation

More than 2,300 men will perish on this fateful morning. Twenty US warships will be left burning or capsized inside the harbor, most notably, the USS Arizona that with a single aerial bomb precisely delivered will immediately result in the disintegration of 1,170 US Naval personnel aboard that great battleship that will be memorialized forever in the American consciousness. 188 US military aircraft are blown to bits as they stand like sitting ducks on the airfields while hapless pilots scramble to get them into the air to somehow fight back, but it is an exercise in futility.

Glimpses of death

Wheeler and Hickam field, both Army bases, are attacked and devastated by strafing and bombings that reeks havoc as soldiers, officers, and aviators attempt to repulse an ingenious air raid that cannot help but succeed. Soon a second wave of attacking Japanese aircraft will only add insult to injury and concentrate on more strategic targets of opportunity. 35 Americans are killed as a single bomb lands in a mess hall. Naval personnel are strafed as their ships roll over in the shallow waters  of  the harbor into the ocean. Even some civilians in downtown Honolulu are on the receiving end of a bomb or stray machine gun bullet. Within a few minutes and for days to come Pearl Harbor is engulfed in clouds of smoke from burning oil and exploded ordinance.

Further disaster averted

A third wave is planned by the Japanese, but even though strongly urged by his flight leaders Admiral Nagumo elects to withdraw. His reasoning that the element of surprise had been lost, that the location of the American aircraft carriers is unknown, and the task force was already low on fuel for the long voyage back to the Japanese mainland all convince him that further operations pose a potential danger. Although only 29 Japanese aircraft had been shot down, the Americans have quickly erected an effective air defense that would have taken a heavier toll on subsequent attack formations.

Lingering effects

By 9:45 AM the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor is over, but the devastation will take a year to recover from. Sailors trapped beneath the decks of holed battleships, cruisers, and destroyers either die waiting or will be delivered from certain death by rescue crews in the long days that follow. The American public who has been receiving minute by minute bulletins over the radio is now outraged over a sneak attack with a formal declaration of war not delivered to Secretary of State Cordell Hull until 2:00 PM hours after the devastation of the Pearl Harbor attack. The following morning FDR announces an official declaration of war upon Japan and the Axis forces across the Atlantic where Great Britain stands alone.

Early desperation

In the days and weeks that follow a string of humiliating Japanese military  victories are to follow in Manilla, Wake Island, and many other US occupied Pacific island outposts. For months until the Battle of Midway, the US Navy will operate crippled and incapable of delivering any significant blows to the Imperial Japanese Navy as they pursue the US Carrier fleet trying to put a swift end to the war.  Another reminder in history over the bloody implications of refusing to prepare for an inevitable conflict has etched its indelible presence with the  blood of young men.

Wounded but not dead yet

In the aftermath of the worst military disaster in US history Admiral Husband E. Kimmel and General Martin C. Short will be releived of command and subjected to Congressional committee hearings as investigators assign blame to defensive tactics that allowed such a tragedy to occur. Newly appointed Supreme Commander of CINCPAC Admiral Chester Nimitz will take command and begin overhauling the leadership structure of the badly mauled Pacific fleet in order to stave off the Japanese until reinforcements and US industrial capacity can reverse the crisis faced by US forces in the Pacific.

How is history poised to repeat itself today thanks the present policies of the White House? Read in Part II.

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