On December 7, seventy years ago, at 0600 hours on a Sunday morning, the first wave of 40 Japanese Nakajima B5NZ torpedo bombers, 51 Aichi D3A1 dive bombers and 92 high altitude bombers flew into the rising sun, their wings blazing iconic red suns. They droned over the Pacific Ocean towards Hawaii to bomb the U.S. Navy’s fleet of the mightiest warships on ‘Battleship Row’. At 0753 hours came the second offensive wave; 170 aircraft, mostly torpedo bombers, attacked the anchored ships. Among the nine destroyed battleships was the USS Arizona, pierced by bombs in the forward ammunitions compartment, blowing apart the ship within seconds, on fire, burning, sinking to the bottom, entombing 1,117 men.
In all, nine battleships were destroyed; however, aircraft carriers were miraculously unscathed. Twenty four Japanese pilots were assigned to target battleships along Ford Island on the eastern side of Pearl Harbor—twenty one struck intended targets, strafers and dive bombers eliminating 423 U.S. combat planes on Kaneohe, Ewa and Hickam airfields. Five attackers diverted to the flagship California moored in the F-3 slot along Ford Island’s eastern side and nine struck the Maryland and Oklahoma in outboard positions near the Tennessee and West Virginia. Astern of the Tennessee lay the Arizona; the repair ship Vestal alongside and last in line was the Nevada at F-8. The moored ships clustered in Pearl Harbor almost equaled the entire Japanese fleet, and their decimation was the sole mission of Japanese attackers.
The Pennsylvania was dry docked in the Naval Yard, the mighty Enterprise was en route from Wake Island, the Lexington was ferrying aircraft to the Saratoga, and the Colorado was stateside for repairs; those ships were spared the Pearl Harbor attack.
“Air raid…Pearl Harbor…this is no drill!”—alarms blared as planes strafed dependents housing area and blew up trucks to hinder evacuations. The strategic Kaneohe Bay Naval Air Station was hit twice—Lt. John Finn firing at low flying planes, and dying from shrapnel, protecting the fuel farm at the navy yard. A gunner reported making eye contact with a pilot, dodging tracer bullets as low flying strafers bombed munitions magazines.
The surgical aerial attacks sent five burning battleships beneath the waves—entombing dying men and heavily damaging the rest of the fleet trapped by flames and black smoke— burning fuel and floating fires billowing to the skies. On that fateful December morn, the ‘day of infamy’ 3,500 Americans died; a brutally poignant harbinger of what was yet to come, foreshadowing that the dawn surprise attack was just the beginning of a long-grinding war machine.
The Japanese Empire attacked the sovereign shores of Hawaii and the United States Naval fleet to prevent interference in their plans for expansionist conquest. They had succeeded in killing and maiming thousands of Americans, decimating the United States fleet and combat planes, but they were not prepared for America’s resolute determination to win; the power of patriotic cohesiveness and the iron will to deter the enemy—and then the ultimate act that was to end the war in the Pacific in 1945.
The Japanese were already expansionist aggressors in search of raw materials and oil, the reason they occupied China in mid-1937—the siege of Nanking, the harshest of the occupation. To replenish their fast-dwindling resources, they desperately schemed to seize the mineral-rich East Indies and Southeast Asia leading to island-hopping battles in the Pacific Rim. Trade was halted with Japan in mid-1941 and by November the U.S. anticipated a Japanese attack on the Philippines, Indies and Malaya. The United States, neutral until that point, did not consider that such surprise attacks could succeed on Hawaiian Island bases—the naval solar plexus of the body America—the dominant battleship fleet in Pearl Harbor. America entered the war.
The fateful raid on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese Empire, was one of the great defining moments in history, the catalyst that sparked the United States to enter World War Two—the conflict with Japan and Germany that ultimately lead to over fifty million deaths, civilian and military, in the Pacific and European theatres of battle. The empirical Japanese had succeeded in decimating the naval fleet, but they could not have foreseen how the American Navy, Army and Army-Air Force could forge such fierce battles, and with an unfaltering stalwart determination to win, finally terminate the interminable war with the ultimate, ostensibly essential act in August 1945. The B29 Enola Gay flew on a momentous mission over Nagasaki and Hiroshima, that not only ended the war, but set the world on a proliferate course of no return.
DANVILLE MAN TELLS OF PEARL HARBOR
Herb Jorgenson was a 3rd class petty officer on the U.S. Honolulu in December 1941. He had gathered confidential intelligence reports to burn in the incinerator and left his ship. When he heard the planes, he rushed back to his ship and then came the bombs. Today, 92-year-old Herb Jorgenson tells of his experience as an eye witness to the Pearl Harbor bombing with detail, recalling each moment of that fateful morning and his years in the U.S. Navy.
The sounds and smell of burning fuel, the flames and the smoke are still poignant memories. “The Honolulu was hit, I survived. For two weeks we went out in small craft and picked the floating dead from the sea, it went on for days…the admiral could not get our ship under way…”
Herb was shipped to Melbourne, Australia in the 7th Pacific Fleet, and was part of the U.S. Missouri taskforce that pushed to the Philippines. “After the war in the 1950s, I was stationed at the Yokosuka Navy Base of the 7th Fleet with my wife and two sons. We went to school and learned Japanese. I remember a lot but my sons have forgotten it all,” Herb chuckled, as he spoke Japanese to prove his point. He explained his mission as staff at the strategic Yokosuka port, spider-webbed with tunnels, bombed in 1942 by the Doolittle raiders, and years later the American naval base during the Korean and Viet Nam conflicts.
I made a point to thank the affable nonagenarian Herb Jorgenson for his service to his country. Herb still has the enthusiasm and energy of a perennial navy man; he volunteers at the Blackhawk Museum as an archivist of automobile literature—Herb knows all about ships and cars—just ask him. He is at the museum most days when the doors open.
In the early morning hours airplane engines droned above the clouds. There was a loud noise, fire, then concussion waves of boiling debris. A cloud of dust, as if erupted from a violent volcano, reached to the sky—a stem of debris that billowed up to the shape of an umbrella—a canopy that hovered over the port of Hiroshima and forever becoming the iconic symbol of atomic destruction. The delivery of the atomic bomb was the eleventh-hour act that ended the war with Japan.
Takashi ‘Tommy’ Tanemori was eight years old on August 6, 1945, when he saw the white bright light flash, and then felt the heat burn his skin. The boy was within a mile of ground zero when planes flew over Hiroshima, air raid sirens blaring, and loudspeakers announcing an attack—too late to get to underground shelters, the bomb fell, a crater tore up the ground, bodies flew in the air, others caught fire, screaming, then silence. It was just after 8 o’clock in the morning, the day that the world woke up to new weapons of war—weapons of mass destruction.
The Enola Gay and two other B29 bomber aircrafts, carrying heretofore unknown destructive payloads were vehicles of last resort, the single most-desperate act to end the war with the Japanese Empire. An atomic bomb was dropped on the Hiroshima naval shipyards, a city of 500,000 citizens and 40,000 military personnel and then later Nagasaki. Japan was aware of the possibility of an invasion and civilians routinely rehearsed drills to practice the killing of Americans. They were also forced never to surrender and live by their code of honor yamato damashi—to die before capitulating. On August 15, 1945, nine days after the bomb drops, Emperor Hirohito announced on the radio that Japan had capitulated; surrender was the only option—the nation relinquished yamato damashi.
Tommy Tanemori, now blind, lives in Lafayette, and a book of his life story tells of his experience when the bomb fell on Hiroshima and his life in Japan and America. The story of Tanemori was brought to life by John Crump, the senior editor of Hiroshima: Bridge to Forgiveness spending two years weaving the story, weaving Tommy’s raw words of narration into a concise tapestry of extraordinary events. Tommy Tanemori, raised under the Seven Codes of the Samurai, was orphaned, oyanashigo, his family dying from radiation exposure and the yurei survivors—living ghosts wandering in Hiroshima. His sisters had survived in Yoshida; the Imperial Military Power of Hiroshima had announced that all third grade students must be evacuated to preserve the seeds of future generations.
Tanemori, at eighteen said sayonara to Hiroshima and immigrated to America in 1956. Years later he wrote of the ashes of the Hiroshima horror, and being a subject of a radiation study in California. He felt resentment and revenge at the loss of his family and found solace in putting his thoughts to paper. Today Tommy tends to his garden and teaches his family peace and harmony and the ancient ways of the Samurai.
John Crump who masterfully edited the 507-page book is a journalism and history major, a former television host and producer of the Silicon Valley Report on KTEH who was responsible for the weekly news and analysis of Silicon Valley events and other technology regions. In the 1980s John Crump was a KNTV news reporter and presently teaches at the Tech Academy of Silicon Valley.
To obtain a copy of Hiroshima: Bridge to Forgiveness by Takashi Thomas Tanemori and John Crump, go to; email@example.com.