Thursday, December 08, 2016

December 7, 1941 - a few Citations


From Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division

1796 - In his Eighth Annual Message to Congress, President George Washington urges Congress to increase naval strength.

1941 - In one of the defining moments in U.S. history, the Japanese attack the U.S. Pacific Fleet and nearby military airfields and installations at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and remove the U.S. Navy’s battleship force as a possible threat to the Japanese Empires southward expansion. The U.S. is brought into the World War II as a full combatant.

1941 - As the Japanese attacked Midway Island, 1st Lt. George H. Cannon, USMC remained at his post until all of his wounded men were evacuated, though severely wounded himself. Because of his dedication to his men, Cannon died due loss of blood from his wounds. For his "distinguished conduct in the line of his profession", Cannon is posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.  Lt. Cannon is the first Marine to be awarded the Medal of Honor in WW II.

1941 - Capt. Mervyn Sharp Bennion, commanding officer of USS West Virginia (BB 48), evidenced apparent concern only in fighting and saving his ship, and strongly protested against being carried from the bridge. For devotion to duty and courage during the Pearl Harbor attack, Bennion posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

1941 - Ensign Francis C. Flaherty remained in his turret, holding a flashlight so the remainder of the turret crew could see the escape, thereby sacrificing his own life. For devotion to duty and courage during the Pearl Harbor attack, Flaherty is posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

1941 - Lt. Cmdr. Samuel Glenn Fuqua rushed to the quarterdeck of USS Arizona, where a large bomb hit and penetrated several decks.  The explosion started a severe fire and also stunned and knocked him down. Upon coming to, he began to direct the firefighting and rescue efforts. A tremendous explosion forward appeared to make the ship rise out of the water, shudder and settle down by the bow. Flames enveloped the forward part of the ship and spread as wounded men poured out of the ship to the quarterdeck. Despite the mayhem, Fuqua kept calm under pressure and continued to direct the firefighting efforts so that the wounded could be taken from the ship, and in so doing inspired everyone who saw him. Realizing that the ship could not be saved and that he was the senior surviving officer aboard, he ordered the crew to abandon ship. Fuqua remained on the quarterdeck until satisfied that all personnel that could be had been saved, after which he left the ship with the last boatload.  Lt. Cmdr. Fuqua is awarded the Medal of Honor.

1941 - Chief Boatswain Edwin Joseph Hill, while leading his men of the line-handling details of USS Nevada to the quays, cast off the lines and swam back to this ship. Later, while on the forecastle attempting to let go the anchors, he was blown overboard and killed by the explosion of several bombs. Chief Hill is posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his distinguished conduct in the line of his profession, extraordinary courage, and disregard of his own safety during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor.

1941 - Ensign Herbert C. Jones organized and led a party in supplying ammunition to the antiaircraft battery of the USS California after the mechanical hoists were put out of action. Jones was then fatally wounded by a nearby bomb explosion and when two men attempt to take him from the area which was on fire, he refused to let them, saying, in words to the effect, “Leave me alone! I am done for. Get out of here before the magazines go off.”  Ensign Jones is posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

1941 - Rear Adm. Isaac C. Kidd immediately went to the bridge and as the commander of Battleship Division One, he courageously performed his duties as Senior Officer Present Afloat until his flagship, USS Arizona, blew up from magazine explosions and he is killed by a direct bomb hit on the bridge.  Admiral Kidd is posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

1941 - As the mechanized ammunition hoists are put of action in USS California, Chief Radioman Thomas James Reeves, on his own initiative, in a burning passageway, assists in the maintenance of an ammunition supply by hand to the antiaircraft guns until he is overcome by smoke and fire, resulting in his death.  Chief Reeves posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

1941 - As his station in the forward dynamo room aboard the USS Nevada became almost untenable due to smoke, steam, and heat, Lt. Cmdr. Donald Kirby Ross forced his men to leave the station and performed all the duties himself until blinded and unconscious. Upon being rescued and resuscitated, he returned and secured the forward dynamo room and proceeded to the aft dynamo room where he was again rendered unconscious by exhaustion. Again he recovered consciousness and returned to his station where he remained until directed to abandon it.  Machinist Mate [Later Lt. Cmdr.] Ross is awarded the Medal of Honor.

1941 - Chief Aviation Ordnanceman John William Finn manned a .50-caliber machine gun mounted on an instruction stand in an exposed section of the parking ramp, under heavy enemy machine-gun strafing fire. While painfully wounded, he continued to man the gun and return the enemy’s fire with telling effect throughout the enemy strafing and bombing attacks. He was at last persuaded to leave his post to seek medical attention after being specifically ordered to do so. After receiving first-aid, the chief returned to the squadron area and actively supervised the rearming of returning planes. Chief (later Lieutenant) Finn earned the Medal of Honor that day for his extraordinary heroism, distinguished service, and devotion above and beyond the call of duty during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor.


VNVets

”It is a stain on this nation's honor that the Department of Veterans Affairs has become a deadlier and more difficult adversary to the American veteran than any they have ever faced on a battlefield."-- VNVets

"The concept that Agent Orange, and its effects, stopped dead in its tracks at the shoreline is simply too illogical, and too ludicrous to accept. What does that say about the Obama Administration and his Department of Veterans Affairs?"--VNVets

"With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations." --President Abraham Lincoln

"It follows then as certain as that night succeeds the day, that without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious."--President George Washington

Copyright © 2005-2016: VNVets Blog -- Now in our Twelfth Year of Service to Veterans; All Rights Reserved. Reprinting or copying of the contents of this blog without the express permission of the author is unlawful.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

"Air Raid Pearl Harbor, this is no drill!"


"Air Raid Pearl Harbor, this is no drill!"

The radio message flashed out in the clear from Pearl Harbor

Seventy-five years ago this December 7th Wednesday, Japanese aircraft slashed through the morning skies over Pearl Harbor Naval Station, Ford Island Naval Air Station, Hickam Field Army Air Corps Station, and Wheeler Field and the Schofield Barracks Army Station on the northwest side of Oahu.

Alerted by the thump of bombs falling from high above, and from the rattle of machine gun fire from low flying Japanese A6M-2 Zero-Sen Fighters on strafing runs, the ships of the United States Pacific Fleet were slow to react. Slowly, battle stations were manned, and ammunition broken out from magazines was finding its way to US Navy gunners. It was far too little and far too late. Japanese Val dive bombers and Kate torpedo planes began streaking in on their runs, delivering telling blows to the big ships.

In human lives, the attack on Pearl Harbor was horrific. 2,403 were dead, and 1,178 wounded.

188 planes were destroyed, the vast majority on the ground, as only a few Army Air Corps fighters managed to get airborne. A further 159 aircraft were significantly damaged, leaving only 43 planes operational at attack’s end.

It was the toll in ships that was staggering, however.

“Battleships
· Arizona blown up with a loss of 1,177 men.
· Oklahoma capsized with a small part of her hull above water.
· California “sank gradually for about three or four days: and came to rest rather solidly on a mud bottom, with her mainmasts and the upper parts of her main batteries above water. “The quarterdeck [was] under about twelve feet of water...”
· Nevada, which got under way, beached in the narrow channel opposite Hospital Point in a wrecked condition.
· West Virginia sunk at her berth.
· Maryland moderately damaged but not needing to go into drydock.
· Tennessee, seriously damaged aft in the officers’ quarters from fire and otherwise moderately damaged.
· Pennsylvania, in drydock, with considerable damage, “but not of vital nature.”
· Utah, then used as a target ship, capsized, having been at the Saratoga’s regular berth.

Light Cruisers
· Raleigh, Helena, and Honolulu moderately damaged.

Destroyers
· Cassin and Downes, in Drydock No. 1, severely damaged.
· Shaw’s bow blown off while in floating drydock, severely damaged.

Others
· Vestal (repair ship) was along side the Arizona when the raid commenced and was beached at Aeia to prevent further sinkage.
· Curtiss (seaplane tender) was badly damaged by a crashing plane and one 500-lb. bomb.
· Oglala (minelayer) capsized.”*

For the Japanese, the cost was minimal.

“Twenty-nine planes did not return: fifteen dive bombers and high-level bombers, five torpedo planes, and nine fighter escorts. The midget submarines inflicted no damage, and none returned to their mother ships; four were sunk, and one was wrecked on a reef, its captain captured. One I-class submarine was also sunk.”*

[*Dull, Paul S., A Battle History of the Imperial Japanese Navy (1941-1945). United States Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, 1978.]

In spite of the overwhelming destruction inflicted on the US Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, the Japanese were foiled by a number of things that did not go according to plan, or were missed by the planners. The attack called for strikes particularly on the US Aircraft Carriers, however, they were at sea at the time of the attack and were missed. Additionally, millions of barrels of oil were stored in large tank farms behind the US Submarine base at Pearl Harbor, and also between there and another tank farm near Hickam Field. The Japanese left them totally unscathed. They also failed to attack the submarine section of the sprawling naval base. With the exception of a number of Cruisers and Destroyers based elsewhere throughout the Pacific, the surface fighting arm of the Pacific Fleet was on the bottom at Pearl Harbor, but the Aircraft Carriers, their pilots and planes were intact, as were the submarines, and their facilities at Pearl Harbor. The remains of the Pacific Fleet would not suffer for the want of oil to patrol the waters of the Pacific either.

The Japanese sneak attack catapulted the isolationist American nation to a Declaration of War, made by Congress the following day at the request of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in his stirring “Day of Infamy” speech.

The rest of the story…Arizona was the ship that suffered the most damage. Devastated when a bomb ripped through the main deck and exploded in the forward magazine. Arizona has come to symbolize the events of December 7th at Pearl Harbor. Some of her dead lie still entombed within her, the rest buried in the cemetery at the “Punch Bowl”. The USS Arizona remains in commission as a U.S. Navy ship.

The former battleship Utah was converted to an auxiliary vessel in 1931 and used as a radio controlled target ship. Later, she was converted back to a gunnery training ship. Moored on the opposite side of Ford Island from Battleship Row on December 7th the Utah was in the spot where the aircraft carrier Saratoga usually was to be found. Utah received the attention of dozens of Japanese planes; struck repeatedly by bombs and torpedoes, she rolled over and sank. Later the hulk was raised and moved closer to Ford Island where she remains today.

Horribly mangled by bombs and torpedoes, the Nevada, the only battleship to get under way, was intentionally beached to prevent her sinking. Repaired and returned to service by 1943, she took part in a raid on the Aleutian Islands and eventually made her way to the Atlantic where she provided shore bombardment at Normandy on D-Day in 1944.

Capsized, the Oklahoma was eventually partially raised but never repaired. A frantic rescue effort went on for days after the attack trying desperately to free men trapped inside the overturned hull.

Flagship of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, Pennsylvania was in drydock at the time of the attack, sharing the drydock with the destroyers Cassin and Downes. Pennsylvania’s damage was minimal, thanks in no small part to the sturdiness of the drydock caissons. Japanese aircraft tried repeatedly to torpedo the Pennsylvania, but the drydock walls absorbed the hits. Not so lucky were the two destroyers in with the Pennsylvania, USS Cassin DD 372 and USS Downes DD 375. The Downes and Cassin were both salvaged with much equipment taken off their ruined hulls and installed on new hulls in the U.S. Re-launched, these “new” vessels went on to fight in many of the western Pacific Campaigns from 1943 on. The Pennsylvania was quickly repaired and returned to service. In 1944 she participated in the bombardment of Guam prior to the invasion there, and later saw action at the Battle of Surigao Strait.

The Tennessee was moored inboard of the USS West Virginia, and was thus protected from torpedo attack. She was scorched by the flaming oil from the Arizona, and received two bomb hits on her main gun turrets. After a period of repair and modernization in California, the Tennessee resumed duty, participating in all the major offensives of the Western Pacific from early 1943 on. Tennessee took part in the Battle of Surigao Strait and later had a hand in the sinking of the IJN super battleship Yamato.

Severely damaged by torpedoes and bombs, and sunk at her berth, California was a major salvage undertaking and was not completed until January of 1944. She took part in the major Pacific campaigns of 1944 and 1945, and fought in the surface action against Japanese Battleships at the Battle of Surigao Strait.

Perhaps the least damaged of all the battleships at Pearl Harbor, Maryland turned out to be the unluckiest. After a brief overhaul stateside in 1942, Maryland returned to combat status. While supporting Marine amphibious operations at Saipan in 1944 she was torpedoed by a Japanese plane. After another repair period, Maryland returned to the firing line at the Palau Islands, and operated with the fleet during the Leyte invasion in October 1944, including the Battle of Surigao Strait. A month later she was struck in Leyte Gulf by a Japanese Kamikaze aircraft, requiring still another overhaul. She returned to the line just in time for the end of the war in the Pacific.

Next to the Arizona, the West Virginia took the worst beating at Pearl Harbor. Several bomb hits and at least seven torpedo hits all on one side. Excellent damage control kept her from rolling over, and thus allowed many of her crew to escape. She was re-floated and repaired, and back in action by July of 1944, in time to participate in the closing months of the war in the Pacific.

USS Helena CL 50. Helena was a brand new light cruiser. At Pearl Harbor she was struck in an engine room by a single torpedo, and was repaired to fight in the southwest Pacific campaigns of 1942 by July of that year.

USS Raleigh CL 7. Unlike the Helena, Raleigh was a much older vessel, built in 1924. Like the Helena, she was lightly damaged at Pearl Harbor, receiving one torpedo hit and a near miss by a bomb. She was repaired and back in the fight by summer of 1942.

USS Honolulu CL 48. Another relatively new cruiser, the Honolulu received only moderate damage to its hull and by mid January was repaired and escorting a convoy to San Francisco.

USS Shaw DD 373. The destroyer Shaw was in a floating drydock and received serious damage from a bomb. Her bow section was completely blown off. Repaired and restored for duty, Shaw went back in action in the summer of 1942.

USS Helm DD 388. The Helm, a relatively new destroyer, was slightly damaged by two near-miss bombs. She remained in service.

USS Curtiss AV 4. The Curtiss was brand new seaplane tender. A bomb hit her and a Japanese plane crashed into her upper works. She was repaired on the west coast of the United States and back at Pearl Harbor by February, 1942.

USS Vestal AR 4. The Vestal, a repair ship, was moored alongside the USS Arizona on December 7th. Struck by two bombs and further damaged by the explosion in the forward magazine of the Arizona, Vestal was moved to another part of the harbor where she was grounded to avoid sinking. Vestal was repaired and by August of 1942 she was busy repairing ships involved in the Guadalcanal campaign.

USS Oglala CM 4. Oglala was the fleet minelayer for the Pacific Fleet. An old ship, she was damaged during the attack by nearby torpedo and bomb explosions. She rolled onto her side and sank. Raised and repaired, she was returned to action as a repair ship for internal combustion engines in 1944.

Amazingly, of the twenty ships mentioned above, which indeed are the ones that received any damage of a nature greater than superficial, only Arizona, Utah, and Oklahoma were not raised, repaired and returned to wartime service. And Utah was little more than a hulk to begin with. Ultimately, one of the real stories about Pearl Harbor is this superb salvage effort to get the ships repaired well enough for a voyage to a West Coast shipyard, where they were repaired and in many cases overhauled and modernized, often returning to service in much finer condition than prior to the attack. The men and women who performed these tasks at Pearl Harbor are as big a set of heroes as any crew who sailed their ships against the Japanese in the Pacific.

All the ships served with distinction later in the war, and it was fitting that at the Battle of Surigao Strait when Admiral Jesse Oldendorf led six U.S. Battleships, among them Pearl Harbor veterans California, West Virginia, Maryland, Tennessee, and Pennsylvania in column in a classic “Crossing the T” maneuver, just as Japanese Admiral Togo had done to the Russian fleet at Tsushima Strait in 1905, and sank most of Vice Admiral Nishimura’s striking force of battleships and cruisers.  Oldendorf’s victory at Surigao Strait is a testament to that magnificent salvage effort.

The salvage work done at Pearl Harbor in the aftermath of the December 7th attack was finely managed and heroically carried out. Icing to the cake was added barely six months after the Japanese attack when the Naval Shipyard located at Pearl completed the battle damage to the USS Yorktown from the Battle of the Coral Sea, what would normally have taken several months to repair: , in 48 hours, allowing her and her aircrews to participate in the first major naval victory against the Japanese at the Battle of Midway. Aircraft from the three US aircraft carriers, the Hornet, Enterprise, and Yorktown, the ones that were missed at Pearl, sank four of the Japanese aircraft carriers that participated in the December 7th attack on Pearl Harbor, the Hiryu, Soryu, Kaga and Akagi.  

A day later, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in one of the most dramatic speeches in United States history, presented a request to the US Congress for a Declaration of War against the Japanese Empire:

"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. 

"The United States was at peace with that nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its Government and its Emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific. Indeed, 1 hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in Oahu, the Japanese Ambassador to tie United States and his colleague delivered to the Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. While this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or armed attack.

"It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time the Japanese Government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace. 

"The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian Islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. I regret to inform you that very many American lives have been lost. In addition American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu. 

"Yesterday the Japanese Government also launched an attack against Malaya. 

"Last night Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong. 

"Last night Japanese forces attacked Guam. 

"Last night Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.

"Last night the Japanese attacked Wake Island.

"This morning the Japanese attacked Midway Island. 

"Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our Nation. 

"As Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense.

"Always will we remember the character of the onslaught against us. 

"No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people, in their righteous might, will win through to absolute victory. 

"I believe I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost but will make very certain that this form of treachery shall never endanger us again. 

"Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory, and our interests are in grave danger.

"With confidence in our armed forces with the unbounded determination of our people we will gain the inevitable triumph so help us God.

"I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December 7, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire."
Remember Pearl Harbor…75 years ago December 7th.

VNVets

”It is a stain on this nation's honor that the Department of Veterans Affairs has become a deadlier and more difficult adversary to the American veteran than any they have ever faced on a battlefield."
-- VNVets

"The concept that Agent Orange, and its effects, stopped dead in its tracks at the shoreline is simply too illogical, and too ludicrous to accept. What does that say about the Obama Administration and his Department of Veterans Affairs?"--VNVets

"With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations." --President Abraham Lincoln

"It follows then as certain as that night succeeds the day, that without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious."--President George Washington

Copyright © 2005-2016: VNVets Blog; All Rights Reserved.  Now in our Twelfth year of service to Veterans!  Reprinting or copying of the contents of this blog without the express permission of the author and blog owner is unlawful.

Friday, September 30, 2016

More on BWN BIll from FRA

From our great friends at the Fleet Reserve Association [FRA]
Sense of Congress on Agent Orange/Blue Water Navy Issue Introduced
Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (Rep. N.Y.) and Senator Chuck Grassley (Sen. Iowa) have introduced a non-binding Sense of Congress (H. Con. Res. 161 and S. Con. Res. 51 respectively) expressing support for those who served in the bays, harbors, and territorial seas of the Republic of Vietnam between January 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975. Service members should be presumed to have been exposed to the toxin Agent Orange and should be eligible for all related Federal benefits that come with such presumption under the Agent Orange Act of 1991.
These non-binding measures, if passed, would show Congressional support for the Blue Water Navy veterans and hopefully, will convince the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide this presumption by regulation.
FRA is also still supporting the “Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act” (H.R. 969/ S. 961) sponsored by Congressman Chris Gibson (Rep. N.Y.) and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (Sen. N.Y.) respectively. The House bill has 335 co-sponsors, more than any other bill currently in the House.
Members are urged to use the FRA Action Center to weigh in on House and Senate Sense of Congress (H. Con. Res. 161 and S. Con. Res. 51) and pending legislation (S. 681/H.R. 969).
Once again, if you are not a member of this outstanding organization you should be! 
 
Join FRA today! 
 
VNVets

”It is a stain on this nation's honor that the Department of Veterans Affairs has become a deadlier and more difficult adversary to the American veteran than any they have ever faced on a battlefield."-- VNVets

"The concept that Agent Orange, and its effects, stopped dead in its tracks at the shoreline is simply too illogical, and too ludicrous to accept. What does that say about the Obama Administration and his Department of Veterans Affairs?"--VNVets

"With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations." --President Abraham Lincoln

"It follows then as certain as that night succeeds the day, that without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious."--President George Washington

Copyright © 2005-2016: VNVets Blog -- Now in our Twelfth Year of Service to Veterans; All Rights Reserved. Reprinting or copying of the contents of this blog without the express permission of the author is unlawful.