The attack on Pearl Harbor occurred just before 8 a.m. on December 7, 1941 -- a Sunday morning. Hundreds of Japanese fighter planes attacked the American naval base at Pearl Harbor near Honolulu, Hawaii.
The onslaught lasted just two hours, but it was devastating: The Japanese managed to destroy nearly 20 American naval vessels, including eight enormous battleships, and almost 200 airplanes. More than 2,000 Americans soldiers and sailors died in the attack--many of them going down with their ships, their bodies never recovered. Another 1,000 military and some civilians were wounded.
My Pearl Harbor Scrapbook 1941. A Nostalgic Collection of Memories, written by Bess Taubman and Ernest Arroyo and designed by Edward L.Cox, Jr., presents the story of the attack in a well-planned, compelling scrapbook format that makes the narrative highly readable in bite-size pieces. The book has just been published by Mapmania Publishing. Author Bess Taubman is given credit as creator of the book.
The full-color book has the look and feel of a period scrapbook, using photographs that appear to have been taken of the event by sailors and other witnesses to the horrific experience. There are maps, telegrams, newspaper articles, and hand-typed notes and letters as well as photograph of memorabilia such as pins, buttons, and medals and World War II posters. As a reader, one just wants to keep following the trail of the story.
In addition to the prelude to the attack and the movements of both the Japanese and the Americans during the attack, there are narratives about each battleship, photos and descriptions of the bombers and submarines used, and the very personal stories of those involved. From the early Japanese inception and planning, through the deadly attack and its crippling aftermath, the reader sees it all unfold.
One section describes the atmosphere of the personnel on base by telling us of the movements of Lieutenants Kenneth M. Taylor and George S. Welch. Both men had attended a formal dance at the Officer's Club Saturday night. They left the dance about 11 p.m. and joined the men at their barracks for their usual Saturday night poker game; the officers were still in their tuxedoes. Welch departed early but Taylor must have been winning (or losing badly!) as he stayed until 4 a.m., figuring that a few hours sleep would be adequate as most Sundays were "easy days."
The next morning the men were awakened suddenly by the sound of planes and loud explosions. "We're under attack!" were the words that greeted them as they woke and began barking orders to their men.
Taylor, still in his tux pants, and Welch, along with the other fighter pilots went straight to Haleiwa Field and took their planes up per military orders to fly toward Pearl Harbor. They were able to charge and shoot down some of the enemy planes before needing to refuel. Back in the air they continued their counter-attacks until all ammunition was expended.
Both Welch and Taylor were among the Army pilots awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for their outstanding acts of heroism. It turned out that Sunday was "not just an easy day" after all.
Why the Attack Wasn't Spotted
The book also makes clear why radar-the new form of electronic sentry--failed to warn the men in time. The radar actually did signal that something was coming, but the technology was still very primitive and the men were not accustomed to dealing with it. The signs were misinterpreted.
The privates on duty at the radar station the morning of December 7 noted a very large blip on the radar and called the Radar Information Center. The lieutenant in charge at the Center that morning determined it was an incoming flight of B-17s coming in from California. He told the privates, "Don't worry about it."
At that time, the Japanese planes were only 132 miles from the Pearl Harbor target.
Important Time, Important Book
The forward for the book is written by Daniel Martinez, chief historian of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument at Pearl Harbor, and the most important take-away is in the front of the book--the commemoration given after the acceptance of the full surrender by Japan on September 2, 1945. Fleet Admiral Chester William Nimitz, Commander in Chief of Pacific Forces for the United States during World War II spoke the following words:
"They fought together as brothers in arms; they died together and now they sleep side by side...To them, we have a solemn obligation--the obligation to ensure that their sacrifice will help make this a better and safer world in which to live."
To learn about the book, click here.
For other stories about World War II, I recommend to you the profile of African-American hero, Dorie Miller, who could not serve in the regular military because he was black. Instead he signed up to work as a mess attendant (kitchen worker), yet he was among the notable heroes at Pearl Harbor.
Another important story concerns the "Mae West" life vest that had been invented in the 1920s as a jacket to safeguard fishermen, but it became an important life-saving invention for sailors and airmen in World War II.