Pearl Harbor attack was a surprise military attack by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on the morning of December 7, 1941. The attack, which lasted just over two hours, resulted in the deaths of 2,403 Americans and the destruction of or damage to twenty-one American ships and over 300 aircraft. It was a devastating blow to the United States, which had been trying to remain neutral in the growing conflict between the Axis and the Allied powers.
The attack on Pearl Harbor was a strategic move by the Japanese, who hoped to destroy the U.S. Pacific Fleet and prevent the United States from interfering with their plans to expand their empire in Southeast Asia. The Japanese believed that a surprise attack would catch the Americans off guard and quickly disable their ability to fight back.
However, the attack did not have the desired effect. Although the United States was caught off guard and sustained heavy losses, the attack ultimately galvanized the country into World War II. The day after the attack, President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered a famous speech to Congress in which he declared that December 7, 1941, would “live in infamy.” The United States declared war on Japan the following day and joined the Allied powers in fighting against the Axis nations.
The Preventive Axis Agenda: The War Crime of Pearl Harbor
The planning for the attack on Pearl Harbor began several months earlier, in the summer of 1941. Japanese leaders, including Prime Minister Hideki Tojo and Emperor Hirohito, decided that the only way to prevent the United States from interfering with their plans to expand their empire was to launch a surprise attack on the U.S. Pacific Fleet. They believed such an attack would quickly disable the Americans’ ability to fight back, allowing Japan to conquer the territories it wanted without interference.
The Japanese navy began preparing for the attack in earnest in November 1941. Six carriers, carrying over 400 aircraft, were sent to a position approximately 230 miles north of Pearl Harbor. The carriers were accompanied by two battleships, three cruisers, nine destroyers, and several other support ships.
On the morning of December 7, 1941, the Japanese aircraft carriers launched their planes toward Pearl Harbor. The attack began at 7:48 a.m. local time, with waves of Japanese planes targeting the American ships and military facilities at the naval base. The first wave of the attack lasted just over an hour and was followed by a second wave of attacks that lasted until 9:45 a.m.
The surprise attack caught the Americans completely off guard. Many American ships were seen in the harbor, unable to maneuver, making them easy targets for the Japanese bombers. The USS Arizona, a battleship, was hit by several bombs and quickly sank, killing 1,177 crew members. The USS Oklahoma, another battleship, was hit by several torpedoes and fell, losing 429 crew members. The attack on Pearl Harbor resulted in the destruction of or damage to twenty-one American ships, including eight battleships.
The attack also destroyed over 300 American aircraft. The Japanese bombers hit the airfields at Pearl Harbor, with hangars and planes being destroyed on the ground. The attack left the United States with a severely diminished ability to defend itself in the Pacific.
The United States was shocked and outraged by the attack on Pearl Harbor. President Franklin D. Roosevelt called it “a date which will live in infamy,” and Congress declared war on Japan on December 8, 1941. The United States soon joined the Allied powers, including Britain, France, and China, in the fight against the Axis powers, which included Japan, Germany, and Italy.
The attack on Pearl Harbor was a turning point in American history, marking the country’s entry into World War II. The United States had been trying to remain neutral in the growing conflict between the Allied and Axis powers, but the attack on Pearl Harbor made it clear that staying neutral was no longer an option.
The United States responded to the attack on Pearl Harbor by ramping up its military production and mobilization. The country began a massive war effort, with factories working around the clock to produce weapons, ammunition, and other supplies needed for the war. The U.S. military also began recruiting and training millions of soldiers, sailors, and airmen to fight in the long war to come.
The United States also formed alliances with other countries to fight against the Axis powers. The most important of these alliances was the one with the Soviet Union, a key ally in the fight against Nazi Germany. The United States also provided aid and support to other Allied countries, including Britain and China, in their struggle against the Axis powers.
The attack on Pearl Harbor was a devastating blow to the United States, but it ultimately led to the defeat of the Axis powers and the end of World War II. The bravery and sacrifice of those who died at Pearl Harbor and those who fought in the war will never be forgotten. The attack on Pearl Harbor marked a turning point in American history, and its effects are still felt today.
In addition to its immediate impact on the United States and the outcome of World War II, the attack on Pearl Harbor had long-term effects on international relations and global politics.
One of the most significant long-term effects of the attack was the increased role of the United States in international affairs. Before the attack, the United States had been largely isolationist, focusing on its domestic issues and staying out of European conflicts. However, the attack on Pearl Harbor and the country’s entry into World War II forced the United States to become more engaged in global affairs.
After the war, the United States emerged as one of the world’s superpowers, along with the Soviet Union. The country played a leading role in creating international organizations such as the United Nations and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and became a key player in global politics.
The attack on Pearl Harbor also impacted the relationship between the United States and Japan. Before the attack, the two countries had been on relatively good terms, with Japan being one of the United States’ main trading partners in Asia. However, the attack on Pearl Harbor and the subsequent war between the two countries strained relations and led to decades of tension.
The United States and Japan eventually reconciled and resumed diplomatic relations in the 1950s. Today, the two countries are allies and have solid economic and military partnerships. However, the events of Pearl Harbor continue to be a sensitive subject, and the attack is still remembered and commemorated in both countries.
In conclusion, the attack on Pearl Harbor was a pivotal moment in American history. It marked the United States’ entry into World War II and ultimately led to the defeat of the Axis powers. The attack had immediate and long-term effects, both domestically and internationally. It changed the course of history and continues to be remembered and studied today.
The Battleship Row of Pearl Harbor: The Targeted Ships
Nine American ships were anchored near Ford Island to thwart Japan’s imperial aspirations before the assault on Pearl Harbor. These ships, collectively referred to as “Battleship Row,” ranged in age, weaponry, and service history; all were operated by brave crewmen, many of whom perished on December 7, 1941.
While the air and sea assault on the American naval station was to prevent the Japanese from conquering the Pacific further, the intention was to cripple the US fleet so the nation could not declare war. This, however, was not the case, as the following day, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the United States Congress declared war on Japan.
Here is a rundown of the ships docked at Battleship Row, along with some background on their service and the part they played in repelling the Japanese assault on Pearl Harbor.
USS Arizona (BB-39)
In October 1916, the United States Navy launched the second battleship of the Pennsylvania class, the USS Arizona (BB-39). After keeping an eye on the East Coast during World War I, she joined the escort of the USS George Washington (ID-3018) on its way to the Paris Peace Conference to accompany President Woodrow Wilson.
The USS Arizona and the rest of the Pacific Fleet relocated to Pearl Harbor in April 1940 after receiving renovations during the interwar era. She was hit by a 1,760-pound bomb fired by the Japanese immediately after they began their assault when she was anchored in Battleship Row.
The explosion that followed the impact lifted the battleship Arizona out of the sea, where it had been resting on a supply of gasoline and ammunition. Among the 1,177 killed was Battleship Division One’s captain, Rear Adm. Isaac C. Kidd. There was an attempt to pull out the dead, but in the end, it was decided to leave almost 900 of them, including many survivors, trapped in the hulls, in the rubble. The risk of a further explosion was just too high.
Today, the USS Arizona Memorial commemorates the battleship’s sinking location. Elvis Presley helped build it by performing at a charity event that brought about $54,000 for the Pacific War Memorial Commission.
USS Utah (BB-31/AG-16)
Florida-class dreadnought battleship USS Utah (BB-31/AG-16) was the class’s second and last ship. After being commissioned in August 1911, she served in the US occupation of Veracruz during the Mexican Revolution. She was the lead ship for Battleship Division 6 (BatDiv 6) and helped defend Bantry Bay in Ireland from German attacks during World War I. She also escorted the USS George Washington to France, as the USS Arizona had.
Over a decade after the conclusion of World War I, Utah was repurposed into a target ship and gunnery training vessel. Before the Japanese assault on Pearl Harbor, she was anchored at Battleship Row, where she acted as a target for American bombers fired from aircraft carriers.
The crew of the USS Utah saw the first hostile planes arriving on December 7, 1941, but they thought they were friendly. Their awareness of the situation did not emerge until bombs started to fall. Six torpedoes were accidentally dropped on the Utah, flooding and listing what was not meant to be a target ship.
Utah tipped over at 8:12 a.m. Although 461 crew members made it off the ship alive, 58 did not make it. Among those who did not make it was Chief Watertender Peter Tomich, who was posthumously given the Medal of Honor for his heroic attempts to keep the ship’s engines operating so that his fellow crew members could get off.
It was attempted to save Utah, but they failed. The ship remains half-submerged in Pearl Harbor, with the bodies of those who died remaining inside the debris.
USS Oklahoma (BB-37)
In May of 1916, the United States Navy commissioned the battleship USS Oklahoma (BB-37), a member of the Nevada class. She was one of the ships that accompanied the USS George Washington to the Paris Peace Conference and helped protect Allied convoys crossing the Atlantic during World War I.
Following its refurbishment in the interwar years, Oklahoma was sent to Europe to assist with transporting refugees and American citizens fleeing the Spanish Civil War. She joined the US Pacific Fleet and was stationed at Pearl Harbor, where she participated in regular patrols and training exercises.
Oklahoma was a moored ship in Battleship Row when the Japanese attacked the naval facility. The enemy aircraft carriers Akagi and Kaga made her one of their first targets, launching five torpedoes at her and strafing the survivors as they sought to flee.
Many of the remaining crew members decided to stay in the battle by boarding the USS Maryland (BB-46) and taking positions at the anti-aircraft weapons. Father Aloysius Schmitt, Seaman James Ward, and Ensign Francis Flaherty, all from Oklahoma, were among the 429 dead or reported missing.
The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) initiated the USS Oklahoma Project because many lives lost in Oklahoma remained unaccounted for. By the time the Pentagon stopped the operation in 2021, 355 of the 388 excavated bodies had been adequately identified.
USS Pennsylvania (BB-38)
The USS Pennsylvania (BB-38) was the flagship of the super-dreadnought battleships. The presence of an additional pair of 14-inch distinguished these vessels—45-caliber guns. For the bulk of the interwar era, she was based in California, where she served as the flagship of the Atlantic Fleet and then the Battle Fleet.
The Pennsylvania, which was drydocked in Battleship Row on December 7, 1941, with the USS Cassin (DD-372) and the USS Downes (DD-375), was hardly damaged by the Japanese surprise assault. Although the adversary made an effort, they could not flood the drydock. American soldiers only freely attacked the region after strafing caused Cassin and Downes to catch fire.
Pennsylvania, after undergoing repairs, supported several missions in the Pacific Theater during World War II. The Battle of Peleliu was one of the deadliest battles in Marine Corps history, along with the Aleutian Islands Campaign and the American landings on Kwajalein and Eniwetok Atolls. She participated in the Battle of Okinawa but had to leave after a torpedo hit.
After WWII, the US military conducted nuclear testing at Bikini Atoll under the codename Operation Crossroads. The target fleet included Pennsylvania. She survived both explosions, but by February 1948, she had become too polluted to remain in service and was subsequently sunk.
USS Nevada (BB-36)
The USS Nevada (BB-36) entered service in 1916, and her triple gun turrets and “all or nothing” method of armor earned her the title of “the greatest [battleship] afloat” from The New York Times. She escorted convoys to the British Isles during World War I, and then she underwent drills and modernization when the war ended.
On December 7, 1941, Nevada was the only ship anchored in Battleship Row that was not immediately next to another warship. Aichi D3A Type 99 “Val” carrier bombers and a Type 91 Mod 2 torpedo didn’t stop her from being the first to fire on the attacking Japanese planes.
In May of 1943, after a brief break from the war, Nevada was dispatched to Europe to take part in the D-Day landings. After attacking Cherbourg Peninsula shore fortifications, she was sent to southern France to participate in an assault on a fortification that had been strengthened.
Nevada was deployed to the Pacific Theater after her time in Europe, where she helped fight at Iwo Jima and Okinawa while under continual threat from kamikazes and bombardment. The battleship survived the atomic bombings of the post-war period so that it could participate in Operation Crossroads. After sitting idle for two years, she was scuttled during a four-day naval shooting practice.
USS West Virginia (BB-48)
The eight 16-inch cannons of the USS West Virginia (BB-48), a dreadnought battleship of the Colorado class, were a significant upgrade over the four 12-inch guns on the Tennessee-class battleships she replaced. The interwar-built ship was a victim of seven Type 91 torpedoes and two armor-piercing rounds that had been turned into bombs during the Japanese assault on Pearl Harbor.
Although precautions were attempted to prevent West Virginia from capsizing, she eventually sank into the shallow water. A total of 106 crew members were killed in the assault, including three confined for 16 days before they perished.
It was known that seamen were trapped within the battleship, but the danger of rescuing them was too great to warrant any attempts at doing so. Drilling a hole would have allowed water to rush into the hull, and using a torch may have resulted in a devastating explosion.
West Virginia was refloated and deployed to the Pacific, where it led the charge during the Battle of Surigao Strait during the Philippines Campaign. The battleship later participated in the coastal bombardment force and the Battle of Leyte Gulf, both of which aided in the assault of Leyte. During Operation Magic Carpet, she helped bring American soldiers back to safety after fighting on Iwo Jima and Okinawa.
The ship was decommissioned after World War II and sent to the Pacific Reserve Fleet, where she remained until 1959 when she was scrapped.
USS Maryland (BB-46)
The USS Maryland, often known as “Fighting Mary” and “Old Mary,” was officially launched in July 1921. When the Japanese air raid began on Battleship Row on December 7, 1941, she was moored inboard the USS Oklahoma, giving her a strategic advantage and making her one of the first ships to engage the enemy. Even after taking damage from two armor-piercing bombs, she could get all of her anti-aircraft batteries into service and continue firing upward.
The Japanese said they had destroyed the USS Maryland, although she had survived the assault on Pearl Harbor. She was quickly repaired and put back into service, where she assisted in the Battle of Midway and, in November 1943, pounded the coast during the Battle of Tarawa, damaging several Japanese defenses.
She later served as a cargo vessel during Operation Magic Carpet after participating in several conflicts, including those at Kwajalein Atoll, Saipan, Leyte Gulf, Okinawa, and Iwo Jima. When the war ended, she joined the Pacific Reserve Fleet and stayed there until July 1959, when she was scrapped.
USS Tennessee (BB-43)
In June of 1920, the USS Tennessee (BB-43) was commissioned as the flagship of the Tennessee class of dreadnought battleships. When the Japanese launched their surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the ship was moored at Battleship Row after participating in goodwill visits and naval drills during the interwar era.
Tennessee took two bomb blows after being doused in oil from the USS Arizona explosion. However, none went off as planned, so the damage was minor. The battleship first served off the West Coast before being transferred to the Pacific Theater, where she saw action in the Aleutian Islands Campaign and the Gilbert and Marshall Islands Campaign.
After participating in a series of actions in the South Pacific, Tennessee was eventually moved north to confront Japanese troops at Iwo Jima and Okinawa. She was part of the American takeover of Japan after spending the last months of WWII in the East China Sea after surviving a kamikaze assault.
Like many others on this list, this battleship was demolished in 1959 after returning to the United States in 1946 when it was assigned to the Pacific Fleet Reserve.
USS California (BB-44)
The USS California (BB-44) was the Battle Fleet’s flagship between World Wars I and II when it was commissioned in August 1921. She had completed a series of drills and goodwill visits, and her crew was getting ready for an inspection at Battleship Row at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked.
California took some initial strafing, but the crew could return fire until they ran out of bullets. Two Nakajima B5Ns could fire their torpedoes in the resulting opening, contributing to the battleship’s sinking throughout the morning.
Jackson Pharris, Robert Scott, Thomas Reeves, and Herbert Jones, all members of the battleship’s crew, were honored that day with the Medal of Honor for their bravery; Pharris, Scott, and Reeves both received their medals posthumously.
After being rebuilt, California was sent to the Pacific Theater, where she saw action in the Mariana and Palau Islands Campaign and the Philippines Campaign. A kamikaze struck the ship during the January 1945 assault of Lingayen Gulf, but she continued to provide aid to American troops fighting on Okinawa.
After World War II, she was mothballed until 1959, when she was finally scrapped.
The Conspiracies Regarding Pearl Harbor: Did the US and British Know?
Despite the overwhelming evidence and historical consensus regarding the attack on Pearl Harbor, some believe in various conspiracy theories surrounding the event. These theories allege that the United States government, either directly or indirectly, was responsible for the attack or had advanced knowledge of it and allowed it to happen to justify entering World War II.
One of the most common conspiracy theories about Pearl Harbor is that the United States government allowed the attack to happen to have an excuse to enter World War II. This theory alleges that President Franklin D. Roosevelt and other government officials knew about the planned attack and did nothing to prevent it or even take steps to ensure it would be successful.
Proponents of this theory point to several pieces of evidence to support their claims. For example, they argue that the U.S. Pacific Fleet was not at its full strength at the time of the attack, with several ships being on the mainland for repairs and training. They also point to reports of strange activity in the days leading up to the attack, such as unusual radio traffic and unidentified submarines in the area.
Another standard conspiracy theory about Pearl Harbor is that the United States government was directly involved in the attack. This theory alleges that the government, either on its own or in conjunction with the Japanese government, planned and carried out the attack to have an excuse to enter World War II.
Advocates of this theory argue that the United States had been looking for a way to enter the war for some time and that the attack on Pearl Harbor provided the perfect opportunity. They also argue that the government had the motive to carry out the attack, as it would provide a rallying cry for the American people and help to unite the country behind the war effort.
Despite the apparent logic of these theories, they are not supported by evidence and are considered by most historians to be baseless. The United States government did not have advanced knowledge of the attack on Pearl Harbor and did not allow the attack to happen or participate in it in any way. The Imperial Japanese Navy carried out the attack, resulting from Japan’s desire to expand its empire in Southeast Asia without interference from the United States.
Furthermore, there is no evidence to suggest that the United States government had the motive to carry out or allow the attack on Pearl Harbor. On the contrary, the attack devastated the United States, rousing the country into World War II. The government’s response to the attack was shocked, outraged, and determined to defend the country and defeat the attackers.
The idea that the British had advance knowledge of the attack on Pearl Harbor is another common rumor, but any evidence does not support it. In fact, the United States and the United Kingdom were allies during World War II, and it is doubtful that the British would have withheld important information from the US. Additionally, there is no evidence to suggest that the British had any knowledge of the attack before it occurred.
In conclusion, the conspiracy theories surrounding the attack on Pearl Harbor are not supported by evidence and are considered baseless. The attack was carried out by the Imperial Japanese Navy, resulting from Japan’s desire to expand its empire without interference from the United States. Neither the United States government nor the Brits had any advanced knowledge of the attack and did not allow it to happen or participate in it in any way.
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The Ghosts of Pearl Harbor: Rumors and Sightings
In the years since the attack on Pearl Harbor, there have been numerous reports of ghost sightings at the site of the attack. These ghost sightings are often attributed to the spirits of the sailors, soldiers, and civilians who were killed in the attack and who are said to haunt the area where they lost their lives.
One of the most commonly reported ghost sightings at Pearl Harbor is that of the “lady in white.” This ghost is said to be the spirit of a young woman killed in the attack and is often seen walking along the shore near where the USS Arizona was sunk. The lady in white is said to be wearing a white dress and is often described as very beautiful. She is also said to be sad and is often seen crying or looking out to sea.
Another commonly reported ghost at Pearl Harbor is that of a sailor. This ghost is said to be the spirit of a sailor who was killed in the attack and is often seen walking along the decks of the USS Arizona or other ships sunk in the attack. The sailor is described as wearing a uniform and as very young and handsome.
In addition to these ghosts, there have also been reports of other strange phenomena at Pearl Harbor. Some people have reported seeing strange lights or orbs in the area, while others have heard strange noises or voices. Some people have even reported seeing apparitions of ships or planes as if the attack was happening again.
Despite these reports, the existence of ghosts at Pearl Harbor is not supported by photographic evidence. While it is certainly possible that the spirits of those killed in the attack could haunt the area where they lost their lives, there is no scientific evidence to support this claim. In addition, many stories and reports of ghost sightings at Pearl Harbor are based on hearsay and anecdotal evidence and cannot be considered reliable.
While it is certainly possible that the spirits of those killed in the attack could haunt the area where they lost their lives, there is no scientific evidence to support this claim. The reports of ghost sightings at Pearl Harbor should be considered with skepticism and should not be taken as evidence of the existence of ghosts.
The Sailors Trapped in the Sunken Ships
One of the most tragic aspects of the attack on Pearl Harbor was the number of sailors trapped inside the sunken battleships and unable to escape. These sailors were trapped in the flooded and damaged hulls of the ships, with no way to get out. As a result, many drowned or suffocated, unable to escape the water and debris that filled the vessel.
In the years since the attack, there have been numerous reports of strange knocking sounds from the sunken battleships at Pearl Harbor. These sounds are often attributed to the spirits of the sailors trapped inside the ships and unable to escape.
According to those who have heard these knocking sounds, the sounds are often loud and persistent and can be heard from a distance. They are also said to be coming from specific areas of the sunken ships as if the spirits of the trapped sailors are trying to attract attention or signal for help.
Some people who have heard these knocking sounds have reported feeling a sense of sadness and despair as if the spirits of the trapped sailors are still in distress and are calling out for help. Others have reported feeling a sense of fear and unease as if the spirits are angry or vengeful.
Despite these reports, the evidence does not support the existence of spirits trapped inside the sunken battleships at Pearl Harbor, either.
Ghost Planes of Pearl Harbor
The story of the ghost plane at Pearl Harbor is a legend passed down for many years. According to the legend, a ghostly airplane can sometimes be seen flying over Pearl Harbor, as if reliving the fateful events of the attack on December 7, 1941.
The ghost plane was said to be a vivid and realistic apparition and is believed to be a Japanese plane, with witnesses reporting that they could see the plane’s markings. The aircraft was also said to be moving and behaving like a real airplane, flying in formation with other planes and engaging in mock dogfights.
Some witnesses also reported hearing the sound of the plane’s engines, as well as the sound of gunfire and explosions. The aircraft was said to fly over Pearl Harbor for several minutes before disappearing into thin air.
Despite the lack of evidence for the existence of the ghost plane at Pearl Harbor, the legend continues to fascinate and intrigue many people. Some people believe that the code is based on a kernel of truth and that the ghost plane is a manifestation of the spirits of the Japanese pilots who died in the attack. However, the Japanese plane is not the most famous Pearl Harbor Aircraft. That’s another one, the American P-40B.
The Infamous Story of the American P-40B Ghost Plane
A year and a day had passed since the Japanese surprise strike that had brought the United States into the war. It was December 1942. At Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, the American Navy was standing watch. According to reports, an approaching aircraft was detected by radar, and out of dread for a further strike, fighter jets were sent to intercept it.
However, they came upon a ghost fighter instead of an approaching Japanese bomber: a pre-war American aircraft shot to bits with what seemed to be a dead pilot at the controls. Despite losing altitude and crashing in a field, the pilot’s corpse was nowhere to be seen by rescue workers. This became one of the strangest riddles of the Second World War.
Is it conceivable that something so weird indeed occurred, or is there another way to account for the often-told story? We’re going to learn the specifics of what took place today.
The narrative is now available online in different lengths and with minor modifications. This is the fifth mystery, “The Pearl Harbor Ghost P-40,” from an internet article titled the 15 Strangest Unsolved World War II Mysteries:
U.S. radar detected an unidentified aircraft flying directly into Pearl Harbor from the direction of Japan on December 8, 1942. Two fighters were sent to investigate and immediately engaged the enigmatic aircraft. It was a P-40 Fighter, the same kind employed to defend Pearl Harbor the year before but hasn’t been utilized since. The fact that the aircraft was shot at, was missing its landing gear, and the pilot was observed to be bloodied and leaned forward over his controls made the situation extra bizarre. Before the P-40 made a straight descent towards the ground and crashed, intercepting forces said that the pilot managed to give them a feeble wave.
Rescue teams were sent out immediately, searching through the debris. The pilot was nowhere to be found. They did find a journal that showed the aircraft was based 1,300 miles distant in the Pacific Ocean, on the island of Mindanao.
However, this made the already bizarre incident stranger. How could he endure a year aboard a destroyed aircraft if he was a wounded defender of Pearl Harbor? How did he launch his plane without landing gear? How did he survive the journey? This has continued to be one of the war’s most puzzling mysteries.
As Mr. Morbid is a Dark History enthusiast, as is made evident by the Instagram page, I had to learn more about this. Some Google searches revealed over a dozen websites with similar stories, frequently with large amounts of the same language copied and pasted (online journalism at its finest).
Since there weren’t many aviation incidents searchable databases available before the 1980s, I looked through ancient newspaper archives to see whether any Hawaii newspapers had covered this. But I rapidly discovered a disconcerting truth: scanning news archives for phrases like P-40 and crash during history’s biggest air battle is like attempting to drink from a firehose.
But further investigation finally produced some outcomes. Some retellings include the following commentary:
Some others hypothesized that the plane may have been shot down more than a year before and that the pilot could live alone in the wilderness. Over a thousand miles of dangerous terrain, he could have been able to find components from other downed airplanes, fix his aircraft, and find a means to return to his own country. How the hefty P-40 plane could have ever lifted off without any landing gear was something they were unable to explain.
The most complex challenge to solve and what set this tale apart was the total loss of landing gear, which is considerably different from shot-up or damaged landing gear. I once came across a forum post where someone said he had previously heard this tale about some POWs or someone putting together a makeshift jet out of spare parts to escape. And it was this hint that ultimately led me to a forgotten 1945 book.
The Strange Tale of Colonel Robert Lee Scott, Jr.
One of the great American aces of World War II must be introduced to offer the source for the phantom P-40 tale. Fighting for the Flying Tigers, an unauthorized American volunteer organization that operated from Chinese airfields to oppose the Japanese, Colonel Robert Lee Scott, Jr. (later to become an Air Force major general) started his career as a fighter pilot. Midway through 1942, the Flying Tigers were incorporated into the American military as the 23rd Fighter Group, and Scott was appointed the unit’s commander at Chiang Kai-request.
He’s one of the double aces of the Pacific theatre. By 1943, Scott had amassed 13 aerial kills in a P-40. The 1943 book God Is My Co-Pilot, adapted into a Hollywood film in 1945, is where Scott gained his name.
Scott’s second book’s fictitious tales were based on real-life characters, historical figures, or urban legends from the conflict. Damned to Glory was the name of it. It turns out that the opening chapter, “Ghost Pilot,” is our short story but written in much more detail.
It begins with two pilots from the 23rd Fighter Group, Hampshire and Costello, scrambling from their station at Kienow Airdrome in China to intercept an approaching P-40. They were startled to realize that the P-40 was flying with an American flag from before World War II. They couldn’t understand why it had no landing gear and was severely damaged:
“The right aileron was gone, the cockpit was virtually blown away, the fuselage was a sieve, and one wing seemed shorter than the other where a piece of it had been blasted off. Hampshire then saw that the unidentified aircraft had no wheels when he got closer to it. When the wheels are retracted, they are meant to fit into deep wells but are empty. That couldn’t have been done by enemy fire. Wheels had never been on it.”
They followed the pilot down to where the jet crashed and caught fire since he seemed already dead, with his head sagging forward. His journal was found. Most of the chapter is written in flashbacks and narrated by the pilot, “Corn” Sherrill. It is a potential account of what happened based on his journal and other materials discovered in the crash.
Sherrill and a small group of Americans were stranded at a wrecked airport on the island of Mindanao, frequently escaping Japanese patrols after the Japanese had fully taken over the Philippines. They spent months salvaging crashed aircraft and putting a flyable P-40 together, but they could not find any landing gear. They then devised a pair of bamboo skids to enable the plane to lift off and descend for flight.
Sherrill departed to launch an attack on the Japanese naval base at Formosa, roughly 1,600 kilometers distant, after being laden with bombs and having as many more fuel tanks as they could fit. He then intended to go the last 450 kilometers to Kienow in China. He could make it if he flew carefully, but it would cost him every fuel drop he could carry.
Sherrill’s attack against the Japanese was adequate, but he was terminally wounded by the fire he took; the last entry says that he managed to aim his aircraft in the general direction of Kienow.
Except for Sherrill returning from his raid into Pearl Harbor instead of Kienow, the current internet version of the narrative turns out to be relatively accurate to the original when all the arrangements are combined and compared. Leaving aside the fact that this is impossible given a P-40’s limited range, the mistake was not wholly irrational given that the accounts did refer to the planes with Pearl Harbor insignia.
This was referring to the American flag on the plane’s side. The well-known symbol is a white star on a navy-blue background. The American aircraft at Pearl Harbor (and elsewhere in the South Pacific) would have had this at the war’s start, but the star’s center was filled with a red circle before May 1942. The red process was eliminated to minimize confusion with the Japanese rising sun symbol.
Did Scott intend for “Ghost Pilot” to be interpreted as a genuine tale? Indeed, it developed a life of its own. “Ghost Pilot” was quickly republished by Reader’s Digest, giving it eternal life in a mass-market journal. Author and Flying Tigers expert Dan Ford dug into the past and discovered that Scott had rewritten the tale in a Boston publication Yankee, except this time, he had made the hero a resident of Boston.
Ford also came across an internet account from a man named Dave Knight, who claimed to have been present at a live event where General Scott had been questioned about the incident in an open forum. Knight claimed:
He was explicitly questioned on the Mindanao P-40 tale. He chuckled and added that he and another Flying Tiger pilot made it a joke during the war. Later, they realized it was a prank, but the tale resisted death. He said they were surprised to see the item published in an issue of Air Classics and that they wouldn’t have done it if they had known that it would be around 40-odd years later (at the time).
Imagine discovering an Internet urban legend as a fictitious story written by a creative creator. It makes its way onto “unexplained mystery” websites where it is repeated, copied, pasted, edited, and twisted; many readers take these versions of the story seriously. Why was this mistaken for a real mystery? There are few real mysteries; why not leave it as a work of fiction?
Scott’s account of men on the brink of an island and a war, defeated by themselves, deprived of supplies, and yet going on the offensive, is a beautiful example of adventure literature. It is a fantastic narrative. It ought to be where it belongs. After being stripped of its dramatic components, it doesn’t deserve to be reduced to a poorly written, full of errors paragraph on a click-bait page.
General Scott passed away in his native Georgia in February 2006 at 97. He had received three Distinguished Flying Crosses, three Air Medals, and two Silver Stars. In honor of his service with the Flying Tigers, he wrote twelve novels and, at the age of 72, climbed the whole 3,000-kilometer length of the Great Wall of China.
The Story of Doris Miller: The Hero Cook of Pearl Harbor
On the morning of December 7, 1941, Mess Attendant 2nd Class Doris Miller was doing laundry below deck on board the battleship USS West Virginia, just one of the many mundane jobs he had been sent to complete.
Later, while a fleet of Japanese aircraft tried to destroy West Virginia and other ships like it, he was cradling the dying ship’s commanding officer in his arms.
Miller hauled Captain Mervyn Sharp Bennion, his superior, to a position below the portside antiaircraft weapons. Soldiers were fleeing, flames were popping, and torpedoes were shaking the ship around him. The surface was greasy. As the damage piled up, West Virginia and everyone on board were in danger of sinking.
Miller turned to the sky, where Japanese fighter jets were swarming above, unable to help his commander. He took hold of the Browning machine gun despite never having had any training, aimed, and began shooting.
In spite of knowing well that he would be a second-class sailor in rank and race, Doris “Dorie” Miller joined the US Navy. Miller enlisted in the Navy in September 1939 at 19, but the Navy had a discriminatory stance against Black officers.
They were supposed to dote on the white officers, even going so far as to polish their shoes. They were also not eligible for promotions and were given menial chores. Even the anchor-and-chain button emblem of the Navy was forbidden for them to wear.
Because he believed he had no other alternatives, Miller endured these humiliations. Dorie was born to sharecroppers Connery and Henrietta Miller in Waco, Texas, on October 12, 1919; her ancestors had been enslaved. To provide for his family, he dropped out of high school but had trouble finding employment beyond working as a waiter in a restaurant. He once said that serving in the Navy “beats” working as a busboy in Waco and going nowhere.
Miller joined the Navy in Dallas and was soon sent to West Virginia. In January 1940, he arrived in Pearl Harbor, close to Honolulu, Hawaii, after completing a segregated boot camp. Like other Black Naval service members, Miller was assigned to do the dishes, cook, and clean. They were taught how to provide ammo to the officers holding the trigger.
On December 7, West Virginia was attacked by the Japanese. Miller fled from the washroom to the magazine, the place on the ship where he was supposed to distribute ammunition. Miller continued running since it was flooded and ran across Lieutenant Commander Dior C. Johnson. Miller was instructed to carry Captain Bennion to safety when he was injured.
He followed suit below deck, wading into waist-deep water to assist others. Miller was the ship’s boxing champion and a former football player despite not having any combat training.
Then he started supplying ammunition to a senior commander using one of the Browning machine guns ammunition of caliber 50. There were two, one of which was vacant.
Miller rapidly took control of the weapon despite never being trained how to operate it by the Navy, learning the few commands that Lieutenant Frederic H. White screamed. Miller pointed the pistol towards the approaching aircraft as it roared fire from its barrels.
Miller subsequently said, “It wasn’t hard. I just fired the gun, and she performed as expected. I had seen the others using these weapons. I think I let her go for approximately fifteen minutes. I believe I downed one of those aircraft. They were bombing not far from us.”
Both men kept firing until they ran out of ammo. Miller and the other men proceeded to the ship’s boat deck as it became evident that escape was their only choice, and Miller started saving seamen from the water consumed in flames from the oil.
Miller swam to shore 300 yards distant as the ship sunk, navigating a kind of obstacle course made of gunfire and bullets as he made his way to safety.
Only 106 of the West Virginia crew of 1541 died, despite the Japanese having lost or disabled seven of the eight American ships in the fleet. Undoubtedly, Miller’s efforts helped seamen survive the onslaught.
Not whether Miller had performed many acts of bravery, but whether the Navy would honor him for his selflessness was the issue that remained in the aftermath.
Media reports of Miller’s bravery quickly spread, with the Navy and journalists hailing it as an incredible act of courage. But there didn’t appear to be any rush to honor Miller. Even the Navy’s Honor Roll of Race Relations in 1941 intended to bestow praise, although it did not directly identify Miller.
It wasn’t until March 1942 that Miller’s name was mentioned in print in an article published in The Pittsburgh Courier, one of the most influential Black newspapers in the nation.
The headline on the main page read, “Messman Hero Found.” Miller had joined the “phantom brigade” of battling Black men, whose acts had been engraved in the record book of American history,” along with other war heroes who had “inscribed their names in the crimson ink of sheer heroism.”
Amazingly, there was resistance to Miller receiving the Medal of Honor, with politicians like Carl Vinson, the House of Representatives Naval Affairs Committee chairman claiming that Miller hadn’t done enough to merit the honor.
White sailors who showed equal composure under duress were recognized, awarded, and sometimes sent home to help sell war bonds. Meanwhile, Miller was working as a Messman on the Indianapolis, a new ship assigned to him in the South Pacific.
However, the pressure was building on the Navy to reconsider how it handled its Black sailors in addition to recognizing Miller. To correct the problem, William Franklin Knox, the Secretary of the Navy, who had opposed Miller getting the Medal of Honor, declared that Black recruits would receive instruction in gunnery work, radio, and radar skills at an all-Black training station in Great Lakes, Illinois.
The Navy Cross should be awarded to Miller for his efforts; President Franklin D. Roosevelt said the following month. Miller gratefully received the honor when it was presented to him by Admiral Chester W. Nimitz on May 27, 1942.
Then came the long-awaited trip back home. Before being deployed aboard the USS Liscome Bay, an escort carrier that received criticism for its questionable engineering, Miller spent many months on a speaking tour and was even included on a Navy recruiting poster.
Sadly, a Japanese torpedo struck the ship on November 24, 1943, and the damage was irreparable. Miller was among the more than 600 dead men. He was just 24 years old when he became just another casualty of the terrible war.
Miller played a vital role in the military-based civil rights struggle. Robert Lee Thornton was inducted into the Navy as the first Black petty officer in May 1942, the same month that Miller was awarded the Navy Cross. The Navy started a Black sailor officer training program in 1944.
After the Pearl Harbor hero, the Navy gave the escort ship Miller that name in 1973. He is the name of several buildings in Waco, including a YMCA, a park, and a cemetery. The Navy said in 2020 that it would rename an upcoming aircraft carrier after Dorie Miller.
This ship will be the first to bear the name of a Black sailor, whose identity was kept secret and who was formerly prohibited from wearing the Navy’s button insignia.
How Adolf Hitler Reacted to Pearl Harbor?
How Hitler reacted to the news of Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor is unclear. There are no reliable records or eyewitness accounts of his reaction, and Hitler did not make any public statements about the attack. However, he was likely infuriated by the news, as Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor drew the United States into World War II, which would have been to Germany’s disadvantage. After all, the Germans had invaded the Soviet Union in May, and pulling the United States towards the Allied Nations proved too much of a power conflict.
However, even if he was surprised and enraged by the attack, it is unlikely that he would have publicly expressed his disappointment, as he would not have wanted to damage the alliance between Germany and Japan. To the world, Hitler applauded the attack and declared war on the United States—a move historians believe was his greatest blunder in judgment.
In any case, the attack on Pearl Harbor profoundly affected the course of World War II. It brought the United States into the war, ultimately leading to the defeat of Germany and Japan. The attack also galvanized American public opinion against Japan. It led to the US decision to drop atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which brought an end to the war.
To end this, we should remember what sensible Japanese generals felt about pulling the Americans into the war against the Axis nations. To illustrate, Isoroku Yamamoto is believed to have said, “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.”
Rest in peace, victims
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