1917: Four U.S. battleships, USS Delaware (BB-28), USS Florida (BB-30), New York (BB-34), and USS Wyoming (BB-32) arrive in British waters and join the British Grand Fleet for service during World War I. That same day, the United States declares war on Austria-Hungary.
1941: At 3:57 a.m. the minesweeper USS Condor spots a periscope at the entrance to Pearl Harbor. The ship signals the nearby destroyer USS Ward, whose crew begins searching for the unidentified vessel. At 6:37 a.m., Ward spots the periscope as a two-man Japanese mini sub attempts to follow a U.S. cargo ship into the harbor and sinks the enemy warship – the first U.S. shots of World War II.
Having achieved total tactical and strategic surprise, Vice Adm. Chuichi Nagumo’s 1st Air Fleet begins their attack on Pearl Harbor. The strike is conducted in two waves: The first wave of 183 enemy aircraft strikes just before 8:00 a.m. The second wave of 170 planes hits a little after 8:30 a.m.
Of the ships anchored at Pearl Harbor, five of the eight battleships, three destroyers, and seven other ships were either sunk or severely damaged. By day’s end, 2,718 American sailors, 582 soldiers (including Army Air Forces personnel), 178 Marines, and 103 civilians will be dead, dying or wounded. Japanese losses were minimal: 30 planes, five minisubs, 65 killed, and one Japanese sailor captured. All but two of the battleships – Arizona and Oklahoma – are raised to fight again.
Meanwhile, Japanese forces bomb Guam and Wake as destroyers and planes attack Midway. Other Japanese targets include Shanghai, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Thailand, Malaya, and the Dutch East Indies.
1942: USS New Jersey (BB-62), one of the world’s largest battleships ever built, is launched. The “Big J” will serve a total of 21 years in the active fleet, seeing action in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. In 1982 the Iowa-class battleship will put to sea once again after being modified to carry Tomahawk cruise missiles, and is decommissioned for the last time in 1991.
1943: At the Bernhardt defensive line in Italy, Lt. Gen. Mark Clark’s Fifth Army secures the Mignano Gap.
1944: Patton’s Third Army crosses the Siegfried Line at Saarlautern.
In the Pacific, the 77th Infantry Division lands at Ormoc in the Philippines as one of the escort destroyers, USS Ward (the same ship that sunk the midget submarine three years ago at Pearl Harbor), is sunk by kamikaze attacks. Nearby, the USS Mahan is also sunk by kamikaze attacks.
1950: Air Force cargo planes drop eight “Treadway” bridge spans in the Funchilin Pass, enabling the First Marine Division to cross the most difficult natural obstacle on their breakout of the Chosin Reservoir.
1952: U.S. Air Force F-86 “Saber” pilots shoot down seven of 32 enemy aircraft – the highest tally of the Korean War.
1959: America’s first operational ballistic missile, the PGM-17 “Thor”, is successfully launched at Cape Canaveral, Fla.
1972: Apollo 17 launches for NASA’s final lunar mission. Aboard are two U.S. Navy captains: Eugene A. Cernan and Ronald E. Evans, and Harrison H. Schmitt – a civilian geologist.
On Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941, Vice Adm. Chuichi Nagumo’s 1st Air Fleet begins their surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. Two waves of aircraft strike the U.S. Pacific Fleet at anchor, as well as bases across Hawaii. Five of the eight battleships, three destroyers, and seven other ships are either sunk or severely damaged. By day’s end, 2,718 American sailors, 582 soldiers (including Army Air Forces personnel), 178 Marines, and 103 civilians are dead, dying or wounded.
In a day full of countless acts of American bravery and sacrifice, 15 men and officers of the U.S. Navy earned the Medal of Honor – 11 posthumously – during the battle. Here are the accounts of their actions.
For extraordinary heroism distinguished service, and devotion above and beyond the call of duty. During the first attack by Japanese airplanes on the Naval Air Station, Kaneohe Bay, on 7 December 1941, Lt. Finn promptly secured and manned a .50-caliber machinegun mounted on an instruction stand in a completely exposed section of the parking ramp, which was under heavy enemy machinegun strafing fire. Although painfully wounded many times, he continued to man this gun and to return the enemy’s fire vigorously and with telling effect throughout the enemy strafing and bombing attacks and with complete disregard for his own personal safety. It was only by specific orders that he was persuaded to leave his post to seek medical attention. Following first aid treatment, although obviously suffering much pain and moving with great difficulty, he returned to the squadron area and actively supervised the rearming of returning planes. His extraordinary heroism and conduct in this action were in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.
For The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pride in presenting the Medal of Honor (Posthumously) to Ensign Herbert Charpoit Jones, United States Naval Reserve, for conspicuous devotion to duty, extraordinary courage, and complete disregard of his own life, above and beyond the call of duty, during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, by Japanese forces on 7 December 1941. Ensign Jones organized and led a party, which was supplying ammunition to the anti-aircraft battery of the U.S.S. CALIFORNIA (BB-44) after the mechanical hoists were put out of action when he was fatally wounded by a bomb explosion. When two men attempted to take him from the area which was on fire, he refused to let them do so, saying in words to the effect, “Leave me alone! I am done for. Get out of here before the magazines go off.” Continue reading “The 15 men who earned the Medal of Honor during the Pearl Harbor attacks”
Just before 8:00 a.m. on December 7, 1941, Chief Petty Officer John Finn awoke to the sound of airplanes flying overhead and gunfire. He quickly threw on some clothes, jumped in his car and headed for the base, keeping his speedometer below the base’s 20-mph speed limit.
“I got around, and I heard a plane come roaring in from astern of me. As I glanced up, the guy made a wing-over and I saw that big old red meatball, the rising sun insignia, on the underside of the wing,” Finn recalled in a 2003 interview. “Well, I threw it into second, and it was a wonder I didn’t run over every sailor in the air station.”
Although Japan had not yet declared war on the United States, Japanese aircraft carriers had launched the first wave of 183 aircraft in a “sneak attack” on the anchored U.S. fleet. Another wave of 170 planes would strike just after 8:30 a.m., in all killing 2345 military personnel, 57 civilians, damaging or destroying hundreds of aircraft, sinking four battleships, two destroyers, and damaging numerous other ships.
The 32 year-old Finn arrived at Kaneohe Bay Naval Air Station where the PBY Catalina seaplanes were based. All but six of the base’s 33 Catalinas were destroyed by the Japanese, and the only seaplanes that could still function were those that had been out on an anti-submarine patrol. Some of his men were inside aircraft that were on fire, shooting the planes’ machine guns at Japanese aircraft overhead. As men scrambled to improvise firing platforms for the machine guns, Finn commandeered a .50 caliber and mounted it on an instruction stand normally used for teaching gunnery.