Posted in World War II Chronicle

World War II Chronicle: 18 December 1941

“Under new government regulations, newspapers may not publish weather forecasts except for the state in which it is located and the vicinity in which it is published. Complying with these regulations, The Missourian will eliminate forecasts for Illinois and Arkansas heretofore given in this column.” (see lower-right corner of page 1)

As Washington looks for accountability (and scapegoats) for the dreadful losses at Pearl Harbor, which the Japanese claim to be five battleships, two heavy cruisers, and an oil tanker as well as 450 planes on the ground and another 14 in the air, the first axe falls on three flag officers at Hawaii: Adm. Husband Kimmel, commander-in-chief of the Pacific Fleet; Lt. Gen. Walter C. Short, commanding the Hawaiian Department; and Maj. Gen. Frederick L. Martin, commanding the Hawaiian Air Force.

Front row (left to right): Lt. Gen. Walter C. Short, Capt. Louis Mountbatten (Royal Navy), and Adm. Husband E. Kimmel. Top row: Maj. Gen. Frederick L. Martin and Rear Adm. Patrick N. L. Bellinger, Commander, Naval Base Defense Air Force.

Thinking the Imperial Japanese Navy wouldn’t risk attacking Pearl Harbor, the top security concern for war planners was sabotage. Pearl Harbor was at “Alert 1” status on 7 December, with its aircraft parked wingtip-to-wingtip. From 7 December 1941: The Air Force Story: Continue reading “World War II Chronicle: 18 December 1941”

Posted in World War II Chronicle

World War II Chronicle: 10 December 1941

Having just crippled the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, the Japanese attack several other locations in the Pacific. Also, Japanese bombers sink Britain’s battleship HMS Prince of Wales and battlecruiser HMS Repulse in the South China Sea.

Headlines in today’s edition:

  • U.S. Navy Fighting off Manila
  • Japs Sink 2 British Ships
  • Americans Sink Japan Transport; Others are Hit
  • Roosevelt Warns Nation Faces Long, Hard War
  • FBI Moves to Round Up Dangerous Aliens in U.S.
  • Blitz Warfare on the Ocean; Soon to Know What It Is Like
  • Democrats Pass Up Party Politics for National Victory

Continue reading “World War II Chronicle: 10 December 1941”

Posted in World War II Chronicle

World War II Chronicle: 9 December 1941

Fearing they will be next following the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, jittery cities along the U.S. and Canadian West Coast begin conducting blackouts and in some cases sound alarms and report sightings of enemy warplanes overhead. Meanwhile, America waits anxiously for the next shoe to drop: a German declaration of war.

Headlines in today’s edition:

  • Air Raid Alarms for New York, Boston
  • Enemy Warplanes Over Frisco Bay
  • Fleet of Planes at Sea Reported
  • Seattle Riot Darkens City
  • U.S. on Lookout for German Move
  • German Help for Japan Promised by Late Winter
  • Pan-American Nations Back U.S. in War
  • Officers in Japanese Army Do Not Expect to Win War
  • Applicants for Navy, Marines Swamp Recruiting Offices

Continue reading “World War II Chronicle: 9 December 1941”

Posted in Military History

7 December: Today in U.S. military history

Today’s post is in honor of Spc. Micah S. Gifford, who on this day in 2006 was killed by an improvised explosive device attack in Baghdad. The 27-year-old native of Redding, Calif. was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 509th Infantry Regiment (Airborne), 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division.

1917: Four U.S. battleships, USS Delaware (BB-28), USS Florida (BB-30), USS 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. Continue reading “7 December: Today in U.S. military history”

Posted in World War II Chronicle

World War II Chronicle: 7 December 1941

As the sun rose on Wake Island, word reached the remote coral atoll that the Pacific Fleet headquarters at Pearl Harbor was under attack — America was now at war. Maj. Paul A. Putnam ordered his fighter squadron to begin around-the-clock reconnaissance patrols in case Wake, some 2,000 miles west of Hawaii, was targeted as well.

Maj. Putnam earned the Navy Cross for his role during the Battle of Wake

12 brand-new F4F Wildcats, chosen from Maj. Putnam’s Marine Fighter Squadron 211 (VMF-211), had just landed at Wake four days ago — transferred from Pearl Harbor in part of the repositioning of forces in response to Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Howard R. Stark’s 27 November “war warning.” 1,200 Morrison-Knudsen Corporation defense contractors were in the process of turning Wake into a military base. At 1158, a formation of Japanese G3M Betty bombers flew in from the south (VMF-211’s prowling Wildcats were prowling north of the island), targeting the parked fighters, sitting totally exposed as the bulldozer crews wouldn’t have the parking revetments for the new fighters completed until 1400 hours.

When the low-level attack was over, the base’s fuel tanks were burning, seven Wildcats were completely destroyed (an eighth was heavily damaged), 23 of the squadron’s 55 men and officers were killed and 11 wounded. VMF-211 may have been down — just four serviceable planes (those in the air during the attack), little fuel, and other than what they could salvage from the four shattered Wildcats, and no spare parts — but they were most definitely not out.

Over the next two weeks those four fighters, coupled with spectacular gunnery from the 1st Coastal Defense Battalion, would make the Japanese pay dearly to take the island — sinking or damaging every vessel in the enemy invasion fleet.

Welcome to the first installment of the World War II Chronicle at Unto the Breach. Each day (except Sunday) we will publish clippings from the newspaper 78 years ago, transporting readers back in time so they can witness the second world war as it happened. Click below to continue reading about the early accounts of the Pearl Harbor attacks when reports — some accurate, some not — were still streaming in. Continue reading “World War II Chronicle: 7 December 1941”