Just before 8 am on Sunday morning, December 7, 1941, many of the sailors aboard naval vessels moored in Pearl Harbor were getting ready for leave and preparing for church services. In a few minutes, the colors would be raised on more than 185 naval vessels throughout the harbor. On Ford Island and around O’ahu, soldiers, Marines, and sailors at Army and Marine airfields and naval air stations were going through similar military routines.
The attack came with no warning, as aircraft emblazoned with red disks bore down on the moored ships from all directions. Torpedo planes struck first, flying low over the water and launching torpedoes toward Ford Island’s Battleship Row, the primary target. They struck West Virginia, Oklahoma, California, and Nevada, along with vessels berthed in the navy yard. Dive-bombers destroyed hangers and other buildings and parked aircraft at Hickam Field and on Ford Island. Bombs dropped from aircraft high above the harbor tore through Arizona and other battleships. Fighter planes wheeled and dived, strafing aircraft and military personnel.
In minutes, the attackers had transformed quiet routine into a nightmare of massive explosions, black smoke, and men leaping from burning ships into oil-covered water. Pearl Harbor was not alone, as bases all over O’ahu were simultaneously attacked. The intent was to disable the planes on the ground, preventing airborne resistance to the main attack on the fleet at Pearl Harbor. In Honolulu, civilians lost their lives when improperly fused antiaircraft shells landed in the city. Around the island, soldiers and sailors fired back with whatever guns they could find, but with little effect.
The second wave arrived about a half-hour after the first. Dive-bombers concentrated on the southeast side of Ford Island and the dry docks, heavily damaging the battleship Pennsylvania and the two destroyers sharing its dock. Nevada got underway, but after the battleships was stuck by at least six bombs, the captain intentionally beached the ship. Bombers again pummeled Hickam Field, while fighters and dive-bombers swept other O’ahu airfields and bases. In less than two hours, the Japanese attackers had weakened – but not crippled – the U.S. Pacific Fleet.
“They fought together as brothers in arms; they died together and now theyAdm. Chester W. Nimitz
sleep side by side…”
Battleship Row was the name of the grouping of eight U.S. battleships moored next to Ford Island and was the main target of the attack.
The USS Nevada was moored behind Arizona on December 7, 1941, and was the only battleship to get underway that morning. Though she was run aground off Hospital Point to avoid blocking the channel, the effort to escape boosted morale among service members that day.
After many missions in the Pacific, Nevada was sent to Europe. On June 6, 1944, she served as the flagship for the D-Day invasion. The USS Nevada was the only ship present at both Pearl Harbor and Normandy.
The USS Arizona was a Pennsylvania-class battleship built in the mid-1910s. Commissioned in 1916, Arizona stayed stateside during World War I. Later on she was sent to the Pacific Fleet, based in Pearl Harbor, HI.
The USS Arizona was hit multiple times in the first few minutes of the attack. One bomb penetrated the armored deck near the ammunition magazines in the forward section of the ship, causing a massive explosion and killing 1,177 of the sailors and Marines on board. Irreparably damaged, the USS Arizona still lies at the bottom of Pearl Harbor.
The USS Vestal was a repair ship moored next to the USS Arizona on December 7, 1941. The Vestal was badly damaged during the attack, hit by bombs intended for the battleships. Crew members of the USS Vestal played a vital role in rescuing sailors on the nearby USS Arizona.
This image shows the USS Vestal on December 7, 1941, just after the Pearl Harbor attack.
The USS Tennessee was the lead ship of her class of battleships. She was launched in April 1919 and served in various places before arriving at San Pedro, California, where she spent the next 19 years.
The USS Tennessee was sent to the Pacific in 1940 along with the other battleships, as part of President Roosevelt’s plan to deter Japanese expansion. Moored next to the USS West Virginia, the Tennessee was damaged during the Pearl Harbor attack but was repaired and modernized.
USS West Virginia
The USS West Virginia was commissioned in December 1923. She took part in training and tactical development operations until 1939, and was sent to Pearl Harbor in 1940.
On Dec 7, 1941, the USS West Virginia was sunk by six torpedoes and two bombs, killing 106 crew members. In May 1942, the ship was salvaged and sent away to be repaired. She would later play a key role in many Pacific battles, and was present at Tokyo Bay during the Japanese surrender.
The USS Maryland was commissioned in July 1921. She was used for many special occasions and training operations.
In 1940, the USS Maryland was moved to Pearl Harbor with the rest of the fleet. She was moored at Battleship Row next to the USS Oklahoma on the morning of December 7, 1941. The USS Maryland was only slightly damaged by bombs during the attack and lost four crewmembers. In June 1942, she became the first ship damaged at Pearl Harbor to return to duty.
The USS Oklahoma was a Nevada-class battleship commissioned in 1916. She served in WWI, protecting convoys crossing the Atlantic. Modernized in the late 1920s, Oklahoma was sent to the Pacific in the late 1930s.
On December 7, 1941, Oklahoma’s port (left) sidewas hit by eight torpedoes at the very start of the attack. In less than twelve minutes, she rolled over until her masts touched the bottom, trapping hundreds of men inside and under the water. Four hundred twenty-nine crew members died. Of those trapped inside, only 32 could be rescued.
The USS California was a Tennessee-class battleship completed just after World War I and commissioned in August 1921. She served as the flagship of the Pacific Fleet for twenty years.
The USS California was sunk on December 7, 1941, during the Pearl Harbor attack, and 105 of her crew members died. The USS California was salvaged and reconstructed, however, and went on to serve for the remainder of World War II.
USS Pennsylvania (Not on Battlefield Row)
The USS Pennsylvania was commissioned in June 1916 and attached to the Atlantic Fleet. In 1922, she was assigned to the Pacific Fleet for fleet tactics and battle practice.
The USS Pennsylvania was in drydock undergoing repairs on December 7, 1941. She was one of the first ships to open fire on the Japanese planes. Pennsylvania was bombed and badly strafed; 31 servicemembers aboard were killed. The USS Pennsylvania was repaired in March 1942 and sent back into service in the Pacific.
USS Utah (Not on Battlefield Row)
The USS Utah was a Florida-class dreadnought battleship completed in 1911. She served in WWI and throughout the 1920s. In 1931, Utah was demilitarized and converted into a target ship. She was also equipped with anti-aircraft guns for gunnery training.
On December 7, 1941, the USS Utah, moored on the other side of Ford Island and hit by torpedoes at the start of the attack, quickly rolled over and sank. Fifty-eight of Utah‘s crew died. The ship was never salvaged and remains where it sank in Pearl Harbor.
Ewa Plain Battlefield
Marine Corps Air Station Ewa was a United States Marine Corps air station located 7 miles west of Pearl Harbor.
The Battle of Ewa Plain began just before 8 AM on December 7, 1941 and was part of the larger surprise attack by the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) on the United States of America military base at Pearl Harbor and other installations on the island of Oahu, and other islands considered defensive positions within the Territory of Hawaii. Based on current knowledge of the battle, it appears that Ewa Field was attacked approximately two minutes before Pearl Harbor. The last of the Japanese threats from this campaign ended on December 31, 1941, when Japanese submarine forces ceased attacks in Hawaiian waters after a final bombardment on December 31 and then withdrew their boats and support craft back to Mainland Japan to regroup and resupply for the next phase of battle.
The Ewa Plain Battlefield is located in the southwestern corner of Oahu, Honolulu County, in a geographic area referred to as Ewa Plain, approximately 5.5 miles southwest of Ford Island (middle of Pearl Harbor). While the Battle of Ewa Plain encompasses three main population centers: Ewa Field, Ewa Villages, and Ewa Beach, only Ewa Field retains sufficient architectural, archeological, and/or landscape integrity to convey its historical significance. This includes retaining its integrity of location, setting, design, and association.
Opana Mobile Radar Site
Incoming Japanese planes were spotted by radar here. The Opana Radar Site marks the first operational use of radar by the US in wartime.
On the morning of December 7, 1941, there were five mobile radar sites in operation on O‘ahu. The sixth site, at Ft. Shafter, was not yet in operation. At 7:00 AM, all the sites except the one at Opana were shut down (later to be reopened).
The operators at Opana were Privates Joseph Lockard and George Elliott. They tracked the Japanese planes from 7:02 AM until the signal was lost at about 7:40 AM due to background interference.
Army Private Joseph Lockard was with Private George Elliott at the Opana Radar Site on the morning of December 7, 1941. After they calculated that there was a large flight of planes coming toward the island, they notified the information center at Fort Shafter, where Private Joseph McDonald and new Air Corps Lt. Kermit Tyler were on duty. The plotters had left a few minutes earlier.
Lockard told Tyler what he and Elliott had seen on the radar. Tyler was on his second day of training as an observer and told the radar operators not to worry about the contact. A flight of B-17s was scheduled to come in from the West Coast, and Tyler assumed these were those planes.
The Opana radar operators created this plot showing the incoming Japanese planes approaching the North Shore of O’ahu on December 7. The five mobile radar units around the O’ahu coast were meant to supplement the lack of patrol plane capability. But while the equipment did detect the attack force, the operators were helpless to recognize the threat.
“A few plots showed up [on radar] starting about 0615, which could have been Japanese scout planes,” 1LT Kermit A. Tyler explained, “but there was no way of telling what they were. The problem was, we had no identification people on staff yet.”
- 7:02 AM: The first wave of Japanese aircraft appeared on the radar 137 miles north of O’ahu.
- 7:06 AM: Pvt. George Elliott called the Information Center at Fort Schafter to report a large target 113 miles out.
- 7:15 AM: Planes were 92 miles out with an air speed of 180 mph.
- 7:23 AM: Although the airplanes flew directly toward O’ahu, the radar showed planes approaching in a slight zigzag pattern. This feature of the radar was one of many that added to the difficulty of reading the plot.
- 7:45 AM: The radar signal was lost as aircraft flew close to the radar station.
- 7:50 AM: The Japanese air attack on O‘ahu began at Wheeler Army Airfield.
The Opana Radar Site, shown here, was located just inland from the north shore of Oahu, Hawaii.
Privates George Elliot and Joseph Lockard followed the temporary echo until 7:39 AM, when it was lost in the permanent echo created by the surrounding mountains.
A short time later, the truck came to take them to breakfast. On their way back to camp, Lockard and Elliott could see the black, oily smoke down in the harbor. Once they got to camp, they knew immediately what they’d seen on radar.
Established in 1922 as an Army airfield, Wheeler Field was the principal Army Air Corps field in Hawaii during the 1920s and early 1930s.
Established in 1922 as an Army airfield, Wheeler Field was the principal Army Air Corps field in Hawaii during the 1920s and early 1930s. Several “firsts” in flight history occurred at Wheeler–a 1927 nonstop flight from Oakland, California, to Wheeler and in 1935 Amelia Earhart took off from Wheeler on the first solo flight between Hawaii and California. By December 1941, Wheeler contained the headquarters of the 14th Pursuit Wing and the 15th and 18th Pursuit Groups and approximately 90 aircraft.
During the first wave of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, 25 dive-bombers dropped approximately 35 bombs on the hangars at Wheeler Field. The Japanese airplanes returned to strafe the fight line, turning it into a river of fire. Four fighters from the 46th Pursuit Squadron were able to take to the air and attack the Japanese over southeastern Oahu. The second Japanese wave arrived and strafed the field, but caused little more damage before the attack ended at 9:45am. Eighty-three aircraft had been destroyed, 38 enlisted men were killed and 59 men were wounded. Wheeler Field quickly recovered and played an important role in World War II. The Seventh Air Service Command was established at Wheeler in 1944 to provide service and support for the B-29 bombers in the Marianas which began massive raids against Japan that fall. Placed in care-taking status in 1949, Wheeler Field was reactivated during the Korean War and houses Army helicopters today.
Naval Air Station Kaneohe Bay
Strafing Zero fighters and bombers destroyed 33 of the 36 PBY seaplanes. The second wave bombed two hangars.
MCB Hawaii Kaneohe Bay is located on the 2,951 acres of the Mokapu Peninsula in Kaneohe Bay.
The U.S. military first established a presence on the peninsula in 1918 when the U.S. Army commissioned Fort Kuwa’aohe Military Reservation on 322 acres on the northeast side of Mokapu. In 1941, this reservation became known as Camp Ulupau; a year later it was redesignated as Fort Hase. Fort Hase became a major unit in the Windward Coastal Military Command and in 1945 was expanded with the addition of 474 acres.
The Army stayed here until August 1940 when the Navy decided to acquire all of Mokapu Peninsula to expand Naval Air Station Kaneohe, a sea plane base it had begun building in September 1939 and would commission on 15 February 1941. Between 1939 and 1943, large sections of Kaneohe Bay were dredged for the dual purposes of deepening the channel for a sea plane runway and extending the western coastline of the peninsula with 280 acres of coral fill.
On Sunday morning, 7 December 1941, two waves of Japanese Imperial Navy aircraft bombed and strafed Kaneohe Naval Air Station, several minutes before Pearl Harbor was attacked. Of the 36 PBY Catalina “flying boats” based here, 27 of 33 on the ground or moored in Kaneohe Bay were destroyed. Only three planes, out on patrol at the time of the attack, escaped and they suffered air-to-air combat damage that fateful day.
Following repairs, the air station was expanded to include a runway; 14-inch guns from the USS Pennsylvania were brought to Fort Hase to be set atop the edge of Ulupau Crater in the seven-story deep “Battery Pennsylvania” as part of the coastal defense of Windward Oahu.
Marines of the 2nd Division came to the Big Island of Hawaii after the Battle of Tarawa, to regroup and train for Saipan and Tinian. The 5th Marine Division arrived at “Camp Tarawa” soon afterwards to train for the Battle of Iwo Jima, while the 4th Marine Division prepared on Maui for the same destination. Some training also took place on Kauai. Battle survivors would return to Hawaii after those distant island battles, to regroup for the invasion of the Japanese home islands.
After the armistice was signed aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay on 2 September 1945, thousands of military members of all services began to pass through Pearl Harbor and other military installations in Hawaii, including Kaneohe Naval Air Station, bound for discharge on the U.S. Mainland and return to civilian life.
On 1 April 1946, all Kaneohe NAS residents and workers were evacuated as nearly 25-foot waves from the Alaska tsunami washed over the peninsula, nearly covering the runway and the Fort Hase areas before rapidly receding back to the sea.
In May of 1949, Kaneohe Bay NAS was decommissioned and placed in a maintenance status. All property (except buildings) was transferred to NAS Barbers Point. The Navy put Mokapu Peninsula land up for lease, but no interested parties came forward. By June 1950, only a small security detail remained.
The following year in 1951, the Marine Corps decided that Mokapu Peninsula would make an excellent home for a combined air-ground team, consolidated all landholdings and, in January 1952, commissioned Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay.
In 1953, the base became the home of the 1st Provisional Marine Air-Ground Task Force.
In April 1994, the Marine Corps consolidated all of its installations in Hawaii, under a single command — Marine Corps Base Hawaii (MCBH).
Later, in October of 1994, the 1st Marine Expeditionary Brigade was officially deactivated. Several of its units remained aboard the base after being redesignated as “III Marine Expeditionary Forces Hawaii.”
Attackers shot down three P-40 fighter planes trying to take off from Bellows and damaged several aircraft still on the ground.
In 1917, a 1,531.71 acre parcel of land on the southeast coast of Oahu was acquired and established by Presidential Executive Order as the Waimanalo Military Reservation. This installation was renamed Bellows Field in 1933 to honor 2nd Lt. Franklin B. Bellows, who was killed in action during World War I while on a reconnaissance flight near St. Mihiel, France, on 13 September 1918.
Bellows was a sub-post of Wheeler Field until 22 July 1941 when it became a separate permanent military post. On 26 March 1948, Bellows Army Air Base was redesignated Bellows Air Force Base. In 1958, it was redesignated again as Bellows Air Force Station when its runways were closed, terminating its status as a flying field.
During the 1930s, Bellows was used as a bombing and gunnery range by aircraft from Luke, Wheeler and Hickam Fields. On 7 August 1941, a Casual Training Camp was established there to provide basic training for newly arrived casuals (recruits).
The original runway was completed January 11, 1933 at a cost of $3,550.07. It was built of coral rock 10-inches deep, rolled to a hard smooth surface and oiled. The runway was 75 feet wide by 983 feet long.
During the 7 December 1941 Japanese attack on Oahu military installations, two military members were killed and six wounded at Bellows. They included three pilots of the 44th Pursuit Squadron who were at Bellows for gunnery training and attempted to take off in their P-40s.
One was killed while climbing into his plane, the second was shot down immediately after getting in the air, and the third took off but had to swim to shore when his badly damaged aircraft crashed into the ocean.
Also swimming ashore the next day was the commander of a Japanese two-man midget submarine which grounded on the reef off of Bellows. Ensign Kazuo Sakamaki, captured by Lt. Paul S. Plybon and Cpt. David Akui of the 298th Infantry, was a the first prisoner of war taken by the United States in World War II. His companion’s remains later washed up on the shore.
Bellows Field remained active throughout World War II, then served as home of the Hawaiian Air National Guard’s 199th Fighter Squadron from 1946 to 1947, before being placed in caretaker status on 15 December 1948. In 1951, the U.S. Marines began using the Bellows runway for air-to-ground training; and in 1958 1st Marine Brigade personnel from nearby Kaneohe Marine Corps Air Station used Bellows as a key amphibious, ground, and helicopter training area.
In 1946 the Territorial Department of Public Works proposed the creation, by arrangement with the Army, of a flying facility for private aircraft at Bellows Field. Bellows was constructed by the Army during the early part of World War II. It conformed to Class V standards. The Army indicated that it wanted to retain the field in a commissioned status but that it had no funds to maintain the field. The Army offered the Aviation Unit of the Hawaiian National Guard joint use of the field provided all maintenance was assumed by the Guard.
The land occupied by the field was owned by the Territorial Government, subject to the leasehold interest of the Waimanalo Sugar Company, Limited, which would expire within three or four years.
“Bellows Field would be an important link in the Kipapa-Haleiwa-Kahuku-Bellows chain of airports for the accommodation of private flying, particularly until such time as the proposed Ala Moan Airport may be constructed in Honolulu,” the Territorial Superintendent of Public Works reported. “Thus far, however, it appears that the Army will not be inclined to cooperate in accommodating personal planes. The Ninth Region CAA will undertake to arrange a suitable joint use as contemplated in the June 26, 1946 letter addressed to all Regional administrators by the Assistant Administrator for Airports. There is no apparent reason why Bellows Field should not be made freely available to personal flyers operating under the Territorial Airport System.
“Territorial officials are actively interested in the proposed project and have held many conferences with Army authorities in the matter. At the present time, however, there is no indication that the Army is willing to offer the Territory any satisfactory permanent privileges for civil flying, even though the Army’s flying activity at Bellows is almost non-existent.”
In 1947, the CAA Region IX approved a proposed adaptation of Bellows Field for private flying requirements as proposed by the Territorial Public Works Director on February 26, 1947.
Although the Territory didn’t own or lease the field, Act 32 of the 1947 Legislature, placed Bellows Field under the management of the Hawaii Aeronautics Commission effective July 1, 1947.
The Territory acquired a temporary right of entry for a portion of Bellows Field for use by private aircraft operators and for the instruction and soloing of student pilots. It was officially opened April 4, 1948. There were three runways. Lengths were 6,300, 4,900 and 3,800 feet. Each runway was 200 feet wide. Two of the runways were closed to traffic.
The HAC approved an air show by the Civil Air Patrol at Bellows in June 1948.
The license for Bellows Field was approved by the HAC on April 4, 1949.
Following a meeting with the CAA, the Air Force, U.S. Engineer’s Office and members of the Hawaii Aeronautics Commission on February 7, 1950, it was decided that the Commission would acquire through surplus that portion of Bellows Field Airport property currently being used by the HAC on a revocable permit basis.
Permission for the Territory to use Bellows Field was cancelled by the Air Force in June 1956. This was to permit the Air Force to install its new Globecom System.
In 1960, the U.S. Army built two Nike-Hercules anti-aircraft missile sites at Bellows, which were operated full-time by the Hawaii Army National Guard for the aerial defense of Hawaii until inactivated in 1970. The communications transmitter facility, constructed at a cost of $967,380 in 1956-1958, replaced the Kipapa area transmitter and receiver sites.
Later it was operated and maintained by members of the 15th Communications Squadron. Its transmitters were the principal ground-to-air link with aircraft (particularly military aircraft) flying to and from Hawaii; and they provided communications for Presidential flights and others carrying high-level government officials.
In 1973, part of the Bellows beach area was listed in the National Register of Historic Places as a site of archaelogical significance. Artifacts found there determined the area to be one of the oldest places of human habitation in the Hawaiian Islands.
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the State continued to try to obtain use of Bellows for a general aviation airport but was never able to get permission from the military.
Detachment 1, 15th Support Group, operated Bellows AFS, which was located about 25 miles from Hickam AFB and 8 miles south of the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay.
Most of the 1,570-acre installation is on sandy lowland surrounded by wasteland, with the eastern perimeter bordering Waimanalo Bay and the southwest boundary along Kalanianaole Highway, which separates it from the town of Waimanalo.
In addition to serving as a training area for the marines and a communications transmitter site, Bellows also housed the Hawaii Army National Guard’s Military Academy and provided an all-service beach-front recreational area for active-duty and retired military personnel, civilian employees of the Department of Defense, dependents and guests.
The Marine Corps acquired approximately 1,049 acres of Bellows from the Air Force in 1999. The Marine Corps Training Area Bellows is now part of Marine Corps Base Hawaii, headquartered in Kaneohe Bay. MCTAB adds significant training capabilities and maneuver space for non-live fire military training activities. The Marines and other services use the training areas to conduct amphibious, helicopter, and motorized exercises in conjunction with troop land maneuver training. It is currently the only place in Hawaii where amphibious landings can transition directly into maneuver training areas for extremely realistic military training.
Recent improvements to the training area over the old runway include construction of a forward operating base (FOB) mock-up around the old Bldg. 700, Bldg. 700 renovations, and a modular military operations in urban terrain (MOUT) training system that consists of 74 buildings (made from shipping containers) on four separate sites. Additional containers have been moved into the main training area to be used as part of a combat vehicle operators’ course for Marines to simulate driving in real-world conditions.
On most weekends and holidays, the Marines continue a practice started by the Air Force to open the 54.2 acre Bellows Beach training area to the general public, in cooperation with the City and County of Honolulu.
On December 7, 1941, 51 airplanes were on the ground at Hickam, the headquarters of the Hawaii Air Force.
Hickam Field, adjacent to Pearl Harbor U.S. Naval Base, was established in 1935 as Hawaii’s principal army airfield and bomber base. On December 7, 1941, 51 airplanes were on the ground at Hickam, the headquarters of the Hawaii Air Force, and a flight of 12 B-17s was expected to arrive that morning. The first wave of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was primarily targeting battleships and carriers, but the airfields were also to be hit to prevent a counterattack against the Japanese bombers and torpedo planes.
At Hickam Field, Japanese Zero fighters and Val dive-bombers strafed and bombed the fight line and hangars, concentrating on the B-17 bombers. The 12 U.S. B-17s arrived unarmed and low on fuel during the attack. Most succeeded in landing at Hickam where they were attacked on the ground. The second wave of the Japanese attack struck Hickam at 8:40am and by 9:45 the attack was over. Nearly half of the airplanes at Hickam Field had been destroyed or severely damaged. The hangars, the Hawaiian Air Depot, several base facilities–the fire station, the chapel and the guardhouse–had been hit.
The big barracks had been repeatedly strafed and bombed and a portion of the building was on fire. Thirty-five men were killed when a bomb hit the mess hall during breakfast. Hickam’s casualties totaled 121 men killed, 274 wounded and 37 missing. Despite the damage inflicted by the Japanese, they ignored the vital repair facilities and gasoline storage tanks at Hickam, Pearl Harbor and elsewhere on Oahu. Hickam Field emerged from the attack stronger than before and played an important role in World War II and since. Today, Hickam is the headquarters of the Pacific Air Force.