The Attack on Pearl Harbor

Day of Infamy - A Genesis of Drag Racing


Prolog: What does Pearl Harbor have to do with drag racing? In short ... Well, the attack on Pearl Harbor spawned the U.S. involvement in WW-2. Due to the lack of war time automobile production between 1942 and 1945, the teenagers of the era were motivated to build the first "hot rods" out of parts from junk yards. Hot rods, as we all know, were the genesis of drag racing. Bingo.

Then there's the fact that just like the history of early drag racing, one of the most horrific and significant events in United States history is slowly but surely being lost to future generations. The attack on Pearl Harbor is etched in the hearts and minds of those who lived through it and the "babyboomer" generations that followed. But try to find a classroom today that even broaches the subject. I can only imagine what today's teachers tell their students why December 7th is known a "Pearl Harbor Day" - and is nationally recognized - when they no longer have text books that document the events of that day or what led to them.

Thus, we have chosen to add this photo tribute to what we know to be a history site. This is for those who gave their lives and those who should have saw it coming but due to "our intelligence" (sound familiar) didn't. Hopefully the youngsters who visit WDIFL will visit this page as well and know why they can enjoy drag racing today.

Sequence of Events: Saturday, December 6, 1941 - Washington D.C. - U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt makes a final appeal to the Emperor of Japan for peace. There is no reply. Late this same day, the U.S. code-breaking service begins intercepting a 14-part Japanese message and deciphers the first 13 parts, passing them on to the President and Secretary of State. The Americans believe a Japanese attack is imminent, most likely somewhere in Southeast Asia.

Sunday, December 7 - Washington D.C. - The last part of the Japanese message, stating that diplomatic relations with the U.S. are to be broken off, reaches Washington in the morning and is decoded at approximately 9 a.m. About an hour later, another Japanese message is intercepted. It instructs the Japanese embassy to deliver the main message to the Americans at 1 p.m. The Americans realize this time corresponds with early morning time in Pearl Harbor, which is several hours behind. The U.S. War Department then sends out an alert but uses a commercial telegraph because radio contact with Hawaii is temporarily broken. Delays prevent the alert from arriving at headquarters in Oahu until noontime (Hawaii time) four hours after the attack has already begun.

Sunday, December 7 - Islands of Hawaii, near Oahu - The Japanese attack force under the command of Admiral Nagumo, consisting of six carriers with 423 planes, is about to attack. At 6 a.m., the first attack wave of 183 Japanese planes takes off from the carriers located 230 miles north of Oahu and heads for the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor.

Pearl Harbor - At 7:02 a.m., two Army operators at Oahu's northern shore radar station detect the Japanese air attack approaching and contact a junior officer who disregards their reports, thinking they are American B-17 planes which are expected in from the U.S. west coast.

Near Oahu - At 7:15 a.m., a second attack wave of 167 planes takes off from the Japanese carriers and heads for Pearl Harbor.

Pearl Harbor is not on a state on high alert. Senior commanders have concluded, based on available intelligence, there is no reason to believe an attack is imminent. Aircraft are therefore left parked wingtip to wingtip on airfields, anti-aircraft guns are unmanned with many ammunition boxes kept locked in accordance with peacetime regulations. There are also no torpedo nets protecting the fleet anchorage. And since it is Sunday morning, many officers and crewmen are leisurely ashore.

At 7:53 a.m., the first Japanese assault wave, with 51 'Val' dive bombers, 40 'Kate' torpedo bombers, 50 high level bombers and 43 'Zero' fighters, commences the attack with flight commander, Mitsuo Fuchida, sounding the battle cry: "Tora! Tora! Tora!" (Tiger! Tiger! Tiger!).

The Americans are taken completely by surprise. The first attack wave targets airfields and battleships. The second wave targets other ships and shipyard facilities. The air raid lasts until 9:45 a.m. Eight battleships are damaged, with five sunk. Three light cruisers, three destroyers and three smaller vessels are lost along with 188 aircraft. The Japanese lose 27 planes and five midget submarines which attempted to penetrate the inner harbor and launch torpedoes.

Escaping damage from the attack are the prime targets, the three U.S. Pacific Fleet aircraft carriers, Lexington, Enterprise and Saratoga, which were not in the port. Also escaping damage are the base fuel tanks.

In Washington, various delays prevent the Japanese diplomats from presenting their war message to Secretary of State, Cordell Hull, until 2:30 p.m. (Washington time) just as the first reports of the air raid at Pearl Harbor are being read by Hull.

News of the "sneak attack" is broadcast to the American public via radio bulletins, with many popular Sunday afternoon entertainment programs being interrupted. The news sends a shockwave across the nation and results in a tremendous influx of young volunteers into the U.S. armed forces. The attack also unites the nation behind the President and effectively ends isolationist sentiment in the country.

Monday, December 8 - The United States and Britain declare war on Japan with President Roosevelt calling December 7, "a date which will live in infamy..."

Thursday, December 11 - Germany and Italy declare war on the United States. The European and Southeast Asian wars have now become a global conflict with the Axis powers; Japan, Germany and Italy, united against America, Britain, France, and their Allies.

Wednesday, December 17 - Admiral Chester W. Nimitz becomes the new commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet.

Both senior commanders at Pearl Harbor; Navy Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, and Army Lt. General Walter C. Short, were relieved of their duties following the attack. Subsequent investigations will fault the men for failing to adopt adequate defense measures.

When it was over, the U.S.losses were:

USA : 218 KIA, 364 WIA.
USN: 2,008 KIA, 710 WIA.
USMC: 109 KIA, 69 WIA.
Civilians: 68 KIA, 35 WIA.
TOTAL: 2,403 KIA, 1,178 WIA.

USS Arizona (BB-39) - total loss when a bomb hit her magazine.
USS Oklahoma (BB-37) - Total loss when she capsized and sunk in the harbor.
USS California (BB-44) - Sunk at her berth. Later raised and repaired.
USS West Virginia (BB-48) - Sunk at her berth. Later raised and repaired.
USS Nevada - (BB-36) Beached to prevent sinking. Later repaired.
USS Pennsylvania (BB-38) - Light damage.
USS Maryland (BB-46) - Light damage.
USS Tennessee (BB-43) Light damage.
USS Utah (AG-16) - (former battleship used as a target) - Sunk.
USS New Orleans(CA-32) - Light Damage..
USS San Francisco(CA38) - Light Damage.
USS Detroit(CL-8) - Light Damage.
USS Raleigh (CL-7) - Heavily damaged but repaired.
USS Helena(CL-50) - Light Damage.
USS Honolulu(CL-48) - Light Damage..
USS Downes (DD-375) - Destroyed. Parts salvaged.
USS Cassin - (DD-37 2) - Destroyed. Parts salvaged.
USS Shaw (DD-373) - Very heavy damage.
USS Helm (DD-388) - Light Damage.
USS Ogala (CM-4) - Sunk but later raised and repaired.
Seaplane Tender
USS Curtiss (AV-4) - Severely damaged but later repaired.
Repair Ship
USS Vestal (AR-4) - Severely damaged but later repaired.
Harbor Tug
USS Sotoyomo (YT-9) - Sunk but later raised and repaired.
188 Aircraft destroyed (92 USN and 92 U.S. Army Air Corps.)

All Images © US Navy, © National Archives © NHC Naval Historical Center



October 10 1941. Aerial view looking north over Ford Island, the Battleships are for the most part at sea. Carrier Enterprise is moored at the berth that California occupied on December 7th.


October 13, 1941. Aerial view looking over the submarine base in the direction of Ford Island. (North End)


October 13, 1941. Aerial view looking back over the submarine base.


October 1941, Aerial view of the entire harbor.


November 10 1941. Aerial view directly over Ford Island, 5 battleships are in port as well as the carrier USS Lexington moored opposite of "Battleship Row".


Aboard a Japanese carrier before the attack on Pearl Harbor, crew members cheer departing pilots.


Opening seconds of the attack... torpedo exploding against Oklahoma. The Japanese plane that launched the torpedo can be seen peeling off after making its run. Another can be seen just left of the hammer head crane about to start its attack run.


Another shot from the opening seconds of the attack, Torpedo exploding into Oklahoma and West Virginia. Note the height of the water spray from the force of the explosions.


Yet another shot from the opening seconds of the attack, "Battleship Row" Note after effects of torpedo hits on Oklahoma and West Virginia, Oil can be seen already gushing from the ships.

Also Note California (Far Right) has already taken a torpedo hit.
On the 1010 dock smoke can be seen coming from the torpedoed Helena, with Oglala alongside.


One of the most interesting photos ever seen. The top photo taken by a Japanese aircraft during the attack. This photo was taken between 0755 and 0805, when the Arizona exploded. Note oil gushing from Oklahoma and West Virginia from previous torpedo hits and bomb exploding on Arizona's stern. The bottom half of the photo shows Battleship Row three days later taken from a US aircraft, Maryland moored beside the capsized Oklahoma. West Virginia is on the bottom pinning Tennessee to quay and Arizona is totally destroyed, note oil seeping from Arizona's Hulk, Arizona still bleeds oil to this day.


Shortly after the explosion that destroyed Arizona, "Battleship Row" is obscured by smoke from the burning Arizona. Oklahoma has capsized and is just visible through the smoke.


A photo taken from a Japanese plane during the attack shows vulnerable American battleships, and in the distance, smoke rising from Hickam Airfield where 35 men having breakfast in the mess hall were killed after a direct bomb hit.


"Battleship Row" West Virginia (left foreground) her side tore open by as many as 7 torpedo hits burns, sunken at her berth. Tennessee, relatively undamaged is seen behind West Virginia trapped in her berth by the West Virginia on one side and the mooring quays on the other. Tennessee had to keep her screws turning to push away the oil fires coming from the devastated Arizona (right).


This image from the 1010 dock shows the extent of the devastation on "Battleship Row".


California, engulfed by smoke and flames from the burning oil of West Virginia and Arizona.


0900, Looking up "Battleship Row". The inferno is from the fires on West Virginia and Arizona. California is a left listing from torpedo hits.


The overturned Oklahoma (center) and Maryland (left) White smoke rises from West Virginia as her fires are brought under control Arizona burns fiercely in the background.


Photo taken from the stern of Argonne (AG-31) berthed at the 1010 dock looking back at "Battleship Row". Arizona and West Virginia burning (right) The overturned Oklahoma and Maryland are at left.


One of the most published images from December 7 1941. Arizona burning out of control at right. West Virginia, decks awash sunken at her berth and burning fiercely Tennessee trapped between the two raging fires.


Late afternoon on December 7th, Fires still rage on board the shattered Arizona, her flag still flying. USS Tennessee (left) had to keep her screws turning to keep Arizona's fires away. The water pouring over the stern of Tennessee is the overflow from her flooded aft magazines.


From the 1010 dock looking towards the navy yard.Oglala capsized in foreground, Helena to the left. The large fire at the far left is from Cassin and Downes in dry dock #1. The destroyer Shaw burning fiercely in floating dry dock in the background.


Late morning, the shattered hulk of the destroyer Shaw in floating dry dock YFD-2.


AV - 4, Curtis on fire after being crashed by Japanese aircraft. The Japanese pilot wounded, or his aircraft fatally hit deliberately crashed his plane into the Curtis in a scene that would become much more common in 1944 - 1945, The Kamikaze.


The American Flag waves on the southeastern part of Ford Island as the USS California (BB-44) lists to port after being struck by Japanese aerial torpedoes and bombs.


Looking over Pearl Harbor from Aiea, shortly after the last Japanese plane had departed the area. The fire left center is from the destroyer Shaw, Nevada can be seen aground on Hospital Point. right center the destruction of "Battleship Row".


Looking towards the Navy Yard.To the left smoke from the burning destroyers in dry dock #1 Center is the burning destroyer Shaw, with Nevada to her right (white smoke).





The only color photograph I have personally seen of the Attack. The Minelayer Oglala capsized at her berth at the 1010 dock. In the background the overturned Oklahoma, and Maryland moored behind.


Nevada beached after her attempt to exit the harbor. The Navy tug Hoga is alongside fighting the fire on Nevada's bow.








Battleship Row - sitting ducks


Hickem Field in ruin.





Two shots of the explosion of the forward magazine of the destroyer Shaw. To the right Nevada can been seen making her escape attempt.



The target ship USS Utah seen here capsizing in her berth off Ford Island after being torpedoed by Japanese aircraft . Photographed from USS Tangier (AV-8), which was moored astern of Utah. Note colors half-raised over fantail, boats nearby, and sheds covering Utah's after guns.


USS Utah (AG-16) lies with her bottom up at Berth F-11, after she was torpedoed by Japanese planes and capsized on 7 December 1941. In the right background is USS Raleigh (CL-7), also hit by a Japanese torpedo, which is being assisted in staying afloat by a barge and a tug tied up along her port side.

The torpedoed and listing USS Raleigh at her berth about one hour after the attack.
The overturned Utah is astern of her and Tangier to the far left.


Light Cruiser Raleigh, fighting to stay afloat.


Rescuers trying to free trapped crew members from the capsized Oklahoma.


Dry dock #1, The wrecks of the destroyers Cassin and Downes. Pennsylvania in the background, This photo is from late on December 7th or early on December 8th.


December 8th 1941, From atop the water tower looking north. To the right salvage work has begun on the California. Smoke still pouring from the Arizona.


Flooded Dry dock #1 with the wrecks of the destroyers Cassin and Downes.
Note scorched bow of Pennsylvania from the fires that consumed the destroyers.


December 10, 1941, Two shots of the remains of the Destroyers Cassin and Downes in Dry dock #1.



Overhead view of "Battleship Row" December 10th 1941. Far left California surrounded by rescue craft trying (unsuccessfully) to keep her from sinking in her berth. Oklahoma overturned with Maryland inboard, West Virginia sunk upright the trapped Tennessee inboard and the shattered hulk of Arizona leaking oil, She still leaks oil today 59 years later.


December 10, 1941, The shattered hulk of the Battleship Arizona.


December 10, 1941, Overhead view of the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard. The battleship Pennsylvania and the wrecked destroyers Cassin and Downes in dry dock #1 Helena, undergoing repair from torpedo damage in dry dock #2 The shattered wreck of the destroyer Shaw in the floating dry dock.



We now return control of your computer so you can go back to drag racing and always remember its true roots. Share this with a friend on December 6, 2007.



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