Tuesday, August 13, 2013

75th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor: The Unknown Ewa Battlefield, December 7, 1941

75th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor:

The Unknown Ewa Battlefield, December 7, 1941

Nearly everyone today knows the story of "Pearl Harbor" and what happened.
But that story largely neglects what happened in West Oahu- not just at Ewa Field and Ewa Plantation Village, where 40 planes were destroyed- four Marines and two civilians killed, and 65 reported wounded at local hospitals. Fort Barrette was also attacked by Japanese planes, killing one soldier and wounding others.

Or the air combat that saw five Japanese planes shot down- and the still largely unknown story of 8 Navy SBD's from the USS Enterprise that were also shot down in West Oahu, killing 11 officers and crewmen, as well as the two private planes shot down by Japanese Zero's carrying three West Oahu Army soldiers.

The Ewa West Oahu Battlefield (approximate) total is:
11 Navy pilots and crewmen killed (SBD's and Wildcats)
4 Marines killed (Ground) and many combat wounded
4 Army soldiers killed (3 Air, 1 Ground by strafing)
2 Civilians killed (Ground) and many dozens wounded...
22 U.S combat deaths.
Including the Japanese air crews- around 10
Overall total: 32 killed in Ewa-West Oahu on December 7, 1941.

There is also the very real possibility that the first ground combat of the Pacific War was fought right on the Ewa coastline- a Japanese pilot who held out for two days before finally being killed because he wouldn't surrender.

People know today how bad the Pearl Harbor attack was- but it could have been far worse. The USS Enterprise (CV-6) had gone to Wake Island to drop off Ewa Field Marine Fighter Squadron 211 (VMF-211), and was due back at Pearl on 6 December, but a storm slowed her progress back. If the Enterprise had been sunk at Pearl Harbor, this would have been a very great victory for Japan, and could have significantly altered the Battle of Midway, where the Enterprise aircraft helped sink many of the Japanese carriers and aircraft that had attacked Pearl Harbor.

While the Enterprise did not make it Pearl on December 6, Admiral Halsey decided to send ahead Scouting Squadron 6, nine pairs of SBD-2 dive bombers, mostly from Scout Squadron Six, but including a few planes from Bomb Squadron Six. The planes were to maintain radio silence, search for enemy ships and then land at Ford Island. These planes began arriving along the Ewa coastline at the exact same time that waves of Japanese planes were flying down the same Ewa coastline. The result was one of the least known stories of December 7, 1941.

Coincidently, also arriving from the opposite direction- all unknown to each of the other parties, were a large flight of B-17's from California. And once the attack started, P-40's from Haleiwa Airfield arrived in the same Ewa area as Japanese planes were attacking Ewa Field. The result was one of the most bizarre air combat events of the Pacific War, and it all happened over Ewa, West Oahu.

Meanwhile Japanese began attacking Ewa Marines flown to Wake Island...

'Forgotten' Sacrifice Honored In West Oahu