Chapter V
Hell in Paradise: Bomber Command

"As a member of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, I am often asked what ship I was on. When I reply that I wasn't on a ship but was stationed at Hickam Field, I am usually asked, 'Where is Hickam Field?' ... The Japanese certainly knew!"

Former Master Sergeant Thomas J. Pillion
400th Signal Company, Hickam Field

The Japanese not only knew precisely where Hickam Field was, they also knew where Wheeler and Bellows Fields were located, because land-based US planes on Oahu were priority targets on 7 December 1941. The Japanese intended to destroy as many American aircraft as possible, preferably on the ground at the outset of the attack, not only to eliminate air opposition when their bombers struck the fleet at Pearl Harbor but also to preclude US planes from following their aircraft back to their carriers and bombing the task force.1

The death and devastation resulting from the surprise attack transformed the "Paradise of the Pacific" into a veritable hell on earth. For Army Air Forces personnel and others stationed in Hawaii, the horrifying sights they witnessed that day were unforgettable.

Hickam Field

To those at Hickam, the Japanese seemed to strike in three waves. The first indication of an attack was at 0755 when

The first bombs to strike Hickam Field were dropped on Hawaiian Air Depot buildings and the hangar line, causing thick clouds of smoke to billow upward
The first bombs to strike Hickam Field were dropped on Hawaiian Air Depot buildings and the hangar line, causing thick clouds of smoke to billow upward. (John W. Wilson)


nine enemy single-engine, low-wing monoplanes carrying torpedoes flew southeast of the hangar line toward Pearl Harbor at an altitude of 50 feet. Observers noted that they were in two echelons, five in the first and four in the second. Although these planes did not attack Hickam Field, dive bombers came in shortly afterward and hit the Hawaiian Air Depot buildings and the hangar line. After a lull, the Japanese bombers returned around 0825 and struck again, then once more at about 0900.2

When the attack began, Hickam's base commander, Colonel Farthing, was in the control tower awaiting the arrival of the B-17s from California. With him was Lt Col Cheney L. Bertholf, adjutant general of the Hawaiian Air Force. The tower provided a panoramic view of the surrounding area; and, while watching what they believed to be Navy planes taking off from nearby Ford Island and going around toward the Pearl Harbor Naval Base to the east of the island, they heard "a bunch of airplanes diving in, coming from about 10,000 feet." They knew these were not Army planes and thought they must be Marines. The planes dived down on Pearl Harbor, and Colonel Farthing saw a black object leave the first and hit with an explosion. That plane then zoomed upward, and he could see the rising sun insignia on its wings as it headed directly toward Hickam. Colonel Bertholf immediately rushed down from the tower to sound the alarm. Farthing followed right behind him and saw the Japanese plane approaching at about 25 feet, firing all its guns. It hit the No. 3 engine of a B-17, setting it on fire, and setting some B-18s ablaze at the same time. These aircraft were parked so close together that when one was hit, they all caught fire. The enemy plane flew on, then turned and came back across the field, firing at Colonel Farthing,

B-18 wreckage on the Hickam flight line
B-18 wreckage on the Hickam flight line.

who was the only person in the area at that time. The colonel hit the dirt and stayed there for the remainder of the first wave attack. By then, other Japanese planes joined in, dropping bombs and firing their machine guns.3

Capt Gordon A. Blake, Hickam's base operations officer, had been in his office in the operations building since 0700, preparing for the B-17 arrival. His good friend Maj Roger Ramey was there, too, partly in his capacity as A-3 (operations officer) of the Hawaiian Air Force but mostly because his classmate and close friend, Maj Truman H. Landon, was leading the incoming flight of 38th Reconnaissance Squadron B-17s. They were sitting there "chewing the fat" and listening to reports coming in to the tower when they suddenly heard a loud explosion. Dashing outside, they saw a dive bomber with the rising sun of Japan on the underside of its wings pulling up almost directly overhead after bombing the Hawaiian Air Depot.4


Captain Blake's first thought was to get the incoming B-17s down safely, so he ran up to the tower to guide them in. The pilots of the Flying Fortresses had maneuvered through heavy antiaircraft and enemy machine-gun fire to reach Hickam Field. When they asked for landing instructions from the tower, a calm voice gave wind direction, velocity, and the runway on which to land, as though it were any other day, occasionally reporting that the field was under attack by "unidentified planes." After the B-17s landed, Blake left the control tower to go over to see Landon, whom he had known as a cadet, so he could pass on instructions to get their planes ready in case higher authority assigned them a mission. He rode out to Landon's revetment on the back of a fancy motorcycle driven by a large Hawaiian man wearing a big, wide, studded leather belt. The cyclist and other members of the Honolulu Motor Club had appeared on the scene to offer their help.5

Earlier, General Rudolph of the 18th Bomb Wing had scheduled a flight of B-18s for "some of the youngsters who had not completed B-18 training." He had more pilots than airplanes assigned, so this Sunday morning flight provided the opportunity to give them an extra hour of training. Twenty-four men were in the hangar, moving the bombers out in preparation for an 0800 takeoff, when the Japanese attacked and killed 22 of them outright, seriously injuring the other two. Outside, MSgt Dave Jacobson was changing a B-18 tire on the ramp. He disappeared without a trace when a bomb hit.6

The first wave of enemy planes to attack Hickam approached over Fort Kamehameha and scored direct hits on the Hawaiian Air Depot's engineering building, leaving only the framework and destroying its contents. The depot restaurant was a total loss, but supply buildings were untouched except for scattered machine-gun bullets, shrapnel, and flying debris. After the first raid, all Hawaiian Air Depot officers came in and assisted with fire fighting, salvaging material, and other requirements. Approximately 100 civilian employees also reported for duty, including Mr. Phillip W. Eldred, purchasing clerk for supply, who was strafed and killed on his way to the depot. Another employee, Mr. John B. Gordon Bankston, suffered temporary paralysis in his left arm, when hit by a piece of flying shrapnel.7

Hangar 15, which housed the base engineering function, suffered considerable damage, with many personnel injured and killed; but Hangar 17 had only minor damage. Bombs wrecked Hangar 11, killing nearly all of the 11th Bomb Group's armament and aircraft maintenance technicians. The attack shattered Hangar 7 and slightly damaged Hangar 9, but left Hangars 3 and 5 intact. The Japanese also destroyed all the tugs and several gas trucks in the gas storage area but failed to damage the underground fuel tanks. A target folder later discovered in a downed Japanese plane showed the tanks in the area where the baseball diamond was located. That area was in fact the original site planned for the tanks; however, over a year before the attack, a change in plans resulted in placing them elsewhere and building a baseball field in that location. Consequently, the ball field was bombed instead of the underground fuel storage tanks. The same target folder identified the base operations building as the officers' club, so the nerve center of the base was spared, as were Hangars 2 and 4, which had been completed just a few months before the attack.8


smoke pouring from Hickam Field's Hawaiian Air Depot shops

Above, smoke pouring from Hickam Field's Hawaiian Air Depot shops, which were struck by attacking Japanese planes. Below, rear view of wrecked Hangar 11, with B-18 of the 18th Bombardment Wing on the right. The two men near the hangar are Capt Roland D. Boyer of the Signal Corps and Pvt Elliott C. Mitchell, Jr., 50th Reconnaissance Squadron. This was taken just as a Japanese plane swooped down, machine-gunning the field. Cpl Vincent P. Dargis, another photographer, snapped this picture, then ran for cover. All were safe.

rear view of wrecked Hangar 11


Clockwise from top: Closeup view of bullet-riddled walls and twisted window frames of Hangar 11; aircraft wreckage inside Hickam Field hangar, including (at left) a B-18 assigned to the 5th Bombardment Group; and Hangar Avenue, looking makai (toward the sea), with Hangar 35 in background. Closeup view of bullet-riddled walls and twisted window frames of Hangar 11
aircraft wreckage inside Hickam Field hangar
Hangar Avenue, looking makai (toward the sea)


Hickam's big new consolidated barracks was a major target. PFC Robert P. Chase, an aircraft mechanic assigned to the 23d Bomb Squadron, awoke from a deep sleep to the thunderous roar of exploding bombs and watched in utter disbelief as enemy aircraft repeatedly strafed the barracks. Pvt Ira W. Southern got up to the sound of what he thought was heavy artillery gunfire. This was not unusual, since target sleeves were regularly towed close to Hickam; but the noise seemed louder, sharper, and more erratic than usual. After grumbling that target practice should be held sometime other than a Sunday morning, he strolled over to the windows to look outside. He could see a plane, flying at an altitude of about 500 feet, coming toward the barracks but thought nothing of it until he saw a large object drop from the plane. The next thing he knew, there was a terrible explosion, and the engine repair depot across the street seemed to disintegrate. At the same time, he noted with horror that the plane pulling out of the dive was clearly marked with the Japanese rising sun insignia. A sudden explosion drowned out the roar of the plane overhead. A low-flying plane had dropped a bomb through the window, tearing a huge hole in the floor and filling the barracks with flying shrapnel.9

Chaos reigned as panic-stricken men milled around in all directions. More and more earthquake-like shocks rattled the building as the enemy planes expended their bombs. The racket of explosions, shouting, and yelled orders to vacate the barracks was deafening. Southern went to his locker to get his gas mask but was so nervous, he couldn't work the combination to the lock. He finally got the locker open, slung his canister gas mask across his shoulder, and headed down the stairwell toward the supply room to get a gun and some ammunition. As he reached the ground floor landing, he saw that several dying and wounded men had been dragged inside the building for protection. The supply room was locked, so the men broke open the door, only to find that the rifles were all neatly

Hickam Field's big barracks, still burning from the Japanese attack
Hickam Field's big barracks, still burning from the Japanese attack, with Hangar 3 visible to the right of Wing D and Wing C at extreme left.


Fiercely burning fires like this one devastated Hickam Field's consolidated barracks
Fiercely burning fires like this one devastated Hickam Field's consolidated barracks. (11th Bomb Group Association)

locked in the racks. They somehow broke the locks, grabbed Springfield rifles and Colt .45 automatics, found ammunition stored in boxes on the shelves, and dragged several boxes to the floor. Bombs that hit nearby were sending fragments of shrapnel flying through the windows of the supply room, so they lay on the floor while filling their bandoliers, then dashed outside the barracks and began firing fruitlessly at the bombing, strafing enemy planes.10

Others who fought back included Sgt Stanley McLeod, who stood on the parade ground firing a Thompson submachine gun, alongside Cpl William T. Anderson. Both men lost their lives. A soldier, kneeling near some bushes, took potshots at the attacking planes with a bolt-action Springfield rifle. SSgt Doyle King fired his submachine gun from under a panel truck. MSgt Olef Jensen of the 72d Bomb Squadron directed the emplacement of machine guns, and one of his crews under SSgt R. R. Mitchell claimed credit for shooting down an enemy plane. TSgt Wilbur Hunt set up twelve .50-caliber machine guns in bomb craters near the barracks, then unexpectedly got the gunners he needed. A bomb had blown off a corner of the guardhouse, releasing all the prisoners, who dashed over to Hunt and said they were ready to go to work. He immediately put them on the guns. On the ball diamond, two men set up a machine gun on a tripod between home plate and some trees along the edge of the field. Suddenly a wave of high-level bombers dropped their deadly projectiles right on the ball field, scoring a direct hit on the gun and killing both men instantly. By the time the third wave of the attack came, ground defenses were going full blast. In addition to the parade ground and the barracks area, guns were set up on the hangar line and even around the flagpole at post headquarters. Green troops under fire acted like veterans and displayed amazing courage. A corporal sped across the parade ground to help man a machine gun that was entirely in the open without any protection whatsoever.


gun emplacement (center) on parade ground at Hickam Field

Above, gun emplacement (center) on parade ground at Hickam Field, with the big barracks burning in background. Serving today as headquarters of the Pacific Air Forces, this building has been known since 1948 as the Hale Makai ("Home by the Sea" in Hawaiian).

Below, Old Glory continues to wave over Hickam Field, bearing silent witness to the brutality of the Japanese attack. This same flag later flew above the United Nations charter meeting in San Francisco, over the Big Three conference at Potsdam, and rippled above the White House on 14 August 1945 when the Japanese accepted surrender terms. It was part of a historical display at the Air Force Academy until returned for permanent display at Hickam Air Force Base in 1980.

Old Glory continues to wave over Hickam Field


damaged post exchange at Hickam Field

Above, damaged post exchange at Hickam Field, looking from the parade ground and consolidated barracks; and below, complete devastation inside the big barracks at Hickam Field. (Denver D. Gray, US Army Military History Institute)

complete devastation inside the big barracks at Hickam Field


Halfway there, he was strafed by a low-flying Japanese plane. Mortally wounded, he kept on trying to reach that machine gun but fell dead on the way. Time and again, as the machine gunners fell, others rushed to take their places. One man managed to lug--no one knows how--a machine gun to the top of one of the unbombed hangars and was perched up there, popping away at the strafing planes. On the apron in front of the hangars, a "mild-mannered private first class who was an orderly room clerk" climbed into a B-18 and mounted a .30-caliber machine gun in the nose. It was unstable, because the mount was made for an aerial gun; but he braced it against his shoulder and kept up a steady stream of fire. An enemy plane flew low, strafed the B-18 with incendiary bullets, and set it on fire. There was no way for him to escape, and spectators nearby said he did not even seem to try but kept on firing. Long after the leaping flames had enveloped the nose of the plane, they heard his screams and saw the tracer bullets from his machine gun mounting skyward.11

The valiant men who fought to defend the base were exceptional individuals, well deserving of the honors they later received (posthumously in many cases). The average and very normal reaction to the attack, however, was fear, confusion, and panic. There were a few extreme cases, such as the "Little Lord Fauntleroy of a second lieutenant" found hiding in a bomb dump, crying with fear and nerves; an unnamed officer of fairly high position who "went all to pieces after the attack and had to be sent back to the states on a stretcher"; and a PFC who also had to be evacuated to the mainland, "crying and combative," for years of neuro-psychiatric care. These individuals just did not have the temperament to withstand the horrors of battle and were probably more deserving of pity than scorn. On the other hand, unbelievable as it may be, there were a few who took advantage of the chaos resulting from the attack. After the post exchange (PX) was shattered by bombs, for example, a small group of men who had taken shelter under a nearby building were shocked to see an airman looting the place. He emerged from the PX with a case of beer and cartons of cigarettes, started across the parade ground, but was mowed down by a strafer. As he fell, beer cans and packs of cigarettes flew in all directions. Even at the consolidated barracks, amid all the death and destruction, looters helped themselves to items belonging to others. When Ira Southern returned to his third-floor bay after the attack, he found several of his personal things missing, including his new portable Zenith radio.12

William Melnyk of the 17th Air Base Group and two friends were sitting around one of the beds in the big barracks, relaxing and chatting after eating an early breakfast. They heard the noise of a low-flying plane; and someone remarked, "It looks like the Navy is practicing dive bombing us again." Less than a minute later, there was a loud explosion. They rushed outside to see what was going on. While standing on the stair landing, looking toward Wing F, they saw a bomb hit Hangar 7 and explode. The resulting concussion blew all three of them off the landing onto the ground. As they got up, they heard the squadron first sergeant yelling for everybody to get out; so they ran toward the parade ground, which soon began to fill up with men coming out of the barracks, some clad only in their underwear. Then a Japanese plane, flying so low that the pilot and rear gunner were clearly visible, began strafing the area. Men were soon falling or running in all directions.13


Russell Tener of the 18th Bomb Wing jumped into a pair of trousers and scurried down the stairs from his second-floor squadron bay with many others, heading toward the grassy parade ground. The whistling of falling bombs was clearly audible, as were the frightening sounds of machine-gun fire and exploding bombs. Tener recalled thinking at the time that he had joined the Army and chosen an assignment in Hawaii as a vacation at government expense, but he would be lucky to get through this alive. As he made his way across the parade ground, pandemonium erupted when low-flying aircraft with machine guns blazing began streaking toward the mob of men while dive bombers were unleashing their bombs. He ran toward the base chapel, only to find that it was no longer standing. It had been leveled by a direct hit, leaving only the concrete entry steps. He thought immediately of his friend, Joe Nelles, who was the Catholic chaplain's assistant and went there early every Sunday to prepare the altar for mass. Later, what he feared was confirmed--Joe had been killed in the chapel.14

In the meantime, Melnyk dashed for the shelter of the new wooden barracks in Splinter City across the way. He stayed there for a short time, watching some men shooting at the Japanese planes with .45-caliber pistols, then left the area to return to the big barracks and report to the supply room where he worked. While en route, looking at the burning aircraft along the hangar line, he saw a flight of high-level bombers come over and start dropping bombs again. He dashed for the protection of the barracks and later learned that some of the bombs had landed in Splinter City, close to where he had been standing, killing several people. The nearby Snake Ranch beer garden took a direct hit and was demolished, incurring the wrath of a truck company first sergeant. He had bravely endured the first two waves of the attack, but this was too much. Shaking his fist at the sky, he screamed, "You dirty SOBs! You've bombed the most important building on the post!"15

When Melnyk reported to the supply room, he was put to work passing out rifles and ammunition to the men of his squadron. Another wave of bombers flew over, and a bomb exploded between Wings E and F, shaking the building. A moment later, someone came running in, shouting, "I need some help; the lieutenant has been hit!" Melnyk went with him to pick up 1st Lt Malcolm J. Brummwell, their squadron adjutant.* He was bleeding across the chest, moaning with pain. They carried him to the supply room and laid him on a counter while someone called the hospital for an ambulance. It arrived a short time later at the front of the building, and they were instructed to bring the lieutenant out. As they slid him off the counter, he fell toward Melnyk, who grasped him, with his bleeding chest against his own. They carried him to the ambulance, laid him on a stretcher, and slid him inside. The ambulance driver and assistant then turned toward Melnyk, thinking he was wounded also because of all the blood on his shirt, and said, "Take it easy now and get into the ambulance." Melnyk protested, saying there was nothing wrong with him. The driver soothingly said, "I know, I know," and kept forcing him

* Lieutenant Brummwell was actually in command of Headquarters Squadron, 17th Air Base Group, at the time. He had relieved 1st Lt Howard F. Cooper, the regular commander, who was seriously injured by flying shrapnel at his residence earlier that morning. Concerned about broken mains and loss of water pressure on the base, Brummwell and two airmen had just obtained aluminum kitchen containers to get water before the supply failed, when he was struck down.


Wing L of Hickam Field's big barracks
Wing L of Hickam Field's big barracks, with its fire-blackened, bullet-scarred walls and wrecked roof, was devastated by the attack. Mess hall is at left.

inside until Melnyk finally climbed into the vehicle but then crawled over the driver's seat, went out the front door, and started to walk away. The ambulance driver, believing he was in shock, began chasing him, yelling at him to come back. He finally gave up, returned to the ambulance, and drove the injured man to the hospital. Lieutenant Brummwell later died of his injuries.16

With both Lieutenants Cooper and Brummwell seriously injured, Lieutenant Gray succeeded to the command of the squadron. He had never felt so inadequate. Everyone, including airmen twice his age, looked to him for guidance, which he felt he did not have to give. Nevertheless, he did his best* during his "baptism of fire," rendering aid to the wounded in and around the barracks throughout the attack. The consolidated barracks, reported to be the most heavily bombed building on Oahu, shook with the force of explosions for what seemed like an eternity. Infantry-trained airmen ordered all personnel to disperse to lessen the possibility of multiple deaths from a single explosion, but many who left the building were killed by strafing or by bomb fragments. The concrete-reinforced barracks actually offered the best protection and was the most resistant to fire. However, bombs that crashed through the roof of the big mess hall located at the center of the barracks took a heavy toll. The first bomb instantly killed 35 men eating breakfast. Trays, dishes, and food splattered everywhere; and, the injured survivors crawled through the rubble to safety. More bombs hit and exploded, and the concussion killed all the Chinese cooks who had sought protection in the freezer room.17

Two bombardier cadets from Texas were newly assigned at Hickam Field. They wore blue cadet uniforms with wing insignia

* "His best" was good enough to win for Lieutenant Gray the Bronze Star Medal, which was awarded by the Decorations Board in Washington, DC, on 26 October 1944.


sunlight streams through the splintered mess hall roof where bombs entered

Above, sunlight streams through the splintered mess hall roof where bombs entered, inflicting heavy casualties and leaving the place in a shambles.

Below, wall-to-wall debris covers the floor of the mess hall following the attack. (Denver D. Gray, US Army Military History Institute)

wall-to-wall debris covers the floor of the mess hall following the attack


on their caps and were soon to be commissioned as second lieutenants. When the attack began, they had no assigned place to report but felt they should "do something," so they headed toward the consolidated barracks to see if they could help. While crossing the baseball field, they looked up and saw bombs falling directly at them; so they hit the ground, and the bombs exploded close by. Falling debris struck and injured one cadet, who wore his arm in a sling for awhile and later received a Purple Heart. The other man was not hurt but lost his cadet cap for which they looked high and low after the attack, because he had promised his Texas girl friend she could have the insignia on it when he was commissioned.18

PFC Gabriel W. Christie of the 19th Transport Squadron lived in the two-story wooden barracks of Splinter City. He thought nothing much about it when he heard the first explosion, because he had become accustomed to the sound of blasting dynamite from construction projects in the Navy area. Going out the back of the barracks, he joined some men standing around outside watching Japanese planes circling over Pearl Harbor, then saw one of them drop a bomb. How could the Navy practice so close to their home quarters without endangering their men, he wondered. Upon seeing the rising sun on the wings of another plane that dived lazily down, dropped a bomb, then pulled away in a right bank, his thought was that it didn't seem right for the Navy to be using a foreign power's emblem in their war games. When a third plane dived, dropped a bomb, then flew over Hickam Field strafing personnel, it finally dawned on him that they were actually under hostile attack!19

Members of the Hawaiian Air Force's Headquarters Squadron, 17th Tow Target Squadron, and 23d Materiel Squadron watch Japanese high-level horizontal bombers heading toward Pearl Harbor
Members of the Hawaiian Air Force's Headquarters Squadron, 17th Tow Target Squadron, and 23d Materiel Squadron watch Japanese high-level horizontal bombers heading toward Pearl Harbor. (John W. Wilson)


In the chaos that followed, conflicting stories emerged as to what happened next. Most of the 19th Squadron personnel remembered running to the supply room for guns and ammunition. PFC George J. Gabik stated that when they arrived there, the supply sergeant refused to give them anything, so they "just eased him aside with a little force," broke down the door to the weapons room, and grabbed .45-caliber pistols and ammunition, which was all they had. Christie, on the other hand, recalled one of the lieutenants being in the supply room when they got there and said they were issued .45-caliber pistols and the few Thompson submachine guns that were available. In any event, the actions of "the lieutenant" after that became the subject of numerous but widely differing recollections. Identified as the squadron adjutant, who was a first lieutenant and ROTC graduate from the University of Hawaii, he ordered all the troops to assemble on the parade ground in the direct line of fire, resulting in the loss of many men, according to some sources. First Sergeant Carlos F. McCuiston, on the other hand, unaware of the lieutenant's order, told men approaching him to scatter, take whatever cover was available, and try to stay alive. He stated later that had he known, he most certainly would not have countermanded the lieutenant's order. Another individual reported that the lieutenant called everyone together on the edge of the parade ground, "made the great statement 'Men we are at war,' as if we did not already know it," posted a couple of men on the east and west sides of the parade ground, and instructed them to yell when they saw an aircraft coming. He no sooner said that then the enemy aircraft were upon them, and "we lost several men because of this." According to Christie, however, the officer asked them to assemble in the middle of the parade ground in order to distribute .45-caliber ammunition which had been loaded in a small panel truck. He also asked for a volunteer to drive the truck to the parade ground, so Christie offered to do so. After the ammo was distributed, the lieutenant told Christie to stay with the truck in case he needed it and to drive it off the parade ground and park it along the curb. There were several other such references to the lieutenant; and, regardless of which story was the most accurate, he must have been quite a prominent figure that day to be remembered for his actions by so many people in so many ways.20

Russell J. Tener (left) and his friend Bill Enos (far right)
Russell J. Tener (left) and his friend Bill Enos (far right), while on guard duty at this PX warehouse, escaped harm when the building was shattered from the concussion of a bomb which left a crater (partly visible in left foreground) about 20 feet in diameter and 5 feet deep. (Russell J. Tener)


As the Japanese planes commenced their bombing and strafing runs, most of the men on the parade ground scattered. Many ran back toward Splinter City. A PX warehouse was one of the buildings in that area, and facing it was a little fruit and vegetable stand operated by a Japanese couple during the work week. Christie was momentarily paralyzed with fear as he stared at the approaching enemy planes, but then twisted around and ran for his life. He passed the parked truck that he had been instructed to stay with, and leaped under a metal sink located at one end of the fruit and vegetable stand. The bomb bursts were getting closer and closer, and the concussion from one blast caused the corner of the building to collapse over the sink. Looking across the way, he saw that his truck had been hit and was burning furiously. Nearby, five 55-gallon drums had been perforated by shrapnel from exploding bombs, and their position had protected him from injury. He then saw PFC James I. Lewis, a member of his squadron, lying on his back under the PX warehouse. He looked so calm that Christie envied his courage, wishing at the time that he could be like him. Later, he found that Lewis was dead, killed by shrapnel which had hit him in the back.21

First Sergeant McCuiston, from his position between the street and the 19th Squadron barracks, heard one explosion after another; and the last was a deafening blast which seemed to lift him off the ground. He jumped up and turned to run, hoping to find better shelter before the next bomb fell. A few feet away, two dead airmen were lying face down. One had both legs severed at the buttocks, and his blood had soaked the ground. The other had a massive head wound from an object which had passed through him from the left temple to just above the right ear, and his brains were lying on the ground. In the horror of the moment, McCuiston failed to notice that his own left shirt sleeve and the front of his shirt were bloodstained from wounds which, fortunately, turned out to be

Mangled truck, still burning, parked on F Street next to the parade ground
Mangled truck, still burning, parked on F Street next to the parade ground (today's Headquarters Pacific Air Forces parking lot).


Blood-stained stretchers, awaiting the next load of casualties
Blood-stained stretchers, awaiting the next load of casualties, grimly attest to the severity of injuries suffered by Army Air Forces personnel at Hickam Field. (Denver D. Gray, US Army Military History Institute)

minor. Other squadron members injured near the parade ground were Private First Class Gabik, who was struck on his left leg by a piece of shrapnel, and SSgt Sidney C. Howe of the radio section, whose left arm was nearly blown off. An ambulance picked up both men during a lull in the attack and transported them to the base hospital, where they received a shot of morphine before going on to Tripler Hospital located at Fort Shafter. Another 19th Squadron member, Sgt Jack O. Ehrke, helped carry injured personnel from the parade ground despite being wounded himself by several pieces of shrapnel in his back. He was later awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for this action.22

Vehicles of every conceivable type--bread wagons, milk wagons, hand carts, trucks, private cars--were commandeered at Hickam to augment the ambulance fleet and transport wounded personnel to the base hospital; and all available airmen in the immediate area were pressed into service to help load the injured. At the parade ground, they stacked the most badly wounded on top of each other in the back of an ambulance and rushed them to the hospital. PFC Raymond L. Perry of the Army's 29th Car Company was on temporary duty at Fort Armstrong in downtown Honolulu when the first attack occurred, and everyone was scrambling around trying to get away from the antiaircraft shells that were coming down. As they were using contact fuses on the shells, which were not making contact with aircraft, they were exploding upon contact with the ground. Perry was "tired of getting shot at" and they needed vehicles at Hickam to transport wounded to Tripler, so he quickly volunteered to go. Two military policemen on motorcycles escorted their convoy of five


trucks to Hickam Field; and they proceeded along Hangar Avenue, past the consolidated barracks, and pulled into the area between Hangars 9 and 13. With the help of Army Air Forces personnel, they began loading wounded men into their trucks. Then at 0845, someone shouted, "Here they come again!"; and everyone took cover in the closest hangar doorwell. After the explosions and firing subsided, they went out and found all their trucks completely demolished. Of the 17 men they had picked up, only three were still alive. Earlier, someone had taken a bedsheet, painted a large red cross on it, and attached it to the top of the center truck; but all it proved to be was a target for the attackers.23

From the first moments of the attack until the close of the day, Hickam's small new hospital, which had opened only a few weeks before, was the focal point of activity on the base. Capt Frank H. Lane, the acting hospital commander, was an Army Air Forces flight surgeon who lived with his wife, Carmen, and their two sons in family housing located only a short distance from the Pearl Harbor boundary. He awoke shortly before 0800 that Sunday morning to take his family to church and had just finished dressing when he heard a loud explosion. His first thought was that one of the oil storage tanks on the hill just inland from Pearl Harbor had exploded. When he looked out the bedroom window, a cloud of black smoke in that direction seemed to confirm his guess. He ran downstairs and out the back door, just in time to see a small plane marked with the rising sun insignia of Japan flying slowly by, slightly above the level of the tops of the two-story houses. He could plainly see the pilot and thought at the time that a Japanese carrier must be in Hawaii on a diplomatic mission. As the plane flew toward Ford Island in Pearl Harbor, more explosions occurred; then another plane flying in front burst into flames and fell in the water. Only then did Captain Lane realize that a real attack was underway. He called to his wife to stay inside, ran to his car parked behind their quarters, and drove to the hospital about four blocks away. By then, the air was filled with the high-pitched whine of diving planes, the chatter of machine-gun fire, and the roar of exploding bombs.24

The Hickam hospital, located about three blocks away from the flight line, was built of reinforced concrete three stories high, with wide, tropical screened porches on three sides. In the back, and connected to it with a ramp, was a building that housed medical department personnel, a kitchen, and mess hall. The hospital had a capacity of only 40 beds, about 25 of which were occupied at the beginning of the raid. Seriously ill patients were normally sent to Tripler General Hospital. Hickam's hospital staff consisted of about seven medical

Hickam's small new 40-bed hospital
Hickam's small new 40-bed hospital received its "baptism of fire" on 7 December 1941 when its medical staff treated hundreds of casualties. (Bernard C. Tysen)


officers, five dentists, seven nurses, and forty enlisted men.25

As Captain Lane parked his car on the street in front of the hospital, the medical officer of the day, Capt Andre d'Alfonso, arrived in an ambulance with a wounded soldier. The captain had been at the flight line to meet the incoming flight of B-17s, to get them sprayed for bugs, and certainly did not expect to treat victims of an enemy attack. About the same time, a severely wounded soldier came in, carried on a door, conscious, but with a good part of his abdomen and one hip cut out by a piece of shrapnel. Captain Lane felt he was probably beyond hope but, to reassure him, sent him on to the operating room, telling him he would be fixed up. By this time, all available personnel had been pressed into service. The entire hospital staff came in, even those who had been on night duty and just relieved at 0700 that morning. Three Filipino orderlies--Maguleno H. Jucor, Torihio Kendica, and Cosme R. Echanis--ran through a hail of bombs and machine-gun fire to get to their jobs. Hospital patients left their beds and either went home or joined in to help with the flood of casualties. All the phones in the facility were busy with calls for help. The trucks and drivers augmenting the fleet of seven ambulances began a regular pickup of injured at the consolidated barracks, mess hall, and the flight line, where most of the casualties were occurring, then made regular runs to Tripler.26

When the first of the injured started coming in, they found the hospital staff prepared and waiting. Surgeons performed numerous emergency operations to remove bomb fragments. One of the dentists, Lt Robert Lee Kushner, turned surgeon that day, working alongside Lieutenants White and Garret and all the other medics who put in long, continuous hours of labor. Not knowing how long the raid would last, they did not attempt to fill the beds in the Hickam hospital but evacuated the wounded to Tripler as fast as they could after administering first aid (which was limited to applying tourniquets, splints, bandages, and giving morphine). The pharmacy prepared morphine in syringes holding ten doses each, and they did not have the time to change needles between patients. Every few minutes, a medical officer would go out and check the corpses that were being stacked in back of the hospital to make sure that none of the living was among them.27

Sometime during the attack, a delayed-action 500-pound bomb landed on the front lawn of the Hickam hospital, about 60 or 70 feet from the building. Shortly afterward, the air was filled with the acrid smell of the explosives from the bomb, and a number of people yelled "Gas! Gas!", adding to the tumult and confusion. Hickam's nurses, including Monica E. Conter and M. Kathleen Coberly, provided a calm, steadying influence and won the praise and admiration of all for their hard work, seeing to the needs of the patients. This was the first time that Army nurses had been on the front line of battle; always in the past they were in evacuation hospitals at least 10 miles behind the lines. Annie Gayton Fox, who was the nurse in charge that day, later received the Purple Heart, not for wounds but for bravery. She was believed to be the first woman receiving the medal since it was revived as an award of honor by President Roosevelt in 1932.28

Hundreds of casualties arrived at the hospital on 7 December 1941, but two made a special impression on Captain Lane. The first was a soldier who walked in the front


One of the more than 200 men killed on Army Air Forces installations on Oahu
One of the more than 200 men killed on Army Air Forces installations on Oahu.

door under his own power with one arm completely gone but waving his remaining arm in greeting, still managing to wear a big smile on his face and make a joking remark. The other was a young flight surgeon, 1st Lt William R. Schick, from one of the B-17s arriving in the middle of the raid. He was sitting on the stairs leading to the second floor of the hospital and drew Captain Lane's attention because of his winter uniform (which was never worn in Hawaii) and the insignia of a medical officer on his lapels. He had a wound in the face but, when approached for treatment, said he was all right and pointed to the casualties on litters on the floor, saying "Take care of them." Captain Lane told him he would be placed in the next ambulance going to Tripler. He was, but died after arriving there. Schick General Hospital, which occupies 160 acres in the northern limits of the city of Clinton, Iowa, was later named in his honor.29

The 31st Bomb Squadron Commander, Captain Waldron, was at his quarters when the "fireworks" began. His six-year-old daughter ran into the bedroom where he and his wife were and said, "Dad, they're firing at Fort Kam!"* He listened to the racket and, at first, told her to go on back to bed. Then, hearing more explosions, he got up and looked out the window. The first thing he saw was an airplane going by, right at about eye level, with a rising sun on it. He shook his head--"I was kind of foggy"--and waited for a moment, then saw another one. He pulled on his pants, ran downstairs, looked outside, and saw more planes. His next reaction was, "They're having an exercise here, and they never told us about it!" Watching the planes circling overhead, he saw their "fish" (big torpedoes) being released and, although Pearl Harbor

* This was Fort Kamehameha, the Coast Artillery base to the south of Hickam Field.


couldn't be seen from where he was, heard loud explosions from that direction and witnessed a lot of black smoke billowing upward. Then he realized, "This is for real! The Japanese are attacking us!" He quickly pulled on his shirt and hat, jumped into his Buick, and headed for the line. The aircraft were all parked there like sitting ducks and, by the time he arrived, were on fire. Only two or three of them could be dispersed; the rest were hit and damaged so severely, they couldn't be moved. As he crossed the hangar line, he saw the Japanese planes flying overhead and strafing people in the area.30

Captain Waldron's next thought was for his men in the barracks, so he started running in that direction, thinking maybe he should get his people out of there. Crossing through one wing of the consolidated barracks trying to get to the second, he heard the whistling sound of falling bombs. He looked up through the open archways and could see the bombs coming, so he dived through that open space on his belly. One of the men running with him was hit by shrapnel, and Waldron never saw him again. He then went to the squadron supply room and was there when that wing was hit by bombs on the third floor. After talking to some of his people, he concluded that the barracks was probably the safest place for them to stay. Since there was nothing he could do there, he started thinking about his wife and children, then began running toward his quarters with the idea of getting his family off the base. He was on foot all this time, because his car had been hit while parked near the flight line. Passing the base hospital, he saw more high-level bombers overhead and a string of bombs coming down, one of which looked like it had his name on it. So down he went again on his belly, beside the curb by the hospital building. A bomb missed the hospital but landed on the front lawn, shaking the ground, and shrapnel flew right over the place where he lay. He then got up, ran on down the road to his quarters, and found a large group of women and children gathered there. He went out into the street, commandeered a truck, got everyone aboard, then said to the driver, "Take these women and children to the hills up behind Honolulu, back up in the hills there. And God bless you."31

On the flight line, 19th Transport Squadron personnel acted to save their two C-33 aircraft, one of which was riddled so badly by enemy machine-gun fire that it later acquired the name "Patches." Lt L. A. Stoddard received the Silver Star for taxiing that aircraft to the safety of a revetment while it was being strafed. The other C-33 was just out of maintenance and had no fuel in its tanks, so PFC Samuel D. Rodibaugh and some other squadron personnel pushed it across the runway to the

Looking out toward the flight line from the courtyard between heavily damaged Wing E (left) and Wing D of the big barracks at Hickam Field
Looking out toward the flight line from the courtyard between heavily damaged Wing E (left) and Wing D of the big barracks at Hickam Field.


Hickam Field personnel man this gun emplacement set up in a bomb crater
Hickam Field personnel man this gun emplacement set up in a bomb crater between Hangars 11-13 and 15-17.

grass area. No sooner had they done this than three Japanese planes came strafing across the field. A ditch had been dug nearby, but the dirt pile was on their side, making it difficult to hide behind, so they just hit the ground and lay motionless. In the meantime, TSgt Arthur C. Townsend obtained a small truck, asked 2d Lt John E. Roesch to help him get some ammunition and a machine gun, after which they both headed out to the bunkers. After dropping off some of the ammunition, they proceeded across the runway, which was under heavy bombardment and machine-gun strafing, and reached the far side of the field, where they set up their machine gun and commenced firing at the Japanese. To cool the weapon, Sergeant Townsend shot a hole in his World War I metal helmet, making a funnel out of it, so that water on the ground nearby could be scooped up and poured into the small hole in the water jacket of the machine gun. This permitted them to fire away until all the ammunition was exhausted. Sergeant Townsend and Lieutenant Roesch later received the Silver Star for heroism in action.32

Another gun emplacement, hastily constructed in front of Hangar 5,

Another gun emplacement, hastily constructed in front of Hangar 5, was manned shortly after the raid by PFC Raymond Perry (left, with binoculars) and Cpl Howard Marquardt of South Dakota. A burned-out aircraft engine, sand bags, table, and debris from the attack made up the construction material for this bunker.


The 23d Bomb Squadron Commander, Capt Laverne G. ("Blondie") Saunders, had been at his quarters (located a block east of the Pearl Harbor channel) dressed to go to mass. As he stepped outside to pick up the Sunday paper, he heard a big blast. That's pretty loud for dynamite, he said to himself, thinking the Navy was doing some construction work again across the channel. Just then two Japanese torpedo bombers flew over his quarters at about a 50-foot altitude, low enough for Saunders to plainly see the pilots' faces. His wife and two sons came running out of the house, so he ordered them to get back inside and lie down. He had seen the rising sun on the planes overhead and "knew we were at war." He jumped in his car and drove down to the hangar line, only to find that a bomb had exploded in the hangar housing his B-17 and set the bomber afire. He then drove down to the consolidated barracks, parked, and ran to the far end where his men were quartered to tell them to get out to the hangar line to save the airplanes. Upon arrival, however, the men found the airplanes locked and the keys in the armament section, which had been bombed and blown sky high. They shot the locks off the aircraft, taxied them out to a dispersed position, then loaded bombs by hand with the help of ropes since the bomb-loading equipment had been damaged. They finally got three B-17s loaded.33

In the BOQ area, 2d Lt Lee E. Metcalfe of the 23d Bomb Squadron had dressed early, was standing on the second floor balcony of his quarters looking out toward the Officers' Club, and was planning to go to the Junior Officer's Mess for breakfast. He looked up and saw planes diving on the end of the Hickam runway, then saw smoke coming up from that area.

He thought at the time that the Navy flyers were certainly making their practice runs look realistic. Just then, one of the planes pulled out of a dive and made a steep climbing turn close to and just above where he was standing. He could see the pilot's face and the red balls painted on the wings of his plane. Next he saw flames coming from Hangar 17, so he headed out to the flight line to see what was going on. There wasn't much he could do, since he had just graduated from flying school and received his wings only a little more than a month before. As he crossed the railroad tracks along the street, he saw pieces of bodies where a bomb had hit. Then a B-17 appeared on the scene, with gear down for a landing, trying to outrun a Japanese fighter that was right on its tail with blazing guns. It was going too fast to land, so it pulled up and went around for another approach. The fighter stayed on its tail, firing a burst whenever in position to do so, but the B-17 managed to land. As it braked to a stop, a burst of machine-gun fire set it ablaze just ahead of the vertical stabilizer. The crew ran from the plane as it burned in two and sagged in the middle. Shortly afterward, the first wave of the attack was over, leaving Hickam with burning aircraft and smoking buildings. Lieutenant Metcalfe started to head back toward his BOQ, wondering what to do next, when a loudspeaker announcement directed all personnel to report to the flight line. He walked to Hangar 4, where his squadron commander was talking to a small group of personnel on the ramp. Someone looked up and saw a formation of aircraft coming in from the ocean over the end of the flight line, and the commander ordered everyone to get off the hangar line at once. The Japanese planes started strafing the B-18s lined up wingtip to wingtip on the taxi strip, setting them afire.34


Above, smoke pours from burning aircraft and buildings at Hickam Field following the Japanese attack. Right, B-18 wreckage on the Hickam flight line. Below, broken water main on 6th Street at Hickam Field with upended car on the left and tilted lamp post on the right. smoke pours from burning aircraft and buildings at Hickam Field following the Japanese attack
B-18 wreckage on the Hickam flight line
broken water main on 6th Street


The skill of the Japanese pilots and the incredibly low altitudes at which they flew made an indelible impression on many survivors of the 7 December 1941 attack. From his BOQ room, 2d Lt Vernon H. Reeves saw a Japanese plane speeding by his window with its wingtip almost touching the ground. It appeared to him to be targeting the door of the Officers' Club and, he thought, "the guy is awful good to be able to do that. He must be an expert. I couldn't do it. I don't know anyone who could do it." Jessie Reed, wife of 2d Lt Stanley J. Reed, looked out the front door of her on-base quarters and saw the planes flying so low, the pilots' goggles were clearly visible. Sgt Robert G. Crouse, a supply sergeant, said he could almost see the expression on their faces. Several people witnessed one Japanese pilot skimming along the parking ramp so low that his aircraft's propeller tips flicked the asphalt and the belly tank scraped off, scooting down the ramp. He finally pulled up, hitting the hills beyond the field, according to one man; crashing into the sea, according to another; getting away with it completely, according to a third. Radio operator Harold S. Kaye observed a similar incident, which he said was also viewed by three other men. Looking between the operations building and Hangars 3 and 5, he saw a Japanese plane touch down on Runway 3, sit there for a fraction of a second, then take off again. "It was as if the Japanese pilot wanted to touch American soil and go back to his carrier with a good story. Whatever his reason, it was a remarkable and brilliant feat of flying," said Kaye.35

In response to an order to "Disperse those planes!", scores of men rushed around on the Hickam flight line to do so, heedless of the rain of bullets. A general's aide was trying to taxi one of the B-18s when strafers put an engine out of commission. It was no easy job to taxi such a heavy plane with only one engine going, but he did it by racing the one engine until it pulled its side of the plane forward, then slamming that brake on hard, which forced the other wing up. Waddling and crawfishing along in this manner, all the time under enemy fire, he finally brought the plane across the landing mat to comparative safety. While fire department personnel fought flames at the tail end of some of the planes, daring crew members jumped upon the wings, disconnected the engines, and pulled their 800- or 900-pound weight to the edge of the apron. Their quick thinking and action saved the expensive engines.36

Base fire department personnel responding to the scene faced a formidable task, with fires blazing in the hangars, aircraft, barracks, and numerous other facilities. Broken water mains from bomb blasts, which also hit the fire station itself, crippled their efforts. PFC Howard E. King, a hoseman, had just manned one of the fire engines when his crew chief, Sgt Joseph J. Chagnon, suddenly yelled, "Look out!" Before he could move, there was a blinding flash, and something hit him like a ton of bricks. From his prone position, he peered through the smoke and could barely make out the twisted engine, Chagnon dying, and his own shattered leg. Fire Chief William L. Benedict also suffered injuries when blown 60 feet by a bomb, then strafed by a Japanese pilot. Searchers at first couldn't find him. Then one young soldier told a chaplain that the fire chief had died in his arms; so Mr. Benedict's name appeared on the list of dead. He was finally found, bleeding in 23 places from shrapnel about two hours after the attack began, and later read his own death notice when a doctor at


The Hickam fire station, wrecked by bombing and machine-gun fire
The Hickam fire station, wrecked by bombing and machine-gun fire.

Tripler showed him a newspaper clipping prematurely announcing his death.37

Under a mutual aid pact, 22 firemen from Honolulu Fire Department companies* responded when the alarm rang, calling for help at Hickam Field. When they reached Hickam's main gate on Kamehameha Highway, the first wave of the attack was over. The fire fighters saw dead, dying, and wounded bodies lying everywhere; the multistory concrete barracks off the main street was burning fiercely; an underground gas main at the base's entrance had been hit and was spewing flame dozens of feet into the air; and aircraft hangars and a quarter-mile long row of planes parked outside were also ablaze. They reported to the Hickam fire station upon arrival but discovered that the station had been bombed and was a shambles. One fire engine had been driven about 20 feet out onto the ramp, apparently trying to respond, but it was badly strafed and the driver was dead, slumped over the steering wheel. The other engine never got out of the station. Thus, the firemen from Engines 4 and 6 (Palama and Kalihi stations) suddenly found themselves to be the only fire-fighting force available. Shortly afterward, however, Engine 1 from Honolulu's Central station on South Beretania Street arrived to assist.38

Hickam's primary water main had been struck by a bomb, leaving an enormous crater which was filling rapidly with water, and no hydrants were functional. Lt Frederick Kealoha, who was in charge of the Honolulu Fire Department companies on the scene, had just decided to try drafting water from the bomb crater when more Japanese planes appeared overhead. He screamed at the fire fighters to take cover, and they scattered in all directions. For the next 15 minutes, "hell rained down from the skies in the form of whistling bombs and screaming machine gun bullets, seemingly strafing everyone and everything in sight." That quarter hour seemed to last forever, as the firemen tried to make themselves invisible to the Japanese. When the second wave of the attack was finally over, the fire fighters hesitantly emerged from their hiding places and began to assess the latest round of death and destruction. Capt

* A "company" in fire department terminology was defined as a single specialized operational unit consisting of one or two pieces of apparatus and the personnel who manned the vehicle(s). Companies were designated according to their function; e.g., engine company (to supply water), ladder company (ventilation and salvage), rescue company, etc. In everyday usage, the term "company" was often deleted, so Engine Company 6, for example, was referred to simply as Engine 6. All of Honolulu's engine companies in 1941 were "two-piece companies" consisting of a pumper (or engine) and a hosewagon. Thus, Engine Company 6 consisted of Pumper 6 and Hosewagon 6.


Honolulu Fire Department pumper with suction hose drawing water from bomb crater next to Hangar 7

Above, Honolulu Fire Department pumper with suction hose drawing water from bomb crater next to Hangar 7. (Denver D. Gray, US Army Military History Institute) Below, firemen battled these oil flames and numerous other fires around the base.

firemen battled these oil flames and numerous other fires around the base


Thomas S. Macy, Capt John Carreira, and Hoseman Harry Tuck Lee Pang were dead. Lieutenant Kealoha and Hoseman Moses Kalilikane were critically wounded; and three others--Hoseman John A. Gilman, Solomon H. Naauao, Jr., and George Correa--were also injured.* The remaining firemen did little fire fighting for awhile, concentrating instead on providing aid to the injured men.39

Honolulu Fire Department apparatus sustained considerable damage from repeated strafings and from bomb fragments. The chemical tank of Wagon 1 was pierced by shrapnel, Pumper 6 had too many bullet holes to count, Wagon 6 was afire, all six tires of Pumper 1 were punctured, and radiators of several units were spewing miniature geysers of water through bullet holes. The resourceful fire fighters got their damaged equipment functioning by using brown soap and toilet paper from nearby latrines to plug holes in the radiators, then began attacking the fires. Three pumpers dropped their suction hoses into the bomb crater that by now was filled with water from the ruptured main, and this was their primary source of water until Hickam's water system was restored in the afternoon. Civilian employees of the Hawaiian Air Depot also helped fight fires in Hickam's shops and hangars. General Mechanic Helper William Garretson quickly converted a gas tanker to a water truck, which was driven to nearby Bishop Point, filled with seawater, and returned in time to help fire fighters save the main shop building. Another mechanic helper, Clifford Oliver, drove a truck into a burning repair building to remove valuable aircraft engines. James Mahr, Robert Awong, Nicolas Lenchanko, Volney McRoberts, and Charles Baker prevented fires in the engineering building from spreading to the adjacent repair hangars. It took many hours of backbreaking labor to finally quell all the fires on the base, and the last Honolulu Fire Department company left at about midnight Sunday.40

Earlier, when the attack began, members of the 58th Bombardment Squadron (Light) immediately reported to the flight line where their disarmed A-20A aircraft had been carefully lined up on Friday. To get the planes flyable required a trip to the Hawaiian Air Depot for machine gun mounts and landing gear tires to replace those being shot up by the strafing Japanese aircraft. The A-20s also had to be loaded with bombs. Sgt William H. Heydt and other ordnance personnel, following established emergency procedures, had gone out to the ammunition storage area, loaded 600-pound bombs on trailers, and pulled them with tractors to the flight line to arm all available aircraft. The sight of "busted fuselages, wings dropping on the ground, tires flat, [and] engines falling out of the wings" stunned them; and Heydt was momentarily at a loss to know what to do, because he could see no planes in any condition to be loaded with bombs. A major then directed him to "take these bombs back and get 300-pound bombs, because they're going to bring out the A-20s." As he spoke, bullets sprayed the area, and they all flattened themselves under one of the trailers. After the enemy aircraft vanished, they crawled out; and the captain of Heydt's outfit, who had appeared on the scene, said that they had to go back and unload the 600-pound bombs. Instead, Heydt drove the trailer alongside a B-17, ordered his men to

* Another fire fighter, Patrick J. McCabe, suffered leg injuries at Hickam Field when a bomb exploded and, like the others involved, later received a Purple Heart; however, in his case, he was injured two days after the attack.


dump the bombs, then returned to the ammo storage area to get 300 pounders, which they then loaded into the A-20s. The men, fearing more strafing attacks, worked faster than they had ever done before. When the Japanese planes returned with machine guns blazing, everyone ran for the grassy area on the other side of the field and hit the ground. A private first class who was "one of the best men on the crew" fell dead right in front of Heydt, a line of bullets running up his back, almost splitting him in two and transforming what had once been a fine young man into a bloody mass of shattered bones and flesh. The 58th Bombardment Squadron subsequently received orders from General Martin to search for and attack a Japanese carrier reported south of Barbers Point. At 1127, the first four A-20As led by Maj William J. Holzapfel, Jr., taxied out and took off. The flight of these Douglas twin-engine bombers was the most inspiring sight of the morning for the downtrodden Hickam troops.41

Douglas A-20 in flight
Douglas A-20 in flight.


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Transcribed and formatted for HTML by Alan Clark, for the HyperWar Foundation