Pearl Harbor Attack

Action Report

CINCPAC (Admiral Chester Nimitz) to Mr. Walter Bruce Howe, Recorder of the Commission

I have attempted to be faithful to the original document: reproducing the form, spellings, and punctuation (including errors), with two exceptions: [1] ship names have been rendered in italics, rather than all UPPER-CASE, as in the original; and [2] the necessary use of a spell-checker to correct my typographic errors has undoubtedly 'corrected' spellings in the original.

  Pearl Harbor, T.H.,
  December 27, 1941.
From: Commander-in-Chief, United States Pacific Fleet.
To: Mr. Walter Bruce Howe, Recorder of the Commission.
Via: (1) The Commander-in-Chief, United States Fleet.
(2) The Chief of Naval Operations.
Subject: Information regarding airplanes.

Attached hereto is a tabulation covering answers to questions asked by the Commission regarding Naval airplanes on the island of Oahu on the day of the Japanese air raid, 7 December 1941.

For ready reference the questions are reproduced below. Brief comment is inserted after each question so as to clarify the tabulation.

(1) "How many of each type of plane is called for in the Navy defense plan?" There is no Naval air defense plan in the literal sense. That is, Navy Department plans call for the basing of certain patrol planes and inshore patrol planes in the Hawaiian and outlying island areas for operation primarily on cooperation with, and in support of, the Fleet's activities in the Pacific area. These patrol types, the first two listed in the attached tabulation, are the only ones which can be considered to apply to the question asked. in addition, however, to the planes regularly based ashore in the area, varying numbers of naval planes of different types were on the island of Oahu for various reasons. Briefly summarized, they consisted of:

Marine planes temporarily here awaiting expeditionary employment.

Battleship and cruiser planes, on board their own ships in harbor or temporarily ashore for facility in training.

Utility planes for service to the Fleet, primarily assistance in gunnery training. These are non-combat types.

Replacement planes in storage.

Planes undergoing major overhaul in the Naval Air Station shops.

(2) "How many planes of each type were present on 7 December?" See comment under (1) above. Note also that the battleships, cruisers and carriers at sea each had their planes with them; that 12 patrol planes not listed here were based at Wake. A further point of interest is that 18 scout-bombing planes from the Enterprise coincidentally arrived during the attack and 4 of these were shot down, 13 of the remaining 14 taking off later in the day to assist in the search for the enemy. Note also that 7 of the patrol planes listed as present on 7 December were already in the air when the raid began.

(3) "Of these how many were ready for immediate use?" The answer to this question includes all planes that were able to fly before the raid began.

(4) "How many of these were not ready for immediate use, and why?" Those not ready for immediate use included the replacement planes in storage, those under major overhaul and those undergoing minor repairs.

(5) "After the raid how many of each type were on hand?" In answering this question, "on hand" is taken to mean still in existence, whether or not immediately able to fly. Planes listed as on hand include all those in storage or under major overhaul (none of which were damaged by the raid) and all planes damaged in the raid which it has since been possible to put back in flying condition.

(6) "Of these how many were usable?" It is assumed that this question means, "how many planes was it possible to fly during the remainder of the day after the raid was finished?" Many, as shown by the tabulation, were put back in commission during the succeeding few days, but during the day of the raid it was, with few exceptions, possible to fly only those planes left undamaged of those which were ready for immediate use before the raid.

(7) "How many planes of each type took to the air on December 7?" it will be noted that almost all planes that could be flown on that day were flown. Exceptions were planes ready to fly too late in the day and planes whose access to take-off positions was blanked off.

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7
          Reasons not ready      
Type Number
Dec. 7
ready for
not ready
for immed-
iate use
planes in
on hand
that took
to air
7 Dec.
*185 69 61 8 0 0 8 45 11 11
*72 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Fighters 0 24 10 14 9 4 1 15 0 0
0 60 41 19 6 6 7 29 14 13
0 2 0 2 1 1 0 2 0 0
and Cruiser
0 92 53 39 33 6 0 82 11 6
Utility and
0 54 37 17 3 14 0 48 16 8
TOTAL 257 301 202 99 52 31 16 221 52 38
* Two-thirds of these planes are operating planes; the remainder are replacement planes.

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Last updated: April 25, 2000

Compiled and formatted by Patrick Clancey