MOMENT OF DECISION:


Lyle A. Jackson, Seaman 2/Class, Kaneohe NAS


All of the men in Barracks #2 arose to reveille on that sunny Sunday morning at the Air Station. We prepared for the days work as our section had the duty that day. After hitting the chow line we sauntered back to the barracks area to await the eight o'clock muster. A man walking by announced that the muster would be held down at the Hanger. It was about 7:45 AM when we all began walking in that direction.

My Squadron VP14 had a total of 12 PBY aircraft......three were anchored out in the bay; six were at Hanger #3 being worked on and the other three were out on dawn patrol. VP11 and VP12 had planes parked in and around Hanger #1 as some were being worked on.

A few minutes after we began our walk to the Hanger for muster, we saw several planes fly over and just assumed it was the Army holding maneuvers. Even the smoke rising from the vicinity of the airfield was assumed to be smoke bombs used for target practice. I and the other men decided to returned to the barracks area and lay down on the grass to watch the action. Soon the announcement came over the loud speaker. "This is no drill.....Take cover." I ran into the barracks and heard another announcement coming over the loud speaker. "Report to the Hangar area to fight fires." I took off running to the Hanger. Passing an ordinance truck I noticed a man lying on the truck with one leg missing.....he was laughing and joking. This was the first of many casualties I would see on that fateful day. I approached one of the planes parked near the Hangar and heard a voice from inside yelling for help in getting the guns out so that they could be manned. I ran to the waist-hatch of the plane and the man tossed out a 50 caliber machine gun into my arms. I yelled at him "what do I do with it?" He yelled back "mount it and shoot it!" I then ran to the construction site of Hanger #4 and found a steel post to mount the gun on. However, there was no ammo for it so I ran back into Hanger #3 to get ammo from an ordinance truck parked inside. The ammo in the truck had to be belted I and a couple of other men began using the old hand operated belting machine on the deck when some one yelled "Close the Hangar doors, here they come again." I ran for the door. No one else came to help and by that time the planes were strafing and bombing so I ran back to the ordinance truck and dove under it. I remember hearing a lot of earsplitting sounds while I was under the truck. The sound of glass breaking from the bomb that hit just outside the Hangar caused me to worry if anyone was hit by flying glass. The noise finally stopped. My next memory was that of water hitting me in the face and the realization that I was laying in a water puddle....the sprinkler had gone on! I jumped up and ran out to where I had mounted the machine gun but when I got there it was gone. Someone had taken it. The attacking planes were returning again to strafe the area so I jumped in among some steel girders piled up for the construction of Hangar #4 and I waited there until the attack subsided. Next I ran out to an area between the runway and the Hangar area that was still covered with trees and underbrush. I hid beneath a small tree and was soon joined by a couple other men. One was carrying a submachine gun and the other carrying the ammo. One man fired the gun and it bucked so badly that he couldn't hold it down, so I held the machine gun on his shoulder and steadied it with his hands so it could be fired. We continued to fire as long as there was something to fire at. We never did find out if we had scored any hits. After a short lull in the attack a low flying enemy plane came over the Bay, crossing the airstrip and apparently heading for Hangar #3. Everyone on the base opened fire. The plane pulled up into a stall and dropped over on it's left wing and crashed into "Kansas Hill" as it is now known. It created a ball of fire and a cloud of dust that was plainly visible from my position. The sight of that enemy plane crashing caused such a release of tension in me that I began laughing hysterically. I finally controlled myself and gradually came back to reality. The other two men and I felt certain that we were partly responsible for the enemy plane crash.

The three of us stayed huddled in the brush for the next two days and nights. The rain began on Monday and it created a swamp and made the waiting for the next attack almost unbearable. Food was not to be had except for the coke and candy we could get from the machines in the Hangars. These machines had to be broken to get their contents. But I lay huddled, wet and hungry through that long night. The stories of landing parties and guns going off at random shooting at anything that moved made it almost suicidal to move from the spot where I laid. After two nights of terror a man came by passing the word that food was available at the Administration Building. The wives of the servicemen had set up a food line of cornbread and coffee. It tasted like steak and potatoes to me! On the third day all men were called to muster to get things under some semblance of control again. Sixteen men had been killed during that attack. They were buried on the base the next day.

The three planes in the Bay were sunk by the enemy. All of the planes on the ramp and in the Hangars were destroyed. The only planes that were intact on the station were the three that were on patrol. Those planes did not return until that night after the attack. Hangar #1 had been completely destroyed by fire and Hangar #3 was bombed. The ramp was strewn with wreckage of planes and equipment. As I stood and surveyed the unbelievable destruction before me I suddenly realized what I had been through that fateful Sunday, December 7, 1941.

A few days after the attack I remember a seaplane coming in that was carrying Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox. I helped beach the plane. Secretary Knox surveyed the damage and then proceeded to Pearl Harbor to inspect the damage there. Meanwhile, I stood guard with the Navy Patrol and was later assigned to the U. S. Marines to stand watch.

Eventually new planes were brought to Kaneohe from the States and I was assigned to a flight crew. I remained on this duty until PBY's were phased out and PB4Y-1 planes were brought in. At this time I decided to go into the Headquarters Squadron Maintenance Unit to do ground maintenance on these planes.

On December 7, 1971 I was once again walking beneath those huge trees at Kaneohe, thinking of the roll this Island base had played in my life that morning. These thoughts played on my emotions and caused a chill to run up and down my spine. The realization came to me that I had fought to protect this base from enemy hands. I lived a thousand lives and I died a thousand deaths in those few hours just thirty years ago. I feel strongly that the men at Kaneohe Naval Air Base on December 7, 1941 did an outstanding job in the defense of our country and should be commended. Percentage wise there were more men lost at Kanehoe Naval Air Base that day than any other unit on the island.

1999 taskforce-17@msn.com