Monday, June 12, 2023

The Second Pearl Harbor Attack

           While searching for a bit of information on Pearl Harbor, I learned of Japanese actions in Hawaii in the weeks after their infamous raid on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Actions I had never heard about.

The Japanese failed in their most critical objective: the destruction of the American aircraft carriers. Worse, they failed to destroy the oil reserves at Oahu, and the damage to docks and yards was slight.

In the weeks after December 7, Japanese submarines continued to patrol off Hawaiian beaches. At sunset on December 15, shells were fired into the port facilities at Kahului on Maui. Three projectiles caused $700 damage at a pineapple cannery. On the night of December 30, subs returned to Kahilui and also hit Nawiliwili on Kauai and Hilo on the Big Island.

On the night of January 28, 1942, a US Army transport carrying soldiers between islands crossed the path of a Japanese submarine. The sub attacked, killing twenty-four of the sixty men on board.

Needing information on the U.S. fleet’s ability, the Japanese Navy considered a second attack necessary. This attack would be carried out with long-range flying boats refueled by submarines.

Three objectives included assessing the damage of the original attack to the infrastructure at Oahu, disrupting salvage efforts, and terrorizing the population. If successful, the Japanese would carry out additional raids.

They planned a nighttime raid, launching flying boats from the Wotje Atoll in the Marshall Islands. Their Kawanishi H8k had an extreme range that allowed them to fly the 1,900 miles to French Frigate Shoals in the northwestern Hawaiian Islands. There they would rendezvous with submarines for refueling. The planes would then fly to Oahu to carry out the attack.

Their primary target was the Pearl Harbor naval base docks to disrupt salvage and repair efforts. Additionally, they were to make careful observations to determine American capabilities. The date of this attack was March 4, 1942, when a full moon offered maximum visibility.

The attack was doomed from the start. Only two aircraft were sent. A submarine to be positioned south of French Frigate Shoals to give a weather report disappeared in mid-February. The moonlight proved to be inadequate.

Unable to see Oahu due to a wartime blackout, one pilot presumably dropped his bombs into the ocean. The other bombed the slopes of Tantalus Peak, an extinct volcano cinder cone north of Honolulu, where it narrowly missed Roosevelt High School. The detonations 900 feet away shattered the school’s windows.

Honolulu’s President Theodore Roosevelt High School has the distinction of surviving an enemy bombing attack. The National WWII Museum

In the days before the attack, American codebreakers warned that the Japanese were preparing raids and would refuel at French Frigate Shoals. American ships patrolled the French Frigate Shoals for the remainder of the war, denying the Japanese further use of the base to carry out reconnaissance missions. This left them unable to continue observing U.S. Navy activity or to keep track of the American carriers. These changes would prove pivotal when, three months later, the two nations’ fleets converged at Midway.

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