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
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.
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.