Ateneo De Naga high school 1980

Those who do not remember history are bound to live through it again.

Monday, December 07, 2009

The ignored warnings that will live in infamy

Is today (December 7th) another ordinary date in your calendar? Another mundane Monday where you drove to work listening to the music in your car radio hoping the drive and the day would pass through uneventful?

Back in December 7, 1941, a young lieutenant named Lt. Kermit Tyler was driving to work at around 3am expecting to have another uneventful day. Lt. Tyler was then assigned as a pursuit officer at the information center in Fort Shafter, Honolulu, Hawaii. While driving, he turned on his radio and leisurely listened to Hawaiian music that had been playing the whole night at the radio station. A friend from a U.S. bomber command told Lt. Tyler that whenever Hawaiian music is played continuously during the night, it is almost certain that a flight of bombers coming from the U.S. mainland are heading to Hawaii. The radio signals from radio station KGMB Honolulu acted as a homing device for military aircraft flying to Hawaii. These aircraft have Radio Directional Finders (RDF) equipment which is used to find the direction of the source of radio signals.

At Opana Radar station located at Kamehameha highway in the island of Oahu, Pvt. Joseph Lockard and Pvt. George E. Elliot Jr. woke up at 3:45am. Part of their guard duty is to operate their SCR-270-B radar from 4am until 7am. After 7am, an army truck was scheduled to bring in their replacements and take them to Kawailoa for breakfast.

The radars were operated between 4AM to 7Am because General Short (commander responsible for the defense of military installations in Hawaii) believed that if the Japanese would attack U.S. forces in Hawaii, the attack would take place between those hours.

At 6am, the Japanese strike force headed by vice admiral Chuichi Nagumo was about 230 miles from Pearl Harbor. Carriers Akagi, Kaga, Soryu, Hiryu, Shokaku and Zuikaku pointed their noses to the winds and launched the first wave of planes. A second strike group took off from the Japanese carriers at 7:45am when the first strike group had reached a position of about 30 miles from their target.

At 7am, Pvt. Lockard started to power down the radar equipment at Opana station but Pvt. Elliot told Pvt Lockard that their platoon sergeant have given them permission to keep the system operating so that he (Pvt. Elliot) can learn how to operate the oscilloscope of the radar. Pvt. Lockard was an experienced radar operator while Pvt. Lockard had only three months experience under his belt. (Some historical records say Pvt. Lockard had only three weeks of radar experience).

At 7:02am, while Elliot was sitting at the radar controls, he saw a large blip in the oscilloscope. He asked Lockard, “What’s this?” Lockard thought that the unit had either malfunctioned or was giving out false reading. Lockard quickly tested the unit and determined that everything seemed to be functioning perfectly. Both of them calculated that the blip was a large group of aircraft approaching 3 degrees east approximately 137 miles out to sea. Elliot suggested that they notify Information Center. “Don’t be crazy”, Lockard said. “Our problem ended at 7 o’clock." However, Elliot was insistent and so Lockard told him, “Well, go ahead and send it if you like”.

Elliot called the information center at Fort Shafter and a switchboard operator named Pvt. Joseph McDonald answered the phone. McDonald told Elliot that the plotters at the information center had already left for breakfast. Elliot told McDonald, “There is a large number of planes coming in from the north 3 points east”. McDonald replied, “I am not sure what to do. There is nobody here.” At that point the connection was broken.

McDonald saw Lt. Kermit Tyler sitting at the plotting table. He walked to him and said, “I just received a call from 6QN Opana reporting a large number of planes coming in from the north 3 points east.” The Lieutenant said that there was nothing to get excited about. McDonald returned to the switchboard and called back Opana radar unit and spoke to Lockard. McDonald relayed the Lieutenant's lack of concern. Lockard was excited and stated, “Hey Mac, there is a heck of a big flight of planes coming in and the whole scope is covered” McDonald told Joseph Lockard to hold on and again returned to the plotting table to talk to Lt. Tyler. McDonald said, “Sir, this is the first call that I have ever received like this. This sounds serious! Do you think that we ought to do something about it? Shall I call back the plotters?” The Lieutenant said that it was probably a flight of B-17 bombers from the states. Pvt. Lockard asked to talk directly with the Lieutenant. The Lieutenant took the phone and after Pvt. Lockard told the officer what he saw, Lt. Tyler spoke the sentence that will forever haunt the young officer and dismayed the military. Lt. Tyler told Pvt. Lockard:

“Don’t worry about it.”

After the Lieutenant got off the phone, Joseph McDonald asked if he should recall the plotters and call Wheeler Field. The Lieutenant replied, "Don't worry about it".

McDonald felt for sure that the call was serious and he thought of calling Wheeler airfield where numerous U.S. fighter planes were at. But McDonald feared of being court marshaled if he goes around his lieutenant. “Besides, who would listen to a private”, McDonald thought to himself.

Back in the Opana radar station, Elliot continued to track the large formation of aircraft until they were approximately 22 miles from the Oahu coastline. At 7:39am, the large formation disappeared from the radar scope because they have entered the mountains of Oahu. Five minutes later, a truck showed up to picked up Lockard and Elliot to take them to Kawailoa.

About half way to Kawailoa, Elliot and Lockard was surprised to see a truckload of soldiers wearing world war one doughboy helmets and hurriedly heading towards Opana. When they arrived at Kawailoa, they learned about the attack at Pearl Harbor. Both of them looked at each other and knew that the flight they tracked was the Japanese attack force.

They were ordered to collect their gear and head back to Opama. When they got back to Opama, they were informed about a rumor that Japanese paratroopers were dropped in Oahu wearing blue denim fatigues—which was exactly what Lockard and Elliot were wearing. There was an order to shoot on sight anyone wearing blue denims! They immediately stripped down to their shorts and t-shirts and stayed that way until they were given a fresh supply of tan-colored standard issue military uniforms.

At 7:49am, attack commander Mitsuo Fuchida looked down on Pearl Harbor and saw that there were no aircraft carriers but also saw that there were no U.S. aircraft flying to intercept them. He ordered his telegraph operator to tap, “to to to” (Attack). Then tap: “to ra, to ra, to ra”, (which meant that surprise was achieved).

(Tora is Japanese for “tiger”. The word “to” is the initial syllable of the Japanese word totsugeki, meaning “Charge” or “Attack”. The word “ra” is initial syllable of raigeki, meaning “torpedo attack”).

At 10am, the second wave of Japanese fighters headed back to their carriers. Japanese pilots urged a third strike hoping to destroy the fuel tanks that supplies the ships and airplanes. Japanese commanders viewed the attack as successful and ruled out a third strike. The commanders were concerned of a possible retaliation by the U.S. aircraft carriers whose location was unknown then to the Japanese. By 1pm, the Japanese strike force turned and headed for mainland Japan.

The following day, United States declared war against Japan.

After the U.S. navy court concluded its investigation in August 1942, Lt. Kermit Tyler was cleared of any wrong doing and no disciplinary action was taken against him. It was determined that Lt. Tyler was assigned at the information center with little or no training, no supervision and no staff to work with. It is believed that Lt. Tyler did not tell Pvt. Lockard over the phone that the U.S. aircraft was using the signal from the Honolulu radio station as a homing device due to security concerns. There was an active Japanese spy network in Hawaii during that time. Tyler retired with a rank of Lieutenant Colonel in 1961.

Pvt. Joseph McDonald passed away in 1994. He was given posthumously a medal of Commendation on August 19, 2005. It was presented to the McDonald family in East Hartford, Connecticut.

Pvt. Joseph Lockard was later appointed to officer candidate school and earned the Distinguish Service Medal. He is now 87 living in Lower Paxton township in Pennsylvania.

Pvt. George Elliot Jr. served in the U.S. army until 1945. He worked for New Jersey Bell Telephone company for 33 years before retiring. He died on December 2003 in Port Charlotte, Florida at age 85.

Capt. Mitsuo Fuchida became a Christian and an evangelist preacher. He toured the United States as a member of the Worldwide Christian Mission Army of Sky Pilots. In 1960, he became a U.S. citizen. Fuchida spent the rest of his life telling people what God has done to him. He died on May 30, 1976.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nicely done account.

George McDonald
son of Pvt Joseph McDonald

11:26 AM  

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