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A WORLD WAR II SUMMARY: Page 1 · Page 2 · Page 3
By 0830, the first attack wave had spent itself. A lull settled over the island as men on the ground prepared for more attacks. Some American pilots managed to fuel and arm a few surviving P-40 fighters and get them into the air. Fuchida was still airborne over the harbor, recording observations and waiting for the last stragglers of the first wave to complete their work. He was still there when Lt. Commander Shigekazu Shimazaki led the 167 aircraft of the second attack wave into the air over Oahu (Fuchida returned to Akagi with dozens of shrapnel holes in his plane). The second wave left their carriers about an hour after the first wave, and included additional dive bombers tasked with striking warships, and high level bombers assigned to bomb air fields. First to be hit was the air station at Kaneohe, followed quickly by Bellows Field, and then Pearl Harbor itself. Again dive bombers swept in from the east (the direction of the prevailing winds), bombing the dockyards and moored ships which had escaped the first wave's attention.

Almost as the second wave arrived, there occurred a sight which both Americans and Japanese agreed was the most stirring of the day; Nevada, which had been working up extra boiler pressure for 50 minutes, slowly backed out of her mooring position on battleship row. Nearly crashing through a dredge line behind her, she slowly twisted left out into the channel without the aid of tugboats. Then, as the second wave arrived, all 34,000 tons of battleship slowly picked up speed at she moved down the channel past the blazing Arizona. The effect was electric. From miles away people could see the "tops" of the Nevada moving across the harbor. From the hills nearby witnesses had a clear view as one of the battleships made a run for the sea. From across the harbor, men saw the U.S. flag swinging from the stern of the largest ship to get underway during the attack. To the Japanese, the sight was no less stirring. They had been told that the best opportunity would come if any large ships attempted to run for the open sea. If that happens, they were told, sink that vessel in the main channel and you will paralyze the whole American fleet for months. So the stage was set for a vicious attack which was not long in coming. As Nevada cleared into the channel, groups of dive bombers descended on her, scoring several hits. After several more minutes she approached the narrow gap between the floating dry-dock and the dredge Turbine, when yet another wave of bombers crashed down on her. This last attack brought her damage total to five direct bomb hits in USS West Virginia | Click to see imageaddition to the original torpedo hit she had suffered during the first wave. As she passed down the channel, the signal tower above the docks communicated the final word on the issue of escape for Nevada. The signal flags read "Stay clear of channel." Orders were orders, so after squeezing past the dredge, Nevada was gently grounded in the mud off Hospital Point.

Throughout Nevada's sortie, more dive bombers arrived in the skies over the Harbor area. Unlike the first wave which were given fairly specific targets, the dive bombers of the second wave had free rein to choose warship targets of opportunity. Groups of them circled high over the harbor, choosing warships which appeared valuable yet undamaged. The dockyards and main dry-dock came under some of the heaviest pressure. Moored in the main dockyard area were numerous cruisers and destroyers. Immediately south of 1010 Dock was Dry-dock Number One, which held the U.S. Pacific Fleet's flagship Pennsylvania. This battleship, which was the sister ship of Arizona, sat high and dry on stocks, with two destroyers, the Cassin and Downes, perched immediately forward of her. All of them had armed during the first wave, so once they attracted the attention of the second wave's dive bombers, they were able to send up a fairly dangerous curtain of flak. Pennsylvania was only struck by one bomb, but Cassin and Downes were totally destroyed by bombing and fires. The destroyer Shaw, in the nearby floating dry-dock was also a highly visible target, and before long she too was in flames.

By the end of the second wave, areas other than Kaneohe and Pearl Harbor had been raided again. Wheeler and especially Hickam Field were subjected to further strafing and bombing attacks. The installations and aircraft hangars at Hickam Field were some of the final target areas for Shimazaki's high level bombers, as were the hangars at Ford Island. Dozens of other places and ships suffered dive bomb and strafing attacks including the tender Curtiss, the cruiser Raleigh (already torpedoed during the first wave) and several destroyers who managed to sortie during the attack. The later often had to run a gauntlet of strafing fighters, drifting wreckage, floating sailors and burning ships.

By 0930 the attacks were giving way to sporadic strafing. Fires on board Shaw finally reached her forward magazines, disintegrating the entire front of the ship in one of the most dramatic (and most photographed) events of the day. Over at the dockyard the cruiser St. Louis backed out of her berth next to Honolulu and quickly violated the harbor master's usual speed limit. Once clear of the docks, she reversed her engines and quickly worked up to 20 knots, smashing through the dredging line which connected Turbine to Ford Island before speeding out to sea through the main channel.

It was 0945 before the last of the strafing planes left for their rendezvous point northwest of Oahu. The survivors of the attack were left to fight fires, tend the wounded and prepare for an invasion which all were sure would come. The anticipated invasion never came, but the fires at Pearl Harbor burned for days, and navy engineers were salvaging wrecked ships for years. On board the Japanese task force Admiral Nagumo and his staff nervously awaited Fuchida's attack report, uneasy about the inevitable debate about whether or not to retire and sail back to Japan. Once all of the aircraft were retrieved, those fit for duty (74 returning planes were damaged) were re-armed for an possible carrier action. The men were issued fresh cakes and tea, and after talking with his flight leaders Fuchida met briefly with Genda, Nagumo and the staff. Even then it was apparent that Nagumo intended to keep to the letter of his orders, and Fuchida was dismissed after a quick description of the attack. Sometime after this briefing, the orders on Akagi went out: "Preparations for attack canceled." There would be no follow up attack, and no hunt for the undamaged American carriers.USS Nevada | Click to see imagesFuchida stormed onto the bridge of Akagi to complain but to no avail. Nagumo "felt like a man who had staked his fortune on the turn of a card" and he had no intention of tempting fate. So fortunately for the United States, the aggressive plans formulated by Genda and Fuchida were shelved. These included plans for tracking down and destroying the American carriers they knew must be nearby, plans for bombing the fuel tank farms at Pearl Harbor, and plans for destroying the repair shops known to be among the surviving dockyard buildings. Fuchida was so incensed about the withdrawal that he refused to speak with Nagumo for the rest of the return voyage.

Back in Japan, Rear Admiral Matome Ugaki wrote "Last night a telegram came in that the task force was withdrawing . . . not without being criticized as the quick pace of a fleeing thief and also as being contented with a humble lot." It should be remembered however, that most of the attack planning failed to consider the possibility of complete and total surprise, which left the task force commanders with too many marginal options. Ironically, nothing the Japanese could have done would have prevented the inevitable. The American war machine was so immense compared to Japan's local industries, that even the greatest successes would only have delayed the war's end. Almost everything, from Japan's selective (and slow) process of pilot training, to their methods of intelligence assessment (too often based on wishful thinking) impeded their ability to force any kind of successful negotiations.

Considering the overall war program, the final tally of destruction at Pearl Harbor was surprisingly light, proving Genda's opinion that the shallow harbor would facilitate repairs. Only two American battleships were permanently lost, and of the eight present during the attack, four were armed and at sea within two weeks of the attack. One senior U.S. officer later commented that really, all that happened on Oahu was that the Japanese bombed a bunch of "old equipment." Considering the galvanizing effect the attack had on American public opinion, the end results were not really worth the enormous risk. This was recognized even by many Japanese officers and pilots. One pilot later captured the paradox of Japan's victory in battle with the blackly ironic quip that maybe the U.S. Government should also have given medals to them as thanks for their help in the mobilization effort.

USS Arizona, sunk at her mooring
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