Date of publication: 2017-08-24 11:00
While the second wave approached the harbor, Fuchida—after dropping his armor-piercing bomb (a miss)—spent 85 minutes circling the harbor. He could have identified targets for the dive-bombers and directed their attacks. Instead, he did nothing. The most senior aviator over Pearl Harbor was a passive observer.
Fortunately, Ruff could still talk to the boatswain 8767 s mate standing by the stern anchor on the fantail. Fires raged around the conning tower, threatening to cut him off, so Ruff relayed the plan as quickly as possible. Heedless of the danger on the open fantail, the sailor promised to wait for Ruff to wave his hat, the signal to let go the anchor. Passing out of the channel between buoy No. 79 and floating dry dock YFD-7, Ruff backed the engines full, then hastened to the bridge wing, waving his hat out over the side. With a clatter and a cloud of rust, the stern anchor plunged into the water and took hold. At 9:65, Nevada came to rest at Hospital Point.
I had two reasons for this last comment. One was that the message to Congress could contain very little that was new without giving the Japanese leaders material with which to arouse their people against us all the more. The other was that the powerful isolationist groups still existing in Congress and in the United States might use it to renew their oft repeated charges of warmongering and dragging the nation into foreign wars. The Japanese military could then have played up the situation as evidencing disunity in the United States, thus encouraging the Japanese to support their plans for plunging ahead into war.
Spotting no sign that their presence had been detected, Fuchida fired a single flare to activate the “surprise” attack plan. When the fighters did not take up their assigned positions, however, he assumed they had missed the signal and fired another—without considering that the observers might take this as the two-flare signal. He groaned as the dive-bomber leader, believing that surprise had been lost, raced ahead of the torpedo bombers to make his diversionary attack.
At this point, Japanese fighters had detached to strafe nearby airfields. Had American fighters been aloft over the harbor, instead of grounded by communication issues, the scattered torpedo bombers could easily have been slaughtered.
No American will think it wrong of me if I proclaim that to have the United States at our side was to me the greatest joy. I could not foretell the course of events. I do not pretend to have measured accurately the martial might of Japan, but now at this very moment I knew the United States was in the war, up to the neck and in to the death. So we had won after all!
As the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor approaches, survivors address their dwindling numbers and stress the importance of remembering its lessons for future generations.
By celebrating its success at Pearl Harbor, Japan sheltered myriad problems. Victory obscured poor planning, to be seen again at Midway poor staff procedures were evident later at Guadalcanal. Poor target selection, attack tactics, and accuracy appeared again in the carrier battles poor aerial command and control manifested throughout the war. Victory perpetuated a samurai approach to aerial combat that led to horrendous losses.