Skip to main content

Note:  I originally posted this on 12/7/07.  Several folks have emailed me to re-post today.  

This is one of several diaries today on Pearl Harbor.  If you're looking for a syrupy retrospective, stop reading now.

First, the good news.  The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was an unmitigated failure.  Of all the ships damaged during the attack, only three were total losses; The Arizona and Utah remain where they sank, and the Oklahoma floundered being towed to the West Coast after re-floating.  All other ships damaged in the attack were repaired and returned to active service before the end of the war.

Adding irony to the failure is that the Japanese attack flew over an undefended target that, had it been destroyed, would have crippled the US Navy.  This target was the Oil Storage facility containing petroleum reserves for the entire US Pacific fleet.  A half-dozen conventional bombs would have stranded the Navy in port for at least six months.  (Imagine the course of the war without the battle of Coral Sea or Midway.)

Many retrospectives look at WWII as the "Good War", without the senselessness or barbarity of recent conflicts.  But most of this is due to the censorship which existed at the time.  In fact, the censorship and PR management of today's war is a pale imitation of Government control exercised over the media during WWII

War has always been a terrible business.  And death in a Metal can has a unique horror.  Imagine for a moment how Fox or CNN would have covered the following (from a survivor's oral history):  

   When her fires were extinguished late Monday Dec. 8, Guards were posted on the shoreline of Ford Island, next to "Battleship Row".  Jittery over rumors of invasion, Sentries at first didn't hear the noise.  WeeVee (West Virginia) Marine Bugler Dick Fiske recalls: "When it was quiet you could hear it...bang, bang, then stop.  Then bang, bang, pause.  At first I thought it was a loose piece of rigging slapping against the hull".  Then I realized men were making that sound-taking turns making noise".  After that night, no one wanted guard duty, but someone had to do it.  Bang, bang.  It went on for 16 days, slowing in frequency until Christmas Eve.  Then silence.

It was reported that several MPs had nervous breakdowns listening to the constant banging of trapped survivors.  The Navy issued earplugs to help them cope.  Continuing:

   

The adjacent Oklahoma was upside down, and holes were drilled in her bottom to allow a precious few to escape their coffin.  The pressure of water inside the hull, pushing up on air pockets, meant as soon as the hull was breached little time was left before remaining air escaped.  Shipmates often drowned in front of rescuers eyes before a hole could be made large enough for escape.  Cutting torches ignited trapped gasses (Methane from decomposing bodies) and exploded, killing more. Jack-hammers jammed and men drowned while looking at a small hole of light. Knowledgeable workers quickly learned to "rip open" hull plates fast to insure victims survival.  A macabre Naval "C-section", with the same purpose.

Heart-wrenching to think that a sizable fraction of casualties from Pearl Harbor didn't die on Dec. 7th, but several days after the attack.

But the worst wasn't seen till months later:

   

Late Spring 1942 found Navy salvage teams finally getting to work on the West Virginia.  An inventive series of tremic cement patches were fitted to her port side, and enough water pumped out to partially float the once grand ship. BB48 was nudged across the Harbor into dry-dock and the grim task of finding bodies began.  For Commander Paul Dice, compartment A-111 was expected to be like the rest: Put on gas masks, place some goo into a body bag and let the Medical boys worry about identification.  

   They had seen it all, but this compartment was different.  Dice first noticed the interior was dry and flashlight batteries and empty ration cans littered the floor.  A manhole cover to a fresh water supply was opened.  Then he saw the calendar.  It was 12"x14" and marked with big red Xs that ended December 23.  Hardened salvage workers wept uncontrollably as they realized the fate of these men.  Word quickly spread among salvage crews: Three men had lived for 16 days to suffer the most agonizing deaths among the 2800 victims at Pearl Harbor.

   The Navy told their Parents they were killed in the attack on the 7th.

May they Rest In Peace.

Originally posted to railsplitter on Tue Dec 08, 2009 at 04:31 AM PST.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site