Today marks the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, which thrust America into the Second World War. Take a look at six interesting details you may not know about the morning of December 7th, 1941.
1. Americans fired the first shot.
At 6:37 a.m. on the morning of December 7th, 1941, the Wickes-class destroyer USS Ward attacked and sank a Ko-hyoteki-class midget submarine near the entrance to the harbor, officially making it not only the first shot fired on that day, but the first American shots in the War in the Pacific. The sub’s periscope was spotted above the water by the minesweeper Condor, which alerted the crew of the Ward, who opened fire on the intruder.
2. The whole attack took only two hours.
Ultimately, 2,403 Americans died in the attack and 1,178 were wounded. A total of 18 ships were lost or damaged, including the USS Arizona, which still leaks oil from beneath the war memorial in the harbor. All this damage was inflicted in just two short hours.
3. Twenty-three sets of brothers died aboard the USS Arizona alone.
37 pairs or trios of brothers were assigned to the USS Arizona. Of those, 23 sets were killed, constituting 62 men. As a result, the US Navy actually attempted to discourage the practice of family members serving aboard the same vessels, but no official regulations were ever put in place.
4. Five Americans managed to get airborne.
A total of five Army Air Corps pilots managed to take flight and go after Japanese planes. No one knows for certain how many planes those pilots shot down, but pilots Ken Taylor and George Welch were credited with at least seven of the 29 Japanese aircraft brought down by American guns. Taylor and Welch heard gunfire early in the morning and phoned and told the base to arm and fuel their P-40s. Welch was recommended for the Medal of Honor for his heroism, but it was denied him because his commanding officer said he had taken off without orders.
5. The Japanese really wanted to take out our aircraft carriers.
But they weren’t in port at the time. The Lexington, Enterprise and Saratoga were all out to sea on December 7th. The Imperial Japanese Navy actually knew this at the time, but reasoned their plan to destroy the maximum number of battleships would constitute a decisive enough victory.
6. Americans captured a POW.
After the second wave’s guns had gone dry and the attack was finally over, 64 Japanese attackers were dead. But did you know that the Americans captured the very first Japanese POW of World War II on that day? Kazuo Sakamaki, a submariner, was chosen to attack ships in a midget-class sub. During the mission, his sub was disabled and he tried to blow it up with an explosive charge, which failed to go off. When he dove down to investigate why it didn’t detonate, he passed out. Unconscious, Sakamaki floated to the surface and washed up on shore where he was discovered and captured. He spent the whole war in a POW camp. After the war, he worked for Toyota and died in 1999.