Sunday, December 2, 2007

A report on the Pearl Harbor attack on December 7, 1941

Major R. H. "Harry" Lodge, USA, tells his story.

R.H. "Harry" Lodge, Division Overseer of Oahu Sugar Company, tells his story of December 7, 1941. Lodge was also a brilliant photographer.

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor came as a sudden shock to all of us. How the military could have been so unprepared is one of the puzzling aspects that has not yet been solved. Months prior to the attack, the F.B.I., Army and Navy Intelligence had made studies and census of the plantation workers living on the perimeter of Pearl Harbor which was part of the Waipio Peninsula under my supervision. A few of these workers were Japanese, the balance Filipinos. It appeared obvious that the reason for the study was to plan the evacuation of these people in case of attack. Yet the military, particularly the Navy was caught totally unprepared...

My wife, daughter, and I were having breakfast a few minutes before 8 o'clock when the sound of explosions and the roar of airplanes broke the peace and quiet of that Sunday morning. At the time we were not greatly concerned because there had been many realistic war games prior to this. However we soon realized this was something different. We went outside for a better look. A lone plane buzzed the area and strafed the sugar mill. It had the rising sun on the fuselage. My wife dashed in the house and turned on the radio in time to hear the announcer repeat several times that we were under attack. About this time there were several explosions in the cane field in front of our house which later proved to be exploding shells from our own guns. A sudden blast shook the house as shell blew a hole in the paved road back of us, (in front of Fleener's) and showered our house with gravel. Our dog was hit by a piece of shrapnel.

The phone rang and I was told to evacuate all the employees living in the Pearl Harbor area. After locating a couple of truck drivers, we took the old bus used by the Oahu Sugar Co. athletic teams, and a labor truck and hurried to the Waipio peninsula with me leading the parade in my car. The plantation road follows the shore line and Japanese planes were coming in waves, crossing directly over us and blasting away at shipping and installations on Ford Island and Pearl Harbor. Several bursts of machine gun bullets sprayed the road just ahead of my car. The air was thick with shrapnel but by some miracle nobody was hit although all three vehicles had a few dents. With the help of my water luna, E.M. Faye, we rounded up the men with some difficulty as many had taken cover in the cane fields.

Once the men were evacuated I took shelter under one of the many old keawe trees that leaned out over the shore line. By this time it appeared that every battleship, cruiser and destroyer was either afire, exploding or already on the bottom with their superstructure leaning at a crazy angle above water. Great columns of black smoke belched upwards from both warships and shore installations, and a row of planes parked on Ford Island blazed in a holocaust of flaming gasoline as the attacking planes caught them like sitting ducks. The noise of exploding bombs and gunfire was deafening.

The battleship Nevada which was still afloat passed a few hundred yards in front of me heading for the Harbor mouth. When almost opposite, it was hit by a torpedo carried under the fuselage of one of the attacking planes. There was a terrific blast which blew a hole in the bow of the ship big enough to drive a car through. Simultaneously several bombs appeared to hit the deck, and the great battleship began to sink.

To show how unprepared the navy was, there was not one commissioned officer aboard. The ranking sailor on the Nevada was a chief Petty Officer who immediately beached the ship in comparatively shallow water. She settled on the bottom with the decks awash. This was the first ship to be salvaged in the weeks following the attack.

Shortly after this incident, a Japanese plane was hit by gunfire and came crashing through a gnarled old keawe tree not far from where I crouched. The pilot was literally torn to fragments. This was the only plane I saw shot down in this area.

The men returned to work on December 11th. and we gradually resumed normal operations. There was no great damage to my section of the plantation but for a long time we were locating unexploded shells in the cane fields. Some time after the attack I found an unexploded bomb on the edge of the cane field bordering Pearl Harbor. I called one of my irrigators and told him to guard it until I returned with a naval officer from a nearby installation. He was not to handle it and under no circumstances allow anyone else to touch it. I was about ten minutes getting back with the officer. As we rounded the corner of the cane field, my irrigator was hefting the weight of the bomb in his two hands. When he saw us, he hurriedly dropped it. Fortunately this was one of those times when the bomb did not explode.

In conclusion it should be stated that there was no act of sabotage by the local Japanese.

(signed) R.H. Lodge