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“No One Avoided Danger”—first of three

12 December 2020

“No One Avoided Danger”: NAS Kaneohe Bay and the Japanese Attack on 7 December 1941, J. Michael Wenger, Robert J. Cressman, and John F. di Virgilio, 2015, ISBN 978-1-61251-924-1, 186 pp.

“No One Avoided Danger” is the first in a unique trilogy centered upon the infamous attack on Pearl Harbor which brought the U.S. into World War II—hard. The authors created a unique approach, as well. Each of the three authors possessing expertise and proficiency. The title is a quote from the time and the moment—more on that a bit later. The trilogy is:

  • “No One Avoided Danger”: NAS Kaneohe Bay and the Japanese Attack on of 7 December 1941
  • “This Is No Drill”: the History of NAS Pearl Harbor and the Japanese Attacks of 7 December 1941
  • “They’re Killing My Boys!”: the History of Hickam Field and the Attacks of 7 December 1941

“The unique approach—you ask?”

The authors uniquely concentrate on the myriad independent actions taken by combatants, civilians, spouses. Like a masterpiece painting, the broad strokes (strategic moves) catch the eye and are easiest to research and understand but it is the small strokes providing the details (actions of individuals) which make it a work of the ages instead of a simple illustration. Myriad they are, indeed. A wide spectrum of research sources straddling the Pacific Ocean were investigated for individual reports which were directly paired with photographs as well as charts. Amazingly, the photographs have been thoroughly examined to ferret every possible detail as evidenced in their captions with typical examples such as background vehicles identified, reflections on cars doors evaluated, and with no detail too small (i.e., a .30 caliber Springfield rifle used on a large American flag draped on several coffins).

Located on the north shore of Oahu in the Hawaiian Islands, the Japanese air attack on Kaneohe Bay, then a brand new naval air air station (NAS) serving as a patrol aircraft base chiefly for dozens of PBY Catalinas, was part of the overall Pearl Harbor Raid. Two waves of Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) aircraft attacked with the first wave a fighter sweep of Mitsubishi Zeros and the second of horizontal bombers with fighter escort (Nakajima Kates and more Zeros). As most know, the IJN achieved total surprise in their attack so there was no glorious orchestrated defense of the base.

But…

Individual action was the order of the day by NAS Kaneohe Bay’s military personnel, civilian contractors and spouses alike. The authors researched into the lives of most of the dozens of people mentioned (both U.S. and IJN) in this well written book so we know their births, education, service history and their images. At once the wastefulness of war and the reason we battle is apparent—poignantly as well as amazingly. These individuals are well remembered in this book.

It is often said in the U.S. Navy (USN) that any action is better than no action. There were many varied actions and almost all with little to no cover (protection) that fateful day:

  • Weapons lockers were quickly accessed (many locks were forced)
  • Machine guns manned in parked Catalinas (often while these aircraft were afire)
  • Machine gun mounts were fabricated by metal cutters and welders during the attacks
  • Ammunition and links assembled for the belt fed guns during, as well as in between, the attacks
  • Men taking turns firing a Springfield rifle at the IJN aircraft as there were not enough weapons to go around
  • Even a few firing their .45 caliber Colt Government semi-automatic pistol at the IJN aircraft
  • Med staff driving whatever was at hand during the attacks, recovering wounded and transporting them to (relative) safety

Two stories especially stand out to me as each shows the authors’ investigative skill as well as humanity. One is when Lt. Cdr. McCrimmon called his wife at the onset of the first wave’s attack to warn her to stay home and not pick him up from his duty station—she replied, “Oh—come on home, all is forgiven.” Maybe you have to be married to get that one. The second was an asymmetric duel between a sailor and an IJN Zero pilot with USN Aviation Ordinanceman 2nd Class Richard Sands firing his Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) at IJN Lt. Iida Fusata during one of his head on strafing passes. Iida’s main fuel tank was holed and, although not on fire, realized he would not have the fuel to make a return to any IJN aircraft carrier. Iida decided to do what many of his countrymen would later do in the war and that was to purposely crash his aircraft into a suitable target. Swinging around, he again found himself square in the BAR gun sights of Sands. Whether Sands caused Iida to crash short, becoming the only IJN KIA in the Kaneohe Bay mission, we cannot know.

This book is welcome for a number of reasons:

  • NAS Kaneohe Bay was attacked and suffered horribly in the Attack on Pearl Harbor but is not often heard of though initiative and bravery were the order of the day during the most dire of moments in American history
  • The details, individual actions and results of the IJN are illustrated and explained in their fullest including details of bomb deployment and effect of the Mōkapu trade winds
  • Why NAS Kaneohe base commander Cdr. Martin justifiably stated, “No one shirked, no one avoided danger, everyone did the job he was supposed to do.”

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