Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A Japanese account of the Pearl Harbor attack

I was fascinated to read a translated account by a Japanese torpedo plane pilot of the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941.  Here's a brief excerpt.

One day, shortly after I was transferred to the Omura Squadron, I was shocked to receive a telegram ordering me to report immediately to the carrier Soryu. This was highly unusual because it was navy policy to always send transfer orders to petty officers by written letter. Something’s up, I said to myself. I was filled with a sense of anticipation and foreboding. This was partly because much as I wanted to go to the Soryu, I still hadn’t yet landed on the deck of a carrier!

Training was soon arranged, and a few days later, there I was, looking down at the deck of a carrier and thinking: We’re going to land on that? It looked way too small. As I descended for my first approach I noticed  that the deck was not only tiny, it was moving up, down and sideways! Okay, calm down, breathe deeply and don’t do anything dumb, I thought. One hundred feet, fifty feet, thirty feet, then ka-chunk as the wheels touched down and the arresting hook jerked me to a stop. It was only then that I noticed that I was completely soaked with sweat.

While I was overjoyed to finally be carrier qualified and assigned to the Soryu, I was also acutely aware that this meant I would probably be going back to war.

With our carrier quals behind us we began special torpedo training in Kagoshima Harbor. Until then our torpedo training had been quite orthodox: maintain an altitude of 150 feet and drop the torpedo at a distance of 1,000 yards. At Kagoshima we were trained to come in at fifteen feet and drop at a distance of only 200 yards.

Although the navy prohibited low level flying, we were now turned loose to take our ships right down on the deck, and we loved it! The hard part wasn’t flying low — that was pure fun — but estimating the distance to target of 200 yards. Day after day we formed up over Mt. Kirishima at 12,000’ in nine-plane formations, then dove down in trail formation straight at the harbor. This put us at about 100’ as we came thundering over Kagoshima Station. What the frightened citizens of Kagoshima made of our antics I can only imagine. A few seconds later we were screaming along at 130 kts., a mere fifteen feet above the water. Because our altimeters were useless at such low level, in our free time we climbed up on something to put our eyes at exactly fifteen feet above ground to get used to the sight picture.

For lack of better targets we took to lining up our runs on the fishing boats in the harbor. Boats with their sails up were often knocked flat by our wind blast. Before long they were all jerking down their sails as soon as they saw us coming.

Training began every morning at 8:00 a.m. We flew two three-hour sessions during the day followed by night training and didn’t get back to our bunks until after midnight. The training was brutal, and the only days off we got were courtesy of bad weather.

It must have been sometime in October, as our training was winding down that a rumor began to circulate: “We’re going to war with America.”

There's much more at the link, with many photographs.

Thanks to the good people at Vintage Wings of Canada for putting this article on their Web site.  When the author's book is fully translated, I think it'll be a must-read for military buffs.



Anonymous said...

Have you read Saburu Sakai's book "Samurai!"? He gives many good first hand accounts of aerial combat in World War II.


Ed-S said...

Another Good book that illustrates the Training levels and Planning for the Blitz thru Pacific in 1942 is Martin caidins 'The Ragged,Rugged Warriors'

Anonymous said...

This is off topic but do an internet search on 'Japan Unit 731' and prepare to be astonished, I knew the Japanese WWII military had atrocities but I was totally floored to see this one - Yikes!

Will said...

buried in the book "The Wartime Journals of Charles Lindbergh" you will find mention of what he saw, and heard, of our soldier's response to the early Japanese treatment of our military personnel. It might have some bearing on the lack of Japanese POW's.

May also explain, to some extent, why so many of our men never talked about combat in the Pacific. I can't say I've ever heard of similar treatment of German troops. What Lindbergh talked about, I have only seen a very few, very brief, indirect mentions in all the books I've read in about 50 years of looking at that war.