“The Japs are bombing us! The Japs are bombing us!”

By:  johnrussell  •  last year  •  10 comments

“The Japs are  bombing us! The Japs are bombing us!”
The rear gunner sprayed the men standing at attention, but he must have been a poor shot. He missed the entire band and Marine guard, lined up in two neat rows. He did succeed in shredding the flag, which was just being raised.

Even the men who saw the planes couldn’t understand. One of them was Fireman Frank Stock of the repair  ship Vestal, moored beside the Arizona along Battleship Row. Stock and six of his mates had taken the church  launch for services ashore. They moved across the channel and into Southeast Loch, that long, narrow strip of  water pointing directly at the battleships.

On their right they passed the cruisers, nosed into the Navy Yard piers;  on the left some subs tucked into their berths. As they reached the Merry’s Point landing at the end of the loch, six  or eight torpedo planes flew in low from the east, about 50 feet above the water and heading down the loch toward  the battleships.  The men were mildly surprised — they had never seen U.S. planes come in from that direction. They were  even more surprised when the rear-seat gunners sprayed them with machine-gun bullets. Then Stock recalled the
stories he had read about “battle-condition” maneuvers in the Southern states. This must be the same idea — for  extra realism they had even painted red circles on the planes. The truth finally dawned when one of his friends  caught a slug in the stomach from the fifth plane that passed. 

On the Nevada at the northern end of Battleship Row, Leader Oden McMillan waited with his band to play  morning colors at eight o’clock. His 23 men had been in position since 7:55, when the blue prep signal went up.  As they moved into formation, some of the musicians noticed planes diving at the other end of Ford Island.  McMillan saw a lot of dirt and sand go up, but thought it was another drill. Now it was 7:58 — two minutes to go  — and planes started coming in low from Southeast Loch. Heavy, muffled explosions began booming down the  line … enough to worry anyone. And then it was eight o’clock. 

The band crashed into “The Star-Spangled Banner.” A Japanese plane skimmed across the harbor … dropped  a torpedo at the Arizona … and peeled off right over the Nevada’s fantail. The rear gunner sprayed the men stand-  ing at attention, but he must have been a poor shot. He missed the entire band and Marine guard, lined up in two  neat rows. He did succeed in shredding the flag, which was just being raised. 

McMillan knew now but kept on conducting. The years of training had taken over — it never occurred to him  that once he had begun playing the National Anthem, he could possibly stop. Another strafer flashed by. This time  McMillan unconsciously paused as the deck splintered around him, but he quickly picked up the beat again. The  entire band stopped and started again with him, as though they had rehearsed it for weeks. Not a man broke  formation until the final note died. Then everyone ran wildly for cover.  Ensign Joe Taussig, officer of the deck, pulled the alarm bell. The ship’s bugler got ready to blow general  quarters, but Taussig took the bugle and tossed it overboard. Somehow it seemed too much like make-believe at a  time like this. Instead he shouted over the PA system again and again, “All hands, general quarters. Air raid! This is  no drill!”  Ship after ship began to catch on. The executive officer of the supply ship Castor shouted, “The Japs are  bombing us! The Japs are bombing us!” For an instant Seaman Bill Deas drew a blank and wondered whether the  man was speaking to him.

On the submarine Tautog, the topside anchor watch shouted down the forward torpedo  hatch, “The war is on, no fooling!” 

from "Day Of Infamy"  by Walter Lord


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1  author  JohnRussell    last year
A sailor or soldier at Pearl Harbor who was 21 years old on Dec 7 1941 would be 98 years old now. They are all gone.
5  author  JohnRussell    last year

Someone started whining about using the word (for Japanese) that US military used at Pearl Harbor in 1941, so I "updated" the seed.

Split Personality
5.1  Split Personality  replied to  JohnRussell @5    last year

What seed?

5.1.1  Spikegary  replied to  Split Personality @5.1    last year

Good point, it should be a seed, since it's someone else's work.  And yet, no purple pen?

The Butt Hurt Brigade complained about words used that were quoted form the 1940s?  Why would you cave to that silliness?  You cant' re-write history to make it more palatable to others.

5.1.2  author  JohnRussell  replied to  Spikegary @5.1.1    last year

The passage is from Walter Lord's book "Day Of Infamy" which is noted at the bottom of the article.

I could give you the link to the page on scrib that I copied it from, but unless you have a paid account with scrib to view the text of these books, the link isnt going to help you.

As far as "caving" to the person who complained about the language Americans used to describe Japanese in WW2, I decided that by changing the word it would point out that silliness better than just mentioning it in a comment would.

Perrie Halpern R.A.
5.1.3  Perrie Halpern R.A.  replied to  JohnRussell @5.1.2    last year


If that is what the book says, please feel free to post it that way.

5.1.4  author  JohnRussell  replied to  Perrie Halpern R.A. @5.1.3    last year


6  Kavika     last year

 A few years back I was visiting Hawaii and was at the Arizona. I had the opportunity to meet and speak with 4 survivors of the attack. It was a humbling moment for me and one that I'll always remember. 

Split Personality
6.1  Split Personality  replied to  Kavika @6    last year

Never met a survivor although my fathers cousin was there and later died in California from his burns/infections.  To my knowledge he was never included in the official death toll.

What I remember from the Arizona itself was how much oil keeps bubbling up to the surface and the missing turrets.

It is the grave site of so many young men...sad.

7  author  JohnRussell    last year

War Without Mercy : RACE AND POWER IN THE PACIFIC WAR by John Dower


(book review)

World War II has meant different things to different people. Terms such as fighting for a noble cause, a mission to propagate the finest cultural values , of a war to combat tyranny and oppression, and a struggle to preserve freedom and democracy reflect one point of view. Others saw the struggle in political-economic terms, while for many of the victims, no matter what side, the war meant death and destruction. But there seems to be a consensus that it was our last "just war," implying that the "good people" were fighting the "evil ones," and that the foe could be clearly defined and ultimately destroyed.

John Dower presents another point of view, probably not the most popular at the present time, that the fight against the Japanese was primarily a "race war." Gathering data from songs, slogans, propaganda reports, secret documents, Hollywood movies, the mass media and quotes from soldiers, leader and politicians, he effectively illustrates his theses. Data from the enemy is also presented, and the picture is depressing, but familiar. Two cultures, with minimal contact, see each other in stereotypes, each believing its ways superior and its causes just, with leaders using their most persuasive techniques to heighten prejudice and to promote further discord. If left alone, each culture would have a residue of hate and hostility toward each other, but given actual combat conditions where actions beget counteractions, the results were disastrous. Acts of atrocious cruelty and slogans of total annihilation were common, with seemingly rational explanations justifying the carnage as preserving one's way of life.

The book is divided into four sections: Part I on the patterns of a race war; Part II on the war as seen by Western eyes; Part III on the war as seen by Japanese eyes; and the final part, an epilogue. The point-counterpoint scenario, as the two cultures misunderstand, misperceive, misinterpret and attempt to justify the destruction of each other is skillfully done.

A favorite label was to view the Japanese as monkeys, adding, for emphasis, the adjectives, "little" and "yellow." They belonged to an inferior race; myopic, pint-sized, slavish imitators, poor jungle fighters, inept pilots, timid strategists and unimpressive navigators. But when the Japanese easily overran Southeast Asia, the image changed to "supermen." As Dower indicates, the Japanese were initially seen as inhuman, subhumans and lesser humans; as they began to win victories, they became superhumans. They were never seen as plain humans.

Japanese views of their superiority have also had a long history. Believing that their lineage could be traced back to God and that they belonged to a pure and virtuous race, they practiced their form of racial superiority, albeit against neighboring countries of their own race, which in practice was little different from European colonial models. The Americans were seen as beasts, barbarians and ultimately as ogres and demons. The Japanese dehumanized their enemy, just as we did them.

In armed conflict, the images and stereotypes collided; each side attempted to slaughter to the last man; it was kill or be killed, a fight with no quarter asked or given. Cruelty and atrocities were common; ears were taken off the Japanese dead; skulls became collector's items, and the gold teeth of soldiers were yanked out even while some were still alive. Flame throwers left screaming victims; the taking of live prisoners was discouraged; parachuting fliers were machine-gunned; the scenario of a race war justified such actions. Nagasaki too can only be understood in the context of a race war. As the author comments, the war against the Japanese was against an evil race, whereas the war against Germans was against evil individuals so that there were "good" Germans, but no "good" Japanese.

In the epilogue, the author attempts to answer why the race war turned into such a peaceful occupation. One obvious answer was that each side found in daily, close contact, that the stereotypes of each other were not true. The Japanese were not monkeylike beings, just as Americans were not demons. Another explanation saw the Japanese acknowledging their error of challenging the power of older, more established imperial nations and willing to adjust to their proper place in the world society. It should also be noted that at this time, there was the threat of a new Asiatic power, Red China, and it comes as no surprise to see how easily the old stereotypes were used to fit the new enemy.


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