Monday, December 8, 2014

“Something was happening”

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 lasted 110 minutes, from 7:55 am until 9:45 am. Japanese naval forces included 4 heavy aircraft carriers, 2 heavy cruisers, 35 submarines, 2 light cruisers, 9 oilers, 2 battleships and 11 destroyers.

The attacking forces came in two waves, the first consisting of 183 aircraft which included 40 torpedo planes, 49 level bombers, 51 dive bombers and 43 fighters. The second wave included 170 planes, 54 of them level bombers, 80 dive-bombers and 36 fighters.  Over 350 Japanese planes were involved in overall attack.

As a result of the December 7, 1941 attack, there were 2,403-people killed and 1,178-wounded. Among the deceased were 2,008-Navy personnel, 109-Marine, 218-Army and 68-civilians.  (navy-mil)

For part of the attack, and aftermath, first, let’s look back.

In 1899, Gorokichi Nakasugi, a Japanese shipbuilder, brought a traditional 34-foot Japanese sailing sampan to Hawai‘i; this led to a unique class of vessels and distinctive maritime culture associated with the rise of the commercial fishing industry in Hawai‘i.

(The term ‘Sampan,’ although usually associate with the Japanese in Hawaiʻi, comes from the Chinese language, meaning three (san) boards (ban,) describing a small simple skiff.)  (VanTilburg)

Japanese-trained shipwrights adapted the original sampan design to the rough waters of the Hawaiian Islands.  The fishermen used traditional live bait, pole-and-line method of fishing and unloaded their catches of aku (bonito, skipjack) and ahi (yellow-fin tuna) at Kewalo Basin.

Local Japanese fishermen opened the commercial tuna industry in Hawaiʻi in conjunction with the innovation of modern packing plants.  It was the ability to can tuna for the distant market which really made possible the expansion and modernization of the fishing fleet.  The industry benefited American canneries.

Vessels began to change with time, as well.  Gasoline engines were fitted into boats beginning in 1905, and more suitable marine diesels by 1927. Shortly thereafter the prominent deckhouse made its appearance.  The Sampans became perfectly adapted to the rough waters between the islands.  (VanTilburg)

The sampan aku fleet was based at Kewalo Basin by 1930, and the McFarlane Tuna Company (later known as Hawaiian Tuna Packers) built a shipyard there in 1929 and a new tuna cannery at the basin in 1933.

By 1940, there were over 450-sampans in the Territory of Hawaiʻi, making the commercial fishery the Islands’ third largest industry behind sugar and pineapple.

That brings us to December 1941, more specifically, December 4 – four sampans (Kiho Maru, Myojin Maru, Shin-ei Maru and the Sumiyoshi Maru) set out for fishing off Oʻahu’s leeward coast.

Later, on the morning of December 7, the Ward (US Destroyer No. 139,) conducting routine antisubmarine patrols in the Hawaiian area, had the distinction of firing the first American gun in anger during the Pacific war.  She searched for a suspected submarine and subsequently fired shots at its conning tower.

(In 2002, the University of Hawaiʻi, Hawaiʻi Undersea Research Lab (HURL) team found the submarine about three to four miles off Pearl Harbor and verified it was hit and sunk by the Ward.  (Burlingame))

Heading home, the Ward soon spotted a Japanese fishing sampan, one of many that was a familiar sight in the waters in the Hawaiian archipelago (not part of the four noted before.)

A fisherman suddenly started waving a white flag perhaps he had seen the determined depth-charge attacks and thought that the Americans would bomb anything that moved. Ward slowed and closed to investigate and took the small craft in tow to turn her over to the Coast Guard for disposition.

Nearing the harbor entrance around 0800, those on deck heard the sound of gunfire and explosions, as smoke began to boil into the skies over Pearl Harbor. (Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships)

“Something was happening.”

The Ward had returned and witnessed the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.

On the morning of December 8, newspapers announced that all unidentified boats approaching Oʻahu would be fired upon. It was feared that the local fishing fleet, manned predominantly by Japanese might have had rendezvous with Japanese warships. (Roehner)

Then, the fateful day for the four sampans as they were heading home.  “All of a sudden, there were four or five Army P40s flying over us.  Each picked out a target and attacked.”

The war-planes strafed the four fishing boats (Kiho Maru, Myojin Maru, Shin-ei Maru and the Sumiyoshi Maru) about 2-miles off Barber’s Point, about 10-miles west of Pearl Harbor, killing six civilians (nine crewmen survived the mid-morning attack, but most were wounded - most of the crew on the boats were American citizens.)

After the planes attacked, a destroyer arrived on the scene and dispatched launches to tow the sampans, with the dead and wounded, back to Kewalo Basin.  They were then taken to a civilian hospital where the wounded were kept under armed guard.    (European Stars and Stripes, December 9, 1977)

The dead were brought from the waterfront to Hosoi Funeral Parlor. They were: Ogawa Mataichi, Kaichi Okada, Sutematsu Kida, Kiichi Kida, Kiho Uyehara, Riyozo Okogi.  (Scrapbook of Women of WWII Hawaiʻi)

Again on December 12th, sampans were strafed off of both Kailua and Kohala coasts.  (VanTilburg)

World War II had the single largest impact on the sampan fishing industry.   During the war, the fleet was immediately limited to operating only during certain narrow hours in a few selected near shore areas. This, of course, was devastating to the fishery. By the end of 1942, the annual yield was down by a staggering 99%.  (VanTilburg)

In 1967, 26 years after the incident, the widow of the Kiho Maru skipper received $8,000.  Another received about $2,500 and proceeds from the sale of fish that was in his boat on the day of the attack.  (European Stars and Stripes, December 9, 1977)

The image shows sampans in Kewalo Basin in the 1930s.  In addition, I have added other images in a folder of like name in the Photos section on my Facebook and Google+ pages.

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