Today in History, December 6: 1941 – The men of the USS Enterprise were supposed to be at Pearl Harbor. They had finished a mission delivering a Marine Fighter Squadron to Wake Island, but then had run into bad weather…heavy seas had slowed their return to base. The sailors on the screening destroyers were having a rough time, but the carrier, being a larger ship, fared better. Tonight the crew was treated to a movie on the hangar deck; the newly released “Sergeant York” starring Gary Cooper as the World War I hero. The crew were surely jealous of the airmen of the SBD Dauntless crews who would take off early the next morning and be in Pearl Harbor soon after…enjoying the luxuries of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel and home.
Those airmen would be home early. But within a few hours of watching the movie, they would be flying into chaos…as they approached Ford Island in Pearl Harbor they flew right into the Japanese surprise attack on December 7, 1941. Several would not survive; those that did survive had to first pass IJN Zero fighters, then dive toward the airfield as American anti-aircraft gun tried to kill them.
For the nation as a whole, the fact that the men of the USS Enterprise enjoyed “Sergeant York” that Saturday night rather than being in Honolulu bars or aboard ship at her berth at Ford Island was nothing less than a blessing. The Japanese Navy desperately wanted to catch American carriers that Sunday morning, helpless like the Battleships on Battleship Row. But they were all at sea.