Shoot First, Ask Questions Later…

Today in History, November 28: 1941 –

Ten days before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, a Task Force built around the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CV-6) sailed from Pearl Harbor bound for Wake Island.

In response to a “war warning” the Enterprise had taken aboard a squadron of US Marine F4F Wildcat fighter planes and their pilots, with orders to deliver them to Wake to bolster the island’s defenses.

Once they were at sea, the TF commander, Admiral William F. (Bull) Halsey signed off on Battle Order #1, which put the Enterprise and her supporting Cruisers and Destroyers on a war footing.

The crew began adding armor behind the pilot’s position’s in the ship’s fighters, painting them in combat colors, and arming them for combat.

More than a week before the Japanese attacked, the Enterprise TF had orders to shoot first and ask questions later should they encounter any foreign ships or planes. The CAP (Combat Air Patrol) kept watch overhead.

The Big E would deliver the Marines and return to Pearl on Sunday, December 7. Her scout plane pilots would fly ahead, ending up right in the middle of the air raid. But that’s another story.

But on this date, Admiral Halsey and Captain Murray closed by telling their sailors “Steady nerves and stout hearts are needed now.”

“The Way to Disarm is to Disarm” -US Sec of State Charles Evans Hughes

Today in History, February 6, 1922:

The Washington Naval Treaty of 1922 is agreed to by the remaining Navy powers from WWI. It would be a year until all the signatories had done so, but their representatives in DC made the agreement today.

It should have been perfect, as it had that one thing necessary for a successful negotiation: Everyone agreed, nobody was happy.

It agreed that certain capital ships would be limited by number and tonnage. Battleships and Battlecruisers would be limited.

The ratio of Navy size would be 5-5-3-1.75-1.75…England-US-Japan-France-Italy. So you can see why nobody was happy.

This was the nuclear limitations treaty of the 20’s.

Here are the many consequences of the treaty:

New Battleships could only be of a certain tonnage with guns no more than 16 in. In the mid 30’s Japan began ignoring the limitations, so for the beginning of WWII, American BB’s were seriously undersized compared to the monsters Yamato and Musashi. But that wouldn’t last long.

After WWI several of the nations had battlecruisers under construction…they could either scrap them or convert them to “less valuable” warships…Aircraft Carriers. This were born Akagi, Kaga, Lexington and Saratoga. More carriers of limited tonnage could be buit…this were born the Ranger, Yorktown, Enterprise and Hornet; Shokaku, Zuikaku and others.

After nearly two decades of intrigue, cheating, etc, as a result of the Washington Naval Treaty, Japanese flyers sank obsolete Battleships at Pearl Harbor, with planes from carriers.

The American carriers who amswered back, and unfortunately the USN and IJN traded losses fairly evenly…until only one US Carrier was left to counter the Japanese fleet in the Pacific.

But as the Japanese sailors in DC in 1922 had predicted, due to massive American industrial might, within a year of that carrier finding herself alone, the Enterprise was joined bu over a dozen modern, huge carriers of the Essex class and fast new Battleships.

The Importance of Being Thorough…

Today in History, February 1, 1942:

Less than two months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the US Navy strikes back.

Task Forces built around the USS Yorktown (CV-5) and USS Enterprise (CV-6) sped in quickly in cover of darkness, then struck at Japanese air bases and shipping in the Marshall Islands. The US aircrews made repeated sorties against the islands throughout the day, until Admiral William Halsey decided they had pressed their luck enough and ordered a withdrawal…the carriers and their support ships were valuable and in short supply.

The air raid did little damage…however it was a tremendous morale booster for the military and the folks at home, and brought home the realization to the Japanese that they could be “touched.”

Now for a History link…I love those. While the US had significant facilities in parts of the Pacific, they had spent little in Japanese held areas before the war.

The command staff and they flyers involved were using the very latest charts and maps they had of Kwajalein Atoll and the Marshall Islands…they were at least 100 years old in 1942.

In 1838, wanting to join the scientific communities of the European nations, the United States authorized and supplied six ships commanded by Lt. Charles Wilkes to explore the Antarctic region, the Northwest and Western coastal regions of the US and the Pacific.

During a more than 3 year circumnavigation of the world, the “US Ex Ex”, or US Exploring Expedition collected more than 4,000 scientific samples, documented their contacts with peoples along their route, and meticulously charted the many islands, bays, inlets, etc they found. Wilkes was very dedicated to this portion of the Expedition, much to the annoyance of the scientists aboard.

Wilkes lengthy US Navy career would bring him to fame again during the Civil War with the Trent Affair…but that’s another story.

As he was charting the Marshalls, his intent was for whalers and other ships to make use of his efforts…he almost certainly couldn’t imagine massive ships carrying aircraft which would drop explosives on the Pacific paradise 100 years hence.

“Before We’re Through With ‘em, the Japanese Language Will be Spoken Only in Hell!” -Adm. William F. Halsey

Today in History, December 8: 1941 –

The US Navy Task Force focused around the USS Enterprise (CV-6) aircraft carrier, short on supplies and fuel, enters Pearl Harbor in the dark of night to re-provision as quickly as possible. Uncertainty reigns; nobody knows if the surprise attack by Japanese aircraft was the precursor to an invasion…

The men of the Task Force are horrified by the destruction they are witnessing; mighty ships they had seen just days before lay smoldering and efforts to rescue untold numbers of their friends trapped in the ships were ongoing. The stench of burning oil and bodies permeates the night air.

The commander of the Task Force, Vice Admiral William Halsey observes the carnage from the bridge of the Enterprise and angrily utters one of what will be many memorable quotes from him during the war, “Before we’re through with ’em, the Japanese language will be spoken only in hell!”

Today, of course, Japan is one of our closest and most faithful allies. But on December 8, 1941, and for years to come, the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor and other allied basis left no room for anything but battle.

Being Late Made History

Today in History, December 6: 1941 –

The aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CV6) was at sea, returning to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii after delivering a squadron of Marine fighter planes and their pilots to Wake Island.

Seas had been rough, and the Task Force’s timing was not what they wanted. The sailors were looking forward to Saturday night on Oahu and Sunday morning relaxing on the golf course or at the Royal Hawaiian. Instead the destroyer sailors spent the night being tossed about;

the Enterprise crew, aboard a larger ship, sat down in the hangar deck to watch the now famous motion picture, “Sergeant York” about a heroic soldier from WWI.

Some of the viewers, considered lucky because they would be aboard the scout flights assigned to fly ahead to Pearl the next morning, would be dead within hours. The rest would be the lucky ones…because of the delay, the Enterprise was not at her berth on the morning of December 7th.

The Enterprise and her crew would earn 20 battle stars during WWII. Her air crews would be responsible for a large part of the victory at Midway and she would play a large part in the battles during the Guadalcanal Campaign. She would, for a time, be the only American carrier in the Pacific.

So, had she not encountered that storm, had she been in Pearl on December 7, how different would the course of WWII been? How many more lives lost?

Battle Order #1

Today in History, November 28: 1941 –

Ten days before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, a Task Force built around the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CV-6) sailed from Pearl Harbor bound for Wake Island.

In response to a “war warning” the Enterprise had taken aboard a squadron of US Marine F4F Wildcat fighter planes and their pilots, with orders to deliver them to Wake to bolster the island’s defenses.

Once they were at sea, the TF commander, Admiral William F. (Bull) Halsey signed off on Battle Order #1, which put the Enterprise and her supporting Cruisers and Destroyers on a war footing.

The crew began adding armor behind the pilot’s position’s in the ship’s fighters, painting them in combat colors, and arming them for combat.

More than a week before the Japanese attacked, the Enterprise TF had orders to shoot first and ask questions later should they encounter any foreign ships or planes. The CAP (Combat Air Patrol) kept watch overhead.

The Big E would deliver the Marines and return to Pearl on Sunday, December 7. Her scout plane pilots would fly ahead, ending up right in the middle of the air raid. But that’s another story.

But on this date, Admiral Halsey and Captain Murray closed by telling their sailors “Steady nerves and stout hearts are needed now.”

Bruno Peter Gaido and The Battle of Midway

 

Today in History, June 4: 1942 – The Battle of Midway and Aviation Machinist Mate First Class Bruno Peter Gaido.

Today is a special day, the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Midway during WWII.  In brief, US Pacific forces had been decimated by a Japanese onslaught since Pearl Harbor.  The US Navy and USAAF had been fighting back, however, by bombing Japan during the Doolittle Raid, the Battle of the Coral Sea and several raids by Carrier Groups across the Pacific.

During a raid in March, 1942 on the Marshall Islands by a Task Force built around the USS Enterprise (CV 6), the ship was attacked by five twin engine Betty bombers.  Under withering fire, four turn back.  The lead plane however, attempts to crash into the aircraft carrier.  As the bomber grew closer, Aviation Machinist Mate Third Class Bruno Peter Gaido springs from the catwalk surround the flight deck and runs to a nearby SBD Dauntless Diver Bomber.  He climbs into the rear of the plane to use the rear gunner’s machine gun.  He began firing at the enemy plane, maintaining the fire into it’s cockpit even as it’s wing slices the rear of the SBD away mere inches from him.  The Betty crashed into the sea, and Bruno is credited with causing to miss the ship.

Bruno disappeared inside the bowels of the ship, figuring he’d be in trouble for leaving his normal battle station.  Quite the contrary; Admiral William “Bull” Halsey had him brought to the bridge, where he summarily ordered him promoted to Aviation Machinist Mate FIRST Class.

Spring forward to June 4, 1942 and Bruno Gaido was in the rear of Ensign Frank O’Flaherty’s Dauntless as they dove on the IJN Carrier Kaga when Bombing and Scouting 6 from Enterprise sent her to the bottom.  As many know, Akagi, Soryu and Hiryu would also be sunk that day.

Can you imagine what being a rear gunner in a WWII dive bomber must have been like?  During the attack, the aircraft dove at a 70% angle, nearly straight down.  Held tight by safety belts, scanning for any fighters that dared to attempt to follow the dive, the rear gunner may never have known of a crash or a hit by anti-aircraft fire.

After their bombing run Ensign O’Flaherty and AMM Gaido attempted to make it home to Enterprise, but due to a punctured fuel tank and another attack by Japanese Zero fighters, had to ditch at sea.

The pair were picked up, “rescued” by the Japanese destroyer Makigumo.  The officers of the destroyer, angered by the loss they had witnessed of the Japanese carriers, interrogated and tortured the American airmen.  After days of this, on June 15, they ordered weights tied the both men and had them thrown overboard to drown.  The Japanese sailors who survived the war to tell said both men faced their fate with courage and stoicism.  Bruno Gaido’s ship mates had expected no less…he had gained a reputation.

As for the war criminals on the Makigumo?  The ship was sunk during the Guadalcanal campaign and none of the officers responsible for the murder survived the war.