Today in History, August 16, 1927:
“The Dole Air Race” ends in tragedy and glory. Depending on who you were.
James Drummond Dole, heir to the Dole Pineapple industry that had been initiated in the 19th century, sponsored an air race to prove that air travel could be made between the mainland and Honolulu. He had been inspired by Charles Lindbergh’s transatlantic flight. Whoever reached Honolulu first would win $25,000.
Several entrants would drop out before the flight even began, but of the eight that left the mainland, six would be lost without a trace.
Two Army Air Corps Lieutenant’s had already made the flight successfully…but since they landed at Wheeler Field rather than Honolulu, they were disqualified.
Two Travel Air 5000 monoplanes were sponsored by Oklahoma Oilman Frank Phillips…the “Oklahoma” and the “Woolaroc.” The Oklahoma had to turn back….but the Woolaroc, piloted by Arthur C. Goebel and William V. Davis, Jr. took the prize, being the first to arrive in Honolulu.
Once again, Oklahoma wins. You can visit the “Woolaroc”, at Woolaroc near Bartlesville.
Today in History, January 18: 1778 – As the American Revolutionary War waged, English Captain James Cook discovers what he called the Sandwich Islands during an exploring expedition to the Pacific; it was not his first. The Hawaiians thought the Europeans were Gods, and the sailors were only too happy to encourage the misconception. The islanders were fascinated with the iron metal used on the ships; the sailors used it to barter for goods and “comfort” from the Polynesian women. Cook continued his voyage, looking for the Northwest Passage. After returning to the Islands a year later, Cook and his sailors continued the ruse. When one of his crew died, they were discovered to be mere mortals. The natives took one of the ship’s cutters. When Cook and crew attempted to retrieve it, killing some of the residents in the process, they were attacked, and Cook was killed.
Today in History, January 14, 1973:
Elvis Presley performs at a concert in Honolulu, Hawaii which was carried live via satellite in 40 countries in Asia and Europe. The concert would reach 1 to 1.5 Billion viewers. It would not be aired in the US until April 4 because it conflicted with that years’ Super Bowl.
My mom and countless others were big fans. In 1977 when the news of his unexpected death at age 42 came across the radio, she had to pull the car over because she was crying.
Today in History, December 7: 1941 –
Did you know that the Japanese surprise attack on the bases at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii was…a tremendous failure? In spite of the horrific losses in lives and the loss of combatant ships and aircraft, the Japanese Task Force missed their primary targets. The battleships and most of the aircraft they destroyed were obsolete…and they knew it.
They were after the American aircraft carriers, which they recognized as the next generation capital ships. Their intelligence was that the American carriers were in port at their berths, but the Kawanishi flying boat that provided that info couldn’t catch that the carriers left soon after it’s recon mission.
The Japanese aircraft failed to destroy the dry dock facilities at Pearl…allowing the repair of many of the ships damaged during the attack, and importantly, the USS Yorktown after the Battle of the Coral Sea, allowing her to take part in the tide-turning Battle of Midway.
And due to Admiral Nagumo’s decision to cancel another sortee, the attack failed to destroy or damage the fuel storage depot at Pearl. Had they done so, the entire fleet would have been forced to retreat the 2500 miles to San Diego (if they could make it there). The US fleet could not have operated from Pearl for nearly a year if they had lost that fuel depot. So while the attack was a flashy victory for the Empire, it was a tactical loss. America’s industrial capacity quickly replaced the losses. God bless our heroes that lost their lives that day.
What was supposed to be the backbone of the US Pacific Fleet, several Battleships, were either completely destroyed or so badly damaged that it would take years before they could put to sea again. the Arizona was virtually blown apart by a direct hit that ignited her magazines (her ammunition stores); the Oklahoma rolled over and capsized; only one of the behemoths managed to get steam up and make a run for the sea. But her commander wisely beached her, fearful that she might be sunk in the channel and put the entire harbor out of commission for months.
The Army commander, more worried about sabotage than air attacks, had ordered all of the Army Air Corps’ aircraft lined up wingtip to wingtip so they could be more easily guarded. They made easy targets for strafing Japanese fighters. Only two Army fighters made it into the air to do battle with the enemy (my father grew up with one of the pilots).
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?
Today in History, November 22:
A Martin M-130 flying boat owned by Pan American Airways takes off from San Francisco, flies under the yet to be completed San Francisco Bridge on it’s way to the Orient.
With this the China Clipper inaugurated commercial air service via Hawaii, Midway, Wake Island, Guam to the Philippines. If you had the money, a romantic 7 day trip across the Pacific Ocean was now possible.
Today in History, June 29: 1927 – Five weeks after Charles Lindbergh’s much more famous flight, Army Air Corps Lieutenants Lester Maitland and Albert Hegenberger completed the first trans-Pacific flight from San Francisco to Hawaii. They traveled over 2400 miles over ocean, using instruments to find their way to an island, as opposed to Lindbergh’s 3600 miles to find a continent. They used a Fokker Tri-Motor for their 25+ hour flight so that they would still have power if they lost an engine. The two men had spent the previous decade developing the navigation technology for the flight and repeatedly lobbying their superiors for the opportunity to test it. Both would continue to be heroes in WWII.