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.”

Moments Which Changed Naval History

Today in History, November 11: 1940 – A History changing event. The British aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious launches several obsolete aircraft, “Fairey Swordfish” torpedo aircraft…flying kites, really, in an attack on the Italian Naval Base at Taranto, Italy.

The Harbor was shallow, so the Italians thought they were safe. In this, the first attack by aircraft from a carrier, the Italian navy was devastated, by what many naval officers considered a gimmick…the airplane. On the other side of the world, someone took notice of the successful attack. The Imperial Japanese Navy was encouraged in their plans against Pearl Harbor…also a shallow anchorage considered safe. Naval History was changed…tactics forever adapted by those few British pilots.

Yesterday’s Enemies

Today in History, November 3: 1941 – A Japanese military council makes the decision that Pearl Harbor should be bombed, and in 2 days time issues the order to the Imperial Combined Fleet to prepare for the attack on December 8th. Secret Order #1 also included plans for the bombing of the Philippines and Malaysia, amongst other Pacific installations. 

 The Japanese had been preparing for this assault for sometime…IJN pilots had been training since the spring for the special tactics needed to bomb in the shallow harbor in Hawaii. “Negotiations” continued with the American government, even as the Japanese fleet moved and prepared for the attack.

Yesterday’s enemies are often today’s strongest allies. 

The Big E Joins the Navy

Today in History, May 12: 1938 – The USS Enterprise (CV-6) is commissioned into the US Navy. “The Big E” was the second of the Yorktown class of aircraft carriers; both of her sisters would be sunk during WWII. Enterprise won the title of the fightingest ship in the US Navy. Some of her air group flew into the middle of the battle at Pearl Harbor on Dec 7; had she not been delayed by bad weather, she would have been at her moorings there. By the war’s end the Enterprise had 20 Battle Stars, more than any other ship. She was everywhere…