Thursday, December 6, 2012

Countdown to Pearl Harbor Day - Hickam Field



December 7 brought chaos across Oahu.  The Japanese had bombed the airfields at Kaneohe, Bellows, and Wheeler. The Japanese set their sights on the Navy's battleships in Pearl Harbor, protected by the Army's Hickam Field


In the middle of this chaos, unarmed B17s arrived at Hickam Field (the Opana Radar Station misidentified the Japanese attack force as the expected B17s).  From the National Park Service (at this link),

At Hickam Field, Japanese Zero fighters and Val dive-bombers strafed and bombed the fight line and hangars, concentrating on the B-17 bombers. The 12 U.S. B-17s arrived unarmed and low on fuel during the attack. Most succeeded in landing at Hickam where they were attacked on the ground. The second wave of the Japanese attack struck Hickam at 8:40am and by 9:45 the attack was over. Nearly half of the airplanes at Hickam Field had been destroyed or severely damaged. The hangars, the Hawaiian Air Depot, several base facilities--the fire station, the chapel and the guardhouse--had been hit.



The Japanese also bombed and strafed the "big barracks", where the airmen slept, ate, and worked near the flightline.   The Air Force preserved the bullet holes in the buildings, and even the interior stairs, as a living memorial.  Again from NPS,

Hickam's casualties totaled 121 men killed, 274 wounded and 37 missing. Despite the damage inflicted by the Japanese, they ignored the vital repair facilities and gasoline storage tanks at Hickam, Pearl Harbor and elsewhere on Oahu. Hickam Field emerged from the attack stronger than before and played an important role in World War II and since. Today, Hickam is the headquarters of the Pacific Air Force.


When the Army Air Corps became the Air Force, Hickam Field transformed into Hickam Air Force Base - the gateway to the Pacific during the Korean Conflict, Vietnam War, Gulf War, and humanitarian missions throughout Asia.    But the Army remained on the other side of the runway at Fort Kamehameha. 



The Army built several batteries on Fort Kamehameha following the Spanish American War to secure US interests in the Pacific.    Battery Hawkins' guns were silent on December 7, 1941; its technology was outdated.

(Before the Spanish American War, American businessmen overthrew the Kingdom of Hawaii and created the Republic of Hawaii.  Once the US gained Guam and the Phillipines from Spain, it was the right time for the Republic to petition for Hawaii to become a US territory). 



Today, Hickam is part of Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam. The Pacific Air Forces and the 15th Air Mobility Wing remain tenants with a large population of Air Force families living among these memorials.

One randomly selected commenter from this week's blogs wins a book choice from my convention stash. This giveaway is open to all readers. Comments are open through Saturday, December 8, 10 pm in Hawaii. I'll post the winner on Sunday, December 9, at SOS Aloha.

Mahalo,

Kim in Hawaii



11 comments:

  1. I've been to Hickam, but only to the BX.

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  2. I've never been to Hickman but when I was in Hawaii years ago we did go to Pearl Harbor.

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  3. Amazing thing happened in the midst of this tragedy.

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  4. Wow... so many things and history here...

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  5. I always learn something here - thanks!

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  6. It's interesting to learn about Hickam. Thinking of all our soldiers here on this day before Dec 7th.

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  7. I appreciate the history; thanks for sharing it and the pictures.

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  8. Great for pics whoo
    Kimh

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  9. As so often occurs with the web of information that is the internet I have stumbled upon your blog. Very interesting to find a present-day personal account from someone living among the memorials of the great men and women who suffered, and also who served heroically, on this day - December 7 - over 70 years ago.

    Having retired from the Army after 21 years of service, I had the distinct honor to visit in and around Oahu, and the many locations commemorating the people and events of Pearl Harbor, on many occasions during my 3-year stay at Schofield Barracks from 1999 until 2002.

    I was there for the ceremony, observing just across the water, as the 60th anniversary events took place above the USS Arizona. I believe that may have been the first time that Japanese pilots had participated in honoring those lost - from both countries.

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  10. Interesting to see the preserved history.

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