Remembering a Brat At Pearl Harbor

By Joseph Condrill, MAMF Brat Liaison and Founder of Overseas Brats

Brat Friends,

Got three interesting bits of information to share here:

1) The story of Navy Brat, Bill Free, on December 7, 1941.

2) Why is December 7, 1941 so important to us today as Brats?

3) Ten Amazing Facts About The Bombing of Pearl Harbor?

The story of Navy Brat, Bill Free, on December 7, 1941.

Bill Free looked up to his father. As a boy, Bill enjoyed listening to his father, a sailor serving in the U.S. Navy talking about his experiences. Bill looked forward to the day he could join the Navy, and hopefully join his father onboard a ship somewhere. His dream came true, but with tragic results.

On December 7, 1941, U.S. Navy Seaman Second Class William Thomas Free was killed on board the USS Arizona when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. His father, Machinist Mate First Class Thomas Free, was also onboard the USS Arizona that morning and was also killed.

Today Bill Free is remembered on the OVERSEAS BRATS (OSB) Brats Memorial at: http://www.overseasbrats.com . He is the oldest Brat listed on the OSB Brats Memorial and the earliest date recorded of a Brat whom died while serving his country on that memorial.

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Why Is December 7, 1941 so important to us today as Brats?

December 7, 1941 is so important to us today because:

*The war in Europe had stalemated. The Japanese were on the offensive in the Pacific. U.S. entry would change all that.

*English replaced French as the language of commerce and diplomacy.

*The U.S. would emerge as one of the Super Powers of The World.

*Gave birth to a new generation called The Baby Boomers.

*Would set in motion a number of things that would eventually make us all Brats.

*********

Ten Amazing Facts About The Bombing of Pearl Harbor

1) This may come as a surprise but which nation came up with the idea of Pearl Harbor?

The British! A British journalist first wrote about it in 1925.

Then in 1940, the British attacked the Italian naval base at Taranto with torpedo bombers that crippled the Italian fleet. A Japanese naval attaché stationed in Berlin was sent to investigate.

2) The USS Arizona had actually been part of an aircraft carrier task force attacking from the north that as part of a training maneuver, had attacked on a Sunday and on the 7th! (February 7, 1932).

3) How is it that the Americans fired the first shot at Pearl Harbor?

This happened when the American destroyer, the USS Ward fired on an unidentified submarine and sank it in a restricted area in front of the entrance of Pearl Harbor at 6:30 a.m. on December 7.

4) What major objectives did the Japanese fail to accomplish on December 7 which would come back to haunt them?

A couple things here.

When Admiral Chester Nimitz did an inspection of the Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor on December 25, 1941he commented that:

-The Japanese picked the wrong day to bomb. It being Sunday, nine out of every 10 crewmen stationed on board the ships were on shore leave.

-The Japanese pilots got so carried away trying to sink battleships, they didn’t touch the dry docks near the ships. As it was, since the ships were in shallow water and the dry docks went untouched, meaning the ships could have been quickly repaired.

-The oil storage tanks that had 4.5 million of gallons of oil in them that were located nearby at Hickam Airfield and a few miles away went untouched in the attack. The oil from those storage tanks fueled the aircraft carrier task forces that went on to bomb Tokyo in April 1942, stop the Japanese advance in the Coral Sea in May 1942, and decisively defeated the Japanese at the Battle of Midway in June 1942.

Last but not least: The major mission of the Japanese was to destroy U.S. aircraft carriers. None were at Pearl Harbor at the time the Japanese bombed it.

5) What other ship was sunk at Pearl Harbor that has sailors entombed aboard it other than the USS Arizona?

This is the USS Utah.

6) What allied ship came to the aide of the Americans in Honolulu on December 7?

This was the Dutch merchant vessel, the SS Jagersfontein, which was berthed at a pier in Honolulu. When the attack began on Hawaii, the crew came to the aid of the Americans when the ships’ anti-aircraft batteries fired on Japanese aircraft that flew by it.

7) Why is Torao Migita’s Pearl Harbor story unique?

He was a Hawaii National Guardsman. On December 7, 1941, as a Private stationed with D Company, 298th Infantry at Schofield Barracks, he was killed while returning to his post. When we think of American servicemen who were killed in Hawaii on that date, we usually think they were all Caucasians, Private Migita was of Japanese ancestry.

8) What aircraft at Hickam AFB that was destroyed by the bombing, was actually preparing for a secret mission against the Japanese?

On December 5, 1941 a B-24 bomber flew in from the mainland and upon landing was placed under a lot of security. What we know is that some very sophisticated camera equipment (for that time) was being loaded on board, according to one of the guards assigned to protect it. The aircraft was being prepared for a special mission, but on December 7, 1941 the bomber was destroyed in the attack and two crew members were killed trying to save it. Speculation? The aircraft was to be flown to either Wake Island or Guam to use as a base to launch photographic missions on the Marianas or Marshall Islands, then under Japanese control.

9) What were some of the classic statements made about the bombing of Pearl Harbor?

“Rising sun, attacking early in the morning from a northerly direction.”

Quatrain 91, Century II,

Michael Nostradamus, 16th Century.

******

Returning home from a ball held at the Schofield Barracks Officers Club on Saturday night, December 6, 1941, the top Army commander in Hawaii, Lieutenant General Walter Short saw the bright lights of the ships in Pearl Harbor.

“Isn’t it a beautiful sight?” he commented to his wife. “And what a target they would make.”

*******

In early December 1941 the main job of Pearl Harbor’s Station Hypo, a highly secret intelligence unit was to listen and locate Japanese naval radio traffic. On December 2, the call signs for most of Japan’s carriers disappeared from the air waves.

When Admiral Kimmel’s intelligence officer told him this, Kimmel replied, “Do you mean to say they could be rounding Diamond Head and you wouldn’t know it?”

************

In a letter to his wife dated December 6, 1941, the Captain of the USS Arizona, Captain Franklin Van Valkenburgh wrote his wife, “By this time next week,” he penned, “We will be on our way home for Christmas.”

************                                                                                                                                                                            When he discovered that the that the diplomatic ultimatum from Japan to the U.S. was delayed in being delivered to the U.S. State Department until after the bombing of Pearl Harbor (instead of being delivered before the bombing, which was the plan), Japanese Admiral Yamamoto commented solemnly to his staff, “We have awakened a sleeping giant and instilled in him a terrible resolve.”

10) The second bombing of Hawaii happened on March 4, 1942 by two Japanese flying boats from Wotje Atoll in the Marshall Islands. There were no casualties and little damage done.

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Thank you for remembering December 7!

Joe/OVERSEAS BRATS

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One Comment on “Remembering a Brat At Pearl Harbor”

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