When I met the now late Joseph L. Lockard, 90, (1922-2012) for our exclusive interview in 1988 at then Baltimore-Washington International Airport, he was an affable, retired electronics executive.
But on Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941, he was in a position to help deflect the Japanese sneak air attack against the United State Navy Pacific Fleet, anchored off Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaiian Islands, then a US Territory, and since 1959 a State of the Union.
This was and remains the all-time greatest sea disaster and defeat ever suffered by our Navy, won by 40 torpedo bombers, 51 dive bombers, 49 high-level bombers, and six aircraft carriers of the Imperial Japanese Navy/IJN in the most significant air raid in all of martial aerial annals to date.
It was Mr. Lockard’s fate to be an unheeded 1775 American Paul Revere-like messenger of the stunning, surprise Pearl Harbor battle, whose timely and correct word of warning was disregarded by higher authority.
Statistically, the Battle of Pearl Harbor---rarely actually called that, I note--killed 2,335 US servicemen and women, with 18 American warships either sunk or badly damaged, and over 200 aircraft destroyed, many of them on the ground.
This is the story behind that story, as I got it from him both personally and directly in 1988, three decades ago now.
Joe Lockard and George E. Elliott, Jr.---both then but 19- — were a pair of Army privates operating an early radar unit that was actually manufactured here in Baltimore by our very own former Westinghouse firm.
The two privates ran the unit at Opana near Kahuku Point on the northern tip of Oahu, the most populated in the overall chain of Hawaiian Islands (see illustration) on that Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941.
In 1965, I hiked all over the Kahuka Point area as a new member of the islands’ premier military unit--both then and now---the famed US Army 25th Infantry Division Tropic Lightning, that was the main ground defensive bulwark for the most important of the islands, while not the largest.
Oahu was also the home of the City of Honolulu, near which was the Pacific Fleet’s home port of Pearl Harbor.
The base at Pearl had been built in 1908---a fact rarely if ever mentioned in most accounts of the battle--as the direct result of the stunning victory of Japan over Russia in the RussoJapanese War of 1904-05.
The over-confident Zarist Russians had been badly defeated on both land and sea by the Japanese, whom they’d grossly underestimated, as we did as well during 1940-41.
Then American President Theodore Roosevelt won the Nobel Peace Prize for brokering the ending of that war, but he saw immediately the threat that the Rising Sun Empire of Japan represented to the US in the far Pacific.
Hawaii had been selected as the site for the new base rather than the Philippine Islands because Washington viewed Oahu as the cushion of first defense for the vulnerable US West Coast.
The Philippines were seen both then and in 1942 as less defensible, and, indeed, were written off by the Allies for a later re-conquest, as occurred during 1944-45.
Still, the US Asiatic Fleet was stationed there in 1940, when FDR suddenly relocated the Pacific Fleet from the US West Coast to Hawaii as well.
The much-offended Japanese saw the new Pearl base as proof that the US now sought control over the entire Pacific Ocean, winning it since September 1945 until this very moment.
A topographical relief map of Oahu, Hawaii in the chain that contains the main city of Honolulu (bottom right) and also Pearl Harbor (at bottom center) just above Mamala Bay. On the morning of Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941, Pvts. Joseph L. Lockard and George Elliott were manning a Baltimore-built Westinghouse SCR-270 Long-Range Aircraft Detection Unit that was based at the northern part (top left) of the island.