Part II

The Dundalk Eagle - - NEWS -

Mean­while, at Pearl, off its Ford Is­land an­chor­age rested the mighty US war­ships of Bat­tle­ship Row, it­self an un­aware prime tar­get of a pow­er­ful Im­pe­rial Ja­panese Navy/IJN car­rier task force al­ready steam­ing se­cretly on its deadly way there, hell bent on sink­ing them all. It al­most did, too!

The two pri­vates prac­ticed with their new unit daily from 7 AM-4 PM, but after Wash­ing­ton’s alert of Nov. 27, 1941 that the Ja­panese might strike some­where in the Pa­cific, they went on duty from 4-7 AM in­stead.

This was be­cause the top brass felt that these were the crit­i­cal hours when the an­chored fleet might be at­tacked by an en­emy every­one now ex­pected that the US would one day fight: Im­pe­rial Ja­pan.

Their Opana Sta­tion site was one of five such, and the six men who ran it were left pretty much to them­selves.

They had a small camp at Kawaiola, nine miles down the coast, and com­muted daily to their duty lo­ca­tion via pickup truck.

They were meant to work in three-man shifts, but this par­tic­u­lar Sun­day, they de­cided that a two-per­son shift would do just as well in­stead.

Lockard served as op­er­a­tor, with El­liott as both plot­ter and mo­tor­man, the reg­u­lar mo­tor­man be­ing al­lowed to sleep in late that day.

The of­fi­cer to whom they’d re­port by field tele­phone that day of all days was Army Lt. Ker­mit Tyler, and all three men would play fate­ful parts that Day of In­famy, as Pres­i­dent Franklin D. Roo­sevlt so fa­mously termed it on the 8th, the cur­rent writer’s birth­day, and also the very last time that the United States has de­clared war on any na­tion for­mally---re­ally!.

Blaine Tay­lor (1946-) au­thored and fully il­lus­trated with maps and pho­to­graphs a spe­cial com­mem­o­ra­tive in­ter­na­tional mag­a­zine is­sue on Pearl Har­bor pub­lished by Star­log Pub­li­ca­tions for the 50th an­niver­sary of the bat­tle in 1991.

What hap­pened next has been well-de­scribed by Bal­ti­more’s own late and world fa­mous his­to­rian Wal­ter Lord (1917-2002)--whom I met when he was an Hon­orary Colonel of the Ft. McHenry Guard---in his 1957 best-selling book, Day of In­famy.

“At 7:02 AM, (Pvt. Ge­orge) El­liott sat down and be­gan fid­dling with the (radar) con­trols. (Pvt. Joseph) Lockard leaned over his shoul­der, and started ex­plain­ing the var­i­ous echoes or blips.

“Sud­denly, a blip flashed on the screen far big­ger than any­thing than Lockard had ever seen be­fore. He shoved El­liott aside, and took over the con­trols him­self.

“Quickly, he saw that there was noth­ing wrong with the set---it was just a huge flight of planes!

“At 7:06, El­liott tried the head­phones that con­nected di­rectly with one of the spot­ters in the In­for­ma­tion Cen­ter. The line was dead…he fi­nally got through to the… switch­board op­er­a­tor, Pvt. Joseph Mc­Don­ald.

“Mc­Don­ald took the mes­sage to the lieu­tenant. Help­fully, he ex­plained that it was the first time he had ever re­ceived any­thing like this…’Do you think we ought to do some­thing about it?’

“’Hey, Mac!’ (Lockard) protested when Mc­Don­ald told him that the lieu­tenant said ev­ery­thing was all right. Then Lockard asked to speak di­rectly to the lieu­tenant, (Ker­mit) Tyler.

“…Tyler…re­mem­bered that the (US) car­ri­ers were out…there might be (US) Navy planes…These also might be (US Army Air Corps) Fly­ing Fortresses.

“In ei­ther case, the planes were friendly.

“Cut­ting short any fur­ther dis­cus­sion, he told Lockard, ‘Well, don’t worry about it.’”

Con­tin­u­ing 16 years later, Lord wrote that, “Pvt. Mc­Don­ald was still un­easy… and as (he) left the build­ing, he sud­denly stuck the orig­i­nal Opana mes­sage in his pocket.”

My own take on this as­pect of it is that an en­listed man was wisely safe­guard­ing him­self ver­sus the of­fi­cer’s word later on if it came to that, and might’ve, too, as we’ll see.

“He’d never done any­thing like this be­fore, but he wanted to show it to the fel­lows …Alone again in the plot­ting room, Lt. Tyler… had no qualms about the Opana mes­sage.

“Al­though he didn’t know it---on one count at least, he (Lt. Tyler) was ab­so­lutely right---some B-17s were com­ing in from the main­land. At this very mo­ment, 12 of the big bombers were ap­proach­ing from the north­east.

“But the planes that showed upon the Opana screen were a lit­tle less to the east, far more numer­ous, and at this mo­ment in­fin­itely closer.

“Ja­panese Cdr. Mit­suo Fuchida knew they must be nearly there---they’d been in the air now al­most an hour and a half…”

In his 1962 book---But Not in Shame: The Six Months After Pearl Har­bor---the now late au­thor John Toland (whom I met at the US Na­tional Ar­chives at Wash­ing­ton, DC in 1976) added this scene.

“By now, El­liott had al­ready lo­cated the blip on the plot­ting board: 137 miles to the north, three de­grees east.

“He ex­cit­edly sug­gested they tele­phone the read­ing to…(Army) Ft. Shafter. Lockard dis­agreed. Their prob­lem, he said, was over at 7 AM. El­liott per­sisted…”

After he talked with Lt. Tyler, they duly shut down the unit.

“By now,” Toland re­joined, “the 183 planes of the first wave of at­tack­ers from the Pearl Har­bor Strik­ing Force were al­ready rac­ing down the north­west­ern coast of Oahu…”

For those movie­go­ers who have seen both ver­sions of the films---the 1970 Tora/Tora! Tora! and the 2001 re­make Pearl Har­bor--each of these scenes is fully and well- de­picted.

The lat­ter film starred Ben Af­fleck, Josh Hart­net, Kate Beck­in­sale, Cuba Good­ing Jr., Jon Voight as FDR, and Alec Bald­win among oth­ers. Blaine Tay­lor (1946-) au­thored and fully il­lus­trated with maps and pho­to­graphs a spe­cial com­mem­o­ra­tive in­ter­na­tional mag­a­zine is­sue on Pearl Har­bor pub­lished by Star­log Pub­li­ca­tions for the 50th an­niver­sary of the bat­tle in 1991. Tay­lor was sta­tioned at Schofield Bar­racks, Oahu, Hawaii with the US Army’s famed 25th In­fantry Divi­sion Tropic Light­ning in 1965, scene of Ja­panese naval air force straf­ing on Dec. 7, 1941. “I put my fingers in the bul­let holes of the walls of our bar­racks, just as they had been left there 24 years be­fore.”

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