70 Years ago Today: Attack On Pearl Harbor

Official Navy Photo - Attack on Pearl Harbor

As we all know, Japan attacked the United States of America on December 7, 1941: 70 years ago today. That means our soldiers that were 20 years old at the time are now 90 years old. Personally, I want to thank each and every American that served during WWII. The troops that fought on the ground and in the air, and everyone that helped equip America and the allied forces for success in this conflict.

Here in Seattle, the employees of Boeing Aircraft played a VITAL role in winning the war. The b17 Flying Fortress was one of the true workhorses of the war. I remember as a kid reading about tattered planes that had been shot apart being flown back to safety. I admired the pilots that were brave enough to take these planes into the air, and to fly them back in (mostly) one piece. In the summer of 1998, I saw one land at the Arlington airport in Arlington, WA where I worked next door. I got goosebumps as I heard the four engines hum, and when I saw it approach, I was taken back to the WWII time frame for a moment. Truly inspiring to see a piece of history right there in front of me! It’s not enough to see black and white photos- when you hear the sounds, see the sights, and smell the smells, it paints a very different picture.

A severely damaged b17 Flying Fortress flying - Source: rb-29.net

After seeing the b17 land, I was able to go aboard and get a tour of the inside of the plane. Engines still hot from flying – hard to believe I was really inside this legendary machine. To be honest, I felt as if I were floating for a moment.

In addition to designing and building the b17 Flying Fortress, Boeing also introduced the first large pressurized airplane – the b29 Superfortress. You have to like that name – “Superfortress”. Awesome. This plane could fly higher and further than previous bombers. Furthermore, the crew didn’t have to wear masks and flying was more comfortable. True innovation – the adage “war breeds innovation” is absolutely true.

The mightly b29 Superfortress in flight - Source: pr.afrl.af.mil

The b29 was instrumental in ending the second world war. That’s pretty amazing. What’s also amazing is how Boeing didn’t stop innovating. After the war, the b47 bomber was at the cutting edge of jet powered bomber technology with its innovative swept wing design and new class of flight control system.

I hope you will take time to remember and appreciate all of the Americans and all of the allied forces that helped to defend our country, and to end the conflict. The world would be a very different place if things turned out differently…


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5 Responses to 70 Years ago Today: Attack On Pearl Harbor

  1. Lewis says:

    It makes me think of my late grandfather (Navy seaplane pilot in WWII). He was emotionally charged till the day he passed away about Dec 7th and the shock of being attacked on US territory. He went out of his way to never buy anything from Japan because of that surprise attack and the war. However, he did manage to collect a number of trophy Japanese WWII rifles along the way. He kept a loaded WWII Colt 1911 I gave him by his bedside every day.

    • Gavin says:

      Lewis- sounds like he was a great guy! Being a Navy pilot in the day sure would have been exciting (and dangerous) – you never would know what to expect. What a perfect gift too – a WWII 1911 was probably something he was familiar with eh?

  2. bfr says:

    7:30a local time.
    Kaga, Akagi, Shokaku, Zuikaku, Soryu, Hiryu.

    2 waves. Arizona and Oklahoma were totaled, but they missed the carriers and the oil tanks.

    Because of the strength of American opposition to entering the war in Europe (see the Gershwin music “Strike up the Band” for a flavor of it) , the Japanese gov’t miscalculated, thinking the American response would be to “negotiate”. The American antiwar movement had supporters on both the right and the left.

    Instead, the battle was fought with Destroyers, PT boats, submarine and (sort of) carriers until the new ships came on line.

    The Navy and Army departments did everything they could to let the commanders (Adm Kimmel and Gen Short) know there was an attack coming sort of saying over a clear channel “hey, we’re reading their mail, and we really know an attack is coming, OK?”. The both messed up the response, but Gen Short’s “strategy” was by far the worse, gathering all of the airplanes into one compact area, under guard and having daily scheduled “alerts” at 7:30a. Adm Kimmel was budget limited, so had to leave the Heavy Cruisers and Battleships in port (not enough money in the budget to sortie them). He did sortie the destroyers and carriers, which decision ultimately won the war.

    The first blood in the engagement was actually struck by the USS Worden, which sunk the minisub I43 just outside of Pearl. The Worden capsized and sunk later in the typhoon of 1943.

    I suspect that Mr Roosevelt and his folks wanted the Japanese to try to attack, to fire first, as it would bring the US into the war, but were surprised and shocked that the attack was as effective as it was. There is clearly never going to be clear evidence to support or disprove that idea, but its clear they understood there would be an attack.

    Gen Short and Adm Kimmel were called before congressional committees and forced to retire, with reduction in grade. This was probably unfair to Adm Kimmel.

    Another war winner was the B29, which started development in 1939. Overall, not a single aircraft type was flown by the allies in WWII that was not at least on the drawing boards before 1941.

    The war was ended when singles B29 dropped fission bombs of about 20ktons each on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, thus saving the world at least 5 more years of war and possibly 1m allied casualties (and probably 10s of millions of Japanese) which would have been required by an invasion of Japan.

    • Gavin says:

      Thanks for the write-up. I read about the development of the b29 Superfortress – what a piece of machinery! Coming in at the tail end of propeller/piston driven innovation – it’s like a work of art to me. 🙂

  3. Trixie Gear says:

    Great job wtih the blog and pictures! Very professional! And it’s great to see your generation honoring the bravery and sacrifice of the previous generations.

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