May 26, 2008

Memorial Day

Grave Decoration - NAS Kaneohe Bay, 1941
A Kaneohe Naval Air Station remembrance by James Evans - GnySgt, (Ret)
I enlisted in the Marine Corps in June 1940, when I was sixteen and certainly never expected to see anything like the devastation of that day.

On December 7, 1941, I was stationed at the NAS Kaneohe Bay. At the time of the attack, I was a Private First Class, waiting in the barracks for the guard truck to take me to the main gate, where I was to stand the 8:00 to 12:00 watch.

We heard what sounded low flying planes and explosions, but as the air station was still under construction, didn't really pay attention to it, though someone commented on the fact they were working on Sunday. Suddenly someone came running into the barracks yelling, "we're being attacked by the Japs." Panic prevailed as we scrambled for our rifles, ammunition was another story. The storeroom was locked, and it took a few minutes to find the supply sergeant and get him to issue ammo without the proper authority.

A couple of us took a water cooled machine gun up to the second deck of the barracks, we planned to mount the gun on the roof as we would have an excellent field of fire on the planes banking around the barracks. One of them boosted me up to the ladder leading to the roof, when I opened the hatch and stuck my head through, here comes a Jap plane so close that I could see the pilot's teeth as he grinned at me. I'll never forget that. We made eye contact.

When I realized there was nothing but training ammunition for the machine gun, I loaded my rifle and braced myself on the ladder, with my elbows on the roof, and got off five rounds. From my perch on the roof I had a great view of the action down by the hangars and the seaplane ramp, Jap Zero's strafing the PBY's moored in the bay and on the ramps. I could see the tracer bullets from the planes and from the ground, as the sailors were returning the fire by now. Everything down there seemed to be burning.

I left my perch on the ladder as I soon realized that I wasn't going to hit a plane going a couple hundred miles an hour with an .03 rifle. I went down to the second deck and joined the rest of the Marines firing at the planes through the windows, we had a good field of fire as the planes banked past the row of barracks after strafing the seaplane ramp and hangar area.

After the first attack was over, I was assigned to a detail that went down into the dependents housing area to evacuate the women and children. During the second attack the Japs strafed our trucks a couple of time but no casualties. We took the dependents to a large storage bunker located at the base of Hawaiilon Hill in the center of the station.

I finally got to my post on the main gate about 11:00 and lived in the guardhouse for almost a week. It seemed like I was either on watch, or I was out with a detail at night investigating reports of parachutist, saboteurs or what have you. It was very scary in the first days after the attack, rumors flying concerning the Japs coming back with a landing force, the blackout, trigger happy sentries all over the island, etc.

The NAS Kaneohe Bay was the first military installation to come under attack. We had 18 men killed in action, we lost 33 PBY's and both of the hangars. We shot down at least three enemy planes, and Chief Ordnanceman John Finn, USN, received the Medal of Honor for his actions that morning.
John 15:13
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
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