"If you suffer for righteousness' sake..." (I Peter 3:14)

A Tale of Japanese Airplanes Shot Down at Pearl Harbor

P. Harben: It was December 7th, 1941. I had been drafted into the U.S. Army and was doing my basic training at an Army Air Force base on Hawaii near Pearl Harbor. It was 6:00 a.m. - the bugle had just sounded mess call for breakfast, and we were all lined up outside the kitchen hut waiting for breakfast. I was at the front of the line. Suddenly there was the sound of an aircraft flying low overhead. It started firing. Bullets started hitting the ground. I threw myself into the kitchen hut. A bullet that would have killed me just skimmed over me, but then inflicted a flesh wound on the cook's leg. Everyone ran for cover.

Aichi Japanese Navy type 99 carrier bomber (D3A1), codename 'val'

Aichi Japanese Navy "type 99" carrier bomber (D3A1), codename 'Val'

British sergeant shows doughboys how to operate a Maxim

British sergeant shows U.S. "doughboys" how to operate a Maxim.

His wounded leg merely made the cook angry. "Let's get the machine gun and fire back," he yelled. We ran to the armory and he grabbed the antiquated Maxim machine gun we used for training. I picked up the ammunition belts. We staggered out under our loads onto the airfield runway and loaded the machine gun. Japanese planes were flying over and strafing the airfield. The cook fired back with the machine gun as I fed in the belts of ammunition. We hit some planes. Miraculously nothing hit us. Everyone else was out of sight in the shelters. The Maxim started to get hot. The cook kept firing till the gun was too hot to hold and burnt his hands. I took over the firing and he fed the ammunition. Then the ammunition ran out. We ran for cover and soon the "All Clear" sounded.

The Drill Sergeant came round to check for casualties and inspect the damage. Soon he noticed the smoking machine gun. "Who fired the Maxim?" he barked. The cook and I stepped forward. "Do you know that the Maxim is a water-cooled machine gun?" he snapped. "Yes", we replied. "Did you fill it with water?" "No." His face turned red: "You've overheated the Maxim and ruined its barrel. You are confined to barracks on charges."

The cook and I slunk off to the Barracks to await our fate for destroying US government property. Meanwhile mighty battleships were burning and sinking in Pearl Harbor. An hour or two later, an officer arrived at the Barracks along with the Drill Sergeant. The officer was not much concerned about the loss of the Maxim, but he did notice that the cook was injured. He ordered the cook immediately to the hospital, and I joined the men repairing the airbase. No one mentioned the Maxim again.

Later, some officers arrived to investigate what had been happening at the airfield during the Japanese attack. Two Japanese planes had been shot down in our area, and no one knew who did it. The investigators asked the officers and sergeants. They hadn't seen anything - they were all in the shelters. I whispered to the cook, "Shall we tell them we did it?" The cook flinched, "We've already had a narrow escape over the ruined Maxim, let's not push our luck a second time." So we kept our peace. The investigators left without discovering who had actually shot down the planes.

Official US Army records show that two Japanese planes were shot down near Wheeler USAAF base on Dec. 7th, 1941. But precisely who actually shotdown the planes is disputed. [See letter following].


In August 1995, Mike Linacre visited the Dallas-Fort Worth Congregation of the Church of God, International, and there encountered Mr. P. Harben. Recounted above is the tale Mike heard from Mr. Harben.

Mr. Harben died in 1996. Do you know of any additional details of this event (e.g., name of cook, name of unit)? ABCOG welcomes any corrections or confirmation from those familiar with these events [see letter following]. Perhaps Mr. Harben and the cook can be given posthumous recognition for their heroic action.


 

12 April, 1998

Just recently I have been allowed access to the internet thru a local college. Your internet article, "A Tale of Japanese Airplanes Shot Down at Pearl Harbor", hit paydirt. My file cabinets have some of the answers to your quest.

In introduction, since 7 Dec 1966 my goal is to locate, identify, and, hopefully, recover the MIA American and Japanese airmen from the Pearl Harbor Attack. Crew identification at recovered crash sites helps eliminate potential problems.

Study of your article reveals a few key items. I shall isolate two details.

The Oahu airbases were Ewa (USMC); NAS Kaneohe (USN patrol bombers); NAS Pearl Harbor (Ford Island patrol bombers); Hickam Field (USAAF bombers); Wheeler Field (USAAF fighters); Bellows Field (USAAF fighters and reconn); and Haleiwa Field (USAAF fighters).

Mr P. Harben details TWO crashed planes near the airbase. Several crashes were near airbases. Three were near Ewa, one at Kaneohe, one at Hickam, and two near Wheeler. Of these sites, there was only one base which also conducted basic training: Wheeler Field.

The two "Wheeler" plane crashes were correctly titled "Dive Bomber Type 99" and later given the code name "VAL". Both crashed just outside the base in the community of Wahiawa, Hawaii.

My research reveals that both aircraft were from the Japanese carrier KAGA. Both VALs had targeted the USS NEVADA during her sortie within the harbor. Of interest, I have the crew's names!

One of the two VALs came under attack by P-40 pilot, 2Lt George Welch. That plane crashed at 711 Neal Street. This was near the Civilian Conservation Corps encampment [at what is now the Wahiawa Freshwater State Park]. Many CCC men were quick to the scene. Some vets suggest this site was 'Just outside the front gate'. However, the site was not that close.

Select documents and Pearl Harbor Survivors Association members confirm that a host of people can rightfully make claim for the second of the two crashed planes. This VAL crashed at 251 Hiwi Place, a little farther from Wheeler. This is also known as the crash at the Paul Young laundry, and incorrectly credited in Walter Lord's DAY OF INFAMY volume as the Welch victory.

[The photo's covering the downed Japanese D3A1 VAL's are U.S. Army Signal Corps. 111-SC-127009 and SC-127014. The Ft. Kamehameha crash site is 111-SC-127005.]

General credit for the victory claim was given to 1Lt Steve Saltzman and SSgt Lowell Klatz. They got the Silver Star for the action. Stories about the victory are very prolific and are often as embellished as a Texas Tale. Yet the fact is the plane truly was hit by ground fire. Who actually got the plane the Lord only knows. I shall add your bibliography citation to the many other claimant stories for this crash in my future volume, ABOVE PEARL: A Tactical History of 7 Dec 1941.

Later note: Friendly fire?
The two men MAY have contributed ground fire to shoot down John Dains, whose P-36 was hit by Schofield Barracks fire...as well as hits on a P-40 whose pilot noted those hits in his flight log.

Your interesting quest may have located sources which may assist aspects of my research that includes:

  • A list of every aircraft airborne within 300 miles of Oahu on 7 Dec 1941--THE WHOLE DAY! BOTH SIDES!

  • A crew roster for the above aircraft? Both Sides! Japanese side nearly complete. US side in progress. My incomplete roster of PILOTS for those 70 plus American aircraft airborne DURING the attack is given in EAST WIND RAIN by Stan Cohen (Missoula, MT: Pictorial Histories Pub; 1991) page 97-8. March 1994 edition has most current list.

  • Experiences of those airborne crews and the ground crews which aided these planes into the air. Both sides! This item is the ABOVE PEARL volume.

  • A monograph history of each airbase (and the radar story) for 7 Dec 1941 is in work.

  • A roster of all aircraft on Oahu. This to be an APPENDIX in another book, untitled thus far (working title: Aircraft Photo Album of 7 Dec 41). See my incomplete list in 7 DEC 1941: THE AIR FORCE STORY by Leatrice Arakaki and John Kuborn (Washington DC: GPO; 1992).

*For the Smithsonian Institute-NASM and other museums:

  • Acquire marking data to properly paint replica or museum aircraft correctly as "Pearl Harbor" aircraft.

  • Acquire data to assist museums with exhibits of Pearl Harbor related accessions which are still relegated to storage.

  • Locate and recover the Missing Aircraft of 7 Dec 1941.

  • Assure the historic aircraft get properly restored and exhibited.

*For the US Army Casualty and Memorial Affairs Branch, Alexandria.. VA:

  • Provide enough data to isolate the crash sites of missing American airmen.

  • Have the Army's Central Identification Lab/HI do the crew recovery.

  • Prove that certain UNKNOWN graves at Punchbowl contain the bodies of Pearl Harbor MIA airmen.

*For the Japanese Bereaved Family Association and the Yasukuni Shrine:

  • Recover MIA airmen for return to Japanese relatives.

  • Identify those recovered Japanese returned to Japan in 1948.

  • Assure that all 1941 burials were disinterred.

Articles, monographs and books on the topics uncovered in the above tasks are in work.

Unique and esoteric stories or sources regarding Pearl Harbor are sought. These may be witnesses to crashed planes, a list of wartime/prewar publications, photos or documents of those days.

Thank you for your internet article and your patience and understanding in my own quest.

Here is to history, the ultimate puzzle, with a lot of pieces missing! May the pieces be found before the witnesses are gone.

Cheers,
Sincerely,

David Aiken

Student of 7 Dec 1941
Pearl Harbor History Associates, Inc.
Director

 

For much more information about Pearl Harbor,
go to the The Pearl Harbor Reference Library


A Note on the Maxim machine Gun
"Every major power in the world, at one time or another between 1900 and World War I, had adopted the Vickers-Maxim machine gun [invented by an American, Hiram Maxim, in 1884], either in rifle caliber, the pom-pom, or both. The German high command apparently were the first to realize the deadliness of the weapon and made thorough preparations for the coming war, having more than 50,000 Maxim-type guns ordered or on hand at the outbreak of World War I in 1914. In 1917, 2 days after the United States declared war, General Crozier, Chief, Ordnance Department, authorized the purchase of 4,000 Vickers-Maxim machine guns, since there was not a single machine gun in the country suitable for use on the European front. By 12 September 1918, 12,125 Vickers-Maxims had been made, but few saw action, since the war ended 2 months later. True to the German military tradition, they sought to build tomorrow's weapons today. In contrast, it has always been our custom to build yesterday's weapons soon."
Lt.-Col. George M. Chinn, USMC, Bureau of Ordnance, Department of the Navy, 1951, "The Machine Gun", p. 148-9.
[The British and the French provided machine guns for our "doughboys".]

It looks like one of these machine guns finally saw action at Pearl Harbor!


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