U.S. fired first on day of Pearl Harbor
Divers discover Japanese sub sunk on Dec. 7, 1941
Friday, August 30, 2002
A sub sunk before the attack on Pearl Harbor has been found.
Six decades after Japanese fighter planes launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, a team of underwater scientists has stumbled upon proof that the Americans actually fired the first shot that fateful morning.
For 60 years, historians have wrangled over which side drew first blood, but the debate appears to be over with the discovery of a dilapidated Japanese sub believed to have been shot down an hour before the infamous aerial attack began.
Divers with the Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory (HURL) – using two deep-dive subs originally built in Vancouver – came across the 24-metre craft during a routine training exercise Wednesday morning.
“We’ve known it’s always been out there, and little by little we’ve been methodically eliminating targets,” said Terry Kerby, who piloted one of the subs that discovered the wreckage. “It was more than just a piece of steel on the bottom for us. It was something that we’ve been looking for for a long time.”
Although Dec. 7, 1941, is most widely remembered for the Japanese assault on the U.S. naval base in Hawaii, the American military has long maintained the confrontation actually began in the water.
Shortly before 7 a.m., an American warship said it noticed an enemy midget sub, one of five in the area that morning, taking bearings near the surface.
After a short pursuit, the crew of the USS Ward said it opened fire on the unidentified sub, knocking it out of commission.
“We have attacked, fired upon and dropped depth charges operating in defensive sea area,” said a message from the Ward.
But, unfortunately for the crew, the mystery sub was never found. Even a number of high-profile attempts to uncover its whereabouts – including a recent National Geographic expedition headed by Robert Ballard, the man who found the Titanic – proved fruitless.
But that all changed just before noon on Wednesday.
Mr. Kerby, HURL’s chief pilot for the past 20 years, was operating one of the undersea subs approximately 365 metres below the surface. The dive was part of a routine training mission, but, like always, the veteran explorer was keeping an eye out for the well-hidden sub.
During the dive, his craft, dubbed Pisces IV – which was purchased three years ago from Fisheries and Oceans Canada – moved aside so the other sub, Pisces V, could pass.
“I told them to go ahead and we’d come around,” Mr. Kerby recalled yesterday. "Then they just moved a short distance away and stopped and said: ‘We found it.’ "
Mr. Kerby immediately turned his sub around and pointed its headlights on the newly discovered craft, which is rusted and slightly leaning to its port side. He was certain he was looking at the missing sub because it had a bullet hole in the conning tower and both its torpedoes were still intact.
The bodies of the two crew members are believed to be somewhere inside.
“It was incredible,” said Mr. Kerby, who spent three hours filming the wreckage. “We got some of the most incredible images, beautiful stuff.”
But not everyone, historians say, will appreciate the beauty.
While the discovery vindicates the crew of the USS Ward – some suggested the sub was never even hit – it underlines the disastrous communications breakdown that occurred that morning at Pearl Harbor.
The USS Ward sent two messages to its superiors, warning that an enemy sub had been fired on. However, for reasons that remain undetermined, a general alert was never issued.
An hour later, Japanese planes bombed the base, leaving 2,390 people dead, 1,178 wounded, and 21 ships heavily damaged
A subsequent investigation blamed the poor communication on inexperienced officers and poor planning between the army and naval units on the base.
“We have shades here of what happened on 9/11,” said John Wiltshire, a Halifax-born geologist who directs the undersea lab in Hawaii. “There was a lot of forewarning, but nobody did anything about it.”
Foster Griezic, a history professor at Carleton University, said the U.S. government probably would have preferred if the Japanese sub had remained hidden.
Not only does it symbolize the deadly communications gap that occurred at the base, he said, but it distorts the common notion that the United States joined the Second World War as a matter of self-defence.
After all, he said, they fired first.
“To me,” he said, “the real significance is that the Americans are typically warmongers.”
The sub is expected to be raised to the surface for examination, but the U.S. and Japanese governments are still discussing whether it will remain in the vicinity.
sorry for the long post - thought it an interesting article given the flack the japs have got from pearl harbor.