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Date lives on in few memories
Japan tried 2nd Pearl Harbor attack on March 4, 1942
By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer
Sixty-seven years ago this month, bombs fell on Honolulu — again — in another surprise aerial attack by the Japanese. The second attack on Hawai'i following Dec. 7, 1941, is not widely known, in part because the four 550-pound bombs fell harmlessly on Mount Tantalus, leaving bewildered residents to wonder if it was local defense battery practice.
Military officials quickly confirmed it was the work of an "enemy raider." In reality, there were two.
But the botched March 4, 1942, raid — whose target was again Pearl Harbor — woke up Navy officials to the use of French Frigate Shoals as a spy base early in World War II, and would three months later figure in the turning point for U.S. fortune in the Pacific, the Battle of Midway.
The bombing had a more immediate impact on 12-year-old Alan S. Lloyd, who was rousted out of bed around 2 a.m. in lower Makiki Heights.
"I remember, 'Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang!' so the point is, he dropped a stick of bombs," Lloyd, now 79, recalls. "The No. 1 bomb woke me up, because I distinctly heard 2, 3 and 4."
Lloyd, who lived just above Roosevelt High School, remembers scrambling up the hill the next day with buddies and finding broken trees, raw earth and shrapnel fragments where the last bomb in that "stick" left a crater.
"For a 12-year-old, the whole thing was a big thrill," he said.
Last week, Lloyd made his first trek back to the crater in 67 years, finding the 6-foot-deep and 30-foot-wide hole carpeted in vines, shaded by banyans, and full of mosquitoes.
The results could have been a lot worse for Makiki Heights than some blown-out windows in the vicinity of the bomb blast.
Lloyd, who worked for Maui Electric and the Hawaiian Electric Co. for a combined 30 1/2 years, retiring as executive staff engineer, quickly did the math in his head.
"The aircraft was probably going 200 mph, at 200 mph that's 300 feet per second. So 10 seconds is 3,000 feet and a little over half a mile," Lloyd said, calculating the spacing of the bombs. "If this had been (bomb) No. 2, we'd probably have got it."
The Japanese plot to bomb Pearl Harbor a second time was hatched in the opening weeks of the war, according to Steve Horn in the book "The Second Attack on Pearl Harbor, Operation K and Other Japanese Attempts to Bomb America in World War II."
Japan's high command planning staff had explored ways of using their new Kawanishi H8K flying boats, which could be refueled by submarine, to strike California or Texas before settling on "Operation K" and a series of attacks on Pearl.
"It was the largest, most effective patrol boat of World War II. It looked like the Boeing Clippers — big four-engined flying boats," said Lloyd, who also is a USS Missouri Memorial Association historian and lecturer on the Battle of Midway.
The Imperial Japanese Navy wanted to send five, but only two were available.
Planners selected the "Ten-Ten" docks at Pearl as a target, and wanted to disrupt salvage and repair operations, as well as reconnoiter U.S. forces, historians say.
Lt. Hisao Hashizume and Ensign Shosuke Sasao and their respective crews took off to fanfare from Wotje Atoll in the Marshall Islands armed with four 550-pound bombs apiece, Horn said.
After flying 1,900 miles, the "Emily" flying boats rendezvoused with two refueling submarines at French Frigate Shoals in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands before heading the remaining 560 miles to Pearl.
According to Horn, naval cryptologists in Hawai'i who had broken Japanese code warned higher command of "indications" that Japanese seaplanes were going to be conducting just such a reconnaissance of Pearl Harbor using French Frigate Shoals, but no U.S. action was taken.
The flying boats were picked up by radar on Kaua'i, but the same overcast that prevented the enemy aircraft from seeing their target also may have prevented P-40 fighters from spotting them. PBY Catalina seaplanes also were sent aloft to look for Japanese carriers.
The Japanese pilots, flying at 15,000 feet, homed in on the Ka'ena Point lighthouse, and Hashizume ordered a left turn to circle up over the island to attack from the north, but Sasao never heard him and piloted his plane along the southern coast of O'ahu.
Hashizume ended up dropping his bombs on forested areas of Tantalus; Sasao's fell into the sea either south of Wai'anae or the entrance to Pearl Harbor.
"It was raining that night, and I suspect that through a break in the overcast, he looked down and he could see Roosevelt High School," said Lloyd, who lives in Lanikai. "That's my theory, and I figured he was over Honolulu, maybe this would be a good place to get rid of his four 550-pound bombs."
Both pilots made it back to the Marshall Islands. Japanese radio and newspapers claimed that a Los Angeles broadcast had reported "considerable damage" to Pearl Harbor, with the death of 30 sailors and civilians and some 70 wounded, Horn wrote.
On O'ahu, the Army and Navy accused each other of jettisoning bombs over Tantalus.
A turning point
The raid by Japan on Hawai'i hadn't gone well in other ways, and future operations would continue that trend.
The Japanese submarine 1-23 was to be 10 miles south of Pearl Harbor as a "lifeguard" and weather spotter, Horn said, but the sub vanished at sea sometime after Feb. 14. A second armed reconnaissance mission planned for March 6 was canceled, meanwhile.
Japan wanted to conduct another iteration of Operation K on May 30 in Hawai'i to keep an eye on U.S. Navy activity prior to its planned attack on Midway.
But Adm. Chester Nimitz, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, now had French Frigate Shoals under watch.
According to an account of Operation K in "The Battle That Doomed Japan; The Japanese Navy's Story," one of the Japanese fueling subs arriving at French Frigate Shoals discovered two U.S. warships already lying at anchor. The following day they were joined by two U.S. flying boats.
"The failure of Operation K meant that there was no way of ascertaining what (U.S. Navy) strength actually was present at Pearl Harbor," the book states.
Some historians believe that had Operation K continued, Vice Adm. Chuichi Nagumo might have learned of the aircraft carriers that took him by surprise at Midway on June 4-7, 1942, turning the tide of the Pacific war in favor of the United States.
Japan lost four aircraft carriers in the sea battle.
A Japanese submarine cordon was put in place on June 3, but too late to detect U.S. carrier groups — including the USS Yorktown repaired at Pearl Harbor, which joined up with two other U.S. carriers to the north at a spot called "Point Luck."
Lloyd said Adm. Isoruku Yamamoto, commander of the Japanese Combined Fleet, tipped his hand with the March 4, 1942, attack on Pearl Harbor.
"Japan was suffering from victory fever," Lloyd said. "As Yamamoto said when they were considering the attack on Pearl Harbor, 'I can run wild in the Pacific for six months. After that, I can't promise a thing.' Well, he missed it by four days."
Those four days were the Battle of Midway.