Now over Kahuku Point, Commander Fuchida fired his flare pistol and propelled a “black dragon” into the sky. His position as aerial commander was made clear by the distinctive red and yellow strip around his plane’s tail. This was the order to attack. As pre-arranged, at this signal the 183 planes of the first wave broke formation. Dive bombers headed upward for the 12,000 foot mark, horizontal bombers to 3,500 and torpedo bombers plunged to sea level then into mountain passes to avoid detection as they headed for Honolulu military targets. A second flare confused the attackers, who nonetheless formed a cloud of fire power on a deadly mission.
The second wave had taken off 45 minutes after the leading element. Consisting of 50 horizontal bombers, 80 dive bombers and 40 fighters, they varied course on signal and made for their targets.
At 7:55 a.m. the first Japanese planes were seen southeast of Hickam Field, fighters soon joined by 28 bombers. They made three separate attacks in a savage 10-minute assault on the flight line, shops and buildings. Seven fighters later strafed aircraft taxiing on the field for defense after a lull of 15 minutes, then pounded the base a third time at 9 a.m. In all, Hickam suffered 42 planes totally destroyed and many more damaged extensively.
Marine Air Group 21 at Ewa, located adjacent to Pearl Harbor, was hit. Situated there, also wing-tip to wing-tip per instructions, were 11 Grumman F4F Wildcat fighters (the newest of USMC fighter planes), 32 Scout dive bombers and six utility planes. Breaking the sabbatical calm, the approaching roar of strange airplanes, enticed the Officer of the Day away from his breakfast. He stepped out to see hordes of airplanes in the sky. Looking at his watch, he read 7:55 a.m. As the craft drew closer he made the planes out to be Japanese and sprinted toward the guard house to sound the alarm. They came in low over the mountains, skimming smoothly past Barber’s Point and, at 7:57, swooped down on the base with blazing armaments. There was no chance, and now no need, for sounding the alarm. Flying as low as 20 feet from the ground, 21 “Zekes” spewed armor piercing shells into the airplanes on the flight line. Pass after pass was made, during the 30-minute attack. Marines rushed out and valiantly began firing at the warplanes with the red-insignias, armed only with rifles and pistols. Destroyed were nine Wildcats, 18 Scouts and all but one utility plane. A second wave of “Zekes” was followed by “Vals” which had joined the first group about 15 minutes after the attack began, concentrating on buildings, installations, hospital tents and personnel. The third attack was by 15 “Zekes.” But this time, Marines had put into action some spare machine guns. Joining them were ground crewmen manning rear-cockpit guns in some of the riddled dive-bombers. They shot down one fighter plane, and damaged several others. Four Marines were killed, 33 of their planes devastated and 16 left too badly damaged to fly.
At one minute after 8, Pearl Harbor and Ford Island were overrun by attacking planes. Japanese bombers destroyed 33 of the 70 planes on Ford Island. Seconds later, dive bombers and torpedo planes struck at warships in the harbor on a sustained basis. Within 30 minutes, torpedo planes made four attacks, dive bombers eight; and after a 15-minute lull, another half hour of vicious bombing and torpedo attacks was started, finally ending at 9:45 a.m. Most of the attacking planes approached Pearl Harbor from the south. Some came from the north over the Koolau Range, where they had been hidden en route by large cumulus clouds. The Pacific Fleet’s in-place 94 vessels were pummeled. Most heavily hit was the battleship force. Within a short span of time, all seven battleships had been hit at least once…