Part 3: The Attack
There were a lot of them and they seemed to play "follow the leader." They were flying in single file. Finally, the lead plane dived and the others followed. They could hear the loud roar of explosions and black smoke. A radio was playing in a nearby tent. The music stopped and a frantic voice said, "All cars keep clear of Pearl Harbor! Pearl Harbor is under attack by the Japanese."
McDonald and Schimmel ran to get a better view on top of the mess hall. They could see planes diving on Pearl Harbor and Hickam Field. The explosions kept getting worse.
Everybody was stunned. Some guys were running out of their tents with their pants half down and some no pants on at all. Everybody seemed to be running in different directions. Confusion ruled as the torpedo planes flew overhead. The planes were so low that some people threw stones at them. All of the ammunition was locked up. The rocks became their only weapon.
Anti-aircraft guns from the 64th C.A. across the street tried to knock down the oncoming planes. They came so close that it knocked Schimmel and McDonald down to floor of the mess hall roof.
They ran to their tent and got their guns and gas masks and headed to the information center. They worked through the day answering the calls from the various military bases. Later in an investigation of the Pearl Harbor attack, Associate Supreme Court Justice Owen Roberts reportedly said to my father that the message that my father received was far greater than than the "Message to Garcia." This reference was to a message from the President to the Commanding General in Cuba during the Spanish-American War. It was critical to win that war.
Later, as written by Col. USAF (Ret) W.H. Tetley, Commanding Officer of the 580th Aircraft Warning Company Signal Corps:
"Joseph McDonald preformed in an outstanding manner on 7 December 1941 when he manned the AWS switchboard in order to keep the Air Corps duty-officer appraised of the position of the approaching Japanese bomber force. Had that duty-officer been able to get his Fighter Wing airborne, it could have deprived the Japanese of the important element of surprise which was so much in their favor."
Tetley also believed that lives would have been saved during the Pearl Harbor attack had the radar warning been heeded and that the damage from the attack would have been much less. This was reported February 11,1987 in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. December 7, 1941 was my father's longest day. My father continued in the central Pacific, hopping on a number of islands as the military headed for Japan. He did not talk a lot about Pearl Harbor publicly. He always questioned how many lives might have been saved if the radar warning had been heeded.