JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii On Sunday morning, Dec. 7, 1941 at 7:55 a.m., the largest airborne attack force ever assembled by the Imperial Japanese Navy struck Oahus military installations and plunged the United States into World War II aiming to cripple the U.S. fleet anchored at Pearl Harbor and prevent American involvement in Japanese military engagements in the Pacific theater.
On Dec. 7, 2012, multiple generations of Airmen gathered to remember sacrifices made and honor the legacy emblazoned upon the heritage of Airmen both past, present, and future.
The attack on Oahu was a huge military success for the Japanese, said Col. Johnny Roscoe, 15th Wing commander. They had achieved surprise, shattering the U.S. Pacific Fleet and crippling the Hawaiian Air Force. Eventually our air forces rebuilt, and the American spirit proved invincible. But the eventual victory was not without cost. The price paid that day, and throughout the remainder of the war, was high.
Only two survivors were able to attend the ceremony, representative of an example Roscoe said men and women, civilian, active duty and guardsmen alike have learned from.
The first, retired Col. Andrew Kowalski, enlisted in the Army in 1934 and arrived to Hickam Field in 1939. On the morning of Dec. 7, Kowalski fell asleep at friends house in Hickam housing after staying up late playing poker. At approximately 7:55 a.m., he was awakened by loud explosions and immediately reported for duty at the wing headquarters building where he was the assistant to the commander. For the next several hours, his job was to answer the phone and maintain the official list of Hickam casualties.
Retired Master Sgt. Kenneth Ford, who lied about his age to enslist in the U.S. Army at age 15, was taking a shower when the first bomb exploded. Later that afternoon he volunteered to guard Fort Kamehameha beach against possible Japanese invaders armed with only a World War I Springfield rifle and five rounds of ammunition.
The ceremony included a missing-man formation flyover by F-22 Raptors from the 19th and 199th Fighter Squadrons. The jets flew over the flag pole at the exact moment the first bomb dropped on Hickam. Wreaths were also placed at the base of the flag pole to honor heroes of the past and American flags were presented to Kowalski and Ford.
Today is about the brave men and women who endured the attack and pressed on to fight for our nation, Roscoe said. Our lineage as Airmen in the Pacific Air Forces begins with their story. They lived through what has been referred to as hell in paradise, but I am proud to say that the American flag, flying at this spot on Dec. 7th, was still standing after the attack, and our flag remains today.