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By Jack McKillop

USAAF AIRCRAFT IN THE TERRITORY OF HAWAII

 

In December 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed Supreme Court Associate Justice Owen J. Roberts to head a commission to investigate the Pearl Harbor disaster. The information in this post was obtained from the PROCEEDINGS OF ROBERTS COMMISSION that I found in the Library of Congress several years ago.

 

This post only describes the units and aircraft based in the Territory of Hawaii.

 

All U.S. Army units in Hawaii were under the command of the Army's Hawaiian Department, Lieutenant General Walter C. Short commanding. The USAAF subordinate unit was the Hawaiian Air Force, Major General Frederick L. Martin, commanding. The three main bases of the Hawaiian Air Force were located on the island of Oahu, i.e.:

 

1. Bellows Field, the smallest of the three bases, was located on the east

coast of Oahu near the town of Waimanalo.

2. Hickam Field, the main bomber base, was located between Pearl Harbor

and Honolulu.

3. Wheeler Field. the main pursuit (fighter) base, was located next to

Schofield Barracks.

 

The Hawaiian Air Force also had an auxiliary strip at Haliewa on the northwest coast of Oahu. The strip was 1200 feet (366 m) long and was "home" for a few pursuit aircraft.

 

The organization and aircraft of the Hawaiian Air Force on 7 December 1941 are listed below sorted by type of aircraft.

 

THE BOMBERS

 

The Hawaiian Air Force bombers were assigned to the 18th Bombardment Wing; all bomber units were based at Hickam Field. The total strength was 45 aircraft, 33 Douglas B-18 Bolos and 12 Boeing B-17D Flying Fortresses. The organization of the 18th Bombardment Wing was:

 

18th Bombardment Wing

4th Reconnaissance Squadron (Heavy)

50th Reconnaissance Squadron (Heavy)

5th Bombardment Group (Heavy)

23d Bombardment Squadron (Heavy)

31st Bombardment Squadron (Heavy)

72d Bombardment Squadron (Heavy)

11th Bombardment Group (Heavy)

26th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy)

42d Bombardment Squadron (Heavy)

 

THE FIGHTERS

 

Fighter aircraft and units were known as pursuit aircraft and wings/groups/squadrons in those days; pursuit units would become fighter units on 15 May 42; pursuit aircraft became fighter aircraft in 1947.

 

Detailed records exist in the Roberts Commission Report identifying the pursuit (fighter) aircraft at Wheeler Field by serial number, unit and status, i.e., in or out of commission or surveyed (junked). The reason for an aircraft being out of commission is also indicated. The reason falls into one of four categories, i.e.:

 

1. First echelon (squadron) maintenance,

2. Second echelon (base engineering) maintenance,

3. Third echelon (air depot) maintenance, or

4. Lack of spare parts.

 

The organization and aircraft of the pursuit (fighter) units of the Hawaiian Air Force were:

 

14th Pursuit Wing, Wheeler Field

15th Pursuit Group, Wheeler: 2 Curtiss P-36A Hawks [1 out of comm-1st

ech mtce, 1 surveyed] and 1 Grumman OA-9 Goose

45th Pursuit Squadron (Fighter), Wheeler Field

15 Curtiss P-36A Hawks [9 out of comm-1st echelon mtce]

2 Martin B-12s

2 Curtiss P-40Bs

1 Douglas BT-2BI [surveyed]

46th Pursuit Squadron (Fighter), Wheeler Field

21 Curtiss P-36A Hawks [8 out of comm-1st echelon mtce]

5 Curtiss P-40Bs [2 out of comm-1st echelon mtce]

1 Curtiss A-12A

1 Douglas BT-2BI [surveyed]

1 Boeing P-26A Peashooter

47th Pursuit Squadron (Fighter), Wheeler Field

11 Curtiss P-40Bs [7 out of comm-1st echelon mtce]

2 Boeing P-26B Peashooters [1 out of comm-1st echelon mtce]

2 Curtiss P-36A Hawks [1 out of comm-1st echelon mtce]

2 Curtiss P-40Cs [1 out of comm-1st echelon mtce]

1 Martin B-12

[NOTE: An unknown number of fighter aircraft were physically

located at Haleiwa Auxiliary Field.]

72d Pursuit Squadron (Interceptor), Wheeler Field

No aircraft assigned

18th Pursuit Group (Interceptor), Wheeler Field

2 North American AT-6s (1 out of comm-1st echelon mtce]

2 Grumman OA-9 Gooses

6th Pursuit Squadron (Interceptor), Wheeler Field

16 Curtiss P-40Bs [6 out of comm; 4 for 1st echelon mtce, 2 for parts]

1 Boeing P-26A Peashooter

1 Boeing P-26B Peashooter [out of comm-1st echelon mtce]

19th Pursuit Squadron (Interceptor), Wheeler Field

15 Curtiss P-40Bs [4 out of comm-1st echelon mtce]

3 Curtiss P-40Cs [1 out of comm-1st echelon mtce]

44th Pursuit Squadron (Interceptor), Wheeler Field

9 Curtiss P-40Bs [2 out of comm; 1 for 1st echelon mtce, 1 for parts]

7 Curtiss P-40Cs [1 out of comm-parts]

2 Boeing P-26A Peashooters

2 Boeing P-26B Peashooters [1 out of comm-1st echelon mtce]

[NOTE: 12 P-40s were at Bellows Field for aerial gunnery training]

73d Pursuit Squadron (Interceptor), Wheeler Field

13 Curtiss P-40Bs [4 out of comm; 2 for 1st echelon mtce, 1 for 2nd

echelon mtce, 1 for parts]

1 Boeing P-26B Peashooter

78th Pursuit Squadron (Interceptor), Wheeler Field

16 Curtiss P-40Bs [7 out of comm; 6 for 1st echelon mtce, 1 for parts]

3 Boeing P-26A Peashooters [1 out of comm-1st echelon mtce]

 

MISCELLANEOUS UNITS

 

Three additional flying squadrons were assigned to the Hawaiian Air Force on that day. They were:

 

1. 19th Transport Squadron, Hickam Field with two Douglas C-33s

(Douglas DC-2-145s)

2. 58th Bombardment Squadron (Light), Hickam Field with 13 Douglas

A-20A Havocs

3. 86th Observation Squadron, Bellows Field with six North American

O-47Bs and two Stinson O-49 Vigilant Vigilants. [NOTE: 12 P-40s of

the 44th Pursuit Squadron (Interceptor) were at Bellows Field for aerial

gunnery training.]

 

The list below indicates the aircraft on the ground when the Japanese attack began on 7 December 1941. Under each aircraft are the number on hand and in commission before and after the attack and the number destroyed by the Japanese aircraft. A-12A, CURTISS SHRIKE

Before Attack

On hand: 2

In commission: 2

After Attack

Destroyed: 0

On hand: 2

In commission: 1

 

A-20A, DOUGLAS HAVOC

Before Attack

On hand: 12

In commission: 5

After Attack

Destroyed: 2

On hand: 10

In commission: 9

 

AT-6, NORTH AMERICAN TEXAN

Before Attack

On hand: 4

In commission: 3

After Attack

Destroyed: 1

On hand: 3

In commission: 3

 

B-12, MARTIN

Before Attack

On hand: 3

In commission: 1

After Attack

Destroyed: 0

On hand: 3

In commission: 1

 

B-17D, BOEING FLYING FORTRESS

Before Attack

On hand: 12

In commission: 6

After Attack

Destroyed: 5

On hand: 7

In commission: 4

 

B-18, DOUGLAS BOLO

Before Attack

On hand: 33

In commission: 21

After Attack

Destroyed: 12

On hand: 21

In commission: 11

 

B-24A, CONSOLIDATED LIBERATOR

Before Attack

On hand: 1

In commission: 1

After Attack

Destroyed: 1

On hand: 0

In commission: 0

 

C-33, DOUGLAS (Model DC-2-145)

Before Attack

On hand: 2

In commission: 2

After Attack

Destroyed: 0

On hand: 2

In commission: 0

 

O-47B, NORTH AMERICAN

Before Attack

On hand: 7

In commission: 5

After Attack

Destroyed: 0

On hand: 7

In commission: 5

 

O-49, STINSON VIGILANT

Before Attack

On hand: 2

In commission: 2

After Attack

Destroyed: 1

On hand: 1

In commission: 1

 

OA-8, SIKORSKY (Model S-43)

Before Attack

On hand: 1

In commission: 1

After Attack

Destroyed: 0

On hand: 1

In commission: 1

 

OA-9, GRUMMAN GOOSE

Before Attack

On hand: 3

In commission: 3

After Attack

Destroyed: 2

On hand: 1

In commission: 1

 

P-26A, BOEING PEASHOOTER

Before Attack

On hand: 8

In commission: 7

After Attack

Destroyed: 5

On hand: 3

In commission: 2

 

P-26B, BOEING PEASHOOTER

Before Attack

On hand: 6

In commission: 3

After Attack

Destroyed: 1

On hand: 5

In commission: 2

 

P-36A, CURTISS HAWK

Before Attack

On hand: 39

In commission: 20

After Attack

Destroyed: 4

On hand: 35

In commission: 16

 

P-40B, CURTISS

Before Attack

On hand: 87

In commission: 55

After Attack

Destroyed: 37

On hand: 50

In commission: 25

 

P-40C, CURTISS

Before Attack

On hand: 12

In commission: 9

After Attack

Destroyed: 5

On hand: 7

In commission: 2

 

SUMMARY

 

The Hawaiian Air Force had a total of 231 aircraft assigned on 7 December 1941 but only 123 (53%) could be considered combat effective. About 61% of all aircraft were in commission before the attack. The Japanese destroyed 74 aircraft (32%) of which 48 were combat effectives. After the attack, the Hawaiian Air Force had a total of 79 aircraft in commission, 36 of which could be considered combat effective.

 

None of the Hawaiian Air Force aircraft were loaded with bombs or ammunition prior to the attack. The Army's Hawaiian Department was obsessed with the idea of sabotage by the 157,000 civilians of Japanese blood living in Hawaii. In order to guard against sabotage, the Hawaiian Department had issued orders pertaining to aircraft on the ground. Under these orders, (1) all aircraft were to be neatly lined up to make it easier to guard them, (2) all bombs were to be removed and stored, and (3) all guns were to be unloaded and the live ammunition placed in hangars overnight.

 

The first Japanese attack occurred at 0755 hours local; the second attack began at about 0840 hours local. The area was not clear until about 1000 hours. The following is the official Hawaiian Air Force log of aircraft takeoffs for 7 December 1941:

 

0830: 2 P-36As and 4 P-40s

0855: 2 P-40s

0915: 6 P-36As

0930: 6 P-36As and 5 P-40s

0950: 1 O-47B

1040: 3 O-47Bs

1127: 4 A-20As

1140: 2 B-17Ds

1200: 5 P-40s

1300: 3 A-20As

1330: 2 B-18s

1500: 11 P-40s and 3 O-47Bs

1520: 3 B-17Ds

 

A total of 57 sorties for the whole day!

 

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