“Our World Was Shattered”

CEAG Brigham Young and wingman Perry Teaff were among the first to encounter the Japanese strike planes. Young was passing Barbers Point to seaward of Oahu when he noticed a squadron of aircraft circling Ewa Field in column. He assumed them to be U.S. Army pursuit planes, and gave a wide berth. Decreasing his altitude to about eight hundred feet, he continued on toward Ford Island Field. Lieutenant Commander Brom Nichol, riding passenger in Young’s rear seat, was appalled that the Army was apparently conducting training on a Sunday morning.

Ensign Teaff made no effort to maneuver as the first of these planes approached his tail. Seventy-five feet behind him, it opened fire. Teaff was stunned as he realized that 7.7-mm bullets from a Japanese Mitsubishi Zero fighter plane were glancing off his wing surfaces. His Dauntless was not severely damaged, although its horizontal stabilizer was holed. By the time the Zero came in for a second pass, Teaff was recovered enough to counter with a tight turn to starboard. His rear gunner, twenty-two-year-old Texan Edgar Jinks, opened up with a short burst from his .30-caliber machine gun.1

This burst was apparently enough to convince the Zero pilot to shift to the Dauntless of Brigham Young. The CEAG noticed antiaircraft fire ahead and put his SBD into violent maneuvers. Recognizing the Rising Sun insignia of one plane that had completed a dive on him, he dove his SBD toward the ground, zigzagging. He shouted back to Brom Nichol, “Get the gun out!” The staff commander, rusty on the use of the single.30-caliber, fumbled with unshipping the mount to get it into a firing position. He was unable to return fire. As for Young, his fixed guns were loaded and charged but he found no opportunity to use them.2

Teaff and Young managed to shake their attacker, but their evasive actions took them down low over a canefield north of Pearl City on Pearl Harbor’s northwestern shore. Instantly they were met with antiaircraft fire. They did not have sufficient fuel to return to the Enterprise, even if they could get away from the island. Hoping that they would be recognized as friendly, Young decided to make a low approach to Ford Island Field and land. “I had no alternative,” he recalled.

The Enterprise Dauntlesses were under heavy fire from American ships and shore gunners alike as they dropped their flaps and landing gear to attempt a landing at Ford Island. Everything airborne had suddenly become “enemy” to the rattled American soldiers and sailors. Their planes making their slow descent to the runway, Young and Teaff were subject to intense friendly fire. As Young’s Dauntless rolled to a stop, he was greeted by the commander of the Naval Air Station, Captain James M. Shoemaker. As Shoemaker was driving over to meet them, Teaff pulled out of his landing approach and made a second pass on the field while still under heavy friendly fire. As Shoemaker approached their plane, Young and Nichol yelled, “What the hell goes on here?”3

Many of Brigham Young’s junior pilots would not be so fortunate in their first encounters with the Japanese. Lieutenant Clarence Earle Dickinson’s two-plane section was approaching Oahu around 0825 at fifteen hundred feet. Dickinson, a tall, lean twenty-nine-year-old flight officer of Scouting Six who hailed from North Carolina, was a 1934 academy graduate and one of the squadron’s more experienced pilots. Because of his thin frame and excitable nature, Dickinson was called “Dickie Bird” by some behind his back.

The morning’s launch from Enterprise was likely to be one of the last for Dickinson’s rear seat man, RM1c William Cicero Miller, a twenty-year-old farm boy from Thomasville, North Carolina. Like others in his squadron, Miller’s enlistment was about to expire, and he had plans to return to the States to marry his sweetheart. With three years of service in VS-6, he had been flying with Dickinson since his pilot had joined the squadron in April 1941.4

USS Enterprise Morning Search

Pearl Harbor: December 7, 1941






Lt. Cdr. Howard Leyland Young

Lt. Cdr. Bromfield Bradford Nichol



Lt. (jg) Perry Lee Teaff

RM3c Edgar Phelan Jinks



Lt. Cdr. Hallsted Lubeck Hopping

RM1c Harold “R” Thomas



Ens. John Henry Leon Vogt*

RM3c Sidney Pierce*



Lt. Clarence Earle Dickinson Jr.

RM1c William Cicero Miller*



Ens. John Reginald McCarthy**

RM3c Mitchell Cohn*



Lt. (jg) Hart Dale Hilton

ARM2c Jack Leaming



Ens. Edward John Kroeger

RM2c Walter F. Chapman



Ens. Carleton Thayer Fogg

RM3c Otis Lee Dennis



Ens. Cleo John Dobson

RM3c Roy L. Hoss



Lt. Wilmer Earl Gallaher

ARM1c Thomas Edward Merritt



Ens. William Price West

RM3c Louis Dale Hansen



Lt. Frank Anthony Patriarca

RM1c Joseph Ferdinand DeLuca



Ens. Walter Michael Willis*

Cox Fred John Ducolon*



Ens. Edward Thorpe Deacon**

RM3c Audrey Gerard Coslett**



Ens. Wilbur Edison Roberts

AMM3c Donald H. Jones



Ens. Manuel Gonzalez*

RM3c Leonard Joseph Kozelek*



Ens. Frederick Thomas Weber

Sea1c Lee Edward John Keaney


*Killed in action December 7, 1941.

**Injured or wounded on December 7, 1941.

Before he climbed into his rear cockpit that morning, Miller had remarked to Dickinson that his four years of sea duty ended soon and he was the only one of twenty-one fellow radio school students who had not yet crashed in the water. “Hope you won’t get me wet this morning, sir,” Miller joked.5

Dickinson reassured his gunner that all they had to do was get through the morning’s flight. The first two hours were without incident until they approached Barbers Point. Soon, noticing antiaircraft bursts above Pearl Harbor and heavy smoke rising from Battleship Row, Dickinson assumed that some Coastal Artillery batteries “had gone stark mad and were shooting wildly” on a Sunday morning. “Just wait!” he said over his intercom mike. “Tomorrow the Army will certainly catch hell for that!”6

Dickinson motioned to his wingman, Ensign McCarthy, to close up alongside, and then led their section up to four thousand feet above Barbers Point. John Reginald McCarthy, a twenty-four-year-old graduate of the University of Minnesota, actually had more flight experience than his senior pilot Dickinson. Known as “Bud” or “Mac” to many, McCarthy was also nicknamed “Charlie” in reference to comedian and ventriloquist Edgar Bergen’s dummy of the same surname. With his serious face and good-guy personality, McCarthy was the antithesis of his section leader, Dickinson.7

As they approached Pearl Harbor, the two American planes were jumped by a pair of Zeros from the carrier Soryu. The SBD pilots pushed over into steep dives as the Japanese fighters began firing into McCarthy’s trailing 6-S-9, quickly setting ablaze his right main fuel tank and the right side of his engine. McCarthy continued strong evasive action, but the Zeros had thoroughly riddled his plane. His gunner, twenty-one-year-old RM3c Mitchell Cohn from New York, may have been killed by some of the 7.7-mm slugs, for he made no effort to escape his badly damaged aircraft.

McCarthy, realizing that his plane was mortally crippled, fought free from the cockpit and bailed out. His leg was badly injured when it struck one of the stabilizers—the fixed horizontal wing sections on either side of his SBD’s tail. McCarthy’s parachute barely opened at a mere two hundred feet. The crippled SBD slammed into the ground near Ewa Beach, about a mile off Ewa Field’s southwest runway, with Cohn still aboard. McCarthy managed to land in a tree, but when he tried to climb free, he fell and broke his previously injured leg.8

Meanwhile, the Zero that had downed McCarthy zipped past Lieutenant Dickinson to his left. Dickinson rolled his plane to get a shot at him with his fixed guns. As the Zero pulled up in front of him and to the left, Dickinson saw painted on his fuselage a telltale insignia. That red disk on his white wing looks like a big fried egg with a red yolk, he thought. McCarthy’s opponent escaped, but Dickinson was quickly beset by the fury of five more Soryu Zeros that locked onto his tail. Radioman Miller opened fire on the fighters with his single .30-caliber Browning tail gun and kept up constant reports to his pilot. A minute later, Miller calmly announced over the intercom, “Mr. Dickinson, I have been hit once, but I think I have got one of these sons of bitches.”9

Miller’s target was likely Seaman First Class Isao Doikawa, whose A6M2 was the only Soryu fighter to sustain bullet damage. Doikawa would return to his carrier claiming three aerial victories against American opponents.10

Dickinson looked aft and saw a Japanese plane on fire, then returned his attention to the other fighters shooting up the tail of his own plane. He turned aggressively to throw off their aim, but his SBD was taking a pounding. The Zeros’ explosive and incendiary bullets “clattered on my metal wing like hail on a tin roof,” Dickinson recalled. A line of big holes crept across his wing. One punctured his left wing’s gasoline tank.11

As the wing caught fire, Dickinson called back to his gunner, “Are you all right, Miller?”

Miller replied that he had expended all six cans of his ammunition, then let loose with a horrifying scream as he was shot again. “It was as if he opened his lungs and just let go,” Dickinson wrote. “I have never heard any comparable human sound. I believe that Miller died right then.” When he called again to the rear cockpit, there was no reply.12

Dickinson’s 6-S-4 was a flying wreck, its control cables shot away and its left wing in flames. As Zeros pulled into him again, his SBD refused to respond and instead went into a right spin less than a thousand feet above the ground. Dickinson unbuckled himself, ripped his radio cord free, grasped the sides of his cockpit, and pushed himself from his burning plane. He tumbled over and over before finally pulling his ripcord. He was in the air just long enough to hear his Dauntless—with Miller still aboard—explode as it crashed into the ground below. Dickinson struck a dirt road feet-first, followed by his rear end and finally his head. With the wind knocked out of him, he took a moment to untangle himself from his silk chute. A quick inspection found only a thorn embedded in his scalp from a bush and slight nicks on his anklebone where Japanese machine gun bullets had sliced his sock.13

I’ve got to get myself to Pearl Harbor! he thought. Dickinson alternately walked and ran a quarter of a mile to the main road that bordered Oahu’s canefields. In the distance he could hear the booming of antiaircraft batteries, and he could feel the tremor caused by bomb explosions.14

He was able to flag down a middle-aged couple who raced him to Hickam Field even as Japanese planes strafed civilian vehicles around them. Dickinson thanked the couple hurriedly and took off in a full sprint to the entrance gate, eager to find his way to another airplane. Buildings, ships, and aircraft burned furiously in the distance. Less than an hour had passed since he had been shot down.

• • •

Scouting Six’s skipper, Lieutenant Commander Hal Hopping, had lost his wingman en route to Oahu. Like Brigham Young earlier, Hopping had encountered the tanker Pat Doheny making her way to Honolulu. He had advised Ensign Johnny Vogt to remain out of gun range while he investigated the ship’s identity. When Hopping next looked for Vogt, his wingman was out of sight, so he continued on in alone.15

Ensign Johnny Vogt.

U.S. Navy

Vogt’s plane would be the first SBD lost on December 7, when he collided in midair with a Japanese Zero. Both aircraft were seen crashing to the ground a half mile from Ewa Field. Neither Vogt nor his gunner, nineteen-year-old ARM3c Sidney Pierce from Texas, survived. Vogt had served nearly two years with Scouting Six, and his loss would be sorely felt by many.

At 0810, ensigns Manny Gonzalez and Des Moines native Fred Weber were about twenty-five miles from Oahu when Weber suddenly sighted a large group of planes milling around between three thousand and four thousand feet. He had been flying about five hundred yards on the starboard and five hundred feet above Gonzalez. When he looked for him again after studying the other planes, he found that Gonzalez was nowhere to be seen.

Ensign Manuel Gonzalez.

U.S. Navy

Gonzalez obviously mistook the Japanese strikers for Army planes. As his Dauntless suddenly came under Zero gunfire, the ensign issued an urgent radio call at 0833: “Do not attack me! This is Six Baker Three, an American plane!” His SBD was heavily riddled with 7.7-mm fire, and Gonzalez yelled to his rear gunner, twenty-three-year-old RM3c Leonard Joseph Kozelek, “Stand by to get out the rubber boat!” It was too late. Six Val dive-bombers from the carrier Shokaku engaged the Dauntless and blasted Gonzalez and Kozelek to their deaths.

Weber banked to make a wide circle and commenced a series of S-turns while scanning for his section leader. He noticed a plane ahead of him at the same altitude and course. He tried to catch up with him, thinking that it was Gonzalez, yet was soon stunned to witness the plane flip around and begin a run on him. He finally spotted a large red circle on the other plane’s port wing and realized it was a Japanese aircraft. Weber plunged down to about twenty-five feet off the water and applied throttle. The Zero made no attempt to follow. Weber told his gunner, Seaman First Class Lee Keaney, to switch from the Hawaiian radio station KGU’s frequency to that of Enterprise as he set course for Barbers Point.

As Hal Hopping neared Oahu solo, he saw heavy smoke rising from the harbor. Once abreast of Ewa Field, he sighted the first Japanese planes attacking the base. He broadcast a report that Pearl Harbor was being attacked by Japanese aircraft, and dived in through the antiaircraft fire to land at Ford Island. Hopping made it down safely at 0845, just the third Enterprise pilot to land after Young and Teaff.

• • •

The other five sections of Enterprise Dauntlesses en route to Pearl Harbor fared better than many of their comrades. In the search sector immediately to the south of that of Weber and Gonzalez was the team of VS-6’s Ensign Edward Thomas Deacon and VB-6’s Ensign Wilbur “Bill” Roberts. Twenty-six-year-old Roberts, a graduate of the University of Michigan, was a slight young man who would prove to be solid and steady under fire. He spotted about thirty planes flying low on the whitecaps as they approached Oahu. They were painted a shade of green similar to that used on Army planes, which Roberts assumed them to be.16

Ed Deacon thought perhaps they were Army P-40s. His rear seat man, twenty-year-old RM3c Audrey Gerard “Jerry” Coslett, spotted strange markings on the unknown aircraft. He said dryly to his twenty-seven-year-old pilot, “It looks like the Army’s changed the markings on their planes.”17

The American and Japanese planes passed one another by, but not before Bill Roberts watched one through his telescopic sight as it approached him head-on. He could clearly see the red meatballs painted on its sides. How stupid of the Army to paint their planes like that for war games, he thought. Someone might take them for Japanese! The approaching aircraft appeared to be a torpedo plane. Roberts briefly considered how good a shot he could have if only it were an enemy aircraft. The two opposing pilots each rocked their wings in salute to each other and continued on.18

Deacon and Roberts’s radiomen, Jerry Coslett and AMM1c Donald H. Jones, found that they were unable to communicate with the Ford Island tower because of considerable voice chatter on the circuit. Their SBDs passed over Fort Weaver at low altitude, and Roberts felt several bullets strike his plane.

The friendly fire from below also hit Deacon’s SBD, while two Zeros commenced a firing run on him. Bullets from the Army gunners tore into Deacon’s 6-S-14 and knocked the .30-caliber machine gun from Jerry Coslett’s grasp. Slugs cut Deacon’s parachute straps at the cushion and nicked the pilot’s thigh. Coslett was hit by additional rounds that struck his right shoulder, right wrist, and the right side of his neck.19

Roberts observed white smoke or gasoline pouring from wingman Deacon’s SBD, as well as gasoline pouring from his own left wing as friendly rounds struck his plane. His engine sputtering and losing power, Ed Deacon was furious that he and his radioman were the victims of American gunners. Just short of Hickam Field, he was forced to make an emergency water landing with his wheels up in about two feet of water. He clambered out of his cockpit to help Coslett, only to find himself under rifle and machine-gun fire from the beach some two hundred yards away. He used the rear seat radio cord as a tourniquet on Coslett’s forearm, then broke out the life raft.

The wounded men remained under friendly fire as Deacon paddled for the beach. Coslett was bleeding heavily from the forearm, which had lost two inches of bone from a single bullet. Fortunately, an Army crash boat set out from the dock at Hickam and recovered them. The vessel remained under rifle fire as it returned. As Deacon helped his wounded radioman toward an aid station, an Army sergeant handed Coslett a half-pint bottle of Old Crow to help drown his pains.20

Donald Jones, rear gunner for Ensign Roberts, considered bailing out of his SBD. Gasoline streamed from its port-side wing, and bullets had torn through his pant legs without injuring him. He opted to remain on board, and Roberts effected a safe landing on Hickam Field. Roberts hurried to the administration building to issue a Teletype message warning and returned to his SBD to send out similar radio messages to other aviators. Jones remained in his rear seat, using his Browning machine gun to fire at diving Japanese planes. “He was fortunate not to have been hit,” Roberts said. Two new bullet holes were punched from top to bottom through their plane’s tail. Other bullets had pierced the left elevator, left aileron, engine cowling, and both left fuel tanks. It was a miracle that Roberts had brought his plane down safely.21

• • •

Lieutenant (j.g.) Frank Anthony Patriarca and Ensign Walter Michael Willis were both attacked by Zeros as they neared Ewa Field. Patriarca and gunner Joe DeLuca were unable to keep tabs on their wingman in their efforts to evade the fighters. No trace would ever be found of Willis—considered one of the best pilots of Scouting Six—or his SBD. Lost with him was Coxswain Fred John Ducolon, the thirty-six-year-old squadron master-at-arms.

Ensign Walter Michael Willis.

U.S. Navy

Another inbound VS-6 team was that of Lieutenant Wilmer Earl Gallaher, the squadron’s executive officer, and his wingman, Ensign William Price West. Gallaher, a lean thirty-four-year-old who hailed from Wilmington, Delaware, had graduated from the Naval Academy in 1931. Known to friends by his middle name, Earl, Gallaher had flown fighters off the carrier Ranger and patrol planes from the carrier Langley before serving a two-year stint as a pilot trainer at Pensacola. Some of his comrades considered him cocky and a stickler for regulations. Gallaher had joined Scouting Six in June 1940 as its flight officer, or third senior pilot. During his flight training at NAS Pensacola, he had dated the daughter of the station commandant, Captain Bill Halsey. Now Gallaher was second in command of VS-6 and Admiral Halsey was in command of the entire Enterprise task force.22

Gallaher’s wingman, solid and stocky “Willie” West, was athletic. A day shy of his twenty-eighth birthday, West had been a boxer and all-fraternity handball champion at the University of Minnesota before winning his wings in November 1940. Near Oahu, the search team noticed ten brightly colored planes with fixed landing gear. “Did we miss something on the board this morning?” Gallaher asked his radioman, Tom Merritt. “Are we supposed to have an exercise with the Army?”23

Gallaher and West were unable to get into Ford Island on their first attempt due to heavy antiaircraft fire, so they returned to the vicinity of Barbers Point. They were soon joined by the last section of VS-6 to launch from Enterprise, ensigns Carleton Fogg and Cleo Dobson. Other members of Gallaher’s stunned squadron soon joined. “Our world was shattered,” said Jack Leaming, when he heard the frantic pleas of Ensign Gonzalez over the radio. He and his pilot, Dale Hilton, also sought refuge off Barbers Point with their wingman, Ed Kroeger.24

The first wave of Japanese attackers had done great damage on the shipping and shore installations at Pearl Harbor. They had also destroyed dozens of aircraft on the ground and had managed to shoot down five Dauntlesses from the Enterprise air group. A sixth had been downed by friendly fire. The fury over Oahu had taken the lives of three SBD pilots (Manny Gonzalez, Walter Willis, and Johnny Vogt) and five rear seat gunners (Leonard Kozelek, Fred Ducolon, Sidney Pierce, Mitchell Cohn, and William Miller). Two other pilots, Ed Deacon and Mac McCarthy, and radioman Jerry Coslett had been wounded or injured.

One third of the Enterprise SBDs had been lost by 0900. Four planes had managed to land at Ford Island under heavy friendly fire. Eight other Enterprise Dauntlesses remained in the air after 0900, uncertain of where to go, and with the Japanese follow-up strike still to come.

• • •

Don Hoff, the nineteen-year-old junior radioman of Scouting Six, was also airborne but close to the ship. He and his pilot, Ensign Earl Donnell, had originally been assigned to be part of the eighteen-plane scout group flying into Pearl Harbor, but a fussy engine had caused them to give their place to Bud Kroeger. Hoff and Donnell then launched with two other Scouting Six SBD crews to perform antisubmarine and inner-air patrol duties. As he heard radio transmissions erupting from the Oahu area, Hoff thought to himself, Boy, they sure are making these war games really serious.

The Bombing Six and Scouting Six aviators still on board ship heard enough over the radios to realize it was no drill. In the VB-6 ready room, Lieutenant Richard Halsey Best had been anxiously riding out the morning hours. His wife and four-year-old daughter were awaiting his arrival in Hawaii, where he was due to begin a six-day leave once Enterprise had docked. Dick Best was well seasoned in Navy life. Following his graduation from the Naval Academy, his fleet service had started on board the light cruiser Richmond. He was a member of Flight Class 76 in Pensacola, Florida, and thereafter was assigned to Fighting Two on the carrier Lexington.25

Best’s proven abilities as a pilot landed him an instructor position at NAS Pensacola in June 1938, then a session at the Navy Photographic School. In May 1940, Best was assigned to be the flight officer, or third in command, of Enterprise’s Bombing Squadron Six, then based in California flying Northrop BT dive-bombers. By the spring of 1941, VB-6 had received the SBD dive-bomber, Bill Hollingsworth had been promoted to skipper of the squadron, and Lieutenant Best had fleeted up to second in command.26

Best’s squadron skipper was thirty-eight-year-old Lieutenant Commander William Right Hollingsworth, who was known to his contemporaries simply as “Holly.” Born in Fort Meade, Florida, Holly was a 1926 Naval Academy graduate with a slow Southern drawl. He and one of his closest academy graduates, Bob Armstrong, had since married sisters Thelma and Mildred Stallworth. When America entered World War II, the brothers-in-law were each commanding a carrier-based Navy dive-bomber squadron—Holly Hollingsworth heading up VB-6 on Enterprise and Bob Armstrong in charge of VB-5 on the carrier Yorktown.27

Dick Best was feeling sore that the cruiser Northampton—struggling with damaged screws that slowed her speed—had already caused him to be one day late for his pending leave. Sitting in VB-6’s ready room, Best was anxious. He knew that as the carrier went in, the air staff would retain a few planes to do antisubmarine patrol, and thus anticipated a further delay before his leave started.28

Shortly after 0800, the ready room talker announced the attack on Pearl Harbor. The ship was instantly put on alert, and all pilots were soon called to man their aircraft in preparation for a strike launch. The deck crews began arranging an attack group topside, loading them with thousand-pound bombs while awaiting orders on what to strike.29

Those not assigned to the morning mission could only wonder which of their squadron mates might not return. Ensign Benjamin Henry Troemel had lost two good buddies—his roommate Johnny Vogt and also Manny Gonzalez. Troemel had enrolled in the New York Merchant Marine Academy’s cadet program and graduated in 1936. But his service as a licensed third mate did not fulfill his boyhood dream of being a pilot, and with the help of the academy’s commander, Ben Troemel made it into the Navy’s flight school at Pensacola in 1938. “They told us, ‘If you don’t make it, doesn’t mean you can’t learn to fly,’” Troemel recalled. “‘We could teach a baboon to fly if we had enough time.’”30

Troemel had been given his first “down” signal that morning from the Enterprise launching officer due to a faulty spark plug. Several reserve SBDs had been warming up and available only if needed, so Ensign Bill Roberts had been launched in his place.31

• • •

By 0845, eight Enterprise SBDs from the morning search were still airborne. Scouting Six XO Earl Gallaher and Willie West attempted to make landings at Ford Island around 0900, but they too came under heavy American antiaircraft fire from ship and shore batteries. The second round of Japanese attackers had the area as stirred up as a kicked-over anthill. Gallaher and West returned to Barbers Point to wait, where by 0915 they had been joined by five other circling stragglers: VS-6 pilots Fogg, Dobson, and Hilton, plus VB-6 pilots Kroeger and Weber.

The second wave of Japanese attackers would complete their dives during the next half hour, leaving a terrible scene of destruction across Oahu. The battleships Oklahoma and Arizona were destroyed, while three others were completely wrecked. Numerous other ships were sunk or heavily damaged, and most of the Army’s 231 aircraft had been wiped out or damaged. The Marines could not count any of their own aircraft serviceable by the end of the second raid, leaving only Enterprise’s surviving scout bombers available for further operation.

Earl Gallaher moved his seven SBDs out to sea to allow things to settle at Pearl. When he saw Japanese planes effecting a rendezvous southwest of Barbers Point, he went against protocol by opting to break radio silence.

“Pearl Harbor is under attack by the Japanese,” he radioed. “This is no shit!”32

Gallaher proceeded toward Ford Island as soon as the antiaircraft fire had subsided. He, Dobson, and then West chose to land at Ewa Field because of lighter AA fire in that area. As Gallaher taxied up to the line, a Marine sergeant jumped up on the ramp and yelled, “Get the hell off the ground! Can’t you see what’s going on?”33

The trio took right back to the air and rejoined their other four VS-6 and VB-6 comrades to fly into Ford Island. Ship and shore batteries sent up a barrage, mistaking them for enemy aircraft. Willie West’s plane took two or three rounds in the left wing in the process. Carl Fogg suffered a bullet hole in the main spar of his right wing and another round through his tail surfaces. As they approached the water tower on Ford Island, Gallaher dropped his wheels and landing gear per standard procedure, but some of the gunners on the island saw planes coming with wheels down and opened fire, assuming they were Japanese.

Earl Gallaher sat in his plane, ducking the incoming tracers. He knew that if he could see the tracers, they would not hit him, as the fire came from the rear ends of the bullets as they zipped by. With no other obvious choice, he bored straight in and landed as the American gunners continued firing at him.34

Tracers streaked by Cleo Dobson’s plane thick and fast. The husky, athletic Oklahoman, who had played baseball, football, and basketball in college, was a “congenial, jovial old guy,” according to squadron mate Jack Kleiss. “His mother really wanted a daughter and planned to call her Cleopatra. She didn’t arrive, so when she had a son, she named him Cleo.”35

One close shell burst off Dobson’s right wing, throwing his plane upon its side. He dropped his seat down so he could hide behind his engine. He gunned his throttle and dived for the runway, worrying all the while that an eager gunner would shoot out one of his tires as his Dauntless settled in.36

Dobson stomped his brakes hard upon touchdown and ground-looped his SBD off the end of the landing mat. Handlers moved in to refuel and arm the carrier Dauntlesses, while the other four pilots—Hilton, Fogg, Kroeger, and Weber—landed at Ewa Field around 1000.

Only eleven of eighteen Dauntlesses had safely landed on Oahu, with Frank Patriarca of VS-6 still airborne. America’s “day of infamy” was far from over for the shaken aviators of the Enterprise Air Group.

• • •

By 1000, the last planes of the second Japanese strike wave were heading for their carriers. Admiral Nagumo’s fleet was steaming to the northwest of the Hawaiian Islands. Admiral Halsey’s lone carrier task force was left chasing phantoms for the balance of the day.

Allen James Brost became one of the phantom chasers. The twenty-one-year-old Wisconsin youth had been assigned to Enterprise almost exactly one year prior. Radioman Brost and his pilot, Lieutenant (j.g.) John James Van Buren, had been kept on board ship to fly antisubmarine patrols. At 1020, Enterprise turned into the wind, launching a full strike group to investigate a report of two Japanese carriers some thirty miles south of Barbers Point. Brost was up on the flight deck with his gear on, watching the others take off. Van Buren ran out and yelled at him to get into the last unmanned SBD.37

Rear gunner Achilles Antonius Georgiou, a New Yorker whose parents had immigrated to the United States from Greece, had joined Bombing Six in the spring of 1941. Several of his buddies, also fresh from radio school, had joined at the same time: Alfred Stitzelberger, William Rothletter, and Mitchell Cohn, who all hailed from Long Island. Georgiou and Cohn had often made liberty together. Georgiou was on the hangar deck, stretched out on the wing of his SBD, blissfully unaware that his air group was under attack. When word of the attack came, he scrambled up on deck and helped his pilot ready their plane.

Hailing from the little country town of Hillsboro, Missouri, Ensign Tony Frederic Schneider was crushed when he heard Manny Gonzalez’s final frantic pleas over the radio. He had shared his first stateroom on board Enterprise with Gonzalez. Schneider had been sitting in the ready room waiting for orders to man his dive-bomber to fly into Pearl Harbor for liberty. Just minutes later, he and his gunner were climbing into the air with a live thousand-pound bomb in their SBD’s racks for the first time.38

Lieutenant Commander Holly Hollingsworth formed his dive-bombers over the task group. Yet Lieutenant Dick Best, heading up the second division of Bombing Six, soon became frustrated with the lack of immediate action. After an hour in the air, Hollingsworth’s crew had made no enemy contacts. As he circled near his carrier, Best was thrilled to see that Enterprise had broken out her battle colors, her largest American flag. To Lieutenant Jim McCauley, VB-6’s gunnery officer who was flying nearby, it was the largest and most beautiful American flag he had ever seen.39

Radioman Lee McHugh, flying rear seat for Best, noticed another radioman trying to get his attention. It was Harry Nelson, gunner for Jim McCauley. He transmitted Morse code on the side of his cockpit by hitting his fist down for a dot and using an open hand for a dash. McHugh told his pilot that their division had been ordered to investigate Japanese minisubs reported to be refueling southwest of Oahu.40

This report, and others received by Halsey, proved to be erroneous. Scouting Six had sent out thirteen aircraft in the morning, leaving only five on board ship. Only eight pilots remained, and three of them were not yet carrier qualified: ensigns Reid Stone, Daniel Seid, and Percy Forman. Three ready VS-6 aircraft were next sent to investigate a report of a Japanese tanker. The three most experienced VS-6 pilots still on the ship were assigned to this mission: Lieutenant (j.g.) Norman Jack Kleiss, Ensign John Norman West and Ensign Horace Irvin Proulx.

The senior pilot was Jack Kleiss, from Coffeyville, Kansas, a town known for its defiant stand against the Dalton Gang of bank robbers in 1892. He and gunner Johnny Snowden had but recently landed from a four-hour morning hop of flying inner-air patrol with two other VS-6 crews. Once his Dauntless was refueled, Kleiss was back in the air leading three Bombing Six pilots on the search, which also proved to be fruitless.

• • •

The Enterprise aircraft that had landed at Ford Island were refueled and armed with five-hundred-pound bombs. The erroneous report of Japanese carriers compelled Rear Admiral Patrick N. L. Bellinger to order one of the Enterprise SBDs out to investigate.

Hal Hopping departed at 1030 for a solo search, but found nothing. Dale Hilton, Ed Kroeger, and Fred Weber were sent out next to rendezvous with Army B-17s over Hickam Field, but were soon called back. At about the same time, Frank Patriarca—the last of the morning searchers still airborne—landed on the island of Kauai at the Army Air Corps’ Burns Field after five and a half hours. His gunner, Joe DeLuca, was assigned to ground defense with his .30-caliber Browning and six cans each of a hundred rounds of ammunition.41

There was no rest, however, for the other weary Big E bomber crews at Ford Island. Rear Admiral Bellinger ordered Brigham Young to send out nine of his SBDs to scout 175 miles out from Oahu. Their mission was to investigate and bomb sampans and hostile enemy ships reported south of Barbers Point.42

The CEAG plane would be flown by Dick Dickinson, freshly returned from being shot down during the morning. Young was apparently unaware of the VS-6 pilot’s ordeal, and Dickinson did not complain. He had been pleased to see that his XO, Earl Gallaher, had also survived the morning’s attack, and when they saw each other they shook hands in an effusive greeting and then just stood there, grinning at each other.43

The Enterprise group launched with a trio of three-plane sections: Hal Hopping with wingmen Perry Teaff and Ed Kroeger; Earl Gallaher with Willie West and Cleo Dobson; and Dickinson with Dale Hilton and Fred Weber. This flight sought the Japanese for more than three hours north of Oahu as foul weather began moving in.44

Teaff courageously maintained formation with his skipper throughout the search in spite of the fact that his 6-S-2 was struggling with a dangerously high oil temperature. Teaff and his gunner Edgar Jinks had made temporary repairs during the morning to their plane’s damage, which included a bullet lodged in its engine and a busted hydraulic system.45

Hopping’s nine SBDs returned to Ford Island at 1530. A few machine guns opened up on them near Wheeler Field, but at least the Ford Island gunners held their fire this time.

• • •

Enterprise in the meantime had landed her fifteen Dauntlesses from the luckless midmorning search group. Admiral Halsey promptly ordered another search, and the ship turned into the wind at 1345. Nine SBDs departed to effect single-plane searches covering sectors to the east-southeast to south-southwest, out to 175 miles. This group included Ensign Clifford “Bucky” Walters, Ben Troemel, and Earl Donnell.

Lieutenant Commander Hopping’s flight landed at Ford Island and immediately received orders to take off again for Enterprise. For many, it was their third flight of the day. For Hopping, Kroeger, Weber, and Hilton, it was already their fourth. As the crews manned their planes, VS-6 exec Earl Gallaher confronted gunner Jack Leaming, asking him if he still planned to ship out once his enlistment ended in two days.46

“Hell, no!” was Leaming’s reply. He and his buddy E. G. Bailey would both extend their Navy enlistments by two years during the month, figuring that the war would be over soon enough.

Gallaher was furious. Arizona had been his first ship in the Navy, and now more than eleven hundred of her crew were dead, some men Gallaher had known. He was left with a burning desire to avenge their deaths by one day dive-bombing the very carriers that had destroyed her.47

When the SBDs arrived on the Big E, the airmen were peppered with questions about Pearl Harbor from their shipmates, yet they were promptly ordered back to Ford Island, the exhausted crews making their fourth or fifth flight of the day.

Around 1630, Bombing Six pilot Bucky Walters radioed that he had spotted Japanese warships. He also evaded what he believed be to a Japanese aircraft. Admiral Halsey, who later quizzed the young ensign, believed that Walters had actually seen an American ship and had likely encountered an Army A-20 or patrolling PBY patrol plane. In the afternoon craze of December 7, however, his report was concern enough to send the Enterprise air group into action once again. The excitement and stress of the Japanese surprise attack led to many such false sightings and hastily dispatched strike groups on December 7.48

“Pilots, man your planes!” blasted from the loudspeakers. From Scouting Six, Hod Proulx, Norm West, and Jack Kleiss had climbed into their SBDs with chart boards and gear, believing that they would merely be taxiing their planes forward. The Walters report that forced their sudden launch caught the VS-6 trio by complete surprise. They took off without a Point Option, wind data, enemy position, or even their own ship’s position.49

The Enterprise attack force was led by Lieutenant Commander Gene Lindsey’s torpedo-loaded Douglas TBD Devastator torpedo bombers. Scouting Six’s only three pilots were launched with three Bombing Six planes under Dick Best and six Wildcats under Lieutenant (j.g.) Francis “Fritz” Hebel. The bomb loads on the SBDs had been replaced with 850-pound ferrous sulfate smoke tanks. The Navy doctrine at this time was to lay a smoke column for attacking torpedo planes. The “smokers” would drop their smoke tanks a thousand yards out from the target in preparation for the TBDs’ torpedo runs.50

The SBDs flew at three hundred feet in gentle S-turns to avoid overtaking the slow TBDs. Failing to find a Japanese fleet at the designated point, Gene Lindsey spread his group into scouting sections to further scour the area. Once darkness set in, Dick Best found it quite a chore to keep his SBDs in tight formation. Lindsey turned command of the flight over to Lieutenant Best to lead them back to the carrier. This did not sit well with Best, five years junior to the torpedo squadron skipper. The two had had a run-in back in August 1941. “He came over to make a complaint to my squadron and we stood chest-to-chest, shouting at each other,” Best remembered. “A junior to both of us tried to resolve by inviting both of us to a cocktail party.”51

That confrontation only added to Best’s frustration on December 7. He’s taken me out and lost me where I can’t navigate by looking into my cockpit, he thought. He has cowardly turned over the lead to me without saying that is what he’s doing. He’s just crawling behind through this mishap of mine. Now he’s saying, “We’re lost; take us home.”

Best called to Lindsey on the radio. “Six Torpedo One, from Six Baker Ten. Are you leading or am I leading?”52

There was no response.

Best radioed, “I’m turning on running lights, dropping my smoke tanks, and returning to base.”

The SBDs dropped their tanks, and Lee McHugh in Best’s rear seat turned on the Zed Baker (ZB) homing device to help guide the group back in. Best was unaware at the time that McHugh’s radio was malfunctioning, unable to broadcast or receive transmissions. He assumed for the time being that Lindsey had chosen to ignore his calls.

Fritz Hebel’s Wildcats, low on fuel, opted to fly on to Ford Island to land. This left the SBDs and TBDs on their own to reach Enterprise. Best, for one, was afraid of the “duck shoot” that might ensue if his strike group tried to land at Pearl Harbor after dark on this most confusing of days.53

Enterprise did not want to take them on board, but Lindsey was insistent that his Devastators could not fly over the mountain range near Oahu. The TBDs began coming on board at 2038, although T-13 hit the barrier. It was the first time that torpedo planes had landed with live torpedoes, considered too precious to jettison this day, and the resulting crash of the Devastator sent its torpedo skidding wildly down the flight deck. The TBD fiasco forced the remaining planes to circle overhead in the darkness for another half hour while the deck was cleared. There were many near collisions, and the pilots lost sight of the task group several times while preparing to land. “It was one of the most nightmarish flights I ever made,” said Ensign Irvin McPherson of VT-6.54

The last of the evening strikers was finally landed by 2113. Dick Best had logged 4.3 hours in the cockpit and considered this mission one of the roughest he ever made. His specialty on touching down was to catch the number one arresting wire, but in the darkness he made the worst landing of his career. Bombing Six pilot Jim McCauley literally kissed the flight deck upon landing with only eight gallons of fuel remaining in his tanks.55

Enterprise had brought aboard all of the Devastators and Dauntlesses from her strike group, but her Wildcats were still aloft. Hebel’s fighters, waved off from the Enterprise, proceeded to Ford Island to land. As they circled around to approach, nervous machine gunners from all over opened up on them. Ensign Herbert Menges’s F4F was hit and crashed, killing the pilot—the first U.S. naval fighter pilot to die in the Pacific War. As the gunfire erupted, many of the Enterprise aircrews were trying to sleep in a hangar on Ford Island. Jack Leaming jumped up and grabbed his flight gear and ran outside in time to see a plane crash and explode north of Ford Island.56

Hebel’s Wildcat was hit and he was fatally injured in a crash landing in a canefield. Ensign Gayle Hermann’s Wildcat was slammed by bullets, but he made a crash landing on Ford Island’s little golf course. Ensign David Flynn safely parachuted from his crippled F4F, but he badly wrenched his back during his landing in a canefield. Ensign James Daniels landed under gunfire, but had to dodge parked trucks set out to deter Japanese landings. Lieutenant (j.g.) Eric Allen also parachuted from his damaged fighter plane but later died from a rifle shot to his chest. Fighting Six’s introduction to war was as deadly as that of Scouting Six: Four Wildcats had been destroyed and three fighter pilots killed.

The last Enterprise aviators still aloft long after dark on December 7 were two of the young ensigns who had made the long afternoon search, Ben Troemel and Bucky Walters. Unable to find Enterprise in the dark, both were so low on fuel that they opted to fly to NAS Kaneohe to land. Walters received permission to touch down, but he was unaware that the Marines had parked trucks and other vehicles on the landing mat at irregular intervals to prevent Japanese gliders from landing.

As he came in over the darkened runway, Walters touched down between two automobiles. Suddenly he spotted another vehicle in his landing lights. He managed to jump it by pulling back on his stick and then dropping back down into a ground loop. He and gunner Joe Ivantic were unharmed but had to taxi around various parked vehicles until they ended up face-to-face with a cement mixer.

Ensign Troemel arrived a half hour later over Kaneohe after more than five hours in the air, the fuel in his SBD nearly exhausted. He and gunner RM3c Alfred Stitzelberger also managed to avoid the parked vehicles. Leaving smoking rubber while dodging parked trucks and Walters’s SBD, Troemel came to a halt nose-to-nose with the same concrete mixer. When daylight revealed the hazards on the runway the next morning, Walters said that he would have never attempted such a landing if he had seen the parked vehicles.57

Enterprise had lost ten planes and ten men on December 7. By nightfall, her remaining air group was badly scattered between bases on Oahu and those still on the ship. Scouting Six exec Earl Gallaher was unaware of the tragedy that took place on Ford Island that night when the Enterprise fighters attempted to land. He and his fellow VS-6 pilots stayed the night in the basement of the base’s Bachelor Officers’ Quarters. Some of the enlisted men slept on cots, but most of the naval aviators could manage little more than a few hours of sleep.

You can support the site and the Armed Forces of Ukraine by following the link to Buy Me a Coffee.

If you find an error or have any questions, please email us at Thank you!