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NEWS | Dec. 6, 2016

Coast Guard Participates in Pearl Harbor 75th Observance, Honors Survivors

By Chief Petty Officer Sara Mooers U.S. Coast Guard District 14 Hawaii Pacific

HONOLULU — The Coast Guard, alongside the other armed services, are observing the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor on Oahu, this week.

Coast Guard men and women are participating in a number of events around the island to honor the survivors and the sacrifices of the more than 2,000 Americans killed in the attacked. The Coast Guard was also present in Oahu and served alongside our shipmates during the attack.

One of the most prominent lasting effects of Pearl Harbor on the Coast Guard is the way we conduct search and rescue. The Coast Guard conducted a medevac of an ill mariner north of Oahu as recently as Sunday. This case illustrates the importance of the hoist capable helicopters regularly used to provide lifesaving assistance to mariners around the nation. This capability was actually born out of the events of Dec. 7th and Pearl Harbor. Coast Guard Lt. Frank Erickson served in Hawaii that day and after. He witnessed the death of thousands of sailors who couldn’t safely be reached and rescued. He went on to work with Igor Sikorsky to build an experimental hoist capable helicopter and was the Coast Guard’s first helicopter pilot. His intuition and ingenuity completely redefined the way the Coast Guard performs search and rescue and provided for this mariner’s rescue. More can be read about Erickson's story here: https://goo.gl/vPTlFe.

Other crews and assets involved in Dec. 7, 1941, include:

USCGC Kukui (WAGL-225) was positioned at Pier 4 in Honolulu when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941. As the buoy tender was unarmed, they remained dockside, at Pier 4 until further instruction was passed. The Army requested the Kukui transport a combat squad to Ni’ihau in response to the reports of Japanese aviators having landed there. They arrived with the squad to find the aviators deceased.

USCGC Tiger (WSC-152) was under Navy jurisdiction and assigned to the local defense forces of the 14th Naval District. Equipped with depth charges, listening gear and firearms, Tiger was designed to interdict smugglers who attempted to unload booze during the height of Prohibition. Early on Dec. 7, 1941, they intercepted dispatch from a Navy destroyer that claimed the destruction of an enemy submarine. They continued the patrol eastward toward the Pearl Harbor entrance and around 8 a.m. started taking fire from an unknown source. They guarded the entrance all day and throughout the night, even taking what is now thought to be friendly fire in the darkness from Army units along the shore that assumed the ship was a foreign threat.

CG-8 lay moored to Pier 4 in Honolulu Harbor when the Japanese attacked. The crew of six went to general quarters and prepared to get the vessel underway. At approximately 9 a.m., CG-8 moved to Sand Island to pick up the depot keeper while bombs exploded nearby. CG-8 proceeded back across the channel to Kewalo Basin and was strafed by Japanese aircraft while en route. At the basin CG-8 prohibited the small private vessels and sampans from leaving until Naval Intelligence could clear the owners. After the two waves of Japanese planes withdrew, the Coast Guard secured the port areas, blacked out all navigational aids and stationed guards along the waterfront.

The morning of Dec. 7, 1941, USCGC Taney (WPG-37) was tied up at Pier 6 in Honolulu Harbor six miles away from the naval anchorage. After the first Japanese craft appeared over the island, Taney 's crew went to general quarters and made preparations to get underway. While observing the attack over Pearl Harbor, Taney received no orders to move and did not participate in the initial attack by the Japanese. Just after 9 a.m., when the second wave of planes began their attack on the naval anchorage, Taney fired on high altitude enemy aircraft with her 3-inch guns and .50 caliber machine guns. The extreme range of the planes limited the effect of the fire and the guns were secured after twenty minutes.

The USCGC Walnut (WAGL-252) was patrolling Midway Atoll to conduct aids to navigation work, 1,200 miles northwest of Oahu when Pearl Harbor was attacked by Japanese forces on Dec. 7, 1941. Upon receiving word of the attack, the Walnut crew ensured that all lights were immediately extinguished to prevent the enemy from using the aids as a navigational reference. That night, about 1,000 miles northwest of Hawaii, Japanese destroyers shelled Midway Island. At 9:30 p.m. the unarmed buoy tender Walnut observed gun flashes from the northwest. Shells began landing within 100 feet of the ship, but Walnut remained anchored during the 30-minute attack. During this attack, a U.S. PBY Flying Boat crashed in Midway Lagoon within the Walnut’s vicinity. Walnut’s crewmembers recovered the injured aircrew, ultimately saving their lives. Walnut continued to complete aids to navigation work, conduct search and rescue, and run convoy missions.

Dec. 10, 1941, John Sweeney, the keeper of Barbers Point Light Station, witnessed an aerial attack and recounts the events in this after action report. According to Sweeney, "At 8 a.m., many planes were seen overhead, both Japanese and ours. Dog fighting continued for twenty minutes, bullets hitting the ground in bursts. Then all planes headed south, our planes chasing them. Two parachutists were dropped close to the station; they were confused in the kiawi trees and prowled around the station all Sunday night, the Fort Kam. 55th C.A. boys firing at them with rifles and machine guns. One was wounded, and was later found on the beach, buried by his mate. His feet were sticking out of the sand. The other was later shot by an officer."

More about the Coast Guard in Pearl Harbor including first hand account and narratives can be viewed at:
https://www.uscg.mil/history/Pearl_Harbor_Index.asp

Editors note: Media interested in interviewing Coast Guard pilot Lt. Matthew Chase about Erickson's story may contact Lt. Scott Carr, Coast Guard at 808-291-3394. Chase will be available to discuss Erickson, Coast Guard aviation as related to the events of Pearl Harbor and the service’s current missions in Hawaii and the Pacific.
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