JAPANESE AIR ATTACK ON 10 DECEMBER 1941 left warehouses on fire at Nichols Field.


For those on the west side of the international date line, the "date which will live in infamy" came on 8 December 1941. Few responsible military or naval men had believed that the Japanese would be able to strike in more than one place. The number and diversity of their attacks took the Allies completely by surprise. During the early morning hours of the 8th, Japanese naval and air forces struck almost simultaneously at Kota Bharu in British Malaya (0140), Singora, just across the border in Thailand (0305), Singapore (0610), Guam (0805), Hong Kong (0900), Wake, and the Philippines.

Faced with conflicting accounts [concerning why the air force assets in the Philippines were caught on the ground during the first day of the war - Ed], the historian can be sure only of five facts: (1) That an attack against Formosa was proposed ; (2) that such an attack was deferred in favor of a photo reconnaissance mission requested either by Brereton or Sutherland; (3) that about 1100 on 8 December a strike against Formosa, to take place that day, was finally authorized; (4) that the heavy bombers were back on Clark Field after 1130 on the morning of 8 December; and (5) that MacArthur planned an attack against Formosa for the morning of 9 December.

All but one of the B-17's was lined up on the field [at Clark - Ed] and the fighters were just getting ready to take off. After the warning of the Pearl Harbor attack, and after the loss of several valuable hours because of bad weather, the Japanese pilots did not expect to find so rich a harvest waiting for them. But they did not question their good fortune. The first flight of Japanese planes consisted of twenty-seven twin-engine bombers. They came over the unprotected field in a V-formation at a height estimated at 22,000 to 25,000 feet, dropping their bombs on the aircraft and buildings below, just as the air raid warning sounded. As at Pearl Harbor, the Japanese achieved complete tactical surprise.

The first flight was followed immediately by a similar formation which remained over the field for fifteen minutes. The planes in this formation, as in the first, accomplished their mission almost entirely without molestation. American antiaircraft shells exploded from 2,000 to 4,000 feet short of the targets. After the second formation of bombers, came thirty-four Zeros- which the Americans believed were carrier based-to deliver the final blow with their low-level strafing attacks on the grounded B-17's, and on the P-40's with their full gasoline tanks. This attack lasted for more than an hour.

The Japanese followed up their successes of the first day of war with a series of air attacks aimed at destroying or driving American air and naval power from the Philippines. Before dawn of the 9th 7 Japanese naval bombers struck Nichols Field near Manila. The Japanese had planned a larger attack but the fog had again rolled in over Formosa during the early morning hours. The 7 bombers were enough to do the job. The loss of 2 or 3 P-40's, as well as other planes, and the destruction of ground installations completed the havoc begun at noon the previous day.



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