Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #259

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #259

…The Japanese have attacked the naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, making it impossible for us to return on an eastward course. We are to make our way west until we reach New York…

Pearl Harbor by Chuck Hamrick

Pearl Harbor by Chuck Hamrick

In the cockpit of the Pacific Clipper, they are ignoring whales as well…  and anything but what is coming through to them on their radio. They are being told to proceed to Auckland and await further instruction there. Upon landing, they are instructed to head west and return the Clipper to La Guardia Field, New York. The regular return route is not safe.

braceT LFTTO:              CAPTAIN ROBERT FORDbracket rt

FROM:         CHIEF, FLIGHT SYSTEMS

SUBJECT:  DIVERSION PLANS FOR NC18602

NORMAL RETURN ROUTE CANCELED STOP PROCEED AS FOLLOWS COLON STRIP ALL COMPANY MARKINGS COMMA REGISTRATION NUMBERS COMMA AND IDENTIFIABLE INSIGNIA FROM EXTERIOR SURFACES STOP PROCEED WESTBOUND SOONEST YOUR DISCRETION TO AVOID HOSTILITIES AND DELIVER NC18602 TO MARINE TERMINAL LAGUARDIA FIELD NEW YORK STOP GOOD LUCK STOP

It is Captain Ford’s unsavory duty to explain the situation and their dilemma. “The United States has declared war on Japan,” he begins, eliciting a gasp from the assembled two-score interested parties. “The Japanese have attacked the naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, making it impossible for us to return on an eastward course. We are to make our way west until we reach New York. To do so, we must research a possible route and make sure we are prepared to make any repairs to the aircraft along the way. This is going to take some time.”

Robert Ford-001

Most everyone is in a state of stunned disbelief. Individual inconveniences aside, these events mean that the war has hit home and it is the world’s second such in the span of two-plus decades. Leaders have come and gone, but the results are the same, which makes it hard for Americans to understand. None of these conflicts have taken place on our soil, at least until now. Could the Japanese be on their way to California?

“We will be returning to Noumea to pick up supplies and make sure that all Pan American employees are taken care of. From there we will stop at Gladstone, Australia. Anyone, who wants to get off, can do so there. In fact, I cannot make you stay aboard the Clipper, or prevent you from departing, from anywhere we land. But you will be responsible for your own passage home after we leave Queensland, Australia. I can tell you that none of our stops will exactly be exotic ports of call.

          “In the meantime, we at Pan American Airways will do everything we can to make this journey as comfortable as possible. You will be reimbursed for any personal funds that you use.” That last statement is pure speculation, be is sure that Trippe would be so pleased to see his aircraft return, that he will make good that remote promise.


Alpha Omega M.D.

“The full-throat-ed roar of the four engines filled the cabin as NC 18602 moved forward into the takeoff run.  The slap-slap of  the water under the hull became a staccato drum beat.  Spray whipped higher over the sea wings.  After a few seconds the hull began to rise out of the water but was not quite free.  Ford held the yoke steady as the airspeed indicator displayed the increasing speed: 40 knots…  50…  60…  70…

Pacific Clipper Take-off

“At 70 knots Ford brought the yoke back gently.  The Clipper nosed up.  Passengers seated in the aft compartments might have thought they were about to submerge as the tail came close to the water and the spray hurtling back from the sea wings splattered the windows.  At 75 knots Ford eased up a little on the yoke then immediately brought it back.  This rocking motion was necessary to raise the ship “on the step” – that area of the hull which would be the last to break free from the clinging suction effect of the water now hurtling along underneath the ship.  As the airspeed went to 80 knots the sound of the water abruptly ceased.  The thrumming beat against the hull was replaced by a sudden smoothness as the great ship broke free and began climbing.”  — from Ed Dover’s The Long Way Home

Episode #259


page 241

The Facts About Pearl Harbor – WWII WIF What-ifs

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Cracked History

What if the U.S. Had Been

Prepared for

Pearl Harbor?

pearl harbor

Sneak-up snapshot

On December 7, 1941, the Imperial Japanese Navy conducted a devastatingsurprise attack on the Pearl Harbor Naval Base and the Hickam Field Airbase on the island of Oahu, Hawaii.

American Naval and Army forces were caught by surprise that fateful sunny Sunday morning and paid a terrible price for their lack of vigilance.  All the American battleships were either sunk or disabled.  Of the 390 warplanes, 188 were destroyed and 159 damaged.  Over 2,400 Americans died.  The Japanese were met with some token anti-aircraft fire and air-to-air interception, but the results were scant.  One U.S. destroyer managed to sink a Japanese midget submarine, but even that feat was not believed until proof was finally found decades later.  Further Japanese losses included another 4 midget subs, 29 airplanes and 64 men.

Much has been made about the lack of American preparation for the attack, including the fact that American radar had detected the raiding air force.   Although it is true that the Japanese were detected by radar, it was at the time assumed that the incoming planes were a flight of B-17s that were expected that day.  Even if the alarm had been raised, the fact remains that fighter planes would still have had to scramble, so it is likely the attack would still have been successful.

If the U.S. had had sea and air reconnaissance forces combing the seas, the Japanese forces might have been detected earlier, which might well have prevented the disaster.  Or, perhaps a U.S. preemptive strike or show of force may have averted the attack.  On the other hand, the better trained and more experienced Japanese may then instead have dealt an even deadlier blow to the U.S. by sinking its aircraft carriers that were luckily spared from the real attack as they were out to sea at the time.  Obviously, had the U.S. forces had interceptors scramble ready, anti-aircraft crews on notice and aircraft scattered on fields instead of bunched together the damage would have been far less.  And had the battleships also been at sea, they would have been maneuverable and more elusive.

So, would Hitler still have declared war on the U.S. four days after the attack on Pearl Harbor had the Japanese been averted by detection?  Perhaps the American entry into the war would have been delayed long enough for the Germans to be able to concentrate their forces against Russia, possibly changing the outcome of the war.

As it was, though the attack was initially seemed successful, the Japanese failed to sink the all-important American aircraft carriers, to permanently put the battleships out of commission (all but the Arizona were re-floated), to destroy U.S. fuel and dry-dock ship repair facilities and lastly to cow the U.S. into an immediate negotiated peace.

Some “what if” speculators have claimed the U.S. would still have suffered a crushing loss even with preparation and warning, assuming the Japanese would have sunk American ships at sea as easily as in the harbor.  Better leadership by Admiral Kimmel and General Short might have made all the difference, but this will never be known for sure.  Seventy plus years on: Rest in peace, all brave men who died that day.

The Facts About Pearl Harbor

– WWII WIF What-ifs