I was not even born yet, when on December 7th, 1941, the Japanese were allowed to attack Pearl Harbor to escalate WW2 in the Pacific. My father, John F. Hays, Sr, was an Aviation Machinist Mate primarily on the U.S.S. Enterprise(CV-6), the most battle experienced aircraft carrier in the history of the US Navy.
I am writing today to keep the memory alive. It seems as our WW2 Veterans die off each year so do the remembrances. I did a Google news search today and was surprised at the lack of coverage for such a historical event.
My family is from Seattle. My mom and dad were the typical WW2 Seattle family. He was in the Naval Reserves based at the old Sand Point NAS and my mom worked on the line at Boeing. As my dad was called up for active duty, he made his way to the Enterprise. My dad participated in almost every naval battle in the Pacific Theater.
As the Japanese were heading towards Pearl Harbor for the attack, the Enterprise and it battle group were caught in a storm which delayed their entry into port. As they approached, it is common practice for the aircraft on the carrier to take off while at sea so the planes can land at Ford Island.
The first plane out was flown by Ensign Manuel Gonzales, of Scouting Squadon Six, flying in to Ford Island Naval Air Station that Sunday morning. My dad who was his mechanic heard on the radio, “Please don’t shoot! Don’t shoot! This is an American plane.” Moments later, he was heard ordering his air crewman Leonard J. Kozelek to bail out: neither man was ever heard from again. This was a friendly fire incident that was never acknowledged as such and had a terrible emotional effect on my dad.
So because of the weather, the CV6 was 150 miles out when the attack started. She was supposed to have come into Pearl on the 6th. Japanese intel knew what birth the Enterprise was going to docked at. Their primary targets of the attack were the carriers. Here is where it gets interesting.
After the attack, Japanese recon saw a hull of a ship in the berth they knew to contain the Enterprise. They reported back she had been sunk. The Navy Department let them believe it and even allowed the newspapers to report this. As my mom was reading the story in the paper, somebody from the Navy showed up at her door to let her know dad was OK.
As the USS Enterprise battle group came into the harbor the night of the 7th to refuel and resupply under the cover of darkness, many of the survivors that day were angry the Big E was not there to help defend Pearl. However this left a huge opportunity for surprise in the naval battles that followed.
The Japanese navy thought the Enterprise was sunk, so they were not looking for her. She was able to leave at 0600 on the 8th, fully fueled and supplied to head back out to sea and disappear until the next conflict. Had the carrier and its battle group been in the harbor like the Japanese had anticipated, only God knows what battles may have been lost, post 1941.
My dad returned highly decorated including two Purple Hearts for injuries sustained in battle. He was my Hero.