Chaos at Wheeler
At a smoke-strewn Wheeler Field, where explosions continued to resound and numerous aircraft had been twisted into burning wreckage, Rasmussen landed the P-36 without brakes, rudder, or tail wheel, and riddled with more than 500 bullet holes. There was no aircraft he could use to get back into the air again. For his actions, Rasmussen received the Silver Star. He shot down a second Japanese aircraft in 1943, survived the war, and retired from the Air Force in 1965.
The situation that followed was confusing, with a second wave of Japanese aircraft striking Oahu while American pilots took off individually from two different airfields, sometimes joining up after getting airborne. No record exists today of the exact time or sequence of certain events. Taylor and Welch were now ready to go aloft on their second sortie. Welch took off in his P-40B while Taylor waited until what he thought was the last in a line of Japanese aircraft passed overhead, then took off, seeking to get them in his gunsight.
The situation that followed was confusing, with a second wave of Japanese aircraft striking Oahu while American pilots took off individually from two different airfields, sometimes joining up after getting airborne.
A Zero latched onto Taylor’s tail and opened fire. Welch had remained nearby and maneuvered to the rescue. He maneuvered behind the Zero, fired short bursts, and racked up his third kill of the day. Subsequently, Welch flew to Ewa, found a lone Japanese aircraft, and shot down his fourth for the day. Later in the war, Welch would become a 16-kill ace; as a test pilot, he would pioneer jet aviation and lose his life in an F-100A Super Sabre in 1954. Taylor would reach brigadier general rank; he died in 2006. At Bellows Field, 1st Lt. Samuel W. Bishop and 2nd Lt. George A. Whiteman attempted to take off in another pair of P-40Bs. Bishop got aloft, but Zeros swarmed over him and he went down in the ocean. Whiteman was hit as he cleared the ground and went down in his aircraft off the end of the runway. Bishop was only wounded and swam ashore, but Whiteman lost his life.
At least six other pilots got aloft from Wheeler in P-36s and P-40s. 2nd Lt. John Dains ended up flying three sorties, two in a P-40B and one in a P-36, and apparently shot down a Zero that was observed falling from the sky by AAF radar operators. This aerial victory cannot be linked to any other pilot in the air that day, but it is unclear whether Dains was on the scene shortly before he was shot down and killed by U.S. anti-aircraft fire. 1st Lt. Harry Brown apparently scored the last confirmed kill of the day when he shot down a Zero as it headed out to sea. The second and final wave of the attack was over.
Nowhere was there more carnage than amid the 58th Bombardment Squadron at Hickam, where disarmed A-20A Havoc twin-engined attack aircraft and many of their ground crews were chewed to pieces by Japanese strafing and bombing. As the second wave of Japanese aircraft retired, Martin ordered the 58th to search for and attack a Japanese carrier reported (incorrectly) to be south of Barbers Point on Oahu. At 11:27 a.m., after bombs and fuel had been loaded with great difficulty, Maj. William Holzapfel led four A-20As into the air. It was too late to be thinking about doing any more damage to the Japanese on this day, but the sight of the bombers taking off inspired downtrodden troops at Hickam.
The exploding bombs and swirling smoke of the Pearl Harbor attack killed 2,390 people, most of them American servicemen, and wounded 1,178 others.
The exploding bombs and swirling smoke of the Pearl Harbor attack killed 2,390 people, most of them American servicemen, and wounded 1,178 others. The Japanese conceded the loss of 29 aircraft, of which 10 are thought to have been downed by the AAF (including six by Taylor and Welch). Casualties would surely have been higher but for the initiative of doctors and nurses who improvised on the scene.
The actions of Taylor, Welch, Rasmussen, and other pilots, while unable to change the course of the battle, were heroic examples of how American forces kept fighting even in the midst of crushing defeat.