News: 71st anniversary of ‘day of infamy’ commemorated at MCBH
Story by Kristen Wong
MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII, Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii - Shiny planes with red meatballs. That’s what William Watson remembers about the day his father died.
The son of a sailor, Watson remembers walking to the post office
with his family to mail a letter on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, when the Japanese Imperial Navy attacked Naval Air Station Kaneohe Bay.
“A bomb went off, so we went back home,” Watson said. “At home we put mattresses against the wall.”
Watson’s father, Raphael A. Watson, an aviation machinist’s mate of Patrol Squadron 12, was one of 18 service members and two civilians who died during the Japanese attacks, devastating NAS Kaneohe Bay before striking Pearl Harbor Naval Station.
On Dec. 7, at 8 a.m., Marines, sailors and civilians gathered on the flightline beside Hangar 101 for the annual Kaneohe Klipper Memorial Ceremony.
The Marines dressed in their dress blue “C” uniforms, the sailors, their dress whites. The sky remained clear of winter rain as the color guard marched in front of the crowd, the colors of the American flag and the Marine Corps Base Hawaii flag billowing in the breeze.
Watson, a resident of Lanikai, attended this year’s ceremony to share his father’s story. His father was injured while aiding in the counterattack, and died of his wounds that evening. Years later, Watson met a veteran who was with his father that day, supplying him with ammunition.
“He said to my dad when he was hit, ‘Is it bad Ray?’ That was his nickname. He said, ‘I think so,’” Watson said.
Watson said he does not remember the noises from the attacks, though he does remember his mother crying.
“The enlisted pilots were all promoted to ensign when the war started, so they honored my mom by giving her officer privileges,” Watson said. “They also supported her by giving her a job at the civil service supply on base.”
As Watson stepped down, Col. Brian P. Annichiarico, commanding
offi cer, MCB Hawaii, approached the podium, and provided some historical background about the day of the attacks.
“It can happen any time, and as a military we have to be the most
prepared when the country’s least prepared,” Annichiarico said. “We’re here to honor the heroes of that day and I appreciate you for coming.”
Also in attendance was Sue Goodfellow, Ph.D., the head of Facilities Planning and Conservation at Headquarters Marine Corps in Washington, D.C. Goodfellow was present to introduce a new series of posters which commemorate four national historic landmarks for the Marine Corps.
The newest poster in the series, entitled “Defining Our Cultural
Heritage,” features Naval Air Station Kaneohe Bay, and includes historical and modern pictures.
Prior to this, Headquarters Marine Corps started and continues to support the series called “A Few Good Species,” which features animals with whom the Marine Corps shares a relationship. The poster series includes Hawaiian monk seals that frequent Marine Corps Base Hawaii shores, and Hawaiian stilts, who nest on base in the Nuupia Ponds.
“This year we decided that cultural resources should also have their own poster initiative,” Goodfellow said. “We developed a series called ‘Defining Our Cultural Heritage.’”
Goodfellow said the first four posters “highlight the ‘jewels in the crown’ for the Marine Corps, which are the four national historic landmarks that the Marine Corps stewards and protects.”
In addition to NAS Kaneohe Bay, posters have also been designed for Marine Barracks, Washington and the home of the commandant, The Charlesfort-Santa Elena site at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island and the Las Flores Adobe site at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton.
Cmdr. Steve Platt, commanding officer, Commander, Patrol and
Reconnaissance Wing 2, Annichiarico and Watson carried a wreath of flowers in front of the crowd, and placed it between the two formations of Marines.
The U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific Band played “Eternal Father, Strong to Save.” The crowd was silent, and looked on as one by one, the fallen service members and civilians were once named, and a special bell tolled for each. Further down the flightline, Marines raised their rifles, and performed a three-volley salute.
The base hosts the Kaneohe Klipper Memorial Ceremony each year,
commemorating the two-wave attack which left then-Hangar 1 burning, more than 30 aircrafts destroyed, 20 dead and more injured. Lives were lost that day, but memories still live on.
Navy Lt. John Finn, who was a chief ordnanceman at NAS Kaneohe Bay that day, continued firing on the Japanese despite receiving many wounds, and later earned the Medal of Honor. The headquarters building for CPRW-2 is named after him, and last year, a contract was awarded to build a new USS John Finn Arleigh Burke class destroyer.
Japanese Lt. Fusata Iida, the commander of the 3rd Aircraft Group of the Japanese Imperial Navy, crashed his zero on the hillside near Kansas Tower on Dec. 7, 1941, and is today memorialized by a plaque on Reed Road.
The Japan Religious Committee for World Federation annually visits the base to pay their respects not only to Iida, but to all lives lost at NAS Kaneohe Bay.