Remembering Pearl Harbor

Courtesy Kentucky Department of Military Affairs eNews

Click here to learn more about the Kentucky Army National Guard’s “Harrodsburg Tankers” and the role they played during World War II.

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Within hours of the surprise attack in the early-morning hours of Dec. 7, 1941, more than 2,400 Americans were dead. Five of the eight battleships at the U.S. Fleet’s Pearl Harbor base were sunk or sinking, and the other battleships, as well as ships and Hawaii-based combat planes, were heavily damaged.

By crippling the U.S. Pacific Fleet, Japan hoped to eliminate it as a threat to the Japanese Empire’s expansion south.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared Dec. 7, 1941, “a date which will live in infamy” and signed the Declaration of War against Japan the following day, December 8th 70 years ago.

The 2nd Battalion of the 138th of the Kentucky National Guard was already on federal active duty and at sea. They were underway for Hawaii from California on the USS President Andrew Johnson.  News of the Pearl Harbor bombing came three days out of port; the ship returned to San Francisco.

Thirty-eighth Division units (including the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Battalions of the 149th from Kentucky) were at Camp Shelby when news of the Pearl Harbor attack reached them.  Several units were rushed to the Texas and Louisiana coasts, where they established observation posts along the beaches in order to keep watch for enemy submarines and sabotage attempts.  Units remained on duty for two months before returning to Camp Shelby.

Company D, 192nd Tank Battalion – formerly Harrodsburg’s 38th Tank Company KYNG, was already in the Philippines and on alert at Clark Air Field located across the road from Fort Stotsenburg.  On December 8, the same day but across the international date line and only hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, at approximately 12:30 p.m. that day, Japanese bombers dropped their loads as they passed overhead.  Immediately following the bomber assault, Japanese fighter planes flew in at low level and strafed the field setting in motion events that would lead to the Bataan Death March for the Kentucky Guardsmen and beyond.

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