By Katie Lange
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
When we think of the Japanese attack that launched America into World War II, we immediately think of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. While a majority of the devastation happened there the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, other military installations on the island of Oahu were attacked, too.
Just a short drive north of the harbor, several soldiers serving at Schofield Barracks and what is now Wheeler Army Airfield were also killed and injured. For those who’ve never been to Hawaii, Wheeler and Schofield are in central Oahu, about 35 minutes north of Pearl Harbor, which sits at the south end of the island.
On Dec. 7, 2016, a ceremony hosted by the commander of the 25th ID honored the brave soldiers of the U.S. Army who served at those locations. Several of the Pearl Harbor survivors in attendance were treated to a traditional Hawaiian ha’a (dance of the warrior) performed by the division’s soldiers.
The 3rd Battalion, 7th Field Artillery Regiment then fired seven M119A3 howitzers in a massive 21-gun salute.
Needless to say, there was lots of action!
Soldiers from the division, known as Tropic Lightning, were the first to see combat during the attacks on Oahu. While they were a brand new division at the time, they went on to be legendary.
Why Attack There?
The 25th had only been in service for about two months when Dec. 7 came. Responsible for the southern half of Oahu, including Pearl Harbor and Honolulu, the division included the 27th and 35th Infantry Regiments and the 8th Field Artillery Battalion.
Since Wheeler was the largest fighter base on Oahu at the time (nearly 150 fighter planes were there), it was a primary target for the Japanese, who needed to disable those planes so they could accomplish their main mission – bombing Pearl Harbor’s ships.
They succeeded. Fourteen Mitsubishi Zero fighters and 25 dive-bombers equipped with 250-kilogram bombs took out about 50 aircraft, hangars and barracks at Wheeler. The attack killed 36 people and wounded 74 others.
The attackers then flew over Schofield, damaging buildings, wounding many and killing a few more Americans.
First-hand accounts of the attacks described Wheeler’s skies as filled with black smoke and the sounds of machine guns and explosions. One corporal recounted how, at Schofield, rows of tents that housed new troops were strafed during the attacks.
Thankfully, most of the division’s assigned components were well-trained, with men who had been serving for a long time before the attack. In fact, a few of the 25th’s pilots were able to escape the carnage and make it to Oahu’s North Shore, where there was an auxiliary airfield. They fueled up and got airborne quickly, and they were able to shoot down several Japanese planes.
A few pilots were able to get up at Wheeler during a lull in the attacks, too, and some division units in the field were able to fire back with machine guns, rifles and pistols. At least three of the 25th’s men received Purple Hearts.
After the attacks ended, the 25th helped enforce the martial law that had been put into effect in Hawaii after war was declared. The soldiers also guarded key non-military installations in southern Oahu and manned the beach defenses that were set up.
The 25th went on to fight some of the war’s most vicious battles in the Pacific, including at Guadalcanal, in the Northern Solomon Islands and at the Battle of Luzon in the Philippines. Six of the unit’s soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor.
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