Pearl Harbor Honor Flight Visits Kaneohe Bay
December 7, 2011 – Pearl Harbor Day was filled with memorial ceremonies commemorating the Japanese attack December 7, 1941. Following the 70th Ceremony at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center, Pearl Harbor Survivors Cass Phillips and Bill Braddock travelled to Naval Air Station, Kane’ohe Bay to attend the Klipper Memorial Ceremony.
Seventy years ago, aircraft of the Japanese Imperial Navy attacked NAS Kane’ohe. At 0752, the quiet peace of a Sunday morning was torn asunder by strafing machine guns and bombs exploding. Service men and women as well as civilians grabbed weapons and scrambled to defend the air station. Among these was Pearl Harbor Survivor, Cass Phillips, at the time a radioman first class, in the barracks.
“I was up getting ready to go have breakfast, when we looked up and saw the planes flying by. We thought that they were Army planes. I said Look they are really making this look realistic, they’ve got meatballs painted on the side of the planes.” Cass Phillips recalled.
All the explosions and smoke soon brought him to understand that this was no drill.
“We saw lots of people running toward the hangars and we joined them. We ran inside as more planes flew over dropping bombs. My buddy and I ran to a corner room. On the way there we noticed a fellow sitting against the wall. When the bomb exploded, we saw him rise up and settle back down. He never moved after that. When we checked on him later we found that he was dead. The same thing happened to one of our squadron, VP-11, members who had been on guard duty in the plane over night. He was mortally wounded when the plane was strafed.”
A commemorative plaque hangs on the wall of Hangar 101 honoring the seven Patrol Squadron 11 servicemen killed that day. In addition, a plaque and a painting were presented in honor of Naval Ordnance Chief John Finn. His heroic actions included firing back at the Japanese planes with a machine gun set up on the plane ramp. He received 27 wounds that day but returned to the squadron area after first aid treatment, to supervise the rearming of returning planes.
Pearl Harbor Honor Flight Participates in Klipper Memorial Ceremony
Pearl Harbor Honor Flight Tours Base
Following the ceremony, Cass and Bill Braddock walked around the hangar grounds noticing the bullet strafe marks and bomb damage still preserved as a daily reminder to “Remember.” They also were able to visit the building that was Cass’s barracks in 1941, now converted to offices. He recognized the theatre and chow hall, too.
Pearl Harbor Honor Flight – Personal Remembrance
From here our group travelled to Makapu’u Point for a personal remembrance ceremony. April 5, 1942, four months after the Pearl Harbor attack, Navy flight crews patrolled the waters off O’ahu. The weather was bad – rainy, windy, with zero visibility that night. The crew on board one of four Navy planes that flew out of Kane’ohe that day, part of Cass’ VP-11 Squadron, were returning to base after flying 12 hours and 20 minutes. They were dangerously off course.
The crew was on its second long-range patrol, flying without navigational aids, under a blackout situation as well as bad weather, mistook the Makapu’u Lighthouse for Barbers Point. As they were making standard pattern turns to land, they slammed into the hillside 200 yards south of the lighthouse. All nine men were killed instantly in a crash that has remained shrouded in obscurity. At the time, the Islands were under martial law and the military didn’t report such accidents to the local news. From 1942 to 1945, there were crashes almost daily on O’ahu accounting for about 800 aviation deaths on the island.
The Hawaiian Aviation Preservation Society located the crash site and after months working with the state Department of Land and Natural Resources obtained permission to erect a granite monument listing the crew’s names and ranks. This structure was dedicated on April 5, 2006.
Cass recognized three of the nine names. He could have been on that plane, too, if he had not left Hawaii earlier for flight school in Pensacola. He wanted to honor his comrades’ heroic efforts. We went to the Makapu’u State Shoreside Park where Cass placed a flower lei into a shallow pool along the rocky beach. “Their sacrifices will not be forgotten,” he said.