U.S. Coast Guard Recounts Pearl Harbor Participation

A World War II veteran poses next to an old photograph of himself while being greeted by several military and various personnel after the arrival of an American Airline honor flight from Los Angeles at the Honolulu International Airport, December 3, 2016.

By MarEx 2016-12-06 11:42:36

The U.S. Coast Guard remembers its role during the observance of the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor on Oahu this week: 

One of the most prominent lasting effects of Pearl Harbor on the U.S. Coast Guard is the way it conducts search and rescue. The Coast Guard conducted a medevac of an ill mariner north of Oahu on Sunday, illustrating the importance of the hoist capable helicopters regularly used to provide lifesaving assistance to mariners. 

This capability was actually born out of the December 7th and Pearl Harbor. Coast Guard Lt. Frank Erickson served in Hawaii that day and after. He witnessed the death of thousands of sailors who couldn’t safely be reached and rescued. He went on to work with Igor Sikorsky to build an experimental hoist capable helicopter and was the Coast Guard’s first helicopter pilot. His intuition and ingenuity completely redefined the way the Coast Guard performs search and rescue and provided for this mariner’s rescue. 

Other crews and assets involved in December 7, 1941, include:

USCGC Kukui (WAGL 225) was positioned at Pier 4 in Honolulu when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. As the buoy tender was unarmed, they remained dockside at Pier 4 until further instruction was passed. The Army requested the Kukui transport a combat squad to Ni’ihau in response to the reports of Japanese aviators having landed there. They arrived with the squad to find the aviators deceased. 

USCGC Tiger (WSC 152) was under Navy jurisdiction and assigned to the local defense forces of the 14th Naval District. Equipped with depth charges, listening gear and firearms, Tiger was designed to interdict smugglers who attempted to unload booze during the height of Prohibition. Early on December 7, 1941, they intercepted dispatch from a Navy destroyer that claimed the destruction of an enemy submarine. 

They continued the patrol eastward toward the Pearl Harbor entrance and around 8 a.m. started taking fire from an unknown source. They guarded the entrance all day and throughout the night, even taking what is now thought to be friendly fire in the darkness from Army units along the shore that assumed the ship was a foreign threat.

CG-8 lay moored to Pier 4 in Honolulu Harbor when the Japanese attacked. The crew of six went to general quarters and prepared to get the vessel underway. At approximately 9 a.m., CG-8 moved to Sand Island to pick up the depot keeper while bombs exploded nearby. CG-8 proceeded back across the channel to Kewalo Basin and was strafed by Japanese aircraft while en route. 

At the basin CG-8 prohibited the small private vessels and sampans from leaving until Naval Intelligence could clear the owners. After the two waves of Japanese planes withdrew, the Coast Guard secured the port areas, blacked out all navigational aids and stationed guards along the waterfront.

The morning of December 7, 1941, USCGC Taney (WPG 37) was tied up at Pier 6 in Honolulu Harbor six miles away from the naval anchorage. After the first Japanese craft appeared over the island, Taney 's crew went to general quarters and made preparations to get underway. While observing the attack over Pearl Harbor, Taney received no orders to move and did not participate in the initial attack by the Japanese. Just after 9 a.m., when the second wave of planes began their attack on the naval anchorage, Taney fired on high altitude enemy aircraft with her 3-inch guns and .50 caliber machine guns. The extreme range of the planes limited the effect of the fire and the guns were secured after twenty minutes.

The USCGC Walnut (WAGL 252) was patrolling Midway Atoll to conduct aids to navigation work, 1,200 miles northwest of Oahu when Pearl Harbor was attacked by Japanese forces on December 7, 1941. Upon receiving word of the attack, the Walnut crew ensured that all lights were immediately extinguished to prevent the enemy from using the aids as a navigational reference. 

That night, about 1,000 miles northwest of Hawaii, Japanese destroyers shelled Midway Island. At 9:30 p.m. the unarmed buoy tender Walnut observed gun flashes from the northwest. Shells began landing within 100 feet of the ship, but Walnut remained anchored during the 30-minute attack. 

During this attack, a U.S. PBY Flying Boat crashed in Midway Lagoon within the Walnut’s vicinity. Walnut’s crewmembers recovered the injured aircrew, ultimately saving their lives. Walnut continued to complete aids to navigation work, conduct search and rescue and run convoy missions.

December 10, 1941, John Sweeney, the keeper of Barbers Point Light Station, witnessed an aerial attack and recounts the events in this after action report. According to Sweeney, "At 8 a.m., many planes were seen overhead, both Japanese and ours. Dog fighting continued for twenty minutes, bullets hitting the ground in bursts. Then all planes headed south, our planes chasing them. 

Two parachutists were dropped close to the station; they were confused in the kiawi trees and prowled around the station all Sunday night, the Fort Kam. 55th C.A. boys firing at them with rifles and machine guns. One was wounded, and was later found on the beach, buried by his mate. His feet were sticking out of the sand. The other was later shot by an officer."

More information is available here.