Japanese Eye Witness Account

Captain Mitsuo Fuschida

Captain Mitsuo Fuschida

Capt. Mitsuo Fuschida, Imperial Japanese Navy, pilot

Fuchida was the first pilot to fly over Pearl Harbor when the attack of 7 December occurred – here he describes his view of the Battle of Midway from the deck of the IJN Akagi;

“The first enemy [U.S.] carrier planes to attack were 15 torpedo bombers.  When first spotted by our screening ships and combat air patrol, they were still not visible from the carriers, but they soon appeared as tiny dark specks in the blue sky, a little above the horizon, on Akagi’s starboard bow.  The distant wings flashed in the sun.  Occasionally one of the specks burst into a spark of flame and trailed black smoke as it fell into the water.  Our fighters were on the job and the enemy again seemed to be without fighter protection.

IJN Akagi

IJN Akagi

“Presently a report came in from a Zero group leader: ‘All 15 enemy torpedo bombers shot down.’  Nearly 50 Zeros had gone to intercept the unprotected enemy formation!  Small wonder that it did not get through.  Again at 0930 a lookout atop the bridge yelled: ‘Enemy torpedo bombers, 30 degrees to starboard, coming low!’ This was followed by another cry: ‘Enemy torpedo planes approaching 40 degrees to port!’

“The raiders closed in from both sides, barely skimming over the water.  Flying in single columns, they were within 5 miles and seemed to be aiming straight for Akagi.  I watched in breathless suspense, thinking how impossible it would be to dodge all their torpedoes.  But these raiders too, without protective escorts, were already being engaged by our fighters.  On Akagi’s flight deck all attention was fixed on the dramatic scene unfolding before us.

mitsuo_fuchida

Mitsuo Fuchida

“Of the 14 enemy torpedo bombers which came in from starboard, half were shot down and only 5 remained of the original 12 planes to port.  The survivors kept charging in as Akagi opened fire with antiaircraft machine-guns.  We watched for the splash of torpedoes, but most to our surprise, no drops were made.  At the last moment, the planes appeared to forsake Akagi and made for the Hiryu.

“Seven enemy planes finally succeeded in launching their torpedoes at Hiryu.  Our Zeroes tenaciously pursued the retiring attackers as far as they could.  Hiryu turned sharply to evade the torpedoes and we watched anxiously to see if any would find their mark.  A deep-sigh of relief went up when no explosion occurred.

“Preparations for a counter-attack had continued on board our 4 carriers.  One after another, planes were hoisted from the hangar and quickly arranged on the flight deck.  There was no time to lose.  At 1020, Admiral Nagumo gave the order to launch when ready.  Five Minutes!  Who would have dreamed that the tide of battle would shift completely?  Visibility was good. Clouds were gathering at about 3,000 meters.  At 1024 the order to start launching came from the bridge by voice-tube.  The Air Officer flapped a white flag and the first Zero gathered speed and whizzed off the deck.

Mr. Fuchida in 1959

Mr. Fuchida in 1959

“At that instant a lookout screamed: ‘Hell Divers!’  Some of our machine-guns managed to fire a few frantic bursts at them, but it was too late.  The plump silhouettes of the American Dauntless’ quickly grew larger… Bombs!  Down they came straight toward me!  I fell intuitively to the deck and crawled behind a command post mantelet. [mattresses].

“The terrifying scream of the dive-bombers reached me first, followed by the crashing explosion of a direct hit.  There was a blinding flash and then a second explosion, much louder than the first.  I was shaken by a weird blast of warm air.  Then followed a startling quiet as the barking of guns suddenly ceased.  I got up and looked at the sky.  The enemy planes were already gone from sight.

 “It may be said that the American dive-bombers ‘ success was made possible by the earlier martyrdom of their torpedo planes.  We had been caught flatfooted in the most vulnerable condition possible – decks loaded with planes armed and fueled for attack.

“Looking about, I was horrified at the destruction that had been wrought in a matter of seconds.  There was a huge hole in the flight deck just behind the amidship elevator.  The elevator itself, twisted like molten glass, was drooping into the hangar.  Deck plates reeled upward in grotesque configurations.  Planes stood tail up, belching livid flame and jet-black smoke.  Reluctant tears streamed down my cheeks as I watched the fires spread, and I was terrified at the prospect of induced explosions which would surely doom the ship.”

mitsuo-fuchida-from-pearl-harbor-to-calvary

Captain Mitsuo Fuchida survived WWII and returned home where he became an author.  At the age of 73, he passed away on 30 May 1976.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Japanese propaganda posters of WWII…

FDR using his own troops to flex his muscle and boost his reputation.

FDR using his own troops to flex his muscle and boost his reputation.

FDR using Australian forces as human shields

FDR using Australian forces as human shields

Leaping Patriotic Autumn poster

Leaping Patriotic Autumn poster

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Farewell Salutes – 

Eugene Barley – Veneta, OR; US Navy, WWII, PTO

Arnaud deBorchgrave – brn: Belgium; Washington DC; British Merchant Marine, WWII, war correspondent

Arthur Evans – Australia; RA Air Force, WWII, SignalsBFC at sunset (800x543)

Thomas Howard – Peoria, AZ; US Navy, WWII, USS Massachusetts

Raymond Ireland – Hawera, NZ; WWII, # 249252, SGLMN, 3rd Div.

Herbert Leonberger – Haverton, PA; US Coast Guard, WWII

Lee Miner – Burlington, VT; Merchant Marine, WWII

Jack Piner, Westbury, NY; US Army, Lt., WWII

Evelyn Stein – Fairbanks, AK; USMC, Woman’s Marines, WWII, Cpl.

Clark Terry – St. Louis, MI; US Navy, WWII, (famed jazz musician)

James Young – Tequesta, FL; US Navy, WWII, minesweeper YMS160

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Our fellow blogger at Cool San Diego Sights has offered the readers here to take photos of any plaques you wish when he visits the Mt. Soledad Memorial.  Please visit his comment below for details.

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on March 12, 2015, in First-hand Accounts, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 111 Comments.

  1. Very important to read other perspectives. Incredible that he survived the attack.

    Like

  2. Jackie Saulmon Ramirez

    Reading this, all I can think about is how frightening it must have been. I have also wondered if I were in their shoes, if I would have even a portion of their courage.

    Peace is so important. Thank you for this.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. As I am not a historian, I feel you said it best in your reply to gentleman Curt. Personal bias will always contribute qualifications to history… More so when they are celebrated survivors. Fuchida should be no different. We know what the PHYSICAL results were from the battle. Thise are facts. But one thing about Japanese recountings: there aren’t many and even then, they will be unlikely to bring shame onto others or their families.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks GP for a balanced perspective. –Curt

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  5. Great to have a straight account from the other side.

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  6. Thanks for sharing this unique perspective.

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  7. Schöner Beitrag wünsche ein gutes wee-kend lieber Gruß von mir Gislinde

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  8. Great post, and Propaganda posters are always fascinating !

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  9. 15 enemy torpedo bombers shot down, incredible piece of military drama, you can virtually feel the adrenalin pulsating as that story unfolded.

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  10. The other side of the coin, if you haven’t come across it, The Emperors Last Soldiers is a fascinating insight and very good read..

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  11. Amazing perspective. I’m going to look into his book.

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  12. Phew – that is a vividly-told account. I wonder if the ‘suicide missions’ and the perfect timing of the dive-bombers was strategy or blind luck?

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    • As Capt. Fuchida said, there had to be 50 Zeroes in the air, who can tell how anything happened up there? I think my post by a pilot, more light-hearted just might help explain it.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Good to hear the tale from the Japanese perspective. It as so hard hearing the U.S. described as the enemy. I had to read carefully!

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    • It feels confusing, doesn’t it?! In doing this blog, I write the word enemy so often, I re-read the story. Thanks for taking the time to read, Bev.

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  14. So many forget the ‘enemy’ is other people. Both sides tend to dehumanize their opponents; makes them easier to kill, it does.

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  15. Thank you for posting this account of Capt. Fuchida. I recognized Capt. Fuchida’s name right away, having been introduced to his book last year. It is a fascinating and quick reading story of how Fuchida became a Christian and a missionary after having read a religious tract written by Jacob DeShazer, a former Doolittle Raider and Japanese POW who himself had become a Christian after reading a Bible given to him by one of his Japanese jailers. DeShazer himself felt the call to become a Christian missionary to Japan following the end of the war. DeShazer and Fuchida reportedly met in 1950 for the first time.

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  16. Interesting account GP! A reminder there is always more than one side to a war.

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    • We have to be careful not to just take one side’s opinion and records as law. That’s one reason I research from many references and do my utmost to keep my big fat opinion to myself. [until I get to the comments, that is! 😉 ] Thanks for visiting today, Lavinia.

      Like

  17. For anyone with a keen interest in WW2 this is just one of the greatest blogs to go to. Great work.

    Like

  18. Reblogged this on jon kilkade and commented:
    Fascinating.
    “I was horrified at the destruction that had been wrought in a matter of seconds.”

    Like

  19. I too found the article interesting from the other side.

    Like

  20. I’m planning on heading up to the Mt. Soledad Veteran’s Memorial http://www.soledadmemorial.com/ on Sunday. If you or any of your followers would like me to take photographs of any plaque(s), let me know and I’ll happily send them along! Richard

    Like

  21. Mitsuo Fuchida was the author of a number of books, many of which are available at Amazon.com. If you are interested in the war in the Pacific, it is worth your time to spend some time on what he has written.

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    • Thank you for adding that, Allan, but I’m afraid I find that Abe Books.com, Thrift Books.com and ibilio are just as reliable and – cheaper. On my budget, I need to look for that. The books, new and used can be located at Bookfinder.com – they search ALL the stores and you can compare everyone at once.

      Liked by 1 person

      • There are lots of sources for books, and I use many of them. My intent was not to promote Amazon. It was to let people know that books by many of those who were leading characters in World War II are readily available. I feel too many people rely upon second-hand accounts when the primary sources are there.

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        • Absolutely correct, Allan. That’s why I use so many references for each post – no one author is correct – even the official military records come with an Appendix usually. I just wanted to give you and those that read the comments another route for their books. Some people seem to think the sun rises with Amazon.

          Liked by 1 person

      • That’s a great bit of advice about Bookfinder.com. I’m always looking for a bargain! Thanks for all you do.

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        • No problem. I’m on a retired pension, I can’t be spending $15-$50 per book [ which is what the suggested price on most of them are]. So, why not share the info with my friends?!!

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  22. It’s absolutely fascinating to get first-hand accounts like this. It just makes you think of what became of all the downed torpedo plane crews. And the crew on the Japanese aircraft carrier too. Enthralling stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Great post and perspective. The universality of a soldier’s engagement with fear and combat is important. Thanks for sharing, Michael.

    Like

  24. Reblogged this on Aquilon's Eyrie and commented:
    Here is a great account of the attack of US planes against the Japanese carriers at Midway. Makes me want to read Mitsuo Fuchida’s memoirs.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. It does seem strange being referred to as the enemy but the first hand view from the other side is very interesting. I may have to add another book to my list.

    Liked by 2 people

  26. Awesome article and thanks for your recognition of the passing troops. It means so much and you being of the WWII-era, moreso. I found a pic of my Uncle shooting down a German Fighter.

    Liked by 2 people

  27. Father Paul Lemmen

    Reblogged this on A Conservative Christian Man.

    Like

    • Thank you very much, Mike. In every event there are at least 3 sides – yours, theirs and somewhere in the middle is the truth. But according to all accounts so far – they agree on the events that took place. I appreciate you helping to keep alive the memories of that generation.

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  28. Those Japanese put up a good fight. What has always amazed me is the intelligence behind the scenes. We had some pretty sharp war strategist. To read about some of the great War planers of our times is truly inspiring. That day I wonder if that was a well laid out plan. At the cost of others.

    Peace

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Actually, I’m not surprised he became a writer

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Reblogged this on It Is What It Is and commented:
    A sad view to see! Never forget.

    Liked by 1 person

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