December 8, 1941: Macarthur's Pearl Harbor

By William H. Bartsch | Go to book overview

Preface

Twenty-five years ago I began research on the experiences of army pursuit pilots of the Far East Air Force in the ill-fated Philippines campaign of 1941–42 After thirteen years of effort, the results were published as Doomed at the Start in 1992. During my research I also became familiar with the experiences of the bomber crews who shared Clark Field with the pursuit pilots on December 8, 1941, as well as those of the men operating the radar unit at Iba to the west, providing early warning of the approaching Japanese attack force on that fateful day.

IN 1951, Walter D. Edmonds related the story of what happened at Clark Field on December 8 in his now-classic book on the Army Air Forces in the air war in the Philippines and Dutch East Indies in 1941–42 However, his account of the December 8 attack was, in many ways, not complete. He excluded the experiences of the Air Warning Company operating the radar unit at Iba, for example, as well as those of the antiaircraft regiment and two tank battalions that attempted to engage the Japanese bombers and fighters over Clark Field. The experiences of the Japanese airmen who carried out the attack were also left out of the account. Furthermore, Edmonds made no attempt to present the air defense planning for the Philippines or to discuss the decisions made by the War Department and Army Air Forces headquarters in 1939–41 The latter helps us understand why the December 8 disaster occurred. Equally excluded were the plans and strategies of the Japanese high command in Tokyo and on Formosa for the attack on the Philippines.

In pointing out these gaps in Edmonds’s presentation, I do not mean to criticize him. His guidance from the Army Air Forces called for him to write an account of the personal experiences of the men involved in

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