HICKAM AIR FORCE BASE, Hawaii (AFPN) -- Members of the 15th Airlift Wing today commemorated the 64th anniversary of the Dec. 7, 1941 surprise Japanese attack here. The base held a ceremony at the base flagpole to honor the attack on then-Hickam Field, which left 189 dead and 303 wounded. The dining hall in what is now the Pacific Air Force headquarter's building, took a direct hit from a 500-pound bomb, instantly killing 35 men. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Shane A. Cuomo)
HICKAM AIR FORCE BASE, Hawaii (AFPN) -- Bullet and shrapnel holes still scar the outside of the Pacific Air Forces headquarters building here. The scars are a constant reminder of the Dec. 7, 1941, surprise Japanese attack on military installations on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Shane A. Cuomo)
HICKAM AIR FORCE BASE, Hawaii (AFPN) -- The Courtyard of Heroes in the Pacific Air Forces headquarters building here is dedicated to the servicemembers who lost their lives during the Dec. 7, 1941 surprise Japanese attack on military installations on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Shane A. Cuomo)
12/7/2005 - HICKAM AIR FORCE BASE, Hawaii (AFPN) -- The Pacific Air Forces headquarters building -- and this base -- is quiet today, the 64th anniversary of the surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
But on Dec. 7, 1941, it was a major target during the infamous sneak attack on Pearl Harbor and Hickam Field that drew the United States into World War II.
The base held a ceremony that started at 7:55 a.m. -- the precise time the Japanese attack began -- to commemorate the more than 2,400 people who died that day. The ceremony was held at the main base flag pole.
During the ceremony a flight of F-15 Eagles from the 154th Wing of the Hawaii Air National Guard flew a missing man formation over the ceremony.
Col. William Changose, the 15th Airlift Wing commander, and Sen. Daniel K. Akaka of Hawaii -- a World War II veteran -- were at the ceremony.
“What began as a quiet Sunday morning across the island -- and at Hickam, Bellows and Wheeler air fields -- suddenly changed as Japanese Airmen seeking air superiority over the Hawaiian Islands and Pacific region rained fire down on the sleepy unsuspecting island,” the colonel said at the ceremony.
More than 350 aircraft attacked the island from their aircraft carriers bases.
“What the Japanese didn’t realize was that their bold attack, as we all know, awakened a sleeping giant,” the colonel said.
During the attack, a tidal wave of courage and determination called brave men and women into action throughout the island, Colonel Changose said.
“Men and women stood strong while under attack in the face of danger and devastation,” he said.
The bombing and strafing of Hickam was an important Japanese objective because the success of the attack on the Pacific Fleet depended on eliminating air opposition. And while the attack was demoralizing -- it nearly knocked out the Pacific Fleet -- the U.S. military soon took the fight to the Japanese.
The attack came as a total surprise to the troops then stationed at Hickam Field and living in what is now the PACAF headquarters building.
One year after the building was completed -- while troops slept or ate breakfast -- several bombs crashed through the roof. They killed practically everyone on the top floor. The dining hall took a direct hit from a 500-pound bomb, instantly killing 35 men.
In all, Hickam suffered extensive property damage, aircraft losses and casualties totaling 189 killed and 303 wounded.
Evidence of the attack is hard to find today. And the base’s well-groomed and sedate appearance hides the fact it is the headquarters for U.S. military might in the Pacific.
Today Airmen work in the many areas of the headquarters. But in 1941 it was a barracks housing 3,200 enlisted men. Named Hale Makai -- Hawaiian for “home by the sea” -- it had all the facilities needed for convenience. It had two barber shops, a laundry and tailor shop, a post exchange, medical dispensary, day rooms and a huge consolidated “chow hall.”
The people who work there do not always think of the history behind their workplace.
“Every day as I walk into the building, I see the bomb-damaged exterior. I can’t help but think about those who lost their lives while serving here,” said Tech. Sgt. Martin Jackson, who works in the command’s public affairs office.
“To think that 64 years ago today such a world-changing event happened right here where I work,” the sergeant said. “It is truly an honor to work in such an historic building.”
In 1985 the National Park Service designated the headquarters, and a few other buildings on Hickam, as historic landmarks.
Today, those buildings house a new breed of Airmen. They are locked in a battle, too -- the war on terrorism. And like their predecessors, they have a key mission to maintain peace in the Pacific and around the world.
But they do not forget the past -- the bullet and shrapnel holes are still visible on buildings.
“The holes remain as a reminder of the attack and the need to stay ever vigilant,” said wing historian Steve Diamond.