J. Michael Wenger, Robert J. Cressman, John F. Di Virgilio. No One Avoided Danger: NAS Kaneohe Bay and the Japanese Attack of 7 December 1941. Pearl Harbor Tactical Studies Series. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2015. 208 pp. $34.95 (cloth), ISBN 978-1-61251-924-1.
Reviewed by Russell A. Hart (Hawaii Pacific University)
Published on H-FedHist (October, 2017)
Commissioned by Caryn E. Neumann (Miami University of Ohio Regionals)
No One Avoided Danger offers what is likely to prove to become the definitive account of the December 7, 1941, Japanese attacks on the US Naval Air Station Kaneohe Bay (NAS K-Bay). It was one of only two naval air stations on O‘ahu at the time, but military historians have barely studied the station’s combat history on that fateful day partly because of its Windward location far away from the main Pearl Harbor attack. Moreover, because the damage inflicted at NAS K-Bay was relatively “light” in contrast to the catastrophic damage suffered at Pearl Harbor, historians have understandably focused on the tremendous destruction inflicted on the US Pacific Fleet. The result has been inadequate scholarly attention to the attacks on NAS K-Bay—until now. Yet, as No One Avoided Danger reminds us, the attacks on NAS K-Bay were punishing: twenty-seven seaplanes were destroyed and six were damaged, and eighteen personnel were killed.
The study is a highly detailed aerial and ground combat analysis largely at the tactical level from both US and Japanese perspectives woven together from eyewitness survivor testimony and official records. It has an intensely personal feel to it. The reader is introduced to myriad actors whose destinies on that fateful day unfold before the reader’s eyes in breathtaking detail. Indeed, the underlying documentation is prodigious and the authors mine almost every conceivable source: official records, reminiscences, memoirs, survivor interviews, and many photographs. Naturally the extant sources are more extensive on the US side, but the Japanese perspective is recreated as creditably as the more limited source material allows. Indeed, many of the Japanese official records, eyewitness accounts, and photography from the attacks appear in print for the first time. Without doubt, the source material the authors use is impressive and makes it improbable that future studies could provide more illumination and insight than this examination offers; time will likely prove it to be the definitive historical study of the attack. The authors deeply examined the official US military personnel service records archived at the National Personnel Records Center and National Archives in St. Louis, Missouri, extracting never seen before photographs and recreating in great detail the careers of the US military personnel at NAS K-Bay. With admittedly fewer accessible sources, they nonetheless also reconstruct the career outlines of the major Japanese actors in the attack. Together these dual perspectives blend to present a riveting and intensely personal account. Indeed, so effective are the authors that readers may almost find themselves transported back in time to O‘ahu’s Windward coast on December 7, 1941.
Undoubtedly, the prodigious evidence marshalled offers an intricate, integrated, and unparalleled synthesis of the events that unfolded at and around NAS K-Bay on that day. The interwoven narratives of both protagonists dramatically fleshes out and deepens our understanding of the events at Kaneohe Bay. No One Avoided Danger represents one of the most valuable additions to the voluminous literature on Pearl Harbor that has been published in the last decade. Consequently, it is highly recommended to anyone interested in understanding the calamity that befell the United States on December 7, 1941, on O‘ahu.
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Russell A. Hart. Review of Wenger, J. Michael; Cressman, Robert J.; Di Virgilio, John F., No One Avoided Danger: NAS Kaneohe Bay and the Japanese Attack of 7 December 1941.
H-FedHist, H-Net Reviews.
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