Ken Taylor: The Reluctant Hero

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   "The only officer present was Lt. Kermit Tyler, a 14th Pursuit Wing pilot. Lieutenant Tyler was there (at the air warning center) to observe how the system worked and assist the controller with the pursuit aircraft afer they had launched. In no way was he responsible for, or for that matter expected to know how to activate, the air warning system. The most he could have done was call Berquist (now a major) and let him know what was going on. It is unlikely that such a call would have helped the Hawaiian air defense that fateful morning, because the third and final part of the air warning system, aircraft ready to launch, was not set up at all."
                                     Air Force history p. 14-15.

How the Army Screwed the Pooch -- and Lt. Kermit Tyler
 
   During numerous conversations with Ken Taylor about the attack on Pearl Harbor, he would make a passionate defense of Lt. Kermit Tyler, the operations officer at Wheeler Field that morning.
   Tyler was called by the crew of the new radar installation. When told of the numerous blips on the radar screen, Tyler noted that a group of B-17 bombers was due after a flight from the mainland and spoke the four most famous words of Dec. 7, 1941, "Don't worry about it."
   "There is no doubt Kermit Tyler's career was inappropriately affected by his actions that day," Ken would say. "But Wheeler Field had no plan for what to do in case of an attack. What the hell was Tyler supposed to do, say 'Let's stop the war?'"
 
Note: The term "screwed the pooch" comes from Thomas Wolfe's best-selling novel, "The Right Stuff," about test pilots and astronauts and means a major mistake made that should not have happened.

   "I wasn't supposed to call Gen. Short and wake him up as it is written in one major history of Pearl Harbor. I was to call one of two officers who had just returned from air defense school at Mitchell Field in New York."
                                     -- Lt. Col. Kermit Tyler during a telephone interview with John Meek in 2007.

"7 DECEMBER 1941 THE AIR FORCE STORY"
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For sale by the U.S. Government Pinting Office. ISBN 0-16-0504340-9

   "All the publicity is 'Remember Pearl Harbor.' THEY should take a look at Hickam Field or what was Hickam Field. Twenty-seven bombs hit the main barracks. They dropped about 100 bombs on Hickam, paractically all hits. The papers say they are poor bombardiers! They were perfect on nearly all their releases." p. 59.
           -- Charles P. Eckhert, Major, Army Air Forces, 10 December, 1941.

Click on photo to enlarge.
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Damaged U.S. aircraft at Wheeler Field after the Japanese attack.

The Biggest Oops! at Wheeler Field
   "In late November, Colonel Flood reported to General Martin's office, along with the other base and tactical commanders, was  briefed on a message outlining the strained relations between the Japanese and the United States, and instructed to implement Alert One for sabotage. Earlier, earthen bunkers had been built all around Wheeler (Field) for about 125 aircraft so they would be suitably dispersed and protected from air attack. Colonel Flood asked if he could keep the aircraft dispersed, but General Short disapproved his request. He therefore had all the aircraft pulled in and parked together on the ramp, then increased the guards around the aircraft and around the perimeter of the field." p.48

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More damaged aircraft at Wheeler Field.

Army Candidly Admits Numerous Tragic Mistakes Leading To Dec. 7, 1941
 
   It is to the U.S. military's credit that it has published its own book, "7 December 1941 The Air Force Story," in which it candidly describes the numerous major errors in judgment by senior Army commanders leading to unnecessary deaths and destruction during the Pearl Harbor attack.
   On this page are excepts from the book that tell a story of how the Army was almost totally unprepared for an enemy attack even though its senior commanders knew a war with Japan was imminent.
 

   "Why had Lt. Tyler told the (radar) operators not to worry, and why had he not followed McDonald's advice to call back the plotters? Tyler saw no reason to change the normal operations that morning. First, there was no alert or warning of an impending attack. Second, the US fleet's carriers were at sea and the (radar) sightings could well have been the carrier's (sic) aircraft returning to port. Third, a bomber pilot friend hd explained just a few days before that one could always tell when aircraft were arriving from the US because the local radio stations would play Hawaiian music all night.The incoming aircraft would use the music to tune their directional finders and thus locate the islands. (This was exactly what the Japanese did.) On the way to the (operations) center Tyler had heard the Hawaiian music, so he assumed a flight was coming in. Finally, although Lockard had said this was the biggest flight he had eveer seen, he did not say how many aircraft he thought it might contain."
(later on the same page)
   "Had Tyler known that the sighting was over 50 aircraft, he might have reacted differently; but with the information on hand, second lieutenants do note wake up commanding officers at seven o'clock Sunday mornings with wild speculations." p.72 
 
   Note: Tyler was a 1st lieutenant, not the lower rank at the time. He told me his orders were not to call the commanding officer, but one of two officers who had just returned from air defense school at Mitchell Field in New York. Two planes flying in to Pearl from the U.S. carrier task force were shot down by friendly fire after the Japanese had left..
                                                                                                                      --JMM
 
  

 
   "The Japanese caught the Hawaiian Air force completely by surprise. There was no coordinated, systematic, island-wide air defense that morning." p. 76
 

   "Ideally all the (Japanese) aircraft would strike their assigned targets simultaneously, thus assuring complete surprise. To launch and assemble that many aircraft in the dark would be difficult and would consume large quantities of fuel needed for the actual atack. The Japanese then modified the plan. Half the force, or 189 aircraft, would attack in the first wave and the remaining 171 would hit 30 minutes later. (That's 360 enemy aircraft.) p. 61.