December 21th, 1941
Captain Okada Tametsugu pulled his ship alongside the stricken Soryu and began to use its firefighting equipment topside to help put out the flames.
“Commander Edano pull alongside the Soryu so we help with fighting her fires”
Just as he was about to order the Tone to pull alongside there was another explosion, this one coming from the hanger deck.
“If we were alongside the Soryu when that explosion took place it could have damaged us as well Captain Tametsugu”
“I’m aware of that Commander see to it that my last order is obeyed”
“At once captain”
Slowly the Tone pulled alongside the Soryu and it’s damage control and fire fighting teams now brought topside were manning the various pieces of firefighting gear.
“Sir we are alongside the Soryu shall I order our firefighting teams to commence with firefighting efforts”
“Yes, make sure primary firefighting efforts are concentrated on the fires aft of the island those ar the ones that I’m most concerned about., secondary efforts should be placed on the hanger deck through that hole caused by an earlier explosion”
“Sir this could take awhile, that American sub is still out there. It could still launch more torpedoes and we along with the Soryu would be sitting ducks as the Americans say”
“I realize that but we must take the chance and save the Soryu besides we are moving at over 10 knots, faster than the underwater speed of an American sub. They would have to surface to catch us and that would place them at a great risk. No I think that they’re done with their attacks. If I were the American Captain I would assume that the damage to the Soryu would be to great and eventually she would go down on her own or be scuttled. I wouldn’t waste another torpedo. Continue with the firefighting efforts”
“Also Commander Admiral Yamaguchi has ordered that the destroyers Tanikaxe and Urakaze patrol around the formation in a circular fashion. His reasoning is that in this way they would be better able to attack an American submarine should it try another torpedo attack and it would also help confuse the enemy”
“Do you think that it will work Captain?”
“No I don’t think so. If the American commander is determined nothing should stop him a successful attack as we do not have enough escorts. But it doesn’t matter what you or I think Commander it is our orders and we are duty bound to obey. See that it is done”
“One more thing Commander Edano, see if you can raise any of our subs in the area, we may need them as escorts”
Again Commander Edano acknowledged the order
December 21th, 1941
Still scanning the surface Lieutenant Briggs noticed that amongst the wreckage were clear sign of survivors. Picking them up would have to wait until the remainder of the Japanese force was out of range, which would be in an 1 ½ hours. The time when this engagement started was around 0840 it was now 1135 , so it lasted just a little under 3 hours.
“XO Surface the boat, we’ll attempt to pick up as many survivors as we can and send a contact report”
“Yes Sir, Conn this is the XO surface the boat”
“Surface the boat aye”
Getting on the 1MC the conning officer announced “Standby to surface”
“Standby to surface” came back the reply from the diving officer
“Battle Surface, Battle Surface, Battle Surface” came the command.
“Bow planes rigged in” reported the diving officer.
“Blow main ballast tanks”
“Blow main ballast tanks” repeated the diving officer
As the sub surface the lower conning tower hatch was sealed and the upper conning tower hatch was opened allowing the bridge crew and lookouts to man their stations. Since it was still relatively dark outside the guns crews were kept inside the sub.
The Captain and OOD like the lookouts were quick to man their posts and no sooner than they did, did they scan the surface with their binoculars for any sort of surface contacts. As soon as survivors were picked up the ship would remain in the area for a short period of time before heading to Wake to drop off survivors.
“Gun crews man your stations” ordered the captain
No sooner than he said that than the gun crews manned than the aft 3” gun as well as the 40mm and 20mm AA guns.
“All guns report manned and ready”
“Very well, prepare to pick up survivors”
“Bridge, Radar no contacts”
“Radar, Bridge no contacts aye”
Satisfied that there were no nearby ships, the conning officer gave the command to locate and pick up survivors. Down on the main deck were personal with boat hooks and life rings waiting until Japanese sailors were located.
“Helm come to dead slow”
“Dead slow aye” slowly the Thresher moved through the wreckage. Every once in a while they would locate a survivor but when they tried a rescue attempt the Japanese sailor would resist and move away, but every once in awhile they would find someone wanting to get rescued. Lingering for no more than an hour the men of the Thresher eventually picked up 23 survivors all enlisted. Apparently what officers survived refused rescue. Altering course for Wake the Thresher picked up speed to 20 knots, charging batteries as they went.
Two members of the crew spoke adequate Japanese and were ordered by the Skipper to interrogate the prisoners. It didn’t take much of an effort to accomplish this as soon as American cigarettes were offered. It was learned that the carrier that was sunk was the HIJMS Hiryu and the other was the Soryu and that both ships were part of the Japanese task force that attacked Pearl Harbor. Several of the men were deck crews and it was learned from them that a couple of torpedoes ship without exploding, Duds.
While the rescue operations were ongoing and the Japanese sailors were being interrogated Lieutenant Briggs was quickly drafting a message to be sent to CINCPAC and the 3 Task Force commanders. As soon as he was finished he brought it down to the Radio Shack.
December 21st, 1941
TO: REAR ADMIRAL PYE, CINCPAC
CC: VICE ADMIRAL REARSON, CO TASK FORCE 11, VICE ADMIRAL BROWN, CO TASK FORCE 14, REAR ADMIRAL HALSEY, CO TASK FORCE 8, COMMANDER CUNNINGHAM, CO WAKE ISLAND
SUBJ: JAPANESE NAVAL FORCES
1) AT 0840 SONAR PICKED SURFACE CONTACTS AT EXTREME RANGE OF SONAR.
2) WHEN SURFACE CONTACTS HAD COME INTO RANGE RAISED SCOPE AND IDENTIFIED CONTACTS AS JAPANESE WARSHIPS.
3) FORCE CONSISTED OF 2 CARRIERS SORYU & HIRYU, 2 HEAVY CRUISERS TONE & CHIKUMAI AND 4 DESTROYERS.
4) AT 1059 HRS COMMENCED TORPEDO ATTACK ON BOTH CARRIERS. RESULT OF ATTACK 1 CARRIER SUNK, 1 HEAVILY DAMAGED AND LISTING TO STARBOARD, 1 HEAVY CRUISER DAMAGED.
5) ENEMY DESTROYERS COUNTERED WITH DEPTH CHARGE ATTACK. NO DAMAGE SUSTAINED.
6) SURFACED AFTER 1 HOUR WHEN REMAINDER OF ENEMY FORCE WITHDREW TO PICK UP WHAT SURVIVORS THAT WE COULD. 23 ENLISTED TAKEN PRISONER, NO OFFICERS.
7) LATER LEARNED THAT CARRIER SUNK WAS HIRYU.
WILL REMAIN IN AREA FOR 2 HOURS THEN WILL ALTER COURSE FOR WAKE TO DROP OFF PRISONERS BEFORE RESUMING PATROL.
LIEUTENANT BRIGGS, CO USS THRESHER
December 21th, 1941
Bridge of USS North Carolina
“Pardon me Admiral”
“Yes what is it Commander Wilkes”
“There are two messages that had just come in for you”
“Well read them”
“Very well, the first is from Admiral’s Brown and Halsey acknowledging your order to rendezvous and combine forces. The second message I think that you should read for yourself sir”
“Alright Commander hand it over”
Taking the message from Commander Wilkes he quickly read it”
“Damn” he abruptly yelled. Everyone quickly turned around and looked in his direction.
“Captain Strikes will you come over here” he yelled across the bridge.
“Yes sir” was all the captain could say at the moment
Moments later “Apparently your second assumption which you had told me just a little while ago was correct”
“What do you mean Admiral?”
“You exclaimed to me that the Japanese might try and reinforce their apparent invasion force with a much larger one”
“And they did try. Just received this message” waving the message in his hand “that the Thresher sighted a Japanese carrier force consisting of 2 carriers, 2 heavy cruisers and 2 destroyers heading towards Wake. They intercepted this force and launched a torpedo attack sinking 1 carrier and heavily damaging the other and a heavy cruiser. The remainder of Japanese forces are retiring. The CO of the boat, a Lieutenant Briggs, further states that he had picked up survivors and are currently heading to Wake to drop them off. Apparently the carrier that the survivors are off was the Hiryu one of the carriers that attacked Pearl”
“That’s fantastic news Admiral apparently they were supposed to provide air support for the landing, now the Japanese invasion force will be without that element”
“You’re correct in that assumption Captain, but I’m still thinking about what you said. I think that somewhere out there is another force that the Japanese dispatched, a surface covering force of battleships and heavy cruisers perhaps. We’ve got to find them and destroy them before they reach Wake”
“Sorry Admiral, there’s been no sighting reports from any of our patrol and scout planes”
“Captain I want you to inform the pilots to have them double their efforts.”
“Yes sir” came the only response Captain Strikes could give.
December 21th, 1941
HIJMS Yubari, Flagship Japanese Invasion Force
“Admiral Kajioka-san we have received word from Admiral Yamaguchi-san on board the Soryu”
“Yes what is it Captain Ban?”
“The Admiral reports that his force was ambushed by 2 perhaps 3 enemy submarines about 550 miles from Wake. He regrettably reports the loss of theHiryu damage to the Soryu and heavy cruiser Chikuma. Currently he is retiring back to Japan at 14 knots’
“What of the enemy destroyers?”
“He only reports that although his destroyer screen attacked immediately he doesn’t believe accomplished anything as he had only two destroyers in his screen”
“Survivors, did he manage to save anybody?”
“No sir, because of the imminent threat of a further submarine attack he had to leave the area immediately, he had no time to pick up survivors”
“That’s a loss of over 1,000 men, how could he justify that”
“Sir if he didn’t leave the loss in men could have been that much higher if the American subs had managed to sink the Soryu[I] as well,. Perhaps the American subs picked up some survivors”
“Highly unlikely Captain”
“Why Admiral Kajioka-san?”
“Our men have been trained not to surrender to our enemies that is why”
“This I know Admiral and I believe that our officer corps would adhere to this policy, but what of the enlisted surely not all would”
“To be honest I have no way of telling if they would or not, but considering we had just attacked their main naval base in the Pacific and destroyed their fleet I don’t think that the Americans would take kindly to capturing any of our men right now. With this in mind I don’t think that our men would want to be rescued”
“You’re probably right Admiral, by the way there is a second message from Admiral Goto on the [I]Kinugasa. He reports that he will rendezvous with us at approximately 2130”
“Excellent than we can finally take Wake from the Americans, and I will seek my revenge for my failed attempt the 1st time”
“Admiral may I have permission to say something that might sound defeatist”
“Go ahead speak what is on your mind Captain”
“Very well, suppose just suppose that the Americans have reorganized their naval assets after our attack and that they have sent a large submarine force to the Wake area hoping to intercept any of our naval forces trying a second invasion of Wake. Suppose also that they have other naval assets in the area in support of the submarines, they could be laying in wait for us to spring their trap”
“You have a good point Captain but the only ships we have to fear are their carriers and at last report they have only 3 in the Pacific with 1 the Saratoga at San Diego, which leaves only the Enterprise & Lexington unaccounted for’
“But nothing Captain, we are but a day’s sail from our other support group and Wake Island. We should be off the coast of Wake by 0545 tomorrow, we will commence our shore bombardment at precisely 0600 with our troops going ashore by 0730. I won’t make the same mistake this time as I did the first by underestimating the American forces ashore. We will destroy their defense from long range and then land our troops. When the shore bombardment begins I want every square foot of that island shelled Captain do you understand”
“This time we won’t make the same mistake as we did with our first attempt. This time we have will have 4 heavy cruisers that will bombard the island first for about one and a half hours before I make the commitment to land our Marines. If all goes on schedule we will have the island by 1430 and it would be too late for the Americans to do anything about it. Besides with the loss of the Hiryu & Soryu Admiral Nagumo will more than likely send another carrier division to support us. But more than likely they won’t arrive until a couple of days after we take the island”
“I sincerely hope that you are right Admiral”
December 21th, 1941
HIJMS Kinugasa, Flagship Cruiser Division 6
It was a moonless night as it was the night before though it wasn’t as cloudy and much more stars were plainly visible. Both Japanese forces were converging on each other at a combined speed of 42 knots so it would be just a matter of time before they would meet at the designated rendezvous coordinates. From that position it would be another 90 miles or so to go before they were off the beaches of Wake.
“Captain we have received a signal from the Yubari they are standing by at the rendezvous coordinates awaiting our arrival”
“Inform them Commander Uwabe that we will arrive with 45 minutes and for them to standby to form up on us, be prepared to slow to 12 knots”
“Yes sir Admiral Goto-san”
At around 1015 both forces had combined into the assault force and altered course accordingly. If the Americans still had aircraft on the island they would not be aloft by the time the assault and landing force arrived off the beaches. They would catch the Americans completely by surprise. Patrol Boats 32 and 33 each carrying roughly 250 Japanese marines would beach themselves on the island allowing the Japanese troops to dismount onto the island. The remainder of the marines would be landed by landing craft. Originally it was planned that carrier strikes would take out most of the US Marine defenses, but now it would be up to the heavy cruisers to do this.
December 21th, 1941
Admiral Yamamato’s Headquarters
Admiral Yamamato was busy not at his desk but at a nearby table with his back to the door studying several documents on it. He would pick several documents at a time study each for a moment before placing them down. Then he would pick up another pair and repeat the process. Once finished he leaned over the table with his hands on the edge and study these same documents all over again, occasionally moving several around. There was a subtle knock on the door. So intent on studying the documents that he did not hear the knock initially and continued on.
Again someone knocked on the door just a bit louder than before. This time Admiral Yamamato heard the knock, without turning around he simply said
It was his Chief of Staff Admiral Ugaki with several papers in his hand.
“Excuse me Admiral but I have several messages that I must insist that you read. But before you do I must tell you that its contents may force the cancellation or postponement of several key operations, perhaps even the ones that you are apparently studying”
“Just what are you getting at Admiral?”
“As I said earlier Admiral Yamamato you should read the messages”
“Who is it from?”
“Admiral Yamaguchi, isn’t he the CO of Carrier Division 2, the carrier division that Admiral Nagumo dispatched to assist with the invasion of Wake”
“Does he report that his aircraft the destruction of Wakes defenses?”
“No sir, as I said you should read the message for yourself”
“All right then hand them to me and I’ll read it”
Taking the message Admiral Yamamato walked over to his desk, sat down in his char and began to read the message from Admiral Yamaguchi.
December 21st, 1941
TO: ADMIRAL ISOROKU YAMAMATO
SUBJ: SUBMARINE ATTACK
1) I REGRETTABLY WISH TO INFORM YOU THAT APPROXIMATELY 1000 HRS THE 2ND CARRIER DIVISION HAD COME UNDER SUBMARINE ATTACK BY AT LEAST 2 AMERICAN SUBMARINES.
2) HIRYU SUNK PRESUMABLY WILL ALL HANDS.
3) SORYU HEAVY DAMAGE TO HULL, HANGER & FLIGHT DECK. DAMAGE CONTROL PARTIES ARE CURRENTLY FIGHTING FIRES AND ATTEMPTING TO COUNTER FLOOD THE SHIP. NOT SURE IF SORYU WILL MAKE IT BACK TO JAPAN IF CURRENT CONDITIONS CONTINUE.
4) MINOR DAMAGE TO TONE.
5) CURRENTLY RETIRING AT 12 KNOTS TOWARDS HOME WATERS.
6) REQUEST ADDITIONAL DESTROYERS FOR ESCORT.
REAR ADMIRAL TAMON YAMAGUCHI[/I]
“DAMN was all he could say for the moment “Admiral Ugaki are there any other messages?”
“Then our invasion fleet has not been spotted?”
“There is no indication that it has”
“Then this issue with Carrier Division 2 is just a setback. Should we dispatch another Carrier Division to assist Admiral Ugaki?’
“That is inadvisable Admiral Yamamato. We may put at risk those carriers as well to possible submarine attacks. With the loss of the Hiryu and the possible loss of the Soryu we have only 4 front line carriers available. But if the invasion forces for Wake require air support we have ample attack aircraft at Jaliut, Taroa & Wojte in the Marshall Islands”
“Do we have any ships in the area that we can provide as escort to the remnants of Carrier Division 2”
“We could dispatch the Abukuma plus several destroyers and 2 oilers, it would take them several days to rendezvous but it can be done”
“Very well, send a signal to Admiral Nagumo informing him of what happened and have him release those ships for escorting duty. In the meantime I will review all upcoming operations.”
Admiral Yamamato still sitting at this desk turned his chair around so that its rear was now facing Admiral Nagano and the door. With his hands clasping each other he bowed and began to pray not only for them men that he lost but for the success of the Wake Invasion.