Unheeded warnings, missed opportunities, a failure to connect the dots—more than 60 ago, America was rocked by a devastating surprise attack on its Pearl Harbor naval base, one that destroyed a big part of our nation’s Pacific fleet. To this day historians argue over whether that attack could have or should have been detected ahead of time. In First Shot, John Craddock investigates a little-known but clear eleventh-hour warning that, had it been heeded, might have enabled the Navy’s Pearl Harbor command to blunt the Japanese assault and save ships and lives.
Craddock reveals that the attack plan of Japan’s Admiral Yamamoto included five midget submarines, each carrying two men and two torpedoes. First Shot vividly recreates the action on the deck of the USS Ward on the morning of December 7 as the outmoded relic of an earlier war engaged a tiny, state-of-the-art undersea fighting machine.
Reconstructing these events from original and primary source materials as well as new revelations from the discovery in August 2002 of the minisub sunk by the Ward, Craddock poses and answers a number of questions: Why was the Ward’s urgent message ignored by Pearl Harbor command? Why would Admiral Yamamoto, son of a samurai warrior and a brilliant strategist and tactician, jeopardize his surprise attack by trying to penetrate Pearl Harbor's sea defenses with five midget submarines that could inflict only limited damage? How might an advance warning of even one hour have changed the American response to the attack?
Craddock further reveals that Japan's use of midget submarines was not limited to the Pearl Harbor attack. Hundreds were built, and Yamamoto deployed them repeatedly as the war unfolded. Even in the Pearl Harbor attack the two-man crews knew they had little chance of survival; as Japan’s early successes were replaced by stalemate, then losses, and finally a desperate endgame, the crews accepted—even welcomed--that their missions were suicidal.
Kazuo Sakamaki, the only survivor among the midget sub crews in the Pearl Harbor attack, was also America’s first Japanese POW. To be captured was to dishonor his family and his motherland, and Sakamaki repeatedly attempted suicide after being shipped to a prison camp in Wisconsin. His is a poignant story of a soldier’s defeat, despair, and ultimate redemption.
First Shot molds a forgotten piece of history into a fascinating narrative—a bittersweet tale of duty done and duty shirked; bold successes and calamitous failures; and the undeniable fact that, in the broad course of historic events, the actions of ordinary individuals can change everything.
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“Sent ahead of the air assault on Pearl Harbor, a Japanese mini sub was destroyed, nearly destroying Japan’s deadly surprise. If we had only known even a bit of what John Craddock tells now, our own history could have been so very different.” —SHERRY SONTAG, co-author of Blind Man’s Bluff; The Untold Story of American Submarine Espionage
THE HIDDEN HISTORY OF PEARL HARBOR AND THE JAPANESE WORLD WAR II NAVAL STRATEGY
America’s first shot of World War II was fired by a worn-out World War I destroyer. An hour before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S.S. Ward hit its mark—a tiny but lethal Japanese submarine--but no one heeded the captain’s report. Before the morning was out, more than 2,400 people were dead, thousands more were wounded, and more than 100 American warships were destroyed or crippled.
What became of the Ward’s message? Why didn’t Pearl Harbor command sound a general alarm? And what was the mission of the midget submarine and four others like it—deemed critical enough by Admiral Yamamoto, mastermind of Japan’s Pacific naval war, that he was willing to risk the element of surprise on which his entire plan depended? First Shot is the compelling examination of a missed opportunity and the role of midget submarines in Japan’s Pacific war strategy.About the Author:
John Craddock is the president of ProMedia, Ltd., a book packaging company, and helped launch a series of guidebooks for The History Channel. A former newspaper reporter and magazine publisher, Craddock has written several other books as well as articles for national publications, including The New York Times.
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