George E. Elliott Jr.
In November 1941, I was
sent from the Signal Company Aircraft Warning Hawaii
(SCAWH) at Schofield Barracks to a base at Kawailoa
on the north of Oahu to help install a Radar Unit nine
miles away 526 feet above sea level on a mountain called
Opana near Kahuku Point.
On Saturday, December 6th, Private Joseph Lockard and
I were ordered to go up to Opana and relieve Privates
Hodges and Lawrence for a twenty-four hour pass (they
had been guarding the Radar Unit around the clock).
Our duty was to guard the equipment from 12:00 Saturday
until 12:00 Sunday with a pause to operate the Radar
Unit from 04:00 until 07:00 on Sunday (this was not
a walking guard duty, it simply required our presence
with each of us armed with a 45 caliber pistol). We
spent the night in a tent next to the equipment and
at 03:45 we were awakened by the sound of our alarm
The SCR-270-B Radar Unit was the state-of-the-art device
at that time. I believe six of them arrived in Oahu
in July 1941. Ours was originally set up at Schofield
Barracks before being dismantled and carted up to Opana
around Thanksgiving. It consisted of a mobile unit mounted
on two van-type trucks and a stake body truck that carried
disassembled parts of a 45 foot antenna while towing
the antenna's main body. Aircraft were viewed on a 5
inch oscilloscope as vertical white upward blips"
originating from a white horizontal line that could
pick up movement out to approximately 150 miles.
We unlocked the trucks and
powered up the unit. Lockard was an experienced radar
operator who manned the oscilloscope while I did the plotting
and kept log. Our duty was to track and report all activity
to the Information Center fifty miles away at Fort Shafter
via our direct tactical telephone line. There was almost
zero air traffic that early Sunday morning and at 06:54
I was advised over our tactical line to shut down the
Radar unit. Furthermore, we were informed that Privates
Hodges and Lawrence would be returning early to Opana
at 08:00 instead of 12:00.
The SCR-270-B Radar Unit
Lockard began to power down, but I reminded him that we
had received previous permission from our platoon sergeant
to keep the system operating so that I could learn how
to operate the oscilloscope. I had less than three months
radar experience under my belt and Lockard agreed to keep
the unit running.
At 07:02 I was sitting at the controls while Lockard peered
over my shoulder and instructed me on how to detect planes.
Suddenly, there appeared the largest
blip either of us had
ever seen on an oscilloscope. "What's this?"
I asked him. Lockard thought the unit had either malfunctioned
or was giving us a false reading. He quickly tested the
equipment and determined everything to be working perfectly.
We calculated the
blip to be a large group of aircraft approaching quickly
from 3 degrees east approximately 137 miles out to sea.
I suggested to Lockard that we should notify our Information
"Don't be crazy!" he laughed. "Our problem
ended at seven o'clock." However, I was insistent
and after a long discussion he said, "Well, go ahead
and send it in if you like."
There were two direct telephone lines connecting our radar
station to Fort Shafter: a tactical line that linked us
directly with the plotters at the Information Center and
an administrative line. I tried the tactical line, but
no one answered. I then used the administrative phone
and was answered by the switchboard operator, Private
Joseph McDonald. He informed me that the five plotters
and historical information plotter at the Information
Center had already left for breakfast. I nervously explained
what we'd seen and asked him to get someone in charge
to call us back as soon as possible.
At 07:20 a lieutenant rang
back and Lockard took the call. The lieutenant knew that
a dozen B-17 Flying Fortresses were due from San Francisco
from almost the same direction as our mystery blip. In
fact, he had listened to Honolulu radio station KGMB broadcast
Hawaiian music early that morning so that the bombers
could tune their directional finders. Ironically, the
Japanese attack planes were now honing in on that same
Boeing B-17E Flying Fortress Heavy Bomber
Max. Weight: 51,000lbs / Max.
Speed: 318 mph
don't worry about it," the lieutenant told Lockard.
Lockard again wanted to
shut down the Radar Unit, but I insisted that we keep
it operational because I still wanted instruction on using
the oscilloscope and the incoming flight presented a perfect
opportunity. We continued to track the aircraft until
they were approximately twenty-two miles from the Oahu
coastline and disappeared behind the permanent distortion
of the surrounding mountains at 07:39.
Five minutes later
the truck showed up to replace us with Privates Hodges
and Lawrence, and take us back to Kawailoa for breakfast.
Mitsubishi A6M3 Zero Carrier Fighter
Max. Weight: 5,828lbs / Max. Speed:
About halfway back to Kawailoa
we passed a stake body truck full of soldiers speeding
towards Opana. We honked our horn and slowed down to ask
what they were doing, but they simply blew their horn
and rushed past. Their reaction shocked and confused us,
compounded by the fact that they were all outfitted with
backpacks and wearing World War One doughboy-style helmets.
We arrived at Kawailoa to see a group of soldiers gathered
around and staring up at the sky. It was here that we
learned about the attack on Pearl Harbor. Lockard and
I looked at each other. At that moment we knew that the
flight we tracked at Opana was the Japanese attack force.
We were ordered to collect our gear and head back up to
Opana. Arriving at the Radar Unit we were informed that
a rumor had spread that the enemy had dropped paratroopers
on Oahu dressed in blue denim fatigues - which was exactly
what Lockard and I were wearing. Order was given to "Shoot
anyone on sight in blue denims!" We immediately stripped
down to our shorts and t-shirts and stayed that way until
we were given a fresh supply of tan-colored standard issue.
In a food container I found the breakfast of flap jacks
that had awaited us in Kawailoa. I never touched it.
Editor's Note: In March 1942, Joseph
Lockard was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal on
the steps of the Capitol Building, Washington, D.C. and
called the "Hero of Pearl Harbor" by the Associated
Press. In August 1946, George Elliott Jr. was awarded
the Legion of Merit. He refused to accept the medal on
the principle that he should not have to accept a lesser
medal than Lockard.
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