Monday, December 6, 1999

'I still remember ...'

By Ken Ige, Star-Bulletin
Ed Borucki talks to his grandsons Aaron Borucki, 13 (center), and
Ethan Borucki, 9, at the USS Utah Memorial at Pearl Harbor.
Borucki was on board the USS Helena, which
was damaged on Dec. 7, 1941.

USS Utah:
‘Forgotten memorial’

Like the Arizona, the hull of
the battleship and some of its
crew lie under water

Bullet I still remember...
Bullet Ceremonies mark anniversary
Bullet U.S. B-17s: Mistaken identity

By Gregg K. Kakesako


FOR more than a decade, troubled young sailors participating in the Navy's correctional custody program have dutifully raised and lowered the American flag each day at the USS Utah Memorial on Ford Island.

They were all part of the Navy's effort to help first-term sailors adjust to military life.

"We want to re-instill patriotism to these young sailors who have gotten into trouble for minor offenses," said Jim Taylor, program coordinator at the Ford Island Navy brig. "The idea is to help these young kids remember what the flag is all about ... to make them see what people before them did for their country."

To Taylor, a master chief with 33 years of service, the USS Utah, where 58 sailors lost their lives on Dec. 7, 1941, is a special memorial.

"The Arizona gets all the publicity, and that's OK," said Taylor, who got involved with the USS Utah memorial more than a decade ago when the Navy was in charge of the area's upkeep.

"It was more accidental than anything else," Taylor said. "As the years have gone by, I have gotten to love it. It is not a well-known item. It's the forgotten memorial."

Like the Arizona, the hull of the battleship Utah and a portion of its crew remain in the murky waters of Pearl Harbor off the north shore of Ford Island. Fifty-four sailors remain entombed.

Among those lost was Chief Watertender Peter Tomish, who forsook safety topside to ensure that men in the engineering compartments would escape. Even realizing that the Utah was capsizing, he remained at his post in the boiler room. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

The battleship Utah was commissioned on Aug. 31, 1911, in Camden, N.J., and operated in the Atlantic during World War I. In 1931 the Utah was converted to a target and anti-aircraft gunnery training ship.

On Dec. 7, 1941, the Utah pulled into a Ford island berth that was supposed to have been occupied by the aircraft carrier Enterprise.

Because the Utah had been used to pull targets during gunner practice, its decks and guns had been reinforced. From the air, Japanese fighters mistook the modified superstructure of the Utah for the Enterprise.

Within the first five minutes of the Japanese attack, two torpedoes slammed into the Utah's hull, and the Japanese reported sinking the carrier Enterprise.

There is no massive visitor center, like the one maintained by the National Park Service for the USS Arizona -- just a simple flagpole, a bronze stone monument and Taylor, who has been known to take home to dinner Utah survivors visiting Hawaii.

"It has been nothing official," said Taylor, 61. "Just a bit of aloha spirit more than anything else."

Vet recounts how radar
blip was misread

By Gregg K. Kakesako


History places Kermit Tyler at Fort Shafter's information center on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, and records him as saying, "It's OK, don't worry about it" after being told about a large blip on the Army's fledgling radar system.

What Tyler, 84, misread as a ferry flight of six B-17 fighter bombers approaching Oahu was 175 Japanese attack planes positioning themselves for a run on Pearl Harbor, Hickam Field and Kaneohe Marine Corps Air Station.

Tyler, who later fought in the Pacific campaign as a P-40 fighter pilot, said recently that he talked to Joseph Lockard, one of the Army radar operators who were stationed on Opana Point in the Kahuku mountain range.

"Radar was brand new," said Tyler, who was then a pilot with the 78th Pursuit Squadron at Wheeler Field. "The radar operator had been there only for 10 days."

Tyler said the radar operator didn't have enough experience to distinguish a flight of B-17 fighter bombers from anything else.

For Tyler, an Army lieutenant on Dec. 7, it was only his second day working in Fort Shafter's information center known as "Little Robert."

The Wednesday before, he had worked alone from noon to 4 p.m. "The building was like an Army barracks, with a map of Hawaii. There were places for six people who, with earphones, were supposed to plot incoming radar reports.

"The idea was that if a plane got lost, we could determine where it went down."

Tyler said he had been told that a flight of 11 B-17s was supposed to be landing on Oahu on Dec. 7 and that an island radio station had stayed on the air past midnight to give them a signal to follow to Hawaii.

At 7:15 a.m.,when he got a radar plot,Tyler said he assumed it was some of the B-17s.

Japanese attackers had sneaked in and "came right in with the B-17s," Tyler said.

Tyler and his wife, Marian, paid a courtesy call this morning on Lt. Gen. E.P. Smith, commander of Army soldiers in the Pacific, and related how he viewed his role in the Dec. 7 attack.

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