Bermudians Remembered Pearl Harbour

December 7, 2011

Bermuda workers joined with their American counterparts at military bases being constructed on the island in 1941 to raise money for a new US combat aircraft following the sneak Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour — 70 years ago today [Dec.7].

The surprise air strike was conducted by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the US naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii was intended as a preventive action in order to keep the US Pacific Fleet from interfering with military actions Japan was planning in Southeast Asia.

Eight US Navy battleships were damaged in the attack — four of them sunk. The Japanese also sank or damaged three cruisers, three destroyers, an anti-aircraft training ship and one minelayer. One hundred eighty-eight US aircraft were destroyed; 2,402 Americans were killed and 1,282 wounded.

The Pearl Harbour attack brought America in World War Two [1939-1945] after two years of neutrality.

In January, 1942 it was announced US and Bermudian workers at the Fort Bell [later Kindley Air Force Base and the US Naval Air Station] in the East End and at the Naval Operating Base in Southampton would contribute funds for a new combat aircraft in memory of those killed at Pearl Harbour.

The Bermuda bases had been included as an addendum to the US-UK Destroyers For Bases deal between British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and US President Franklin D. Roosevelt in September, 1940. Considered vital to trans-Atlantic shipping, aviation and to coordinating action against Nazi submarines in the Battle of the Atlantic, an enemy attack on Bermuda could not be discounted.

Consequently Britain had been forced to maintain defensive forces here, including the Bermuda Garrison. The deal allowed Britain to hand much of the defence of Bermuda over to the still-neutral US, freeing British forces for redeployment to more active wartime theatres. It also enabled the development of strategic facilities at US expense which British forces would also utilise.

Hundreds of Bermudians worked alongside American engineers on the construction of the new facilities.

And in 1942 these local workers volunteered to have a day’s pay deducted to help raise $10,000 towards the cost of a new US aircraft.

In each worker’s January, 1942 pay envelope was a printed slip which read: “To the Pay Roll Department: In memory of those men at Pearl Harbour who will never again draw a day’s pay, I hereby authorise you to deduct from my pay cheque one day’s compensation as my contribution to a fund for purchase of a military aircraft plane — one that will really give them hell.”

Short Documentary On The Pearl Harbour Attack

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Category: All, History