We ate dinner last night with our son Andrew and his three boys. It was his birthday last week, but he was out of town, so we celebrated it late. He picked Uncle Buck’s as his restaurant, where the food is always good. As we sat at the table, 5-year-old Teagan informed us that another word for delicious is “scrumptious.” So my Cajun Catfish sandwich, which I always get and comes with about a pound of fish, was scrumptious.
Let’s tackle some history.
Saburo Sakai (who is no stranger to us) was a nervous pilot. It’s not that piloting an airplane made him nervous, but rather the circumstances surrounding this particular flight. He was part of the attack force heading for Clark Air Base in the Philippines. It was December 8, 1941, and his was just one of many forces heading for targets all over the vast Pacific.
His buddies had struck a few hours before (and on the other side of the International Date Line) against the U.S. Navy parked at Pearl Harbor. The 5th and 18th army divisions were landing along the coasts of Thailand and Malaya. Three regiments were causing havoc in Hong Kong. Wake Island was being bombarded, and Burma was being invaded by the Japanese 15th army.
Attacks were happening everywhere, but the timing of this particular mission, against General Douglas MacArthur’s center of command, was what caused Sakai’s concerns. His squadrons had been scheduled to attack Clark at roughly the same time as the attacks on Pearl. But some incredibly dense fog that settled on their base in Formosa had caused their flights to be delayed by hours, ruining any chance of surprise.
However, as Sakai approached Clark with the other pilots, it was they who were surprised. Below were dozens of bombers and fighters parked neatly in rows, just waiting to be blown up. They couldn’t believe their fortune. Their timing had actually been perfect. When word reached Clark of the attacks at Pearl Harbor, many of the planes had been sent aloft. When the attacks didn’t come, the planes were brought back and parked so they could be refueled and the crews could eat.
And it was then that the Japanese arrived, and proceeded to demolish the place.
Like Hawaii, war had come to the islands of the Philippines.
Recommended Reading: Tears in the Darkness – A must read.