The Heroes of Marine Corps Air Station Ewa

August 07, 2017

Not every hero of December 7th, 1941 was made within the confines of Pearl Harbor. While most of the Japanese attention was focused on the eight battleships moored along Battleship Row, some Japanese fighters and bombers detached from the main strike force to attack other strategic targets. Wheeler and Hickam Army Air Fields are each remembered for the great amount of damage to their undefended planes, but there was another, less well-known airfield that also took heavy fire from the Japanese attackers.

Marine Corps Air Station Ewa

Like every other military installation around Oahu, the men living at MCAS Ewa were blissfully unaware of what was heading their way that quiet Sunday morning. Suddenly, as Japanese aircraft made their way to Pearl Harbor to open the main part of the assault, machine gun fire began peppering the planes based at Ewa.

MCAS Ewa became one of the first targets of Japan’s aerial fleet, suffering more damage every time the attackers flew overhead, either returning to their carrier or heading towards Pearl Harbor. In the attack, all 48 of the aircraft at the base were destroyed.

The Marines Respond

Marines fighting back at MCAS Ewa

Despite the shock of the attack, American forces didn’t just let Japan pull off its attack and leave. Marines like Private William Turner, Sergeant William Latschau, and Sergeant Carlo Michaletto were determined to fight back, even if it meant putting their own lives in danger. Unprepared for what was happening around them, these brave men and others were forced to fire back with whatever they could get their hands on.

Pvt.Turner and Master Sergeant Peters took up a position in a grounded aircraft parked on the runway. The two climbed into the rear cockpit and, using the rear-mounted  gun, fired on incoming planes. Though they were only credited with shooting down one plane, there’s no telling what target that fighter or bomber might have hit, and how many lives the bravery of Turner and Peters potentially saved. Both were injured during their heroic stand that morning and on December 12th, 1941, Turner died from his injuries. His actions were later recognized with a Bronze Star.

In all, six people lost their lives as a result of the attack on Ewa Air Station, including Turner, Michaletto, PFC Edward Lawrence, and two civilians, one being six-year-old Lillian Oda. The attack on Marine Corps Air Station Ewa is another reminder that the tragedy of Pearl Harbor stretched beyond the harbor itself, touching installations across Oahu.

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