Wheeler Army Airfield: Then and Now


By: Daniel Garcia

When the Japanese made their plans to bomb Pearl Harbor, they planned to go after more than just the harbor itself. .They had three other targets in mind: Hickman Airfield, Ford Island and Wheeler Army AirField

But why attack Wheeler Airfield? After all, it was an aircraft base, and it’s not that close to the heavy attack down at Pearl Harbor. So why go after this air Airfield at all?

Though sometimes overlooked, Wheeler Airfield played a major role in the Pearl Harbor attack. Many brave men lost their lives there, and those that survived were ready to defend the U.S.

Why Wheeler Army AirField

One of the biggest fears about the attack during the planning stage was what the Americans might do if they were able to utilize their ships and plans. The Japanese feared the Americans would come after them, and the bombing may become a battle in the sky. The goal of the attack was to catch the U.S. military completely off guard and to destroy as many military machines as possible.

Though it was an aircraft base, Wheeler Airfield had a large amount of hangers on the premise, which meant that there were plenty of planes to fly. The Japanese didn’t want pilots to have a chance to get to their planes and fight back. So they bombed Wheeler Airfield heavily in hopes of deterring anyone from taking off.

On that day

Wheeler Airfield was one of the hardest hit areas during the first wave of the attack. The Japanese wanted to make a clean job of it, and they made sure to bomb the aircraft hangers as well as the airstrips. The attack started just after 8 a.m. Overall, the Japanese dropped 35 bombs on the field.

Wheeler Air Field

In total, 54 planes were utterly destroyed during the attack, and an aircraft hanger full of ammunition was blown up. Thirty-seven soldiers at Wheeler Airfield were killed on that day, and another 53 were injured.

Despite their best efforts, the Japanese didn’t ground everyone. Four fighter pilots from the 46th Pursuit Squadron managed to get to their planes and take off.

Wheeler Army AirField today

The U.S. needed an airfield in Hawaii, so Wheeler Army AirField was quickly rebuilt. During World War II, a number of planes came in and out of Airfield. In 1944, the Seventh Air Service Command began flying planes from Wheeler. The B-29 bombers in the Pacific needed help, and this command would provide the much-needed assistance.

After the war was over, the U.S. military didn’t need Wheeler as much as it did during the war. In 1949, it was placed in care-taking status, but not long after, the U.S. entered the Korean War. During the conflict, the air field became useful again.

Wheeler AirField Today

Today Wheeler Army Air Field is open to the public. The building have since been restored, and now visitors can see what they would have looked like just before the attack.

Most people forget that the Pearl Harbor attack targeted other places than just Pearl Harbor itself. Wheeler Army Air Field lost a lot of good men in the attack, but its fighters weren’t afraid to defend the U.S. Schedule a tour of this historic place and relive the history.

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