Operation K: The Second Attack on Pearl Harbor
Operation K: The Second Attack on Pearl Harbor

Operation K: The Second Attack on Pearl Harbor

Wyatt Redd - June 10, 2018

Operation K: The Second Attack on Pearl Harbor
Allied battleships in the Pacific. Wikimedia Commons.

Hashizume’s craft had suffered damage during the take-off from the refueling point, but he had felt confident enough to continue the mission anyway. Now he decided that the base at Wotje Atoll wouldn’t be able to repair the damage. Not wanting to risk losing the plane, Hashizume declared that he would instead fly to their home base at another distant atoll. Though he was already pushing the limits of his craft’s range, Hashizume managed to set the plane down safely at Jaluit Atoll, where the Japanese had a larger base. Hashizume had just completed the longest bombing sortie in history up to that point.

Both pilots had somehow survived the operation and even recovered their planes. But as the sun rose over the Pacific, it quickly became clear that Operation K had been a dismal failure. Back in Hawaii, the newspapers reported the explosions as the public marveled over the bomb craters left behind near the high school. However, no one was sure what had caused them. At first, the Navy and the Army both accused the other of jettisoning munitions near a civilian area. But once news got out that Japanese planes had been in the area the night before, it became clear that the craters were the result of a failed attack.

The raid led many to worry that they were in the early stage of a Japanese invasion of the island. But the odds of that were slim, as the Japanese were having trouble even putting together a follow-up mission to Operation K. Multiple plans were scrapped due to the exhaustion of the crews, weather conditions, and the damage to Hashizume’s craft. On March 10, Hashizume finally flew another mission. But with US planes in the area now on high alert, he was quickly shot down and killed near Midway Atoll.

Meanwhile, the raid had alerted the US Navy to the use of French Frigate Shoals as a refueling point for Japanese planes attacking Pearl Harbor. They quickly moved into the area and mined it to keep Japanese submarines out. With the loss of the refueling point, all plans to attack Pearl Harbor in the future were scrapped. Now unable to stop the repair efforts, the Japanese could only watch as the US rebuilt and rearmed several of the ships sunk during the original attack and sent them out to help smash the Japanese Navy.

Operation K: The Second Attack on Pearl Harbor
A bomber takes off for the Doolittle Raid. Wikimedia Commons.

A month after the failure of Operation K, the US launched their own daring bombing mission. The Doolittle raid saw over a dozen American bombers launched from a carrier in the Pacific to bomb Tokyo. And though none of the planes made it back, it did far more to shake the enemy’s morale than Operation K. And just six months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Imperial Japanese Navy suffered a crushing defeat at Midway. With their naval power broken, the Japanese were forced into a long retreat back to the home islands. The tide of war had shifted against the Japanese, and ultimately it led to the end of the Japanese ambitions in the Pacific.

 

Where did we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

“Date lives on in few memories”. William Cole, Honolulu Advertiser. March 2009.

“Japan’s little-known 2nd surprise attack on Hawaii failed in more ways than one”. Wyatt Olson, Stars and Stripes. February 2018.

“World War II in the Pacific”. National Geographic.

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