Japanese planes surprised Army Air Corps vet
Robert “Bob” Lloyd remembers the first wave of Japanese torpedo bombers flying over Oahu as if the fateful mission happened yesterday.
As one of two surviving Pearl Harbor veterans who attended a special ceremony last week at the USS Nevada memorial behind the state capitol, the 95-year-old Lloyd said he was honored to be at the ceremony and for people to remember how history unfolded 75 years ago. Nevada Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison recognized Lloyd and Carson City resident Delmar Schwichtenberg as Pearl Harbor survivors.
Lloyd, who lives in Dayton, entered the military in 1939 after attending a vocational high school in New Kensington, Pa. He had his heart set on joining the Navy. When he graduated, Lloyd went to the recruiting station and asked for the location of the nearest Navy recruiter.
“Why do you want to go in the Navy,” an Army recruiter asked him.
“Because there are machinists in the Navy,” Lloyd replied.
“Well, he said we have machinist in the Army Air Corps. Where would you like to go?”
Lloyd briefly hesitated and then told the recruiter he wanted Hawaii for his first assignment.
Assigned to the Army’s 22nd Materiel Squad at Pearl Harbor, Lloyd and other soldiers from the squad were on the flight deck early Sunday morning, Dec. 7.
The flight deck bordered Battleship Row, the deepest part of the harbor used to anchor the behemoth warships. Lloyd said the squadron heard that B-17 Flying Fortresses — heavy bombers with four engines — were flying into Pearl Harbor that morning. Unbeknown to them, however, the roar of arriving aircraft didn’t belong to the B-17s but to Japanese airplanes.
“We didn’t see Pearl Harbor itself. We heard this loud noise, and I remember going over to look,” recalled Lloyd, who spent 21 years in the Army Air Corps and retired as a captain. “It looked like the Navy was having maneuvers today, but we didn’t know what was going on.”
Lloyd and the other servicemen working on the flight deck quickly discovered, however, it wasn’t the U.S. Navy conducting maneuvers but Japanese torpedo bombers.
When one of the planes banked, they saw the insignia.
“That’s a Japanese airplane,” one of the soldiers yelled.
Lloyd said the planes began strafing the airfield, and the men ran to seek shelter.
Lloyd’s time on Oahu, though, was short-lived when he left Hawaii in 1942 to enter flight school. He learned how to fly the P-38 Lightning at Peterson Field east of Colorado Spring, Colo., and headed to South Carolina to train as a B-25 bomber pilot.
“We were just kids,” said Lloyd, who was 21 years old at the time. “I was 20 when I entered flight school.”
Instead of returning to the Pacific, Lloyd and his crew reported to Europe where they conducted low-level flying above the Aegean Sea searching for German ships.
On the other hand, Schwichtenberg decided he wanted to fight the war from beneath the water’s surface, not above it. He entered the Navy in 1940 and completed submarine training at New London, Conn., the following January.
The 94-year-old veteran’s first assignment was onboard an old World War I submarine based out of Philadelphia. Eventually, the Navy assigned Schwichtenberg to the newly christened USS Sand Lance in 1943, and the submarine saw extensive action in the Pacific by sinking numerous Japanese cargo and military ships.
The Sand Lance earned a Presidential Unit Citation and five battle stars, while Schwichtenberg and other crewmen received a Bronze Star for valor.
Schwichtenberg, who retired from the Navy in 1960 after a 21-year career, said the ceremony to honor the USS Nevada and World War II veterans was patriotic.
Naval Air Station Fallon commanding officer Capt. David Halloran said honoring the two surviving heroes of Pearl Harbor was fantastic.
“This was a fabulous ceremony,” Halloran said. “Being a graduate of the University of Arizona, I attended many USS Arizona ceremonies. Now assigned to NAS Fallon, I am honored to attend this ceremony for the USS Nevada and the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor.”
Halloran said many tales of World War II veterans are now being told for others to know of their service and heroism.
“A lot of these stories were hidden throughout the years,” said the Navy captain.