Article appearing in The Courier-News, Wednesday December 7, 1977, Perspective section, p. B-1.
Reproduced with the goal of maintaining the spelling, grammar and punctuation as it appeared in the original newspaper article.
The radar officer goofed in Pearl Harbor Bombing
By Sam Freedman
Courier-News Staff Writer
Richard Ireland had his dollar riding on some day in April 1941.
"Somebody in the mess hall won. I don't remember his name," recalled Ireland. "but he had Dec. 7."
"The enlisted men certainly knew," recalled the Bridgewater resident, who was stationed in a Hawaii radar station when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor 36 years ago today. "We had a gambling pool on what day they would attack," he said, relating the story for the first time.
The guy in the mess hall won $100.
But Ireland, now director of advertising at Fedders Corp. in Edison, claims the Army had more than gallows humor and intuition warning it about a Japanese air strike.
He says the radar station had spotted Japanese planes 100 miles before they swooped over the Nuanu Palai mountains and into Pearl Harbor.
Richard Ireland, then a 24-year-old sergeant in the Army Signal Corps, reported for duty at 4 a.m. Dec. 7, 1941. He worked in the map room of Fort Shafter, a radar installation hidden from the Japanese in a Honolulu garbage dump.
He usually got off work at 7 a.m. for a bite to eat and some more sleep.
"Just before 7 o'clock," recalled Ireland, now 60 and white-haired, "all these sightings started coming in. We had a whole raft of them right in front all over the north part of the map."
That part of the map was practically in Ireland's lap. The commanding officer on a balcony overlooking the map stared at the growing flock of arrows, each signifying an incoming Japanese plane.
"The officer told us, 'Aw, don't worry, that's a bunch of U.S. bombers.' At 7, he told us to wipe off the board and go home."
With a ruler, Ireland steered the arrows off the board into a cubbyhole, like a defeated Scrabble player stowing away his q's and x's. Then he went to bed.
"I was just barely dozing off, and suddenly we're under attack," he said. The harbor, now croaking smoke and flames, was about as far from the Fort, he figured, as the power lines across 12 lanes of New Jersey Turnpike where from his office in Fedders.
"I grabbed my gas mask and empty holster," he said. Some two weeks later, the Army gave Ireland a gun to help defend Hawaii.
The soldiers who had guns, said Ireland, shot at a lot of shadows during the first 24-hour full alert.
"I've thought afterward if the Japanese had landed, they could've taken the island like that," said Ireland, snapping his fingers.
He has had plenty of time to reconsider the attack, but he never told this story publicly until yesterday. "Oh, I don't know why I didn't," he mused. "I guess I've always had the idea to. Then last year I saw an article about another guy's story and I figured I might as well tell mine."
Most of his friends to whom he told the story asked him, "Do you think Roosevelt knew?"
Ireland says he must have. "Even the soldiers sensed when our situation in Hawaii had changed," he remembered. "We read the papers, we weren't stupid, though people think we were."
There was fear, too. "At that age--we were in our teens or early 20s--the idea of dying worried us," he said.
But within two weeks after the attack, Hawaii was again--in part anyway--quite the paradise for a kid from Toledo who was accustomed to the Lake Erie-bred blizzards.
"They let us ride the city buses for free in Honolulu after the attack," he said. "We used to ride around, with our empty holsters.