Wheeler Air Force Base was a primary target by the Japanese during the attack on Pearl Harbor. Other primary airfield targets for the Japanese during the attack on Pearl Harbor were Hickam Field and Ford Island. Bellows Air Force Base, Kanoehe Naval Air Station and Ewa Marine Corps Station were all secondary targets.
Wheeler Air Force Base (or Wheeler Army Airfield, as it is known today) is a National Historic Landmark for its role in the December 7, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
By 1940, Wheeler Field had evolved into a primary base for Army Air Corps pursuit (i.e., “fighter”) aircraft such as the P-40 Warhawk, responsible for air defense of the Hawaiian Islands Territory.
The Japanese attacked the airfield to prevent the numerous planes there from getting airborne and engaging them. Most of the planes were destroyed, but 12 pilots assigned to the 15th Pursuit Group at Wheeler (predecessor of the 15th Air Base Wing) succeeded in getting their P-36 Hawk and P-40 Warhawk aircraft off the ground, engaged the Japanese in furious dogfights, and scored some of the first American victories of World War II.
Casualties at Wheeler totaled 33 killed and 75 wounded. Of the 233 aircraft assigned to the Hawaiian Air Force, 146 were in commission before the attack; afterward, only 83 were in commission (including 27 P-40s) and 76 had been totally destroyed. During World War II as part of the US Army Air Forces and until 1949 as part of the newly established United States Air Force, Wheeler was assigned to the Seventh Air Force (former Hawaiian Air Force) and successor commands.
Pacific Warbirds offers the best Hawai‘i flight adventure tours available. Be immersed in the details of the infamous attack on Pearl Harbor and soar above the important sites that played a part in the “Day of Infamy.” Relive history as you retrace the steps of the Army and Navy airmen in the days following the bombing. Fly on some of the same routes the Japanese attackers used into the airfields at Wheeler, Kāne‘ohe and Bellows. There are many air tours in Hawai‘i, but only one warbird airplane flight. Located in Honolulu, Hawai‘i Pacific Warbirds provides a personal historical experience making it one of the best O‘ahu attractions.
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