Pearl Harbour Day in Hong Kong – Japanese attack on Kai Tak airport, December 1941

Gregory Crouch has kindly given permission for extracts from his article, Pearl Harbor Day in Hong Kong: “Those planes are Japanese!”, to be posted on our website. Gregory’s full article is linked below.

GC: Sunday, December 7, 1941, “a date which will live in infamy…”

Kai Tak Kai Tak airport, pre-war, showing the main hangar and a flying boat tied up at the Pan Am pontoon. Gregory Crouch

Kai Tak airport, pre-war, showing the main hangar and a flying boat tied up at the Pan Am pontoon. (Which looks to me like one of Pan Am’s three M-130s.) (Shirley Wilke Mosley collection)

A few minutes before 8:00 a.m., Chen Teh-tsan, T.T. Chen, a member of CNAC’s Hong Kong ground staff , was unloading the busload of Pan Am passengers he’d escorted to Kai Tak from the Peninsula Hotel, the sumptuous lobby of which the airlines used in lieu of a bona-fida passenger terminal. Suddenly, a noise. Everyone stopped. Airplane engines droned in the distance, growing louder.

“Look!” A passenger pointed to a gaggle of aircraft bearing down from the north at medium altitude.

“They’re British,” someone dismissed.

Chen had been in Chungking a few weeks before. He squinted at the formation. “No!” Those planes are Japanese!”

Pandemonium erupted. The passengers scattered. At a dead run, four of them followed Chen across the street and leapt into a dry drainage culvert with a bunch of blue-coveralled airport coolies. Maintenance Chief Soldinski sprinted to his car and raced for home. The crew of the Pan Am clipper took shelter in the sturdy dock house and yelled for Captain Ralph, who was still in the plane…

The formation broke into parts and descended to attack altitude. Twelve single-engine Ki-36 bombers bent toward Kai Tak, escorted by nine single engine, fixed-undercarriage Nakajima Ki-27 “Nate” pursuit planes…

The bombers cruised in level at 500 feet, their radial engine roar changing tone as they passed overhead. Black cylinders swished and fluttered earthward and boomed in rapid-fire succession among the parked airplanes. Hot shrapnel ripped bloated fuel tanks. Flaming geysers of aviation fuel gushed from torn fuselages. Massive secondary detonations annihilated the airplanes.

The attack ended as abruptly as it started. The Japanese droned into the distance and vanished about three minutes after they’d been sighted. In front of the hangar, the mangled remains of eight airplanes raged aflame under roiling palls of oily black smoke – three Curtiss Condors, the three Eurasia planes, and CNAC’s two DC-2s. Another greasy smudge jetted skyward from the ruins of the Pan Am clipper. The Royal Air Force’s contingent of pathetic biplanes – three Vildebeast torpedo bombers and two Walrus Amphibians – burned at the other end of the field.

Kai Tak Gregory Crouch One of the DC-2s destroyed by the attack

One of the DC-2s destroyed by the attack

Source: Pearl Harbor Day in Hong Kong: “Those planes are Japanese!” Gregory Crouch’s article

Related Indhhk articles:

  1. Kai Tak airport – 1925 to 1945, a brief history
  2. Kai Tak airport – BAAG reports 1942-1944, plus other landing strips
  3. Kai Tak airport – Japanese Extension of, BAAG reports, 1942-1944
  4. Kai Tak airport – World War Two, BAAG maps, sketches and plans

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