The first crashing blows were so widespread that it looked as if the Japanese were trying to realize their "Heavensent," Hell-patented ambition of dominating the Pacific all at one fell shock. Actually they had no such crazy plan. They had, instead, a pattern of attack for a first move which was brilliant, thorough, audacious, and apparently in its first two days, successfully carried through.
Japan's gambit had two essentials: 1) strike at the heart of the main U.S. force and split it from the Allied forces to the East; 2) lay the groundwork for the destruction of the latter.
After the assault on Hawaii, Guam, Wake, Midway, the soft little links between Hawaii and the Philippines, were quickly neutralized.
Guam was easy. Captain George Johnson McMillin, whom the 22,000 Chamorros call King of Guam, could see from his 300-year-old palace the heavily fortified Japanese island of Rota. His kingdom had only one natural harbor and only one landing field. It was, thanks to the fact that certain U.S. Congressmen had not been able to see farther than the west bank of the Potomac River, unfortified. When zero hour came, Japanese warships shelled the island, setting fire to the oil reservoir and all the principal buildings. According to Japanese reports, the flag of the Rising Sun rose over Guam after one day of fighting.
On Wake, 1,100 men had recently been working long hours to complete air bases. According to the Japs, their bombers "smashed" Wake in notime flat.
Midway, only 1,300 miles northwest of Hawaii, was treated to a bombing to knock out Pan American Airways and military installations.
Two small British islands, Nauru and Ocean, just south of the Japanese-mandated Marshall Islands, were taken.
The Philippines. By the time the morning had pushed westward from Hawaii to the Philippines, Lieut. General Douglas MacArthur, Commander in Chief of U.S. Armed Forces in the Far East, had been hauled out of bed and told of the attack. Pilots were rushed to ready stations and Admiral Thomas C. Hart's Asiatic Fleet, which was at sea, prepared for action.
The first Japanese blows at the Philippines were struck, not at Manila, but at Davao in the extreme south, where a great part of the Philippines' Japanese population (29,000) lives. The aircraft tender Langley was hit. Up north the Japanese bombed the Army's Fort Stotsenburg, the summer capital Baguio, then dropped leaflets promising the Filipinos that they would be liberated quickly.
Manila snapped to attention. General MacArthur said: "The military is on the alert, and every possible defense measure is being undertaken. My message is one of serenity and confidence." One Japanese was arrested for snipping telephone wires, one was caught with an old, much-used set of harbor charts, 13 others were found barricaded in the Nippon Bazaar, a few were caught carrying knapsacks packed with tinned goods; but for the most part the Japanese herded docilely into concentration camps.