I had long been fixated on a photograph taken by a Japanese aviator during the attack on Pearl Harbor. In my opinion it clearly focused on a black object from which two torpedo tracks were racing towards the West Virginia and Oklahoma. There were three distinct splashes behind the black object and I didn’t know what they were. I was confused and extremely curious.
During Thanksgiving Dinner in November, 2009, I conceived the idea for Chameleons. I explained the story line to everyone present and received a rousing endorsement to pursue the project. So I did.
My idea was to write a screenplay.
I immediately began my research and acquired every book on the subject including a little orange colored, hard-bound book titled: I attacked Pearl Harbor by Kazuo Sakamaki, a/k/a Prisoner of War Number One. It cost me a bundle.
I didn’t just read the books, I made hand-written outlines and began formulating the guts of the screenplay. You see, I already knew the beginning and the ending, but I would need to accomplish a great deal of research to re-create the past, especially the portions in Japan. I also expended a great deal of time researching on the web and accumulated an incredible amount of information.
I had so much information I found it necessary to de-content the draft manuscript for fear of over-kill. However, let me say this right away: I intended from the beginning for the I-16-tou to be damaged and seek shelter in West Loch.
I wrote the screenplay in three long days, March, 2010. I registered the screenplay which serves as evidence I placed the I-16-tou in West Loch years before the Navy discovered it had, indeed, been scuttled in West Loch. I was already thinking like Lieutenant (jg) Masaharu Yokoyama!
I encountered all manner of obstacles including variations in Yokoyama’s and Kamita’s names. Eventually I settled on the versions I most often came across and stayed with them. I could not find a consensus on the depth of the channel leading into Pearl Harbor. There were all sorts of conflicting statements on that key element. As you read the book you will discover Yokoyama had to deal with the same dilemma. Obviously, he managed ok.
There was the issue of the twin torpedo tracks, one directed at the West Virginia and one at the Oklahoma. Eventually I found a report by Admiral Chester Nimitz stating they had discovered an unexploded 1,000 pound torpedo next to the West Virginia. Mystery solved.
I read numerous accounts of the survivors from the Oklahoma, but one account is what convinced me my theory was correct:
All the battlewagons were ready for inspection on December 7, the result being all the water-tight doors on the ships were OPEN. West Virginia, Oklahoma and California were all listing to port as the result of torpedo strikes, but they were slowly settling onto the bottom of the harbor. Only the Oklahoma rolled over, but why? Because a one thousand pound torpedo tore a hole clear through her torpedo belt and opened about a thirty-eight foot wide hole below the waterline. Thousands of gallons of water rushed in and overwhelmed the doomed ship.
One account in particular caught my attention to support my theory. One of the sailors rescued over the next few days had been in the engine room. He heard the “bangs” from numerous aerial torpedo hits, but then heard a remarkably “loud explosion from up forward.” The ship immediately began to roll over. His account also matched a photo taken by an aviator. The photo depicts a tall, narrow geyser coming from the West Virginia and a low, thick geyser coming from the Oklahoma. (Reference the photos at the back of my book.)
The tall, narrow geyser was typical of a five hundred pound aerial torpedo. The low, thick geyser contained so much water it could not shoot straight up. It was the visual evidence of a one thousand pound torpedo hitting the ship.
And what about the three water spouts behind the black object? I laughed at a documentary where they spent a great deal of money constructing a midget version of the real sub and concluded the spouts must have been from an aerial torpedo. I wish they would have donated the money they spent on the homeless as they were just silly in their assumptions, and wrong in their conclusion.
First, if the three sprouts were from a torpedo strike, then where was the plane? The planes had to slow to under one hundred miles per hour before releasing their torpedo and with three fresh sprouts in the water, where was the plane? It should have been in the photograph.
Second, how could they know the ballast arrangement Yokoyama was using, as well as his speed when they built their mini version? They couldn’t know.
Third, why would the Japanese aviator have taken the photo? He was focused, not on battleship row, but on the midget submarine. Admiral Reardon mentions the fact in Chameleons.
I just realized I’m getting a little long-winded here and need to end this soon.
I noticed most everyone mentions the ending. Let me make a couple of things clear.
- I wrote the ending precisely as I envisioned it at Thanksgiving Dinner.
- You, the reader, experience the same feelings the Kida family experience.
Most of you figured out I added a couple of characters when I finally got around to introducing Colonel Nat. Go back and re-read the description of the Aussie as you will be encountering a great deal of him as the Commander Pastwa series continues.
If there is something you would like me to discuss, drop me a note at ChameleonsNovel@aol.com.
Thanks for reading!