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News | Dec. 6, 2019

Heroes and history of DIA: Pearl Harbor

By Greg Elder, DIA History

Every year on Sept. 11, I remember leaving my office in the newly renovated section of the Pentagon for a meeting shortly before American Airlines Flight 77 hit the building. I hear recollections from colleagues and remember the impact that day had on my life. 

It was a day that changed the world we live in. Decades from now, historians will look back on the attacks and clearly mark how important it was as a life-altering event. As we look back on what happened 78 years ago – Dec. 7, 1941 – we can see the sharp parallels. A surprise attack, which resulted in heavy U.S. losses and the wakening of our country. For those at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, the impact was as significant as the terrorist attacks were to those who were at the Pentagon.

Some of the individuals who were at Pearl Harbor that day, and who would go on to fight in campaigns during World War II, eventually made their way to the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Rear Adm. Allan Reed, DIA’s second chief of staff, joined the destroyer USS Helm at Pearl Harbor in August 1941 as the executive officer. The Helm was the only ship in the fleet that was fully manned and underway in the harbor when the Japanese attacked on Dec. 7, 1941.

Capt. Arthur F. Johnson, who was assigned to DIA’s Evaluations Branch, found himself on the destroyer USS Mugford, commanding the crew to open fire against the Japanese aircraft.

Capt. Ralph E. Styles, a 1932 graduate of the U. S. Naval Academy, was serving as the chief engineer on the submarine USS Narwhal, which was moored at berth S-9 on the day of the attack. Little did Styles know on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, that he would be one of the last accounted for survivors from the Pearl Harbor attack.

Rear Adm. William McCormick, the Agency’s first assistant director for acquisition, transferred from his post as the aide and chief lieutenant for then-Rear Adm. Raymond Spruance to flight school immediately following the attack.

To learn more about DIA officer’s actions during the attack on Pearl Harbor, including their roles in the downing of multiple Japanese aircraft, the beaching of a mini-sub and the capture of the only Japanese prisoner, email the DIA History team.