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Posted at 12:39 PM ET, 01/19/2011

"Air raid, Pearl Harbor": Who said it?

By Emma Brown
Emma Brown

The Associated Press has published an obituary for Ed Chlapowski, "the man who notified the world that Pearl Harbor was being bombed by the Japanese."

Mr. Chlapowski died Sunday of cancer at his home in Billings, Mont. He was 88 and had cancer.

According to the AP, Mr. Chlapowski was stationed at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, and had just eaten breakfast and sat down on his bunk when, just before 8 am, "he looked out the window and saw a hangar roof blown away."

He ran to the radio room, where he tapped out a message in Morse code:

"This is no drill," it said. "Pearl Harbor is being attacked by the Japanese. This is no drill."

But was Mr. Chlapowski really the man who notified the world of the attack on U.S. soil? That's a little fuzzy.

Reports over the years have credited a number of men with sending out first word of the attack.

Some history books have named Rear Admiral Patrick Bellinger as the man who sounded the alert: "Air Raid, Pearl Harbor, this is no drill!" Others have named Lieutenant Commander Logan C. Ramsey.

In 1978, Washington Post reporter Henry Mitchell wrote a story about Buzz Boyer, whom the headline called "The Sailor Who Sent the Infamous News."

"On that particular morning I relieved the watch before eight o'clock," Boyer told the reporter, and at five minutes of the hour, he tapped out "with my own two little paddies" the news to America.

Wrote Mitchell:

"Boyer did not stop to set the message in code but in plain English wired: 'Air raid, this is no drill.' "

No doubt there were many men sending many messages to and from CINCPAC that morning. It's awful hard to know for sure which of those made it out to the world -- and who sent it.

By Emma Brown  | January 19, 2011; 12:39 PM ET
Categories:  Emma Brown, Military , World War II  
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