Torpedo Attack on the USS St.
Explosion on the reef
If the Condor's account is true, then that raises the possibility that there were no torpedoes at all. Assuming that there was at least one explosion on the coral reef outside the entrance, what could have caused it if not a torpedo? According to the timeline established by the Roberts Commission, there were two reports around 1000 by different stations (USS Mugford and Fort Shafter) of Japanese airplanes dropping mines and/or bombs in the waters around the entrance. A US Coast Guard cutter, USCG Tiger, logged approximately 16 near misses from "bombs or unidentified shells" while patrolling just outside the channel entrance. Knowing that none of the Japanese aircraft carried mines and probably did not waste bombs on the harbour entrance, one would suspect that what was actually seen were anti-aircraft rounds fired from inside the harbour falling back to earth. This is supported by official reports and other observations:
"While the ship was patrolling off the entrance, numerous splashes were observed in and around the channel entrance. Some of these were large and may have been caused by falling mines; however, no aircraft were observed close to the water."
- Commanding Officer, USS Helm (DD-388), report to Commander-in-Chief, US Pacific Fleet, dated 11 December 1941
"It may be of interest to note that a great number of the bursts on the water were of the nature of exploding 5" shells rather than bombs. It is believed that either the fuses were not cut on many of the 5" A.A. projectiles or that they were not operative."
- Commanding Officer, USS Dale (DD-353), report to Commander-in-Chief, US Pacific Fleet, dated 28 December 1941
"I observed four ships off the entrance to Pearl Harbor; one cruiser and three destroyers. Even from twenty miles away I could tell they were our ships by their silhouettes and I no longer gave them any thought. Then ahead, well off to my right. I did see something unusual, a rain of big shell splashes in the water off the entrance to Pearl Harbor, and recklessly close to the shore."
- Lieutenant (j.g.) Clarence E. Dickinson, pilot of SBD-3 6-S-4, VS-6, USS Enterprise
"There was another thing we saw. That was a lot of explosions along the reefs. I thought that they were explosions of torpedoes fired into the reefs. I didn't see any other submarines the whole morning. We didn't actually see any, but we did see a lot of explosions that looked like shallow water explosions of torpedoes."
- Lieutenant William Outerbridge, Commanding Officer, USS Ward
Aboard St. Louis, Alva Jones reported seeing "splashes out to sea, I suppose that is where the shells were hitting." Doug Huggins, from his position in Control Aft, saw what he thought were bombs being dropped all round the ship as she exited the channel, but that none came any closer than 500 yards. So, could the explosion witnessed by the crew actually have been the detonation of a falling AA shell on the shallow reef? It is a possibility, but would not explain the two torpedo tracks reported by many of the St. Louis's crew.