On 7 December 1941 Japanese naval aircraft and submarines attacked the U.S. Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, Hickam Army Airfield, and several other American units in the Hawaiian Islands. America was at war and the Coast Guard was fighting from day one. Coast Guard units assigned to the 14th District included the new 327’ Cruising Cutter Taney; the 190’ buoy tender Kukui, two 125’ patrol craft, Reliance and Tiger; two 78’ patrol boats, CG-400, and CG-403; a 60’ patrol boat, CG-27; a 48’ patrol boat, CG-4818; a buoy boat, CG-517; and a converted rum-runner, CG-8. Two aircraft were assigned to the District, a Grumman JRF2 Goose at the District Office and a Grumman JF2 Duck aboard Taney. At the time of the attack, most of these units were in Honolulu Harbor, about six miles from Pearl Harbor. Taney was tied up at Pier Six; Reliance, Kukui, and most of the other units were at Pier Four. Tiger was on patrol along the western shore of Oahu.
At 0645, Tiger received a report that USS Ward had attacked and sunk a submarine. At 0720, Tiger detected a sonar contact and tracked it to shoal water. At about 0800, Tiger came under attack and proceeded to her wartime patrol area off the entrance of Honolulu Harbor. Her crew observed several aircraft, but none came within range of her .50-caliber machine guns.
As Taney’s QM1/c Willie Williams was relieved of the gangway watch at 0730, he reported, “Situation is clear.” Many men were preparing to depart the ship for Liberty. All of this, however, would soon change. At 0731, Taney received the message that Ward had discovered and sunk an unknown submarine in the forbidden defensive zone at the entrance to Pearl Harbor. Knowing danger was imminent, Taney’s Officer of the Deck, Lieutenant E. Pearson, quickly took action. He recalled the ship’s officers from shore leave and ordered the ship’s guns to be uncovered and readied. As the men, expecting a drill, brought up training ammunition, Pearson angrily told them to go back and “bring out the real stuff! This is no drill!” Because of Lieutenant Pearson’s actions, Taney was one of the first ships to return fire on Japanese planes that day. As much of the American fleet in Pearl Harbor was caught unprepared, Taney was ready. At 0900, Taney’s #4 and #5 3” guns opened fire on Japanese aircraft, but the planes were not within range. At 1135, Taney’s guns opened up on a formation of bombers flying over Honolulu’s business district. Although Taney was not credited with the kills, these planes were seen to crash into the ocean soon after. At 1158, a formation of five planes approached Taney, intending to either destroy the ship or the power plant just behind the ship. Taney’s guns put up a wall of lead so thick, the planes were forced to swerve away without dropping their bombs. For this, Taney was credited with saving the Honolulu Power Plant. If not for Taney, the city may have been without power for several days.
The rum-runner CG-8, with BM1 Boyd Maddox as Officer in Charge, got underway at about 0900 to Sand Island to pick up the depot keeper. She then reported to Kewalo Basin and detained several private boats and sampans until Naval Intelligence cleared them to depart.
Kukui was unarmed and remained moored during the attack. All other small craft remained moored throughout the attack.
After the attack, Coast Guard patrol craft secured the port areas, blacked out aids to navigation, and stationed guards along the waterfront. Tiger maintained patrol off the harbor entrance all night.
Also on 7 December, the Japanese sent a force of destroyers to Midway to shell the installations there. The buoy tender Walnut was at Midway and weathered the shelling undamaged.