STORY + VIDEO
Cal Guard Soldiers were first killed at Pearl Harbor

Remembering our fallen on attack’s 80th anniversary

VIDEO: Three off-duty California National Guard Soldiers are believed to be the first three Americans killed during the attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 1, 1941. (U.S. Air National Guard video by Staff Sgt. Crystal Housman)

VIDEO: Three off-duty California National Guard Soldiers are believed to be the first three Americans killed during the attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 1, 1941. (U.S. Air National Guard video by Staff Sgt. Crystal Housman)

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story first ran Dec. 7, 2020. It is updated to reflect the attack's 80th anniversary.

by Staff Sgt. Crystal Housman
California National Guard Public Affairs

Dec. 1, 2021

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – As the world reflects on the 80th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Cal Guard pauses to remember three of its Soldiers who are believed to be the first Americans killed on Dec. 7, 1941.

U.S. Army Sgt. Warren D. Rasmussen, 19, of Compton, Sgt. Henry C. Blackwell, also 19, of South Gate, and Cpl. Clyde C. Brown, of Long Beach, were members of the Cal Guard's F Battery, 251s Coast Artillery Regiment (Anti-Aircraft), which was based in Long Beach.

The unit deployed from Southern California to Hawaii in November 1940 to provide anti-aircraft defense to Pearl Harbor and Schofield Barracks in conjunction with other Army and Navy personnel.

After days on alert, the Soldiers were called in from the field Saturday, Dec. 6, and returned to their base at Camp Malakole, 27 miles west of Honolulu. They were given the rest of the weekend off.

On the morning of Sunday, Dec. 7, Blackwell and Brown, who learned to fly during the deployment through the military's Civilian Pilot Training Program, rented Piper Cubs from K-T Flying Service at John Rodgers Field to work on their flying skills and offer Rasmussen a sightseeing trip.

The trio took off from Rodgers Field for a morning flight along the coast. While aloft, the pair of aircraft crossed paths with incoming Japanese Zeroes about to begin their planned attack on Pearl Harbor.

People on the ground reported seeing a pair of yellow airplanes shot down by the Japanese fighters and parts of a Piper Cub washed ashore a few weeks after the attack.

Rasmussen, Blackwell and Brown are believed to be the first American service members killed during the attack.

The Los Angeles Times reported the Soldiers' deaths on March 30, 1942.

They are considered missing in action, and the names of all three are etched in the Courts of the Missing at the Honolulu Memorial.


Research conducted by the California Military Department's California State Military History and Museums Program and original reporting from the Los Angeles Times contributed to this report.

Memorial plaque with three names etched.

A memorial plaque near the USS Arizona Memorial in Honolulu is etched with the names of three off-duty Soldiers from Cal Guard's F Battery, 251st Coast Artillery Regiment (Anti-Aircraft), who were shot down by Japanese planes while flying off the coast of Hawaii on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941. Photographed Aug. 25, 2021. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Amanda H. Johnson)

A memorial plaque near the USS Arizona Memorial in Honolulu is etched with the names of three off-duty Soldiers from Cal Guard's F Battery, 251st Coast Artillery Regiment (Anti-Aircraft), who were shot down by Japanese planes while flying off the coast of Hawaii on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941. Photographed Aug. 25, 2021. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Amanda H. Johnson)

Two men in airplane.

Cpl. Clyde C. Brown, left, of Long Beach, and Sgt. Henry C. Blackwell, Jr., 19, right, of South Gate.

Cpl. Clyde C. Brown, left, of Long Beach, and Sgt. Henry C. Blackwell, Jr., 19, right, of South Gate.

Portrait of Soldier

Sgt. Warren D. Rasmussen, 19, of Compton

Sgt. Warren D. Rasmussen, 19, of Compton