SAN DIEGO - Hawaii-based pilot Kermit Tyler thought the blip on the radar screen on Dec. 7, 1941, was a fleet of U.S. bombers due in from the mainland, so he replied "don't worry about it" when told of the approaching mass that turned out to be the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
Tyler, who was ultimately cleared of wrongdoing, has died at age 96, content he did all he could that morning.
He was the Army Air Forces' first lieutenant on temporary duty at Ft. Shafter's radar information center in Hawaii when two privates reporting seeing an unusually sizable blip on their radar screen, indicating a large number of aircraft about 132 miles away and fast approaching.
The aircraft were the first wave of more than 180 Japanese fighters, torpedo bombers, dive bombers and horizontal bombers whose surprise attack on Pearl Harbor shortly before 8 a.m. plunged the United States into World War II.
Many questioned his decision for years, and the 1970 movie "Tora! Tora! Tora!" portrayed him in an unflattering light. Audiences watching a documentary at the Pearl Harbor Visitors Center theater still groan when they hear Tyler's response to the radar report.
"I wake up at nights sometimes and think about it," Tyler said in a 2007 interview with the Star-Ledger of Newark. "But I don't feel guilty. I did all I could that morning."
Tyler, who suffered two strokes within the last two years, died Jan. 23 at his home in San Diego, said his daughter Julie Jones.
After Pearl Harbor, Tyler flew combat missions in the Pacific. He retired from the Air Force as a lieutenant colonel in 1961, launched a career in real estate, and was a landlord.
Tyler is survived by three children. He was preceded in death by his wife, Marian, and a son. - AP