NAME: Noburo Oda
TIME PERIOD: December 7, 1941
SOURCE: Randy Weirather. Sent a copy of a letter to the newspaper editor by Mr. Oda
DATE RECEIVED: 28 June 2004
Recently, there has been much publicity about the new movie about Pearl Harbor, which will be shown to the public at theaters in various locations. Most of the older generation recall that tragic wartime experience, but to the majority of the younger generations, I recommend the movie so they will know how the war began. Members of the older generation strived for a living in those days when we were squeezed between our country and our parents’ country, the enemy alien.
At that time I was employed by one of the leading markets (owned by Liberty House, and the parent company was American Factors) called May’s Market, which was located at the corner of South Beretania and Pensacola, where First Hawaiian Bank is presently located.
Those days, there were no cash-and carry super markets like we have today. There were five leading markets which took orders via phone; charge and delivery were made on a monthly charge account. I was one of the delivery boys with a panel-type truck which we parked at the American Factors garage, in the Kakaako area.
Probably the military knew war might arise in the near future, because approximately two to three months prior to December 7, 1941, all the big companies with more than 20 employees and more than five trucks, all drivers were required to take first-aid training on a volunteer basis.
The first-aid instructor came from the army, and training courses were held at the Honolulu Armory three times per week in the evening for two hours. I volunteered for the first-aid course and to be an ambulance driver. All our panel trucks were to be equipped with sirens, red lights, stretchers and other equipment. In case of any kind of disaster, we were on standby to provide civilian assistance.
Our class doctor who instructed us in first aid was also a volunteer, and his name was Dr. Satoru Nishijima, who recently passed away. My classmate was the later Masayuki Tokioka, who was a president of International Savings and Loan.
We were instructed that we would be called in case of an emergency. But those days, we didn’t have a phone.
The morning of December 7, 1941, we heard over the radio (I happened to have a small radio) a call for all truck drivers to bring their trucks to the grounds of Iolani Palace. I rushed to the American Factors in Kakaako and picked up the panel truck and rushed to the grounds of the Capitol. Already there were several trucks from Primo Beer Company, Theo H. Davies, American Factors, and several other companies waiting for instructions from the M.P. Motorcycle escort.
About three trucks ahead of me were sent to Hickam Field to pick up wounded and probably dead bodies. My truck and six others were instructed to go to Schofield Barracks to haul beds, pillows, blankets, and stretchers to Farrington High School, where a temporary hospital would be set up, because all the hospitals were packed with so many casualties.
On the way to Schofield Barracks, we passed by Pearl Harbor and saw the pitiful sight of the USS Arizona burning. It was sinking, and we could see the black smoke. In the meantime, Zero fighters were still flying above our heads, and antiaircraft shells were zooming above our heads. I was so afraid and felt like I was in a real battleground.
I felt so timid and small, when I learned that the enemy was Japan, of which both my parents were still citizens.
That morning it was drizzling, and the road was slippery, and I was afraid to speed. But he M.P. motorcycle escort was really speeding, we just had to follow. Worst of all, one of my riding companions said, “Don’t think we are coming back alive.” A very discouraging statement.
Unfortunately, a great majority of civilians didn’t realize it was a real war until noon. After unloading our supplies at Farrington High School, we returned to the Capitol grounds. The Red Cross was already waiting with some refreshments. Since that day, Hawaii came under martial law, which meant that the government was taken over by the military. At night no lights were supposed to be seen - a precautionary measure against enemy air attack. We had curfew hours. First-aid stations were set up all over at public schools, churches, community centers, and so forth. There was no driving in the evening. Gas, food, and all kinds of merchandise were rationed. Gas was rationed at 10 gallons per month.
Ships came in once a month from the mainland, so everything was rationed. There was price control, which means that stores could not sell anything higher than at a set price called OPA. So, most of the rationed items were also at black-market prices. The economy was good due to 24-hour defense work at Pearl Harbor repairing military equipment and ships.
The majority of young able-bodied men were inducted into military service. There was a shortage of merchandise: you could hardly purchase anything. But there were so many jobs and a lack of manpower. I felt so bad and ashamed that all my buddies were drafted. So I went to the draft board and wanted to volunteer for military service, but I was rejected twice due to my family status. I was classified as A-3, which means I had to support my dependents. I was the only son, and I had seven sisters, only one of whom was above me. The rest were younger. In addition, I also had to support my father, who had suffered a slight stroke, and mother had breast cancer. So I decided to serve my country on the home front by working long hours. I had three jobs, worked seven days a week, and thought about my friends who were making sacrifices at the battle front. I lost three friends who were killed in action during the war. I truly hope that we won’t experience war again.
I always feel somehow fortunate that youngsters living today didn’t have to experience the war. However, I feel it’s good for them to realize what kind of life we went through.
NAME : Phil Rasmussen
UNIT: Hawaiian Air Force
TIME PERIOD: December 7, 1941
SOURCE: Story as told to audience at U.S.S. Arizona Memorial, edited by Adam Elia
DATE RECEIVED: 19 April 2003
Thank you very much. I want to set the scene of what happened on December 7th by going back to December 6th, the Saturday before. I’m from Wheeler Field, which is in the middle of the island up here. We were all lined up in the morning at 10:00 for inspection of the aircraft and the pilots. Wingtip to wingtip the planes were lined up in the space in front of the hangars. We had spent one week in intensive training in defense of the island. The aircraft had already loaded with ammunition during that week but on Friday we took out the ammunition out of the airplanes and we had emptied our planes lined up wingtip to wingtip.
After our inspection was concluded at 10:00 Saturday Morning Colonel Flood, the base commander, had requested that the airplanes be dispersed to earthen revetments (we had around 100 of them) surrounding the airfield. Well, he was turned down by the echelon command because we did not have enough guards to guard the individual aircraft if we dispersed them around the field. We were on an anti-sabotage alert at that time which meant we had to protect the public facilities.
So at 1000 in the morning that Saturday when we were dismissed, Joe Powell, a pilot friend; and I we headed for Honolulu and my 1940 Chevy Convertible, top down. We had dates in Honolulu. We picked up the girls and we went to Blowhole, which is a pretty wild place to be swimming if any of you are familiar with that. We spent the afternoon at Blowhole swimming and drinking beer and having a good time and that evening we went to Trader Vic’s, which was the only nightclub in Honolulu at that time; it’s quite a bit different today. At about 1:30 in the morning we left Trader Vic’s and took the girls back to their home and we headed up towards Wheeler Field. Now the road that goes up to Wheeler Field passes in back along the Koolau mountain range here back then it was just a two lane road and as it rose up over some of the hills at the base of the mountain we could see the whole panorama of Pearl Harbor. There were so many ships in the harbor and they were all lighted up, stem to stern with strings of light. This was a custom for the Navy which they did on weekends, but this particular morning of December 7th at 2:00 in the morning, I was so impressed with the number of lights that I saw down there I nudged Joe awake who was sleeping and I said “Joe, look down there. Did you ever see so many lights at Pearl Harbor?” Joe looked down drowsily and said “Boy what a target that would make.”, went promptly back to sleep for the 15 minute ride we made to Wheeler Field.
We were staying in the barracks, the Bachelor Officers Quarters, which was temporary building a few hundred yards from the flightline. Shortly after 0700 Sunday morning, I was standing in the latrine looking out at this very peaceful scene of the hangar line where the aircraft were lined up wingtip to wingtip: our good P-40s, our best line aircraft were lined up, and few P-36s were scattered not in that lineup. I was watching, and suddenly this airplane dove out of the sky over the hangar line, dropped an object which exploded into a huge orange blossom and then pulled up sharply. As he pulled up I saw these two “meatballs” on this plane, “meatballs” was the Japanese insignia of a solid red circle of the rising sun. I knew immediately that these were Japanese aircraft and I yelled down the corridor that we were being attacked by the Japs.
I went into my room, I put some shoes on, and I strapped a web belt with a .45 caliber pistol around my pajamas and ran I down to the flight line to see if I can do anything about salvaging the aircraft because the P-40s, being lined up wingtip to wingtip, when one exploded it would ignite the one next to it like a chain of Chinese firecrackers. Three other pilots and I managed to salvage four P-36s, which was a rather obsolete aircraft, and some armorers came as they had pulled some ammunition, .50 caliber and .30 caliber ammunition in belts and picked those up out of this hangar which where the ammunition had been stored and also was ignited in the firing. With tracers shooting all over the place. Now they jumped on the wing of the aircraft, and during a lull in the attack, we taxied out to the earthen revetments surrounding the field. We got to the earthen revetments and we proceeded to load aircraft with .50 caliber and .30 caliber ammunition.
The P-36 had two guns, both of them firing through the propeller, two machine guns. But they just simply didn’t behave like machine guns when you think of a machine gun as being rapid fire. Because we had to fire through the blades of the prop as it was turning, it meant that we had a very slow rate of fire. So it’s like a funeral cadence.
We took off in formation, the four of us: Lou Sanders, my squadron commander; Gordon Sterling , his wingman; John Thacker in the second element, and I was his wingman. We took off and headed towards the Koolau mountain range, up here to the right. We charged our guns and in the process of charging the guns, you’re in the cockpit you pull a charging handle back as far as your ear, and then let it slide forward and it puts a bullet in the chamber. The .30 caliber was on my right side so I pulled it back, charged it, and I pulled the trigger to make sure I could fire the gun. Nothing happened. I pulled it back and put another bullet in the chamber , pulled the trigger, nothing happened and I had a dead gun; I couldn’t fire it, couldn’t use it. The .50 caliber I pulled it back the same way and let it slide in and it started to fire by itself. In other words, I had a runaway gun. I didn’t have to pull the trigger it would just start firing. So I had to stop this waste of ammunition in firing so I had to keep it cocked back there, and I was really loaded for bear.
We climbed to the Koolau mountain range, and had instructions to go to Bellows Field, which was under attack at that time. But when we got to about 7,000 feet, we got instructions to go to Kaneohe Bay which was now under attack. We turned towards Kaneohe Bay. While climbing to about 9,000 feet, we met a bunch of Zeros which was the worse thing that could happen to us in the airplanes we were flying. We just exploded (into dogfighting); one Zero came perpendicular to me and as I led him several plane lengths, I let that .50 caliber slide back in again and it started firing by itself and I saw a couple of puffs in his fuselage; I saw him smoking. Then at that time, another zero came head on to me and almost rammed me. I pulled up violently to the right to avoid being rammed by him and as I pulled up, another zero got me in his sights and he blew out my canopy, shot up my tail wheel, severed my hydraulic lines, and severed my rudder cables. I was pretty much out of control and I tumbled down out of control trying to regain control of the airplane, until finally about 5 or 6,000 feet I got control of it. The cloud layer wasn’t that level also, so I was popping in out of the clouds trying to maintain control of this airplane and heading back towards Wheeler Field. I was pretty vulnerable to attack at that point because I could barely fly the airplane, so I was lucky to be popping in and out of those clouds at that time.
As I headed back towards Wheeler Field, Lt. Sanders (the squadron commander) pulled up beside me. He saw that my canopy was shattered, he saw all the holes in my airplane, he saw I was having trouble flying the airplane. Have gave me a signal, asking me if I was okay, I gave him the signal that I was okay, and we headed back towards Wheeler Field to land. Fortunately, the Japanese aircraft had all left by that time headed back to their carriers. As we got over Schofield Barracks, which was right next door to Wheeler Field, they had gotten themselves pretty well organized and started firing at us, fortunately they were bum shots. As I turned onto base lane, I put down my landing gear, and the indicator showed that my landing
gear was not down; my hydraulic line had been all shot up. On final, I was pumping madly with an emergency hydraulic pump. As I flared out to touch down, my gear locked into place and I touched down. There were no runways at Wheeler Field at that time, just grass, and the morning dew was still there when I came back to land. So (when) I touched down, it was very skiddy. I had no directional control. I cut my engine and I spun around a couple of times, and finally came to a stop.
I was sitting in the airplane trying to collect my thoughts; everything had been automatic before then. I looked around: the hangars were still on fire, the ammunition and tracers were shooting out of the hangar over our heads (bullets stored in the hangar that ignited from the flames). The P-40s were all lined up, their backs broken and their noses pointing toward the sky. As I looked down towards Pearl Harbor, I saw this huge cloud of smoke covering the whole horizon, and amidst this huge black smoke were these huge orange blossoms exploding. It was very reminiscent of (Operation) Desert Storm, when they ignited the oil fields. I sat there another couple of minutes, my pajamas were soaking wet; and I’m not sure it was just sweat. I got out of the airplane and walked up to my barracks, changed into a dry flight suit and came back to the line to see what I could do. Everybody was pitching in trying to salvage the few airplanes that were left over, pulling them away from the flames. We managed to get some together, and we immediately started to arm those aircraft and fly them again. We put them on what we called Combat Air Patrol, or CAP we set around the perimeter of the island and maintained a 24 hour alert for about a day and half till finally the realization came to us that this type of attack we had would not be accompanied by any invasion., because the troopships could never have kept up with the speed of the carriers who came on that sudden attack. We finally got into a condition of war.
NAME: Phil Rasmussen
TIME PERIOD: Dec. 7, 1941
SOURCE: Rec’d copy from Cpt. Swisher which he obtained from Avn. Bde.
DATE RECEIVED: 19 Nov. 2002
I preface my remarks with the recognition that 50 years has affected my memory regarding some details in my presentation, similar to looking into a tarnished mirror, some reflections are crisp and clear, others blurred. Such are my remembrances. Some will live with me sharply, forever, in every detail: especially those life-threatening moments. Others, such as my actions on the ground during the carnage of the initial attack, I have tried to verify with the lone other survivor of our flight from Wheeler Field, John Thacker.
Unfortunately, I only now have put in writing my activities on December 7th. I have been interviewed occasionally through the intervening years, but those questions were not directed towards an historical narration of the events, but emphasized, for example, interest in the fact that I fought in pajamas, and what color they were, were they striped? Something I obviously don’t remember.
There is some difference of opinion regarding the type of plane I shot down. I had had the impression it was a bomber type. However, researchers believe it was a Zero. That was the first time I had seen these types of aircraft, and, in the heat of battle, could easily have been mistaken. I will identify it as a Zero in the following narration.
On Saturday, December 5, 1941, we completed inspection of aircraft, and end-of-the-week custom in the Army Air Corps. All aircraft at Wheeler Field (P-26s, P-36s, P-40s) were carefully lined up wingtip to wingtip on the ramp in front of the hangars. Each pilot and crew chief stood at attention in front of his airplane as the commander, General Davidson, trooped the line. All of us waiting for this tedious function to end so that we could get on to our important activities: the married men to their families for picnics at Haleiwa military beach or to Fort DeRussy, the younger bachelors to Waikiki beach where a new batch of girls were in from the mainland debarking from the Lurline or Matsonia looking for fun and excitement.
There was little tension on the Island. We were on an anti-sabotage alert with guards at strategic municipal facilities such as power stations and water pumping stations. After all, we were out in the mid-Pacific far from any major war threat. The pilots, each in his convertible that he went into hock to buy the day after graduating from flying school, were in this mass exodus.
Joe Powell, a pilot friend and I, had dates in Honolulu, a short half-hour drive from Wheeler. We picked up our dates, bought beer and drove to Makapuu Point for body surfing. We settled down on blankets, turned on our 30 pound Zenith Trans-Ocean portable radio, listening to the mainland music fading in and out. Body surfing at Makapuu Point is rough and tumbling, and for days after sand would rattle in our ears, especially when flying aerobatics.
In the afternoon we headed for Kow Kow Korners for a snack with our final destination being Trader Vic’s. (To those of you unfamiliar with the scene in 1941, Kow Kow Korners was the first fast food outlet in Hawaii. Similar to McDonalds today, and Trader Vic’s a landmark nightclub, and the only one I was aware of in Honolulu, reminiscent of Somerset Maugham’s Tales of the South Pacific.) At Trader Vic’s we consumed several of his ‘One To A Customer’ Zombies. Today, the thought of having just one of those drinks would send me quickly looking for Maalox and aspirin. We danced the night through, and headed for Wheeler Field at about one A.M., Sunday morning, December the 7th.
The road that wandered up to Wheeler Field from Honolulu passed high above Pear Harbor giving us a panoramic view of the whole harbor. It was a brilliant, starlit night and all the ships in the harbor strung with lights from stem to stern reminded me of Tivoli or Revere Beach outside of Boston, my hometown. Joe was snoozing on the way back. I nudged him awake and said, “Did you ever see so many lights at Pearl?” He looked sleepily and commented, “Boy, what a target that would make,” and dropped promptly off to sleep for the rest of the trip to Wheeler.
The bachelor officers at Wheeler lived in the barracks at the main entrance nicknamed ‘splinter city.’ It is Sunday, everyone off-duty was sleeping late. I awakened to a nature call and while idly standing in the latrine looking out the window overlooking the hangar line; I saw an airplane dive and drop an object which on impact blossomed into a huge bomb blast, quickly followed by others. My first impression was that the Navy was up to some realistic tricks. For years we would buzz the Navy airfield on Sunday mornings and drop paper sacks of flour simulating bombs as well as awakening the sleeping base, and of course, the Navy pilots would reciprocate. But these were not sacks of flour and when the plane pulled up from its dive and I saw the ‘meatball’ (rising sun) on the wing, I yelled down the hall that we were being attacked by Japs. I strapped on my web belt and .45 cal. pistol over my pajamas, pulled on my boots and ran for the flight line.
Outside the barracks small date palms had recently been planted and I hid behind a three foot one taking shot at the Jap planes as they sped by strafing us. I ran down to the hangar line and it was chaos; ammunition was exploding in the hangars, fire everywhere. An airplane would explode and in turn ignite the plane next to it. The only planes not burning were a few Curtis P-36s.
I jumped into one, got it started, and with an armorer who came out of nowhere and who’s name I unfortunately never learned, sitting on the wing with belts of .30 cal. and .50 cal ammunition hanging on his shoulders, taxied over to one of the earthen revetments surrounding the airfield.
Lew Sanders, my squadron commander, John Thacker and Othneil Norris also taxied airplanes to the revetments.
The P-36 I flew had no armor plate protection and was armed with one .50 cal. and one .30 cal. machine gun firing through the propeller and fired at about the same speed as a funeral march cadence.
In the process of arming the airplane we would jump off the wing as a Jap bomber approached, to gain whatever protection the revetment offered. The Japanese bomber (code name VAL) had no forward firing guns, but it did have a rear gunner, so the pilot who had already dropped his bombs, would dive steeply over the target (us) and pull up sharply so that the tail gunner would have a free field of fire and not shoot off his vertical stabilizer. We hopped from one side of the revetment to the other to keep out of harms way. During a lull in the attack we took off in formation, Gordon Sterling having somehow substituted for Norris. After takeoff, we armed our guns by pulling an arming lever in the cockpit for each gun. This lever was pulled back to our ears and then allowed to snap back placing a bullet in the chamber. When I did this with my .50 cal. gun, the gun started firing by itself, so I had to keep the charging handle pulled back. We headed towards Bellow Field, climbing though the clouds, and over the Koolau Mountain foothills, received radio instructions to fly to Kaneohe Bay. At about eight thousand feet, we encountered some Zeros and unknown to me, above us were more Zeros.
I saw Lew Sanders engage an airplane and out of the right corner of my vision, I saw a Zero coming across in front of me. I let the .50 cal. arm slide into firing position and saw bullets stitch the fuselage and smoke started coming from the plane. At that instant, two things happened: one, I saw one of our airplanes (probably Sterling) diving with the Jap chasing it, and two, I suffered hits from an airplane I never saw, but the results were startling. My canopy was shot off, my hydraulic lines and rudder cable were severed, and my tail wheel shot off. Along with two 20mm explosive cannon shells that buried themselves in the radio equipment behind the pilot’s seat (saving my life as there was no armor protection.) 7.7mm bullets peppered the catwalks on both sides of the cockpit. I ducked into the nearest cloud cover struggling to stabilize the plane. After getting the plane under control, I gingerly reached to touch the top of my head to see how badly I was injured (I was not wearing a helmet- only ear phones). To my relief, I found only shredded Plexiglas from the canopy mixed in my hair and no blood or injuries. I headed back towards Wheeler ducking in and out of clouds. When I popped out of the clouds, Lew Sanders pulled up beside me with a look of concern on his face. I indicated to him that I was O.K. Together we flew back to Wheeler (there appeared to be no more Japs around). As we made our downwind turn over Schofield Barracks, we encountered heavy friendly fire, but fortunately escaped being hit. On base leg my cockpit indicator showed the wheels were not down. I managed to get them pumped down and locked just as I touched down- another thrill. Wheeler had no runways at the time- simply a grass field still wet with morning dew. Without rudder, tailwheel or brakes, I groundlooped a couple of times before cutting my engine and coming to a stop.
As ground crews rushed to my plane to see if I was O.K. I sat benumbed in the cockpit for moments, unable to take in the rush of events: The attack, my close brush with death, destruction and fire surrounding me. I glanced around, the hangars still burning, the planes sitting in smoldering rows with their backs broken, engines pointing to the sky. Only then did fear enter the equation; the adrenaline had worn down. I glanced at my watch- 50 minutes since takeoff. I shakily got out of the plane, walked over to my room and traded my pajamas for a flying suit and returned to the flight line properly attired.
When we surveyed the airplane I counted some 450 holes, Lew got to 500. They were still able to use the engine for another airplane. We were not all sure that the Japanese would not return, so everyone with a car equipped his trunk with carbine, ammunition and c-rations to be in the position to continue guerrilla fighting in the mountains if it came to that. I finally dumped the c-rations months later when I found them in my trunk.
For days after the attack, as we looked from Wheeler Field towards Pearl Harbor, some 12 miles away, we saw black smoke with boiling geysers of fire filling the horizon. So similar to the scenes of Kuwait oil fires after Desert Storm. Bewilderment, anxiety, anger, frustration and desire for revenge all boiled in us. What we did, Ken Taylor, George Welch, Lew Sanders, John Thacker, Gordon Sterling, Harry Brown and others was an instinctive reaction to events- something anyone of our military members would have done and exemplified again in Desert Storm.
NAME : Marjorie Henion Roosma
UNIT: wife of CPT John S. Roosma, 21st
TIME PERIOD: July 1940- March 1941 Inf.
SOURCE: Tract found by Jim McNaughton and sent to museum
DATE RECEIVED: October 2003
The following excerpt is taken from Mrs. Roosma’s memoirs, Recollections and Reflections of an Army Wife, 1926-1956 (1978), at the US Army Military History Institute, Carlisle Barracks, PA.
We stayed at West Point five wonderful years [1935-40] and then were ordered to Hawaii. We were very pleased, as we had liked Hawaii so much on our short stops there. We landed in Honolulu in July 1940 and were met by people from the 21st Infantry to which John had been assigned as a company commander.
We were driven out to Schofield Barracks, a distance of about twenty-five miles. We went immediately to our quarters, 515. They were very attractive, all on one floor with a large lanai (porch) a large living room with a cobblestone fireplace (it was cool in the mountains at
certain seasons of the year). The houses were shaped like an H, the lanai, kitchen, maid’s room, and bath on one side, the living room across the front, with the dining room behind it. On the other side were three bedrooms and a bath. There was a patio in the middle where we had a large avocado tree, banana trees, and a flower garden. In front we had two beautiful poinsettia bushes on each side of the door.
The barracks were at one end of the street and the athletic fields were at the other. The 21st Infantry playground was right behind our house. I was able to get a very good teaching job at the post school, instructing the third grade. I liked the work ― it also added to our captain's pay.
As you can tell by reading this story, our life in Hawaii was wonderful and we were so happy and we knew we would be there for another two years, as we had already put in for a year’s extension. However, fate intervened as it so often does and on Sunday, December 7th, came Pearl Harbor. On Saturday, December 6th, we were at a dinner dance at the Schofield Officers Club and I was sitting next to Gen. Short. He said that he and his chief of staff had to leave early to go back to Honolulu to decode some messages from Washington. Later he was to tell me that the last message that they received that night said, "War is imminent, prepare for sabotage, but do not alarm the civilian population." That's why the men were on installation alert instead of at battle stations. That was all of the warning anyone had until the attack the next morning.
I was lying in my bed half awake on the morning of December 7th, thinking about going out to the beach and about food for the beach picnic. It was a lovely day, the sun was shining brightly and the temperature was typical of Hawaii, neither too hot nor too cold. I could hear the faint drone of airplanes which was not unusual, as planes from Wheeler Field, which joins Schofield Barracks, were often in the air.
Suddenly there was a terrific explosion followed by others in rapid succession. We all ran out into the street to get a better view of what we thought was an Air Corps maneuver. There was heavy black smoke billowing up into the sky from the direction of Wheeler Field and there were many planes flying overhead. Suddenly one plane swooped down, low enough to clip the top off of a tall cedar tree that stood by the side of the house. We could see the goggles on the pilot and large red circles on the wings of the plane. Still none of us realized that it was a Japanese plane ― it was too fantastic to think about. The children all waved gaily at the pilot, and at that moment he started spraying the streets and quarters with machine gun fire. Things really began happening from then on. Soldiers came running up the street telling us that we were under attack and to take cover immediately. We had no sooner gotten into the house when another order came to report immediately to regimental headquarters at the end of the street. This was done because the machine [gun] bullets were coming through our wooden quarters and the barracks were made of cement and brick. Johnny was already dressed so he helped the twins and I went in to take off my housecoat, and of all times the zipper got stuck. I struggled with it and thought that I would never get out of it, but after much pulling and tugging I made it. We finally got organized and the four of us with Pombo our dog hurried down the block to the barracks. We were all put into the different recreation rooms and tried to make ourselves and the children as comfortable as possible. The children were of all ages. The youngest was a baby just three weeks old. Our regimental chaplain was with us, and he did his best to keep up our morale. At that moment another wave of planes flew over and machine-gunned the barracks. The chaplain got us all herded over against an inside wall and started playing hymns on the piano. We all joined in the singing as best we could to keep the children from being frightened. The noise was terrific, as the planes were firing on us and our own machine guns were returning fire from the roof of the building. We knew that we were fairly safe from the bullets, but we also knew that a direct hit from a bomb would be the end of all of us. Ambulances with sirens wailing were rushing to the post hospital. There was an emergency call for bandages, so we all got busy and started making them. Johnny, age 12, was outside helping the soldiers load the combat wagons with equipment that was going out to the field. Later I looked out of the window and saw him talking to a soldier on guard. I called to tell him to come in and not bother the men on duty. His reply was amusing but a trifle gruesome. He said, "But Mother, that man is in the band. He isn’t busy now, his only duty is to pick up any dead people in the street."
At 4:00 we were told that we could return to our quarters. Our maid Emily fixed us something to eat and just as we sat down at the table to eat it, the guard came to the door to tell us to pack one suitcase, bring one blanket, and report immediately to headquarters. I hastily packed a suitcase, putting in night clothes for the children, a can of tomato juice, a can of evaporated milk, a can of tuna fish, and a can opener. I also put in a change of clothes for the children and my Dorothy Gray beauty kit, which contained all of my facial equipment. I was evidently going to have my face fixed, war or no war. All this I considered very efficient; and except for the fact that I neglected putting in any clothes for myself, no tooth brushes, combs or towels, it was. Johnny was such a big help, he tied up two blankets Boy Scout fashion and put them over his shoulder, I took the suitcase, the twins had the dog on a leash, and we trudged back to the barracks. We were told that we were to be evacuated to Honolulu by bus. By that time it was dark and the blackout was in full force. We were told that we could not take Pombo with us. That made us all feel very badly, as we had brought him all the way from West Point to Hawaii and he was just like a member of the family. We finally found a soldier with a broken arm who was not going out to the field and he said he would take care of him for us. We had all left our houses with everything in them, not knowing whether we'd ever see any of our possessions again, but nothing seemed to matter except saving ourselves and the children.
We were crowded onto buses and off we started on our twenty-five mile trip to Honolulu. It was raining and we had no lights on the bus. We had one armed guard with us who had a blue flashlight and that was the only way the driver could see the road. We crept along at a snail-like pace, the driver stopping every now and then for the guard to get out and find the road for him. We had all driven to Honolulu enough times to remember the deep gulches on each side of road, so we were none too comfortable about the situation. However, I must say that the majority of the Army women were very courageous and took the situation with true Army spirit. Here they were, going to an unknown destination, perhaps on a ship to the mainland, leaving their husbands and all of their possessions that had been painstakingly collected over a number of years. It was a frightening situation. None of us had heard anything about our husbands. Most of them we knew were out on the North Shore defending beach positions. We had heard rumors that the Japanese had landed parachute troops out on the North Shore beaches, and that there was hand-to-hand fighting going on there. With all of those things to think about, the women kept calm and cheerful. We also knew that the road to Honolulu went through Wheeler Field, Hickam Field, and Pearl Harbor, all of which were military objectives. If ever a ride was a nightmare, that was it. Ambulances and trucks with sirens wailing went past us in the darkness. As we approached Pearl Harbor, the sky was bright red. The main road goes right past the harbor and there were our beautiful battleships in flames, silhouetted against the sky. It was a horrible yet fascinating sight. There was a red glow all around us with flames shooting up all over the harbor. We all drew a sigh of relief as we left Pearl Harbor, but no sooner had we gotten by when there was another air attack on the ships. Fortunately it was behind us and beautiful to watch. We told the children it was fireworks, and it really seemed like it with shells bursting around and tracer bullets lighting up the whole sky. We wrapped blankets around the children, so in case any windows were shattered they would not be cut. We were held up for a long while in a traffic jam ― people leaving Honolulu to get up into the hills and 5,000 women and children going to Honolulu in buses ― what a snafu. We were marvelous targets for any attacking planes, but I guess whoever gave the order to go never considered that fact.
After a four-hour ride, we finally arrived at our destination, which was the Royal School. We had to feel our way through the blackout into the building where we were given some more blankets and told to fix up a place on the floor to sleep. By that time the children were tired and hungry. We were told not to drink the water until it was boiled, as there was great fear that the Japanese had poisoned the water supply. Fortunately I had the tomato juice and canned milk which helped to alleviate our thirst. I finally got the children bedded down on the blankets in the library between the bookshelves. After they fell asleep from sheer exhaustion I decided that if a bomb fell on us the books would fall on the children, so I spent some time taking all of the books off of the shelves and putting them on the floor. The next morning the quartermaster from Fort Armstrong sent some food to the school. The most interesting item was a whole side of beef. Not knowing quite what to do with it, we asked the Japanese butcher from across the street to come over and cut it up for us. When he arrived with his huge knife, there were some who expected him to slit our throats, but it was a case of the Japanese butcher or no food and our hunger overcame our fear. The school had no bathing facilities, no bed, little food, and very little equipment to prepare it.
One of the twins had become ill, a fever and cold, so I thought I'd better find a place where I could put him to bed. I phoned the Whiteman’s, whom we had met at Gen. Short’s house. I explained my predicament to them and they told me to try and get a taxi and come there immediately. They said they already had some refugees from Pearl Harbor, but they would find some place to put us. In the meantime word came into the school office that civilians all over Honolulu were opening their homes to the Army and Navy women and children. The civilians were wonderful and I am sure that all of the wives were eternally grateful for the many kindnesses offered to them at a time when help was sorely needed. Upon arriving at the beautiful Whiteman's home in Manoa Valley, I put my sick child to bed and we all started to get ready for the coming blackout. We had a light supper at 5:00 and then started checking the food supplies. All of the food stores were closed so they could take inventory and ration the food, as no one knew how soon ships could get to us with more food. No one really knew anything and the most persistent rumor was that the islands were surrounded by Japanese ships waiting to land troops and take Hawaii. We knew that there were 160,000 American-born Japanese in Hawaii. No one knew just what to expect from them. Our host told us that all civilian men had been called out on guard duty. There was also great fear of a gas attack, so we were given instructions as to what to do. We were told to lie down on the floor and have quantities of wet towels on hand. Chauncy Whiteman left us a gun which we firmly resolved to use on any intruder during the night. Needless to say there was little sleeping done by the adults. We expected anything from Japanese battering down the door to waves of gas pouring in the windows. Morning came with nothing unusual happening, but we were all exhausted.
At the end of five days, word came over the radio that air raid shelters had been built at Schofield Barracks and we could all return to our quarters. Buses called for us at the schools to which we had been evacuated and we started back to Schofield. What a sight met our eyes as we drove up to our quarters ― all of our beautiful lawns had been dug up to make air raid shelters. They were about five feet deep and three feet wide, with steps leading down to them. Over the top of them was a piece of corrugated iron covered with dirt. An attempt at camouflage was made by putting pots of ferns and some poinsettia plants over the top, strongly resembling a grave ― all of which was a cheerful homecoming for us.
What a sight met our eyes when we entered the house. The eggs, bacon, toast, and milk were still on the dining room table where we had started to eat on Sunday night. Chairs pushed back from the table, napkins on the floor, showed the haste of our flight. The kitchen was in complete disorder, the beds were unmade, dirt tracked all over my beautiful blue Chinese rug in the living room. There was an eerie air about the whole place, as if some terrible disaster had suddenly overtaken the occupants. The thought flashed through my mind that this was the type scene the excavators of the buried city of Pompeii might have come upon.
We were all so glad to be home that we set to with a vengeance to get things cleaned up. By night we had established order out of chaos. We picked huge armfuls of poinsettias and gardenias to put around the house and things began to look more cheerful. None of our husbands had been able to get in from the field, but we all hoped to see them soon. John had been promoted to major a few months before the attack and was commanding the 2d Battalion in the 21st Infantry.
We were given a list of instructions in case of another air raid and soldiers came to paint windows for the blackouts. We had two rooms blacked out, one bedroom and the bath. We were given flashlights heavily covered with blue cellophane and gas masks were issued to everyone. The children were very excited over these; not quite realizing the gruesomeness attached to them. No one was allowed on the streets or in the movies without their gas masks. It was an odd sight to see people coming out of the theater with gas masks over their shoulders and the soldiers with their rifles, tin helmets, etc. Thus we prepared to settle down for a war.
Sunday morning the 14th dawned sunny and peaceful and we realized that it was just a week ago when this tragedy had happened to us. Our husbands came in from the field for the first time and were allowed to spend two hours with us. Needless to say there was much happiness and thankfulness that we had all survived the attack.
We had been warned that there would be no practice air raid drills. If we heard the alarm go, it would be the real thing and we would go immediately to the shelters, with blankets, flashlights, gas masks, etc.
The next day, the 15th, we heard the bad news that we were to be evacuated immediately to the mainland. True to Army tradition the wives and children had behaved with a calmness almost unbelievable considering the things they had faced. I truly think if any of them broke down at all, it was when they were told that they had to go. They knew they faced a long separation from their husbands and that they might never see them again. There were so many problems to be faced alone. We were told to start packing our household goods immediately. Most of us had arrived with sixteen or more boxes and ten or twelve barrels. We were given two barrels and four boxes and had to do our own packing, as there were not enough packers to pack hundreds of people simultaneously.
To add to our troubled thoughts, news began coming over the radio about ships being sunk off the California coast. It was not a very pleasant thought, being torpedoed on a ship packed with women and children.
By two days before Christmas the packing was finished (with the aid of straw from the stables, old newspapers from the Chinese stores in Wahiawa and much effort on the part of all concerned). The crates, boxes and barrels were all piled up on the lanai and the rest of the house was bare except for the Army cots and a few chairs and tables.
We decided we'd have to do something about Christmas, as the twins still believed in Santa Claus and expected him to arrive down the chimney in a tin helmet carrying a gas mask. We had just heard that the boat loaded with Christmas trees had been torpedoed and sunk just before it was due to arrive in Honolulu. So that eliminated our main decoration. We hung some Christmas balls over the mantle and put the Christmas village scene on the mantelpiece. We used some of the leftover straw and put the crèche on it. The house was already like a barn, so we had a very realistic manger scene. We strung Christmas lights around the blackout room and prepared with a heavy heart for Christmas Eve. My neighbor from across the street came over with her two small boys and all seven of us crowded into the blackout room, lit the colored lights, sat on the floor, and sang Christmas carols. We read the Christmas Story and “The Night Before Christmas” and I feel that we did our best to make things as happy as possible for the children.
On Christmas morning the regimental band came around and played carols. That of course was hard to take and I feel sure that everyone shed a tear for the Christmases that used to be. The children were excited and pleased about their toys, all of which had been bought before Pearl Harbor. John came in from the field for two hours on Christmas. Each officer was allowed to come in for two hours at different times, as there was a feeling that the Japs might pick Christmas for another attack.
We had had some very attractive Christmas cards made, a picture of all of us including Pombo, sitting in one of the new jeeps, with the inscription "Jeep, Jeep, Merry Christmas, The Roosmas." Fortunately we had mailed them the middle of November, so that they were all received by our families and friends before or right after the Pearl Harbor attack.
One evening a few days later I had put the children to bed and was sitting in the blackout room reading a mystery story. Suddenly a bomb exploded and the whole house shook, just like the morning of Pearl Harbor. I grabbed the flashlight, turned off the light and ran into the children's room. Just as I got there, another bomb went off and the air raid sirens sounded. We could also hear the sound of machine gun bullets. We were sure that this was the long awaited attack. Johnny and I got the twins into the shelter as quickly as possible, complete with blankets, gas masks, sticks to put in their mouths to guard against concussion when the bombs exploded. I stayed on the lanai and talked to them, as my claustrophobia was so bad I couldn't stand being closed in underground. After a short time an M.P. came by and he said, "It's all right ladies, you can come out now. It ain't the Japs, but they sure blew hell out of Wheeler Field." It seems that a plane had been short-circuited over at Wheeler Field, setting off the bombs and machine guns in it. Everyone was very relieved that the Japs hadn't gotten that close to us again.
We had been told to be ready to leave on a few hours notice, but after Christmas we heard that many of the ships had been diverted to go to Australia and we would have to wait our turn. There was one ship sent out right away with all of the pregnant women and another with all of the generals and colonels wives on it plus dogs and horses. So Pombo was evacuated before we were. The lower-ranking officers wives and children had to wait, but we didn't mind as it meant that we could be near our husbands for a longer time. So we just sat and waited. Our bags were packed, our furniture was crated, nothing comfortable to sit on or sleep on except quartermaster furniture, which at best is far from comfortable. However, we did the best we could. The schools had closed so I opened a school of my own and had seven children who had been in my class at the post school. They came every morning for two hours of instruction. This went on for about six weeks and then one by one my little class dwindled as the children slipped off on the boats. Everything was very hush-hush and no one knew when people left.
The dread of the trip hung over all of us. We knew that Japanese submarines lurked around the Hawaiian area and that some freighters had been sunk. We bought small size life preservers which we intended keeping on the children at all times. One morning in early March a sergeant came to the door with the dreaded news. He informed me that we would be ready to board the ship the next morning at 9:00 and that I was to tell no one about it. I called my husband and told him that I was going to town the next day, which was the message we had decided on to warn him that we were leaving. He was given a 24-hour pass to come in from the field. It was lucky for me that the children were there, as I forced myself to be calm and happy in front of them while in my heart I felt that the end of the world had really come.
We drove in to Honolulu the next morning in John's command car and saw the ship, all painted black, docked at the Matson Line pier. It was hard not to remember other times when we had come to this same pier to meet incoming ships with our arms full of leis, bands playing lovely Hawaiian music, the lei women lined up along the street, and the air laden with the perfume of flowers. We were stopped at the entrance to the cement runway leading to the upper level and told that John would have to leave us there. The time that we all had been dreading had finally arrived, the last goodbye. We all did beautifully until we reached the top of the runway and then made the mistake of turning around to wave a last goodbye. I suppose that was the last straw and all of the pent-up emotion of the past weeks simply overflowed. I started to cry and the twins promptly followed my example and we walked up the gang plank with tears streaming down our faces.
We had 108 women and children aboard plus the navy officers and crew. The ship had been one of the Dollar Line ships, the President Monroe, and had been converted into a troop ship. Some of us had cabins but most of the women and children slept on cots in the different salons. I was lucky and had a cabin, as John had been promoted to a lieutenant colonel by the time we left. The cabin was fairly large, but not after four of us got in it.
There was a boat drill immediately after we set sail and a very nice naval officer explained that there would be no practice boat drills, when we heard the sirens it would be the real thing and we would get to our boat stations as quickly as possible. We all had our life preservers on and he explained how to hold the top of the life preservers so if we had to jump, the life preservers wouldn't come up and break our necks. Rather scary for the children to hear. The ship would be blacked out at night, and we had four destroyers escorting us, which was a comfort to all of us. We had left Honolulu in such a hurry that there was not time to take very much cargo on board. Consequently we rode on top of the water with no ballast in the hold. Practically everyone was seasick, and I guess it was a good thing in a way, as everyone felt so miserable they didn't care whether a Japanese submarine attacked us or not. We zigzagged all the way so it took ten days to get to San Francisco, instead of the usual five. We landed in there and were met by many people from the Red Cross and I think that was when we realized that we were refugees. The Army also had people at the docks arranging train trips for any of us going to the East Coast. Johnny was watching the twins while I made arrangements to go East. Before I had finished, Johnny came running over to tell me to please come and get Billy. The Red Cross girls had talked to him and he said that he was cold and didn't have any warm clothes. So they had him up on a table, and were outfitting him with some warm clothes. He had on a coat several sizes too large, red mittens, and a skating cap, also much too large for him. He was really a very funny sight. I rescued him and explained to the Red Cross girls that all we wanted was a car to take us to the White House department store where we would buy some clothes.
We stayed at Fort Mason overnight and started on our trek across country the next day. It was a long monotonous trip, but one funny thing did happen. All through Nebraska, Kansas, etc., they had heard that a train was coming through, with refugees from Pearl Harbor on it. At every whistle stop there was a band playing patriotic songs and the Red Cross and American Legion giving candy and fruit to everyone. The twins and Johnny had a fine time getting off at every stop and coming back loaded with goodies ― then being sick every night. I soon put a stop to that.
We finally arrived in Montclair the end of March and stayed with John's cousins, Edith and Garry Roosma. I was able to rent a very attractive garden apartment in Montclair and moved into it the end of April.
NAME: Steve Rula
TIME PERIOD: Dec. 7, 1941 Infantry, PFC
SOURCE: Letter from Mr. Rula
DATE RECEIVED: April 6, 1998
Arrived Hawaii, Island of Oahu, on June 20, 1941.
Assigned to Company “C” 27th Infantry Regiment.
Held rank of Private First Class on December 7th and was on duty in the “Honolulu Sub-Sector” guarding the Railway Station, water works, Hawaiian Electric Company, and other facilities in the area against sabotage. We had moved from Schofield Barracks and taken up these assigned positions on November 27, 1941. These positions had been previously assigned and were those we were expected to occupy in the event of imminent hostilities.
Remained with 27th infantry in Hawaii until December 6, 1942 when the Regiment departed for Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands.
Served with 27th Infantry, 25th Division, through Guadalcanal and New Georgia Campaigns and the liberation of the Philippine Islands.
NAME : Edmund H. Russell, PFC
UNIT: 18th Air Base Group
TIME PERIOD: December 7, 1941
SOURCE: Oral history taken by John T. Mason, Jr.
DATE RECEIVED: December 5, 1981
JM: I am delighted that you have consented to tell us about what you observed on that fateful day, the seventh of December 1941. Would you start out, sir, by telling me what your rank was at the time, where you were.
ER: I was Private First Class, Third Class Specialist. I was a butcher assigned to the Eighteenth Air Base Group at Wheeler Field. That morning, I went down to the mess hall to look at the menu. At that time, we had to take the meat out of the freezer in the morning to cut that night for the next day. So I was looking at the menu to see what I had to get out of the freezer.
JM: How early did you go to check?
ER: I thought it was about 7:30 to 7:45. My recollection seems a little earlier than that 7:55 time of attack. My recollection is it was about 7:45 or 7:50.
JM: So you weren't really distracted at that point?
ER: No, no. No, I was looking at the menu when I heard the first plane dive and I thought it was one of our planes or maybe the Marines or the Navy that came down to play war games. And some of our own pilots, even if they were restricted from going off base, they'd get up on Sunday morning and fly. Well, the first plane dived and I thought it had crashed, so I opened the screen to the window, which I was standing right by. (A window.) I opened the screen to look to my right and I saw the smoke and about that time, another explosion went off. I thought, well, this can’t be two planes that crashed. And about the time the third one went off, I went out to back of the mess hall looking for cover. I had been in the Air Force, the Air Corps.
JM: It was the Army Air Corps in those days?
ER: The Army Air Corps for about thirteen months at that time and I had never fired a gun. I wasn’t issued a gun, I had no knowledge of the weapons, so my first idea was to run for cover. And so I ran towards the Wahiawa school house where there was a row of eucalyptus trees which was quite high and as I was running toward those, they had circled back around and started strafing. That is when I realized what it was.
JM: You realized it was real and it was the enemy?
ER: Yes, I could see the rising sun emblem on their planes. They had their canopies open and they had their heads stuck out with grins on their faces. But I missed the strafing because it was like hailstones coming down, but I missed it ; I went over to the trees which they had to dive over to get down to their strafing run. I stayed out there among those trees till it was over.
JM: What did their objectives seem to be for the strafing?
ER: I would guess to keep any pilots from getting to their planes, although our planes were demolished. There was no hope of our planes getting off of the field and that’s not the only thing, to keep us immobile.
JM: To keep you from retaliating. Well, recovering from that shock, what did you do?
ER: Well, we went in after the attack was over. They issued us a full field pack in pieces which I had no idea how to even assemble. But we did have some infantry personnel who instructed us how to assemble the field pack, they issued us a rifle and a 45 pistol and then we were still confused. Then the word came out that the Japanese were landing paratroopers and they said they would be in blue uniforms. The order was put out: anyone spotted in a blue uniform after a certain time to shoot on sight. Well, at that time we had blue fatigues, blue dungarees and jumpers, and blue coveralls. Well it was a quick change to get out of those blue uniforms that we were in.
JM: Is that what you were in, a blue uniform?
ER: No, I wasn't in a blue uniform. I was in khakis, but a lot of people were in blue uniforms, either the blue coveralls or the blue jumper and the dungarees. So at that time, there was a lot of changing. And we still had no official orders what to do except we had been attacked.
JM: Is this still morning, then?
ER: Yes, this was around noon, that this all came out. Then later on that afternoon, of course, we went on a blackout, no lights, and I can say that we were confused because we hadn't been indoctrinated into what might happen.
JM: And how to use these weapons.
ER: Right. Although I had used that type weapon before, not in the Army, so it was all I can say, it was, we were confused because I had no idea…..and what I remember most, I had been to see the movie "Dive Bomber" the night before and the next morning it was in action of what we had seen the night before, I mean the movie was re-enacted.
JM: It was even double-visioned in your mind.
JM: Well, did the command at the post seem confused? Did they gather themselves together?
ER: At that time, me as an enlisted man, we really weren't aware of what was going on at the higher echelon. It dribbled down from headquarters on what to do and we were told that we might be, there might be another attack, so we were, we didn't know what to do.
JM: You had long since forgotten about the menu?
ER: Right. The menu was the least of my concerns.
JM: Were you able to see from your vantage point what was going on in the harbor?
ER: We could see. The concrete barracks we were living in, from the third story, you could see down at Pearl Harbor, but I didn't go back up there to see what was going on at Pearl Harbor because we had enough bombing and strafing on our field that we really didn't know how, we didn't know whether it was just hitting us, we didn't know at that time that the main object was Pearl Harbor.
JM: Did the strafing continue as long as the planes came over? Did they come in your direction after dropping their bombs or torpedoes?
ER: It seems that it was, oh, thirty minutes. It seemed like an eternity.
JM: Exactly. And there was a certain amount of shock, too.
ER: Yes, and as I say, it was a total surprise. Of course I wasn't aware of the negotiations that was going on; as an enlisted man you're not supposed to know those things. You're there to do a job and somebody tells you what to do. Well, no one had come down with orders telling us what to do in case this happened or something else happened.
JM: Well, then it went on into the night and you say there was a blackout.
ER: There was a blackout, a total blackout. Of course, we were issued a gas mask, helmets and we were equipped for combat by the nightfall. And we were moved out of the barracks.
JM: I guess there was no rest that night?
ER: No, no one could sleep that night.
JM: Then the next day, did you get involved in any of the clan up?
ER: No, I didn't, I didn't get involved. I was, being in the mess hall, I was in a different situation.
JM: You were in a very imperative position, too, weren't you?
ER: We were, still we had to prepare the meals for the troops, so our job was, just went on.
JM: Incidentally, did you resume the menu that had been planned for the day before?
ER: I don’t remember what the menu was now.
JM: But some of the men did get involved in the clean-up down at the harbor area.
ER: Oh, yes, it was the air base group of which consisted of numerous squadrons. I happened to be in the 25th Materiel Squadron as a butcher, and of course, we had the 24th Squadron and the 17th Air Base Group and numerous squadrons assigned or attached. So, as an air base group, we had a wide responsibility. And my responsibility was to get the meat cut so the cooks could cook it for the troops.
JM: So the men could fight in case they had to.
ER: Although I don’t think they were very hungry.
JM: Now what was the state of morale among the men when this burst upon them? How did they react, actually?
ER: Well, as I have stated before, confusion. When you’re confused, your morale, you really don’t know what your morale is. You want to do something but you don’t know what to do. So the morale, I couldn’t say whether it was high or low because we were in a state of shock and really didn’t know what we should be doing.
JM: And how long did it take that state of shock to wear off? Into the next day?
ER: Oh, I’d say it was several days before we really woke up to the fact that we were at war. And after that, everybody wanted to do whatever was necessary and we had people volunteering to do anything.
JM: I think that attitude reflected in Washington, D.C. where I was. We did the same thing; it took awhile to recover from this shock, to realize it, even.
JM: Did you stay on the island, then, afterwards?
ER: I stayed until June of 1942. The day the Midway Battle started I came back to the mainland as an aviation cadet.
JM: I see. Now, in the meantime, there had been this second raid on the island, when the Japs dropped a few bombs or something.
ER: That is hearsay as far as I’m concerned. I know of no real bomb that was dropped after the initial attack. I do remember one night, we were getting instructions on the M-1 rifle and we had an A-20 blow up out on the revetment and that was quite some excitement. They were refueling an A-20 and it caught fire and they saw there was no way of saving it, so they just backed off and let it blow. We did have one man jump out of a second story window and broke a leg because he felt we were having another attack, but it was just one of our own A-20s that blew up. But to my knowledge, we never did have another attack or another bomb drop. We did have rumors that there were reconnaissance planes flying over at night. So this is hearsay, also, that we equipped some of our planes with mirrors on the lower side of the wing so the searchlights could pick them up so we could identify our own planes. But I see no way that a reconnaissance plane could have come in at a later date. I’m sure the Navy task force moved out, so all of this is strictly, as far as I’m concerned, jut wee, I wouldn’t say propaganda, but it was war tales.
JM: War tales, that’s a good way to put it. You say the first word your mother received….
ER: Was on Christmas Eve.
JM: As to your welfare.
ER: Right. Of course, I wrote immediately, but I think I still have the letter at home. It was mailed on the tenth of December and during the meantime, she had written the Red Cross and everyone, you know, trying to find out about my welfare.
JM: Did the Army see to it that the men did send messages back?
ER: Oh, yes, they did. I had a reprimand because I hadn’t written, but I had. They didn’t know it, but I had written on the tenth of December which in three days with the confusion that we had, it was pretty expedient, three days to get a letter off. But it took that long to get the letter to her, where I was living, my home was Florida and the mail was, could go by clipper to the States or it could go just straight mail but even that, two weeks, wasn’t bad at that time for a letter.
JM: Or had to go by the Lurline, it would take considerable…
ER: I think it was five days, I believe, the Lurline. But we could mail them either by Clipper or either airmail from the States. We had several different ways of mailing letters. But she said that was the best Christmas present she had ever had.
Q: One can appreciate that.
ER: I lived in a small town at the time and everyone went to town on Saturday night and I can just see her gong up and down the streets telling everybody that she had a letter from me.
JM: Well, thank you very much Mr. Russell, for this story. You stayed in the Reserves afterwards?
ER: Yes, I stayed in the Reserves. I had a total of seven years of active duty and at retirement I had thirty-six years, six months and twelve days total service, which I retired with pay at age sixty in 1977. So I’m now retired. I went from a PFC in 1941 and retired as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1977.
NAME : C.S. Seroski, Platoon Sergeant
UNIT: Co. H 19th Infantry
TIME PERIOD: 1941
SOURCE: Letter received from Mr. Seroski,
DATE RECEIVED: March 11, 1999
I was assigned to the 19th Infantry, Co. H as a Platoon Sergeant in Heavy Mortars. Our company considered our selves as the "Lost Chicks." Prior to deployment to Guadalcanal, Co. H of the 35th Infantry was replaced by Co. H of the 19th Infantry and the "Lost Chicks" phrase originated. I have a very clear recollection of the attack on Wheeler Field and Schofield. Several weeks prior to the attack, our company was assigned Armed Motorized Patrols of big installations in the area, and this particular Sunday was no exception. Our usual schedule was to depart at 7am. On this particular Sunday we were ordered not to engage the patrol, "Stand By." Seated in the mess hall, coffee drinking, we were suddenly alerted to loud explosions. Departing the mess hall we identified the explosions at Wheeler Field. And flying several hundred feet above ground alongside our barracks we observed Japanese planes conducting an attack. The armed vehicle immediately engaged the planes, driving them from the barracks with mounted machine guns. As a group, it was common talk that we would fight a war with Japan. The Army was on alert and ready, what happened to the other services? The Air Corp and the Navy?
NAME: Stanley J. Shylanski
UNIT: Co. K, 35th
TIME PERIOD: December 7, 1941 Infantry Regiment
SOURCE: Letter originally written by Mr. Shylansky for his local newspaper
DATE RECEIVED: October 5, 2004
I was 22 years old, nor married. On November 15, 1940 I resided at 1605 Knapp Street, St. Louis Missouri, and I was employed by Emerson Electric Company at 20th & Washington Avenue, St. Louis Missouri. I was already registered for the draft but my number was not called to this date. I decided to enlist into the military service of my choosing. I wanted the Army Air Corps being an aviation enthusiast, but at that time there where no openings. I was told if I joined any branch of the Army I could at a later date transfer to the Air Corps. I enlisted for the Infantry in Hawaii. This was considered Foreign Service since at that time it was a territory not a state. I arrived in January 1941 but I soon found out once you raised your right hand your fanny belonged to the Army, no transfer. I stayed in the Infantry, Co. K, 35th Infantry Regiment, Hawaiian Division; later 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.
The morning of December 7, 1941 being Sunday, it was ritual and privilege to go through the kitchen and choose the way you wanted your eggs and hot-cakes for breakfast.
As you entered the mess hall there were cases of ½ pint bottles of milk, normally one to person. Being the weekend after pay day many were sleeping in after being downtown Honolulu the night before. We could get a bonus-- two bottles of milk instead of one.
After I sat down and just started to eat, I heard a flight of airplanes behind my back coming into Army Air Corps’ Wheeler Field, not too far away from our barracks. This was approximately 7:45 a.m. I wondered what were they doing out, this being Sunday, when suddenly one plane started into his dive. I swore if he kept his dive he wasn’t going to make it, then a great big explosion (the first of many); our barracks building shook. This was HE (high explosive) not practice bombs. I immediately went outside and saw these dirty green colored planes with the red balls on their wings with fixed landing gears. I knew they were Japanese, diving and bombing the airfield.
Some planes started to strafe us so I went inside the barracks building and watched out of the side of the second floor window. Saw one plane so close you could clearly see the pilot. Some of his spent machine gun cartridge fell to the street below which I retrieved later, becoming the first of my souvenirs gathered from the war, and much more later.
In no time I got a ½ ton weapons carrier. We threw in a couple of 30 cal. machine guns, drove to a nearby drill field. By that time the Japanese planes were too high to do any good, the guns were almost useless being infantry ground weapons. We had no anti-aircraft mount.
TROPIC LIGHTNING MUSEUM: MEMOIRS AND RECOLLECTIONS 2
Our company left Schofield Barracks that morning to guard Army Headquarters at Fort Shafter, which was located above Pearl Harbor. On the highway we passed and saw the very sad sight of ships in Pearl Harbor burning.
Our guard house was across the street from Tripler General Army hospital, many of the wounded and dead were being brought in. On the evening and night of December 7th we witnessed the largest concentration of anti-aircraft fire we’d ever seen through the whole war. Unfortunately and very depressing, the airplanes that were shot down were ours attempting to land, the Japanese were long far gone, and never came back from that morning.
NAME : Andrew Simpson
UNIT: Dependant, 11 years old
TIME PERIOD: 7 December, 1941
SOURCE: Written account given to the museum by Dick Rodby
DATE RECEIVED: March 15, 2002
It’s December 1993. Fifty-two years since Japanese planes attacked the bases on Oahu. There are people who say they remember every detail of December 7th 1941. I am not one of those. Some memories are as vivid as if it were yesterday; others are dimmed both by time and the hectic nature of the day. The following is an amalgamation of both clear and hazy recollection:
Eleven year olds like to get up early on Sunday mornings; Lon Chlosta (called Lonnie in those days) and I were two such kids. We were at the Chlosta’s quarters in Wheeler Field and by 7 a.m. we were up, playing, and ready for a full day’s activities. In contrast, Lon’s parents were still in bed taking a well deserved extra forty winks after their week’s work. All of us soon got more activity than we cared for.
A moment for a little background, here. Lon Chlosta and I grew up in the Schofield Barracks/Wheeler Field/Wahiawa enviornment during the 1930’s and were inseparable. His folks, Sgt. and Mrs. Larry Chlosta, were my mother’s best friends. Lon’s mom was Head Librarian at Schofield and my mom was Head Cashier at Schofield’s Main Post Exchange. This resulted in Lon and I, with only seven months difference in our ages (I’m the old guy), growing up like brothers. There were those in Schofield and Wheeler who thought we were siblings. frequently, Saturday night would find one of us sleeping over at the other’s home. Thus, it was no fluke that on the night of December 6th I was a the Chlosta’s quarters in Wheeler Field.
The main reason I was at Lon’s house instead of perhaps vice versa was a movie. That Saturday night the Wheeler Field theater was showing a film Lon and I both wanted to see. Ironically, it was “Dive Bomber” starring Ronald Reagan… no kidding.
So what were Lonnie and I up to at 7 a.m. Sunday morning? What all kids do after seeing a good action movie, we were playing dive bomber, of course. The Chlosta’s quarters were located in the older section of Wheeler Field’s enlisted housing. These were one story stucco houses on both sides of a “U” shaped road with the open side of the “U” facing the barracks, hangar line, and flight line. Lon’s place was half way up on the inside of the “U” on the Waianae side. Behind the quarters across the street was the down slope of a hill; from the top of the hill we could see the barracks and hangars of Wheeler. For about an hour we had been running down that hill with our arms out straight like wings, making mock dive bombing runs. The climb back up was steep, even for healthy, exuberant youngsters and called for time out to sit and rest every few “bombing” runs. About 7:50 a.m. it was time for one of those breaks.
God surely watches over fools, drunkards, and children. At that exact moment in history, in His infinite wisdom, He (a) put us at the top of the hill, and (b) sat us down so we could pay attention to what was about to happen. As mentioned, from where we were, we could clearly see the hangars and barracks for Wheeler’s squadrons. Curiously, about a half mile off at the Waianae end of the flight line, we noticed a flash of sunlight off a silver plane in a steep dive. Now, as “post-wise” army brats, we should have immediately realized flying at Wheeler was rare on Sundays and, even more significantly, diving towards the flight line was an absolute no-no. Even after an object dropped from the plane, we calmly watched. When that dropped “thing” resulted in pieces of lumber flying into the air followed quickly by the sound of an explosion we still sat like a couple of stunned dodo birds… the truth of the matter was beginning to dawn. That first diving plane was immediately followed by a second, this time closer, and the red circle on its wings were clearly visible to both of us. The second explosion came from behind us because by that time we two urchins had turned tail and were moving at full “Holy Mother of God” speed for the Chlosta’s quarters across the street.
From that point on my recall of the sequence of events during the raid tends to get a little jumbled in my mind, now that more than fifty years have elapsed. We did burst into the house shouting, in a disjointed way I’m sure, what was happening outside. Lon’s parents had heard the explosions and were already out of bed but not yet aware of the nature of the trouble. Lon’s dad had served with General Pershing in Mexico back in 1915, and at the front in France during WWI so he quickly grasped the situation. He hurriedly dressed and while the attack was still in progress zigzagged off down the street to his squadron (6th Pursuit). Meanwhile, Lon’s mom put us in a corner, away from windows, to ride out the storm.
I’m not sure how long the raid continued, most likely it was about twenty minutes, but it seemed like hours that we huddled down listening, first to bomb blasts (one explosion sounded like it was next to the quarters, but was actually about half a block away), then the strafing. The bomb targets, I’m sure, were the barracks, hangars, and the flight line (the close blast was a bomb aimed at a barracks about a block away), but the Japanese were equal opportunity strafers and included the family quarters areas with their machine guns. We were in a stucco house, however, so the strafing somehow seemed less terrifying than the bombing (the following day Lon’s mom found a thirty-caliber bullet had shattered a kitchen window and lodged in their stove).
War is funny (“peculiar”); when you’re closely engaged there is no way of knowing what’s going on, even nearby, so we didn’t have a clue as to the damage, or whether any of our planes had gotten into the air. Suddenly, we heard planes with more powerful engines and machine guns, fifty caliber. that spoke with more authority than the Japanese thirty-calibers. The cavalry, in the form of Lieutenants Taylor and Welsh in their P-40’s from Haleiwa airstrip, had arrived. They were more welcome than a bugler sounding “Charge.” Of course, we had no idea who the pilots were then, or where they’d come from; we only knew that almost immediately the air over Wheeler field was cleared of all planes and the Sunday silence was again upon us.
As soon as Lon’s mother decided there would not be an encore, at least for a few minutes, she bundled the three of us into their family Chrysler and headed for my home in Wahiawa Heights, about six miles away. As she drove towards Wheeler’s main gate we looked towards the flight line and could see the bombed, burning hangars and rows of lined up P-40’s on fire. Smoke rose from everywhere. If any of the planes had escaped destruction it was not apparent in the short time we had to observe; it was a shocking, depressing sight.
When we arrived at my folks place in the Heights they were up but had no idea what had happened. They’d heard the distant explosions but a hostile air attack was unthinkable. My stepfather, Tony Malina, a sergeant in the 13th Field Artillery, immediately dressed and raced off to his unit in Schofield. By mid-morning women and children from families my parents knew in Wheeler and Schofield started arriving at our house to get away from target areas in case of another raid. By nightfall there was something like twenty-five or thirty people in the house. No doubt many other homes in Wahiawa were hosting similar gatherings.
That was a long night. Radio stations were off the air so we had no source of information on the scope of the attack, the damage, or what might happen in the upcoming days. We were under a complete blackout, so the crowd of people in our small house made it an adventure just moving about (we only had one bathroom, too, so you can imagine the logistics there). The sleeping arrangements were a crude “grab a space on the floor.” While it had been a long, tense day and we were all exhausted, everyone was too apprehensive, frightened, and bewildered for anything except fitful catnapping. The slightest noise from outside would have everyone awake and whispering, as if normal conversation would bring an immediate attack of some sort down on our heads. None-the-less, Monday morning the sun came up as usual, something we half didn’t expect.
Throughout history people have adapted to conditions in the aftermath of disaster. Islanders were no different. Within days, local residents settled into a routine of living in a nation at war and a Hawaii under martial law. True, the lifestyle of the entire country was altered on December 7th, but nowhere was it faster or more dramatic than in Hawaii. But that is a story unto itself for another time.
What did the war hold in store for the people in this narrative? In a couple of days, all our refugee guests had returned to their quarters in Wheeler or Schofield, and were preparing for evacuation to the mainland. My mom, Ruth Malina, had been an island resident since 1926, thus we were not subject to evacuation like other military dependents. She continued as Head Cashier at the Schofield PX through the war. Lon’s mother, Marilee Chlosta, had also been an island resident since the 1920’s and stayed on as Schofield’s Head Librarian until she was stricken with cancer and passed away in April 1942. Following his mother’s death, Lon went to live with relatives in Massachusetts. Lon’s father eventually fetched up with the Eighth Air Force in England through VE Day, returned to the U.S. and retired from the Army in 1946. My stepfather remained with the 13th Field Artillery, 24th Division, through the New Guinea campaign, then after a bout with malaria returned to Schofield until the war was over. A career solder, he retired in 1961. When Leilehua school in Wahiawa reopened in February 1942, I was again a student, although since Leilehua’s campus was taken over by the army, classes were held in ex-Japanese language school buildings. I was still a student at Leilehua when the war ended.
NAME : Brev Sinclair
UNIT: 13 year old civilian
TIME PERIOD: 7 December 1941
SOURCE: Friend of Dick Rodby. Received from Dick Rodby
DATE RECEIVED: 3 March 2002
The sounds of war at Kawailoa Camp!
The planes are flying…. I must be dreaming ‘cause they’re too loud. … There’s another one and it’s right over the house… something’s wrong! They never fly over the house. The take-off pattern is out over the ocean. Another plane… WOW! That one is real low. It’s Sunday morning… I am dreaming, ‘cause they never fly on Sunday. But my dreams seem real… but they don’t fly on Sunday even though they are on maneuvers at Haleiwa Emergency landing strip. I’m awake now. It’s only a few minutes after eight o’clock. I could ‘of slept another half- hour. Why did the planes have to wake me up?
(P-40 pilots Welch, Taylor, Rassmussen and their downed squadron flight partner had called Haleiwa strip where their planes were temporarily parked on a training assignment and issued orders to their crews to gas up their planes, warm them up for immediate take-off, and load them with live ammo. They then drove at break-neck speed the 13 miles from their B.O.Q. at Wheeler Field to the emergency strip at Haleiwa.
Golly… that’s a lot of defense work blasting and they’re shooting off their dynamite early this Sunday. I remember my father telling me why they blasted rocks on Sunday when no one was around to get hurt.
(What I thought was blasting for gun emplacements and underground facilities was in reality the bombs exploding at Schofield Barracks and other targets thirteen miles away.)
Darn it! I have to get up anyway. My mother told them that I’d be a Wise Man in the Sunday School Christmas Play. “No fair,” I shouldn’t have to do it. I thought I was finished with Sunday school when I turned 13 last April.
That’s a strange plane noise I hear. A twin engine… they must be on maneuvers… Get up and get dressed, I told myself. I need to see what’s going on. Looking down at the coast-side emergency landing strip from our front yard vantage point 300 feet above and a half mile from the coast I saw the twin engine DC2 transport plane that I’d heard come in and land. It was strange sight, a transport landing on emergency landing strip, but even stranger was watching them taxi over to a grove of ironwood trees, be pushed up close and have the plane disappear as it was covered with branches for camouflage.
(Early Sunday morning was a good time for our pilots to get in their twin-engine flight pay qualifying hours. While two pilots were in the air doing just that they had a birds-eye view of the Japanese pilots bombing and strafing their airfields- Hickam and Wheeler-under them. Considering their alternatives they chose Haleiwa emergency strip at which to land.)
Twenty minutes later I was in our neighbor’s car on our way the four miles to the Waialua Plantation Community Center to practice being a Wise Man. Why did I have to practice, anyway. All we did last year was stand there in our bathrobes with a rag on our heads while they opened the curtain and sang “We Three Kings of Orient …” Oh, well, the other two tall kids were also drafted into another year as Wise Men, and I’d get to see them.
The road to Sunday School ran past the emergency field. As we approached and drove past it, an even more unbelievable sight appeared. Two B-17 (Flying Fortresses) dipped their wings and turning, dropped into a landing approach. As we drove past they were taxiing along beside the road. As an impressionable young teenager I impulsively waved out the window and gave the co-pilot the “V for Victory” sign. I was thrilled when he returned the sign. The landing of the two big B-17’s at Haleiwa Emergency Fighter Strip was still unbelievable and unexplainable… but we saw them!
(The B-17’s were part of a larger flight that had just arrived over Oahu from the U.S. Mainland. As the lead planes in the flight started to land at Hickam Field (next to Pearl Harbor) they were shot down. One of them was hit with a bomb just as it touched down on Hickam Field. The runway was becoming more pockmarked by the minute as bombs tore craters in the pavement. Two of the planes pulled out of their landing formation and headed for Wheeler Field up on the central plateau of Oahu. Seeing the still burning skeletons of the fighter/pursuit planes n the ground at Wheeler Field they realized it was not a viable alternative. A quick in-flight conference produced a crewmember who had been previously stationed in the islands. He remembered Haleiwa emergency strip. Even though too short for four engine bombers it was a better alternative than, ditching, being shot out of the air or being blown to bits as you tried to touch down on a bomb crater- pocked field.)
Arriving at the Community Center where Sunday School was held, I was greeted by a nine-year- old who seriously asked, “Have you heard the bombs?” He pointed inland toward Schofield Barracks 10 to 12 miles away as we heard the “karump … karump” of distant explosions. “Bombs? No, that’s blasting on defense projects,” I corrected. “No! Those are bombs. We are being bombed. They think it’s the Japanese. All the Sunday School teachers are talking about it,” he replied.
My thoughts were… How? No Way? We are on an island in the middle of an ocean, how could they get here? Bombers can’t fit on aircraft carriers. There must be some mistake. My thoughts were interrupted by one of the Sunday School teachers who grabbed me by the shoulders and with a frightened look and a much too high-pitched voice told me my mother had called and wanted me to get right home.
Something was definitely wrong, BUT WAR? IMPOSSIBLE! Probably just over realistic maneuvers the Army was staging. Finding our neighbor already in her car with the motor running I jumped in and we were away.
After a six-minute ride that usually took ten, I walked through our back door and was greeted by my mother’s shrieks of “There you are, son! Thank God you’re safe!” accompanied by a smothering hug. Just then the radio crackled on with a serious voice, stating,
“This is not a drill! I repeat! This is not a drill!”
“We are under attack by an enemy force!”
“Stay off the streets!”
“Do not use your telephone.”
“Will the following doctors immediately report to Tripler Army Hospital.” (Followed by a list of doctors’ names)
“Will the following doctors immediately report to Queens Hospital.” (Followed by a list of doctors’ names)
“Will all Love Bakery truck drivers get your trucks and report to the Main Gate at Pearl Harbor, also will all Von Hamm Young Laundry truck drivers report to the company garage for possible ambulance duty.”
“This is not a drill! I repeat! This is not a drill!”
“We are under attack … It has been reported that the Rising Sun has been sighted on the wing tips of the attacking planes.”
“This is not a drill!”
IT WAS NOW REAL!