On December 7, 1941 there was a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor but it wasn’t just Pearl Harbor. IThe Navy air bases at Ford Island and Kaneohe Bay, the Marine airfield at Ewa and the Army Air Corps fields at Bellows, Wheeler and Hickam were all bombed and strafed as other elements of the attacking force began their assaults on the ships moored in Pearl Harbor. There were 90 ships anchored at Pearl Harbor but the real target were the 8 battleships, 7 of which were anchored at Battleship Row. While I’m much more familiar with the naval perspective, Schofield Barracks and Hickam air fields were also targeted that day. You can’t live here and not be aware of the devastation that happened so many years ago.
I was able to attend a military spouse Christmas event in early December. As luck would have it, sitting at my table was another spouse who has done extensive research on the families that lived on what is now known as Nob Hill on Ford Island. She’s made contact with several of the child survivors. Several of us were in tears as she recounted their stories. It hit so close to home. I don’t live on Ford Island but you can see it from my neighborhood. We live where most of the pilots lived in 1941. They took ferries to work. There was no bridge then. My new friend has just started research on the events that happened the same day at Schofield Barracks. She said in her research, she found another child survivor who asked to tell her story.
This little girl was very young in 1941. Her first memory is being very afraid and being put on a bus at night. (The buses started running out of Schofield around midnight.) She said the image of Pearl Harbor totally set ablaze is what she remembered most. She was taken to a school in Honolulu with her family. All the schools here are open air. The Red Cross arrived with water and blankets but that was no protection from the bugs. Eventually other military families with homes off base showed up and started taking whole families back to their homes. She didn’t see her father again until Christmas day. The spouse and family support then isn’t what is it today even though we are known to complain. He told them a ship was leaving and they would have to pack quickly. They left without him and landed in San Francisco. With no word on when or if their belongings or car would arrive, they floundered around. When their car arrived, her mother packed them up and drove them to a new location. She didn’t see her father again for three years. I can’t even imagine.
One of my favorite books that gives you a better insight into military life in 1941 is “The Children of Battleship Row” by Joan Zuber Earle. She was a child living on Ford Island from 1940-1941. Her account is absolutely harrowing.
After hearing those stories you might understand my mindset when a few days later Ray was asked to be at the Pearl Harbor Celebrations and I got to tag along. We were there in time to watch the sunrise over Pearl Harbor. I thought about what it would have been like for my family to be there of Battleship Row. The courage and bravery that happened that day… I just don’t have the words.
I could not stop the tears as the USS Halsey started her pass and review around the Arizona Memorial. The skies were blue and the wind was catching the flag. A small man, a Pearl Harbor survivor had been wheeled to the stage. As the Halsey passed, he stood on shaky legs to salute her. I could cry right now. It’s one of those memories that just stays.
(Photo credit: www.ushalsey.navy.mil)
After the formal ceremony, we were able to walk around a bit. In true Brandi fashion I was walking a bit funny because the strap snapped on my wedge heel as we walked in. I shed the shoes as soon as we got back out to the sidewalk. Here are a few snapshots we took that day.