On Friday, December 7th, 1973, I drove from Wheeler Field in the center of Oahu down through Kolekole Pass towards the Honolulu International Airport . . . and it occurred to me . . .
Today is December 7th. I did a quick calculation—73-41=32 years ago. It was about 7ish, not a Sunday, but so quiet it might as well be. I glanced back towards Wheeler, Scofield Barracks, and the small village of Wahiawa, & further makai (towards the ocean) the beach at Haleiwa. That was the direction the Japanese planes came from.
As I descended down through the Kolekole Pass I saw Pearl Harbor sparkling in the sun like some tossed gems. Is that how their target looked to those pilots as they flew over the windward range and over Kolekole?
Pearl Harbor Under Attack
Seventy-eight years ago, today, a quiet morning in “paradise” exploded into war for America. The Hawaiian Islands–verdant jewels in a turquoise sea—were waking up to another beautiful day in the tropical heaven.
Besides being the home of the most glorious beaches—Waikiki—and majestic mountains—Ko’oau Range—the city of Honolulu, Oahu is base for the U.S. military.
Which was the target for the Imperial Japanese Navy that Sunday, December 7th morning just before 8am. Taking off from six aircraft carriers, 353 aircraft, in two waves, attacked the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor and Hickam Field, mauka (inland towards the mountains) of Honolulu & Waikiki.
Hawaii was home to me for a couple decades of my early life. As a flight attendant (they called us stewardesses then), my flight schedule was Los Angeles/Honolulu/LA & sometimes Hilo on the Big Island (Hawaii). I was domiciled in Honolulu, flying to New York & Chicago, for four years when my husband, a U.S. Air Force officer, was based at Hickam Field. We lived on base at Wheeler Field for two years and Hickam for two.
Much of the damage inflicted on Hickam was not repaired but preserved as a memorial. It is most visible on the Pacific Air Forces headquarters building, which is pockmarked with scars, but small pieces of damage exist throughout the base as a reminder of that tragic day.
During the first wave dive-bombers targeted the hangars at Wheeler Field. Planes returned to strafe the fight line, turning it into a river of fire. Four fighters from the 46th Pursuit Squadron were able to take to the air and attack the Japanese over southeastern Oahu.
What had it been for the families living on base that December morning so close to Pearl Harbor? I often pondered standing outside our quarters looking toward the naval base.
Pearl Harbor as My Personal History
I am visited today with these thoughts and memories.
Although I was born in 1944, I have come to hold dear so much of the history of the Second World War. My research for The Choice series has been focused on the war in Europe. It is an act of love to remember our heroes of that war. As Americans, we weren’t attacked on the mainland, but Hawaii was, and still remembers.