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A Look Back: Pearl Harbor Day – Part 1

By Jolene Hawkins

Looking back into history to an event that will stay in all of our minds forever. The event took place on Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941, at 7:55 a.m., at 11:29 a.m., again at 11:59 a.m. and at 12:41 p.m.

This event is known as Pearl Harbor Day, but as I was reading the account from the Honolulu newspapers I discovered more than the harbor was attacked. I am sharing the history of this in two parts. This article will be from the Honolulu newspaper accounts of that day and the days that followed.

The morning headlines of the Honolulu Star Bulletin on December the 7th, 1941, read: “War! Oahu Bombed by Japanese planes.” That edition of the newspaper said six known dead and 21 injured… could any of them imagine what was to come and happened? Civilians were ordered to stay off the streets, do not drive on the roads and to stay calm.

All Navy personnel and Civil Defense workers (except women) were ordered to duty at Pearl Harbor. The areas of the attack were Wheeler field, Hickman field, which took a direct hit and 350 were killed, Kaneohe Bay, Nuuanu, Naval air stations and Pearl Harbor, along with the Governor Mansion. Fragments of bombs were located all over, some weighing up to a pound.

Some people who lived in the hills could see the planes. They reported that they were flying so low, they could look out of their windows and see the faces of the pilots who flew the planes, and they saw the rising sun on the wings of the plane, not knowing at the time what was to happen.

Whether they wanted it or not, they were able to watch as the areas were being bombarded and attacked. You can read letters from one such family in a book called “December 7, 1941, Letters from Hilltop House” compiled by Cosette Morrison Harms, the daughter of the family and see what happened and read how they felt over that time.

A plane crashed into Wahiawa, and that plane, along with two houses, was destroyed by fire. By the afternoon edition of the newspaper, the death toll was over 400 people, 300 wounded. The headline is reading that: “Tokyo announces ‘State of War’ with U. S. A, Guam, and Panama.”

More than 100 trucks respond for Volunteer duty and assembled at the Palace grounds for the ambulance committee. Farrington High School was taken over by the army for a hospital. Trucks from the Honolulu Construction and Draying Company were delivering lengths of fire hose about the city where they were connected to hydrants and firemen were stationed at the hydrants to combat fires.

Truckloads of evacuees from Hickman’s field, mostly women and children, were taken to the University of Hawaii. The National Guard armory on Hotel Street was being equipped to receive wounded persons.

By 3:45 p.m., Martial Law was proclaimed by Governor Poindexter. In part, it read that the army demands the aid and assistance of every person in the territory. Avoid the slightest appearance of hostility either in words or actions. Prisoners, when captured, will be turned over to the nearest military patrol, military guardhouse, police patrol or police stations. A complete blackout of the entire territory will go into effect at nightfall. Military censorship for all outgoing messages was put into place.

By Monday, Dec. 8, thousands were claimed killed and many more wounded. Gas rationing had gone into effect. Liquor stores were closed. Grocery stores were closed for inventory and then limited amount of food could be purchased. Schools were closed. First aid stations were opened 24 hours.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave his speech which started off, “December 7th, 1941, a date which will live in infamy, the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by Naval and Air forces of the Empire of Japan. Many American lives have been loss as well as American ships that were torpedoed. Attacks against Malaya, Guam, Philippine Island, Hong Kong, Wake Island and Midway Island. I asked that Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December 7th, 1941, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire.”

By Dec. 9, the local newspaper for Hawaii ran an ad for the Red Cross, asking all women interested in making surgical dressings, sewing garments for evacuees and knitting sweaters and socks for Army and Navy wounded to attend a meeting at the headquarters, which had been set up on Nuuanu Avenue at the home of the Cookes.

Next week I will share the history of what was going on in our area. If you would like to read the articles where I obtained this information, stop by at the Lucy Bensley Center on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. You can call us at (716) 592-0094 or send us an email at lucybensleycenter@gmail.com.

If the schools are closed due to the weather, then we here at the Lucy Bensley Center are closed as well. You can always call us to verify we are here.
We will be open during Very Merry Springville on Saturday, Nov. 30 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. You can also hear some great music on Tuesday and Thursday from 7-9 p.m. at the Concord Mercantile/Heritage building.

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