BY J. ARTHUR RATH III –
12/7/41: The U.S. Navy Fleet was in and in the afternoon our Kaimuki Church’s Sunday school students would visit some of the ships lined up in Pearl Harbor. Sailors were always friendly to us young “locals,” giving a tour, a peek at “Esquire” magazine “Varga Girls” pinned up over their hammocks, and ice cream cones in the ship’s dining room.
While preparing for Church we heard the radio announcements starting at about 7 a.m. I heard one explosion after another and saw big puffs of smoke in the air. The military simulated attacks during periodic war maneuvers, but the radio announcer kept saying, “This is the real McCoy.”
I lived with grandparents about 7 miles from Pearl Harbor on a hillside near Diamond Head where the army stored ammunition. Planes with big red circles on their wings and fuselage flew over our house.
I took some of my grandfather’s colored chalk and sketched a huge U.S. Army P-40 fighter plane on our large outdoor cement patio. I colored it with lots of chalk to frighten away Japanese planes.
In my eight-year-old mind our house was now protected, so I went to the military observation post on the hill next to our backyard. It was a single-room tin shack mounted on tall metal legs manned by Army men who climbed a ladder to enter it. Looking through mounted telescopes gave them clear views of Pearl Harbor and approaches to Diamond Head.
The two soldiers welcomed Grandma’s oatmeal and raisin cookies I brought and let me use a telescope. I watched bombing and strafing until smoke from burning ships clouded the view.
I told Grandmother I hid in the basement. Busy praying, she didn’t come looking for me. So upset, she forgot to ask about her newly baked cookies. She probably thought Grandfather took them to the Red Cross to share with fellow volunteers.
Excerpted from “Lost Generations,” by J. Arthur Rath, University of Hawaii Press, 2006.