Remembering 7 December

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BY J. ARTHUR RATH III – One day there was Diamond Head off the right, looking just as it always had when our 1940s military arrivals used to see pictures of some society doll lying on a beach with a caption that said: “with world-famous Diamond Head looming in the background.  Nowadays we old-timers point out that “Planes came over the mountains right through that pass there and slashed down toward Hickam Field and Pearl Harbor.”

Japanese planes swept in from the sea at 7:55 that Sunday morning in three waves—150 to 200 planes altogether.


The first two waves knocked hell out of Hickam, Ewa Field, Ford Island, Wheeler Field, Bellows Field, and Kaneohe.  The Arizona, California, Oklahoma, and West Virginia, the Utah (an old target ship), the destroyers Cassin, Downes, and Shaw, and the mine-layer Oglala were lost in Pearl Harbor.

Other ships were damaged but could be saved.  The Japanese planned it perfectly.  Bombs screamed downward, explosives shattered hangers, ships,
and men.  Machine guns spit rending agony and the sun glinted on the red ball emblems.

But when the third wave of attackers came over, it was repulsed, although only 38 American planes got in the air.  Twenty-nine Japanese planes never returned to their carriers.  Most of the army’s planes on Hickam and Wheeler field were destroyed, the navy lost three-fourths of its planes on the ground also. Three of my uncles who were home on leave with us in Kaimuki.

Hearing reports on KGMB, they headed immediately back for duty.  I learned many years later that Uncle Bob Lyman, a submariner, did underwater duty (recovering some of the 2,340 officers and enlisted men who were killed). And so war came to America and to the islands that had been its playground. Arriving servicemen learned that picturesque Diamond Head was really a volcano cone, with gun emplacements dug in so they covered
a respectable amount of Pacific Ocean. Schools converted into hospitals, they and regular hospitals–until a new military one was built–served
wounded brought back from the Middle-Pacific Theater.

Punchbowl Cemetery on Oahu became a final resting place for so many.