Franklin Roosevelt said it is a day which will live in infamy. For me, it is a day that changed my life forever.
My mother woke me early that morning and sent me off to church. I grew up in Kalihi, which is about 4-to 5-miles from Pearl Harbor.
While in church, I heard the initial explosions taking place.
None of us knew what was going on and what was causing the explosions.
In the middle of mass, a gentleman went up to the priest, Father Herbert, and whispered in his ear. Father than stopped and advised us that we were being bombed and that no one knew who was bombing us. He advised us to go home and remain there.
On my way home, I saw the Japanese planes with their rising sun flying over us to perform their runs into Pearl Harbor.
I did not make it all the way home as I stopped at our neighbors house, the Sonadas, to watch the planes fly toward Pearl Harbor.
I can’t recall how long we sat and watched, but we did see smoke and a number of aircraft in the air. The Sonadas had their radio on and the announcer was saying “this is the real McCoy, we are being attacked, stay in your house.”
This was all taking place that early Sunday morning. I guess I was a witness to these events and the start of our involvement in the Second World War.
The military immediately put a curfew in place and during the next couple of years we lived under the curfew and went to school with our trusted gas masks.
The interesting fact of that day was my Uncle Tony Botelho, a warden, had a Japanese pilot surrender to him.
Was he flabbergasted? From what I understand, the pilot crash landed his plane in the plantation where my uncle was and just put his arms up and had my uncle take him into custody.
From that day on, we had no idea what would happen next. And as a kid, I must say I was excited by the events. My mother wasn’t; she was scared about an pending invasion and she was concerned that she would be living under someone else’s rule.
There is more, but I will conclude by saying, that two years later we came to the US in a convoy and while at sea, we had an experience when we thought we were under attack by a Japanese submarine; our destroy escort chased down what it thought was a sub; none was found I guess and we continued on our way.
After the war, we were able to return as “war refugees.” Good old Uncle Sam paid our way back to the Island, but after living in California until 1947, it was difficult to live in Hawaii and we returned for good in 1949.
This is my story about December 7, 1941; it is also a family story and as every says “war is hell,” but war has a way of changing lives.
Anthony Santos is a former Hawaii resident and former Mayor of San Leandro, California.