Pearl Harbor Voices

Credit Wikipedia Commons

75 years ago this week, Japanese planes attacked Pearl Harbor and other targets on O‘ahu, leading the United States into World War Two and changing life in the islands forever. All this week, Hawai‘i Public Radio is airing remembrances of some of our neighbors who were on O‘ahu that day as well as others who have ties to the islands. You can hear these pieces on Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and after they air you will be able to find them on our website.

noe tanigawa
noe tanigawa

“Go for Broke” was the motto of the 442 Regimental Combat Team.  It was a spirit that changed the minds of Americans as they watched ethnic Japanese fight and die for the United States, even while their relatives were stripped of possessions and thrown into camps.  Over forty years later, President Reagan signed legislation that admitted "race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership" caused the internment.  HPR’s Noe Tanigawa reports on the legacy we all share from this experience.

Gallery - Kamehameha Schools
Gallery - Kamehameha Schools

Today we are wrapping up our coverage commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

All week you’ve heard stories about how that day and the war years that followed it changed life in Hawai‘i….and you’ve heard those stories from the people who lived through those experiences.

Some of those changes had to do with how people of different racial backgrounds interacted with each other.  In 1941, Pearl Johnson lived in O‘ahu’s Pauoa Valley…and she still lives there today.

Wikipedia Commons
Wikipedia Commons

This week we’ve been marking the 75th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack with a series of recollections from people who lived through it.  The days following the violence of December 7th brought further challenges.

For the nearly 40% of the population that was of Japanese descent, there was another concern that added to the uncertainty—worries about being taken away by authorities.  It was a topic our Morning Edition host Derrick Mālama talked about with his mother, Annie Shirabe Mālama.

Wikipedia Commons
Wikipedia Commons

75 years ago today, Hawai‘i was still reeling from Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.  Life had already changed for local residents and it was going to change more—whether people lived in the city of Honolulu, on the plantations, or anywhere else in the territory.

Ray Sekiya was born in Kunia Camp, near Schofield Barracks.  He wrote down some of his memories about the immediate days after Pearl Harbor and the weeks that followed and he recently shared them with HPR.

NPS Archive
NPS Archive

This week we’ve been marking the 75th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, in part by hearing the voices of many who lived through that day and the weeks and years that followed.

For residents of Hawai‘i, the attack marked a turning point.  Life changed in many ways—including the way people went about their daily activities.  Our Morning Edition host Derrick Mālama heard some details about that from his mother, Annie Shirabe Mālama.

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

On December 8, 1941, fires still burned in the wreckage of the battleships that lay in the mud of Pearl Harbor while crews in small boats continued the gruesome work of recovering the dead. Hidden amid the smoke, many of the seeds of the eventual American victory. More from Neal Conan, in the Pacific News Minute.

Wikipedia Commons
Wikipedia Commons

The events of December 7th, 1941 were such a massive shock that some parts of the story are sometimes forgotten.  It’s often described as the bombing of Pearl Harbor—and that’s where the bulk of the casualties took place.

But before the ships came the planes.  The Japanese wanted to hit the capacity of US Forces to strike back by air.  And so half a dozen air bases around O‘ahu were strafed and bombed.

AP / US Navy
AP / US Navy

75 years ago, Japan attacked the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor. The strike killed more than 2,300 people and propelled the United States into World War II. The anniversary brings back memories not just for those in the military but those who lived in Hawaii. Molly Solomon from Hawaii Public Radio brings us some of those voices.

Wikipedia Commons
Wikipedia Commons

75 years ago, word of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor spread unevenly across O‘ahu.  After Pearl Johnson heard the news, normal life ground to a halt.

And her family spent the rest of the day together at their home in Pauoa Valley.

We’ll have continuing coverage of today’s ceremonies and other voices of Pearl Harbor marking the 75th anniversary of the Japanese attack.

Wikipedia Commons
Wikipedia Commons

Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor 75 years ago today changed life in the islands—and across the United States.  When Japanese planes were sighted in the skies over Pearl Harbor 75 years ago today, many people thought at first they were simply engaged in military exercises.

Wayne Yoshioka
Wayne Yoshioka

For Pearl Harbor survivors, the attack of December 7th 1941 was a shared experience, but each story is an individual one. For 94-year old Earl Smith, the day before the world would change featured baseball—as teams from different battleships played in a tournament he still remembers in vivid detail.

Face of the Enemy

Dec 6, 2016
United States War Department (United States National Archives) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
United States War Department (United States National Archives) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

When Japan bombed Pearl Harbor seventy five years ago, thirty seven percent of Hawai‘i’s population was ethnically Japanese.  Honolulu hummed with Japanese run restaurants, sundry stores, hardware and grocery stores, everyone went to Japanese movies, and Japanese maids and gardeners worked in many wealthy homes.  HPR’s Noe Tanigawa reports on how Japanese and others felt during the period.

Wikipedia Commons
Wikipedia Commons

As we approach tomorrow’s 75th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack, we are listening to memories and recollections of those who experienced that day in Hawaii.

Honolulu resident Louise Lanzilotti recently read from the recollections of her father, Judge Samuel King. On December 7th, 1941 he was a relatively new attorney, who learned of the attack from neighbors in Mānoa—who told him to turn on the radio.

We’ll have more “Pearl Harbor Voices” all this week on Morning Edition and All Things Considered.

John Henry Felix / Twitter
John Henry Felix / Twitter

As you’ve been hearing, this week marks the 75th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

All week we’re going to be hearing some remembrances of neighbors who were on O‘ahu that day. As well as others who have ties to the islands.

We begin today with the memories of John Henry Felix…whose family lived in the Punchbowl area of Honolulu.

Later this week we’ll hear from people with memories not only of December 7th, 1941, but also the days and weeks and months that followed that changed Hawai‘i.

Wayne Yoshioka

The December 7th attack on Pearl Harbor 75 years ago resulted in 54 civilian casualties on O’ahu, mostly caused by friendly fire.   HPR’s Wayne Yoshioka reports. 

(Japanese school students reciting phonetic alphabet)

First graders sing their phonetic alphabet at the Fort Gakuin Japanese Language School on Pali Highway, much like their counterparts did 75 years ago at the Hawai’i Chuo Gakuin on the corner of Nu’uanu Avenue and Vineyard Boulevard.   Historian and Author, Nanette Napoleon, researched what happened at the school on December 7, 1941, following the first wave of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

“The bell rang at 9 o’clock for the kids to come in and the teachers and the students on the way to school had seen planes flying in the air already.  The head teacher was Take Ogawa.   She welcomes the students into the class in Japanese and as they came in she’s handing out song books.  And then when everybody is seated, Take goes to an upright piano and they start singing the school song.  In the middle of singing the school song, the hear a loud, thundering, crashing sound a couple of blocks away.”

Napoleon says the special Sunday morning class was held in the auditorium with glass windows on both sides.  The students could see smoke rising in the distance, from an area where many of them lived.    

“Not that long afterwards a big flash occurs right in the schoolyard.  A shell hits and the shrapnel from the shell itself and all that dirt and rocks and everything goes flying and its shattering most of the windows.  And then it starts hitting everybody.   And everything goes flying; papers and schoolbags and people are strewn everywhere.  And benches fall on the kids so Take Ogawa, the head teacher,  and the other two teachers extricate the kids.  And they’re under benches  and crying and the tell them, ‘Go outside; go downstairs and run home.’”

As the auditorium cleared, one student remained, lying on the floor.

“Sensei Ogawa sees a girl that had not gotten up.  She’s in a pool of red blood, on her back facing upwards with her hands at her side, but her eyes are closed.  And she’s barely breathing.  And her name was Nancy Masuko Arakaki.   And she was 7 years old.”

The girl died on the way to Queen’s Hospital.  Another student,

8-year-old Yoichi Sakai, had his hand nearly severed at the wrist by a piece of shrapnel.  He was taken to a Japanese Hospital on Kuakini Street.   Doctors there amputated Sakai’s hand and part of his forearm.  And he survived.   Then there was 8 year-old Jacky Yoneto Hirosaki.

“He ran to his grandmother’s saimin shop, the Cherry Blossom Restaurant.  And, okay, he’s safe.  And not long after that, a shell hits in the street sending shrapnel and earth and debris everywhere again.  And it penetrates the saimin store and kills seven single men – many of whom were amateur boxers.  It injured Yoneto’s mother; it killed his father; it killed his two younger siblings and him.  So it’s kinda ironic that he survived the impact at the school and then he gets killed at the saimin store.”

Fifty-four civilians were killed or injured during the Dec. 7th attack.  The explosions were later determined to have been caused by U-S anti-aircraft shells fired from some of the 66 military installations on O’ahu.    

“At the time it was never reported - where the civilians were killed -  the shells were not bombs.  Not totally confidential but they didn’t say,  ‘Friendly fire.’   Which became a political issue because the families of those that died – civilians – they were saying, that after the attack, the military personnel were all getting reparations and getting money because their loved one died and things like that; and some of the families were going to the local Marshall Law officials and saying, ‘You know, can we have some money to bury or do the cremation and they got turned down, every single one of them.  It was sad, sad stories.”

Today, Napoleon stands next to a monument at the Foster Botanical Garden marking the original Chuo Gakuin site, the first Japanese Language School on Oahu established in 1899 and closed by the U.S. military in 1941.

(Japanese school students sing a song)

Seventy-five years later and one mile away from the monument, Fort Gakuin kindergarten students recite Japanese.  The Hongwanji Mission School and the Honpa Hongwanji Hawai’i Betsuin re-established the language school after World War II.  Teddi Yagi is the Principal.

“At one time there were over a hundred schools of our type throughout all the islands.  Now there’s nine:  one on Maui; the other one in Hilo; and the rest in Honolulu.  So it’s dwindling.  More and more the children are more interested in getting into soccer, football,  baseball – more sports.  (The children say), ‘Mom, I don’t want to go study two more hours after school.’  And the parents are giving into their desires to be in those areas.  So each year is less children.”

(Students singing)

For HPR News, I’m Wayne Yoshioka.

U.S. National Archives
U.S. National Archives

The bombing of Pearl Harbor was a turning point for Hawai‘i, but it was also the culmination of decades of militarization on O‘ahu.  At the same time, ethnic Japanese constituted forty percent of Hawai‘i’s population, a fact not lost on Washington, as Japanese armies spread across China and the Pacific.

Wikipedia Commons
Wikipedia Commons

Next Wednesday marks the 75th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Memorial events are taking place all week, involving a number of organizations. We get more on that part of the story from Pacific Business News Editor in Chief A. Kam Napier.