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2011-12-07 16:27:37

Pearl Harbor Day

Every year on December 7th, I publish my family story about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. This is my way of keeping Pearl Harbor Day, December 7, 1941, alive in my memory, and hopefully yours as well.

On Sunday, December 7, 1941:

Imagine the terror those there must have felt as they witnessed the Japanese planes attacking our Fleet at Pearl Harbor, and our Air Forces at nearby Hickam Field that Sunday morning, and not knowing exactly what was taking place the Japanese being successful in their first objective, surprise. At first, my dad said he thought it was a drill.

Imagine how unsettling it must have been not knowing if the attack would continue to the general population around our key military installations.

Imagine the terror, not knowing if the attack was a prelude to a full scale invasion of the Hawaiian Islands. The Japanese Army had a very bad reputation and the stories of how they treated prisoners were horrific.

Imagine the terror, if you were a member of the US Military and duty called you to abandon your family and loved ones to get back to your duty station, not knowing what would happen to your family, leaving them to fend for themselves.

Imagine the terror, as friends and relatives of those stationed in the Islands heard the news of the attack. I have a copy of the telegram my dad's parents sent to my mom and dad on December 8. It is faded and frayed, but still readable"Are you OK." An era with little long distance telephone capability, no e-mail, no text messaging no instant communication to ease the anxiety of families and friends who had loved ones in the Hawaiian Islands that day.

I believe I know as well as anyone who was not there, the terror and apprehension, as both my mom and dad and grandparents on my mother's side, my aunts and uncles, were there, and the attack on Pearl Harbor was not only a seminal event in their lives, but in mine as well. I heard their stories many times as a young boy, living in a post WWII Honolulu, right outside of the Main Gate of Pearl Harbor.

For my father's firsthand account of December 7, 1941, as he told the story to Jerry Bruckheimer (Producer of the movie Pearl Harbor) go to and click on "Pearl Story." Both my mom and dad are Pearl Harbor Survivors.

My Dad passed away on January 15, 2005. My mom now lives in a retirement home in San Diego. Their story is an amazing one, like so many stories from that infamous day. Mom and Dad met in Hilo, Hawaii in January of 1941. My Dad was a sailor, a Jewish kid, 23 years old, from Detroit. My mom was a 17 year old local girl (Hawaiian, Portuguese, English, and a little Chinese for good measure some say). Mom and Dad were married on June 28th, 1941 in Honolulu, by a Justice of the Peace. On Sunday Morning, December 7, 1941, they lived in Navy Housing Area 3 (NHA 3) on Ninth Street, a few blocks outside of the Main Gate of Pearl Harbor. My Mother's parents lived in a little shack on "P Road" in an area known as Damon Tract, which is now close to where the Honolulu International Airport is located.

Mom and Dad's survival story of December 7 and the rest of the War is an amazing series of events. They were married for over 64 years, bound together by many things, including their experience from 1941 to 1945, their separations, and all that they endured together, and apart.

On December 7, 1941, young Sailors (E-4 and below) were not allowed overnight Liberty, unless they were married (Bluejacket's Manual defines LIBERTY as permission to be absent from a ship or station for a period up to 48 hours). For this reason, Pop was not aboard ship on that Sunday morning but at home with Mom. Had he been single, he would have been aboard his ship, the USS Medusa, a repair ship (Dad always described it as a Battleship Tender) and he would have been killed as his battle station was the crow's nest, which was completely destroyed in the attack by friendly fire (again, according to Pop). The joke in our family over the years was how by being married, my Mom saved my Dad's life

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was an awakening for the American People. Our Fleet was destroyed, yet we recovered to defeat a formidable enemy. As a young boy, I remember how eerie and unbelievable it was when I learned of pilots who were willing to sacrifice their lives for the emperor, suicide bombers...Kamikazes. The concept seems mild today when we look at the present day suicide bombers.

Growing up in Post War Pearl Harbor and Honolulu:

The story of Pearl Harbor is a vivid part of my life and childhood memories. I was born in Aeia Naval Hospital. As a small boy in the 1950's, my family lived in Navy Housing, Area 1 (NHA 1 was Junior Officer's Quarters. The Duplex and Fourplex structures were made of cinder blocks. NHA 2 and NHA 3 were Enlisted Quarters and were of frame construction shared with the termites). NHA 1 was right outside of the Main Gate of Pearl Harbor.

In 1956, my Dad was a Chief Warrant Officer (W-2) and he was the Special Services Officer for the US Submarine Force Pacific. My sisters and I spent a lot of time on the Sub Base, as living in Hawaii in those days was still sort of like living on a military outpost. Hawaii had not yet obtained statehood and was a US Territory (you had to get "shots" when you traveled there from the "Mainland").

Our Young navy family spent time at the Base Exchange, pools, and other on Base recreational facilities. It cost a dime for a haircut, and a dime to attend the movie on the Sub Base. It is there that I saw the premier of Run Silent, Run Deep starring Burt Lancaster and Clark Gable. I still have the pens they gave away as mementos of the movie.

In the 1950s our living room furniture in our Navy Housing Quarters consisted of a rattan couch, two rattan chairs, two rattan end tables, a small round rattan coffee table with lahala mats covering the hardwood floors. After school and during the summer I would go out to play and stay out for hours, attired in shorts, no shirt and barefoot or at the most, "go-aheads". Back then, you could buy a small bag of dried squid for a nickelling hi mui was also a favorite. Li Chi, mangos, papayas, guavas, star fruit, liliquoi (passion fruit) and coconuts were pretty easy to find growing in different places around the Island.

In 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grades (1956-1958) we lived on Third Street and then Center Drive in NHA 1 and I attended Pearl Harbor Kai Elementary School. Our classrooms were war surplus Quonset huts and we had concrete bomb shelters in our back yards throughout Navy Housing...constant reminders of Sunday, December 7, 1941. To put this in a time contextin the 1950s, WWII and the attack on Pearl Harbor were still recent history and in the memory of most adults. My parents were young adults during the War, and it was a defining event, if not THE defining event of their lives and generation. It was spoken of often over my life in a number of different circles.

In the summer of 1959 we moved from Center Drive in Navy Housing to Foster Village on Salt Lake Blvd, where my parents purchased a home for $20,000. Single wall construction, built on a slab, no garage, no heating system, and on a 99 year ground lease.

Moving required that I change elementary schools. I attended Aliamanu Elementary School in 5th and 6th grades in 1959/60. Aliamanu was right across the street from Salt Lake Crater, which was, back then, a large lake (it seemed large to me back then). Today it is the Honolulu Country Club and Golf Course. As a student at Aliamanu, I was the Captain of the JPOs (Junior Police Officers) and my JPO Advisor, who later in his life was a State Senator, was Jumbo Joe Kuroda. At the end of our street in Foster Village was a sugar cane field acres and acres of sugar cane. The end of the street was not a "cul de sac" but a dead end with a barricade and a ditch. The ditch was easily jumped and was on the edge of the cane fields where I was forbidden to go but went anyway, exploring and spending hours of my youth.

Every year since I left home when I was 19 years old in 1968 to attend the United States Naval Academy, I called my Dad on December 7th, no matter where I happened to be (one year I was deployed in the Western Pacific and in the Philippines), and we talked about Pearl Harbor and where he and mom were that day, and what they were doing. I loved to hear my dad retell the story. I know it made him feel good to tell it.

I will call my mom today and we will "talk story" about December 7, and about pop and about how I would call him and wish him a "Happy Pearl Harbor Day." Happy? Yep, happy to have survived.

What does Pearl Harbor mean to you?

Over the years, different members of our online communities have shared their stories, and we would love to hear yours.

Once again, for a survivor's perspective of what happened on December 7, 1941 (Dictated in 1991 on the 50th Anniversary of the Attack by my Dad to my wife Janie)...go to: and click on "Pearl Story."

Also, go to

Happy Pearl Harbor Day to everyone.


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