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Memories of December 7th, 1941

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posted on 2024-06-05, 18:14 authored by Their Finest Hour Project Team

Dec. 7th, 1941. This story is my first-person accounting as a 7-year-old.

Sunday morning was a day out of the typical routine. With fierce independence to cover her false bravado, Mom was trying to light the butane stove. The menu was pancakes. Barefoot, in my shorts, I ran out the back door to play with the family dog, Eric. Dad was sleeping.

"Robert," my mother called, "Come and get it." It was a race to the table, after a quick wash of my hands at the sink. It seemed a long time to sit still while waiting for breakfast. I wanted to get outside to play as soon as possible. I could hear Dad snoring on the other side of the house.

A loud noise interrupted our thoughts. Suddenly, the house began to shake. It sounded like airplanes buzzing around the house. Mom was upset. It's the "Flyboys" from Hickam field, she thought. The same ones that used to come over to party on Friday nights. They would fly low over the house to signal that they would be arriving for cocktails in about an hour.

House buzzing was too much on a Sunday morning. Flying low over our house was easy as we lived in a white house atop a knoll in the northern end of 48,000 acres of sugar cane and pineapple fields.

While she was trying to call the airbase to complain, I ran outside to see many planes flying low. I could see the features of the Japanese pilots.· Some aircraft fired small bursts of machine gun bullets into the cane fields.

Dad awoke. It was too far to run to the bomb shelter he built earlier that year. The Territorial government suggested being prepared for possible enemy attacks. He threw us down on the floor until it was quiet.

The Japanese newspaper boy came to the front screen door to announce in Japanese that the "land of the rising sun (Japan) is attacking." This unusual bold behaviour was developed by listening to his family' wishes. Many of the island Japanese who had immigrated to work in the cane fields were raised in militaristic Japan. They went to government schools and learned to be soldiers.

Philosophically they expected and wanted their homeland to defeat the Western powers that were occupying the Far East with their presence and power.

Arguably, we were the first people to be shot at on December 7th, 1941. Ten minutes later, Pearl Harbour was attacked.

Waialua, Oahu, T.H. plantation was under martial law. Dad was called to the plantation gym and told to bring his 30-30 rifle. This order was issued for the duration of the war. Expect further notice, they said.

December 8th, 1941 - The morning of the 8th, the Army moved into our home. I say home because we still lived there. Family permission was given for their occupancy. Still under Martial Law, my Dad was allowed to return home. To these 18-year-old soldiers, I was like the little brother who they left at home. My Dad made a shoeshine kit. I went out and solicited shines. Sometimes I did the work and other times the soldier did. I was invited to get in the chow line and was furnished a mess kit. Talk about a mess, the main dish was served first with the dessert plopped on top.

A lot happened in the first days. Misao Fugikawa, born in Japan, was 18 years old when hired as a nanny for me. She cared for me for five years when she was sent home to her family in downtown Honolulu, and I never saw her again. It was sudden, it was hard. It upset me.

My Dad said he couldn't afford to feed the family dog. Eric was bequeathed, actually given to the Navy, to be trained for guard duty at Pearl Harbor. He was also recruited as a poster dog with a seaman for a Navy Ad on the mainland.

March 1942 - Life turned upside down. One night, without any notice, my mother and I made a wartime evacuation on the Aquatania, a British liner leased to the U.S. as a troop carrier. We were in a convoy under the command of the Admiralty. It took two weeks to get to San Francisco. I was in life jacket support the whole time. A strong memory was standing by the window next to the deck. I watched a destroyer crash through wave after wave of sea swells and choppy waters. The whole foredeck would be underwater, then bob back so the water line was above the sea.

Upon arriving in San Francisco, we were met by the American Red Cross. As we had left in short notice, I was dressed Hawaiian style shorts and tee shirt. ARC issued me a pink flannel nightgown which I put on right away. I was cold and damp.


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Robert Taylor

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Robert Taylor

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Shared online via the Their Finest Hour project website.

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