My friend Dan Cheatham was born in 1936 on the island of Kauai in what was then the Territory of Hawaii. Although he was a small child on 7 December 1941, he has distinct memories of the attack on Pearl Harbor on neighboring Oahu. Dan was kind enough to share some recollections of this day seventy years ago.
It is hard to believe that 70 years ago today I was sitting down to our usual Sunday morning waffle breakfast, at the end of the row of plantation houses on the road leading from Lihue to Nawiliwili harbor. (Hacha, our three-lagged dog, always got the first waffle.)
On sundays, radio station KGMB, Honolulu, would act as the net control station and link together the mini 500 watt local radio stations – you know, the ones with the tall transmission towers – on the outer islands into something called the All-Islands Radio Network. We would then get local, outer-island, small town news: “The round-the-island county road was extended another 50 yards this week … Plantation Manager Jones hosted his cousins from Connecticut … Hawaiian Airlines open its new airfield at Port Allen … ” or whatever, island by island.
But on this this day, commentator Webly Edwards was saying, “Attention. This is no exercise. The Japanese are attacking Pearl Harbor!….All Army, Navy and Marine personnel to report to duty”.
It meant nothing to me, at age five, but it did to my parents.
On New Year’s Eve a Japanese submarine surfaced at the entrance to Nawiliwili and shelled the port. A shell went through a large gasoline storage tank and bounced back from the adjacent cliff and did not explode. On my last visit the tank was still there. I wonder if the shell is still in there.
We were located right next to the water tower at the railroad cut for the trains taking the harvested cane to the mill. Later, when they stationed a fighter squadron at Port Allen, the planes would buzz the water tower on their way back to the landing strip. Conversation stopped and it sounded as if they were taxiing up our shingled roof.
The Japanese community was long ago integrated into the local community – including my classmates. I am aware of no hostilities toward that community. They were one of “us”, compared to the treatment they received from Coast Haoles on the mainland … internment camps, et cetera.
It is a long story but this Aloha attitude was the origin of the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the nation’s most highly decorated military unit, and the Military Intelligence Service – translators who served in the Pacific Theater.
The phrase, “Go for broke” was well integrated into our Pidgin English and went on to become famous as the motto of the 442nd.
Our house is gone. The railroad cut is filled in, or maybe it is the basement of the big store.
It is now fun for me to say that I was born in the parking lot of an Ace Hardware store.
Norden H. “Dan” Cheatham
Walnut Creek, California