Doper Pearl Harbor Stories

I know I’m 3 days late. Sixty-eight years & 3 days ago the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. It’s rather long ago for a “Where were you when thread”, but we do have some Dopers old enough to remember Pearl Harbor. The rest of us have probally been stories stold by older relatives who were alive then. What are yours? Do we have any Dopers who actually witnessed Pearl Harbor first-hand? Or had relatives who were there?

I only remember bits & pieces of what my grandmother told me. Her high school had an assembly on the 8th to listen to President Roosevelt ask Congress for a declaration of war on the radio. She told me that after his speech most of the senior boys “walked right out of school” down the the recruiting office. During the War itself they got visits from recruiters from the new women’s services (WACs, WAVES, etc) and Nurse Corps, but not the alot for the boys (presumably the draft board handled that). Everyone also had to take a “Victory Garden class” and the girls all had to learn first aid with the boys basically serving as practice dummies. Oh and air raid drills. In rural Pennsylvania. When she got older she worked in a munitions factory. My grandfather joined the Navy and served in the Pacific.

My great-uncle (or was he a great-great-uncle?) was Captain Thomas Leroy Kirkpatrick, chaplain on USS Arizona.

He died two days later.

I missed the edit window. If anyone has stories from the Japanese side I’d really be interested to hear those to (any Axis stories really). Ditto for the British Empire/Commonwealth. One of the side affects of the US entering the war was the UK declaring was on Japan (& vice versa) and her colonies and dominions (like Hong Kong & Australia) coming under threat.

I’ve really only heard bits and pieces of it from my dad and aunt, but my aunt, uncle and paternal grandmother and grandfather were in transit to visit Japan on an ocean liner when Pearl Harbor was bombed. They were, of course of Japanese heritage, and my aunt and uncle were natural born American citizens (as was my dad). I am under the impression that they may have been moving to Japan because of prejudicial difficulties here stateside, but I really am unclear. Unfortunately both my aunt and my dad have passed away recently, so that information is lost in the sands of time.

So, my dad was left here all by his lonesome, attending UCLA for his master’s degree when lo and behold, Japan fucking bombs Pearl Harbor! He gets his ass hauled out of UCLA and is dragged out to Manzanar (a camp in the eastern Sierras) for 3 years.

So my dad’s family arrives in Japan and finds out upon arrival that they there’s a friggin’ war going on. Bummer!

My dad never heard from his family the entire time until after the war. My uncle and my grandfather died under mysterious circumstances in Japan during the war. I suspect they probably died of starvation and/or disease as they were probably held in contempt by the Japanese people. Kind of damned if you do and damned if you don’t. By the way, the movie Grave of the Fireflies really tore me up.

I was talking to my aunt on my mom’s side and she said they got hauled off to Tule Lake, a camp in NorCal. My mom’s family was moderately well off and had a laundry up in San Mateo. Rumor has it that they made most of their wealth during prohibition making bathtub sake. They pretty much lost their business and most of their material possessions when they were interned. I believe that many of my mom’s siblings were able to avoid internment camp by working as essentially indentured servants in states such as Utah and Georgia.

My dad was super proud of the fact that the high school chemistry class that he taught at Manzanar was certified by the state of California.

I’ll ask my aunt more about it over Christmas.

My eldest uncle was a Marine stationed in Hawaii and manned an antiaircraft gun during the battle. He may have shot down a Zero, but there were a lot of other people shooting at it as well.

My father was listening to a football game when he heard the bulletin. The next day, he and his two best buddies went down to enlist (I have a photo of the three of them outside the recruiting office.) My father was rejected, so he married my mother 6 weeks later. Nine months after that, he was drafted. By then, my mother was pregnant with my older sister.

Darryl, my wife’s family was interned at Amache, in Colorado. I think there might have been some sort of program where people in internment camps would be released if someone sponsored them. After the war, my father-in-law was sponsored by a church in Cleveland. The whole family moved there, and he apprenticed as a carpenter. I know another Japanese-American family that ended up in St. Louis through a similar sponsorship.

So was my father-in-law, who was 10 years old at the time. It was an Eagles-Redskins game played in Washington, and people started wondering why higher-ups in the military, who were attending the game, kept getting paged at the stadium.

Forget where I was reading it, but it was something about recruiting these totally untrained Japanese men (possibly farmers) and telling them about how they were going to do their duty to their country and all that. Everyone knew that they were being sent on a suicide mission. The way the account made it sound was that the guys on the ground level (fig speaking) weren’t caught up in the war machine of the government and just miserable.

Maybe this was in a J history book I was reading at school-- I’ll see if I can find it and get better details.

My paternal grandfather and his brother went down and volunteered immediately after hearing the radio message. They were first generation and spoke Italian fluently, but the army had no problem sending them to European theatre-- they even fought in Italy. Grandpa was part of the invasion of Sicily. At one point he was put in charge of a bunch of POWs since he spoke Italian. According to him they got some assistance with scouting and supplies from the Mafia in Sicily*, and he got to meet his grandparents for the first time while he was over there.

More specific to Pearl Harbor, a good friend of mine’s grandfather died on the Arizona.
*My family was, in general, all mobbed up back in the day. My great grandfather worked for Vito Genovese’s bootlegging operation in the '20’s.

My mother and her family were up in 'Alewa Heights on Oahu when Pearl Harbor was bombed[See map.]. Being on the mountainside, all they saw was smoke. Since soon after, all the roads were blocked, no one knew for sure what was happening. There was no TV and few people had radios. They only found out what happened after a military jeep drove up just to check to see if there was any damage. There was a general blackout. People tend to forget that the planes attacked more than just Pearl Harbor. The only other thing she remembered was there was a dearth of food for a while(no fresh bread, milk, etc) and then there was a flood of canned food available(spam, tuna, corned beef, Vienna sausage, sardines. deviled ham, Campbell’s soup, pork and beans).

Dec. 7th hardly ever comes around without my Mom mentioning a boy who had been her neighbor in rural Georgia when she was a girl. Hiram Dennis Harris died on the USS Arizona.

But what my Mom remembers best about hearing the news of the attack on Pearl Harbor was hearing her older brother cursing the Japanese. I think she learned some new words that day.

Dad and his siblings grew up in an orphanage; their father had taken ill and their mother didn’t really want anything to do with them. My uncle was old enough to have left the orphanage by then and I’m pretty sure he signed up before the year was out. Dad waited awhile then lied about his age and followed his brother into the Navy.

Mom was working in a Honolulu library in '43; that’s where they met during one of the times Dad’s ship, DE-184 Wesson, was docked in Pearl.

Missed the edit window. Wesson wasn’t in Pearl until '44.