Today is the 71st anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. A day when more than 3,500 Americans were killed or wounded and the U.S. naval fleet was almost completely destroyed. It was a devastating day in our history and the event that officially drew America into WWII.
Just before 8 on the morning of December 7, 1941, hundreds of Japanese fighter planes attacked the American naval base at Pearl Harbor near Honolulu, Hawaii. The barrage lasted just two hours, but it was devastating: The Japanese managed to destroy nearly 20 American naval vessels, including eight enormous battleships, and almost 200 airplanes. More than 2,000 Americans soldiers and sailors died in the attack, and another 1,000 were wounded. The day after the assault, President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on Japan; Congress approved his declaration with just one dissenting vote. Three days later, Japanese allies Germany and Italy also declared war on the United States, and again Congress reciprocated. More than two years into the conflict, America had finally joined World War II.
Elizabeth McIntosh, a reporter for the Honolulu Star Bulletin, wrote an account of what she witnessed that day and the days that followed. But, her story was deemed too graphic for publication. Over 70 years later, McIntosh’s story has been published. It’s extraordinary.
From The Seattle Times,
On Dec. 7, 1941, when Japanese planes attacked Pearl Harbor, I was working as a reporter for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. After a week of war, I wrote a story directed at Hawaii’s women; I thought it would be useful for them to know what I had seen. It might help prepare them for what lay ahead. But my editors thought the graphic content would be too upsetting for readers and decided not to run my article. It appears here for the first time:
For seven ghastly, confused days, we have been at war. To the women of Hawaii, it has meant a total disruption of home life, a sudden acclimation to blackout nights, terrifying rumors, fear of the unknown as planes drone overhead and lorries shriek through the streets.
The seven days may stretch to seven years, and the women of Hawaii will have to accept a new routine of living. It is time, now, after the initial confusion and terror have subsided, to sum up the events of the past week, to make plans for the future.
It would be well, perhaps, to review the events of the past seven days and not minimize the horror, to better prepare for what may come again.
I have a story to tell, as a reporter, that I think the women of Hawaii should hear. I tell it because I think it may help other women in the struggle, so they will not take the past events lightly.
I reported for work immediately on Sunday morning when the first news — Oahu is being attacked — crackled over the radio, sandwiched in a church program.
Like the rest of Hawaii, I refused to believe it. All along the sunny road to town were people just coming out of church, dogs lazy in the driveways, mynas in noisy convention.
Then, from the neighborhood called Punchbowl, I saw a formation of black planes diving straight into the ocean off Pearl Harbor. The blue sky was punctured with anti-aircraft smoke puffs. Suddenly, there was a sharp whistling sound, almost over my shoulder, and below, down on School Street. I saw a rooftop fly into the air like a pasteboard movie set.
For the first time, I felt that numb terror that all of London has known for months. It is the terror of not being able to do anything but fall on your stomach and hope the bomb won’t land on you. It’s the helplessness and terror of sudden visions of a ripping sensation in your back, shrapnel coursing through your chest, total blackness, maybe death.
The vision of death became reality when I was assigned to cover the emergency room of the hospital.
The first victims of the Japanese-American war were brought there on that bright Sunday morning.
Bombs were still dropping over the city as ambulances screamed off into the heart of the destruction. The drivers were blood-sodden when they returned, with stories of streets ripped up, houses burned, twisted shrapnel and charred bodies of children.
In the morgue, the bodies were laid on slabs in the grotesque positions in which they had died. Fear contorted their faces. Their clothes were blue-black from incendiary bombs. One little girl in a red sweater, barefoot, still clutched a piece of jump-rope in her hand.
Read the rest of Elizabeth McIntosh’s story here.
God bless the brave Americans who sacrificed so much to protect our country. And those who continue to do so today.