Wednesday, December 9, 2020

The Attack On December 7th Also Hit Civilians

Dec 7th Japanese Planes Strafed Civilians

A few days ago, I entered into a conversation with some friends regarding the December 7th, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor. As I told my friends, being from Hawaii, I was raised hearing many stories from my relatives who were there on December 7th, 1941. 

My mom and I were talking about Pearl Harbor the other day. She was a little girl of eight just walking to church with my grandmother that morning when the planes came over. The civilian population was hit on that day. Frankly, most don't know that the population was both terrified and angry. And civilians were indeed strafed and bombed in an attempt to instill terror on the public. This was part of why everyone expected an invasion by Japanese troops after the main attack on the Navy and Army installations on Oahu.

My mom said she never cried so hard or was so scared until that day. My family lived on Oahu and was less than 4 miles from Pearl Harbor's base gate during the attack. While it must have been scary for all, it must have been especially frightening for a little kid. As for my grandmother, she said she only thought about getting home and to safety. My grandmother worked at the Naval Supply Center at Pearl Harbor starting in 1942 as a clerk typist. She said that all through the war, there was a sense of people working together -- of everyone doing their part.

My grandfather often talked about how the soldiers at Schofield Barracks didn't have enough rifles and ammunition to go around during the attack. All of the military cutbacks during the Great Depression meant that our soldiers were not prepared to defend Hawaii. Many people do not realize that when we entered World War II, America's military ranked 17th in the world. Yes, those were the days when our military trained with wooden rifles. 

The attack on Pearl Harbor took place at 7:55am that Sunday morning. The attack lasted for an hour and 15 minutes. By 10:00am, Territorial Governor Joseph B. Poindexter created The Hawaii Territorial Guard. On December 7th, 1941, during the attack on Pearl Harbor, the territorial government of Hawaii was already organizing and ordering the mobilization of a Home Guard. 

Some don't know that during the bombing when Japanese planes were still in Hawaii's skies when the public was alerted. And by 11:00am that morning, a call when out to the population in Hawaii for civilian help to form what became known as the Hawaii Territorial Guard, also known as the Home Guard. 

Here's something some don't know, it was at 11:00am on December 7th that all members of the American Legion were also called to duty via constant radio broadcasts. Their activation instantly added more than four hundred combat-experienced members to the ranks of the Home Guard. Before the month was out, Hawaii's Home Guard saw membership of about 100 officers and over a thousand enlisted men. All veterans recalled to service.

The Hawaii Territorial Guard served strictly as a replacement for the National Guard because the National Guard of Hawaii was commissioned and made part of the federal government for the duration of the war. The Territorial Guard was the only military force available to the Territorial Governor during the war. In reality, he held the rank of Captain-General because the Hawaii Territorial Guard only answered to the governor.

The Hawaii Territory Guard -- The Home Guard with Springfield Rifles 1943

According to an uncle of mine, when some of those there tried to join the Army or Navy that next day after the attack, they were told that men were needed for duty with the Home Guard -- at least at first. 

Supposedly, he and others who owned a firearm, handguns or hunting rifles and shotguns, were told to show up with their weapons. It was later during the war that members of the Hawaii Territorial Guard would be issued M1903 Springfield rifles. Before that, they used whatever arms they could muster to use for duty. 

We forget that the Territory of Hawaii was placed under martial law as soon as the attack took place. Volunteers for the Home Guard assembled at the public parks and were organized by the Army. They were used to supplement the military while all there waited for the invasion that never came. Besides preparing for an invasion force to hit after the attack took place, the Home Guard also stood guard against a potential paratrooper assault. 

After the immediate threat had passed, they were assigned to guard key buildings and infrastructure against sabotage. My grandfather told me that as a member of the Home Guard, he was used to relieving the servicemen from doing mundane duties like the security of the docks and shore watch. They did not disband until two years after the war was over. 

My grandfather and dad, and uncles were all part of the Home Guard. In the case of my grandfather, he was a Merchant Marine seaman since the late 1920s. He would leave the Home Guard and return to the sea. When Merchant Marines were asked to stay put during the war, he had two ships sunk from under him. Many people don't know that America lost more Merchant Marine seamen than we did Navy sailors. The reason for that is that our merchant ships were the primary targets, not their Navy escort ships.

As for my dad, like others, he tried to join the Army the day after the attack. While he was referred to the Home Guard, where men were needed, he also worked at Pearl Harbor during the war. The fact is my dad was 4F because of a condition that he had since he was 3-years-old. The story goes that his condition didn't stop him from going with his friends to enlist. But while he was in line, an officer who knew my dad asked him if he wanted to do his part for the war effort. 

My dad told him that he did, and it was then that the officer took my dad to Pearl Harbor. That officer got the shipyard to take him on right then and there as a welder. It was "on the job training." My dad told me how that officer told him that he could be just as important as carrying a rifle. 

My dad used to tell me about how everyone worked to resurrect the fleet. It took everyone and not just the military to do that. My dad worked at Pearl Harbor well past the duration of the war, all while serving with the Home Guard. My dad's last job for the military was welding re-bar to the front of jeeps after the war. 

Since it was common for American troops to drive with their jeep windshields down, the re-bar welded to the front bumper was used to break any wires that the Japanese may have strung across their roads in Japan. They did that intending to cut the heads off of our troops who were stationed there during the occupation after the war. 

My dad once told me how the dire straits and hardships of the Great Depression made Americans more than willing to get to work and do whatever was needed for the war effort. But their motivation was more than just having jobs again. After years of tough times, years of mental anguish and depression, years of uncertainty and despair, Americans saw they were needed, and they're being needed lifted their spirits. That in itself made them want to make the sacrifices, to go without so the troops would have what they needed, to be a part of the team. 

My dad said he learned a lot during the war years. He found that people were more resourceful and willing to pitch in. For him, he saw his welding as an important factor in keeping ships in action. He learned that doing even the smallest job could help save lives. The war effort taught him that doing what might seem meaningless or seemingly minor can be extremely important in the bigger scheme of things.

It was something my dad never forgot. 

Tom Correa 

Dec 7th fire started by incendiary bombs dropped on Lunalilo School

Dec 7th Attack on Civilians in Honolulu

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