Today was the day; I was leaving for Hawaii at twenty-five years old. I had just enlisted into the Navy and was being transferred from my home in Montana to Pearl Harbor. The Navy commander assigned me to the battleship, Arizona, along with the many others who had joined. In my bedroom, I gathered my blue Navy uniform, which was folded perfectly, along with my personal belongings into a red duffel bag, which I use for all my travels. While getting ready, my hands were shaking uncontrollably as the butterflies swirled in my stomach in anticipation of what lie ahead, as I was extremely nervous.
After packing, I walked to the train station about a mile away, which would take me to California and then I would board a boat to Hawaii. When I arrived at the station, a little old lady by the name of Linda gave me my train tickets. She smiled at me like it was the last time I would ever see her. When I entered the train, it smelled very musty and old. It had little compartments with beds, tables, and desks. I went to a little compartment and dropped off my bag and went in search of the restaurant to get a bite to eat. I bought a slice of pepperoni pizza with a large Coke. It was magnificent! I wasn’t sure what kind of food I would get once I got to Hawaii so I savored every mouthful. After dinner, I went to my compartment and lay down on the undisturbed bed. I was soon fast asleep dreaming of my adventure yet to come.
I awoke the next day with the sun streaming through the window, warming up the new day that was to come. Since there wasn’t really anything to do and I couldn’t concentrate, I paced back and forth from one end of the room, which wasn’t a very big space, because I was so nervous. Then suddenly there was a jolt from the train and I was knocked off my feet and onto the floor. I looked outside and saw we were at the California train station. Finally! I walked out of the train both with excitement and apprehension, down the steps and into the sunny, warm afternoon ready to continue my journey. The station was really close to the ferries, so I hopped on one that was red and blue with two decks and began sailing the ocean blue on my way to Hawaii. The water was a nice clear blue with not many waves so it was easy to see fish that were near the surface. I got there with ease after what seemed like an eternity and walked onto the sandy beaches to Pearl Harbor, which was about a fifteen minute walk.
When I came upon the harbor, I was amazed as the eight giant battleships that were just sitting like ducks in the harbor waters. There were various other small boats and ships, as well. I went to the command center and was debriefed on the rules and regulations of the harbor and was guided to my battleship. When I got to my battleship, the Arizona, my jaw dropped as I was amazed at the beauty and size of this ship. This battleship had to weigh at least 10 tons. As I walked up the steep and narrow steps, toward the deck of the ship, my heart was beating faster and faster. People were scattered about doing various jobs around the boat. The Captain of the ship showed me to my assigned cabin and I unpacked my things and put them in the dressers that were in my room. I was assigned to be a cook on the ship and provide all the meals on a daily basis.
Time has since passed, as I have been on the ship for a week since my arrival and have been enjoying every minute of it. However, the late cooking shift has made me very tired and it is difficult to get going the next day. I met a guy named, Greg Jones, and we have become very close friends. He is a farmer, from Kansas, who wanted a new job and to start a new life. He is very muscular with very large ears, which tend to stick out like a sore thumb. Greg is a very trustworthy person and takes his job very seriously, so at times it is hard to have fun with him.
It was the night of December 6, 1941 and I was just finishing my cooking duties and would be able to turn in for some much needed sleep. I washed the dishes and cleaned the tables, then went to my room to sleep for the night. I put my blue pajamas on and climbed into my bed. As soon as my head hit the pillow, I was fast asleep renewing myself with energy for the next day.
It was December 7, 1941 and it was 7:53 in the morning and I was awakened by a large crash and a rattle of the boat. I rushed out of my bed, got dressed and ran out onto the deck to see what was happening. When I got on deck, the scene horrified me. In the air flying overhead were Japanese fighter planes and they were dropping bombs out of their planes and onto the battleships in the harbor. Many people on ship’s deck were screaming and running all over because the board had been hit by several bombs. I was scared out of my mind. I looked around into the harbor and saw other ships on fire and people just as scared as me jumping overboard into the clear blue water of the harbor. I truly didn’t know what to do for the first time in my life and the fear started to consume me as I just stood frozen.
More and more Japanese planes were whizzing through the air with every passing second, dropping hot firing bombs down on the battleships below. Our ship was hit with a flurry of bombs in a matter of seconds. Large splinters of wood flew through the air as well as several people. Fires erupted onto the boat and I felt the boat was starting to sink. In a matter of minutes, the clear blue water from the harbor rushed on the deck of the ship. I was panicking as the sound of death was hitting me and I was so young. The thought of death had never entered my mind before, but it was becoming a reality for me. At that moment, I made up my mind and knew what I had to do. I got a running head start and leaped from the deck of the boat and dived into the water of Pearl Harbor.
When the water hit me, I felt coolness against my body. I swam to the surface and gazed around me. The Arizona was sinking into the depths of the harbor, boats were on fire with people jumping overboard and over 200 Japanese planes were flying over head. I thought to myself what a disaster, as I swam to the shoreline and looked again into the harbor waters. I saw three other ships starting to sink down to the ocean floor and I knew I had to get out of the open, so I wouldn’t get hit. I ran across the beach into the dense forests of Hawaii and hid there until the raid was done. Once I didn’t hear any more planes overhead, I stepped out into the open and started to walk back cautiously to the harbor. While walking, I noticed a thick dense smoke covering the sky making it look very gray and dirty. I knew that the aftermath was going to be horrific, but nothing prepared for what I was about to see.
When I finally cleared the forest and looked into the harbor, I saw four battleships almost completely submerged and hundreds of dead bodies floating in the water. It was a frightening scene. I saw survivors that were gathered together in a circle praying. I joined them and started to pray. Many of us just wanted to get home to our families and let them know that we were alive. The scene was too devastating and many of us were in no frame of mind to help with the cleanup. Once help arrived, the survivors were shuttled back to California and away from the dreadful scene.
Once I got back to California, I read the next day’s newspaper. On the front page there was of picture of a sinking battleship and the caption underneath read, “At 7:53 on December 7, 1941 Japanese planes attacked Pearl Harbor. They damaged eight battleships, sinking four of them. Many people on the ships didn’t have much time to react to the situation so they died on the ships. Others died while trying to save themselves by jumping off the boats into the harbor waters. The total casualties were over 2,000 Americans dead and many hundreds wounded. This day will always be remembered in American history.” After reading the article, I sat down on a bench and started to cry. I thought about all those innocent people that died trying to protect their country, many of whom were my friends. A great deal of anger welled up inside me at the Japanese of why they would do this. Did they dislike us this badly? What did we do to them that could have made them do this? I may never know the true reason behind the attack, but that day at Pearl Harbor will be always cemented into my brain until the day I die.