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Americans should pause to remember Dec. 7, 1941

Posted: December 6, 2017 - 1:03am
Ray Willis with son Kent in Hawaii in 1964.
Ray Willis with son Kent in Hawaii in 1964.

Hopefully, a good percentage of my readers will remember Dec. 7, 1941, as National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.

When one does remember this day I would imagine you picture in your mind numerous Japanese planes with the prominent red ball on the wings diving and strafing the United States naval fleet based at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Perhaps, many of you have visited the monument to the USS Arizona, a ship still rusting away and bodies still below, where it was sunk 76 years ago.

While stationed and living and attending school on Oahu I had occasion to visit Pearl Harbor on several occasions.

Whenever our ship would head out to the north Pacific for a three-month patrol on Ocean Station Victor, we would cruise slowly from our base at Sand Island in Honolulu Harbor to Pearl Harbor to take on some equipment and to fuel up for the first part of our voyage.

I was always in awe whenever the Coast Guard Cutter Bering Strait, my ship, would sail over to Pearl.

World War II was an event that had always awed me, so I was always well aware of where I was while at Pearl.

Once we moored for over a week at Pearl to have our World War II-era ship refitted with some new equipment or gear.

The ship itself was a leftover 311-foot Navy sea plane tender the Coast Guard had converted to an ocean weather station vessel, equipped to do that job.

It was a well-know fact in those days I served in the Coast Guard that most all of our equipment, including most of our ships, were handed-down Navy equipment.

The average Coast Guard ship in the '60s was already 20 years old.

Sometimes, some of us would question the safety or seaworthiness of some of the ships.

I remember standing on the main deck of the Cutter Matagorda, another 311-footer, watching a seaman drop his large screw driver right through the metal main deck onto the deck below. Scary!

After I married my first wife, who was of Japanese heritage, we lived in Wahiawa, her hometown, some 25 miles north of Honolulu.

From most positions in Wahiawa, Kolekole Pass was visible.

It was through this pass in the green-covered mountains where the Japanese planes flew, out of sight of most onlookers as they flew at low altitudes after passing through the pass, hidden from view.

It was early on a peaceful Sunday morning. As the enemy planes flew over Wahiawa, Waianae, Aiea and Pearl City they strafed the yards of several of the local Oahuan families.

One of my wife's uncles was killed in the strafings.

Japanese families living in Hawaii at the time of the attack were put in precarious positions, and many innocent people were herded off to Japanese-American internment camps .

My Japanese family was not affected by this. My father-in-law was able to keep his job, although he could not enter the military.

His brother, Iwao, enlisted and served in the famed 442nd Army infantry that performed so many heroic acts while serving in Europe.

Then, Sen. Daniel Inouye was an officer in the 442nd and was wounded. He came home a hero, without one of his arms.

Even though so many local Japanese entered the U.S. military, their families were still looked upon as potential spies .

It must have been very difficult for both my wife's parents, as her mother's family were from Hiroshima, and her father's from Nagasaki.

On one of my trips to Japan I did visit with my distant family of in-laws in Hiroshima.

We treated each other with kindness and respect; it is a time I'll never forget.

Some of the family members who had gathered for the occasion knew a little English, while I knew very little Japanese. (I had taken a conversational Japanese introduction class.)

We spoke of family to a small degree, viewed some of each others photos; and I was treated to some sake, a drink made from fermented rice.

The war had been over for about 15 years when I first traveled to Hawaii.

I loved my Japanese-American friends and family. I lived in Hawaii when it was literally a melting pot of all different nationalities and color. When I attended the University of Hawaii for a short time, I was in my glory.

The last house I lived in was surrounded by families of Hawaii, Japanese, Filipino and Chinese descent.

We all got along so well and seemed to love one another.

Some of you who are interested in the Japanese involvement in the war may have had occasion to watch some movies of the war made by Japanese filmmakers or a collaboration of American and Japanese filmmakers.

I have found them to be outstanding. Among them Sanga-Ari, Tora, Tora, Tora and an outstanding movie follows by Clint Eastwood, Letters from Iwo Jima.

I hope you have time to reflect on that day, so long ago, when our nation was attacked, and America entered into the worst war of all time.

God bless you.

 

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