Pearl Harbor’s beauty, tragedy inseparable

By Linda Emley

When we hear someone talking about Hawaii, we think of sunny beaches, hula girls and surf boards. I don’t know of anyone that has ever gone to Hawaii on vacation and not wanted to go back again.
When my family went to Hawaii, all my boys talked about was going to see the Arizona and Schofield Barracks. Everyone knew about the Arizona and Pearl Harbor, but I had to be educated on why Schofield Barracks was important.
The 1953 movie, “From Here to Eternity” was set in and around Schofield Barracks. But my boys had never seen this movie.
The 1987 “Tour of Duty” TV series was also based on life around Schofield Barracks, but we first visited Hawaii a few years before 1987.
Schofield Barracks has been the home of the Army’s Tropic Lightning 25th Infantry Division since 1941. After the Japanese attacked, the boys of  Tropic Lightng defended Honolulu by manning the beaches.
On Nov. 25, 1942, they went on to Guadalcanal to relieve the Marines at Henderson Field. There is a big white arch that stands near the road that runs by this Army base. On the arch in black letters are the words “Schofield Barracks.” We stopped and I took a picture of my boys and my dad standing under the archway. It took awhile, but I finally understood that Schofield Barracks was an important part of our history.
For many years, Pearl Harbor survivors returned each December for a reunion. Japanese survivors joined the reunion and men from both sides found some peace when they realized they were all just men fighting for their countries. I wondered how many Japanese pilots survived Pearl Harbor and then I found out that Kamikaze pilots were not used Dec. 7 in 1941. This practice was not used in the war until 1944.
There was one Harvard-trained Japanese General who warned Prime Minister Fumimaro Konoe against attacking Pearl Harbor. When the leader of Japan asked for his opinion, Isoroku Yamamoto said, “If ordered to fight, I shall run wild considerably for the first six months or a year but I have utterly no confidence for the second and third years.”
He was the commander-in-chief of the Japanese Fleet that attacked Pearl Harbor and Midway. He knew that it would take the U.S a few months to recover, but the victory would be short lived because Japan would lose in the long run. He died April 18, 1943 when his aircraft was shot down by a U.S. fighter plane, so he did not get to see his prophesy come true.
In 1941, battleships were anchored in the middle of Pearl Harbor and sailors would ride a small boat to and from the shore. These boats were nicknamed “liberty boats” because for a short period of time you had a little liberty. When the bombs started dropping around Pearl Harbor, one 19-year-old sailor was in a small liberty boat heading for shore to pick up the captain of his ship. He and his captain made it back to their ship and soon they were deployed to the open sea.
Their ship was one of the lucky ones that survived. This sounds like a scene out of a Hollywood movie, but it was very real. We could not begin to imagine how this sailor felt as he rode in this tiny boat while bombs were dropping all around him.
Like many other survivors, he did not talk much about his life during World War II. This young man survived the war and then spent many years taking care of people in Richmond. He was our local DX dealer, Jack Masters.
One of the best locations to view Pearl Harbor is from the National Cemetery that is located on the hill overlooking the bay. It is an extinct volcanic crater known as the “Punchbowl.”
Among the first to be buried herewhere 776 men who died Dec. 7, 1941. I know it may sound strange, but this final resting place is almost too beautiful to be a cemetery. It is one of the most peaceful places I have ever visited and the view of the city and harbor below is truly breathtaking. As I stood there, I tried to imagine what it would have looked like below Dec. 7.
I could not see anything but the beauty of it all, until I saw the small white Arizona memorial sitting in the middle of the bay. Then I was reminded of the words that became famous in 1941 – Remember Pearl Harbor!

Have a war story to share? You can write Linda at or see her at Ray County Museum.

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