History 411: Ghosts of Pearl Harbor


The Day that will live in infamy.

On this date, in 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. We’re familiar with the story. It was a tragic day not only for America, but for Hawaii as well. Many people lost their lives that day. Many people still live with the ghosts of that day.

During a genealogy project, I read an experience my great grandfather shared. He was a paniolo, a cowboy, for Princeville Ranch on the island of Kauai. On the day of the attack, he was in the process of moving his family from that side of the island to their new home on the other side. The family, with most of their stuff, moved the day before, December 6th. The next my great grandfather went back forl the rest of it. As he packed up what was left, his old boss had just instructed his old co-workers to till the fields. The first waves of the attack had just happened and they didn’t want the Japanese to land.

Kauai was not directly involved, but to hear accounts of what else took place on that day is just … mind blowing. And a little eerie. But to think that stories like this are floating around. My grandmother was only two years old so she doesn’t remember that day, but she remembers some of the Japanese camps (not concentration types, just getting anyone of Japanese ancestry into one place). A fellow genealogist shared with me that she read a story of Chinese man having to wear a yellow pin that said “I am Chinese” that was issued to him so he didn’t get arrested.

As haunting as some of these stories are, they are history. They are a part of the day that lives in infamy. They are the ghosts of the past. They serve as a reminder of the lessons we learned that day. Some lessons we are still learning.

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