Firefighters from the Hickam Air Force Base carried the victims in. The men had a red T marked on their foreheads, mute testimony of the efficiency of first-aiders in giving tetanus shots to ward off lockjaw. The body of a man with a monogrammed shirt, H.A.D., was marked DOA (dead on arrival), trundled off to make room for victims who were still breathing.
There was blood and the fear of death — and death itself — in the emergency room as doctors calmly continued to treat the victims of this new war. Interns were taping up windows to prevent them from crashing into the emergency area as bombs fell and the dead and wounded continued to arrive. I had never known that blood could be so bright red.
Returning to the city, I felt a mounting sense of fear as Honolulu began to realize that more was in the air than an Army alert.
I went to a bombed store on King Street, where I often, in times past, stopped for a Coke at the cool drug counter.
Seven little stores, including my drugstore, had nearly completely burned down. Charred, ripply walls, as high as the first story, alone remained to give any hint of where the store had been. At the smashed soda fountain was a half-eaten chocolate sundae. Scorched bonbons were scattered on the sidewalk. There were odd pieces lying in the wreckage, half-burned Christmas cards, on one, the words “Hark the Herald” still visible. There were twisted bedsprings, half-burned mattresses, cans of food, a child’s blackened bicycle, a lunch box, a green raveled sweater, a Bang-Up comic book, ripped awnings.
I ran out of notepaper and reached down and picked up a charred batch of writing paper, still wet from a fire hose. There was, too, the irony of Christmas tinsel, cellophane, decorations. A burned doll, with moving eyes, singed curls and straw bonnet, like a miniature corpse, lay in the wreckage.
That Sunday after dusk there was the all-night horror of attack in the dark. Sirens shrieking, sharp, crackling police reports and the tension of a city wrapped in fear.
Then, in the nightmare of Monday and Tuesday, there was the struggle to keep normal when planes zoomed overhead and guns cracked out at an unseen enemy. There was blackout and suspicion riding the back of wild rumors:Parachutists in the hills! Poison in your food! Starvation and death were all that was left in a tourist bureau paradise.
I talked with evacuees. From Hickam, a nurse who had dropped to the floor in the hospital kitchen as machine gun bullets dotted a neat row of holes directly above her; from Schofield, a woman who wanted me to send word to her sweetheart “somewhere in Honolulu” that she was still alive; from Pearl Harbor, a nurse who wanted scraps of paper and pencil stubs to give to the boys in the hospital who had last messages they wanted sent home; a little girl named Theda who had a big doll named Nancy and who told me in a quiet voice that “Daddy was killed at Hickam.”
At the ofﬁce there were frantic calls from all sorts of women — housewives, stenographers, debutantes — wanting to know what they could do during the day, when husbands and brothers were away and there was nothing left but to listen to the radio and imagine that all hell had broken out on another part of the island.
It was then that I realized how important women can be in a war-torn world.
There is a job for every woman in Hawaii to do.
I discovered that when I visited the Red Cross centers, canteens, evacuee districts, the motor corps headquarters.
There is great organization in Honolulu, mapped out thoughtfully and competently by women who have had experience in World War I, who have looked ahead and foreseen the carnage of the past seven days and planned.
After her journalism career, Elizabeth P. McIntosh served in the Office of Strategic Services and the Central Intelligence Agency before retiring to Prince William County. She is the author of four books.