December 21, 2012

Thanks for publishing Elizabeth McIntosh’s first-person chronicle of the bombing of Pearl Harbor [“The Pearl Harbor story no one ever read,” Outlook, Dec. 9].

It is a powerful account. However, one ambiguity must be clarified.

McIntosh describes scenes of destruction in civilian Honolulu: “Bombs were still dropping over the city as ambulances screamed off into the heart of the destruction. The drivers were blood-sodden when they returned, with stories of streets ripped up, houses burned, twisted shrapnel and charred bodies of children.”

Readers would assume from this paragraph that Japanese planes had ruthlessly bombed the city. However, Honolulu was actually damaged by “friendly fire.” As reported in a 2007 Associated Press article that featured an interview with Sen. Daniel Inouye, who died this week, and others:

“Japanese planes did not bomb residential neighborhoods, but misfired U.S. anti-aircraft shells fell on homes and businesses,” the AP reported. “Mr. Inouye said about a half-dozen storekeepers were killed when their shops were hit.”

Official figures list 48 civilians, plus three firefighters and four federal employees, who died from the attack, mostly in Honolulu.

It is understandable that errors were made in the panic following the assault. And the number of civilian deaths was minuscule compared to the military losses. However, it’s important to set the record straight about who was responsible.

Helen Gilbert, Seattle