December 7, 1941 is just a date to memorize for school children. Baby boomers remember hearing stories from their parents who lived through World War II and may even still have fathers alive who lived through the horror of Pearl Harbor.
The day when Japanese planes attacked a tropical island where Hawaiians lived, sailors waited for assignment, and wives prayed that their sweethearts would remain safe may just be a chapter in history books. However, today a new and vivid report of the events as they happened has been made available.
Today, Dec. 7, 2012, reporter Betty McIntosh’s article about what she wrote frantically on that horrifying day and the days to come has finally been published.
“On Dec. 7, 1941, when Japanese planes attacked Pearl Harbor, I was working as a reporter for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. After a week of war, I wrote a story directed at Hawaii’s women; I thought it would be useful for them to know what I had seen. It might help prepare them for what lay ahead. But my editors thought the graphic content would be too upsetting for readers and decided not to run my article.”
It is very graphic. It is not the movie version of planes bombing warships, rather of life on the island during and after the attack. She speaks of a young girl holding a jump rope, the rope totally burnt but the wooden handle still in her lifeless hand in the makeshift morgue. She talks about never realizing how bright, red rivers of blood could be.
She wrote in a notebook until it was full and then used charred sheets of paper found in a store. “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.”
Betty wrote about Pearl Harbor from a woman’s point of view, of a person living on an island just attacked. She interviewed people and wrote about the women who worked tirelessly even as the attack continued and on the days that followed. There was the nurse who had dropped to the floor in the hospital kitchen as machine gun bullets dotted a neat row of holes directly above her and of another 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.
She wrote in her article, “I have a story to tell, as a reporter, that I think the women of Hawaii should hear. I tell it because I think it may help other women in the struggle, so they will not take the past events lightly.” The full version of her article is available in the Washington Post.
There is a compelling video of an interview with McIntosh in which time melts away. In it she speaks to The Fold’s Brook Silva-Braga about what she remembers from that infamous day and her later work as a wartime spy.She ended her video interview with perhaps the pressing reason for finally seeing this article published. “I happened once and it could happen again.”