Shipyard workers enjoying a day off. Mothers making breakfast for their babies. Children in church pews. Boys playing marbles on the sidewalk in Kaimuki.
The attack on military targets in Hawai'i on Dec. 7 brought unbelievable horrors witnessed by soldiers, airmen, Marines and sailors at military bases and along Battleship Row where the warships of the Pacific Fleet slumbered. But the unexpected appearance of planes overhead and realization they were not taking part in familiar war games marked the beginning of a life changed for every civilian in Hawai'i. As Pearl Harbor survivors, many recall vivid images from that Sunday morning.
Edmond Jones, Levi Moe Faufata Jr., Griffith Conradt, Thomas Unger, and Bill and Ruth Cope are but six who 60 years later look back to that day and remember. Their stories are of pain, loss, irony, anger, despair and love. Their memories are the stories of scores of others bound by the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Edmond Jones had a ringside seat to history. Nursing a hangover from excessive revelry and Primo beer the evening of Dec. 6, the 22-year-old stood on a rural hillside near his home in Kane'ohe the morning after, watching America enter World War II.
The panoramic scene that unfolded before him started with a surrealistic wave of low-flying Japanese fighters streaming toward the naval air station across Kane'ohe Bay. Suddenly, the planes began to fire. "I couldn't believe my eyes," he said.
Later, after he had rushed about sounding a frantic warning to neighbors and family, Jones turned his eyes to the skies above the Ko'olau range and, for one brief moment, witnessed what few others saw that fateful morning an outright American victory.
The scene was a dogfight between a Japanese Zero and a P-40 fighter that ended with the American plane shooting down its target, which nosedived into the ocean beside Mokoli'i (Chinaman's Hat).
It was just the beginning of a "terrible day."
Death struck closer to home when four shipyard riggers were killed in their car on Judd Street en route to Pearl Harbor. The victims were John Adams and his father, Joseph Adams; their uncle, Joseph McCabe; and McCabe's nephew David Kahookele. | See civilians, Page 11
"They were my cousins," said Jones.
"Joe McCabe was Irish Hawaiian. I called him 'Uncle Joe.' He was a good man. So was 'Uncle Joe' Adams," said Jones at his Kane'ohe home. "All four were good men, and they're all buried right down the road."
Initial reports said three civilians were killed when their car was hit by a Japanese bomb, but in fact the four were killed when the car was hit by errant U.S. anti-aircraft fire. A photo of the shell-riddled car victims still inside was taken by Look magazine photographer Patricia Robbins and appeared in hundreds of publications. That photo has become one of the more recognizable shots from the Day of Infamy.
Two months to the day after Dec. 7, Jones was inducted into the Army. He remembers feeling overwhelming anger. He wanted to seek revenge. He served in the 298th Infantry to the war's end, learning on his way to Saipan that the United States had dropped an atomic bomb.
But it is memories of Dec. 7 that have been Jones' constant companion for the past 60 years. He never forgets. He wonders what life might have been like if the attack hadn't happened.
"I've had a very exciting life," said Jones. "But I've learned to get over my anger."
Somehow, talking about it is important. There are lessons to be learned. There are parallels that can be made with the events of Sept. 11, 2001. So he tells his friends, his children he tells anyone who'll listen.
Then he lets them draw their own conclusions.
'I only feel sorrow'
One month before the attack, Levi Moe Faufata Jr. and his family moved into their lower 'Alewa Heights home. When the boy awoke that Sunday, something tremendous was happening outside his bedroom window.
Through the eyes of a 14-year-old, the sight of swooping planes and fiery explosions was nothing short of thrilling. Today, at 74, memories can be so painful for the normally jovial Faufata that he finds himself barely able to speak of them at times.
Faufata, the oldest of five siblings, recalls dashing from the window to the breakfast table for a quick bite of French toast, then back to the window again to watch the "show."
"I thought I had a pretty good view," he said. "I could see planes going over. I didn't know they were Japanese. I thought it was military maneuvers. It was so realistic planes flying low and fire shooting up.
"But then, my dad turned on the radio. That's when we found out. The announcer said, 'This is the real McCoy!'"
A call went out for all Pearl Harbor workers to report for duty immediately. Faufata's father, a Pearl Harbor pipe fitter, sped off in the family car. Faufata's mother busied herself with rounding up emergency supplies. Faufata raced on foot down the road toward Judd Street to get a better view, followed by others from the neighborhood.
"All of us were watching this Japanese plane fly over. And we found out later that Americans were shooting at that plane, and they didn't fuse one of their shells correctly. So instead of bursting in the air, it hit this car and blew up."
As the stunned teenager felt the concussion from the tremendous explosion, he watched the shrapnel-riddled automobile hurtle diagonally across the street and slam violently to a halt. Two of Faufata's uncles, Joseph and Fata Kekahuna, rushed across the street to help the four men inside, three of whom already were dead, one mortally wounded.
Faufata took off for the house when he heard his 12-year-old sister, Matilda, who had been standing at the front door, cry out in pain. Although he didn't realize it, she had been struck in the chest by a shell fragment. He found his sister on the floor near the kitchen when he got inside. His mother came in from outdoors, knelt down and cradled the girl in her arms.
"My sister was dead," he said. "Mom said a prayer."
Less vivid are memories of the confusion and emotions from the rest of that day. He recalls his father's return that evening, and his father's sorrow and anger after learning of his daughter's death. There are memories of the family praying together, and of them spending that night huddled in darkness in the garage.
There followed weeks, months and then years of nightly blackouts, martial law and very regimented living. By the time the war was over, Faufata had joined the Army and was part of the U.S. occupation forces in Japan.
Faufata retuned from Asia in December 1951 with a Japanese bride, and he and Yoko had three children. His career in the military lasted 20 years, 6 months and 16 days. But there would be one other connection to Pearl Harbor, creating a memory that would never go away.
It happened on Aug. 21, 1958, in Middle Loch, 200 yards offshore. Faufata and his two sons, Omar, 6, and Bruce, 4, were fishing in a rowboat. They had fished there before, but on this morning, their boat was struck broadside by a 56-foot Navy landing craft. Neither Faufata nor Omar was injured. But Bruce was killed instantly.
"It's uncanny," said Faufata. He doesn't dwell on the Pearl Harbor connection to the tragic events of his life. Sometime though usually around Dec. 7 the associations, and old emotions, are unavoidable.
"Mainly," he said softly, "I only feel sorrow."
'My dad was never bitter'
Griffith Conradt and a portrait showing how he looked in 1941.
Cory Lum The Honolulu Advertiser
Griffith Conradt's account begins at 7:55 a.m.
"There were four of us eating breakfast my father, Frederick, my mother, Henrietta, my brother, Adrian, and myself. We were living up on Fourth Avenue in Kaimuki, and we could see all the smoke at Pearl Harbor. We had a view from our hill." He was 18.
"Adrian had to leave right away because the Army called all personnel, and my brother was stationed at Schofield Barracks."
By midday, O'ahu was under martial law. Conradt and his folks spent the day indoors, covering windows to comply with blackout orders. His parents, he said, were shaken and talked about the brazen attack on Pearl Harbor.
But for this family, the biggest shock came the next morning, when federal agents and military men with guns arrived to arrest Conradt's father and take him away. For months, the family was allowed no contact with him. No reason ever was given for his arrest, other than that his name was on a list.
Frederick Conradt had been born on Kaua'i, raised in Samoa and had never set foot in Germany. He spoke fluent English and Samoan, but little German. In his early 20s, he moved from Samoa to O'ahu and later started a successful lauhala-mat importing business. But he was of German ancestry. That, apparently, was all it took.
Records would later reveal that 12 days after he was taken into custody, military authorities found no reason to hold him. Nevertheless, he was confined at the Sand Island Detention Center until June 22, 1942.
"My dad was never bitter about what happened to him," said Conradt. "He just said it was too bad, because his business went downhill after that. But my dad always praised everything American. He said this was the best country in the world. He always said the young American soldiers guarding him were very nice."
Griffith Conradt, who had a job as a bank teller, added his income to the family coffers. For two years he also served in the Businessmen's Military Training Corps, guarding vital civilian installations such as radio towers and electrical power stations.
Then, after he was drafted into the Army in 1944, he was sent off to fight Germans. He was lucky and never saw combat. Conradt was in France when the war ended.
Had it not been for Dec. 7, Conradt says, he might have graduated from the University of Hawai'i. Naturally, his father's patriotism would never have been in doubt. There would have been no cloud of suspicion over the household. The family business might have survived.
After the war, Conradt was a mortgage specialist for several Honolulu financial institutions, retiring in 1987 as a senior vice president with First Federal Savings and Loan. He and his wife, Virginia, raised two children.
Like his late father, mother and brother Adrian, Conradt says he has never been bitter. It annoys him, though, that unlike families of Japanese Americans who were rounded up and put in internment camps, his family never received redress from the government.
"A letter of apology would be enough," he said.
(Note: Griffith Conradt died at his home on Nov. 28.)
'A job to do'
Thomas Unger, with a photo of himself at the Sand Island Detention Center, had never seen a corpse until the morning of Dec. 7, 1941.
Cory Lum The Honolulu Advertiser
It has been six decades, and Thomas Unger still marvels at the lingering incongruities.
"There's so much irony," he said, shaking his head as he recalled the events that ushered an 18-year-old, fresh-out-of-high-school football player into a moment that became the world's focal point.
For Unger, who lived across from Honolulu's Roosevelt High School, the day began with unfathomable confusion outside the spectacle of explosions and enemy aircraft overhead, the sudden horror of being attacked by a foreign power.
Unger reacted instinctively.
On the family radio, he heard a Red Cross bulletin requesting volunteers. So he jumped into his Ford Model-A pickup and burned rubber all the way to 'Iolani Palace. There, he hopped aboard a flatbed truck bound for Hickam Field. He helped rescue a wounded soldier from a shelled guardhouse and then began toting water buckets to a makeshift infirmary.
Before that morning. Unger had never seen a corpse. By the time the sun went down, the exhausted youth had spent much of the day hauling bodies to a temporary morgue at Fort Shafter. That night, he slept beneath a military vehicle on the palace grounds.
Within two days, he had been sworn into the Hawai'i Territorial Guard, and after a gruff Army captain spotted the strapping athlete, Unger was assigned to special duty at Sand Island.
Surrounded by high fences and hastily strung barbed wire, he helped establish America's first prisoner-of-war camp since the Civil War. At one point, he stood watch over the nation's first Japanese POW of World War II, Kazuo Sakamaki.
"Ensign Sakamaki was off a two-man mini-submarine captured at Bellows," he said. "The other crewman committed suicide."
Up close, Unger noticed that Sakamaki's face didn't seem nearly as sinister as those of the enemy pilots who had whizzed over the top of the Unger home.
"He just looked like someone who could fit right into the population downtown. He seemed like a nice guy."
Within days, Unger had joined the Army to became part of the military police unit at Sand Island Detention Center. The compound became his home for most of the next year. Unger said he realized that, apart from Sakamaki, the prisoners with Japanese, German and Italian names were Americans.
"They were just like us," he said. "They knew we had a job to do. And, I was just 18 years old. I figured the authorities must have known something I didn't."
In December 1942, Unger was shipped to Europe. He fought in three campaigns in Italy, received a combat commission, was wounded behind enemy lines and saw a buddy blown to pieces.
Once, the highly decorated Japanese American 442nd Regimental Combat Team was attached to Unger's 88th Infantry Division. Even in the heat of battle, the irony of that situation didn't escape him.
"A year ago, I had been guarding Japanese Americans at Sand Island, and now I'm fighting side by side with their sons against the Germans in Italy," he said.
After the war, Unger and his wife, Janice, raised six kids. Today he volunteers on Mondays and Tuesdays at the Arizona Memorial a monument he says never fails to move him.
For Unger, the surprises seem never to end. On his first visit to the USS Bowfin Museum near the Arizona, he was stunned to find a display photo of his late father, who had been stationed at Pearl Harbor on both the day Unger was born and the Day of Infamy.
A while back, while watching a television documentary that highlighted the background of the man who designed the Arizona Memorial, Unger learned another irony.
"Little did I realize, in all those years, that the architect of the Arizona Memorial Alfred Preis had been one of my prisoners at Sand Island," he said.
'Our love story'