University of Nevada, Reno




Remembering Pearl Harbor

By Helen


Champ and HelenChamp was transferred to a ship tied up in Pearl Harbor. The ship was new—it was a supply ship. I can’t think of its name. Anyway, it shipped out to Honolulu and carried supplies for all the island. I can’t think of most names of the islands but Guam was one. Honolulu was their home base. In the meantime, I worked in L.A. near my sister-in-law and older brother and saved my money.

I took a ship to join Champ in Honolulu. His boss told Champ to find a three-bedroom house, and we could move in with his wife and 16-year-old daughter. We found a new house, furnished, and not too far from King Street and a mile from Waikiki Beach. A new Sears store had just opened, and I had started to work. My boss had the sports department and was a very nice man. A lot of Navy wives worked in the store also. The couple we lived with wanted us to call them Mom and Pop. We enjoyed living with them and got along great.

Champ was a command pilot who flew airships. He had two crews with him and the airship was as long as two football fields. This was after Pearl Harbor, when we came back to the States.

Champ worked on his ship the sixth of December and then played basketball in the afternoon so he was very tired when he got home. I worked at Sears and when I got home, he was just finishing washing his clothes. I wanted to go downtown to a movie, and he said no, he couldn’t do it. He was too tired. And after dinner, he went to bed.

Sunday morning, Dec. 7, 1941, Champ and I were asleep when Pop opened our door and said Japs were dropping bombs on Pearl Harbor. Champ told me later it seemed like he drove halfway to the base before he woke up. When he and Pop got to Pearl, the harbor was a mess. Ships had been bombed and sailors were everywhere in the water. Champ put on old jeans, jumped into a small boat, a launch, and helped pull sailors from the fire on the water. I really don’t know about the next two weeks as to what he was doing. He would write me notes whenever someone would come into town, and the sailors would bring them to my door.

After Champ and Pop left the house that morning, Mom and I and her daughter loaded Mom’s car with food and other things we thought we would need, locked up the house and, as we were backing down the driveway, she stopped the car and said, “Where do we go?” We drove back into the carport and unloaded the car. We just finished when a plane flew over us and dropped a bomb.

It landed two houses down and across the street. We heard nine people were killed, and houses were on fire. Fire trucks and police and others came rushing down our street. I climbed up on the roof of our house and could see it all. I had a hose and kept watering down our roof as more homes down the street were burning.

I remember when things quieted down, Mom came out of her bedroom with a gun in her hand. She had just heard on the radio that the Japs were landing on Waikiki Beach. We lived about a mile away. She said, “Helen— Bonnie gets the firstbullet, and then you get the next one. No Japs are touching you girls.” I meekly shook my head Yes.

During the night, we heard shots past our windows, and then running on the bedroom side of the house. When morning came, some soldiers were looking for tracks. Monday, I didn’t go to work, as all the military wives had to line up in different places to show our scars, in order to be able to ID us. I didn’t have any. The lady checking them out in my line got disgusted. We then had to go to a line to pick up a World War I helmet.

Tuesday I went back to work. I was safer there than home, as my department was sports and if anyone shot at me, I had a gun to shoot back.


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