December 7, 1941 – The Attack on Hickam Field/Pearl Harbor, Hawaii

“I was at Hickam Field upstairs in the barracks,” remembered Ernie Ruiz. “I was in my pajamas and was getting ready to go to church. I heard this commotion down by the flight line, so I went out on the veranda and I saw airplanes diving down and then going up. I went back in again and I asked one of the fellows, ‘What the heck is going on?’ ‘Oh,’ he said, ‘it’s that damn Navy practicing again.’ But it continued and I thought, ‘There’s something funny here!’ I decided to go downstairs still in my pajamas. As soon as I got outside, one of these planes came down with a big red spot on the side and red spots under the wings. A couple of other fellows had come out there and one of them said, ‘Those are Japanese!’ and my first impression was, ‘What are they doing HERE?’ I ran back inside to put on my uniform and I went to the Officers’ Club which was just about a block or two away. There was one antiaircraft gun that was firing at these airplanes as they came by. One of my classmates was there and he was in his pajamas, too. He was holding on to his pajama bottoms and he was shaking his fist and was yelling, ‘Get those S. O. B. s! Get ‘em! Get ‘em!’ Then he forgot and put both of his arms in the air and his pajamas fell off!

      I headed down toward the flight line. On my way, a young man was coming up the street and his hand had been shot off. It was just hanging there and he asked me where the hospital was. I pointed and I said, ‘Just straight up that street.’ Out there on the street were all kinds of buses and things abandoned. Some of the fellows came around and said, ‘Who knows how to drive a bus so we can get down to the flight line?’ I’d never drove a bus in my life, but I told them I did! So we got in the bus and I started taking them down to the flight line and when we all got off the bus, I saw something I’d never seen in my life – the trunk of a body – no legs, no arms, no head – and it was smoking and water was pouring down over the body.” - - Ernest Ruiz, 31st Bomb Squadron (H)

      On the morning of December 7, 1941, William Workman was stationed at Hickam Field on the island of Oahu, Territory of Hawaii. Workman was awakened by the sound of dull booms and his living quarters began shaking. He recalled, “My wife was awakened, too, and I said, ‘They’re firing the big guns over at Fort Kam again today.’ The light fixture fell and hit the back of our bed and splattered all over. I got up and went to the window and looked out, and I saw a plane flying at tree-top level with the Rising Sun painted on the side and the wings, and I said, ‘We’re under attack by the Japanese!’ Hazel said, ‘It’s not true. It’s impossible!’ And I said, ‘It IS true! There’s their insignia!’ I got dressed…and told my wife I was going to the Squadron. My car was parked out in the parking area, and I started out, and they were strafing the streets so I had to dart back under the eaves of the house. I tried it three times before I finally made it. I got to my car and headed for the Squadron area. We had to go up Signer Boulevard, around the circle at the flagpole, and then turn into the parking lot. As I got out of my car, I heard planes over my head. I saw something falling and I said, ‘Those are bombs! I dived and tried to get under my car, but it was so low that I couldn’t quite make it. One bomb hit about fifteen feet in front of my car. The car raised up and I rolled under it when it raised up. Fragments of the bomb hit my car. All the glass was broken. There were holes in my fenders. One big piece hit the headlight and it splintered. There was an enlisted man trying to get under the car next to mine, and he got hit with a piece of shrapnel on the left foot. It cut his foot – cut it off! He was bleeding pretty badly. I yanked him out and put him in my car. The engine started, miraculously, and I took off. We were only about 200 yards from the hospital because it was halfway around the circle from where we were. Now the hospital had very gently-sloping steps up to the porch, and they were still strafing the streets, so I drove UP the steps and parked on the front porch of the hospital. Some orderlies came running out and helped get the kid out of the front seat. Then they grabbed me and said, ‘Come on!’ I said, ‘I can’t because I’ve got to bet back to the Squadron!’ They said, ‘You’re wounded!’ I said, ‘What do you mean, I’m wounded?’ I looked around and my whole left leg was bloody and my shoe was full of blood. So they took me in there, took an X-ray and patched it up. They wouldn’t let me out, so I climbed out the window and went down the drainpipe and back to the Squadron. They were strafing the American flag. Every plane that came up Signer Boulevard would shoot the flag, but it never came down!” - - William Workman, 31st Bomb Squadron (H) 

      “On December 7, I was the Officer of the Day for Hickam,” said Francis “Butch” Brady, “and I was to report in at 12 noon. But that morning we were awakened by noise. I was in an apartment on Signer Boulevard. Between my apartment and the house across the road, a Japanese dive bomber came by and I could see the guy as plain as the nose on my face. My first reaction was, ‘Don’t those dumb bastards know what they’re doing? They’re going to get clobbered!’ I couldn’t have been more wrong. They DID know what they were doing, and the DIDN’T get clobbered. I recognized right there that we were in deep six trouble! While leaving from my quarters down to the flight line, I was strafed on the way. I got two shots into the car but missed me. I’ve never been so scared in my life because there was no safe place; everything was a target at Hickam!” - - Francis “Butch” Brady, 31st Bomb Squadron (H) 

      Darkness settled over Hawaii. Destruction was everywhere. Twelve of the Pacific Fleet’s major ships lay totally destroyed, while nine others were damaged. One hundred sixty-four aircraft had been demolished and 159 had been damaged. Hickam Field had been struck by 100 bombs, with 27 of those hitting the Consolidated Barracks. The Hawaiian Air Depot’s engineering building, the hangar area, the Post Exchange, enlisted men’s beer garden [the Snake Ranch], fire station and guard house were in shambles. Two thousand four hundred and three people had perished while 1,178 lay injured. One hundred eighty-nine lay dead at Hickam Field – a 10% casualty rate…Initial reports of the casualties were reaching the Mainland, but those reports were as inaccurate and confusing as the situation in Hawaii. “My obituary ran in two Pennsylvania newspapers,” lamented Max Baker. “Upon hearing the news, my mother had a nervous breakdown. Even though she later heard that I was alive, she never fully recovered.” - - Max A. Baker, 31st Bomb Squadron (H)