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June 15, 2001

I have not yet seen the movie “Pearl Harbor,” though I still intend to do so. The reviews so far have been mixed because of the contrived love story superimposed on the sneak Japanese attack on the Hawaiian islands on December 7, 1941. The climactic battle scenes apparently are well and faithfully done, according to media reports that I’ve seen. I’m not going just to see the bloodshed and destruction in the recreation of that terrible assault, but I’m curious to see if the movie remains faithful to the real attack, the one that swept this country into World War II as a belligerent and forever changed the way of life for all Americans.

I am old enough to remember that Sunday surprise very well. I had graduated from Perry high school a few months earlier and was in the process of learning how to be a real live newspaper reporter for The Perry Daily Journal. Certainly I had no expectation of being asked to cover local angles on such a momentous event. It was a calamity in every sense of the word, so historic that most of us were unable to understand the ramifications of the holocaust unleashed by the unexpected Japanese attack. I had another reason to be stunned by the turn of events. My sister, Jeanice, at that time was on the island of Oahu, where Pearl Harbor is located. Her husband, Capt. Syd Wade, was with the Army Field Artillery at Schofield Barracks. Their four-year-old daughter, Sydney Jean, was with them and Jeanice was expecting another child in just a few months. Darn right I was scared. All of them might well have been wounded or killed. As it turned out, none of them was hurt.

After a few torturous hours, we learned that all of them were OK. Because she was pregnant, Jeanice was scheduled for an early return back to the mainland and the safety of life in Perry, Oklahoma. Arriving here in January, she was immediately sought out for appearances at the Rotary club, Lions club, and even the Poor Boys club, whose members were reluctantly growing up. She told about their scary experiences and what they saw as the Japanese Zero pilots wreaked death and destruction on the peaceful U.S. islands.

Jeanice had only been on Oahu a short time when the attack occurred. In September before that, she wrote to my mother, Mrs. Ivy Beers, describing the new life of an American officer’s wife in that tropical paradise. Jeanice was a gifted writer. Her words made the experience come to life and seem very real. Here is part of what she wrote to her mother in September 1941.

“Here we are at last, at home in Hawaii. Our arrival in port was beautiful. Nothing I had heard prepared me for it. We got up on deck around seven in the morning and we were drifting down to Honolulu. Everyone was so excited and the island was just like a dream, with the sun on the water and the clouds hanging over the mountains. At eight o’clock four tugs came out and met the boat, and everyone brought leis. Finally we slowly came into the pier and there were the boys who dive for pennies. The Hawaiian orchestra was playing and singing ‘Aloha,’ and everyone was either crying or laughing because some of the Navy wives had not seen their husbands for a year. I was just smothered in leis. In time we got away and came out to our house and every turn of the road and every hill is just a separate picture. Our house is so nice. In the one, we have a living room, kitchen, two large closets, maid’s room and bathroom. In the kitchen, we have a table-top electric stove, big General Electric ice box, sink, table, chairs, built-in cabinets and tea cart, and all the dishes and cooking utensils we could possibly need.”

More will follow concerning this young Army wife’s impressions of Hawaii before the December 7, 1941, attack.