Friday, December 07, 2007

Pearl Morning

“Inside one hangar twenty-one Hawaiians were fighting fire. Planes roared hoarsely, machine guns stuttered overhead. In the middle of the smoke-filled hangar, Solomon Naauao, 245-pound athlete, trained the water from his fire-hose on the fuselage of a four-motor flying fortress, pushing back the gasoline fire that leaped out from the fuselage onto the wings.

“Solomon is a giant Hawaiian, a true son of a warrior. Short, thick, black hair fits his massive head like a fur cap. He was hoping the Chief would come soon with the foamite. Water was not much good against gasoline.

“One end of the burning hangar fell through to the floor, revealing a sky dotted with three approaching Japanese bombers. They were flying just a few feet above the hangar. The first one passed directly above Solomon and his fellow-fighters. Solomon heard an explosion and felt hot pain.

“‘Lord help me!’ he prayed, falling to the concrete floor. The whole inner side of his right leg was blown away.

“With his arm and sound leg he crawled through the smoke, away from the flames. When two soldiers picked him up, he learned that five others with him had been wounded, three more blown to pieces. They left him in the doorway to wait for the ambulance just coming in. As he lay there, Japanese planes flew slowly above, just clearing the hangar, and strafed the men running to carry him to the ambulance. Others quickly picked him up and sped him to the hospital.”

From Remember Pearl Harbor, copyright 1942 by Blake Clark. Of the Honolulu Fire Department personnel fighting the fires at Hickam Field that Sunday morning, Capt Thomas S Macy, Capt John Carreira and Hoseman Harry Tuck Lee Pang were dead. Lieutenant Frederick Kealoa and Hoseman Moses Kalilikani were critically wounded; and three others – Hoseman John A Gilman, Solomon H Naauao, Jr, and George Corren – were also injured. The wounded firefighters received Purple Hearts. From 7 December 1941: The Air Force Story, pages 160-161. See also today’s California Fire News blog.

Poster designed by Allen Sandburg, issued by the Office of War Information, Washington, D.C., in 1942, in remembrance of the Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor.

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