©Bert Gildart: Sixty-eight years ago to the day, I was at Pearl Harbor and though I was only a year old and obviously have no memory of the events that unfolded that horrible day in Hawaii, I have heard the story from my parents who certainly do remember the horrors. It was a Sunday, and my dad and mom had placed me outside in a baby carriage, when they heard what sounded like thunder. It was, of course, the Japanese, and they were attacking America, “A day of infamy,” as President Franklin Roosevelt would soon say. At the time my dad was a captain, four years out of West Point, and after securing my mom and me, he quickly reported to his post at Schofield Barracks.
The rest of what happened that day is recalled by many, but here is a very personalized account told by one of my mother’s friends, Mrs. Rosalie Folda. If she is still alive, she is probably 95 and I have been unable to contact her. Because she sent her write-up of that horrible day to friends I believe she intended for it to be shared, and with that hope in mind, have extracted paragraphs from her wonderful narration. It is very similar to the stories my parents — and all their friends — have shared with us over the many years since that day exactly 68 years ago.
… About 8 a.m. on Sunday morning, December 7, 1941, we were awakened by sounds of low-flying airplanes. Jerry [that was her husband, Capt. Folda] and I assumed that there must be an air force exercise in progress at nearby Wheeler Field. As Jerry walked down the hall toward the rear of our house, he heard a plane flying so low that he stepped to the door of the patio to look. At the moment he could grasp that our house was being strafed by enemy aircraft, bullets began ricocheting off the flagstones of the patio floor. The island was under attack!
Jerry dressed quickly in combat gear and prepared to leave for his headquarters. I still recall that before he left, he asked me to kneel in prayer with him to ask God for our safety…
…Some women [my mother with me] drove into the fields surrounding Schofield Barracks and sought refuge among the high sugar cane plants…
The hours passed quietly, but we all felt restless and tense. Late in the evening six buses arrived in convoy and we were boarded. Was another attack at hand? Where were we going? The drivers smashed the headlights of the buses’ and as midnight approached we started out in pitch darkness. We rode a short distance when suddenly our bus swerved off the road and into a ditch. A soldier ordered us to get on the floor of the bus and to protect our small children.
“Out of the blackness a horrid scene lit up the night… The harbor was grimly illuminated by flames, and great columns of smoke from burning ships choked the sky… Soon we were to know that over 1,100 men on the Battleship Arizona alone had gone to their death that morning….
We lived quietly sharing a house with a close friend and her baby… Truly we were at war. My husband had become a combat soldier… he belonged to his country now, not his family…
The women and children lived in blackout conditions… food rationing and guard escort everywhere… Finally, on February 28, 1942 we boarded the Honolulu Clipper … for San Francisco…
[My mom and I remained for a year more in Pearl Harbor.]
My Jerry returned home to Maryland three and one-half years later… He carried grave scars of the spirit from years of war that the ensuing years of peace never really healed.”
Note: The experiences of my mom and dad were similar to those of the Foldas, except my mom and I remained in Hawaii for yet another year, my mom taking a job as a secretary. Later, the Foldas and my family were stationed at many of the same posts. My dad served 30 years and retired as a general. Sadly he died five years ago, and I hope that the service he provided throughout his distinguished career is not forgotten. And, so, too, I hope that the service provided by today’s men and woman in uniform remains appreciated.
A FEW OF THE OTHER POSTS I’VE MADE ABOUT BATTLEFIELDS: