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Reflections of Pearl Harbor
An Oral History of December 7, 1941
by K.D. Richardson

Today we are bombarded with news - 24 hours a day - and we are never at a loss to see pictures and hear interviews from anyone and everyone even remotely involved in a newsworthy" situation.

As a senior, I remember when this was not the case. Consider the difference in coverage of two of the defining moments in the last 100 years - Pearl Harbor and September 11th.

We saw, and still see, videos of the 9-11 attacks from every angle possible. We heard from survivors and the family of victims. The attack was covered in excruciating detail.

Yet after the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941, we had to rely on limited radio accounts, newspapers and newsreels at the movies. And what we actually saw from the papers, even special editions, and in the movie theaters was delayed maybe weeks and extremely limited when compared to the modern 24x7 news world we live in.

That's why a book like Reflections of Pearl Harbor - An Oral History of December 7, 1941 is so important. Let's face it. We are all getting older and people who lived through that day will not live forever. Yet their stories need to be told and preserved.

The author includes 160 recollections from people who lived through that "date that will live in infamy."

Some are from soldiers who were eyewitnesses to the attacks. Personal accounts from sailors, seaman, marines and others from the USS Nevada, the USS Utah, the USS Oglala, the USS West Virginia, USS Oklahoma, USS Maryland, and many others give a fascinating insight into what really happened.

One sailor assigned to the USS Vestal provides a transcript of the ship's log from that day. For example, at "0820 One torpedo passed astern of the vessel and apparently hit the ARIZONA in the bow that extended beyond the VESTAL's stern. Observed direct bomb hit in the forward turret of the ARIZONA. These were followed by an explosion in her forward magazine. This explosion started fires aft and amidships on the VESTAL."

Other eyewitness accounts include a 13 year old girl who lived in army housing at Schofield Barracks, Oahu, Territory of Hawaii and a five year old girl waiting for the bus to go to Sunday school and seeing the planes overhead and the "empty casings flying on the roof of our house like hail."

The next section of the book consists of stories told by people who were youngsters at the time - remembering where they were and what happened that day and the days after.

One fifteen year old from Maine remembers many boys marching out of a school assembly on the day after. When asked where they were going they replied, "To the nearest recruiting office to sign up."

The book includes a story from Tom Stepwith of Cleveland who says, "As I recall it was a relatively warm day in Cleveland on the 7th. At a quarter after two I was just leaving church. As I walked home with a friend of mine, nothing was said about the attack. When I got home, the radio was on. It was about twenty-five after two 2PM when I heard them mention that there was an attack on Pearl Harbor."

Other sections of the book include stories from those "holding down the homefront" and those who "answered the call." And then there are first-hand accounts of relatives and friends of those who paid the "ultimate price."

This is a book that you will sit down to read one or two stories and two hours pass before you look up. It's an important resource and will rekindle memories of those of us whom live through it and open the eyes of the younger folks. Get this book for both of them to read.

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