Dec., 1941 - Oahu
North Shore of Oahu at the Waialua Sugar Plantation a
kerosene lantern flickered in a solitary window. Inside
the small cabin the old woman couldn’t sleep. The dream
had become more ominous each night. She sat in her
rocker by the fireplace and tried to interpret her
substantial woman, her imposing figure was clad in a
flowered muumuu. The warm glow of the lamp highlighted
her long white hair against dark weathered skin. She had
blue eyes, virtually unknown in pure-blooded Hawaiians,
a people whose language has no word for "blue." Hers
were uli like the deep ocean, not the paler
polu of European eyes. They usually sparkled with
good humor, but now they were dark and troubled.
was a kaula, a seer, and had dreams that foretold
future events. These visions were shadowy, and their
meaning often obscure but this portent was the darkest
of all. She knew that great danger loomed, though its
nature was unclear. She had to act.
the kerosene lamp and walked down the dirt road to the
home of her great-nephew. As a luna (foreman) at
the sugar mill, he had the use of a battered Model A
open-cab truck. Despite the hour, she knocked without
hesitation. She heard heavy footsteps within, and the
door was thrown open. When her nephew’s sleepy eyes
focused on her familiar face, anger became concern.
it, Auntie?" he asked. "Is something wrong?"
She had no
way to explain her foreboding to him. "I need you to
take me into the city," she said simply, meaning
nothing will be open this early."
danger comes with the sun. I must go now before the
and went back inside to dress, accustomed to her acting
on things that could not be expressed with words.
extinguished the lantern and placed it in the back of
the truck. She took her place on the hard bench front
seat and waited patiently for his return.
the tiny four-cylinder engine, which coughed and
sputtered reluctantly to life and gnashed metallic
teeth, as though resentful of the hour. But like its
driver, it dutifully acquiesced to the old woman’s
wishes. With an almost stately lack of haste, the little
brown truck traveled the deserted Kamehameha Highway
through the central valley. Its dim headlamps reflected
off the steel girders of a bridge and an occasional road
miles north of Oahu
that had disturbed Manalani’s sleep lay hidden by a
gale. It was a far deadlier man-made storm, the mighty
Japanese Kido Butai. The largest naval force ever
assembled in the Pacific, it would unleash a maelstrom
that would devour nations and empires along with
millions of lives.
that concealed the fleet also threatened to abort the
attack. Admiral Nagumo and his anxious staff were
discussing the situation on the flagship Akagi.
The round windows on the bridge were awash in spray from
heavy seas breaking over the bow. Even the veteran
helmsman gripped the wheel to steady himself.
who would strike from the six aircraft carriers had not
been awakened, but aboard the carrier Kaga,
Yoshimi Okazaki, a young pilot, lay awake in his
hammock. He longed to be like his Samurai ancestors in
the stories his grandfather told. He swore to bring his
family honor and greater status in their rural Kyūshū
village. Newly trained, he hadn’t seen combat in China
and held the lowest ranking among the swaggering elite
who flew the A6M Type Zero fighter. Today, he
would wield his aircraft like a katana sword and
strike down the enemies of Japan.
the gale which tossed the mighty Kaga might deny
him his chance to kill the arrogant Yankees. He knew
little of the outside world and had never met an
American. He had been told they blocked Japan’s rightful
destiny to dominate the Pacific. That made them the
enemy of his emperor, and it was his duty to destroy
He took his
Senninbari belt, made with a thousand stitches
lovingly collected by his mother and sister from
neighbors and passersby, and wrapped it around his
miles west of Oahu
Enterprise was steaming with her escorts back to
Pearl Harbor. The storm front had passed, and normal
flight operations were resuming. The aircraft were flown
off the carrier from well out to sea, and the aviators
all had awakened expecting to fly into Pearl Harbor this
morning. However, the Enterprise, already behind
schedule, had been further delayed by the foul weather.
The distance was still too great, except for the
long-range SBD Dauntless dive-bombers. The
eighteen planes of Scouting Six squadron would fly a
dawn patrol ahead of the ships before landing at Ford
Island. The rest would follow by late afternoon.
filled the wardroom for the hearty breakfast served
before scheduled flights. The smell of frying bacon and
ham filled the room. Mess attendants constantly refilled
the oversized stainless coffee urns. The rattle of heavy
white china, decorated by a blue anchor, accompanied the
boisterous hubbub of young fighting men.
Lieutenant Grant Hylton of Fighting Six squadron was
glumly eating alone. His best friend, Manny Gonzalez, a
husky ensign with Hispanic features and wearing a huge
smile, joined him.
you so damn happy, you big ox?" Grant asked. "You’re
stuck here too."
amigo. I’ll be seeing Jo Dene and Laura this morning."
funny," Grant replied. "Scouting Six is flying, but
you’re in Bombing Six, remember?"
I swapped with Anderson. He didn’t care; his honey’s in
lieutenant looked up in surprise. "You weren’t kidding,
you lucky S.O.B."
sorry your cute little Wildcat has such short
legs. Any jokes today about flying dump trucks?"
A Dauntless looks like the only ride into town."
worry," Manny teased. "I’ll kiss Laura and Jo Dene for
that’s one kiss for Laura...and on the cheek, too."
laughed. "I’ll be damn lucky if Jo Dene lets me get away
Grant Hylton, though not scheduled to fly, reported in
complete flight gear to the squadron ready room for the
now daily dawn alert.
Enterprise task force, commanded by Vice Admiral
Halsey, had left Pearl Harbor on November 28. They
delivered a Marine Corps fighter squadron to reinforce
tiny Wake Island, isolated and a prime target for
day out, their pugnacious commander issued a stunning
and controversial Battle Order Number One. It
began with "The Enterprise is now operating under war
conditions" and called for "steady nerves and
operations officer admonished him, "Goddammit, Admiral,
you can’t start a private war of your own."
Nevertheless, the order stood, and Enterprise
went to war on November 28, fortunately without anyone
else’s knowledge, thanks to a strict radio blackout. A
week later, tedium was replacing tension in the absence
of even a credible false alarm to justify the constant
alert. Grant glanced at the teletype machine at the
front of the ready room, knowing his fate could be
written by this impersonal gray box on its three foot
screen. It could send him safely home to Laura’s warm
embrace or into battle and a cold sailor’s grave. This
morning, it remained mute.
Arizona, Pearl Harbor
Josh Lee, on engineering watch in the bowels of the
battleship Arizona, heard four bells chime. It
signaled two more hours on the morning watch and time
for a breather.
port, the engineering spaces were warm and rank with the
smell of bunker oil. Underway in the tropics with all
twelve boilers roaring, hellish became more than a
metaphor. To Josh, it was a small price for being in
charge of machinery which drove thousands of tons of
armor and guns through the water at 21 knots.
On deck, he
inhaled deeply the fresh breeze coming off the ocean,
clearing his lungs of the engine room’s thick
atmosphere. Fore and aft, he saw a forest of huge masts.
Altogether, there were seven of these leviathans, tied
up along the aptly-named Battleship Row. For Josh, being
stationed in Hawaii, assigned to a battleship and
married to a beautiful nurse was exactly the life he had
dreamed of when he joined the Navy.
back to the quarterdeck where his best friend Sam Madory
was Officer of the Deck, resplendent with white gloves
and ceremonial spyglass.
Madory," he shouted. "I saw a surprise inspection team
heading your way."
laughed. "Good, I could use the excitement. Nothing ever
happens on a Sunday morning. But hey, I thought you were
after Suzanne gets off work at the hospital; we’re off
to the Big Island for a week."
"No, but we
want to hike the volcanoes, and Suzanne can look for
fabulous place. You’re going to have a great time."
heard. We plan to see all the islands while I’m
starboard, they heard the roar and saw the lights of a
multi-engine patrol plane taking off from nearby Ford
Island Naval Air Station.
the future, according to a lot of folks," Sam said.
"They say battleships are dinosaurs. Reckon we can still
sign up and get our wings?"
airdale bullshit that comes from reading too many Tom
Swift stories. I’m damn sure not afraid of those flimsy
airplanes and their puny little bombs."
they’re building more carriers than battleships these
days," Sam said.
idea for you, building a bunch of ships with wooden
decks. Better hope nobody invents a termite bomb."
"Me, I like
these nice old fashioned steel decks," continued Josh.
"Let’s see those flyboys put a bomb through three inches
"I take it
you’re keeping your black shoes then," Sam said. Surface
officers wore black shoes, while rival naval aviators
straight. Mark my word, if there’s a war, it’ll be won
by the big ships with the big guns, just like always."
on "vulture’s roost," a platform named for the number of
crashes witnessed from it. The flight deck was
surprisingly quiet with no engines running.
Enterprise turned into the wind and started to gain
speed. Every extra knot of air across the deck meant
shorter and safer take-off runs. Only now did the pilots
appear to start the engines and end the silence.
Manny threw him a backhanded salute as he mounted his
Dauntless for an early flight home. The deck was
covered in a fog of blue smoke as eighteen Wright
Cyclone engines roared to life. The deck crew ran
underneath the planes to unchock wheels, surrounded by
nearly invisible but deadly propeller blades.
light came on; a yellow-shirted flight officer gave the
signal, and the first plane of Scouting Six roared off
the deck. The dejected newlywed watched with envy as
they dispersed on their assigned headings and
disappeared into the vast Pacific sky.
hundred miles away, a similar operation took place
aboard Kaga, but under far rougher conditions.
Training in the remote Kurile Islands and on the stormy
northern passage from Japan enabled the crew to handle
aircraft on the storm-tossed decks.
unlikely sound of Honolulu station KGMB played on the
bridge, as reassurance that Oahu lay unsuspecting.
Class Yoshimi Okazaki sat in his Mitsubishi fighter,
confident that it had more speed and agility than
anything that could oppose it. It was the weapon of a
little to distract him from his duty. Romance had not
entered his life, as he lacked the wealth and position
for any decent family to consider him as a suitor. He
feared only dishonor, since dying in the service of the
Emperor was a glorious way to honor his sovereign, his
nation and his parents.
turned into the wind to launch the first wave. Despite
the weather, the edge of the deck was lined with crewmen
who sent every aircraft off by waving their white hats
and shouting "BANZAI, BANZAI, BANZAI."
junior, Yoshimi was last when he lined up carefully to
the center of the deck and opened his throttle. The
14-cylinder radial engine easily lifted the light weight
of the fighter, and he began his climb to altitude. A
warrior’s destiny lay before him.
emptied Honolulu’s streets of the morning trucks
bringing food to market, harbingers of a new day.
Nothing stirred except the lone open-cab Ford that
stopped across from a small park. The old woman still
could not define the form of the threat, but she sensed
that Grant Hylton’s young bride Laura was in danger.
Manalani was watching their apartment, because she knew
Laura went for a daily sunrise swim at the nearby beach.
She protected Grant and his loved ones, because of a
promise made years ago to his mother Alana. Neither
Laura nor Grant knew that Manalani watched over them,
and so it was meant to be.