For seven ghastly, confused days, we have been at war. To the women of Hawaii, it has meant a total disruption of home life, a sudden acclimation to blackout nights, terrifying rumors, fear of the unknown as planes drone overhead and lorries shriek through the streets.
The seven days may stretch to seven years, and the women of Hawaii will have to accept a new routine of living. It is time, now, after the initial confusion and terror have subsided, to sum up the events of the past week, to make plans for the future.
It would be well, perhaps, to review the events of the past seven days and not minimize the horror, to better prepare for what may come again.
The words above were written by a reporter for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Elizabeth P. McIntosh, a week after the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor. She explained, “After a week of war, I wrote a story directed at Hawaii’s women; I thought it would be useful for them to know what I had seen.”
But her editors pulled the story, fearing it was too graphic. It was finally published 71 years later, in 2012, in The Washington Post.
Two weeks ago, I was at Pearl Harbor, thinking about the Japanese attack and its consequences. It’s tempting to view World War II now with a sort of nostalgia, since we know how it all ended, with the Allies finally triumphant. But looking at the harbor, I tried to imagine what it was like at the time, when it was reality and not history, and McIntosh’s story gives me a glimpse of that.
To 21st-century eyes, her account is hardly graphic. But it is immediate and terrifying, conveying a vivid sense of “what’s next?” and the rumors that must have flown from person to person.
Read it here (includes video) at The Washington Post.