Dad was in the US Navy at the time of the Pearl Harbor attack. And, he was an E-7 First Class Aviation Metalsmith, teaching the Aviation Metalsmith trade to sailors, before they were deployed to the fleet. We were living in enlisted housing near by the Naval Air Station Alameda close to Oakland California. I was too young to remember much at that time, but curiosity caused me to inquire of Mom & Dad in later years. It took awhile after the attack at Pearl Harbor, for us to go, but Dad was sent to Pearl Harbor right away and was stationed at Naval Air Station Ford Island. Probably because there were well over three hundred aircraft that were damaged or destroyed during the attack. It was only after it was decided by the war department that it was safe, that we were allowed to travel as dependents, to Honolulu on the Hospital ship USS Benevolence. My first early childhood memories was living in Enlisted Navy Housing and playing in and on the partially buried bomb shelters. Naturally this was a strictly forbidden activity, but ever so much fun. Even though down Inside the shelters was dark, dank and mostly skeery!
Made out of very thick concrete, the bomb shelters were shaped like a Quonset hut with rounded sides that we could scramble up quite readily. The Navy housing was always manicured and neat, but the nearby bomb shelters were always grown over, mostly I guess to hide them. The shelter nearest to our home was covered with wood rose vines that made a good hand hold when scrambling up to the top of the shelter. Once up on top of the large, long shelter, there was a long wood rose tunnel running full length down it. Now, unless you have been there, it would be hard to understand just what a wonderful play house this was.
With sunlight filtering through the vines that had flowers that closed up at night, then opened up in daylight and seed pods that were shaped kind of like a wooden rose, it was colorful and nearly always had a gentle cool breeze flowing through it. This majestic hidden playhouse did have it’s downside though. Because it was a place that we weren’t supposed to be, we would at the first sign of adult activity, go quiet and still. All in all though, it was a pretty peaceful place to be. The concrete was cool to the touch and felt quite pleasant to lay down on, during the heat of the day. Lots of times I would go there by myself just to lay quietly on my back watching the wildlife that also thought it was a cool place to hang out.
One day I awoke to Mom calling me, she was standing at the bottom of the shelter looking up when I peeked out. Yeah, I hadn’t fooled her by hiding then falling asleep, she knew just right where to find me, it was time to pull the “Santa brought it”, red wagon that I had wanted so badly, down to the Navy Exchange Commissary, one of my least favorite things to do. Now you would think that I would like to pull that wagon to the commissary since I probably pulled it a hundred miles all around the housing area while playing with the other kids!
Years later. While in the Navy myself, I always felt that it was a Honor to man the rail and salute as my current ship that I was stationed on passed Battleship row. It was quite a sight in the early years, even though there was no memorial, just rusting metal sticking up out of the harbor, with tiny droplets of oil coming to the surface, much like the remains of the Arizona was sobbing quietly in grief.