Seventy years ago, on
December 6, 1941, twelve B-17 Flying Fortresses left Hamilton Field, north of
San Francisco, bound for their new station on Mindanao in the Philippines. My
great-uncle, Roderick M. Stewart, served as a second lieutenant on one of the
The first leg of their journey would take them to Hickam Field in
Honolulu. Weighted down by gasoline for the thirteen-hour flight, they were
unable to carry ammunition. But why would they need it? The United States of
America was at peace.
When the B-17s neared Hawaii the next morning, they
were pleased to see fighter planes approach - to escort them to the landing
field, they assumed. Imagine their shock when the fighters opened fire on them!
When the fighters careened past and the Americans saw the red circles on the
planes! Japanese Mitsubishi Zeros. The United States of America was no longer at
The twelve unarmed bombers dodged both enemy bullets and friendly
antiaircraft shells and landed where they could on fields cratered by bombs.
Eight landed at Hickam Field, two at Haleiwa Field, one at Bellows Field, and
one put down on Kahuku Golf Course. One of the planes was destroyed, and three
were damaged. Six men were wounded, and one man was killed.
Stewart emerged unscathed, served illustriously in the Army Air Force, and lived
a long life. However, over 2400 Americans lost their lives that day.
horrific results of the "Date Which Will Live in Infamy" still shock us, as they
should. The cost of unpreparedness must never be forgotten. We commemorate those
who gave their lives for their country, not even knowing that country was at
war, and give thanks for the millions who fought to end that war.
take freedom for granted.
Labels: Pearl Harbor, Roderick Stewart, World War II