Daily life on December 7, 1941
September 17, 2018 7:26 AM   Subscribe

This past week with the anniversary of 9/11 got me wondering, what was life like for civilians living in Hawaii during the Pearl Harbor attack?

There are many accounts of what the day was like for military personnel, and for civilians connected to the military. But I haven't found anything about civilians living in Hawaii with no military connections. Were businesses open? Were people told to shelter indoors? What did civilians do in the days following the attack? Were any sports teams playing games afterwards? I'm particularly interested in first-person accounts from those living in Honolulu, but secondary sources and accounts from those living in smaller cities/towns or the countryside, and the other islands besides Oahu, would also be welcome.
posted by lharmon to Grab Bag (6 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
This might have something for you: When Fear Reigned, produced by the King Kamehameha V Judicial History Center.
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 7:50 AM on September 17, 2018 [2 favorites]

One thing I've always been fascinated by is Hawaii overprint money -- if Hawaii had been captured by Japan, all U.S. currency stamped with "HAWAII" would have become worthless.
posted by Etrigan at 8:03 AM on September 17, 2018 [2 favorites]

This is about a very particular Hawaiian island, but I recently listened to the linked podcast episode on the so-called Niihau Incident, which I had never heard of before, and was a harrowing story. I hadn't really thought about the number of Japanese-Americans that were living in Hawaii at the time, and how it might have affected them. Or how their reactions affected the lives of all Japanese-Americans across the United States, unfortunately.

Futility Closet - The Niihau Incident
posted by backwards compatible at 8:06 AM on September 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

My mother lived in Honolulu at the time of the Pearl Harbor attack. She was six years old. She was a civilian, but her father was a Naval officer. My understanding is that they lived in civilian housing. I unfortunately can't ask her about it nowadays, but she did talk about it some over the years. My impression from her remarks is that they tried, to the greatest extent possible, to return to normal routines. I don't think there was much "shelter in place" because the attack was underway and then it was over. It only lasted 90 minutes. My mother said they were eating breakfast and her father either got a call or heard something on the radio, then leaped up, threw on some clothes over his pajamas and went to the base, but that the fighting was over by the time he got there. She did once tell me that they had to truck bodies out of the base stacked like cordwood on truck beds. My grandfather, who was a naval architect and engineer, was one of the three senior material officers of the fleet engaged in coordinating the salvage work after the Pearl Harbor attack.
posted by slkinsey at 8:06 AM on September 17, 2018 [4 favorites]

You may want to look into The Good War: An Oral History of World War II, by Studs Terkel. It is oral histories, i.e., Terkel asking people who lived through it and their response.
posted by WCityMike at 8:48 AM on September 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

The Children of Pearl Harbor
posted by Ideefixe at 9:25 AM on September 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

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