In a dusty little patch just outside our green garden, hard by the piles of lumber, we pitch horseshoes. When he can spare an hour now and then, the Commander-in-Chief, United States Pacific Fleet, comes with the Commander of the Task Force of the Battle of Midway, for a little sun and exercise. The Admirals strip for action in our Quarters, the light of battle in their eyes. In khaki trousers they go to meet the foe my Admiral and his Aide. Amid the clang of horseshoes, whoops for ringers, the happy war is fought, as their sweating bodies cast lengthening shadows on the sandy lot.
The battle over, victors and vanquished fresh from the shower relax for a while on the lawn below the stiff fronds of the arching palms. The tinkle of ice in glasses, the twinkle of eyes in banter. The Commander-in-Chief, from deep in the heart of Texas, is tall and big-boned. Complimented in color by his white hair and the four silver stars, his face is a healthy tan. Under the strong brow and to either side of the bold nose, the eyes are light blue looking through you, or past you, or meeting you in humor. They are the eyes of a seafaring man, reflecting the sea and sky. You are very apt to meet the Commanding General of the Army coming out of his office when you are waiting to see the CINCPAC, for there is perfect liaison between Army and Navy, Marine and Coast Guard. At very close intervals the General and his Chief of Staff, the CINCPAC and the Commandant of the 14th Naval District, lunch together. The Commandant is the Admiral to whom we all report when serving in this district, which is the whole Hawaiian group. His interest in all our problems is broad, and his word expedites our tasks.
In Honolulu there is no longer sweet Hawaiian music to meet the ships, no gay crowds with leis to embrace the visitors in fragrance. Lei women now make camouflage nets. The deeply laden ships are dirty gray, their departure and arrival secret, and the transported passengers have come as troops, or have volunteered as war workers. The docks are isolated from the city by sentries, sandbags and barbed wire. The sidewalks are crowded with soldiers, sailors and marines mingling with steel-helmeted plant workers of many shades. Mainland, Hawaiian, Chinese, Portuguese and numerous Japanese, each with his gas mask slung over his shoulder. The local women of white descent, interspersed with their compatriots who spring from many races, all Americans gallantly carrying on a job. The streets are jammed with jeeps and peeps, Army and Navy trucks, busses packed with war workers. Many of the stores are taken over by the services. Those still operating privately are very short of stock. The hotels are Army and Navy, and the parks humped air-raid shelters look as if huge moles had been at work. Landmarks like the Aloha Tower and Pineapple Factory are dingy in drab war paint. The famous beaches are lined with barbed wire, and the people who squirm through to play on the coral sands are mostly servicemen and civilians enjoying short leave and respite from their labors.
Night, and the streets of Honolulu are as black and silent as a deserted mining town. The relentless curfew has fallen, sending all cars off the streets and roads by nine, all pedestrians by eight. Standing on the steps of the Moana Hotel at 9:00 P.M. on the Fourth of July, there wasnt a single car or person in sight. Offices and homes alike are blinded. There are the hot spots, but they carefully shield their light and sin, and the ladies of easy virtue keep under cover. This is a frontier American capital at war.
The Pali is just as fantastic, just as beautiful as ever. Leaving the car and walking to the edge of the sheer 800 foot precipice, you snatch off your hat and peer over the parapet. The breath is taken away by the violent wind rushing up and the fairyland spread out below. The houses of the well-to-do, surrounded by the luxurious trees and gardens, stretch away to Diamond Head and far beyond, run up the valleys and obscure themselves in voluptuous foliage. Their hospitality is as warm as the Hawaiian sun. The large interiors are shining and cool. The servants in kimonos, noiseless, dignified and graceful. The dinners, mingled with the bouquets of rare wines, are something to remember. The fresh ripe cocoanut, pineapple and tropical fruits, add to the nostalgia. Cocktails and tea on the open lanai overlooking the terraced gardens and the deep blue sea. The magnificent libraries, collected with knowledge and understanding, the big rooms and halls and open courts designed and decorated with a charming dignity reflecting China. The Japanese Garden, laid out by a philosopher, the dry simulated brooks ending nowhere. Hundreds of trees and shrubs, and the quaint conception of the "Poor Mans" and the "Rich Mans Garden."
Then there are the houses of the artists and those who prefer the carefree Bohemian life the liquid green of the swimming pools under the palms, the beautiful hands and rhythmic undulations of the Hula-Hula girls, their smiling faces adorable, none of the sophisticated petulance of our night club entertainers in our crowded, frantic cities. The residents, of whatever blood, are a happy people in an easy paradise.
Due to the pressure of war and duty, we only get short occasional glimpses of these peaceful scenes in the late afternoons. When I moved to the Admirals Quarters the first of June, he hadnt been out in the evening, except on duty, since the seventh of December. I keep tabs on our social engagements, and when time permits, he accepts. Flat on my back on my bed, I stick my legs straight up and pull on my white trousers, high above the charcoal on the deck. He rushes home, hot from the office, splashes in his shower, as his Filipino dashes up with clean white shoes and uniform.
We sit talking in the hot car as we move slowly in traffic, pass the distant mountains on our left, through Honolulu, past the fields with scattered wrecks of old cars strewn about, to keep hostile planes from landing. On past Diamond Head, her gray sides the texture of an elephants hide. He points out the walking trees with many legs, knows names of trees, plants, flowers, fruit and birds. He tells me of the history of Hawaii, and is pleased that I know. the writings of Admiral Mahan under whom he served as an Ensign. A Pennsylvanian, he speaks of the pioneer days in the western part of the state, of his rugged ancestors, of the "upping block" and their old " still" house, of the later steamboats on the river, the rafts and river life. This inspired the inland boys ambitions for deeper ships and wider waters. Manhood and Annapolis. He lost all his gear and the small treasured things a seafaring man keeps aboard ship, when the Oglala sank.
We drive back at night with presents for the Mess, pressed on us by our generous hosts, of jams, cake, fruits and Macadamia nuts. Our headlights are two dull red spots, and unless there is a moon, our speed is ten to twenty miles per hour. We are halted many times by sentries, their flashlights passing over our faces and shoulder markings. Finally the car creeps up to the dark trucks parked across the gates, and weaves through them. A Marine flashes his light and sees the two silver stars on the cars bow, snaps to attention, and we pass into the black and noisy Yard.
The Admiral is kind, even tempered, and naturally the best of hosts, and we have many guests for lunch or dinner. We sit according to rank and the stewards department is on its toes. We break out the best we have, including the loot from our safari. Our guests are often sea-weary Captains and Commanders just ashore, and officers from the Base.
One of the characters of the Base is the Chinaman, Tai Sing Loo, Yard cameraman, whose personality and antics have endeared him to Navy personnel throughout the country. He roars about on his fiery red scooter, wearing what he fondly terms his "famous" hat. For years he has photographed our ships from Hospital Point, palms in foreground, clouds and mountains in the distance, as well as many Yard activities. It is a terrific sight to see him in action, emitting hysterical cries, hands gesticulating for pose, shirt sopping wet, glass suspenders glistening like a dragons scales. After December the seventh, he volunteered his own "report" to the Navy, of seven closely typed pages. This is an excerpt from the vivid document.
TAI SING LOO'S REPORT
How happen I were at Pearl Harbor, on the morning of Sunday 7th of December, 1941. On the 6th of December Saturday afternoon I had arrangement with the Tech Sergeant to have all his guard be at the Main Gate between 8:30 to 9:00 oclock Sunday morning to have a group of picture taken in front of the new concrete entrance as a setting with the Pearl Harbor for Christmas Card to send home to their family. Sunday morning I left my home for Pearl Harbor after 7 oclock, I was waiting for my bus at corner Wilder Ave. and Metcalf St. saw the sky full of Anti Aircraft gun firing up in the air, I call of friend to look up in air explain them, how the Navy used their Anti Aircraft Gun firing in Practising, at that time I didnt realize we were in actual war. Our bus stop at Bishop & King St. we heard the alarm ringing from the third story building of the Lewers and Cooke Ltd. saw the window shattered. I walk up to Young Hotel corner and cross the street stop for a cup of coffee at Swinky & Franky suddenly all excitement arouse the Honolulu Fire Engine rush down Bishop St. and all directions. Taxi full load of Sailor and Marines dashing toward Pearl Harbor, Im very much surprised whats all this excitement. I wave the taxi to stop & get on it to go back to Pearl Harbor when I approach to Pearl Harbor surprise with great shock thought one of our oil tank caught in fire, showing Black Velum of thick smoke in the air, I got off at the Main Gate of Pearl Harbor, met all the Guards with arms and machine gun in placed. I was great shock with surprise the war are on, watching many Japanese warplanes attacked Pearl Harbor droping Bombs right & left on Dry Docks & Ford Island suddenly terrific explosion fire broke out. I was very calm and waiting for the opportunity to get a ride to the studio and get my camera. I was at the Main Gates stand by with Marines in action. A word of praised and thumb up for those Marine Guards at the Main Gates were bravery and cool headed to keep the by standing away for safely and clear traffic. Their were the Young Fighting Marines. We were under fire. The Japanese plane painted in aluminum, Red ball under each wing, flew very low toward the Main Gate. I wish my Graflex with me I would had a wonderful close up shot of the Japese. Again the Japese flew around the Navy Housing Area & turn back toward Hickam Field very low to drop a bomb to the hangars with terrific explosion set fire the buildings more planes flew direct the dry dock suddenly, I saw one plane had a hit. It flew direct toward West Lock stream of Smoke Screen. Now this my opportunity to get in the Yard, one of the leading men of Machine Shop drove in his automobile I hop in, he takes me to the Studio and pick up my Graflex Camera to take some picture, second thought I change my mine, reason is because first place I didnt HAD no order, the second place I didnt had my famous Tade-Mark Helmet on, I had a new English Helmet from Singapore given by Admiral year ago, so Im afraid some one will make a mistake me as a Jap and shot me down.
...I went to the Supply Dept. and saw many boy had a steel helmet on, so I went to see the Supply Officer for permission to hat one the size are too large and heavy for me so I select one smaller size, painted green and white stripe.
...We put our hoses directed the depth charges keeping wet an Officer came by said keep up the good work we had our hoses right at it all the time, and I turn around and saw Lieut. order all men stand back some things may happen, So I obey his order and ran back toward USS Pennsylvania sudden really happen the terrific explosion came from the destroyer flew people were hurt and some fell down, I notice some large pieces of steel plate blew over the Dry Dock when I turn around and look.... Here come another Fire Engine from Submarine Base, to place their engine and connect this hydrant #151 and direct them to the depth charges, so everything are well done and successfully accomplishment their service. A few words of my appreciation and vote of thanks and Successful Credit to Lieut. in charge with his gallant spirit to kept his staff and Volunteers calms right at the job to see the Depth Charges were wet and kept away the fire.
... Every thinks were successfully executing. I enjoyed my duty and a word of appreciation to my volunteers friends of their Bravery and courageous to their service, during the emergency and Under Fired. Everythings were under control and we all secure and roll up the hoses and returns to the Supply Dept. We were hungry no lunch so I brought each one a Box Ice Cream for lunch and we all dismissed, about 3:30 P.M.
... I ask the Soldier guard on patrol with appreciated very kindly if he will halt an automobile to take me home if convenience on his way home. I told him I can back from Pearl Harbor, Im Chinese he shake my hand and glad to be service to the Chinese friend. An Automobile approach and stop the soldier request the owner if he will help to take me home to the University. Happening the Driver knew me very well he heard my voice, so he invited me in his car and drove me to my home at the front door, I extend my appreciation & thanks him very kindly to see safely home. My wife and my four children were happy and thankful I were safely at home.
As the Old Proverb saying Every kind Deeds its return many many Folds.