December 7, 1941: "A day that will live in infamy." Also a day that will never be forgotten. For a few stunned moments the world stood still. It was said that those who lived through that day would never be the same again; nothing would ever be the same. As one Japanese commander so aptly put it: "We have awakened a sleeping giant."
Many of us who were at home when the first word of the attack on Pearl Harbor came over the air, had friends and neighbors who were there when it happened. Sgt. Richard Elwood Holt, who had just graduated from Brookneal High School the year before and joined the Army that same year, was at the base at Wheeler Field, near Honolulu, on the morning of December 7, 1941, when the first Japanese planes came over. He saw it happen. Sgt. Charles Seamster, a native of Halifax Co. was with Company E, 27th Infantry, based at Schofield Barracks near Honolulu on that fateful morning. He was there. The late James "Jimmy" Arthur of Brookneal was a Pearl Harbor survivor. W. B. Anderson of Gladys, PA. was there also.
Mr. & Mrs. Roy Mosebrook, who live at "Oakdale" near Gladys, remember Pearl Harbor. That is to say, Mrs. Mosebrook was there. Roy was a career Navy man, serving aboard the US Cruiser Salt Lake City based at Pearl Harbor; he and Mrs. Mosebrook were living in Honolulu. Roy's ship was out at sea when the attack came.
Mrs. Mosebrook,s who was at home in Honolulu awaiting the return of her husband, recalls the events in the following account:
"I left San Pedro Harbor in March, 1941, on the SS Lurline, and had a wonderful trip to Honolulu, on the island of Oahu, where I joined my husband. We moved into a house in Honolulu.
"The first inkling of trouble that I had was the night of November 28, when a friend, Mrs. Cole, and her husband, picked up my husband and me to take our husbands back to their ship at midnight. On every corner in Honolulu there were soldiers manning machine guns. A lot of our friends' husbands were on a 24 hour alert. The alert stayed on until Saturday, December 6, at noon, when it was lifted, and then everybody relaxed.
"Sunday morning I was lying in bed when I noticed lots of planes up so high, they appeared to be only specks in the sky. I thought they were some of ours coming over from the States, as we had heard the day before that some were coming over.
Soon after that a neighbor, Mrs. Ome (a Korean) came knocking on the door, and when I opened it she told me the Japs were bombing us and she wanted to use our phone. I told her yes, she could use ours, but I wondered what was wrong with hers. When she went to use ours, it was dead. She said, "Turn on your radio,' and I did. All that was on the radio was the announcement saying to stay in your house or get into your bomb shelter.
Our neighbors were Korean, Japanese and Portuguese, with Japanese across the street. The Japanese on one side of us invited me to come into his fallout shelter, but I decided to stay in the house as the shelter didn't look to safe to me. It was just some steps down six feet, with a bench to sit on in a trench-like shelter with boards over the top and dirt piled on top of it.
The Japanese planes made only two runs, although there were rumors of a lot more. More announcements on the radio told us there would be a blackout until further notice. This meant there was absolutely no lights after dark. If the patrols noticed so much as a sliver of light through a curtain they wouldn't even come to the door but rather would shoot out the bulb from the street.
We turned one bedroom into a blackout room, which meant we had to put black paper over all the windows and paste it down tight. You had to put blue paper over your flashlight to see how to get around. After dark, we had to stay off the streets with a complete curfew in force.
About noon the phone service was restored and a Navy friend from Pearl Harbor Navy housing, Mrs. Myrtle Rimmer, called and asked if she could come to stay with me. She also asked if she could bring some friends. I told her she could bring as many as she wanted.
We were living in a three-bedroom house about a mile from Diamond Head and about 14 miles from Pearl Harbor. Navy housing was on one side of a gate and Pearl Harbor was on the other.
She came with three other women but did not spend the night. She told me how she saw one Jap grinning out of his plane as he dropped his bombs on the ships. A neighbor of hers grabbed a gun and as one of the planes came over, shot and it crashed on the other side of the highway in a cane field".
American servicemen and their wives were not the only ones to share the momentous events of that unforgettable day. Mrs. Mosebrook showed us a newspaper clipping telling about a Jap plane that landed on one of the smaller islands, Niihau. The Japanese pilot who tried to terrorize the island was finally overcome and killed barehanded by a native islander, Benjamin Kanahele, who was shot three times, and his wife who helped him fight the invader, then got her wounded husband to a hospital on the island of Kauai.
A few days later I went out to see the ships, and it was a terrible sight, Mrs. Mosebrook continued. "One of the first things we had to do was to register and get our gas masks, and for the babies, bunny masks. We had to keep these with us at all times."
The Mosebrooks' first son, Gerald, was born in Honolulu February 5, 1942. "We tried to stay as long as the Navy would let us," Mrs. Mosebrook said. "We were evacuated in October, 1942: by that time the blackout was lifted but then they put a brown-out in effect which meant the lights could be on until 8:00 p.m. and then they had to be turned out.