How My Parents Remembered Pearl Harbor

By Melvin Ah Ching Jr.
Editor & Publisher, The Hawaii Files Blog

December 7, 2021 – Honolulu Hawaii

It was eighty years ago today that the Japanese military launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor and other military facilities in Hawaii. December 7, 1941 is a day “that lives in infamy” famously stated by the President of the United States, Franklin D.  Roosevelt upon the United States’ entry into World War II.

My parents  Melvin Ah Ching Sr. and LaVerne Kealoha lived through the “war years” early in their lives. On December 7, 1941 Dad was a 14 year old kid. Mom was only 9 years old. They never gave me many details about that day in America’s history.

Mom and Dad both grew up and lived on the island of Hawaii. They were not on Oahu.

My Dad had often said that he was at the dentist’s office in Honokaa early that December morning. He said he heard on the radio that Pearl Harbor was attacked. I took it for granted that this was always so. Lately I wonder if he was actually at the dentist… on a Sunday. The attack happened Sunday morning starting at 7:55 am. Was there really a dentist open on a Sunday morning in Honokaa?

As for my Mom she never told me anything about her personal experience in relation to the attack. I assume that she was too young at that time, and her parents never told her about it. Perhaps she was told at a later time. If not, I am sure she did eventually find out about the attack in school, through friends and relatives and most certainly, through the changes the attack and America’s entry into World War II put upon the lifestyle of the islands.

My Mom often told me that during the war years, they had to cover all of the windows in their home and live in a “blackout condition” where no lights were allowed to penetrate outside their dwelling. Most of Mom’s fear centered around aircraft that flew over their community in the day and night. I am sure her fears were escalated.

Pearl Harbor reminders
Arizona Memorial, attack day headlines, destruction of Pacific Naval Fleet, Japanese dive bomber

Another thing Mom told me about were the drills that they did at school where they had to duck under their desks in case of an enemy attack. School age kids were issued gas masks, she said. Mom attended Paauilo Elementary and Middle School in those days.

Dad never told much of what it was like growing up in O‘okala in World War II following the attack. He attended Laupahoehoe School in his teen years. He told me that they had similar gas mask drills at their school. 

The one thing I know about my Dad is that when he became of age, he enlisted to serve in the United States Army. As a soldier, Dad missed all of World War II since he did not join until November 19, 1945. Dad turned 18 in October. The European theater of World War II was over in April 1945 and Japan surrendered in September 1945 after being hit with two atomic bombs.

Dad’s  enlistment and his basic training was done at Camp Hood (now Fort Hood) near the community of Killeen, Texas. His term of enlistment was for six years. He was initially assigned to the “Panama Canal Department.” After he completed training, Dad was sent not to Panama, but to the Philippines. 

I think he was sent there with his unit to help rebuild the country after the ravages of the war. We have several photographs of Dad in the Philippines. Unfortunately I don’t have any scanned in since they are all at our family residence on the island of Hawaii.

After Dad left the Army, he went to work as a civilian for the Hawaii County Fire Department, where he stayed until retirement in 1976.

In regards to the Pearl Harbor attack, it certainly made an impact on the world, the United States and Hawaii. The memories of that day should never be forgotten. The small, undocumented stories need to be told. People need to learn from that tragedy and all others that came afterward. December 7, 1941 should be publicly observed for as long as there is a United States of America.

Additional Media (From YouTube) – Videos on the 80th Anniversary observations will be added soon. Bookmark this page and check in later.

Lots of mispronounced Hawaiian words in the above documentary.

Also recommended: Pearl Harbor The Day of Infamy (YouTube Direct)


Melvin Ah Ching is a photographer, consultant, blogger, desktop publisher, and computer enthusiast living and working in Hawaii. The Hawaii Files have been online since 2006.