Just came from the service, remembrance and funeral of our Uncle Charlie, 94 year old WWII veteran. He was buried at Diamond Head Cemetery, Fort Ruger, with an Army honor guard in attendance. He was not a 'Pearl Harbor Survivor', but he did have a tale to tell having witnessed the attack from his saddle while herding cattle as a 17 year old Paniolo (Cowboy). Charlie was born and raised on Oahu, the last of nine children. He loved horses and his cows, riding and roping in the island rodeos, and dreamed of being a Paniolo for the rest of his days but on that Sunday morning the Japanese came to our Island home and changed his life forever.
In 1942 when he was eighteen he volunteered to be a civilian worker with the Air Corps, becoming an Aviation Mechanic on Ford Island servicing bombers, fighters and patrol planes as they were routed from the mainland to the Pacific ocean areas. He continued this work until early 1945 when his draft notice arrived ordering him to report to Schofield Barracks. Upon arrival, they looked at his work record and evaluations, and asked him if he knew how to salute. Satisfied with his answer, they issued him an Army uniform, and the newly minted Private was told to report back to work at Ford Island as an Army Aviation Mechanic where he remained until discharged in 1947.
After his discharge, he was hired by the Navy at Pearl Harbor as a Federal Firefighter and served for 35 years at Pearl, some of that time at the firehouse right next to my Salvage ships at Alpha Docks. Thus the Paniolo changed his beloved steed for a fire engine and he was very proud of his driving skills as they protected the Naval Base and the Shipyard for decades.
Uncle Charley was a wonderful guy and I loved that man for many more reasons than I've shared here.
Once he told me a story about the Japanese prisoners held on Ford Island. The officer in charge of them was complaining that they were unruly and constantly causing a ruckus, threatening to riot. Uncle Charlie asked for permission to speak. Granted this, he simply suggested that the garrison stop giving them GI chow including potatoes at each meal, and instead give them rice......
Such a simple and obvious solution brought peace to the prison compound.
Fair winds and following seas Charlie.