Laie woman corrects story behind famous Pearl Harbor picture - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Laie woman corrects story behind famous Pearl Harbor picture

Katherine Lowe peruses the photo in question. Katherine Lowe peruses the photo in question.
Katherine Lowe Katherine Lowe
Daniel Martinez Daniel Martinez
Yvonne Hernandez Yvonne Hernandez

By Brooks Baehr - bio | email

LAIE (HawaiiNewsNow) - Katherine Lowe was 26 years old on December 7th, 1941. But she was not at Pearl Harbor fighting fires as several published accounts suggest.

Books detailing the attack by Japan feature a picture of five women holding a fire hose. Captions indicate the women are battling fires during the attack.

"This is me," Lowe told Hawaii News Now while pointing to the photo. She is second from the right wearing a scarf.

But Lowe said the picture could not have been taken at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 because she was not there. Lowe said she was at her downtown apartment at the corner of King Street and Nuuanu Avenue when the attack began.

"We didn't know it was an attack, okay. We was already dressed to go to church when my son came home. He came home to go get us. He said, ‘We're at war.' I said ‘War?' And he said, ‘Yes. Don't go to church.' I said, ‘No we going. We're already dressed.' So we did go to church."

In December, 1941 Lowe was employed at the Dole Cannery in Honolulu. "I was a trimmer," she said.

After the World War II began she got a job at a military warehouse and as part of that job Lowe and her co-workers were taught how to man a fire hose.

"We had all that supplies in there, if anything goes up ... we had to learn that," she explained.

Lowe does not remember the picture being taken, but is sure it was shot during firefighter training after the war had begun.

"Yea, that was a training picture. Then they took us into Pearl Harbor to see how fast we could hook up the hoses and shoot whatever," she said.

"Undeniably it's a great picture," said Daniel Martinez, Chief Historian for the National Park Service at the Pearl Harbor Memorial Museum and Visitor Center. "And it was meant to be a publicity picture. Because it wasn't taken at Pearl Harbor, it doesn't deny the sacrifice that was made by women and their participation in the war effort. I think if you look at the picture that way, then you really see that picture has a lot of power," Martinez said.

"In a way it is kind of a glorious picture because it is the beginning of the new woman. And the woman of World War II will never be going back to their traditional ways. They are going to be able to do the jobs that they've been denied for such a long time. But it wasn't taken on December 7th," Martinez added.

Lowe did not know the picture existed until she was contacted by a reporter from MSNBC. A few days later she was featured on the NBC Nightly News.

"It was cool. It was just interesting to see here there talking with her hands," Lowe's daughter Yvonne Hernandez said.

Lowe was talking with her hands and clarifying history.


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