Akaka on Pearl Harbor: 'The beginning of a terrible day for Hawaii'

Former Sen. Daniel Akaka reflects on Pearl Harbor 75 years ago

PEARL HARBOR (HawaiiNewsNow) - In 1941, former U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka was 17 years old, a senior at what was then the Boys School at Kamehameha.

He lived on the Kapalama campus and had a front row seat to history.

"So it was a terrible scene to look at," Akaka said. "That was the beginning of a terrible day for Hawaii."

The sounds from the attack are the first things that caught the attention of the young Akaka. Seventy-five years later, the images are still fresh in his mind.

"I can recall it like it was yesterday," he said.

The former senator lived in a small dorm room on the Kamehameha Schools campus. Through his window, he had a clear view of the bombings.

"We could see Pearl Harbor and the scene at that time was unbelievable because by then, there was smoke and I found out later that the USS Arizona that was the ship we were looking at. It was strafe and bombed and was smoking."

"About 8:15, there was a squadron of planes that flew over the school, and then we knew it was the Japanese because they had the red balls on the wings, and learned later that that was the group who flew to attack Kaneohe air base."

While the boys were inside the dorm, they had another close call.

"We were in our dormitories when that shell hit the stone wall by the tennis courts, and wow, we were surprised," Akaka said.

Soon after the attack, Akaka and 28 other boys from his class were sent to the hills above the Kapalama campus. The teenagers, who had no combat training, were sent armed with rifles to look for Japanese paratroopers.

Their mission: To apprehend any soldiers who parachuted into the woods and protect the water supply for Honolulu. For the rest of that month, they lived and patrolled here around the clock -- students suddenly turned into soldiers.

When asked if he was scared: "Yes, especially at night, and of course we had secret messages and signals among the boys."

A plaque commemorates the bravery of those 29 students. Akaka says he is the last surviving member of that class, the final man who can tell the story of teenagers thrown into a war that changed the history of the world and the course of his own life.

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