A Date With A Bombing


At dawn on Tuesday I watched the big front door of the BOQ slowly open. Into the foyer walked two strained and exhausted men, still in their flight suits. I gave a good second look to be sure, and rushed into the arms of Ens. Joe Garrett, who later became my husband. He and Ens. Forrest Todd, with only pistols aboard their patrol planes for defense, had aborted their mail-delivery mission at Johnston Island and searched for thirty hours for the Japanese carrier planes reportedly on their way to bomb Midway and Johnston islands. Joe and Forrest, leery of bringing their seaplanes in to land in the debris-littered harbor, had radioed headquarters that the planes over Barbers Point at exactly six o’clock in the morning would be theirs and to hold the fire! My husband says that his navigation and timing that night were the most motivated of his career.

By Wednesday evening both Jean and I were feeling tired and unattractive in our Sunday clothes. Leaving me to tend the counter, Jean went back to the quarters to change. As soon as she left, I received a frantic message that we had a long-distance call at the quarters. I sped off to join her. It seemed an eternity since I had left Quarters 111B on Sunday, and it must have seemed even longer to our parents, who since the first news flash had been trying to get in touch with their daughters.

Once we were back in the quarters, the prospects of a hot shower and a bed were too tempting to resist. Knowing that we were no longer really needed, we sent word back to the BOQ that we were retiring from duty.

Although the Ford Island dependents had top priority for evacuation to the mainland, we delayed our departure from Hawaii until Buzz headed out for the South Pacific, and it wasn’t until March that we boarded Pan American’s converted China Clipper for San Francisco. When we landed very early one morning, we felt a lifetime away from Pearl Harbor. Consequently, we were surprised to be ushered into the combined Naval and Army Intelligence and FBI office at the airport. There Jean and I were very clearly informed that we were not to say anything about what had happened to the United States Fleet or Pearl Harbor on December 7. We were admonished so strongly that we obeyed. My father told us years later that he was hurt to the quick that we didn’t even tell him what we had experienced.

“What have I been doing?” he repeated. “I have spent the morning identifying 350 of my dead buddies from the California ."

One February, twenty-five years later, my husband and I took two of our children to Hawaii. We drove around Ford Island and found the Utah rusting hull side up out in front of Quarters 11 IB. We took the Navy barge trip around Pearl Harbor and listened to the lecture given by the guide. And then I told my children what I remembered of that day, when I was the age of my daughter, Ginger, accompanying me that spring.

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