Tony Santos Was At Pearl Harbor On Dec. 7, 1941

The former mayor was a boy on that fateful Sunday that still lives in infamy.


(Editor's note: This guest column was written by former Mayor Tony Santos.)

Stories must always be preserved and shared; with this in mind, I would like to share my memories of what FDR called "a date which will live in infamy."

On December 7, 1941, I lived at 2012 Eluwene St., in Honolulu. We lived some three doors from our church, St. Anthony’s.  

My mother woke me early that day and sent me to Church alone. We were about 5 miles or so from Pearl Harbor; while in church, I heard what I thought were firecrackers; I noted people looking at each other trying to figure out where the sounds were coming from. We later learned that they came from Pearl Harbor.

As mass progressed, a man walked up to the priest, Father Herbert, and whispered in his ear; the priest then stopped saying mass and announced that we were under attack by an unknown force and we should go home and stay there.

On my way home, I saw the Japanese planes, emblazoned with the rising sun, flying over us to perform their run into Pearl.

Instead of going home, I stopped at our neighbor’s house, the Sonadas, to watch the planes fly on their runs into Pearl Harbor. There were radios on all over the area and the announcer was saying “this is the real McCoy, we are under attack, stay in your house."

This was America's entry into the Second World War. As a kid, I did not know what the ramifications were, but my life would soon change forever.

The military immediately instituted a curfew and placed the islands under martial law. For the next couple of years we kids had to take gas masks to school every day. We did this until we moved to Californiai 1943.

After the war, we returned to Hawaii as declared “war refugees.” Good old Uncle Sam paid our way home; but we returned to California in 1947 and I have been here ever since. 

Do you have a recollection or photo of Pearl Harbor to share?

Larry Smith December 07, 2012 at 03:42 PM
Many of the fine men and women who served in World War II, never made it home after Pearl Harbor, and for those that did, many did not see home again for almost five years, after the shooting finally stopped. Can any of us today imagine being separated from our loved ones for such a long time? They were and are truly the greatest generation. Thank them every time you get a chance for protecting us as well as they did.
Marga Lacabe December 07, 2012 at 05:33 PM
What a wonderful story! I want to hear about your grandma's story now. Did your grandpa know how anti-union you are, btw? :-)
David December 07, 2012 at 06:15 PM
He does assuming there's a heaven, Marga. Otherwise, being in a trade union is quite different from a public sector union or a private sector cartel union. Trade unions like bricklayers/carpenters/etc work to get their members jobs, he set up the pension fund etc etc. They're not interested in getting paid more than they're "worth" for making $1 widgets or squeezing the taxpayer and bribing politicians for outlandish benefits & comp. The only real political comment I remember him making is: "It doesn't matter who's in there [office]; it all comes down to the rich won't pay taxes, the poor can't, so the middle class always does." Grandma was born and grew up in Oakland, one of 5, living in a 2 br house over on Lily St. just above MacArthur. Her parents had moved from Mobile, Alabama in the early 20's; her father had worked as a general laborer/carpenter on the Houston Ship Canal in the teens, then at one of the shipbuilders in Mobile where he met his wife and moved to Oakland. Grandma brought home a handsome sailor to meet the family in 1939, went to the clubs of San Francisco with him, and got married...she worked as a nurse for a time, then raised her boys in San Diego, was active in her Church, played cards, liked cats and joined Papa six and a half years ago. And yes, she got married to Papa in Hawaii when he was on leave during the War as it was against the law in California until 1948 for her to marry a white man (pictured above, front and center).
Marga Lacabe December 07, 2012 at 08:37 PM
What a sweet story! Did either of their families object to their inter-racial marriage?
David December 07, 2012 at 08:57 PM
Ken Briggs December 07, 2012 at 11:11 PM
does the schools teach this stuff any more ?
Justin Agrella December 07, 2012 at 11:41 PM
I do every chance I get but as time goes by there are less and less of them to thank. My uncle passed away a few years ago and he served for all those years. He came back home married my aunt and lived happily ever after until she passed away before him. Even after his mind was fleeting sixty years later, he reverted back to that time. I suppose it left an impression on many who lived through it.
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