The Pacific Air Forces
headquarters building -- and Hickam AFB -- was quiet yesterday, the
64th anniversary of the surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
But on Dec. 7, 1941, it was a major target during the infamous
sneak attack on Pearl Harbor and Hickam Field that drew the United
States into World War II.
The base held a ceremony that started at 7:55 a.m. -- the
precise time the Japanese attack began -- to commemorate the more
than 2,400 people who died that day. The ceremony was held at the
main base flag pole.
During the ceremony a flight of F-15 Eagles from the 154th Wing
of the Hawaii Air National Guard flew a missing man formation over
Col. William Changose, the 15th Airlift Wing commander, and Sen.
Daniel K. Akaka of Hawaii -- a World War II veteran -- were at the
“What began as a quiet Sunday morning across the island --
and at Hickam, Bellows and Wheeler air fields -- suddenly changed
as Japanese Airmen seeking air superiority over the Hawaiian
Islands and Pacific region rained fire down on the sleepy
unsuspecting island,” the colonel said at the ceremony.
More than 350 aircraft attacked the island from their aircraft
“What the Japanese didn’t realize was that their
bold attack, as we all know, awakened a sleeping giant,” the
During the attack, a tidal wave of courage and determination
called brave men and women into action throughout the island,
Colonel Changose said.
“Men and women stood strong while under attack in the face
of danger and devastation,” he said.
The bombing and strafing of Hickam was an important Japanese
objective because the success of the attack on the Pacific Fleet
depended on eliminating air opposition. And while the attack was
demoralizing -- it nearly knocked out the Pacific Fleet -- the U.S.
military soon took the fight to the Japanese.
The attack came as a total surprise to the troops then stationed
at Hickam Field and living in what is now the PACAF headquarters
One year after the building was completed -- while troops slept
or ate breakfast -- several bombs crashed through the roof. They
killed practically everyone on the top floor. The dining hall took
a direct hit from a 500-pound bomb, instantly killing 35 men.
In all, Hickam suffered extensive property damage, aircraft
losses and casualties totaling 189 killed and 303 wounded. Evidence
of the attack is hard to find today. And the base’s
well-groomed and sedate appearance hides the fact it is the
headquarters for U.S. military might in the Pacific.
Today Airmen work in the many areas of the headquarters. But in
1941 it was a barracks housing 3,200 enlisted men. Named Hale Makai
-- Hawaiian for “home by the sea” -- it had all the
facilities needed for convenience. It had two barber shops, a
laundry and tailor shop, a post exchange, medical dispensary, day
rooms and a huge consolidated “chow hall.”
The people who work there do not always think of the history
behind their workplace.
“Every day as I walk into the building, I see the
bomb-damaged exterior. I can’t help but think about those who
lost their lives while serving here,” said Tech. Sgt. Martin
Jackson, who works in the command’s public affairs
“To think that 64 years ago today such a world-changing
event happened right here where I work,” the sergeant said.
“It is truly an honor to work in such an historic
In 1985 the National Park Service designated the headquarters,
and a few other buildings on Hickam, as historic landmarks.
Today, those buildings house a new breed of Airmen. They are
locked in a battle, too -- the war on terrorism. And like their
predecessors, they have a key mission to maintain peace in the
Pacific and around the world. But they do not forget the past --
the bullet and shrapnel holes are still visible on buildings.
“The holes remain as a reminder of the attack and the need
to stay ever vigilant,” said wing historian Steve Diamond.
[ANN Salutes Tech. Sgt. Shane Cuomo, AFPN]