Everyone who recalls it says Dec. 6, 1941, was a tourist agent's dream of a day in Honolulu.

It was warm and the tradewinds were perfumed. The crests of the Koolau range that forms Oahu's spine were outlined crisply against clouds that billowed high and bright, powder blue sky.

And life was good.

The sugar and pineapple industries were booming, and Honolulu was living up to its name — "safe haven," in Hawaiian — as far as tourism was concerned. War in Europe and an uncertain situation in the Far East had made the islands "the" place to visit.

Thousands of tourists had been drawn by ads declaring they would "be able to realize the real pleasures of a crossing on world-famous ships, Hawaii bound, over peaceful seas."

Among civilians, there was some concern over news stories speculating on what Japan was up to in the western Pacific. A headline bannered across page one of the previous Sunday's Honolulu Advertiser had briefly quickened a few pulses:

"Japanese May Strike Over Weekend!"

Heartbeats returned to normal when subscribers read that the "strike" was expected in the Western Pacific.

"Nobody really expected anything to happen in Hawaii," recalls Warren E. Verhoff, then a radioman aboard the auxiliary tug USS Keosanqua at Pearl Harbor. "We thought maybe something would happen in Guam or the Philippines, but not Pearl."

Newspapers daily carried stories about the worsening situation in the Pacific, but most people suspected the press was suffering from an attack of "barking dog syndrome."

War talk didn't occupy as many civilian conversations as did a city plan to make some downtown streets one way and talk of the upward spiral in rents attributed to a flood of defense industry workers from the mainland.

Japan's intentions were not as much a bother to some people as was the off-duty conduct of some of the more than 80,000 soldiers, sailors and Marines on the island.

They were rowdy, ill-mannered, social misfits, many members of polite society groused — the same "Tommy this an' Tommy that ... An' throw 'im out, th' brute" civilian complaints heard then and now around just about every military base town in peacetime.

Other Honolulu residents welcomed the troops, opening their homes to them, inviting them to Sunday dinner and picnics and luaus to make them feel at home.

Opinions of Hawaii among the men in uniform were equally divided. Some found it rotten duty — not much to do, too expensive and fun too restricted by far too many "blue laws," like the one that closed down nightspots at midnight.

To others — like Verhoff, Bob Kinzler, Richard Fiske and Bob May — it was great duty.

"We didn't have much money," Kinzler said, then assigned to Headquarters Company of the 27th Infantry "Wolfhounds" at Schofield Barracks.

"I got $21 a month as a private and they took out 25 cents of that for the Old Soldiers Home. After you paid off the quartermaster laundry and your PX and movie checks, there wasn't much left.

"But you could borrow $5 for $7, and there were some good all-night poker games. There were no enlisted clubs, but each regiment had a beer hall. And $2 went a long way in town.

"It was good duty."

To May, a 19-year-old private with the 5th Bomb Group at Hickam when he arrived in Hawaii in April 1941, it was "paradise."

"I played on the baseball team and in a band combo before the war screwed that up," he recalls. "We went downtown a lot just to go downtown. We went to the beach at Waikiki. I remember a hamburger was 15 cents."

"I met the manager of a movie house called the Liliha Theater. It's gone now. He gave me free passes and told me to bring my friends. I did and we all got in free."

Fiske, then a Marine bugler aboard the battleship USS West Virginia, also recalls Hawaii as "a fun place."

"Everything was easy going," he recalls. "A cab was only 25 cents from Pearl to the Army-Navy YMCA downtown." The same cab ride today is more than $20.

"If you were going up to Schofield, it was $1, but the driver stopped halfway there and gave you a shot of okolehao (a local liquor)."

Prices, he recalls, "were unbelievable" in comparison to Hawaii today.

"You could get a 16-ounce T-bone steak for a buck. Sirloin was a little cheaper, 90 cents.

"Hot turkey sandwiches had to be served on a platter because they wouldn't fit on a plate. With it you got a pound-and-a-half of mashed potatoes, salad and coffee. That was 45 cents."

In grocery stores, 9 cents bought a quart of milk or a pound of hamburger and bread was 7 cents a loaf.

Beer was 35 cents in expensive restaurants, 25 cents in neighborhood bars and 10 cents on base.

"There was a place (for GIs) at Waikiki called `The Breakers' where you bought 12 tickets for a dollar and each ticket was worth a beer," he said.

But, there was even less expensive beer available.

"You could go to the Royal Brewery on Queen Street and have pretzels and beer, as much as you wanted, free."

A movie at the Princess Theater in Honolulu was 45 cents, a bit higher at the theater in Waikiki. That included, Fiske recalls, "two features, a cartoon, newsreel and shorts."

The Moana, Halekulani and Royal Hawaiian — now all but hidden in a forest of high-rise hotels — were the only hotels in Waikiki, then. The Royal, many GIs and sailors of the era say, discouraged patronage by enlisted men.

"It was `officers country,' " one former sailor who was there then recalls. "They didn't like whitehats."

Ironically, when war was declared, the Royal became a Navy billet, serving officer and enlisted alike at far-below-reasonable prices.

"Everytime we Marines came back from an operation, we'd stay at the Royal," Fiske recalls. "We paid $1.25 for a week including meals. The buck-twenty-five was for laundry."

But not many people in Honolulu were thinking about war that first Saturday in December 1941.

A week earlier, colored lights had been strung over Fort Street in the center of the downtown mercantile district.

Department stores were filled with yuletide goodies and many people planned shopping trips,

Christmas 1941 promised to be Honolulu's "merriest on record," the press observed.

There was early, non-Christmas-related activity in the tenderloin district that Saturday. With 103 Pacific Fleet ships docked or at anchor in Pearl Harbor, more than had been there at one time since July, businesses along Hotel and River Streets, Kukui and Nuuanu were preparing for the merriest weekend in months.

Employees at Bill Leader's, the Mint and Two Jacks bars laid in extra supplies of Primo beer and 5 Islands gin and okolehao. The girls at the Rex and Ritz and Anchor hotels slept in, resting up for the Saturday night rush.

Sailors aboard ship and at the Navy bases at Pearl, Barbers Point and Kaneohe and soldiers at Hickam, Wheeler and Bellows Fields, Schofield Barracks, and at forts Armstrong and Schafter, racks made plans for a payday weekend off.

Many would catch the 10-cent bus or 25-cent taxis or free cattle-car trucks into town, some to take in the "Tantalizing Tootsies" review at the Princess Theater. Some would Christmas shop, picking up a hula-skirted doll for Sis or a satin pillow cover with gold fringe and a "hand-painted" image of Diamond Head and Waikiki for Mom.

Some would fall into temporary love at the New Senator Hotel or Mamie Stover's, others would be drawn into Hatfield and McCoy-like rival unit fights.

Some planned to take in the annual Shrine football game, that year pitting the University of Hawaii Rainbows against the Willamette University Bearcats from Oregon at Honolulu Stadium.

A lot of military people planned to do what soldiers and sailors far from home have always done — just walk around downtown with nothing to do ... but happy to have the chance to do it out of earshot and eyeball range of first shirts and masters-at-arms.

But, there was some military work to be done first. The brass was more concerned than civilians and rank-and-file GIs and whitehats with whatever it was the Japanese were up to.

Ten days earlier, Washington had sent a war warning to both Fleet Commander Adm. Husband Kimmel and his Army counterpart, Lt. Gen.Walter Short, commander of the Hawaiian Department.

War was almost a certainty, Washington felt, but a Japanese attack on Hawaii was unthinkable. Fifth columnist activity from the some 150,000 Japanese in the islands was considered likely, however.

Short, who was responsible for the defense of Pearl Harbor and the rest of the island, ordered all aircraft parked close together on landing strips so they could be protected.

He informed Washington of his actions, and received no indication in return that he might have underestimated the situation.

Short also reiterated his requests for more guns to protect the harbor.

Kimmel stepped-up anti-submarine patrols outside the harbor. The additional manpower he had been pleading for to bring his ships up to strength was beginning to arrive and training schedules were revised to get them into shape as quickly as possible.

On Ford Island, in the center of Pearl Harbor, training was under way at 2 a.m., Dec. 6. The air station commander set off air raid sirens to see how quickly his men responded.

At 6:30 a.m., the destroyer USS Ward moved toward the entrance to relieve another destroyer on patrol duty outside.

At 6:53 a.m., a harbor pilot began directing the oiler USS Neosho, just arrived from San Pedro with a load of aviation fuel, to mooring near, Hickam Field.

Kimmel was at his desk at 8 a.m. A short time later, he was interviewed by the Christian Science Monitor's Joseph C. Harsch, who asked if there would be war in the Pacific.

Kimmel said he didn't think so.

The interview finished, the admiral turned to his morning intelligence briefing. He was told that Japan's aircraft carriers had disappeared for the 12th time in six months and that Japanese diplomats were burning papers in the yard of their consulate in Honolulu.

The carriers' whereabouts was not of great concern. Every U.S. intelligence estimate was that Hawaii had nothing to fear from those ships. And the smoke of burning papers had wafted above the Japanese consulate grounds several times over the past year.

A report from the U.S. Asiatic Fleet in the southwest Pacific that Japanese ships were moving in that direction was of concern, however. Kimmel dispatched his intelligence officer to the battleship USS California to discuss the report with Vice Adm. William S. Pye, the Fleet Battle Force commander, who would have to lead American ships into combat if combat developed.

Pye dismissed the report. He felt the Japanese would not tangle with "too big, too powerful and too strong" America.

Through the rest of the morning at Pearl, skippers held personnel and living compartment inspections, emergency battle drills, and sailors on the battleship USS Oklahoma prepared for an admiral's inspection to be held the following Monday.

The skipper of the repair ship USS Vestal, moored outboard of the USS Arizona in Battleship Row, discussed pending repairs with Capt. Franklin Van Valkenburg and Rear Adm. Issac C. Kidd. Van Valkenburg was the Arizona's commander and his ship was Kidd's 1st Battleship Division flagship.

Capt. Mervyn Bennion of the West Virginia held an Annual Military Inspection aboard the battleship USS Maryland.

At Kaneohe Naval Air Station (now a Marine Corps air station) on the opposite side of Oahu from Pearl, Cmdr. Harold M. Martin passed out the darkest warning of the day, telling his men at personnel inspection that they were closer to war than they would ever be "without actually being in it."

But he was referring to sabotage, not an air attack.

At Hickam Field, Col. William F. Farthing, the base commander, called a meeting of officers also to reiterate warnings of possible sabotage.

At Schofield, Maj. Gen. Maxwell Murray, 25th Division commander, was thinking past that. Considering a Japanese invasion by sea a possibility, he ordered all ammunition but high explosives to be stored in barracks where it would be close at hand if such an attack did come.

By noon, most of the activity died down and people who had liberty cards or passes began moving toward the gates of their bases, headed downtown.

Kimmel went over war plans with his staff until about 3 p.m., then went home and prepared for a dinner party to be hosted that night by a fellow admiral at the Halekulani Hotel in Waikiki.

About the time he left his office, Japanese consulate chancellor "Tadashi Morimura" took a taxi from Honolulu to Aiea Heights where he could look down on the entire fleet at Pearl Harbor. He counted ships, then went to Pearl City to confirm his count from the harbor shore.

American officials would not discover until after the war that Morimura, who arrived in Honolulu in March of 1941, was actually Ensign Takeo Yoshikawa.

He had been medically retired shortly after his graduation from the Japanese naval academy, then had been told the Navy still could use him. Over four years, he perfected his English and became an expert on the American fleet and bases at Pearl Harbor, Guam and the Philippines.

After arriving in Hawaii, he made frequent trips to Pearl and the surrounding area, usually dressed in green slacks and a gaudy aloha shirt. Once or twice he gained entry to the base by posing as a Filipino. He often hired light planes for tourist flights around the island — and an unrestricted, birds-eye view of the harbor.

His reports to Tokyo were made in diplomatic codes — messages that Kimmel and Short were not apprised of. Washington considered them unimportant since Japanese consulates and embassies throughout the Pacific and along the U.S. West Coast had been sending similar messages for months.

Yoshikawa returned to the consulate and encoded a message for Tokyo:

"The following ships were observed (in Pearl Harbor) on the 6th: 9 battleships, 3 light cruisers, 3 submarine tenders, 17 destroyers, and in addition there were 4 light cruisers and 2 destroyers lying at docks (the heavy cruisers and airplane carriers have all left). It appears that no air reconnaissance is being conducted by the fleet air arm."

He sent that by commercial telegraph just after 6 p.m. and spent the rest of the evening relaxing in his cottage on the consulate grounds.

Off-duty fleet and shore sailors at Pearl who decided not to go to town began filling up the newly-opened Bloch Arena recreation center. It offered pool, bowling and beer and the major attraction of the evening would be a "Battle of Music" to pick the best band in the fleet.

Some survivors swear the Arizona band won — but historians record that it already had been eliminated and the battleship USS Pennsylvania took the crown.

Many people at Hickam Field who decided to spend a quiet evening at the base lined up at the base theater to see "Honky Tonk," a western starring Clark Gable and Lana Turner.

It turned out to be a quiet night in Honolulu in spite of the crowds of soldiers and sailors filling the streets and bars and brothels.

Kimmel went to the dinner party and was home in bed by 10 p.m. He and Short had planned a Sunday morning round of golf.

Fiske was back aboard the West Virginia before midnight to catch a few winks before his 4 to 8 a.m. watch. He also had a date in town the next day.

Short and his wife left the Schofield club about 11 p.m. and, as they drove down the hill toward Fort Shafter, looked out over Pearl Harbor, ablaze with lights.

"What a beautiful sight," Short observed.

He paused reflectively, then added, "And what a target that would make."

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