This week in history: Chicago honors 10th anniversary of Pearl Harbor

On Dec. 7, 1941, the Japanese military carried out an attack on Pearl Harbor, an American naval base in Hawaii. This year marks the 80th anniversary, so here’s a look at how Chicagoans honored the 10th anniversary.

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In this Dec. 7, 1941, file photo, part of the hull of the capsized USS Oklahoma is seen at right as the battleship USS West Virginia, center, begins to sink after suffering heavy damage, while the USS Maryland, left, is still afloat in Pearl Harbor, Oahu, Hawaii. Pearl Harbor survivors and World War II veterans are gathering in Hawaii this week to remember those killed in the Dec. 7, 1941 attack. Those attending will observe a moment of silence at 7:55 a.m., the minute the bombing began. The ceremony will mark the 80th anniversary of the attack that launched the U.S. into World War II. (U.S. Navy via AP, File) ORG XMIT: LA902

U.S. Navy via AP, File

As published in the Chicago Daily News, sister publication of the Chicago Sun-Times:

This year marks the 80th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. On Dec. 7, 1941, the Japanese military attack the naval base in Honolulu, Hawaii, thus bringing the United States officially into the Second World War. Over 3,000 people died in the attack.

On the 10th anniversary in 1951, both the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Daily News marked the occasion in vastly different ways. Both papers ran prominent essays focusing on the state of the country in 1941 versus 1952, but from there, their coverage diverged.

The Sun-Times sent staff correspondent Oscar Katov to Hawaii to file a report, and he found a story that had yet to be told — the battle of Niihau.

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Niihau sits about 110 miles northwest of Pearl Harbor, Katov wrote in his Dec. 7, 1951 report, and was owned at the time by Aylmer Robinson. About 200 native Hawaiians lived on the remote island and worked for him.

At about 2 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941, a Japanese plane crash-landed on Niihau. A resident named Hawila Kaleohano “ran to the wreckage and disarmed the pilot as he tried to draw a pistol,” Katov reported. Residents questioned the pilot about an attack and called the island’s two Japanese residents, a caretaker named Harada and a beekeeper named Sintani, to interpret, but the pilot denied any attack.

The islanders decided to hold the pilot captive and take his papers until Robinson arrived with weekly supplies the following day, but something delayed him, Katov said. On Friday with still no news, Harada helped the pilot escape.

The next morning, the pilot and Harada captured Beni Kanahele, who had helped steal Japanese ammunition the night before, and his wife, the reporter wrote. “Harada threatened to kill Beni’s wife. Enraged, Beni lunged for the pilot. The pilot fired three shots. Slugs ripped into Beni’s stomach, groin and leg, but Beni kept charging. He grabbed the pilot by the neck and leg — like he picked up sheep — and dashed his head against a rock.”

Harada then shot himself, the reporter said. Robinson returned to the island soon after to learn that the battle of Niihau had already ended. Kanahele survived and received “a personal decoration from President Roosevelt for his heroism.”

Over at the Chicago Daily News, the coverage of the anniversary focused on the ceremony in Hawaii and stories from survivors (none of them from Chicago). The paper ran copy from an Associated Press reporter and included before-and-after photos of the harbor. Several days later, Chicagoan Jennie Posner wrote to the paper to share her recollections of that day.

“Pearl Harbor — a day I will never forget. We had tickets for the travel talk given by the Daily News at the Palmer House. A clear cold day, I and my daughters were looking forward to a very beautiful afternoon.

“The ballroom was packed. Came 2:30 p.m. but no sign of the curtain going up. A short time later the room was dimmed, on the screen the words were flashed — we were bombed at Pearl Harbor by the [Japanese].

“Where there had been laughter, not a sound was heard for a few seconds: then like a sudden storm a great sob was heard throughout the room — a sound I can still hear.”

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