Louisville resident recounts experience of Pearl Harbor attack while living in Hawaii

The attack on the Naval Base in Hawaii on Dec. 7, 1941 took the lives of 2,403 U.S. personnel, including 68 civilians.
Published: Dec. 7, 2021 at 5:00 PM EST
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - On December 7, 1941, the Japanese military bombed Pearl Harbor, propelling the United States into World War II.

The attack on the Naval Base in Hawaii took the lives of 2,403 U.S. personnel, including 68 civilians.

“It was just part of being a Hawaiian,” Louisville resident Mike Craig said. “Being proud that we were essentially defeated that day, we were not defeated in the end. That there was a resolve to rebuild, regroup and go on the offensive.”

Craig was born and raised on Oahu, in a multi-generational Hawaiian family.

A baby boomer, he grew up listening to stories his mother would tell about the attack on Pearl Harbor, beginning with that morning when Japanese pilots waved at her, flying low past his mother’s house.

“They had the cockpits open,” Craig said. “The pilots, you could see the pilots’ white prayer scarves.”

Craig recounted the experiences of his mother, 21-year-old newlywed Hazel Souza Maderas, as the war came to her Hawaiian doorstep.

“They were stunned to start off with,” Craig said. “Then once they saw the bombings start and the torpedoes starting, ships on fire and that kind of thing, they knew the island was in trouble.”

Craig’s mother’s story offers a less familiar look at the attack on Pearl Harbor through a civilian’s eyes.

(Story continues below photo)

Craig’s mother’s story offers a less familiar look at the attack on Pearl Harbor through a...
Craig’s mother’s story offers a less familiar look at the attack on Pearl Harbor through a civilian’s eyes.(WAVE 3 News/Family Photo)

In the immediate aftermath, there was the fearful expectation that the Japanese would soon invade.

“She said it was chaos after that,” Craig said. “There (were) runs on food markets... They blocked off major intersections, put up barricades. There was a strict curfew invoked. There was barbed wire strung all over the place.”

Craig’s mother’s husband at the time was a civilian steelworker.

He was among volunteers desperately trying to save sailors trapped in overturned ships.

“She recounted that he said it was horrid,” Craig said. “And that they could hear clanking from the crew that was still alive. They’d be banging on the pipes; they’d be banging on the hull. And just after a while the banging just stopped.”

Many of his mother’s stories from that day however did not end in tragedy.

On the 80th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack, Craig, now a Division Commander for the Coast Guard Auxiliary, participated in memorial services aboard the decommissioned USS LST-325 in Evansville.

As he placed a wreath in the Ohio River, Craig said the gift of his mother’s stories filled him with one thought.

“Pride,” he said. “The pride of how heroic everyone was on that day. Whether how you were in the military or a civilian, how everyone pitched in for that sense of community.”

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