Notes: A woman on vacation in Honolulu writes to her family to describe her experience of the attack on Pearl Harbor, civilian life in the days immediately after, and her return voyage to San Francisco on a commandeered Navy troop ship. She also gives hints about the immediate suspicion Japanese Americans fell under following the attack. In all, about 2500 words of carbon-copy typescript, titled at the top of the first page, "A Minute Footnote to History-in-the-Making", on onionskin paper with an accompanying Hotel St. Francis envelope.
Sturm Howe (Anne Sturn née Rotan, b. Waco, Texas, 1880; d. 1960) was on an extended trip to Hawaii, having arrived on the islands, according to ship manifests, on November 5, 1941. She, like most civilians in Honolulu, did not realize the attack happened. "On that momentous Sunday I was breakfasting in bed...when the Japanese flew over the vicinity of my hotel. Honolulu rattles with planes all the time. If I registered the noise at all, I assumed that the dawn patrol was returning." She does, however, describe seeing anti-aircraft fire in the days following the attack, apparently by jittery gunners as no Japanese planes flew over the islands on the days following December 7. She writes, I "got up and out on a flat roof not far from my room, and while still dark saw the fireworks of the anti-aircraft guns at Pearl Harbor, just like the roman candles of our childhood on July 4."
Howe recounts the experience of her companion, a trained nurse, who volunteered at a hospital. "She told me that she dressed the wounds of men with a leg or an arm blown off in a strange hospital without other light than a single small flashlight, covered with blue paper, the opaque blue paper in which absorbent cotton is wrapped. She sat between two beds and gave blood transfusions by that single, feeble, blue non-shadow to two men at the same time."
A curfew was quickly put in place, and no outside lights were permitted except for flashlights with blue paper over the lens. "I personally was twice challenged from outside because my feeble blue flashlight accidentally pointed toward an uncovered window instead of away from it." The blackout was the only real hardship she experienced—power at her hotel was shut off at 5:30 p.m. and after that, blue flashlights were the only light allowed.
On Christmas Day, Howe and her companion were given passage on a passenger liner that had been hastily converted into a troop carrier. It arrived in Honolulu with soldiers and returned to San Francisco with escaping civilians, like Howe. "Our cabin, about ten feet square, had bunks for six people, two tiers of three each. They were fifteen to eighteen inches apart... I am o'er fat to climb, so in our cabin chose a lowest bunk. I never could get into it sitting, but had to lie down on the rail and roll in. They all sagged as we slept in them, and as the voyage progressed and the passenger above me got closer and closer, my elbow hit her back every time I turned in bed."
Like many white Americans, Howe was immediately suspicious of Japanese immigrants and their American descendants. She repeated the rumors that Japanese residents in Hawaii celebrated the attack: "The Territory of Hawaii is 52% Japanese, and they were smoking pretty big cigars on December 7," she writes. At her hotel, "one detail not too reassuring is this: all employees were Orientals." She goes on to relate advice given to a Japanese American waiter, that he should run home after leaving work but should halt if anyone asks, "or it will be just too bad... Somebody hadn't halted the night before and was shot."
Edition + Condition: Sheets folded for mailing, else near fine. The envelope, addressed to Howe's son, Spencer D. Howe, is very good.
An interesting, well-written letter on the start of World War Two.
Publication: San Francisco: 1941.
Item No: #360752