Pearl Harbor is one of the days that stands out in every American’s mind as a horrific day in our nation’s history. December 7, 1941, Japan viciously and cowardly attacked the United States with its navy and air forces.
The attack also was the only in time in history, up to that point, that a foreign entity hit a fire department on U.S. soil. That would not happen again until 9/11, some 60 years later.
Hickam Field and Kalihi Fire Station had a mutual aid agreement, though they likely would have sprung into action either way. At 7:55 a.m., firefighters got a familiar call from the U.S. military asking for their help.
The firefighters ran many training exercises with the base, which entailed a lot of white smoke. The anti-aircraft fire that morning was black. Engine Six got ready to head over and join the battle, only taking 12 minutes to load up and head out. When they arrived, the bases fire department had already been destroyed by bombs.
The Kalihi Station firefighters began cleaning up the base, but the damage was extensive. The 4,000 man concrete barracks were on fire, a gas main was burning in a road, and the B-17 hangers were on fire, as was everything else.
The Japanese had taken out Hikam’s fire department in the attack. The engine was sitting there, destroyed with its men either dead or missing. HFD was now the only option.
The Kalihi Station was joined by two other companies who jumped into the chaos and devastation to fight the fires. They tried to save the remaining aircraft in the hanger, but the bases hydrants and water systems were damaged. The firefighters used water pooling in a crater.
While they were working, the second wave of attacks came in. Men ran for cover. Hoseman Harry Tuck Lee Pang was killed first, followed by Captain John Carreira and Captain Thomas Macy. Bombs and bullets destroyed all the equipment. By 9:15, there was nothing usable.
When the firefight was over, the leftover men did whatever they could to help the wounded, gather the dead, and put out flames. Six of the firefighters were wounded, in addition to those who were killed. The men were given Purple Heart soon after the attack, while those killed received honors posthumously in 1984 on the USS Arizona.