Hauntings at Pearl Harbor
Today, Wednesday, December 7th, is a day that went down in history in 1941 when Japanese planes attacked the United States Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. This attack killed more than 2,300 Americans. The entire area has been left scarred, haunted by past happenings, and haunted by the souls who lost their lives that day.
More than 900 sailors are forever entombed in the U.S.S. Arizona, about 37% of the total military personnel and citizens killed in the attack. More than 30 Arizona crew members who survived the bombing have chosen to add their ashes to the underwater tomb.
The U.S.S. Arizona was completely obliterated, and the U.S.S. Oklahoma capsized. A total of twelve ships sank or were beached in the attack, and nine additional vessels were damaged. More than 160 aircraft were also destroyed—an immense and unforgettable loss of human life and damage to expensive and essential property.
A hurried dispatch provided the first official word of the attack at the ill-prepared Pearl Harbor base. What was said haunted the airwaves that day:
‘Air raid on Pearl Harbor — this is not a drill.‘
The Day After
In an address to Congress, President Roosevelt called December 7th, 1941, a ‘date that will live in infamy.’ Congress then declared war on Japan, abandoning the nation’s isolationism policy and ushering the United States into the throes of WWII.
Many folks are surprised to learn that the naval base known as Pearl Harbor dates back to 1875 when the Hawaiian Kingdom signed the reciprocity treaty and the U.S. Senate allowed the Navy to lease the lagoon as a naval base.
Within days, Japan’s allies declared war on the U.S., and the country began a rapid transition in preparing for wartime — changes to the economy and the building of armaments were on the rise.
Also, on the day following the attack on Pearl Harbor, the head of the Library of Congress Archive of American Folk Song, Alan Lomax, sent a telegram to colleagues all across the nation asking them to collect citizens’ immediate reactions to the bombing.
Among these people interviewed was a woman from California who was visiting her family in Dallas:
‘My first thought was what a great pity that… another nation should be added to those aggressors who strove to limit our freedom. I find myself at the age of eighty, an old woman, hanging on to the tail of the world, trying to keep up. I do not want the driver’s seat. But the eternal verities–there are certain things that I wish to express: one thing that I am very sure of is that hatred is death, but love is light. I want to contribute to the civilization of the world but…when I look at the holocaust that is going on in the world today, I’m almost ready to let go…’
What followed was a terrible time in world history — The Office of War Information capitalized on the fear and outrage that followed the attack to encourage the support of war mobilization. Propaganda ran rampant, and the people of the United States were grieving the losses at Pearl Harbor and preparing themselves and their families for more war to come.
History Doesn’t Forget
Battlegrounds are notorious for harboring restless dead. Pearl Harbor is different from others on many counts, including that many of those who died that day were never given a proper burial and did not run into battle willingly. They were ambushed, and many of them breathed in their final moments in a place of horror and fear.
With the unspeakable loss of life at Pearl Harbor that day, it’s not a shock to learn that the surrounding area is believed to be active with restless ghosts and hauntings. There have been reports all over Ford Island of strange events, sounds, and presences.
Ford Island residents have reported footsteps and voices in their homes, ghostly intruders making their presence known to the folks living in the area through the movement of household objects, manipulation of electrical systems, and appearing as dark shadows creeping along the walls and ceilings of residences.
The airstrip also has a ghastly reputation, as visitors often report a palpable sense of panic and a strange glowing mist that floats up and down the runway.
Charley is one of the most well-known ghosts and hauntings at Pearl Harbor. His presence is so well-documented that it isn’t uncommon for officers to say, ‘Well, that’s just Charley,’ when they’re met with unexplainable happenings.
Charley is known for his antics, like switching on lights and turning water faucets. He’s also a pretty strong entity, as he swings heavy doors without issue. This is accompanied by the jingle of keys and loud footsteps echoing throughout empty buildings and hallways.
Still, the most haunted area is the memorial built upon the remains of the U.S.S. Arizona.
This ship was the most heavily damaged — when the last 1,763-pound bomb struck the ship, it exploded inside a 14-inch powder magazine, causing an enormous explosion and causing the deaths of the crew who are now resting within the sunken vessel — imagine the feeling visitors must get walking just feet above this underwater tomb.
During an interview conducted by the Pearl Harbor memorial staff, a 90-something-year-old survivor recalled laying on a stretcher awaiting medical transport. Next to him, another soldier lies screaming in pain. The man’s arm and shoulder had been blown off in the attack. Upon recognizing the gravely injured soldier as his friend, Herman Bledsoe, he offered words of comfort. Soon after, Herman passed away.
Stories like these make these lives more than numbers, more than statistics — they lived full lives with wives and children, hobbies, and careers. Memories, loves, and dreams.
Today, we ask that you take a moment to remember the sacrifice our servicemen and women make every day. Take a second to remember those who passed away following that fateful December day, and regardless of who (or what) is causing the ghostly happenings at Pearl Harbor today, the feeling of loss and respect for the servicemembers past permeates the air year-round, making the Pearl Harbor Historic Sites a worthwhile and hauntingly chilling visit.
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