Fire Response to Pearl Harbor Remembered 70 Years Later

The Honolulu Fire Department -- dispatched to Hickam Airfield to assist federal crews with multiple structure fires on Dec. 7, 1941 -- lost three firefighters that day.


"A date which will live in infamy."

That's how President Franklin D. Roosevelt described the Pearl Harbor attack 70 years ago today.

The Honolulu Fire Department -- dispatched to Hickam Airfield to assist federal crews with multiple structure fires on Dec. 7, 1941 -- lost three firefighters that day.

Firefighters on duty noted their activities in a logbook. "8 a.m. Tel. alarm Hickam field, #4 Co. responded."

In October, for the first time ever, that logbook was on display outside of Hawaii. It was the featured exhibit at the opening of The National Fire Heritage Center in Emmitsburg, Md.

Dr. Burt Clark was the person behind making that happen. "The Honolulu Fire Department was most gracious, and agreed to loan us the logbook. We were honored."

The entries, penned in longhand, continued: ".Rec'd 25 mattresses from Central. Dead at Hickam field fire were Captains Carriera + Macy, Pang, hoseman. Injured hosemen Kalihbane, P.J. McCabe, J. Gilman, Sol Naavao."

In addition to Co. 4, companies 1 and 6 also responded to the attack. The 100 firefighters and six apparatus remained on the scene for many, many hours.

Off-duty firefighters were called to duty as well.

Not only were structures burning at Hickam, many buildings around the city were ablaze as well including a school and a fuel tank storage facility, explained Honolulu Capt. Terry Seelig.

"Many of the fires in the city were caused by anti-aircraft shells that fell," he said.

A painting hanging in the Honolulu fire museum shows firefighters drafting water from craters created by the bombs. "Broken water mains filled the craters that looked liked ponds," Capt. Terry Seelig said.

Seelig said the Honolulu firefighters were called to help federal crews, many of whom lost their lives.

Killed in the attack from Honolulu were Captains John Carreira and Thomas S. Macy as well as Hoseman Harry T.L. Pang.

The injured firefighters included Lt. Frederick Kealoha, and Hosemen Moses Kalilikame, John A. Gilman, Solomon H. Naavao Jr., Patrick J. McCabe and George Correa.

Those firefighters were awarded Purple Hearts, the only civilian firefighters to receive the military honor.

Forty years later, the firefighters killed that day also were awarded Purple Hearts.

A 1937 Seagrave riddled with bullet holes is among memorabilia from that infamous day housed in an old fire station that's on the National Historic Register.

While the department doesn't have the personnel to staff the museum daily, tours are available by appointment, Seelig said.

The captain added that the department was honored to have shared its history with visitors at the National Fire Heritage Center.

After being on display in a glass case for about a week, NFHC Executive Director Wayne Powell gingerly packaged the historic logbook for shipping. He kept track of it until it was safely back in the hands of Honolulu fire officials.

"We were so honored that they entrusted us with it. Many visitors spent time reading and taking pictures of the entries. They understood the historical significance."