DAY OF INFAMY
Friday, December 07, 2012 10:00 AM
On the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, Marjorie Duncan stood outside her home in Hawaii, waiting as her family prepared for church.
Marjorie Duncan (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie)
Marjorie Duncan was a teen living with her family in Hawaii when Japanese fighter planes flew over her house in Pearl City as the attack on Pearl Harbor began. Duncan says the airplanes were so close that she could see the Rising Sun emblem on the aircraft. Duncan shares her memories as we observe the 71st anniversary of what has become known as the day of infamy.
While her sister and younger brother put on their best attire for 7 a.m. Mass - it was Sunday after all - Duncan, 13, patiently waited on the front porch.
She soon heard what sounded like bombs and machine-gun fire off in the distance. It was coming from Schofield Barracks, an Army base located at Pearl Harbor.
Duncan turned to her stepfather, Bob, who was serving in the Army, and asked if the Army was conducting "maneuvers."
"He said, 'That doesn't sound like our planes,' " recalled Duncan, who is now 84 and living in Madison.
Moments later, several planes roared directly above the home, erasing any doubt that these were not American fighters. As the family stood outside, they spotted a plane "with some kind of black plastic covering the wings," Duncan said. More distinctly and alarming, the aircraft had the mark of the Rising Sun, the emblem of the Empire of Japan.
It was clear: America was under attack.
"My mom was so scared, she made the Sign of the Cross hoping they wouldn't shoot," Duncan said.
The attacks on Pearl Harbor would claim 2,400 American lives and serve as the entry point for the United States into World War II.
For those like Duncan, the experience spurred a deep sense of national pride and patriotism that would never wane.
Duncan was born and raised in Wahiawa, Hawaii, but left the islands with her first husband - who has since passed away - shortly after the war ended.
Duncan has written a story about her experience witnessing the Pearl Harbor attacks for her children and many grandchildren.
During the attacks, Duncan and her family were ordered by her stepfather to pile every mattress in the house onto one bed and seek cover underneath. They stayed in the bedroom for several days while the military issued each family food rations.
Meanwhile, her stepfather and two brothers-in-law reported for duty.
Though Duncan didn't see them for the next two weeks, all three men were unharmed, as well as the rest of the family - including a pregnant sister who crawled away from her home located near a electrical substation because she feared it would become an enemy target.
"My mother and two married sisters stayed up many nights watching out the windows and listening to the planes, We were so scared; we didn't have our dad or brothers-in-law to protect us," she wrote.
The images and terror of the event stuck with Duncan long after that horrible day. She still vividly remembers how the Schofield Barracks looked following the attacks.
"When we had the tornado (in 1974), and I helped the Red Cross, I cried and cried. I said, "It looks just like when they bombed Schofield Barracks. It was terrible," she remembered.
Duncan now lives near the Jefferson Proving Ground with her husband, Alva, who was raised in Trimble County, Ky. The two have been married for 62 years.
Alva served in the Army, and the two met while he was stationed in New Mexico. Marjorie said she was "so glad to find my soldier man."
The two revisited Pearl Harbor after getting married in the 1950s. They traveled to the USS Arizona Memorial on a small boat and saw all of the names of the Americans who died in the attacks.
They also saw the sunken USS Arizona, which is said to still be leaking oil, 71 years after the attack.
"We wanted to see where the soldiers were," she said.
Looking back on the attack, Duncan said she is quick to count her blessings each time Dec. 7 rolls around on the calendar.
"I'm so glad the Lord let me live my 84 years in a land like this; a free land," she said.