When Pearl Harbor Was Attacked

December 11, 2018

Please Note: During his retelling, American fighter ace Besby F. Holmes uses an ethnic slur to describe his attackers. This oral history is presented unedited as a historical artifact of one veteran's experience.  

 

In American fighter ace Besby F. Holmes’ oral history, recorded in the early 90’s, he recalls the scramble to get to a plane during the attack on Pearl Harbor. The night before, he had a few too many rum drinks at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel while on a blind date, and he was nursing a hangover. He planned to go to the beach afterwards “to let the sun bake the poison out of [his] body.” But his plans were waylaid when the attack broke out. In the midst of the commotion in Honolulu, with military trucks roaring up and down the streets, Holmes commandeered a civilian’s red Studebaker and sped to Wheeler Base where he saw 70 P-40s already burning. He was first directed to fly a biplane that hadn’t been moved in a month, and told the sergeant, “Thank you very much, Sergeant, but I don’t want to fly that thing!” After arriving at another base location, a line chief gave him a helmet, a parachute, a .45-caliber pistol and ordered him into a P-36 Peashooter. He flew for 30 minutes and never saw a Japanese plane in the air. His hangover headache went away, too.

Want to check our more oral histories from American Fighter Aces? Check out our new digital database!

 

The American Fighter Aces Association also offers scholarships. Learn more here.

 

Host: Sean Mobley

Producer: Keny Dutton

Webmaster: Layne Benofsky

Content Marketing Manager: Irene Jagla

 

Photo Credit: National Museum of the United States Air Force

Topics: Podcast, Pilot, WWII, History

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