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.

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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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