Dec. 7 is coming up in several weeks and it will mark the 75th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Obviously, it will stir the strongest memories among people who were living in Hawaii on Dec. 7, 1941 — including me.
As a then 7-year-old boy, I still have vivid memories, of course. They were stirred recently as I came across a yellowed handwritten letter from Vincent J. Repaci, who fought in World War II as an Army enlisted man. I had written him and he responded.
Vincent was among a group of a dozen or so soldiers bivouacked in a small temporary barracks on our large leasehold property on Kahala Avenue. A “pillbox,” with machine guns, had been installed on the beach.
As I recall, Vincent had helped my dad cut down an unwanted tree, between our home and the beach, and I had befriended him. Soon afterward, Vincent was shipped off to fight in the Pacific Islands.
As recorded in a previous blog, I liked to send and receive letters from folks up to Franklin D. Roosevelt, Vincent Repaci’s ultimate commander in chief. So why not Vincent?
Here, much abbreviated, are thoughts he recorded in his letter. (The letter also had certain sections snipped out, I assume by a censor.)
“I received your letter when I first reached the place where we were going. And we have been fighting ever since. . . . This is the first time I got a chance to write a letter.
“Tom is okay and so is Mac. . . . I hope you are not mad at me for not writing sooner . . . I hope you can read my writing, I am in a hurry.
“Tell Mr. and Mrs. Smith I said hello.”
“I will try to get you some Japanese money to send to you and your brother and mother and dad. . . Tell everybody I said hello.”
Vincent J. Repaci.
Statistics show that almost 42,000 Army ground forces died in the Pacific theater in World War II. We’ve always assumed that was Vincent’s fate. May, he and all of the others, rest in peace. They are all heroes.
(About the book cover pictured above: More than a decade ago, a Punahou School friend, Johnny Bowles, solicited from classmates their recollections of December 7. The result is a book called “The Day Our World Changed,” published by Ice Cube Press, North Liberty, Iowa. It has received excellent reviews.)