Sisters' Stories of Pearl Harbor

Read stories written by and about the experience of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet at Pearl Harbor. Learn more about our history with Jewels from Jane, a series by province archivist, Sister Jane Behlmann that offers a glimpse of the history of the Sisters of St. Joseph in her "Jewels" for the day.

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The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet were accustomed to traveling the 22 miles from their convent in Honolulu to teach catechism to the children of military personnel at Schofield Barracks. So as three nuns headed there in a taxi in the early morning of Dec. 7, 1941, they weren't too concerned about low-flying airplanes. And they assumed the smoke in the distance was from a burning sugarcane field. Read More.

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"December 7, 1941, was my turn to stay home. I had checked all the names in the classrooms and was taking the boys in rank to church for Mass. I had all the boys and another sister had all the girls. We were running late so I was trying to hurry the boys along but they kept stopping to look up at a plane. They kept saying 'Sister, one bomber, one bomber.' I looked up and the plane was flying so low that I could see the pilot's face. Read more.

On the morning of December 7, three of us were on our way to the military reservation, Schofield Barracks, when we noticed a very heavy black cloud hanging in the distance over Wheeler Field which is the Army Airport connected with the barracks. While looking at it we made several conjectures as to what it might be and finally decided it was just a storm cloud since Schofield usually has heavy rains. We were still a good distance away, but already past Pearl Harbor which has not as yet been attacked, when we heard planes above and actually all around us. Read more.

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With the attack by the Japanese, the Sisters prepared for war. They were made officers in the civilian defense program. They were finger-printed and given gas masks, and they in turn finger-printed their little pupils and fitted them with masks. Read more.

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“On the morning of December seventh [1941], Sister Frances Celine [Leahy], Sister Martha Mary [McGaw] and I [Sister Adele Marie Lemon] got into our taxi as usual, at seven-thirty, and set out for the Barracks [Schofield Barracks to teach catechism to children of army personnel]. As we neared the Pearl Harbor district, about 7:50, we noticed planes, scores of them, flying unusually low. Two planes swooped so close to our machine that we commented about the long red objects fastened beneath them. Our driver remarked that these were probably torpedo bombs on some of our new planes. Suddenly we heard the rat-a-tat-tat of guns. Read more.

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"Sister, how soon will you have enough 'points' to return to the Mainland?" In their Hawaiian missions the Sisters of St. Joseph are being playfully questioned thus by servicemen calling on them to say Aloha after four years during which they have been guests at the schools and convents and have evoked the keenest admiration and sympathy of the religious. The Sisters, delighted to be resuming their routine as teachers of the little Islanders, are content to be sharing the joy of the homebound sons of Uncle Sam. Read more.

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