pearl harbor 2


The sisters with servicemen during WWII on the island of Maui.

A selection from the letter of Sister Frances Celine Leahy to Mother Henry dated St. Valentine's Day.

"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. At first we thought it to be just another Army maneuver although Sunday is usually a day of little activity for the Army and Navy. The planes, however, were flying so low as to seem almost ready to land on our car and there were so many of them that we began to get worried. Many people in the plantation camps were gathering to see what was going on, but we kept driving fast away. Hanging from under the plane was the torpedo and in some instances the bomb that did the deadly damage. We also saw clearly the Japanese insignia, the Rising Sun, on the wings of the planes. But at the moment we did not realize all this, as sometimes happens. It was not until we came close to Schofield that we saw the many hangers in flames, planes that could be saved being taken to safety on the fields, and much running about of soldiers and officers. As we entered the gate we asked the guards what was the trouble, and they told us that we had been attacked and that Pearl Harbor was also. Officers were shooting from behind trees and houses, calling to everyone "Air raid", but we could do nothing but ride on to the chapel. There we found very few children, crying and frightened. There were also three soldiers who had not heard of the attack, and a few women. Father began Mass with the terrific noise of exploding bombs in the distances, planes just taking off, and countless army trucks setting out for military objectives under attack, and we heard what we firmly believed to be our last Holy Mass. God, however, had other designs for us since He had plenty chances to take us that morning...

"We have our community room windows blacked out so that we can have light in the evenings. The Brothers of Mary fixed our windows so that we can have ventilation also. Two of them worked all one afternoon to give us the comfort of at least one lighted room. We have had no school until the 26th of January, and even now I have as many as 30 children absent a day. I do no urging to bring them to school since 65 children are a responsibility in these times. We have 800 feet of air raid shelters in our school yard, but they are inadequate, not deep enough and have no overhead protection. All the civilians have been registered, finger-printed, and equipped with gas masks. We must carry our registration card with us at all times for identification, and we are urged to carry our gas masks also. By the way, we are the only Sisters here who can get into their gas masks without taking off all the headgear. Our bands will get a little crushed, but who cares about that if we escape gas. Later on we will all be given steel helmets to carry and wear if necessary. I don't think I'm going to like that! Anyway we can't say that our Government is not protecting us...

"In spite of the times we are all very happy and trying to live from day to day relying on God's protection and resigning ourselves to His Will. We did some sewing for the hospital here, and those of us who took the defense nursing course last year signed up for future emergency work. While we had no school we kept constant vigil before the Blessed Sacrament all day and all night. Since School reopened we take turns every night staying up an hour at a time. Two of us pray together, six each night, giving us a turn every other night. We are only too glad to do this much for our soldiers and sailors...

"In case of enemy landings on the island there are certain areas which have to be evacuated and the civilians have to take to the mountains with clothing and provisions for four days...

"We feel safe when we know that so many are praying for us. Continue to pray because we are in a very dangerous place, but it is where God wants us to be."

Lovingly yours,

Sister Frances Celine

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