Monday, June 7, 2010
Honolulu on V-J Day, August 14, 1945
Unfortunately, I had nothing for Memorial Day, and serendipity didn't smile on me when this video found its way into my mailbox the day after the Sixth of June. Living in Hawaii the ghosts of the Pacific war haunt us just as tangibly as the Blitz does London, even to those (like me) who are generations removed. Here in Honolulu, we have the Arizona Memorial entombing those who first gave their lives in the the first morning of the conflict. Nearby is the Battleship Missouri, where the armistice was signed by MacArthur. Two icons which bookend the war with Japan. But we also have the ghosts, sometimes friendly, other times more somber, Americans all, who wandered these streets and taverns in khaki and denim before, during, and after. Some watched as others sailed off on hulking warships of grey, or happily piloted aircraft to rendezvous with flattops already out to sea, their last peaceful flight for a long time.
I now know what it looked like here in Honolulu, the day the news reported the end of the war, when these ghosts were still vital and alive, coming home or seeing loved ones coming home. I myself have never seen footage quite like this, and it deserves sharing. One of the streets is Kalakaua Avenue, the "main drag" which cuts through Waikiki, but not Kalakaua as I've ever seen it before. The only recognizable features to my practiced eye are the venerable Moana Hotel, still there today (and worth a stay for you fine hotel stalwarts), the Beach, and Diamond Head. Otherwise, it's another world. If you've ever been to Honolulu, the chances are near-perfect that you've been on this street. But, minus the two-way traffic, minus the rural, single wall cottages adjacent taverns. Minus the men in khaki and denim, and their beautiful women. Minus - regardless of what you were doing here - the level of celebration we see these ghosts enjoying.
About the video: This footage is personal to Richard Sullivan who kindly made it available for embedding on his wonderful website. The scenes were shot by his father, a veteran who evidently was blasted out of his bunk unhurt on Dec. 7, 1941. One comment to his video, I've copied here, to identify some of the landmarks. The commenter uses the handle "hebneh", and sounds like he was present as well, as he compiled the following guide.
":28 - South St. next to the Advertiser building
:38 - Kapiolani Blvd. seen from South St.
1:05 - "Parade" goes from Victoria St. onto King St. with Thomas Square in background (with military buildings in it)
1:26 - Ala Moana Blvd. with HECO plant at back left
1:28 - Kalakaua Ave. nearing Kapiolani Blvd., with Kau Kau Korner at the intersection (later Coco's, now Hard Rock Cafe)
1:40 - Moana Hotel
2:05 - Looking up at viewers on the exterior fire escape stairs of the Moana Hotel
Other than the Moana, all the other Waikiki buildings seen here are long vanished.
There were more local people on the streets that day in downtown Honolulu than in Waikiki, but they were outnumbered everywhere by the military."