Military Spouse Pens Book Detailing the Horrors of Pearl Harbor Day, as experienced by the military families who lived there that day.
When Japanese fighter planes flew over his Ford Island, Hawaii, home on Dec. 7, 1941, en route to bomb Pearl Harbor, one little boy was in the backyard tending to his rabbits. He ran inside to tell his mother.
Upon hearing the news, his mother, a military spouse, calmly took a shower and then dressed her children in their Sunday best. She refused, family said, to be captured looking disheveled.
Upon hearing that story, more than 70 years later, present-day military spouse Katrina Luksovsky refused to let the story, and dozens more about the experiences of military families who lived on what is now known as Nob Hill during the attack be lost to time.
"I had never thought about the war in those kinds of terms, that they prepared for the worst," she said. "I already know what happened at the end of the war."
And now, she knows a lot more about what happened at the beginning, specifically on Pearl Harbor Day when Japanese naval and air forces attacked Hawaii. The surprise strike had an enormous death toll: 2,008 U.S. Navy personnel, 218 U.S. Army soldiers, 109 U.S. Marines and 68 civilians.
When Luksovsky moved into Navy Housing on Ford Island, inside Pearl Harbor, she was curious about the lives of the families who lived there during the attack. Her initial plan was to place permanent placards outside each home in the historic housing district to recognize each family who lived there on Dec. 7, 1941.
Her efforts have mounted to so much more, including a reunion of the children who survived the attack and a book. To find each family, Luksovsky said she became a sort of sleuth/stalker who spent her evenings each day searching online for any clue that would lead her to a family member.
She slowly began finding nieces, nephews and grandchildren who were happy and excited to share the stories that had been passed down through generations - and to learn more about their own families.
The now 70-year-old granddaughter of a Navy doctor said he was out playing golf when the attacks began. After the first wave he returned to Ford Island and immediately went to work. But first, he gave his wife a gun and sent her to a basement holding area. His instructions were clear: if the Japanese came in, she was to shoot the dog first and then shoot herself.
After exchanging stories and months of email with Luksovsky, the granddaughter came to Hawaii for her 70th birthday.
That day Luksovsky and many of her neighbors hosted the Navy doctor's granddaughter. They gave her a tour of the neighborhood and the basement that her grandmother hid in during the attacks. The woman said her grandmother often referred to it as "a dungeon."
In actuality, Luksovsky said, the "dungeon" was a basement storage area in the admiral's house where more than 200 women and children gathered for protection that day.
"She felt better knowing that she was with other people from the neighborhood," she said. "It put a lot of things into perspective for her."
When the ladies brought her to the dispensary where her grandfather worked tirelessly on Dec. 7 as wounded troops were brought in an endless stream, his granddaughter became teary. She realized she was standing where her grandfather had saved lives on one of the worst days in American history.
"It was such a meaningful day for her to go back and trace things that her grandparents did," Luksovsky said.
With each phone call, Luksovsky was treated to another goose-bump inducing story. Grandchildren told stories their parents told them of taking cover that day in the "dungeon." Sailors who were blown off of ships made their way there too. Some lived, more died.
Many of the stories include tales of military children tending to the injured who were covered in oil and had their clothes burned off of them. The men asked the children to hold their cigarettes to their mouths when their injuries would not allow them to do this simple tasks.
Dozens of men took their last breath with only these children by their side.
The children saw the dead Japanese pilots on the shores. They helped Marines load bullets into their gun belts. Mothers made pacts with each other to kill themselves if the Japanese overran the island.
Most of the children fell asleep that night not knowing whether their fathers were dead or alive.
"These were things no one could imagine these children enduring," Luksovsky said. "These are the stories you never hear about."
The children who were there that day, now old and gray, told her how the smell of burning flesh and oil remains fresh in their nostrils; how they still can't watch a fireworks show.
"Many people don't realize how close these houses were to where the action was," she said.
Story after story, Luksovsky found the military families of Pearl Harbor Day. She eventually tracked down all 19 families who lived in the 20 historic homes in Nob Hill on Ford Island. One house was vacant that day.
Luksovsky's enthusiasm and tenacity led to another first. She held a reunion last year on the east coast and 12 of the 16 children who survived that day, and are still living, were able to attend. For many, it was the first time they had seen each other in 70 years. For their own children, it was the first time many had heard the survivors speak of their experience.
Luksovsky knew she couldn't let the stories slip away again. With the blessing of the families, she compiled all the stories into a book called simply, "Ford Island, December 7, 1941."
The book is still in editing and will be available soon. Luksovsky was worried her endeavor wouldn't have much interest among the general population. But when she put it on www.kickstarter.com to try to raise funds for the initial printing, supporters donated $2,800. Her goal was $2,000.
She said she is excited to not just get the stories out, but to preserve them.
"The survivors' children asked me to write it," she said. "I am honored they asked me. I want to make sure these stories never get lost."