The couple was used to noise, but the sounds that woke them on Dec. 7, 1941, were unlike anything they’d heard before. Betty pulled on her robe and looked out the bathroom window.
“Warren!” she called, “there’s smoke and fire at the end of the runway.”
At first he didn’t believe her. But at his wife’s insistence, he went to another window and spotted a plane flying low overhead. “I saw the red balls on the wings of the plane,” he said. “I watched that plane torpedo the USS Utah. I said, ‘Betty, we’re at war!’”
They hustled out of their quarters and stopped to pick up a young mother and her two kids who lived downstairs. “It was total chaos,” said Warren of the surprise attack. “We didn’t know what to do.” The horrific noise of bombs, planes and machine gun fire added to the overwhelming terror.
Warren gathered everyone in the neighbor’s car and took off for the administration building. “Barbara and I were in our nightgowns and robes, and shrapnel was falling from the sky,” Betty said.
“The road was shredded by machine-gun fire,” Warren said, as he recalled their frightening journey. Steering the vehicle away from the strafing fire of a Japanese warplane, he found shelter in a supply building. There Betty, her friend and the children, waited out the first wave of the attack. “They put us to work immediately, Betty said. “We unloaded guns and filled fire extinguishers.”