HAWAIIAN AIRLINES Captain Gilbert Tefft surveyed the boarding process
from the left seat of DC-3 #9’s cockpit. This morning Tefft and copilot
Steve Rosetta would transport a full load of passengers from Honolulu
to Port Allen Airport. Most of the seats were filled now, and with any
luck the flight would depart close to its scheduled time of eight a.m.
Soon the captain would bring engines to life, taxi out and depart. After
a quick turn the plane would head west above cane fields, the blue waters
of Pearl Harbor passing off the right wing as the DC-3 climbed toward
Bill Capp moved quietly around his Waikiki apartment this morning so
as not to waken his wife. Capp’s position as a Civil Aeronautics Authority
inspector allowed the couple to enjoy their comfortable apartment beside
Honolulu’s Ala Wai Canal. This early morning departure had nothing to
do with the job, though, no sneak inspection or anything like that. Today
was Sunday and soon Bill Capp would rendezvous with friend Bill Holloway
for a little surfing.
Capp drove his Buick the short distance
to the ocean and found a parking space on Kalakaua Avenue near the Royal
Hawaiian. As he exited the car he noticed something unusual. Anti-aircraft
shells were exploding above Pearl Harbor. Bill had towed targets for the
coast auxiliary and knew they never practiced firing over land. He headed
home, grabbed his rifle, then sped to the airport.
He brought his car to a stop in front of
the Hawaiian Airlines facility. As Bill exited the vehicle one of the
company’s pilots yelled “Here comes one.”
Capp didn’t know what the pilot was talking
about but joined the man beside a telephone pole. Then he saw it, a Zero
heading their way and strafing the area. At that moment the telephone
pole seemed no wider than a matchstick to Capp as bullets tore up blacktop
on both sides and bits of asphalt hit his legs. He pulled up his trousers
after the plane passed to see if he was bleeding.
As Bill Capp left the telephone pole he
heard someone shout that another plane was coming, so he darted into a
building to take refuge behind a large safe. A number of pilots already
were hiding there and Capp landed right on top of them. The pilots welcomed
his arrival with a far from complimentary greeting.
After a few minutes passed without the sound
of lowflying aircraft and gunfire, Bill ventured outside. DC-3 #9 stood
right alongside the hangar. Captain Tefft and Copilot Rosetta had spotted
Japanese fighters shooting up the field moments before the plane was to
taxi out for departure. The airliner took quite a few hits, but passengers
and crew had deplaned quickly enough so that no one was on board when
bullets cut through the aluminum. One fighter plane had hit #9 with a
cannon shell and started a fire inside the cockpit. Moments later another
Japanese plane hit the airliner with bullets, but in a unique twist of
fate one of the bullets knocked the top off a Kidde fire extinguisher
behind the copilot’s seat and put out the fire. Now some would-be passengers
from the DC-3 wandered around the grounds of Hawaiian Airlines. Just as
Capp told them to get in their cars and leave the airport a number of
bombs exploded beside nearby hangars. The passengers couldn’t have moved
quicker to follow the inspector’s advice.
Capp made a quick trip to nearby Andrews
Flying Service and requested that all small planes be disabled through
the removal of some critical parts. With this job done he returned to
his car and left the airport for town. At one point a line of tracers
cut across his windshield and he pulled off the road, drove through a
small fence and hid behind a house. When he was sure no more planes were
coming he again took to the road heading towards town. The car felt like
its clutch was burning out, it just wasn’t going fast enough, but when
Capp looked down the speedometer said 90 mph. He stopped for a traffic
light at School Street and in his rearview mirror he saw a Packard go
up in the air and turn over. Probably a shell from one of our ships, he
figured. Small fires burned alongside the road on his way home.
By this time Stan Kennedy, Capt. Elliot,
and a variety of other Hawaiian Airlines people heard of the attack and
reached the airport. ....
copyright 2005 by Barnstormer Books