Pink Hibiscus: An Army nurse’s letter to her sister on December 7, 1941
Pearl Harbor, Hawaii
December 7, 1941
I’m bustin’ with news to tell you, little sister. I only have a few minutes before my shift at the hospital starts, so bear with me. I don’t know where to begin. It all happened so fast. I met Jimmy at the Officers’ Club when I first got here last summer and the handsome Army Air Force lieutenant asked me to dance. The band was playing Moonlight Serenade and before I knew it he had his arms around me, holding me so tight I couldn’t breathe.
Then he kissed me.
Oh, it was so romantic. The warm night breeze blowing in off the ocean, the smell of pink hibiscus making me wild with desire, his hand reaching under my long evening gown and sliding up my thigh. Then he picked me up in his arms and carried me down to the beach and we…
Sorry, I got called away by the nurse-in-charge. She was worried about a patient wheezing and coughing. She thought it might be pneumonia. Just a couple of nurses on duty this morning, so she asked me to help her with paperwork. I was disappointed, seeing how I haven’t had much chance to use my nursing skills since I’ve been here. Not much happening. Still, Pearl is the best duty an Army nurse could wish for. We get a few pilots scraped up after a rough landing or with a bad hangover, but it’s mostly sunny days and balmy nights.
I bet you and Mom were all bundled up when you did this year’s Christmas shopping at Wanamaker’s. I love walking down Market Street with all the holiday decorations. The soft, white snow landing on top of the pretzel man’s cart. The hot cocoa with Mom’s fresh whipped cream. I miss you and the family so much, but don’t worry about me, I’m having the best time of my life. I’ve nearly worn out the soles on my new high-heeled pumps dancing every night with Jimmy.
Here’s my news, he…
Something’s happening, Peggy, something awful. Sirens going off, a loud explosion, and everyone’s scrambling. I’ll write more later. I’ve got to get back to my patients. They’re jumping out of bed and yelling for their pants.
We’re under attack.
It’s over. For now. But my job is just beginning. The second wave of the surprise attack lasted until nearly 10 a.m. I haven’t stopped since then and I’d still be racing from one patient to the next if the nurse-in-charge hadn’t insisted I get some rest.
First, I wanted to write down what happened before I grab a few minutes of sleep, then go back on duty. My thoughts are scattered, so bear with me.
By the time you read this, you’ll know the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on a quiet Sunday morning at 7:55 a.m. I was recording a patient’s vitals when a soldier with a broken leg asked me to help him stand up. Sweat beaded on his forehead and he looked real nervous. Said he heard something that didn’t sound right. Planes flying overhead that weren’t ours. I thought he was joking, then I looked out the big, square hospital window—
Oh, my God, Peggy, I don’t know how to describe what I saw. Planes roaring overhead with red suns emblazoned on them. Loud, ear-splitting explosions. Black plumes of smoke swirling into the sky like a death flower.
It was maddening. Fear choked my throat. My body went numb. Hot tears spilled onto my cheeks. I wiped them away with defiance.
Nurses don’t cry.
I let go with a long shudder. I don’t know what came over me. Fear, I guess, but I was okay now. Duty came first. This was what I’d spent years studying for, watching, observing, the sleepless nights working in the emergency room in the big Philadelphia hospital. It all came together for me in that moment.
Within minutes, the wounded came pouring in. Carried in on anything sturdy enough to hold them. The sound of antiaircraft fire ringing in our ears, bombs exploding outside and shaking the walls. I don’t want to shock you, but you and those at home must know what we’re up against in this war. The pain, the horror. Men missing limbs. Bloodied wounds. Ugly burns with exposed flesh. Others in shock. We had no electricity, no elevators to transport the wounded to surgery. Not enough nurses. Supplies running out fast.
But we did it. We saved as many as we could and prayed for those we couldn’t.
I went from one patient to the next, never stopping until—
I saw him. My lieutenant. Carrying a wounded soldier on his back, blood splattered all over his uniform.
“Jimmy, Jimmy!” I yelled out, trying to get his attention. He looked so relieved to see me, it made me tear up. I could see in his eyes he wanted to hold me close to him, never let me go. I wanted to feel his warmth, smell his woodsy, masculine scent. Prove to myself he was here, alive.
After I stabilized the wounded man, Jimmy held me in his arms and pulled off my nurse’s cap, and then ran his fingers through my hair.
“Thank God you’re okay,” he said, his lips brushing my cheek. He told me we lost several battleships and more than a hundred planes, but that wasn’t going to stop him. He was going to get into the air no matter what he had to do. Drive all over the island until he found a P36 gassed up and ready to go.
He cupped my chin and said, “I’ll be seeing you, babe.”
I smiled up at him. “I’ll be waiting.”
Then he left. I blew him a kiss. I knew what he was thinking. He had his job and I had mine. Whatever words and soft kisses we’d exchanged under the swaying palms would have to wait.
We were at war.
And God willing, we’d be together again soon.
But nothing will erase what happened here on this Sunday morning at Pearl Harbor, the sun bright yellow and hot. Then the sky became dark with enemy planes set on destroying us and our way of life. My heart is so heavy with the pain of what I saw today. The suffering and the dying. It’s my job and the job of every serviceman and woman to stop them before they reach our home shores.
You have a job, too, Peggy. Take care of Mom and Dad, and tell them not to worry about me. I know everyone will do whatever they can so our fighting men can return home safe.
I can’t wait until I see you all again. When this horrible mess is over, we’ll sit under the old apple tree and eat bon bons and I’ll show you the prettiest engagement ring you ever saw. Yes, that’s my surprise. Jimmy asked me to marry him.
Till then, little sister, pray for me. And our boys fighting what some say will be a long, hard battle. But we’ll win. We have to. For the sake of free men and women everywhere.
Love, your big sister,
I hope you enjoyed reliving the events of December 7, 1941 through Kitty’s eyes. She came to me in an instant when I wanted to write a tribute to the brave men and women at Pearl Harbor and told her story to me. I couldn’t type fast enough…
Thank you for stopping by! If you like WW2 romance, check out my holiday novella that takes place on Christmas Eve during the cold winter of 1943: “A Soldier’s Italian Christmas.”
December 1943 Italy
He is a U.S Army captain, a battle-weary soldier who has lost his faith. She is a nun, her life dedicated to God. Together they are going to commit an act the civilized world will not tolerate. They are about to fall in love.
Winner in the Novella Category in the I Heart Indie contest
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