8 Dec 1941, Laura B Ziegler's wartime memories | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

8 Dec 1941, Laura B Ziegler's wartime memories

Date(s) of events described: 
Mon, 8 Dec 1941

It was 8:30 am on Monday, December 8th 1941. ((Because of the International Date Line, this was Dec. 7 in the United States.)) We were about ready to go down for breakfast. While we were waiting, Laurence and Laura Lou went out on the small veranda overlooking the city. While here we saw and heard a group of airplanes approaching.

The rest of the family came out and watched 21 of them flying in perfect formation toward the airport. We had heard that a group of British fighter planes was expected to arrive in the colony. We took it for granted that they were British planes. We changed our minds, however, when the air raid sirens began to blow and we heard bombs exploding in the distance. We knew then that they were not British planes but Japanese raiders.

We rushed downstairs and found everyone excited and talking at once. The radio was reporting the bombing of Hong Kong Airport by Japanese planes, destroying or damaging all planes on the field. Minutes later we heard the report of the attack on Pearl Harbor and that the United States and Britain had declared war on Japan. All shopping was stopped at once. Here we were stranded at a place only 15 or 20 miles away from a large Japanese army. A Canadian troop ship had arrived a few days before with reinforcements for the British, but their equipment wasn't due to arrive until the 10th of December. The Japanese had an air force and the British didn’t have a single fighter plane in the colony.

Most of the next three days and nights were spent in the ground floor basement where the manager had fixed a room for us. It was low and dark, so there was nothing to do but sit around on the trunks and boxes stored there and wait for the all clear, while the Japanese were bombing different buildings or ships anchored in the harbor. Our hotel was only a block from the water’s edge so we got plenty of noise and concussion. The big guns and exploding shells made the most frightening noises.