Friday, December 7, 2018

My Dad's Pearl Harbor Story

Dad and his boys (and new Buick convertible), 1957. (Photo by Mom.)
On this day in 1941, J. K. 'Ken' Cowdery (my father) was in the Army stationed at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii. This is his account of that morning. He wrote it in 1991, for the 50th anniversary, for our local newspaper the Mansfield News Journal (Mansfield, Ohio). It was later published in the AARP magazine. Dad died in September, 2010, age 90.

This is just one of his stories from that fateful day. I heard them all about 100 times but it never got old. He had an amazing memory. How he got to Hawaii is quite a story too, as is what happened next, but I'll leave it at this for now.

Sunday, December 7, 1941, dawned bright and clear at Schofield Barracks, Territory of Hawaii. At least I assume that it did because it was bright and clear when I got up at about 7:45.

To get breakfast I had to be in the chow line out behind the barracks before 8:00. I made it.

Someone noticed a column of smoke coming from the vicinity of Wheeler Field, the fighter field, south of our location. There were comments and conjecture that the fly boys must be having some kind of exercise and that one of them had cracked up.

At about the same time we noticed a line of planes coming over Kole Kole Pass, which was about three miles northwest of us and in full view because there was nothing in the way. Our barracks was the furthest northwest barracks on the post. As the first plane in the line passed overhead I could not only see the red circle markings on the plane but could see the pilot's face, he came in so low that he cleared the two story barracks by about 5 or 6 feet.

At that point he also started his guns. We never did figure out why he didn't start strafing a few seconds sooner and try to get some of the 30 or 40 guys in the chow line. I have no idea what the second plane in the line did, by the time he got there I was long gone.

We all made for cover, I went into the building via the back door to the kitchen. The kitchen was about 20 feet wide by about 30 feet long. Just inside the back door, to the right, was the walk-in cooler. I hit the floor at the far end of the cooler, putting the cooler between me and the line of fire.

There must have been several planes in the line as the firing kept up for quite a long time--at least it seemed like a long time. After the firing stopped everything was completely silent, there was not a sound. I wondered if I was the only one still alive.

There was a line of preparation tables down the center of the room, with equipment and utensil storage drawers below, and ranges along the far wall at the other end of the room. Looking around I could not see another human being, everyone was obviously hugging the floor. Then I saw a hand rise up, pick up a spatula, turn over two eggs frying on the range, then replace the spatula and again disappear.

Regardless of the circumstances, duty comes first.

I might add at this point that this was the 90th Field Artillery Battalion of the 25th Infantry Division, a Regular Army outfit.

When it seemed that the attack was over and people started stirring again I grabbed a plate, claimed the eggs, and sat down to eat my breakfast.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Today Is Repeal Day. It's Time to Finish the Job

The 21st Amendment to the Constitution became effective 85 years ago today, ending National Prohibition. It also set in place the outline of the system of alcohol regulation that is still with us today. In what may be the longest hangover in history, many vestiges of Prohibition remain in America's alcohol regulation system and they haven't aged well.

Conveniently, the R Street Institute has published a booklet detailing some of the more absurd laws that remain on the books. Most were passed in the immediate aftermath of Repeal and have not been much examined since. 'America's Dumbest Drinks Laws' was released today, in honor of Repeal Day. You can download the PDF here.

The R Street Institute is a nonproft, nonpartisan, public-policy research organization (“think tank”). Their mission is to engage in policy research and outreach to promote free markets and limited, effective government.

As the booklet notes in its introduction, "although the 21st amendment repealed Prohibition, it still allowed state and local governments broad control over hooch."

My favorite dumb liquor law has always been Indiana's ban on cold beer (#3). Specifically, although Indiana law allows beer to be sold in drug stores, supermarkets and convenience stores, only liquor stores may sell beer cold. Efforts have been made to change this law but the liquor store lobby has managed to block it. 

The pain of this prohibition was lessened somewhat earlier this year when Indiana allowed liquor stores to operate on Sunday. At least it is now possible to buy cold beer seven days a week.

One dumb law I did not know about is the federal prohibition against distilleries on Native American lands, which has been in force since 1834. As authors Jarrett Dieterle and Daniel DiLoreto note, "While many of the laws on this list deserve our ire, this one stands alone for its general odiousness in treating people differently based on nothing more than their heritage and race."

As states rush to end the prohibition on marijuana, this might also be a good time to finish the work of December 5, 1933 and bring some common sense to the regulation of alcohol.