91-year-old woman reveals at Café Inquiry her experiences on Oahu during attack on Pearl Harbor

December 7, 2016

To honor today’s 75th anniversary of the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, last Wednesday’s Café Inquiry featured a documentary and presentation on various myths about the attack, from the battleship Arizona was blown up when a bomb when down its smokestack to an astrologer’s claim to have predicted the attack to the conspiracy theory that President Roosevelt knew about the attack beforehand. But the surprise of the night was the appearance of 91-year-old Sylvia Straughter revealing for the first time, according to her sons who accompanied her, that she was a 16-year-old dancer in Honolulu and had just appeared the night before the attack at Schofield Barracks, the base north of Pearl Harbor featured in the James Jones novel and Oscar-winning film, From Here to Eternity.

The documentary, introduced by Exec. Dir. Jim Underdown, detailed how the Arizona was sunk when one bomb pierced a couple decks (not the smokestack) and hit the magazine (ammo), causing an instant explosion that sunk it in nine minutes and killed nearly 1,177 American servicemen. The filmmakers worked with a historian to recreate the exact sequence that was then shown. Chief Operating Officer Bob Ladendorf, who had just visited Pearl Harbor the month before, then presented other myths about the bombing and moderated a discussion among the attendees.

Sylvia talked about living in Honolulu at the time of the bombing and the fear of further attacks by the Japanese. She said that they had to cover their windows at night so no lights appeared. Attendees asked her questions, then she brought out a few photos she had of herself at the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

-Bob Ladendorf

Sylvia Straughter with sons Ray and ErnestSylvia, with her two sons, Ray (left) and Ernest, holds up one of the few photos she has of herself. She was just 16 in Honolulu on Dec. 7, 1941.

Battleships Missouri and Arizona

The beginning and the end of WWII - The white Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor shown from the deck of the nearby battleship Missouri, where the Japanese signed surrender documents on its deck in Tokyo Bay. [Photos credit: Bob Ladendorf]