Note: If you’re familiar with the attack on Pearl Harbor and the history that led up to it, you may wish to skip to the next heading.

In 1904, negotiations to resolve conflicting regional ambitions between Russia and Japan broke down.  The Imperial Japanese Navy then launched an attack upon Russia ’s fleet, a day before war was declared.  Later, when the war ended, Japan was recognized as a major power, and it would be invited to important global conferences for years to come.

When historians ponder the Pearl Harbor attack, some find parallels to 1904.  In the early 1940s, American-Japanese negotiations were prolonged, perhaps because Japan needed time in which to prepare for war.  Late in November 1941, it made a final proposal for peace in the Pacific. Five days later, the U.S. countered that proposal with an ultimatum.  As expected, Japan rejected it – but even before the ultimatum was delivered, an Imperial Navy task force had set out for Hawaii .  A declaration of war was delivered only after the attack began.


For many reasons, Pearl Harbor should have been better-prepared for the attack, but it was not.  On that December 7th, as on other Sunday mornings, it was defended only lackadaisically.  Many officers were not on ships or at airfields, but in their homes in Honolulu .  Those who oversaw the radar had not been put on special alert, and casually assumed that the approaching aircraft were American.  Much of the ammunition that defenders would need was locked away – after all, it was Sunday morning, right?  American sailors and soldiers had never been taught to quickly tell by its silhouette if an airplane overhead was American or not.

The swift attack was both disorienting and disabling.  Its first wave (there were two) met little opposition, in large part because it took time to break out ammunition.  People on the ground resorted to shooting at speeding aircraft with rifles or pistols.  The noise of screaming engines, airborne gunfire, sirens, and explosions made it hard to think clearly; it was hard to hear, let alone obey, any orders that were shouted.  Things had improved by the time the second wave arrived.  A number of defensive guns now were armed, especially on some of the ships.  Several Japanese planes were downed – but so were some of the few American planes in the air.  Some panicked defenders shot first and looked for insignia later, targeting all the aircraft they saw, whether or not they were Japanese.

The defenders did their best, but their best did not count for much.  Pearl was left a shambles of wrecked, even sunken, ships.  The airfields, also primary targets of the attack, were cratered ruins.  More than 3,500 Americans lay dead or wounded, strewn wherever they happened to fall – some near their guns, where they had chosen to risk their lives in defense of their country.


From Hicksville to Oahu

Two young servicemen from Hicksville were caught in the attack.  These are their stories.

Cleveland John Dodge

In December 1939, Europe was already at war.  That month, 19 year-old Cleveland Dodge, Jr. of West Marie Street enlisted in the Navy.  No doubt his father, active in Hicksville’s Veterans of Foreign Wars Post, understood – he had served many years in the Navy himself, including a long stretch during World War I when his ship and its crew were interned in Constantinople (now Istanbul ).

Following training in Newport , Rhode Island , young Dodge was assigned to the flagship of the country’s Battle Fleet, the “Tennessee Class” California .  The battleship was 624’ long, it could sail up to 9,000 miles without refueling, and it carried a crew of 1,400.  In calm seas, it could fire 14” diameter explosive shells a distance of about 20 miles.  Really.  By December 1941, Dodge was a Seaman 1st Class, assigned to one of the ship’s magazines – a place far below deck where ammunition was stored, until it was time to send it via hoists up to the California ’s guns.


S1c Cleveland John Dodge
Dodge Family Tree on Ancestry
created by user fedcop84

PFC John T. Haughey
Nassau Daily Review-Star
March 30, 1942


John T. Haughey

John Haughey grew up in a large family on Third Street .  After completing his studies at St. Ignatius School , he went on to Hicksville High School .  John was one of eleven seniors who graduated in January 1940.  Two months later, he enlisted in the Army, and soon found himself stationed in Hawaii as part of the Army Air Corps (the first incarnation of the Air Force).  He was based at then-new Hickam Field, about a mile from Battleship Row, where he lived in the three-storey Consolidated Barracks.  John was assigned to the 50th Reconnaissance Squadron of the 11th Bomber Group as a radio operator.  His unit flew new B-17D bomber aircraft, in which it was training for long-distance missions over the Pacific, missions intended to monitor and photograph Japanese activity.

John quickly developed a fondness for flight; he wrote to his family about the flying classes he was taking at the University of Hawaii .  His letters even mentioned the possibility of his being transferred back stateside for Air Corps pilot training.

1941: Main Entrance to Hickam Field, with B17Ds overhead
Bowman, B-17 Flying Fortress Units of the Pacific War


The Attack

S1c Cleveland Dodge

Working in a battleship’s magazine was not an easy job.  Munitions had to be stowed and retrieved carefully; a stray spark of static electricity might destroy enough of the ship to sink it.  Gunpowder was stored below the waterline; in the event of a fire above, the powder rooms would be flooded immediately, likely drowning those who served there.  When the guns were firing, ammunition (and also, for the big guns, canisters of powder) had to be loaded, quickly and without accident, into hoists, and then transported to the guns above.
When the attack began, the California ’s Lt. Commander (the ranking officer then on board) ordered its crew to their battle stations.  He then had the boiler room start building up steam for the ship’s turbo-electric engines, intending to move the battleship into the open sea, where it could draw the attack away from Pearl Harbor , and from where he might launch a long-distance counter-attack against the Japanese.  The limited supply of on-hand ammunition soon ran out; the rest was locked in the magazines.  To get more, crewmen had to run down to the lower decks and gain access to the magazines.

Meanwhile, torpedo bombers were targeting the ship, and one torpedo struck home.  Normally, the resulting flood of incoming water might have been staunched, but an inspection had been scheduled for that morning, and many watertight doors stood wide open.  The water spread quickly through the hull.  Next, bombs fell from above and hit the ship, killing scores of the crew and igniting a fire.  Although the fire was ultimately extinguished, the ship lost power, rendering it indefensible, and it was abandoned.  It sank slowly, coming to rest on the mud beneath Pearl ’s shallow waters, so that it listed to port.

As ships and oil burn on the water,
U.S.S. California settles on Pearl Harbor ’s bottom.
Naval History and Heritage Command

PFC John Haughey

On Saturday night, Haughey had fallen asleep in his bed in Hickam Field’s barracks.  By 8:00 AM Sunday, a number of soldiers had gone to breakfast in the mess hall.  Some early birds were back already, getting ready for their day, and Saturday’s night owls were still trying to sleep late.  The sound of gunfire – at first, it sounded like artillery practice – annoyed them.

People looked out the windows as a dive bomber dropped its payload on the Air Depot Building .  Not yet comprehending what they saw, they watched the airplane level off and fly towards the barracks.  As it passed overhead, they could see the large red disks painted on its wings.  Only then did they understand.

Before they could react, bombs were exploding in the hangars next door.  Then more bombs pierced the roof overhead and penetrated the barracks.  Explosions sent beds, equipment, shards of window glass, and bodies through the air.  Men ran down the stairs and out to the lawn, where they met comrades who had fled the mess hall.  Not knowing where to go, those who remained in the open were strafed (i.e., machine-gunned by planes flying low overhead).  Those who still could flee did, scattering anywhere and everywhere.

Consolidated Barracks (post-attack)

Mess Hall (post-attack)

7 December 1941: The Air Force Story, Chapter V


News, Then No News

News of the attack quickly reached the United States , and war was declared.  President Roosevelt tried to inspire and reassure the country, but in the days that followed, reassurance was hard to come by.  The essence of what happened was known; many horrifying details had been reported, or were easy to infer.  Although every family in the country with someone stationed in Honolulu worried, most of those families would hear nothing for weeks.  For now, cataloguing the missing and the dead would have to wait.

The first priorities were making Oahu defensible, tending to its injured, and repairing its infrastructure.  There was an abundance of highly-motivated men to do that work, servicemen who on paper were still assigned to unusable ships or aircraft.  They helped clear debris, repave roads and runways, move building supplies, and do whatever else they could.  Many guns on sunken warships were still above-water and usable.  Navy men helped re-purpose them into new land-based anti-aircraft and artillery batteries.

Gradually, things stabilized, and people could tackle the job of compiling lists of casualties and missing personnel.  Both the attack and the subsequent rebuilding effort had scattered servicemen around the island.  One could only work from whatever lists or muster rolls could be found.  People who were not with their assigned units, or among the identified dead or injured, were “missing” – but in reality, they might be alive and well, working somewhere on an important but impromptu task.  It would serve no good purpose to send “missing in action” telegrams to the families of such people yet.

Tracking everyone down was important, but it had to be done thoroughly and carefully.


Word Reaches Hicksville, Bit by Bit


In mid-month, Cleveland Dodge’s parents received official notice that he had been killed in action.  His was the first reported war death of a man from Hicksville .  The high school began preparations for a memorial service.  Both his brothers, who worked at Grumman, were motivated by their family’s loss, and they enlisted – one in the Navy, the other in the Army Air Corps.

Nassau Daily Review-Star, December 31, 1941

Several days later, just before Christmas, the Haughey family was notified that John Haughey was missing.  Now two Hicksville families had reason to be glum during the holidays.  


A New Year Begins

Incredibly, on January 1st, the Navy Department informed Cleveland Dodge’s family that he was NOT dead.  Having passed a dour New Year’s Eve, they suddenly had joy to spare on New Year’s Day.  Later, they would learn that their experience had not been unique – around the same time, a Syosset family also was informed that the earlier report of a son’s death had been erroneous.

Not only was young Dodge alive, but he was unharmed.  During the attack, he had been at his battle station, closed into one of the ship’s magazines.  As the California slowly sank, its magazines flooded, and water blocked their exits.  Crewmen clambered up the ammunition hoists to the main deck.  Until the ammunition on the main deck ran out, Dodge helped man the ship’s guns.  Over the weeks since the attack, he had been helping to remove guns from sunken ships and helping install them in the new batteries being built around Honolulu .

To absolutely no one’s regret, his memorial ceremony at the high school was canceled. 

In mid-January, America ’s headlines announced the death of actress Carole Lombard – a fan favorite, and wife of Clark Gable.  She had died in an airliner crash, while flying home from a rally at which she had urged people to buy Defense Bonds.  Those who picked up the Review-Star to read the story spotted another item of interest on the front page:

Nassau Daily Review-Star
January 17, 1942

 More news about John Haughey would follow.  Two days later, word came that he had been posthumously awarded a Purple Heart.  Many weeks thereafter, near the end of March, the government finally issued a public announcement of his death.  John, one of eight men from the 50th Reconnaissance Squadron who died in the attack, had been found in the disarray of Hickam Field’s barracks / mess hall complex.


Destruction inside Hickam barracks
American Air Corps Library and Museum

John T. Haughey
1940 Comet Yearbook



Cleveland Dodge

A month after he re-emerged, the Navy officially transferred Cleveland Dodge from the sunken California to a Command responsible for Anti-Aircraft Shore Batteries.  In other words, he was to continue the work he had been doing, but now it was official.

Excerpt of Muster Roll of U.S.S. California, February 1942

When the job was done, Dodge was transferred to U.S.S. West Virginia, where he became a Signalman.  Several months later, he was sent to the destroyer U.S.S. Owen, on which he remained for the duration of the war, taking part in many battles in the Pacific.

After the war, he married, moved to Levittown , and raised a family.  He passed away on January 1, 1999 – the anniversary of the day on which his parents learned that he had returned from the dead.  He was buried in Calverton National Cemetery .


John Haughey

On January 26, 1942, much of Hicksville turned out to honor the town’s first person lost in World War II.

Nassau Daily Review-Star
January 27, 1942

Over the preceding weeks, news from the Pacific had (unavoidably) been confused, and for many Hicksvillians, the confusion magnified the shock of the war’s onset.  They had watched as one local family’s grief turned to joy, even while another’s hopes collapsed into despair.
By this date, it was known that a total of six servicemen from Nassau County had been lost on December 7th.  Like PFC Haughey, two other soldiers died at the Hickam mess hall / barracks: one from Woodmere , and one from Mineola .  The other three men lost were sailors, all of whom died in the U.S.S. Arizona.  They were natives respectively of East Meadow, Roosevelt, and North Merrick .


After the war, PFC John T. Haughey’s remains were re-interred, high atop an old volcano in the peace and beauty of the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.


National Memorial Cemetery
of the Pacific
Punchbowl Crater, Honolulu

Jeff Hall photo
Note the ‘AAF’ on the marker.  Transition from ‘Army Air Corps’ to ‘Army Air Force’ was both complicated and prolonged; it was not completely resolved until the war’s end.


Wherever they lie, may S1c Cleveland Dodge, PFC John Haughey, and all the rest of those who faced the attack on Pearl Harbor rest in peace.



Wikipedia, Attack on Pearl Harbor

National Park Service , U.S. Army Air Forces Casualties

Naval History and Heritage Command, World War II

The Pacific War Online Encyclopedia, U.S. Battleships, Tennessee Class

U.S. Navy, World War II Navy Muster Rolls

American Air Corps Library and Museum, WW II Photo Albums


7 December 1941: The Air Force Story, Chapter V


Martin Bowman

B-17 Flying Fortress Units of the Pacific War

Hicksville High School
, Comet
Yearbooks, 1938 – 1940

Dodge Family Tree

Vital records, Census data, etc.

Nassau Daily Review-Star
numerous editions

Edward Jablonski, AIRWAR: Tragic Victories
(Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere / Hark! The Voice of the Moment of Death)

Find A Grave

Tours Hawaii , Punchbowl National Cemetery (sic)