No Sacrifice, No Victory

Nathan Dickerhoff, Guest Writer

Waking up here has always been the hardest. The island breezes and the sound of the ocean make you want to curl up and sleep in. However, this morning something perturbs me. What was different? The sun shines. The breeze swirls. The sound, it’s wrong. No ocean waves crashing can be heard, just a constant hum. Wait, the drone of planes? The clock says 8 AM. There are never pilots out this early, but there it is again, the sound of plane engines roaring. Wait, do I hear gunfire too? Yes! Who could possibly be…

“Jeffery!” my best friend Zach shouted from the outside my room. He started banging on my door until I let him in. “It’s the Japanese! They’re here!”

My mind races with thoughts like, how did they get here without us knowing about it? Why here? Why now? There was no time for that, I had to get in the air quickly to fight. Zach and I ring up Wheeler Field where our pride and joys reside, our airplanes. My voice, louder than usual with a slight shake in it, gives the field commander orders to put fuel and plenty of ammunition into two Curtiss P-40’s.

Zach and I book it to my 1940 Ford Deluxe, and drive at speeds I thought impossible in that automobile, ironically with Dizzy Gillespie on the radio. On the drive, my mind drifts to my family back home. Mom would definitely be yelling at me right now if she was riding with me. She never wanted me to join the Army in the first place. She always said that when dad died in the Great War, the only thing keeping her going was my sister, Dorothy, and me. She said that her greatest fear is that I may do the same thing to Lisa. Lisa, the girl that commands my thoughts in Hawaii. Since high school, I’ve never loved anyone more. She stayed with me through…

“JEFFERY! Stop daydreaming and watch the road!” I quickly swerve back onto the road after almost slamming into a tree. “What were you thinking about to make you almost kill both of us before we even got to the field?”

“I was… I was just thinking about… Umm… How we’re gonna be war heroes after today,” I lied, not wanting to reveal my actual thoughts.

“Heck yeah we are! Those Japs won’t know what hit ‘em when we get in the air.” Zach proclaims, almost triumphantly.

“Well I hope you’re ready because we’re here at… Oh my word, is this Wheeler?”

“Well, I guess what’s left of it,” Zach states pretty matter-of-factly, which surprises me. He had trained here, and he didn’t seem at all surprised at its state, which was dismal. With all but a few planes demolished and parts of the runway simply missing.

“Officer Wilkensen! Your planes are ready for takeoff!” One of the engineers called out to me as soon as we enter the base. There our P-40’s sat. The best flying machine ever made, well at least in my mind it was. In that plane, I had practiced every flying maneuver and shot every type of target that they had given us. The time had come to put all those hours of practice to good use. Zach and I said our goodbyes. “Good luck up there Zach!” I scream over the roar of the engines. “Give it to them Japs.”

With that we start to drive down the runway, Zach going first with me following directly after him. There goes Zach taking off and, his plane explodes into a ball of fire! Just like that, my best friend, gone. The gravity of my situation finally hits me. Hundreds of Japanese aircraft fill the sky, with only a few of us. The chances of me surviving are slim to none, should I take off? Yes, thousands have already died today, I can make a difference here, even if I die trying.

            A barrage of bullets surrounded me as soon as I was in the air, my right wing takes a few, and a bullet breaks the glass just inches from my head. I perform a few barrel rolls and chandelles, and I manage to get behind a squadron of Japanese fighters. One by one, enemy fighters fell out of the sky after being struck by the .50 caliber guns on my wings. Suddenly bullets start raining all around me and tear up my left wing and my rudder, but I’m still airborne, barely. Slight panic set in as I could hear my engine sputtering, and see my fuel gauge dropping faster than normal. The shots came from a Japanese Aichi D3A maybe a quarter mile above and to the right of me. I direct my plane to face him and pull the trigger on my yoke. Nothing. I can’t possibly be out of bullets! But sure enough, my ammo ran dry. The plane is approaching Pearl Harbor for its second round of bombings! My plane, running out of fuel at a rapid pace, won’t be able to make it back to the air field. I have to crash into that bomber. That is my only option. They will kill hundreds more if I don’t. I push my yoke to full throttle in the direction of the bomber.

1000 yards away. I think that my plane is pointing in the right direction. I can eject out of here. My seat is jammed! I’m stuck. 500 yards. My end has arrived. I am going to die. Should I do this? Yes, this will save hundreds, and I will have served President Roosevelt and My country with honor. But my family, and Mom. Mom, I’m so sorry, even though you can’t possibly hear me, I am sorry. 200 yards. And Lisa, oh Lisa, I’m never going to see her again here. Perhaps in what seems like a few minutes, I’ll see her on the other side, and we’ll live forever in…



Irie, Akira. Pearl Harbor and the Coming of the Pacific War a Brief History with Documents and Essays. Bedford/St. Martins, 1999. Print.

Prange, Gordon W. At Dawn We Slept. Penguin Books, 1991. Print.

Pruitt, Sarah. “Heroes of Pearl Harbor: George Welch and Kenneth Taylor.”, A&E Television Networks, 28 Nov. 2016. Web.

Smauro. “Curtiss P-40 Warhawk: One of WW II’s Most Famous Fighters.”, HistoryNet, 20 Oct. 2017. Web.

Warbirds. “Pearl Harbor Aircraft: An Overview Pearl Harbor Warbirds.” Pearl Harbor Warbirds, 19 Sept. 2017. Web.