The European coast from Norway to northern Spain was defended by a series of concrete constructions armed with machineguns, barbed wires and minefields: the Atlantic Wall.
On April 10, 1944, the allied naval officers received confirmation of a landing at Normandy in the North of France; the operation was to be supervised by the commander in chief of the allied fleet: Admiral Bertram Ramsay.
After a bombardment during the night (carried out by the allied aviation) and a naval bombardment (carried out by the fleet) against the Atlantic Wall, at dawn, Tuesday, June 6, 1944, D-Day began.
By 8 am, all the first assault waves had landed on 5 Normandy beaches (codenamed Utah Beach and Omaha Beach (where the Americans land,) Gold Beach, Juno Beach and Sword Beach (where the English, Canadians and Free France soldiers land.))
The Allies landed around 156,000 troops in Normandy. The American forces landed numbered 73,000; in the British and Canadian sector, 83,115 troops were landed and 7,900 airborne troops. (Allied casualties were at least 10,000.)
On June 8, the Americans at Omaha Beach and British at Gold Beach linked up. Reinforced by the 2nd Infantry Division, at Omaha, and the 90th Infantry Division at Utah, US forces launched new offensives deeper inland.
That was in Europe … in the Islands, the then greatest number of fatalities from a single fire occurred in Kalihi on June 8, 1944.
Fires have from time to time burned down large sections of Honolulu, but loss of life had been light. Three of the largest fires – the Esplanade fire of 1877 and Chinatown fires of 1886 and 1900 – caused significant property damage, but no one was killed.
However, on that fateful day in 1944, two Army medium B-25 bombers collided in midair and plunged into a congested residential area, setting fire to 11 or 12 dwellings. Ten women and children perished in the burning buildings. All four crewmen died in the crash (including Lt James L Pauley and John H Davis.) (Schmitt)
“The women and children were trapped and fatally burned when their homes were ignited by the flaming wreckage of one bomber that crashed in the middle of an arterial route to Pearl Harbor. One other child was critically burned.”
“Witnesses said the planes collided about 1,000-feet in the air, coming together at right angles. The left wing was broken off one and the tail sheared off the other.”
“The wingless bomber plummeted to Dillingham Boulevard, its flaming wreckage setting fire to houses on both sides of the street. The tailless plane fell on a small open spot in an area of small homes.”
“All the city’s fire fighting equipment was called out. The fires blocked traffic for nearly four hours.” (Galveston Daily News Texas June 10, 1944)
Members of the Chun family were in the list of the casualties. The mother, Ester, and two children Marilyn (age 4) and Donald (age 2) died that day.
The husband and father, Kam, a 1938 graduate of President William McKinley High School, worked at Pearl Harbor shipyard in his 20s as a boiler maker (he was witness to the attack by the Japanese on December 7, 1941.)
After the death of his wife and two eldest children, he applied for a job as a police officer and served for sixteen years at the Honolulu Police Department.
He later got into acting and was a familiar face and regular on Hawaiʻi Five-O; we knew his as Kam Fong (Kam Fong Chun) who played Chin Ho Kelly. (He remarried (1949) and later died of lung cancer October 18, 2002, at the age of 84.)
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You never know the history of others, be kind to all.
Bobby Command says
What part of Dillingham blvd did the plane crash on?
Peter T Young says
I have not been able to identify the cross street. Unfortunately, much of the surrounding area is considered ‘Kalihi,’ although the Kalihi ahupuaa is pretty narrow in the vicinity of Dillingham Blvd.
Jean N says
I am interested in the plane crash also. Though born after the event (1946), I can recall as a child my mom (96 yrs old today) recounting the story of how she and a neighbor lady ran about a half mile down to Dillingham on the morning of the crash. I do not know whether it was sight or sound that alerted them and how close they were able to get to the site. When I ask her about the incident today her recollection is even more vague than mine. Having grown up in the area I know that the homes along Dillingham ran from about Waikamilo to Puuhale Roads. Some still remain today.
A few years ago I came across Kazuo Yamane’s archive of photos related to the flooding of Kalihi Stream in 1930. I am trying to find out if among his “collection” there are any references to the plane crash.
Karen Souza says
My grandmother and my auntie were killed that day and my father who was 10 was burned on over half of his body. I have the news articles \ not the original version but would be happy to share. My grandmother Agnes Souza and my auntie Mildred died that day…My name is Karen Agnes ,being my dad’s first child, and my cousin Mildred being my dad’s surviving sisters first child… My father NEVER GOT OVER IT…I’m happy he is with them now..He told me I looked like her , such a compliment but huge shoes to fill!! I’m told that my gram was the sweetest last ever, I’m proud to have her name!
Jean N says
I spoke to a friend who was also not born at the time of the crash but grew up in the general area of Dillingham. She recalls her mother describing the crash area as being where Dee Lite Bakery is located today near the Dillingham/Mokauea St. intersection.
My dad told me this story and I thought it was a tall story because surely such an event would still be talked about in what was then a small city and quite a memorable event. I am so happy I finally get to read an account of it, and my deepest apologies to my late dad. Thank you so much.
My father was four years old and living in one of the affected buildings. He watched one of his dogs burn to death after the other saved his life (a man took the credit and my father still resents it). He lived in fear of flying and fire for the rest of his life. Outer island trips were even terrifying. He took his first trip to the mainland this summer at 87 years old. Some wounds never really heal.
My father was there as one of the B25 bomber pilots; they were staging to continue on to Australia to participate in the South Pacific Arena. These were the notes he left in his memoir, which he wrote when he was in his 80s, so about 60 years later:
June 6, 1944 was our memorable departure date – same date as the big Normandy invasion in Europe. We left early in the AM and saw nothing but clouds and water and we landed at Hickam Field on Oahu 12 & ½ hrs later. We taxied up in front of Base Operations and got out to report our arrival. Outside the building was a refreshment stand operated by the Red Cross, which served ice cold chunks of fresh picked pineapple, which we all enjoyed freely.
Jim Shannon and I had to then fly our plane up to Wheeler Field in the interior of Oahu, where they would take out the full bomb bay tank and re install the exterior guns, etc. There were probably around 10 more B-25s that made it to Hawaii that day. Two of the others decided to have a little fun on the way to Wheeler and buzz downtown Honolulu. They messed up and collided and crashed just outside downtown. All aboard both planes were killed, and I don’t remember what the casualties on the ground were. Part of our activities on Oahu then were to attend the funeral services in Punchbowl, which is a dormant volcano and is used as a military cemetery. We spent the rest of our time waiting for the plane to be made ready meandering around Waikiki and places like that. There was a 6 PM curfew there, so we had to get back to Hickam before the bus service ended for the day.